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

Friday, August 17, 2012

Exeter City

Exeter City FC, from the county town of Devon in the south west of England, were formed in 1904 as the predecessor of two clubs; Exeter United and St Sidwell's United. 

Exeter United were formed from players of a cricket club of the same name in 1890 and played their matches at St James Park. St Sidwell's, who had also been known as St Sidwell's Wesleyans and St Sidwell's Old Boys were formed from regulars as the Foresters Inn in Sidwell Street. After the two sides met in a game in 1904 it was decided to merge the clubs.

Sid Thomas scored City's winning goal in their first ever game and went on to serve the club for another seventy years in various capacities. In 1908 the club turned professional, built a wooden stand and joined the Southern League to replace Tottenham Hotspur. Two years later 'The Grecians' adopted red and white stripes as club colours to replace green and white. 

In 1914 City embarked on a historic tour of South America, playing eight games in Argentina and Brazil, where it is believed their national side played their first ever game against the club. In 1920 Exeter became founder members of the Football League Division Three South. In 1931 City reached the sixth round of the FA Cup defeating Newcastle United and Leicester City along the way before going out to Sunderland in front of a record St James Park crowd of 20,984. 

Two years later City finished runners up in their division, but unfortunately only one team were promoted. Following League re-organisation in 1958 the club were placed in Division Four. Promotion was gained at the end of the 1963-64 season, but City returned a couple of years later. Their next promotion came in 1976-77 after finishing Division our runners up.

The team at that time were considered one of the best in the clubs history, with stars such as Tony Kellow, John Delve and John Pullar. They once again reached the FA Cup sixth round in the 1980-81 season where they lost out to eventual winners Tottenham Hotspur in the White Hart Lane tie after an unforgettable evening in the previous rounds replay when Newcastle United were hammered 4-0.

To see action from that momentous evening, go to:


Two images of St James Park. One taken from a fanzine and the other taken at a Scarborough away game by Dave 'Bunner' Hunter.

In 1984 City were relegated once again before going on to win their first title at the end of the 1989-90 season as they lifted the Division Four crown with Terry Cooper as boss and players like Richard Dryden, Shaun Taylor, Brian McDermott and Clive Whitehead helping. Unfortunately Cooper departed the following season and after Alan Ball had a spell the returning Cooper could not save City from relegation in 1994.

City began to struggle with chairman Ivor Doble unable to prevent the club from entering into administration. St James Park was sold to Beazer Homes for just £650,000, although fortunately the local council took over and allowed City to remain there. They came out of administration in August 1996, but their problems were far from over. St James Park was upgraded by the building of a new Big Bank Stand in 2000 and the Ivor Doble Stand to replace the old terraced Cowshed the year after.

Doble decided to sell the club to John Russell, who was the former chairman of Scarborough where he had overseen a financial crisis and relegation from the League. His wife Gillian was employed and controversial former Swansea City chairman Mike Lewis joined them. Russell rode into town claiming he had assets which could be used as personal guarantees against the clubs debts. Uri Geller was made vice-chairman and Michael Jackson made an honorary director of the club as bad results were not assisted by the lack of finances.

The Grecians were relegated to the Conference in 2003 with the Exeter City Supporters Trust took over from the departed directors with the club £4.5m in debt, as Russell and Lewis blamed the previous regime for the club's position. Forty two donations of £1,000 each initially kept the club in business and then after a season of uncertainty with the Inland Revenue and the football authorities wanting explanations, Exeter managed to arrange a CVA. 

The club launched a 'Red or Dead' scheme in which fans paid in £500 sums to pay off the CVA. The club celebrated their centenary in May 2004 with a match at St James Park against a Brazilian masters team including Dunga and Careca. They had some real luck when they took Manchester United to two games in the FA Cup in January 2005 as City gradually fought to get back on an equal financial footing as the fans dug deep.

In May 2007 Russell was jailed for 21 months and Lewis served 200 hours of community work when found guilty of fraud. The court heard how they moved money from accounts to buy themselves time, cheques were bounced and money earmarked for the club's academy was illegally transferred as well as paying themselves generous consultancy fees. It was believed that it had been Geller who reported them to the police!  If only someone had of done the same at Scarborough?

The Grecians won back their league place through a play-off victory at Wembley in 2008 after losing out at the same stage the previous season after defeating Cambridge United at Wembley under the managership of Paul Tisdale. The good run continued with a second successive promotion to the League's third tier after a runners up finish. City survived their first season but tragedy struck the club on the 10th August 2010 when striker Adam Stansfield died of cancer at the tender age of thirty one.

City just missed out on the play offs, but were relegated at the end of the 2011-12. 

Exeter City FC will play in Football League Two in the 2013-14 season.

My visit

Exeter City 1 Crystal Palace 2 (Tuesday 14th August 2012) Football League Cup Round One (att: 3,650)

I had wanted to visit St James Park for some time. Because of work, or lack of it, I'd never got round to visiting with Scarborough. My opportunity knocked when I had finished my quota of night shifts and I had the following couple of days off.

After an hour on the bed I headed to Victoria Coach Station to take the 9am Megabus down to the West Country. Fortunately I caught up with some much needed shut eye along the way, arriving in Exeter around 2pm. A short bus ride from the drop off took me to St Davids station where I was staying at the Great Western Hotel.

I am generally frugal when it comes to booking hotels so that I can afford to get to more matches, but on this occasion I was forced into spending a bit more than I prefer. The hotel was more tired than me, and a bit of a disappointment if truth be told, but I was determined to have a  good time. The post match attraction of the hotel bar with its seven hand pumps of local beers promised to more than make up for the surroundings.

After a very pleasant train ride down to the lovely seaside town of Exmouth and another rest I returned back to the station for the service to St James Park, directly behind the Old Grandstand. On arrival I sought out the advice of the friendly programme seller who advised me of the best place for a pre match drink. I headed to the rear of the Ivor Doble Stand where the old St James' School had been adapted into a bar and offices. My only gripe was that the lads behind the bar were somewhat lacking energy. There was also an outside bar where opposing fans mingled in good spirits.

Young fans came round with collection buckets for the Adam Stansfield Foundation, which went towards providing struggling youngsters and clubs starting out in the game in the three counties that Adam spent his career; Devon, Somerset and Herefordshire. Many fans wore number nine shirts with his name on the back. Later the fans sang his name on the terraces. It was good to see someone clearly loved and missed was still remembered. It summed up the thoroughly decent people I met during my short stay.

I was enjoying my Tribute bitter as I got talking to the security guy on the players door while taking a photo of the board paying homage to the forty two whose contributions kept the club going in its darkest hour. We compared stories about John Russell and his deeds in crippling both our clubs. Some of what he told me didn't shock me, but it still hurt. It sounded all too familiar. 

The tribute to the twenty four whose money saved City

I left to go and stand on The Big Bank with the home fans for £17, where I got a tremendous view. It was a large roofed terrace to replace its open predecessor. To the left was the all seated Ivor Doble Stand. Opposite was the Old Grandstand, which was for family use. It ran two thirds of the pitch clinging onto the edge of the railway embankment and showing its age. The St James Road Terrace was a small open end for visiting supporters.

The youths on the terrace made a decent noise, with the Palace youths reciprocating at the far end in some kind of ultra culture including the lighting of flares. The teams came out to a good ovation, and the volume was turned up after a couple of minutes when John O'Flynn put The Grecians ahead. The home side were playing some lovely football against an average Palace side. I particularly liked the play of Spanish forward Guillem Bauza for City, while Glen Murray looked the star man for the visitors.

However, the game changed when one of the linesmen flagged for a penalty when no-one else spotted the supposed hand ball in the City area. Jermaine Easter stepped up to equalise from the spot, which led to inconsistent refereeing and players and fans alike screaming for handball every time the ball hit the body.

I had to laugh at the chant from the home fans of "you dirty northern bastards" when a visiting player made a bad challenge. Just before half time Palace took the lead with a scruffy goal as the ball looped over the unconvincing City keeper Artur Krysiak by Kagisho Dikgacoi. 

At the break I joined the queue for a pasty ("not Cornish" said the friendly lady behind the counter) and a cup of tea and saw a very risqué line in catering!

City pressed in the second half and with the additions of Alan Gow and Jamie Cureton they could well have levelled and taken the game to extra time. It wasn't to be and even though their side weren't fantastic on the evening, the impressive turn out of 859 Eagles fans went away happy enough. In fairness their time had been the more incisive and most likely to add to the scoreline.

At full time I decided to walk back to my hotel. I was going to stop on the way for a beer, but those beer taps needed some investigation. I eventually found my way back and the beer delivered all it promised, with helpful staff and friendly locals. Gradually more fans came back from the game, including some Palace fans who were to catch the 1am train back to London. I got chatting to an older fan who'd been to the FA Cup tie at Scarborough in 1976 as we got stuck into the beer and discussing all manners of football at all levels.

It was a brilliant end to a superb evening. I really enjoyed my time in Exeter and would recommend it to anyone. Perhaps even with pre match beers in Exmouth and a direct train to the match?

To view the Palace equaliser taken on the video on my IPhone, go to:

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