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

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Heart of Midlothian

Heart of Midlothian FC are a Scottish football club from the Gorgie district of Edinburgh who were formed in 1874. The club. who are commonly known as Hearts, were formed by a group of friends who saw the first association game played in Edinburgh who named their new club after the prison on the Royal Mile, which had been demolished fifty seven years previously.

The team began life playing at East Meadows, with Tom Purdie the clubs first captain. After spells playing at Powburn and then Powderhall, Hearts moved across the city to Gorgie, playing at a ground where Wardlaw Street now stands. Five years later they moved into Tynecastle Park across Gorgie Road. Hearts became founder members of the Scottish Football League for the 1890-91 season. It was memorable for the club as 'The Jam Tarts' or 'Jambos' to give the club two of its nicknames lifted the Scottish Cup, defeating Dumbarton 1-0 at Hampden Park at the end of the campaign.

Hearts were crowned league champions in 1894-95, going on to win the Cup the following year, this time with a 3-1 win over their biggest rivals Hibernian (Hibs) at St Bernard's Logie Green home ground in Edinburgh in the only final to have been staged outside Glasgow. A second league title was secured in 1896-97 as well as Hearts also completing a couple more Cup victories in 1901 and 1906 as Celtic were defeated 4-3 at Ibrox and then Third Lanark were seen off at the same venue.

Tynecastle before redevelopmnet
taken from the internet
In November 1914 Hearts were comfortably leading the First Division when politician George McCrae formed the voluntary 16th Battalion the Royal Scots to fight for King and Country. Sixteen first team players plus five hundred fans enlisted. Seven players; Duncan Currie, John Allan, James Boyd, Tom Gracie, Ernest Ellis, James Speedie and Harry Wattie lost their lives.

The club went forty eight years without a major honour, but under manager Tommy Walker success came in droves. The League Cup was lifted in 1954, 1958 and 1959 and 1962. In 1956 Celtic were beaten 3-1 in the Scottish Cup Final and the team won two league titles in 1957-58 and 1959-60 with players such as Alfie Conn snr, Willie Bauld, Jimmy Wardhaugh, John Cumming, Alex Young and Dave Mackay. In 1964-64 with some of the stars moved on they lost the final game 2-0 to Kilmarnock to lose the title on goal average.

The team went into decline for several years although some joy was spread with the performances of Donald Ford, Jim Cruickshank and Drew Busby. The Jambos were placed in the Scottish Premier League upon its introduction in 1975, but they were consequently relegated and then promoted on three separate occasions. The board of directors eventually resigned after the final spell at the lower grade to be replaced by new owner Wallace Mercer, who quickly oversaw a vast improvement.

In 1985-86 Hearts were seven minutes from being crowned league champions once more as they only needed a draw from their final game, but two Albert Kidd goals for Dundee and a heavy Celtic win at St Mirren meant heartbreak for all at Tynecastle. In 1990 Mercer unveiled a plan to merge Hearts and Hibs to try and break the Glasgow old firm monopoly, but he was knocked back in his attempts by shareholders refusing to deal. The early 90's saw Tommy McLean, Joe Jordan and Sandy Clark all try but fail to satisfy Mercer in the managers seat before he sold up in 1994. Jim Jeffries side lifted the Scottish Cup in 1998 with a win over Rangers before Craig Levein and then the legendary former player and record goalscorer John Robertson had spells in charge of the team.

In 2004 the club CEO of the time Chris Robinson announced that Tynecastle was not fit for purpose and that the ground needed to be sold to pay off the clubs debts, while Hearts would move into Murrayfield, despite the Tynecastle having being redeveloped ten years previously. The move was blocked helped by a campaign called Save Our Hearts. In August of the same year the Russian-Lithuanian multi millionaire Vladimir Romanov entered into talks into buying the club.

Romanov made himself immediately popular by stating that the club could become viable by remaining at Tynecastle. He bought up shares from Robinson and other major shareholders, although his manner of controlling the debts caused concern as they were moved from the their previous banks into institutions owned by Romanov. George Burley was the first manager of the new era and his side won their first eight games before Romanov shocked the football world by sacking him! Managers came and went and Romanov sacked a respected CEO, which led to an advisor resigning. He replaced them both with his son Roman Romanov.

Nine permanent managers were sacked in the space of just seven years as several players came in on loan from FBK Kaunas of Lithuania who Romanov also owned. Financial problems continued to blight the club despite regular appearances in European competition. In November 2011 the club was put up for sale as the players wages weren't paid. Eventually after several threats the players received their remunerations. The setbacks failed to dampen the spirit of the squad who went on to win the Scottish Cup in 2012 with a 5-1 hammering of Hibs at Hampden Park under boss Paulo Sergio.

Sergio rejected a new contract so former coach John McGlynn was recruited from Raith Rovers with a very strict budget and orders to bring through the youth players. Again the club were hit with transfer sanctions for the first part of the 2012-13 season and in November 2012 Hearts were issued with a winding up order by the Court of Session in Edinburgh for failing to pay an outstanding tax bill. It was agreed to pay the bill in two installments as a new share issue was launched and fans were asked to help save the club as it announced that it would look towards supporter ownership in 2013, as Hearts became just one of many clubs who suffered by the none presence of Rangers in the SPL.

The clubs future was in real doubt throughout the summer of 2013 as they entered administration and were deducted fifteen points going into the 2013-14 season. All players were put up for sale as a buyer was desperately sought.

Heart of Midlothian FC will play in the Scottish Premier League in the 2013-14 season.

My visits

Tuesday 29th January 2013

As I was only a mile or so away from Tynecastle after visiting several clubs and their grounds around Edinburgh I decided that it would be a good idea to go to the ground and to purchase tickets for Dad and I for the match the following evening.

I jumped off the bus and went behind the Main Stand, where I saw a gate open with steps leading up to a stand. I went inside and took some photos while taking in the surroundings as a group of youngsters were by the players tunnel as they were given a tour.

I was in The Gorgie Stand, which was a single tier of seats, divided by a middle walkway. Before its erection there was an open terracing with tenements forming a familiar backdrop behind. At the far end stood The Roseburn Stand, which was virtually the same as the one I stood in, as was The Wheatfield Stand down the left hand touchline. The stands roofs joined in the corners, where the floodlights were positioned, with screen ends enclosing the arena. The final side was taken up by the Archibald Leitch designed Main Stand. This had seating placed on the old terrace paddock and seating behind the dividing wall. It was much smaller than the newer additions, but it added a touch of tradition to proceedings.

After taking a few photos I returned to the ticket office and megastore, where I paid £24 for myself and £18 for Dad for the next days game. Satisfied with my work I jumped on a bus to Haymarket, where I was to catch a train to Linlithgow to tick off another couple of non league venues.

Heart of Midlothian 1 Dundee 0 (Wednesday 30th January 2013) Scottish Premier League (att: 11.284)

Not for the first time, Dad and I had done a marathon walk in a city. This time we just about covered both Edinburgh's old and new towns as well as a walk through Leith to Ocean Terminal before going back to our hotel for a much needed rest before the evenings entertainment. Amazingly a short nap had revived us as we walked to the Standing Order on George Street for some food. We felt good and we were a little early so we decided to walk down to Tynecastle.

Of course the spare time needed filling, so on a recommendation we walked up Henderson Terrace and entered The Athletic Arms, which is probably better known as The Diggers as it's over the road from Dalry Cemetery. It proved to be a good selection as the immaculately attired barstaff looked after the growing crowd in a splendid pub serving fine ales and good value snacks. Much of the walls was filled with Hearts memorabilia including a fine gallery of former heroes in the small room off the main bar. We headed back down the hill and went into the Tynecastle Arms for a half and a wee dram. The pub didn't hit the same standards in some respects, but was still a good pre match choice.

At just gone 7.30 we went into the ground next door to the pub and climbed the steep steps up The Gorgie Stand. After I'd picked seats in the wrong block we soon found our correct positions. The view was astonishing. Neither of us had ever been in such a steep stand. We were on the back row, yet we looked down on the goal.

We quickly realised why Dundee were adrift at the bottom of the table. They were not very good and looked more than happy to leave town with a point as they continually got behind the ball and only occasionally crossed the half way line. Hearts played some nice stuff, but they were not deliberate enough. Many a time they had a shooting opportunity and to swing in a cross, yet they often looked for one or two passes too many.

Hearts had a couple of loan signings from Liverpool after their transfer embargo had been lifted; Michael Ngoo and Danny Wilson. We only realised this on later reading the programme and then had a good laugh as Mr Ngoo while very capable of holding the ball up and bringing others into play, also looked incapable of shooting except in the exact direction he was facing. He had a couple of attempts and somehow hit the bar with one effort.

At half time we went downstairs onto the adequate concourse to stretch and get the blood flowing as well as catching up with the half time scores. I decided to have a pie and a bovril, but gave up after ten minutes of standing in the slowest queue I'd found all season, while the other lanes sped by. I hoped the bonnie wee lass behind the counter could find something not requiring much energy in later life.

The second half continued in the same vein as the first. Hearts had all the ball, but couldn't find a way through despite Jamie Walker's trickery. The visiting bar was rattled with a long range shot, but with time running out we thought we'd drawn a blank. With six minutes remaining the home boss John McGlynn decided to introduce the experienced John Sutton up front and wide man Arvydas Novikovas. The decisions paid off almost immediately as the Lithuanian held his position rather than chasing the ball like so many others on parade and was fed down the left. He produced a fine cross to the back post, where Sutton launched himself to head past Rab Douglas in the Dundee net.

Douglas pulled off a wonder save in stoppage time as Hearts looked like scoring at will. Sutton won more in the air in his brief cameo than Ngoo had done all night. The locals were naturally delighted at full time. They'd been through some hard times but they still cheered their side on.

We waited to get out and then got a good walk going again, finding ourselves back in the pub a couple of miles away at around 10.15. It had been a good experience in a wonderful football ground, which although modern had remained in the heart of its traditional community, rather than than the club decamping to a soulless out of town development.

To round off a top day my goals galore bet came in thanks to the shambolic Chelsea defence at Reading!

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