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 1883



Darlington 1883 FC are a non league football club from County Durham, in the North East of England, having been originally formed in 1883 as Darlington FC. They 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 on two occasions and also semi finalists of the FA Amateur Cup the same seasons, before joining the North Eastern League in 1908. The lifted that league title on two occasions until they were admitted as founder members of the Football League Division Three North. 

In 1925 they were crowned champions and promoted to Division Two. Their spell lasted just two seasons and they ended up having to re-apply for re-election on several occasions afterwards. In 1958 '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.


When the league re-organised the same year, Darlington were placed in Division Four. In 1966 they won another promotion, but they were relegated the following season. 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. he fans were rewarded for their efforts three years later when the team were promoted once more, under the management of Cyril Knowles.

They returned to the bottom tier two years later and worse was to come in 1989 as they lost their League place, despite a late rally from Brian Little's side. The club won an immediate promotion from the Conference and the run continued in the League as they secured successive elevations. 

Little left for Leicester City and relegation followed. Darlo almost regained their place in the third tier the following season but lost out to Plymouth Argyle in their first ever Wembley appearance in the Play Off Final. Soon after this, a new East Stand was built at Feethams with much needed hospitality facilities included.


Reformed criminal turned businessman George Reynolds bought the club with big plans for it. Later that year they went down 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. 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 2009 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. Unbelievably both Simon Davey and then Ryan Kidd left within eleven days of each other as managers of the team leaving Mark Cooper in charge.

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 was 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. gain 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.

 

Heritage Park, Bishop Auckland
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.

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 1883 will play in the Northern Premier League Division One North in the 2013-14 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 sigt was overgrown with slight raised areas where the terracing once stood.

It was a sad sight indeed.


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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