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

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Leyton Orient

Leyton Orient FC is a professional football club based in Leyton in the east end of London. The club were formed as Glyn Cricket Club in 1881 playing games at the cricket ground, changing their name to Eagle Cricket Club in 1886 and then Orient FC two years later at the request of player Jack R Dearing who was an employee of the Orient Shipping Company.

In 1896 the club gained acceptance to the London League, changing their name to Clapton Orient two years later as they moved into Writtle's Athletic Ground in Clapton. In 1900 the club moved to a new stadium at Millfields Road, joining the Southern League in 1904 and then the Football League Division Two a year later.

The 1914-15 season was the last before the outbreak of World War One, with forty one members of the clubs players and staff joining up with the 17th Service Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, which was also known as the Footballers Battalion. 

A crowd of 20,000 turned up for the final game of the season against Leicester Fosse which included a farewell parade. Three players gave their lives during the conflict at the Battle of the Somme.

As a show of gratuity for their efforts, the Prince of Wales; later to become King Edward VIII, became the first royal to attend a Football League game when he appeared at the home game with Notts County on Saturday 30 April 1921. 

In 1929 the team were relegated to Division Three South with worse to follow a year later after a greyhound company bought the stadium and made 'The O's' stay there untenable.

The club decided to move in to the nearby Lea Bridge Stadium, where Rigg Approach is today, to share with Lea Bridge Speedway Team. Unfortunately the facilities were not immediately up to scratch, so Orient played some home games at Wembley Stadium, Highbury and Wembley again while repairs were carried out. Thoughts were given to remaining at Wembley, but a crowd of just 2,500 at their final game there convinced them to return to the east.

In 1937 Clapton Orient moved to Brisbane Road to take over from Leyton Amateurs and to reflect this, they changed their name to Leyton Orient after World War Two. In 1956 the team lifted the league title and were promoted to Division Two. 

They finished second under the managership of Johnny Carey in 1961-62 and were promoted to the top flight. Future owner Barry Hearn fell in love with the club during this period. Unfortunately their spell in Division One lasted just one season.

In 1966 the club reverted to Orient FC as the club suffered a financial crisis, which was averted with the help of bucket collections, before the club were relegated and then promoted, remaining in Division Two for the whole of the 70's and enjoying a couple of notable FA Cup runs. 

In 1972 they reached the quarter finals after a remarkable fifth round replay against Chelsea, and then in 1978 they were foiled by Arsenal in the semi finals. To see the comeback v Chelsea, click here

Sadly, the 80's saw two relegation's with the club finding themselves in Division Four. During the summer of 1987 the club were renamed Leyton Orient, which seemed to work as a season later under Frank Clark, The O's went up via the play offs. 

Club owner Tony Wood's coffee business in Rwanda was lost during the country's civil war, which led to future of Orient being put in doubt. A documentary called 'Orient; club for a fiver' was broadcast featuring an incredible half time rant from manager of the time John Sitton.

To watch the rant (warning; foul language) click here

With Orient in the League's bottom tier, Barry Hearn bought the club and slowly stabilised the ship  as well as developing Brisbane Road and rebranding it the Matchroom Stadium after his own business. 

The O's missed out in the Play Off Finals of 1999 and 2001 under Tommy Taylor. Paul Brush had an unsuccessful spell at the helm before Martin Ling took over in the managerial hot seat.

Automatic promotion was secured in 2005-06 after a last minute Lee Steele goal at Oxford also relegated the home side to the Conference. After a season or so of consolidation Ling moved on after a poor run to be replaced by Gerraint Williams who fared little better. 

Russell Slade was appointed in April 2010 with the team facing relegation, but the new boss inspired his charges to a late run to secure their place in the third tier. In the 2010-11 the club embarked on an excellent FA Cup run, which was only ended after a fifth round replay against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. 

Slade continued to improve the playing squad, while Hearn ran the club in a sensible manner while attempting to seal a join tenancy with West Ham United at the Olympic Stadium. While those attempts looked to have failed in December 2012, rumours were also abound that the club may look to move to a new town such as Harlow or Basildon to re-invigorate their support.

Slade built a fine young side, aided by loan signings and got his reward at the end of the 2013-14 season when the O's reached the play-offs. Peterborough United were dispatched to set up a Wembley final against Rotherham United. Orient led 2-0 at half time thanks to strikes from Moses Odubajo and Dean Cox but the Yorkshiremen drew level and eventually won promotion in a penalty shoot out.

Hearn sold the club in the summer of 2014 to Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti. Within a couple of months Slade departed to take up the  managerial reigns at Cardiff City with Mauro Milenese and then Fabio Liverani failing in the hot seat. Liverani was dismissed in May 2015 with the club relegated to the bottom tier.

Former O's defender Ian Hendon was appointed as the new team boss with assistance from Andy Hessenthaler, as they looked to rebuild the side. The 2016-17 season turned out to be an absolute disaster on and off the pitch.

Hendon was sacked with Andy Edwards taking over the side in a caretaker capacity in September 2016. Alberto Cavasin lasted from the beginning of October until late November. Edwards took the managers role full time until resigning at the end of January, with Daniel Webb  replacing him. Webb lasted until March 30th, when Omer Riza took over.

Inevitably the constant change in managers and lack of investment in players led to shocking form, as Orient finished bottom of the table and were relegated from the Football League.

Off the pitch Becchetti failed to pay tax bills as Orient faced a couple of winding up hearings, while numerous local businesses went without payment. The players and staff were paid over a month late on more than one occasion.

The normally placid O's fans became very angry. The Leyton Orient Fans Trust (LOFT) becan to raise funds in case the club went bust so that they could start again from non-league football. Former owner Hearn guaranteed them the use of Brisbane Road.

Rumours mounted of a couple of consortium's who were looking to buy the club. Fans meetings continued. One group pulled out after Becchetti continually messed them about. Finally Orient fans received the news they prayed for on the 22nd June 2017.

Lifelong fan and CEO of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robins; Nigel Travers had put together his Eagle Investments 2017 Limited to purchase the club from Becchetti and immediately employed former manager Martin Ling as Director of Football.

Leyton Orient FC will play in the National League in the 2017-18 season.

My visits

Orient 4 Hull City 5 (Saturday 10th November 1984) Division Three (att: 2,365)

My first visit to Brisbane Road coincided with probably the most dramatic football match I've ever had the privilege to attend. The Tuesday previously I had been at Hull City v bottom of the table Cambridge United. 

City were trailing late on when my much missed mate Nick Groombridge said he'd go to Orient with me if they somehow turned it round. City won 2-1 but Nick didn't go with me, much to both our regrets.

I travelled alone on the train using my young persons railcard. It was only something like £14 return back in those days, and I spent the lunchtime wandering around the bright lights of the West End and Carnaby Street before taking the tube east.

Several of my pals from Brid had made the journey south on a supporters coach and were already there enjoying the rare treat of a bar at the back of the open South Terrace. The opposite North Terrace was pretty similar; a decent bank of steps with high fences at the front. To the right was the Main Stand with seats at the rear of a paddock and a gable towards the north end. Opposite was the West Stand, which was once a covered terracing, but now converted with backless bucket seating.

City's promotion dreams had taken a massive hit in the corresponding fixture the previous season, and Brian Horton's charges started even worse, despite the singing from a large group of City fans down the side and a decent contingent behind the goal. Orient led 3-0 after half an hour, with The Tigers truly toothless. 

I got a decent ovation for my display of keep-me-uppy in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere as another shot just missed Tony Norman's goal. On the stroke of half time a Billy Askew corner went directly into the net to offer us hope.

That seemed to be extinguished as a real rasper found the top corner of the City net from outside the box. Player Manager Brian Horton was taking some real abuse from the travelling fraternity, and then out of nowhere something clicked. 

With twenty minutes remaining they pulled what we thought to be a consolation goal back. However, the away end and lads in the seats had cause to go berserk as goals from Steve Massey, Billy Whitehurst and Andy Flounders won the game. Not even the gaggle of youths hanging around on the park behind could upset us.

On my way back to Kings Cross on my own a group of lads approached me. I was a bit concerned as they were Lincoln, who City had a bit of a ding dong with on the opening day of the season as well as a few of us being chased after the game across the High Street. As it happened they were amazed about our game and one of them just wanted to tap a cigarette. I had never been so happy to oblige!

Leyton Orient 3 Scarborough 1 (Saturday 22nd August 1987) Division Four (att: 3,540)

This was Scarborough's first Football League away game and I travelled with driver Doomy, Mick Young and my brother Nick after being picked up on completion of my postal round at 10am. The weather on a warm day turned for the worse as we approached Cambridge on the way to the M11. The rain bounced down with visibility down to a minimum, with us half expecting the game to be off.

Eventually we drove through it and after plenty of confusion around the one way streets of Leyton we found the ground and got parked up without any hassle at around 1.30. After a wander about we went into the open away end, where eventually around two hundred fellow Boro fans joined us. About five minutes before kick off the storm caught up with us again. To their absolute credit Orient moved their home fans along from the near section of the Oliver Road Stand and let us in under the roof.

We were even more heartened as Neil Thompson scored with a skidding shot from twenty five yards. Unfortunately for us Orient got to grips with all yellow clad Seasiders and went on to win the game 3-1. We weren't too upset, because we knew as a fledgling club we would suffer some defeats along the way.

On the way home we called in at the horrible Belle Vue Doncaster where we were to visit the following Tuesday in the League Cup. A kind man took us up into the Main Stand and explained that the Popular Side had been demolished and the tiny caged away end was all that was left of a previously decent sized bank.

We got back at about 9.30 with me heading to the Clifton Hotel for Dave Hesseltine's wedding reception, where plenty of the guests all wanted to know about the match and day out!

Leyton Orient 2 Scarborough 0 (Sunday 21st May 1989) Division Four Play Off Semi Final First Leg (att: 9,298)

Boro just missed out on automatic promotion, finishing in fourth place. As a consequence we were paired with the sixth placed O's in the play offs with the first leg in east London. The game was to take place with a midday kick off, the day after the FA Cup Final.

This had brought about enough drama on its own. I went off to play cricket from Civil Service at Oriel and arrived home in Highfield just after full time following an easy win to be greeted by a group of mates surrounding my landlord Steve Walker on top of the dining table bereft of its legs. 

He had put a bet on for the game to finish 2-2, which it did after ninety minutes. In celebration he thought it a good idea to get heavily stuck into a bottle of Ouzo that someone had brought back from a holiday. He was now unconscious.

This was a bit of a problem as we were all heading down town. We did the decent thing and rang his girlfriend to come and look after him.

The town centre was buzzing as it was back in those days, with plenty of anticipation amongst the lads travelling south a few hours later. Most were trying to be sensible and have an early night. Well that was the plan anyway. I left the Talbot at midnight and returned to the land of the living dead for five hours kip.

The gas board/post office mini bus picked me up at the bottom of the hill. I was not in pristine condition, but still stuck to my vow of turning up in full Boro kit. A pair of work Doc Marten shoes completed the outfit. 

Gradually the crew started coming round and a few beers were consumed. We got to the ground at around 11.30 along with the rest of the Seadog masses, of which there must have been at least 1,500. I bought my first ever football fanzine on the way in from a street vendor knocking out copies of When Saturday Comes.

Boro didn't play to their best during the game, against a good O's side roared on by plenty of floating fans as well as their regulars. The game ended in a disappointing two nil defeat on a scorching day.

Action from the game can be seen by clicking here and here:

The bus journey home seemed to take for ages, although we conveniently got back just before opening time. It turned out that we'd arrived home very early compared to fifty other Seadogs who travelled on a private hire bus under the steam of the ultra unreliable but cheap Primrose Valley Coaches. It broke down on the A1 on the way back. My brother was on board and its one of his and most of the others favourite ever trip.

A new bus would have to travel down from Filey and would take several hours, so the punters considered how to get some ale, this being in the days of pubs shutting at 3pm. They used their initiative and went to the Little Chef, who served alcohol but only if food was ordered. By all accounts the order was ten plates of chips and fifty beers. 

Games of football broke out on the hard shoulder before someone saw the village of Sawtry across a field. The hordes marched on mass and drank the village dry converting one landlord into an instant Boro fan. The replacement coach arrived, but the lads would not be moved until closing time. They quite reasonably argued that they'd been kept waiting for five hours, so now the drivers could.

I am so gutted I wasn't on board!

Wednesday 26th September 2007

I was on a day off work and groundhopping around clubs in east London and Essex, with the Matchroom Stadium, near to being my last call. Unfortunately the ground was all locked up, so I did the best I could in the way of photos through gaps in the gates.

Thursday 20th September 2012

Another fruitless visit as above. The day wasn't a total waste as I found where the Supporters Club bar was located as well a finding the superb King William V pub in Leyton, which was the brewery tap of Brodies Brewery.

Leyton Orient 1 Scunthorpe United 3 (Saturday 15th December 2012) Football League One (att: 4,942)

A cricketing mate and West Ham ever present Tony Foster was heading to Brisbane Road, so after arranging for my colleague to relieve me from work at 2pm, I agreed to also pay a visit and see inside the revamped stadium. An added attraction was that a former favourite Boro manager, Russell Slade, was in the hot seat at Brisbane Road as I preferred to call it.

His sides were always full of endeavour, so I expected more of the same. News that the club had announced that admission had been dropped from a staggering £23 down to £18 for the rest of the season, so that added to my enthusiasm!

I arrived at the stadium to find a large queue at the ticket office as the club had offered a voucher scheme at reduced prices for the game. The reduction in prices had obviously worked. 

After ten minutes in the line I was told that the collections queue was at the end with hardly anyone waiting. Still, not to worry, I was in my excellent seat next to my mate with pie and drink in hand from the sensibly priced catering stall before kick off.

The ground had changed massively since seeing my last game there. The old Main Stand was still in place with additional seating where the paddock had once been. The North Stand was a raised single tier of seating as was the South Stand at the other end, only the seats went right down to the front to allow for the slight slope on the pitch. 

We were in the West Stand, which had a raised seating deck and then a gallery balcony over the centre section and more boxes above in the huge structure. Flats had been built in each corner of the ground to raise finance, which gave the arena an enclosed feel. It was still traditional, but in a modern way. I liked it.

Orient went into the game having won their previous eight matches, while Scunthorpe found themselves in the relegation places. To be frank the first half was pretty dire, with the only real action on the sticky surface being two Scunny shots from the edge of the box. 

I predicted to Tony that a famous Slade half time ‘pep talk’ would sort The O’s out after the break. Indeed, this is what happened but they were missing the killer touch around goal despite dominating for fifteen minutes.

Scunthorpe, however decided that the game was there for the taking, and they went ahead with a fine goal from Christian Rebeiro with the aid of some dubious defending. They went on to double their lead and virtually render my fixed odds coupon useless once more, with an excellent free kick move no doubt honed on the training ground which was finished with aplomb by Karl Hawley. 

Mark Duffy was having an impressive game or Scunthorpe, who were cheered on by 341 fans opposite us. The home side received a bit of hope when the ageing Kevin Lisbie slotted home a penalty given by the erratic referee Darren Deadman. 

This mattered not to The Iron, as within a minute they’d restored their two goal lead as Damien Mozika fired home with the aid of a deflection.

Throughout the game the locals came across as good proper football fans, with a fair bit of humour to boot. However, towards the end a good argument broke out a few rows down when an O's fan turned and told another to belt up moaning at the team. Several others got involved, with some calming the mood with witty comments.

Slade was honest in his post match appraisal saying that it was disappointing and that the team were below par with the players putting in a poor performance. I on the other hand was quite euphoric. OK my betting slip was down, but news came in of Brid’s 3-1 defeat at Pickering. Added to this we had got inside the packed Supporters Club. 

This fine facility was built into the stand and stages beer festivals and always has six real ales on tap. I got in for free as a CAMRA member, but it’s only £1 day membership and once in the beers are less than £3 a pint; all served in proper glasses.

Busy as it was, the staff were mob handed behind the bar as well as being professional and eager as it is run by fans who also have a love of beer. If only every club had somewhere as good as Orient’s!

Leyton Orient 1 Hull City 2; after extra time (Tuesday 15th January 2013) FA Cup Round Three Replay (att: 3,601)

Despite City's abysmal performance at home to Sheffield Wednesday the previous Saturday, I decided to give them another go on a bitterly cold night. The3 added attraction of sampling some fine Brodie's ale at their brewery pub; The King William IV in Leyton being an added feature. After some fine Citra bitter I took the bus that dropped me a goal kick away from the ground.

I paid my £15 and grabbed one of the few remaining programmes as the stewards were caught out by the numbers coming through the gate. The catering at Brisbane Road once again seemed sensibly priced. Producing a large pot of soup was definitely welcome! I went upstairs, where the stewards sensibly allowed standing, but only on the back six rows.

The game was certainly not brilliant but it was a vibrant cup tie lacking in quality. City took the lead with a great goal from Nick Proschwitz just before the break. Keeper Eldin Jakupovic had miraculously recovered after being stretchered off a few days previously but he did little to enhance his reputation after Saturday's nightmare.

In the second half The O's gave it a real go but looked unlikely to score. Paul McShane was immense at the back for The Tigers. A strong City line up showed their class at times on the good surface which got slippy as the night went on. It getting ever colder, so I wasn't exactly joyous as a deflected cross floated over Jakupovic with three minutes to go, at the same time Glen Murray rendered my coupon useless elsewhere with an equaliser for Crystal Palace.

It looked nailed on for penalties after both sides cancelled each other out in extra time but a Tom Cairney shot slipped past Jamie Jones to seal the tie with three minutes of the tie remaining.

Top marks to the O's stewarding. I rarely go into segregated away sections but I thought they were top class, as they opened up a second block to accommodate an away following of over 600 fans. Somebody's confiscated hip flask was handed back with a smile and a handshake at full time.

Also as mentioned earlier, it was top drawer catering. Still not dirt cheap, but very sensible for a league ground. I paid £3.80 for an excellent Pukka Pie and a cup of proper soup. The service from the ladies was prompt and came with a smile. There was no gormless disinterested students topping up their grants or pocket money.

At full time I met Tony Foster who'd watched from the home stand and we travelled back on the tube together discussing the evenings events.

Leyton Orient 2 Bristol Rovers 0 (Saturday 29th August 2015) Football League Two (att: 5,777)

My long weekend off work was going well. I’d already seen Yorkshire defeat Essex at Chelmsford to reach the last four of the Royal London One Day Cup, followed by Friday night rugby league action between London Skolars and North Wales Crusaders. 

My Sunday was going to be filled at the T20 cricket match between Hampstead CC and Middlesex CCC as part of the Tim Murtagh Benefit Year, and Bank Holiday Monday was going to be spent at a charity music festival in Bury. Just what was I to do with my Saturday?

My options were huge. There were probably too many. I popped into my local Wetherspoons after the rugby for Friday last orders and bumped into a regular drinking pal Steve Speller. He was going to E10 the following day using the season ticket of our unavailable mutual pal Steve Barnes, so I agreed to go with him.

With my ticket booked online we headed off towards Leyton. I knew that the day had every chance of involving quantities of beer. To be honest, it was one of the attractions as I knew that Steve knew his stuff.

If it wasn’t for a test event rugby union game at the Olympic Stadium, we would have gone to Tap East in the Westfield Shopping Centre. As it was we went to collect my ticket and kicked off proceedings with a livener in the brilliant Supporters Club at the stadium.

A short bus ride deposited us in the King William IV where the normally reliable Brodies ales was slightly disappointing, as was the late Leeds winner on the TV at Derby. At 2.30 we headed back to Brisbane Road. I presumed I’d bought a ticket in the main West Stand until I checked it. I was over the other side along from the away fans!

With a decent pie and Bovril in hand I went upstairs and selected to stand at the back where the last row of seats had been removed. The O’s came into the game with a 100% win record with home fans most happy after suffering relegation the previous term. Rovers were roared on by 1,023 very vocal Gasheads.

The game was of a really good standard and played at high pace. Both sides looked to attack. The O’s put some fine moves together but were handed a gift on twenty three minutes when James Clarke fouled Paul McCallum with a blatant push in the box. Lloyd James slotted away the spot kick with ease.

I headed downstairs just before the break to use the facilities and to get further food as I had a feeling that I could be staying out post match. I was near the front of the queue when a huge roar went up. Dean Cox set up Jay Simpson who fired home to make it 2-0.

Throughout the second half a regular gave me the low down on happenings at the O’s as we continued to be entertained by some good football from both sides. I was introduced to comedian and broadcaster Bob Mills who came across a decent bloke and an ordinary fan.

Orient thoroughly deserved their win, but I predicted that Rovers would also be up there at the business end of the season. I met Steve in a euphoric Supporters Club, where I was introduced to Trevor, a regular since moving from Sheffield many moons earlier.

The beer was top class and the service from the volunteer bar staff was pretty amazing. Despite the room being packed no-one waited long for a beer. We nattered away as the beer flowed. I had intended to head to Hampstead CC after a couple, but I was side tracked.

After a couple of hours we headed to the North Star in Leytonstone, which was a really good find for me and worthy of further inspection. The train journey back seemed to take a long time!

I got home to enjoy seeing Chelsea get beat on Match of the Day and to round off a top class day I found out that Hampstead CC had been crowned as Middlesex League champions.



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