Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cheltenham Town

Cheltenham Town FC are a football club from the Spa town of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, which is probably best known for its famous horse racing heritage. The club were formed in 1887 by a local teacher by the name of Albert Close White.

After playing local football for several decades, the club turned semi professional in the early 1930's, joining the Birmingham Combination. In 1935 'The Robins' moved up to the Southern League, three years after moving into their Whaddon Road home ground. Town spent many seasons in each of the Southern League's divisions with a few promotions and relegations occurring.

In 1986 they were crowned champions, leading to elevation to the Alliance Premier League (now the Conference). They went back down in 1992 and remained there until 1996 when Steve Cotterell was appointed as manager. In his first season Town won promotion back to the Conference. He bettered that the season afterwards as Cheltenham finished runners up in non leagues top division, as well as lifting the FA Trophy following a 1-0 win over Southport at Wembley, where they were roared on by 19,000 travelling Robins fans.

In 1999 Town once again made an improvement as they were crowned champions and promotion to the Football League. In their third season as a league club Cheltenham won promotion via the play offs. Cotterell was a man in demand and he left to join Stoke City soon afterwards. Bobby Gould took over but the team were relegated after just one season.

In 2006 Whaddon Road had a new stand built for visiting fans and under the managership of John Ward they won another Play Off Final to be promoted, this time over Grimsby Town at the Millennium Stadium. Ward eventually left for pastures new and after spells in charge from Keith Downing and then Martin Allen, the club found itself back in the League's basement once again in 2009. The Robins also encountered financial problems leading to many players being released or sold.

Allen was released from his duties in late 2009 following a controversial incident away from work. He was replaced by former Kidderminster boss Mark Yates who initially struggled before steadying the ship and then improving performances as he shaped the side in his own style.

His philosophy worked as The Robins reached the Play Off Final at Wembley in May 2012, but they were defeated in the showpiece by Crewe Alexandra. However, the team bounced back the following season and once again reached the play offs. This time they went down to Northampton Town over two legs in the semi final.

Cheltenham Town FC will compete in Football League Two in the 2013-14 season.

Cheltenham Town 0 Torquay United 1 (Tuesday 14th February 2012) Football League Two (att: 3,010)

I was on early shift at work and after calculations I figured I could just about do a midweek game at Cheltenham catching the last train at 10.02 back to London. After checking the fixture list and booking cheap rail tickets in advance I chose the Valentines Day top four clash with Torquay United.

I finished work and headed for Paddington. I was in good form and managed a drink in The Mad Bishop & Bear. The ESB helped me sleep for part of my journey, which was a direct train which terminated in Cheltenham. We arrived a few minutes late, but it was still only 6.20. I had read that the ground was two miles from the station, but I was ready for a walk. 

Even though it was dark, the town looked beautiful with its Regency architachture, mixing nicely with its more modern buildings. The streets were wide and everywhere looked tidy. There were plenty of youths on the pedestrian precincts out and about. I arrived at Whaddon Road, or The Abbey Business Stadium as it had been rebranded for commercial reasons at around five to seven. I headed straight for the clubhouse under the Main Stand.

It was a traditional old social club and it was pretty crowded, with many fans inside being Torquay fans. I was most happy to find hand pulled ales in the shape of Old Hooky from Oxfordshire. I had a couple of pints as I read the decent £3 programme, while the club began to empty out well before kick off, which was opposite to what I had generally experienced at other clubs.

I went across the car park and paid £15 for the terracing. Once inside I surveyed the scene of a fine lower division ground. The home supporters had covered standing behind the Cromwell Road End, which had previously been an open area. It wasn't large, but it offered a decent enough view. To the left was a full length seated stand of around ten rows in depth. The far Whaddon Road End was a covered seated stand which joined with its neighbour in the corner. Finally the Main Stand was a good tradtitional structure raised above some open terracing, which continued at either side of it.

I tried the catering out, which was adequate without wanting me to rush back for more. Torquay were cheered on by a magnificent turn out of 461 supporters. They made plenty of noise. The most rowdy Town fans were a group of youths in a section of the seats down the side.

Torquay were in the middle of a fine run, while Cheltenham were stuttering but were still up there in the running for promotion. The home side looked good from set pieces, but looked unlikely to break the deadlock in open play. United on the other hand were more incisive and inventive. It was no surprise when the livewire Ian Morris put them ahead just after the half hour.

After the break The Robins had a bit of pressure and they missed a couple of opportunities. At the other end Taiwo Atieno put himself about to great affect, upsetting the defenders and home fans alike. Torquay continued to soak up the pressure, while looking dangerous on the break.

I left ten minutes from full time to ensure I caught my train home. I was pretty sure I'd seen the only goal of the game. Even though I had enough time to make it to the station, I treated myself to a taxi from the precinct. The driver made use of the one way system, although he was most polite when he dropped me off.

The scores came through on my radio to confirm what I'd thought about how the game would finish. I caught the train to Swindon, where I changed to the Paddington service. I walked to Marble Atch to fill in a bit of time when I got back before the night bus arrived.

I was happy to get another new ground out of the way, and had enjoyed my trip. I thought Cheltenham was a lovely place and would like to go there again for a longer visit in the future.

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