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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cambridge United

Cambridge United FC are a football club from the university town of Cambridge, which is located fifty miles north of London. The club were formed as Abbey United in 1912 after the district that the club were from, playing in amateur friendly games at Midsummer Common until the outbreak of World War One.

In peacetime the club moved to Stourbridge Common, and then in 1923 a ground on land off Newmarket Road, which was dubbed 'The Celery Trenches'. The Cambridgeshire FA were not happy with the state of the ground, so United started the 1930-31 season on Parker's Piece. This venue proved unsuitable, leading to the club moving to the Abbey Stadium in 1932.

'The U's', as the club are nicknamed, became members of the Eastern Counties League for the 1947-48 season and turning professional a couple of years later before changing their name to Cambridge United in 1951. After finishing league runners-up in 1957-58, United progressed to the Southern League for the following season.

In 1961 the team won promotion to the Southern League Premier Division, to join their more illustrious neighbours of the time; Cambridge City. After ending in runners up in 1963, United clinched back to back league titles in 1969 and 1970 under Bill Leivers. As a consequence the club were elected to the Football League to replace Bradford Park Avenue.

In 1974 Ron Atkinson came in as the new manager and introduced quality players such as Brendon Batson, Steve Fallon, Steve Spriggs and Alan Biley which saw the team win the Division Four title in 1976-77. This was followed up with a second successive promotion, which elevated United to the second tier of English football.

Atkinson moved on to West Bromwich Albion and was replaced by John Docherty who continued defying the odds with the team, with the addition of fans favourite Lindsay Smith. Unfortunately by 1985 two successive relegations saw the club back in Division Four. In 1989 former player John Beck stepped into the hot seat and revolutionised the way the team played, although it wasn't to every ones liking.

Beck introduced a high powered game and strict discipline. Players were made to take cold showers, train hard and sand was put in the corners of the pitch so that long passes held up for his wingers to cross onto the head of John Taylor and Dion Dublin. Promotion was won in May 1990 at Wembley over Chesterfield in the Play Off Final as well as reaching the FA Cup sixth round after a tremendous run in which Aldershot, Woking, Darlington, Millwall and Bristol City were defeated. Crystal Palace ended the run at the Abbey Stadium with a 1-0 win.

The following season was just as successful as the team ran away with the Division Three championship and again reached the last eight of the FA Cup. This time The U's run ended at Highbury against Arsenal after the had previously seen off Exeter City, Fulham, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday had been beaten.

Amazingly United reached the play offs to reach the top flight at the first attempt, but they were beaten by Leicester City on aggregate in the semi-finals. Skipper Colin Bailie retired from the game after saying he'd lost all enthusiasm for the game after playing under Beck. The manager was sacked the following season as United were relegated back to the third tier Division Two. In 1995 the club found themselves back in the League's basement after suffering a further relegation.

Roy McFarlane led the team back up in 1999, but unfortunately they were relegated once again with club hero John Taylor then in charge. Taylor struggled on, hampered by financial worries at the club before departing, with the 2004-05 season seeing several managers having a go, including Herve Renard who caused a real stir, before making his name several years later as he led Zambia to the Africa Cup of Nations. United were relegated at the end of the season to the Football Conference as the club entered into administration, leading to a deduction of ten points. The Abbey Stadium was sold to the Grosvenor Group keep the club in business, with the club becoming tenants.

In July 2005, the club made a deal with HM Customs and Excise to exit administration with the assistance of the Minister for Sport; Richard Cabourn. After a season of consolidation in their new surroundings in which chairman John Howard announced plans for a new stadium in Milton, former Norwich City striker Lee Power took over as chairman and appointed Jimmy Quinn as team manager who averted a relegation and then took the team to the Play Off Final at Wembley the following season, where they were defeated by Exeter City.

Power departed after stabilising the club and Quinn followed soon after to be replaced by Gary Brabbin. For the second successive season United were denied a League return at Wembley, this time going down to Torquay United. After a fall out with controversial new chairman George Rolls, Brabbin departed as did Rolls soon after a pretty unpopular spell. Martin Ling took over the reigns, despite having resigned once after a disagreement with Rolls, but he couldn't deliver.

In January 2011 the owners put the club up for sale and dismissed Ling, with youth academy and CRC boss Jez George taking over in charge of the first team. The Grosvenor Group unveiled plans for a new community stadium at around the same time. By September of that year it was revealed that the plans for the new stadium would be at Trumpington Meadows and be the centre piece of a sports village that would also incorporate housing and retail developments.

In October 2012 Jez George returned to a role as Director of Football after a poor spell of results to be replaced by Richard Money.

Cambridge United FC will play in the Football Conference in the 2013-14 season.

My visits

Cambridge United 1 Hull City 3 (Saturday 30th March 1985) Division Three (att: 2,137)

A group of us including Nick and John Groombridge travelled to this game by train, arriving really early in Cambridge, which was a bit silly as it was before the days when we'd go for plenty of beer before a game. The town seemed a very pleasant place, if a little quiet and we somehow ended up having a look where the original Cambridge City stadium stood at Milton Road. By the time we visited it was rubble waiting for development as City looked to upgrade their training ground at the back of it.

We walked through the Grafton Shopping Centre and went in a pub opposite the ground without any hassle. The locals seemed friendly enough, although they'd had all the fight knocked out of them by their teams disastrous campaign, which would eventually see them relegated with just six wins, and conceding 102 goals.

As was the fashion at the time we decided to sit at the game. We were placed down the side in the Habbin Stand, with terracing for the home fans next to us. The away Coldham Common End was to our right, and consisted of a small open terracing. The Main Stand ran the full length of the far side, with police boxes in the corner. Finally the Corona Stand was at the Newmarket Road End, which was a covered terracing with open standing to the side of it.

City were far too good for the youngsters of United, plus their sprinkling of experience, as they continued their march towards promotion. We were joined in the seats by some top lads from Goole, who were determined to have a good time and never stopped laughing.

At full time we were marched across the common and then accompanied along the way back to the station without going near to the town centre. We got home around 10pm after changing trains at Peterborough and having a beer. A top day out.

Cambridge United 4 Scarborough 1 (Saturday 4th November 1995) Division Three (att: 2,304)

I had come off my night shift for the very last time at Malton Bacon Factory although I didn't quite realise it at the time and had turned up to travel with the Supporters Club on their mini bus. Chewy, Mick Cammish and Baz Rewcroft also waited to get on board at the station, but it turned out that it had been over booked and someone had to miss out. Mick said he wasn't too bothered and kindly stepped down, or perhaps he had a feeling about what was to follow.

The good thing about travelling with the supporters was that Eric Pickup ran them superbly well and we always got to our destination for at least an hour for a beer (Mansfield aside when year when the coach driver somehow got it into his head that we were playing at Peterborough!). We went inside The U's social club and got nestled in for a few pints.

We were joined by some others including Fred Theobald. A gent joined in and asked what our impressions were of Neil Trebble? Fred didn't take long to tell him that he was utter crap (or something as derogatory, only for it to turn out to be our forwards Dad! It made the rest of us laugh anyway.

We stood in the away end and watched Boro take a real hammering against a very good Cambridge side with only an Andy Ritchie goal to cheer us. It helped that we weren't very good too. At full time Chewy and I got detached from the rest of the travellers on the bus, and for some reason I mistook where we were meant to meet. For the next forty minutes we went this way and that, across the common, up the road and everywhere we could think of. Things were getting desperate as it was before the days of mobile phones and we only had about thirty quid between us.

Eventually we were found by our kind colleagues. Baz was wetting himself, but the rest of the bus were very silent. We arrived back on Falsgrave for much needed beers around 9pm. I can recall it like yesterday as Pete Wilson was walking to the Commy as we jumped off. Some kids were collecting for Guy Fawkes and 'penny for the Guy'. Pete told them they were too early. Happy days!

Saturday 1st December 2012

One of my regrets throughout my travels is how few photos I used to take. A lot of the grounds have changed or disappeared completely, and I don't like using stuff off the internet if I can avoid it. With this in mind I was determined to call once again at The Abbey, without necessarily attending a game.

My opportunity came as I was on night shift and decided to go to the Conference North game between Histon and Bradford Park Avenue. By catching a slightly earlier train I could get to United and still make kick off at Histon. I also noted that United's development side CRC (Cambridge Regional College) shared the stadium for home games and were at home in the Eastern Counties League against Diss Town.

The walk from the station was a bit further than I remembered, but I walked through the terraced streets on the east side of the railway with the good old fashioned traditional floodlights in the distance and then walked across Coldhams Common behind the stadium and round to the front entrance. It had taken me thirty minutes. A gate labelled for stewards was open, so in I wandered. I was no sooner in than the PA started blasting out music, which I fond a little bit keen at around 1.40 and a crowd below a hundred expected.

The stadium was the same as my previous visit apart from the far end, where I'd stood seventeen years before. It had been replaced by the South Stand, which was a raised deck of seating. I took my snaps just as the away team arrived by mini bus. I exited the way that they'd come in and found myself by the bus stop for a ride to the town centre, where I was to connect with my service to Histon.

No comments:

Post a Comment