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 24, 2012

Stalybridge Celtic

Stalybridge Celtic FC are a non league football club from the former textile town to the east of Manchester. Celtic were formed in 1909, although another club of the same name were formed in 1906. The club moved into Bower Fold on Mottram Road on formation.

After two seasons in the Lancashire & Cheshire Amateur League, the club turned professional and joined the Lancashire Combination. After a spell in the Central League, Celtic attempted to progress by joining the Southern League before returning for the 1919-20 season. In 1921 Stalybridge became founder members of Football League Division Three North.

After just two seasons Celtic resigned from the League as they could not attract the attendances to justify such a status. Instead they returned to the Cheshire League, where they replaced their reserve team. The club remained in the league for the following sixty years, with just one title win in 1980 as its reward.

In 1982 the league merged with the Lancashire Combination, with Celtic becoming founder members of the North West Counties League. They were crowned champions in 1984 and then again in 1987, which led to promotion to the Northern Premier League. In 1988 a further promotion to the Premier Division was achieved.

After finishing runners up in 1990-91, they went one better the next season by lifting the title and winning promotion to the Football Conference. After a spell of five seasons the club were relegated back to the Northern Premier League. In 2000-01 they were champions once again which led to a return to the Conference. Unfortunately on that occassion their spell lasted just one season.

In 2004-05 Stalybridge Celtic were made founder members of Conference North under the managership of John Reed. In May 2007 he was replaced by Steve Burr, who took the side to the play offs in the 2007-08 where they lost out to Barrow in the final. The highly regarded Jim Harvey was appointed as team manager in February 2010.

Harvey remained at the helm until October 2013, until he was replaced by Keith Briggs who led the side to safety from relegation. The 2014-15 campaign saw Celtic at the wrong end of the table once again. It took the appointment of Liam Watson as the new team manager in March 2015 to stave off relegation.

Stalybridge Celtic FC will compete in the Conference North in the 2016-17 season.

My visit

Stalybridge Celtic 2 Scarborough 2 (Tuesday 22nd August 2006) Conference North (att: 401)

Scarborough were in a desperate state, with a signing embargo in place and having to start off off the season with minus ten points, owing to continual financial irregularities. I was off work for a couple of days, so I decided to head north to offer my support.

I took the train to Manchester Piccadilly around lunchtime and booked into The Gardens, an ageing hotel with a creaky lift. I had plans to fill up the afternoon before the match and headed off on foot to Sports City and the City of Manchester Stadium, where I went on an enjoyable stadium and museum tour. A bus took me back to the city centre for my train to Stalybridge.

On arrival I tried a pint at the legendary Buffet Bar on the platform of the station as I sat outside taking in the scene and listening to the latest updates from the fallout of the controversial England v Pakistan Test Match at The Oval. I decided to walk to the ground. On the way I met Matt Lawson, AKA Malton Seadog for the first time and his Stevenage supporting pal.

I left them to walk the last few yards as I had a beer in the Hare & Hounds before going into Bower Fold and enjoying some pre match refreshment and Boro chat in the clubhouse. Several years previously Boro had played at Stalybridge in a FA Trophy tie on a day marred by crowd trouble mainly caused by off duty Man Utd fans, but the welcome was fine on this occasion.

The ground itself was a real beauty. The Main Stand with changing rooms was down the Mottram Road side. Opposite was the Lord Pendry Stand with a raised seating deck. The Mottram End and Joe Jackson Stand at the Town End both had roofs over terracing. The rest of the ground consisted of open terracing.

Boro's team were still getting to know each other properly and went two down before half time, purely through errors that led from what looked liked poor communication. Several of us agreed over half time pint that the team had not played too badly.

The second half prooved the point as they fought back in tremendous fashion, drawing level and very nearly winning with goals from Chris Thompson and Lee Whittington; much to approval of the hundred or so hopeful Seadogs in attendance. I had a good chat with Alty Seadog about what had gone on with the finances and what exactly was happening at the club.

At full time Simon from Batley kindly went out of his way to drop me at the station so that I could catch a train back to Manchester. I sent texts to my fellow supporting mates, and although they were happy with the result, their faith had long gone. I was still hopeful that things could be resolved, but I've always been an optimist.

I enjoyed my after match beers in Wetherspoons on Piccadilly before hitting the sack, having a heavy sleep and then going out for another cracking day in a quality city.

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