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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Leicester City

Leicester City FC were formed in 1884 under the name of Leicester Fosse FC, as they played at a ground by Fosse Road. They played at five different home grounds before they moved into Filbert Street in 1891, when they also joined the Midland League.

In 1894 Leicester joined the Football League Division Two. The club flirted with re-election and had a brief spell in the top division until in 1919 Fosse hit financial problems. The club was quickly reformed as Leicester City. In 1929 City finished League runners up to Sheffield Wednesday; their highest ever finish.

City spent several seasons in each of the top two divisions, something that would become familiar in the ensuing years. In 1949 they were beaten by Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup Final. Two years later they signed one of the clubs greatest strikers, Arthur Rowley from Fulham. When manager David Halliday sold him after seven years, the outcry was so big that he lost his job. Former 'Filberts' or 'Foxes' player Matt Gillies took over and before long signed quality youngsters such as Gordon Banks, Frank McLintock, Graham Cross and Colin Appleton. City reached the FA Cup Finals of 1961 and 1963, losing to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.

However in 1964 silverwear was delivered to Filbert Street as Stoke City were defeated in the League Cup Final over two legs. They went on to be the final the following season, but they went down to Chelsea. In 1968 Gillies resigned owing to ill health. Frank O'Farrell came in but The Foxes were relegated after spending the previous twelve years in the top flight. They did however reach the FA Cup Final of 1969, but a Neil Young goal for Manchester City meant another defeat.

In 1971 Jimmy Bloomfield took over as team boss as he assembled another fine team who played entertaining football, with favourites such as Len Glover, Keith Weller, Alan Birchenall and Frank Worthington starring. They returned to the First Division and lifted the Charity Shield. The popular Bloomfield moved on in 1977. Former player McLintock took over as the team were relegated, to be replaced by Jock Wallace. The Scotsman oversaw the introduction of local youngster Gary Lineker.

Lineker was sold on and several managers had a turn at the helm. Alan Smith was picked up from non league Alvechurch and subsequently sold during this time. The club nearly sank into the Third Division but won their final league game to secure safety before Brian Little took over as boss in 1991. In his first season in charge City lost the Play Off Final to Blackburn Rovers. The following season saw further heartbreak as Swindon Town beat them in another final 4-3 in one of Wembley's greatest ever games.

City were not to be denied as they won promotion via the Play Off Final in 1994 as they defeated Derby County. Little left the following November. Mark McGhee couldn't keep the side up and left after a year to be replaced by a man who would in time become a legend at the club, despite a very rocky start. Martin O'Neill gradually turned things around and signed players such as Neil Lennon, Muzzy Izzett, Tony Cottee, Robbie Savage, Matt Elliott and Steve Claridge to join stalwarts such as Steve Walsh.

In 1996 after another Play Off win, this time over Crystal Palace, O'Neill led the side to four consecutive top ten league finishes as Filbert Street became a very difficult place for visiting teams to get a win at. In 1997 Leicester beat Middlesbrough after a replay to lift the League Cup. They repeated this in 2000 when Tranmere Rovers were defeated in the last League Cup Final at the old Wembley Stadium.

Atb the end of the season O'Neill left to join Celtic, while Emile Heskey was sold to Liverpool for £11M. Peter Taylor took over but O'Neill was a tough act to follow. He eventually departed to be replaced by Dave Bassett who made some poor signings as Chairman John Elsom made some poor decision regarding the financial prudence of the club. Mickey Adams arrived in the managerial hot seat but he could not stave off relegation. To end a dismal season, City also said goodbye to their Filbert Street home to move a few hundred metres to a new stadium named the Walkers Stadium after a ten years naming right deal with the local crisp makers.

The move cost more than the club had accounted for. Relegation meant lower gate revenues, the loss of the ITV digital money and some unwise transfer dealings led to the club entering administration in October 2002 with debts of around £30M. Adams led the side to promotion after a consortium led by Gary Lineker took over and restructured the debts. Many clubs felt City had cheated their way up as they suffered no punishment for their financial indescretions. It led to the rule of point deductions being introduced throughout football thereafter.

City were relegated once again in 2004, which led to the coming and going of more managers. Former Portsmouth Chairman Milan Mandaric bought the club in February 2007 and oversaw some poor managerial appointments. This culminated in Ian Holloway taking over in October 2007 and becoming the third permanent manger of the season. He took the club down to the League's third tier for the first time in their history at the end of the season.

Former defender Nigel Pearson led the side straight back up and then lost out on a return to the Premier League after Cardiff City knocked City out in the Play Offs. Pearson moved to Hull City to be replaced by Paulo Sousa and then Sven Goran Eriksson as the club was bought by Thai based Duty Free Company 'King Power'. The ground was rebranded The King Power Stadium and Pearson returned to replace the sacked Swede in November 2011.

In Pearson's first full season back in control he led City to the play offs, where they were defeated in dramatic fashion at the semi final stage by Watford. Pearson and his side were not to be denied. The manager strengthened his squad and Leicester were promoted back to the Premier League after a ten year absence in April 2014.

More signings were made in the close season to try to consolodate a top flight place, including the experienced Argentinain Esteban Cambiasso from Internazionale. Pearson's side looked absolutely doomed as the season reached its last quarter in Spring 2015. Remarkably City strung an amazing unbeaten run together to drag themselves safe.

Shortly after the seasons end Pearson was dismissed for what was described as not to do with footballing matters. Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri came in as his replacement.

Leicester City FC will play in the FA Premier League in the 2015-16 season.

My visits

Leicester City 1 Crystal Palace 1 (Saturday 3rd October 1982) Division Two

My Mum and Dad used to take us away as a family for the weekend and had found good value at breaks at Holiday Inn around England. My Dad had been to Leicester many years previously as he was mates with Scarborough and City star Colin Appleton, so it looked a nice idea with a good train ride thrown in. Added to the attraction was that City were at home so we could take a game in.

We arrived on the Friday when we had a look around the city. After visiting the market on Saturday morning Dad took me and Nick to Filbert Street. Mum went to bingo and Paul to a roller disco. We were early so we went round the back of the Main Stand where we watched as the players arrived by car, with several signing our programmes. I'd never experienced this before, so it was a bit of a thrill at the time. Dad managed to buy an old City programme from a shop in a terraced house in Burnmoor Street. I also found some bargains to add to my collection.

We entered the ground, where we sat near the half way line in the Burnmoor Street Stand or Popular Side as it was known. This was a former shallow converted terrace. To our right was the Filbert Street Stand. This had a lower tier of seats with early corporate boxes perched above it. Opposite was the Main Stand with a terracing paddock and a large tier of seats above it. Finally the Spion Kop was to our left. This was a huge double decker stand for behind a goal. The bottom was terraced with a section in there for visiting fans, with seats above. The ground was hemmed in but traditional. In time the Main Stand was replaced by a more modern stanchion free construction as the whole ground was seated before it was all demolished.

City, under Jock Wallace were hoping to be promoted at the end of the season, but they stuttered along in this game. Palace took the lead to the joy of around five hundred visiting fans. The home faithful next to them tried to rouse their charges. Dad commented as to how he was surprised how clubs at this level survived on such poor gates compared to yesteryears.

The match was being filmed for highlights to be covered on ATV/Central TV the following afternoon with the superb Hugh Johns commentating. Nick at the time had an early hoodie and it was a bright lemon colour. We joked that it was his banana skin. Anyway, everytime the ball crossed the half way line in the air we could spot him on the highlights.

City grabbed a draw through a late equaliser from Gary Lineker in one of his early appearences. Nick commented he would play for England. We laughed at this as he was only a sub and we'd only seen around fifteen minutes of him in action. How little we knew!

We headed off and went inside Welford Road, the home of Leicester RFC for a look at the fine arena and picked up a programme from their afternoon game with Coventry. The following day we did plenty of walking. We visited the following sporting arenas; Blackbird Road Speedway and Greyhound Stadium, Saffrons Lane Sports Centre and Leicester Velodrome as well as Grace Road the home of Leicestershire CCC.

The fact that I could still recollect the weekend over thirty years later when writing this page indicates that we had a great time. I wish we could do it all again.

Leicester City 3 Birmingham City 1 (Tuesday 13th March 2012) The Championship (att: 21,092)

I was running out of options of new League grounds I could reach after early shift and still get back from afterwards. As usual I checked the fixtures well in advance to enable me to get the best bargains on the trains. I booked through Megabus and East Midland Trains and bought a match ticket online, which I would collect before the match; more of which later!

I finished work in good form on a pleasant afternoon and walked from Baker Street to St Pancras to continue my fitness campaign. The journey was good and I arrived into Leicester at around 6pm. I decided to collect my match ticket and then find a pub that I had in mind. The walk took me past a much changed Welford Road since my last visit. It appeared that there was a game on later as the floodlights were turned on and a few fans were congregating outside. That scuppered any chance I had of popping in for some photos.

I was paying close attention to how long my walk was taking as I had to be on the 9.58pm train back to London later. I went down one of the terraced streets that led to Burnmoor Street. The memories were coming back to me. I continued on to the King Power Stadium, where I purchased a programme before going to collect my match ticket.

I was directed to the club shop for collection. The young lady informed me that I was in the wrong place and I needed to go to the portable outlet behind the Main Stand. I arrived to be told that they wouldn't be open for ten minutes. I was treated to an exhibition of breathtaking skill by the assistant who tried to like wording up on the side of the outlet, so customers knew where to queue. I was the only person waiting. Eventually the shutters came up so I went forward to collect. I knew from experience that the bloke was struggling. He asked me my name, and then after a forlorn search, how I spelt my surname. Again he went through his pile, as did his assistant. It was no good. It wasn't there. He sent me back to the club shop. Let's just say that I wasn't laughing. I returned where another young girl, quite possibly doing a part time job to supplement her grant, said she'd have to print me a new ticket.

Away I trudged after wasting at least a pint worths time with all the mucking around. I was heading for a pub with great reviews called The Swan and Rushes which was near to the Infirmary. I was certain I was going the right way, even though it was taking me longer than I anticipated. I saw the pub stood alone in not what I would term a celubrious location, but I was thirsty and not particularly bothered. I entered in to the packed bar. I was a bit surprised to find only Everard's beers on sale, but I was non too bothered as Tiger was very palitable. I managed to get a seat where an older group was sat. I had managed to generate plenty of stares when I walked in and plenty of the punters looked like they had seen pre and post match action over the years. I just assumed that the pub had recently changed management.

While sitting down I decided to discretely check the map app on my IPhone. I couldn't believe it. I was in a pub called the Sir Robert Peel. I quickly downed my pint and went in search of civilisation. After a few minutes walk I found my intended target and it was a cracking boozer with guest ales and food galore. If only I'd have found it earlier!

After a pint I walked all the way down Brazier Street with the growing crowds and then along Eastern Boulevard along the side of the river to the King Power. The atmosphere was building outside, but I chose to walk around to my designated gate and go inside to the concourse. I made a good move.

There were multiple TV screens inside and I could hear the pre match build up on the pitch. I went for the pie and beer offer. Another young lady student was on her first days work, so even getting a pie of my choice was as not as easy as it could have been. At least she was most pleasant. I went upstairs to find my seat in the corner of the stadium and to read the brilliant programme. It was as good as I'd seen all season.

Birmingham had a disappointingly low following for a relatively local match of 1,483, but they had been involved in a costly Europa League campaign earlier in the season. They were noisy enough and not for the first time I was disappointed by the lack of noise coming from a set of home fans to cheer on their side.

My seat was in the top corner of the Spion Kop. The stadium was one single tier of seating in one continuous bowl. It was very functional with every seat commanding a decent view of the action. It didn't have many features that made it stand out from other new stadiums that were built in the same era, which I found a bit of a shame.

The Brummies in the crowd had plenty to cheer when referee Mick Russell gave a very controversial penalty (he did the same at the Derby County v Crystal Palace game I attended a couple of weeks later, before he upset all at Doncaster Rovers in his officiating against Portsmouth which sealed their relegation). Wade Elliott slotted the spot kick away. Jermaine Beckford finished off a move from a set piece to put Leicester level ten minutes before the break.

I had been chatting with two decent lads of my age who had a young 'un with them. They were proper supporters who watched the game throeet ugh unbiased eyes. At half time I once again took advantage of the reasonable pie and pint offer, which if I remember rightly was £5.40.

I returned to my seat after the break and continued to update my new pals with the updated Championship scores from my radio,until the power ran out on it. City gradually became the more dominant of the sides, without looking too likely to score. Eventually Nigel Pearson made a change bringing on forward Jeffrey Schlupp who immediately livened things up. It was no surprise when Tom Kennedy sent the German through for him to fire the home side ahead.

The game ebbed and flowed with Leicester looking likely to hang on to their win when I had to call it a night to make sure I'd catch my train. On my way back along Aylestone Road Beckford sealed the win with his second goal of the evening. I tried to keep up with another fan with the same intention as me. He was some athlete!

I made my train and was at home in Kingsbury at 11.30 after a good evening out and another new ground ticked off my list.

The photos of Filbert Street have been taken from the internet as I can't locate the ones we took on our visit.

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