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

London

September 2015

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Darlington




Darlington FC is a semi-professional football club from County Durham, in the North East of England, having been originally formed in 1883. The club appointed Charles Samuel Craven as the clubs first secretary as the club moved into their Feethams home which was adjacent to Darlington Cricket Club.

The club played friendly games and in the FA Cup and other cup competitions, until 1889 when Craven helped form the Northern League, of which his club became founder members.

'The Quakers' were crowned Northern league champions in 1895-96 and 1899-00 as well as being defeated semi finalists of the FA Amateur Cup the same seasons.

Darlington joined the North Eastern League in 1908; going on to lift the league title in 1912-13 and 1920-21 before the club were admitted as founder members of the Football League Division Three North for the 1921-22 season.

In 1925 Darlington were crowned champions of Division Three North and were promoted to Division Two. Their spell lasted just two seasons before being relegated at the end of the 1926-27 campaign.


On several occasions Darlington were enforced to seek re-election to the Football League after finishing in the bottom four of the table as the club played in Division Four following the re-organising of the leagues in 1958-59.




In the same season 'Darlo' reached the last sixteen of the FA Cup for the second time, when they hammered the league champions of three years previously, Chelsea 4-1 in a Feethams replay.

Promotion to Division Three was secured in 1965-66 but the team were relegated the following season. A fine run in the League Cup of 1967-68 saw Darlington reach the quarter final stage before going out to Brian Clough’s Derby County side at the Baseball Ground.

During the 1970's The Quakers had to apply to keep their place in the League five times. In 1982 the club nearly folded, but a fundraising effort saved them.

The fans were rewarded for their efforts in the 1984-85 season when the team were promoted once more, under the management of Cyril Knowles. Relegation back to the bottom tier followed in 1986-87.

The decline was set in and Darlington were demoted from the Football League to the Conference in 1988-89. Ambitious young manager Brian Little took his team to immediate promotion from the Conference.


Little’s side had a fine mixture of youth and experience and was led up front by the charismatic Davis Currie. The run continued in 1990-91 as Darlington were crowned as Division Four champions and were promoted to Division Three. 




Little departed to take up the Leicester City manager’s job, while his old club were relegated at the end of the 1991-92 season. Darlo came close to regaining their place in the third tier in the 1995-96 season, but lost out to Plymouth Argyle in their first ever Wembley appearance in the Play Off Final.

A new East Stand was built at Feethams with much needed hospitality facilities included before the reformed criminal, turned businessman George Reynolds bought the club with big plans for it.

The 1999-00 saw Darlo miss out at Wembley in another Play Off Final, this time to Peterborough United. Reynolds made audacious bids to sign Paul Gascoigne and Faustino Asprilla but neither player eventually signed.


In the summer of 2003 the club moved to a new out of town stadium, The Reynolds Arena, which was far too big for the club. Within six months the club entered administration as the bills attached to the new arena and low crowds crippled the finances. 




Reynolds resigned as a director in January 2004 with the club on the brink of closure. A benefit game and general fundraising helped save Darlo, with manager David Hodgson in his third spell at the club working wonders on the pitch.

Reynolds sold the club to Sterling Consortium to take the club out of administration. The new owners took a fan friendly approach in contrast to the abrasive nature of Reynolds. However, in 2006 they sold the club on to property developer George Houghton.

He took the team to the play-offs in 2007-08; where Darlington were defeated on penalties by Rochdale in the semi-final. After a steady run on the pitch, Hodgson and then Dave Penney were sacked as manager by Houghton.

In February 2009 the club once again entered administration. No buyer was found so the administrator released the majority of players, before Houghton returned. In May of the same year, Houghton brokered a deal that allowed Darlington to come out of administration with local businessman Raj Singh taking over.


Both Colin Todd and then Steve Staunton failed in their managerial roles, as Darlo were relegated to the Conference at the end of the 2009-10 season.  The new management team of Simon Davey and then Ryan Kidd left within eleven days of each other leaving Mark Cooper in charge at the start of the 2010-11 season.

 

Heritage Park, Bishop Auckland
In May 2011 a Chris Senior goal at Wembley saw The Quakers lift the FA Trophy after defeating Mansfield Town. The following season saw the team have a poor start so Cooper was given his marching orders.

It had been apparent for some time that all was not well at the club, with the millstone of a 25,000 seater stadium and dwindling attendances hurting the finances. Singh told players to find other clubs and in December 2011 Darlington entered administration for the third time.

Again the town, the clubs supporters and the local football community did everything that they could to keep the club alive. Interim manager Craig Liddle had to work with a threadbare squad as the club was saved with minutes to spare by the supporters' groups.

The team were relegated at the end of the season and a CVA was agreed upon. The supporters awaited the required football share from Singh, but they claim they never received it despite re-assurances that they had from the former owner.

The FA decided that as Darlington 1883, the supporters club and new owners, had to apply for a new share that they were a completely new club and in accordance with their stringent new rules placed Darlington in the Northern League; a relegation of four divisions.

Meanwhile, it was decided the club could not afford to pay the rent to the owners of the Darlington Arena, as it had been renamed soon after Mr Reynold's departure. Instead The Quakers signed a deal to play at Heritage Park, the new home of Bishop Auckland after cancelling an initial deal to share West Street with Shildon.

The club decided to appeal the decision to demote them. It was heard on Thursday 21st June at Wembley Stadium, but was turned down while they were also ordered to change their club name to Darlington 1883.

The club knuckled down and took their place in the Northern League and under Martin Gray the team ran away with the league title at the first attempt, gaining promotion to the Northern Premier League.

Darlington finished in the Division One North play-offs of 2013-14 before being defeated by Ramsbottom United in the semi-finals. However, the team won promotion to the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League in 2014-15; again in the play-offs.

The club had worked throughout the previous few years to plan a return back their home town. A solution was found in December 2013 with the announcement that the Quakers would share the Darlington Rugby Club home of Blackwell Meadows.

Spennymoor Town and then Bamber Bridge were defeated as work continued on the Blackwell Meadows plans. In March of 2016 it was announced that the club would move into their new shared home during the 2016-17 season.

Darlo went on to be crowned Northern Premier League champions in 2015-16 to win promotion to the National League North. The first game at Blackwell Meadows was played on Boxing Day 2016 as 3,000 fans packed in to see the 3-2 win against FC Halifax Town.

Unfortunately the lack of facilities at the new venue led to Darlington being denied a place in the play-offs at the end of the 2016-17 season. Fans received good news that the FA approved the name being titled Darlington FC once again in the summer of 2017.


Darlington FC will play in National League North in the 2017-18 season.


My visits

Darlington 2 Scarborough 1 (Saturday 12th September 1987) Division Four (att: 3,187)

I travelled to Scarborough's seventh ever Football League game with two senior Post Office colleagues, Dave Bowman and George Johnson in Dave's car. We were looking for a pub and my two pals were very impressed with my eyesight as I spotted the old red triangle sign of a Bass house across a field. Once refreshed we drove into Darlington and found a parking spot.

Non of us had been before but we followed directions down a very narrow lane, which led to the away end. We were just about to go in but were held up owing to a slight altercation. A Boro fan who had been heavily involved in the shenanigans at the Wolves game was been assisted by members of the local constabulary. It was the last he'd see of a football ground for many months!








I didn't really know what to make of Feethams once inside. It was certainly rustic and had a charm about it, but it was very old fashioned. On our side stood the seated West Stand with a small paddock in front, with a few steps of open terracing at either side. To our right was the open Polum Lane End terrace. Opposite was the small cantilevered covered Tin Shed or Cricket Ground End, which as the name suggests adjoined the cricket ground. Finally on the far side stood the East Stand. This had a seating deck at the rear of a terrace. A small amount of open terracing flanked it.

I don't remember too much about the game apart from Darlo deserving their win, being more physical and quicker. Boro were very much still being put together to Mr Warnock's specifics. Steve Adams was on the mark for Boro.

Darlington 2 Scarborough 1 (Saturday 22nd April 1989) Division Four (att: 2,850)

This defeat was particularly annoying as Darlo eventually finished bottom of the league and were relegated. Boro badly needed three points in their promotion challenge but were out battled by a home side fighting to keep their League status. Brian Little certainly had them fired up. Craig Short netted our consolation.



I went on the mini bus from the Gas Club and Post Office and sat in the West Stand. It was a damp day and the view on the terracing wasn't the best, so with a large Seadog following expected, I treated myself.

Darlington 1 Scarborough 1 (Saturday 6th April 1991) Division Four (att: 3,962)

I travelled to this game away to top of the table Darlo on an early morning mini bus with Bunner and the usual suspects. We travelled up the A1 and stopped at Richmond on the way for beers in the market square. In a sereal moment we passed the ground where local side Eastfield were taking on Richmond in a Teeside League clash. We got out and gave them a shout, much to their astonishment.

We went in some dodgy pubs in Darlo before going in through the turnstiles at the cricket ground and walking around the perimeter of the ground before being led round to the away terrace. Boro did well from what I can remember, with George Oghani netting a penalty to grab a share of the spoils.



However, bad news was just around the corner. My good friend Steve Walker and I had decided to open a book on the Grand National at the Post Office. He reasoned that all the mug punters who couldn't be bothered to go to the bookies would hand over their money to us. I agreed. It did sound a good plan. I rang Steve from the services to hear the horrific news that Steve Johnson, work's betting 'guru' had tipped the winner, Seagram, and all those mug punters had followed him. We lost money and dissolved the business after just the one race!

Darlington 2 Scarborough 3 (Saturday 17th October 1993) Division Three (att: 2,474)

A new title for the league, but still very much the fourth level for this entertaining encounter, which Boro deserved to win with goals from Darren Foreman, John Ashdjian and Mark Jules. The stand out highlight though concerned a Spanish winger playing for the home side. He cheated to win a penalty in front of the away terrace and then looked up laughing at us when the ref pointed to the spot. My Dad went as spare as I'd seen him at a game. We were all pretty narked, but then our anger turned to joy when Stuart Ford saved the penalty. We certainly let our Spanish friend all about it.



I went back with Darren Trapps and waited at the station and getting something to eat before heading down to Hull Fair.  top day out all round.

Darlington 1 Scarborough 0 (Monday 26th December 1994) Division Three (att: 2,958)

Instead of enjoying all the fun of Scarborough on Boxing Day I decided to take the lift on offer with Filey John, Bunner and big Karl. We had to go via Malton to pick Carl Ellis up, but the roads were very quiet, so that didn't pose too many worries. The different route actually made a nice change.

The rain was getting worse as we approached Darlo, but we managed to take refuge in a couple of decent pubs near to the ground. We had been left some tickets from the players and luckily they allowed us entry at the Cricket Ground End and then to walk round. I can't remember exactly how things panned out, but I know most of us definitely me!) got into the West Stand out of the foul conditions, but poor old John didn't.



Not only did Boro lose, he got soaked and let us know about it all the way home. I went out to drown my sorrows up South Cliff.

Darlington 1 Scarborough 2 (Saturday 23rd September 1995) Division Three (att: 2,046)

I met Mick Cammish for a couple of pints at the Home Guard Club before we boarded the Supporters Club coach heading north. I know we got there in time for a couple of pre match pints, where my geography from the previous season came in handy.



Boro put in a decent performance and looked a good side at that point with Don Page and Jason Rockett netting. I remember boarding the coach at full time to hear full time reports and scores on the fledgling Talk Radio, later to become Talksport.

Wednesday 9th January 2008

I was off work for a few days initially to go and watch Scarborough Athletic at Thornaby in the North Riding Senior Cup and to see my parents, but as things transpired I was to stay in Scarborough a little longer to attend the funeral of my old mate Nick Groombridge.















I got off the early morning train to feel the freezing northern air just after the passing the white elephant that was now called the Darlington Arena. I planned to go and visit the non league grounds between Darlo and the coast before heading back to the game, but I couldn't resist a look to see if anything remained of the old football ground. 

The cricket ground, which once hosted the fixtures of Durham CCC was in fine nick. The  Tin Shed was still there as it doubled up as a sightscreen for the cricketers. However, the terracing had gone. The rest of the site was overgrown with slight raised areas where the terracing once stood.

It was a sad sight indeed.


Wednesday 22nd January 2017

I’d planned a day visiting several football venues around the southern part of County Durham before heading to Stokesley that evening for Scarborough Athletic’s match against Richmond Town in the North Riding Senior Cup.

My early morning train dropped me at a fogbound Darlington. My itinerary had originally included a visit to the Darlington Arena. A combination of time constraints and doubts whether I’d gain access put the plan on the back burner.

Instead I caught the Max27 bus to the Blackwell Grange Hotel stop on Grange Road. The ground was on the southern most outskirts of the town and surrounded by fields. I wandered down the lane past an extended car park to the entrance.

Contractors were working on the site. It was obviously still a work in progress. I asked if I could just pop inside the open gate. They told me to be careful as they weren’t meant to let anyone in. I respected their wishes.

A Tin Shed had been erected behind the near goal; a little bit like the old one at Feethams. The far side had a seated stand straddling the half way line, with the near side being taken up with club buildings and a clubhouse, with a few rows of seats at the front. The rest of the ground consisted of open flat standing.

Perhaps pushing my luck a little, I wandered to the far end. Again more workers were grafting away looking to add to the facilities. It was obvious that the ground could do with a bit more elevated standing areas, but Darlo were back home; and that had to be the most important thing.


Fog hadn’t assisted my photography. It was still good to get a look. I’d no doubt return in the future; hopefully to watch Scarborough in action. I took the bus back into town ready to head to the town’s second club on Brinkburn Road.


The ground photos in this section have been taken from the internet, except the ones of the dilapidated Feethams. The photos featuring fans come from Dave 'Bunner' Hunter.






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