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

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Swindon Town

Swindon Town FC is a football club located in the large former railway town in Wiltshire, which is eighty miles west of London. The club were formed in 1979 by Reverend William Pitt as Spartan Club, before taking on their present title four years later.

Swindon were originally an amateur club, competing in local friendlies and in the FA Cup, until turning professional in 1894 and becoming founder members of the Southern League. In 1896 they moved to The County Ground to play home games. 

The club had a good spell as it finished runners up in the league in 1909 and 1910, when they also reached the FA Cup Final where they were defeated by Newcastle United. Town won the Southern League in 1911, and the following season they once again reached the last four of the FA Cup. This time Barnsley denied them a final appearance after a replay.

After another league second place finish, they lifted their second title in 1914 and in 1920 Swindon Town were founder members of League Division Three South, defeating Luton Town 9-1 in their first game. Apart from one season where the club were forced to apply for re-election, nothing out of the ordinary took place. In 1958 when the League was re-organised, Swindon were placed in Division Three.

'The Robins' won promotion to Division Two at the end of the 1962-63 season, but were relegated two years later. They found shrewd managers in Danny Williams and Bert Head as they assembled a fine team with Don Rogers the outstanding act with his pace and goals. In 1969 they won their way to the League Cup Final, where they beat Arsenal 3-1 at Wembley.

To see the glorious day in the Wembley mud, click here:

The success led to promotion back to Division Two and a place in the following seasons Anglo Italian Cup. They reached the final and won 3-0 away to Napoli. Town made it a double as they also defeated AS Roma over two legs in the Anglo Italian League Cup Winners Cup. 

A new Main Stand was built at The County Ground but the great run didn't continue. Unfortunately Head had moved to Crystal Palace several years earlier and signed Rogers in 1972. In 1974 Swindon were relegated to Division Three, and it was from that status that they were League Cup semi-finalists in 1980. Eventual winners Wolverhampton Wanderers defeated them over two legs. 

Two years later Town were relegated to the League's basement, which is where they remained for four seasons until lifting the Division Four title. The following season the team under the managership of Lou Macari won another promotion via the play offs.

Osvaldo Ardiles stepped into the managers seat after Macari left for West Ham, and in his first season at the helm, the team won the Play Off Final against Sunderland with an Alan McLoughlin goal. This should have led to promotion to the First Division for the first ever time, but it was not to be. 

An investigation by the Football League acting on an exposee from The People newspaper found the club guilty of thirty six breaches of breaking the rules in relation to illegal payment to the players and tax fraud throughout the 1989-90 season. 

Chaiman Brian Hillier was jailed and West Ham forced Macari's resignation over the matter. The club secretary and treasurer were both given suspended sentances. Sunderland were promoted in Swindon's place. After an appeal Swindon were allowed to remain in Division Two, rather than Three as was originally decided upon.

Ardiles during the next season to be replaced by player manager Glenn Hoddle, who carried on the passing style of football with Colin Calderwood as skipper. After a season and a bit Hoddle produced a side that went on to win promotion at Wembley in May 1993 after a superb Play Off Final saw Swindon defeat Leicester City 4-3.

To see highlights from this classic, click here:

Hoddle moved to Chelsea that summer with Town in the Premier League. His assistant John Gorman took over, but it was a tough season for the club, even with signings such as Andy Mutch and Jan Aage Fjortoft. Steve McMahon was brought in as manager in November, but he couldn't save the team from relegation despite reaching the semi finals of the League Cup. They went down again the following season, but won promotion at their first attempt.

Jimmy Quinn replaced McMahon in September 1998 with the club in a dire financial state. In January 2000 Swindon entered into administration with an estimated £4M debt and losing £25,000 a week. Chairman Rikki Hunt was forced to resign, to be replaced later that season by business tycoon Terry Brady who took the club out of administration. The team were relegated at the end of the season.

Several managers had a go at reviving The Robins fortunes with little success. The goals of Sam Parkin and Tommy Mooney fired Town to the play offs in the 2003-04 season, which also saw plans for a new stadium, hotel and gym in the Shaw area of the town rejected. 

Further financial issues marred the season after which included the non payment of tax bills. Long time club benefactor Sir Seton Wills, who had put in an estimated £10M over the years, once again helped in troubling times.

Andy King lost his job as manager in 2005 to be replaced by Iffy Onuora, who couldn't keep the side up. He departed with Dennis Wise and his assistant Gus Poyet coming in. They won the first six games of the 2006-07 season before leaving to join Leeds United. Paul Sturrock was appointed and he took the side to promotion. 

However, there was plenty of disgruntlement behind the scenes with a power struggle taking place in the boardroom at the same time that the redevelopment of The County Ground was being attempted. The club entered administration once again, before a consortium including Willie Carson sorted out the problems.

Another consortium took over the club in 2008 as Sturrock moved to Plymouth Argyle, to be replaced by Maurice Malpas. After a year Malpas was sacked with Danny Wilson coming in and saving the side from relegation. The following 2009-10 season saw Town reach the Play Off Final, but Millwall defeated them in the Wembley showdown.

After the defeat, star striker Billy Painter and club captain Gordon Greer were sold, inconsistent form dipped and the team were relegated with Wilson been relieved of his duties. The board took the highly publicised but controversial move to appoint Paulo Di Canio as the new manager.

Di Canio led the team to good cup runs and the League Two title at his first attempt, as well as having an argument or two along the way. Predictably enough Di Canio resigned in February 2013, citing the board selling players behind his back as his reason. Kevin MacDonald came in and took the team to the play offs. Town were defeated by Brentford and MacDonald left by mutual consent just three weeks before the start of the 2013-14 season.

Mark Cooper took over team affairs and led the side to the play off final in May 2015, where they went down 4-0 to Preston North End at Wembley. Cooper departed in October 2015 and following short term tenures from owner Lee Power and Martin Ling, the first team coach Luke Williams was put in sole control.

Swindon Town FC will compete in Football League One in the 2016-17 season.

My visits

Swindon Town 0 Hull City 0 (Monday 31st August 1987) Division Two (att: 9,600)

My visit to the County Ground for this evening kick off wasn't even on my radar twenty four hours earlier. I was out on the Sunday night having plenty of ales when I was chatting to my good mate Nick Groombridge in The Other Place, Scarborough. He was telling me that there was a chance that a couple of lads in there were talking about going to Scarborough's game at Colchester, where away fans were meant to be banned and then going onto Swindon.

It sounded a bit far fetched, even after plentiful beers, but I asked if there was any chance of going with them? Sure enough the next morning I was stood at the station in a slightly dehydrated state awaiting my ride.

Mick Young and John 'Doomie' Dyer did turn up and we did go to Colchester and get in on players complimentary tickets. It was now time for part two of the day.

Now I'm still not quite sure how we did it, but we did. Mick's driving was rather rapid around the M25 and M4. It was a lovely day and I remember getting my first view of Windsor Castle. We were watching the clock and the road signs and ever minute counted. 

We found The County Ground easy enough and Mick even made negotiating the famous 'Magic Roundabout' outside the ground look simple. It was just a parking spot we were struggling for, but he soon slid the car into a tight spot on Shrivenham Road. This was handy as the away entrance was just down the road.

We just about made kick off, as we looked around our surroundings. The County Ground was a big enough venue and different on all sides. We were on the corner of the open terraced Stratton Bank, which ran behind the goal. To our left was the Shrivenham Stand.

This angled away from the pitch in the centre and had terracing downstairs with a seating deck above, which was unused following a fire. The far Town End was a low stand with terracing and finally the large Main or Arkells Stand on the far side originally had a large seating deck with a wall at the front and a bit of space to the pitch. By the time of our visit parts of the lower seating section had been installed.

The stewards were friendly enough and arranged for the programme sellers to return at half time as they'd disappeared from outside the ground by the time we'd arrived. The game was a typical early season encounter with both sides sounding each other out, without wanting to risk too much. A draw was a fair result from what I remember.

At full time Mick started the long drive home, in which we stopped for nutrition in Oxford. I know I slep a lot of the journey as I had to be up again at 4.15 to get to the Post Office for work the next morning.

It had been a long but brilliant day out with good people.

Wednesday 15th August 2012

I returned to The County Ground nearly twenty five years after my first visit. I was on the second day of two watching football and visiting grounds. I had been at the Exeter City v Crystal Palace match the previous evening, and after calling in to Tiverton and Taunton, I got out at Swindon before heading to nearby Shrivenham for their FA Cup tie with Kidlington.

The walk to the ground from the station took around ten minutes, as I walked around trying to get inside for a proper look. All gates were closed, but I did get a peep through some of the gates.

Since my previous call, The County Ground had changed. It was now all seated as a legacy of the teams promotions. The Shrivenham Stand was gone to be replaced by a new Don Rogers Stand. The Arkells Stand now had seats in all the lower tier. The Stratton Bank was still open but with seating on the steps. The Town End was also structurally the same apart from the seating addition.

I took some photos that give a good impression of the ground, before walking up the road to catch a bus out of town to take a look at Swindon Supermarine FC.

Swindon Town 0 Bolton Wanderers 1 (Saturday 8th October 2016) Football League One (Att: 7,023)

With a day off work and a chance of doing a treble of games in one day thanks to the International break and the Western League groundhop I made plans and booked a National Express coach to Swindon for just £6.

The match had been brought forward to a 1pm kick off for live TV coverage, which worked perfectly for my 9am departure from Victoria. On arrival, I made the prudent decision to fill up and enjoyed an excellent fry up at the Octogon Cafe.

The Glue Pot pub was my pre match destination of choice. I was struggling with my directions when I asked a friendly local, who just happened to be heading there before the match. What a decision it turned out to be as we sampled a few different halves. The pub was the tap of the Hop Back Brewery. Their products were absolutely top notch.

We walked to the County Ground. My pal was obviously experienced in this as I was in the Town End behind the goal just before the teams entered the arena. My ticket was £19, with the programme costing £3.

Since my previous visit the County Ground had replaced the old Shrivenham Stand with the new all seated Don Rogers Stand. The far Stratton End terrace now had seats, but they were not required for a smallish crowd. The Town End had also been seated. All of them were signs of Swindon’s brief spell in the top flight.

The game was hardly a thriller. For long parts I wish I'd stayed in the boozer. Swindon tried to play pretty football, whereas Bolton were more route one, with neither side being particularly good at it.

The home supporters seemed extremely angry towards their chairman, Lee Power. It was also strongly suggested that manager Luke Williams should have been removed.

James Henry missed a chance for Wanderers in the ninth minute when put through. Lawrence Vigouroux in Town’s goal later denied the same player later in the half. Swindon’s Nathan Delfouneso looked like the most likely to produce anything for the men in red.

Vigouroux would go on to save his side further after the break as he denied several forays. However, he could do anything with just four minutes remaining as the game looked certain to end in a stalemate.

Josh Vela's shot was deflected by Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill into the bottom left-hand corner of his own net to send the 1,000 or so travelling Trotters into raptures of delight. To compound the home sides misery, Raphael Rossi Branco was given a straight red for an elbow on Lawrie Wilson as the game entered stoppage time.

At full time I rushed back to the bus station with several unhappy Robins fans to purchase an explorer ticket for £6.70 where I took the number 55 to my second match of the day at Royal Wootton Bassett Town.

The old photo of the Shrivenham Road Stand has been scanned from a book.

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