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

London

September 2015

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hibernian



Hibernian FC, or Hibs as they are commonly known, are a Scottish football club based in Leith in the north of the capital Edinburgh. The club were formed in 1875 by Irish immigrants in the Cowgate area of the city, with the name of the club derived from Hibernia which was the Roman name for Ireland.


Because of their background there was some sectarian resistance to Hibs competing in Scottish football. In 1887 the club lifted the Scottish Cup after defeating Dumbarton at the second Hampden Park, which would later become Cathkin Park; the home of Third Lanark. Hibs defeated Preston North End following this in a game that was billed at the time as the World Decider.

Unfortunately bad management at the club led to it losing its home ground as it ceased to operate in 1891. The following year a reformed club acquired a new ground in Leith that was to be known as Easter Road, despite it being located on Albion Place. In 1893 Hibs were elected to the Scottish Football League, reaching the First Division in 1895. At the same time the club passed a rule that players no longer needed to be members of the Catholic Young Men's Society.


In 1896 the club were defeated in the only Scottish Cup Final to be played outside Glasgow, as their arch rivals Heart of Midlothian triumphed at Logie Green in Edinburgh. Hibs lifted the Cup once again in 1902 when Celtic were beaten on their home ground. Little did 'Hibees' fans realise that it would be the last Cup triumph for over a hundred years. In 1902-03 the club were crowned as champions of Scotland before they were lost out in the Cup finals of 1914, 1923 and 1924; the first two to Celtic and then Airdrieonians.

The period after World War Two was one of the most successful in the clubs history as they became one of Britains foremost clubs. The 'Famous Five' forward line of Willie Ormond, Bobby Johnstone, Eddie Turnbull, Gordon Smith and Lawrie Reilly all scored over one hundred goals for the club. Only Ormond cost a fee, coming in from Stenhousemuir, while the others all came from youth or junior football. Along with the likes of Bobby Combe and Eric Younger the team won the league in 1947-48, 1950-51 and 1951-52, as well as finishing runners up on another couple of occasions.


Hibs became the first British club to play in European competition in 1955 as Chelsea were deterred from entering the European Cup. The Hibees reached the semi final stage where they were defeated by Stade Reims. The club also had some decent runs in the Inter City Fairs Cup in the 60's with Napoli and Barcelona amongst their scalps.

Eddie Turnbull returned as manager in 1971 and produced a side labelled 'Turnbull's Tornadoes'. They lifted the League Cup in 1972 and inflicted a 7-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle the following year. The team ended runners up in the League in 1973-74 and 1974-75 with Peter Cormack, Peter Marinello and Pat Stanton being amongst those starring. Turnbull went by the end of the decade with Hibs relegated, although they returned to the top flight in 1980.


The team failed to qualify for Europe for nine further seasons despite a few appearances from George Best along the way. Owing to mismanagement during the fallow years, Hibs were close to bankruptcy in 1990 at which point Hearts owner Wallace Mercer tried to merge the two clubs. The fans set up a Hands Off Hibs campaign, convincing Kwik Fit owner Sir Tom Farmer to buy a controlling interest in the club despite having no interest in football. A year later Hibs won the League Cup with a win over Dunfermline Athletic.












Two views of Easter Road in the 80's
pics courtesy of Gary Griffiths

Alex McLeish was appointed as manager in 1998, but the team were relegated. However, they returned to the Premier League a year after. 2001 saw another defeat in the Scottish Cup Final as Celtic won 3-0 with McLeish moving to Rangers soon after. Player Franck Sauzee had a disastrous spell in charge before Bobby Williamson was brought in. While he was unpopular with fans, youngsters such as Derek Riordon, Scott Brown, Kevin Thomson and Garry O'Connor got their opportunity.

Wiiliamson moved on to be replaced by Tony Mowbray who was popular with the style of play he employed. He stayed for three years before his talents were courted elsewhere, so Hibs employed former player John Collins in his place. Collins led the team to lift the 2007 League Cup but left after he was  refused funds to strengthen the squad. Another former player Mixu Paatelainen had a spell at the helm before yet another ex Hibee John Hughes took over. He was given funds to buy Liam Miller and Anthony Stokes as the team qualified for the Europa League for the 2010-11 season. 


However, after a poor start and a first round elimination Hughes was sacked to be replaced by Colin Calderwood, who himself lasted just over a year in the hot seat. Pat Fenlon was recruited from Irish side Bohemian in November 2011. Hibs managed to avoid relegation at the end of the season and also reached the Scottish Cup Final, where their hoodoo continued following a 5-1 defeat to Hearts. Fenlon went about rebuilding his side in readiness for the 2012-13 season.

Hibs reached the Scottish Cup Final in 2013, but the long losing run continued as Celtic defeated them 3-0. Fenlon resigned as manager in November 2013 to be replaced by Terry Butcher. The appointment turned out to be a disaster.

The team went thirteen games without a win at the completion of the 2013-14 season, to land themselves in the relegation play-off against Hamilton Academical. Accies went through after a penalty shoot out at Easter Road to dump Hibs into the newly named second tier Championship. 


Alan Stubbs replaced Butcher in the summer 2014 and was faced with another rebuilding job with the playing squad. Hibs finished in second place in the 2014-15 season, but lost out in the play-offs to Rangers to be resigned to another campaign at the second level of Scottish football.

Hibernian FC will play in the Scottish Championship in the 2015-16 season.


My visits

Tuesday 29th January 2013

I was staying in Edinburgh for a few days break, to be joined by my Dad on the Tuesday evening, which left me to my own devices during the day. Never shy of adventuring and visiting new grounds and clubs, I marked out a plan of attack. Our hotel near to the junction of London Road and Leith Walk was only fifteen minutes at most away, but I started my tour for the day just down the road at Meadowbank Stadium, where Edinburgh City were residing.

I got the occasional view of the stands of Easter Road as I walked down London Road, before  cut through several streets and walked up Ester Road itself, and then into Albion Road, which had a fine programme shop which was unfortunately closed. I was close to attending a Hibs game ten days earlier while up north with my pal Karl. We were staying in Glasgow, but our first choice of Saturday games was Hibs v Dundee as Edinburgh was less than an hour on the train. Unfortunately the threat of snow meant a re-adjustment of our plans so we ended up having a very enjoyable afternoon at Greenock Morton v Livingston instead.


I fretted as I got to the locked high gates of Easter Road. None of the corners were open and there wasn't even any large enough gaps to take photos. I was about to give up when I walked to the south end of the stadium and saw some men chatting inside through a small gap in the corner. I saw that the padlock was open by the gate, and after wondering whether I'd land in bother, I pulled the gate open and attracted the attention of one of the men.

He turned out to be a kind man, getting on in years who said it wouldn't be a problem and commented on just how many people they met who wanted to do similar. When  told him I was from Scarborough but lived in London he seemed happy as he'd experienced holidays in the past by the sea and his daughter also lived in London.



I went up near to the corner flag to take in the scene and take some photos of the modern all seater stadium. To the goal to my right was the two tiered South Stand, which housed the away fans. Once this was an open terrace with views of Arthur's Seat in the distance behind it. The new stand had been put up in the mid 90's, as had the similar Famous Five Stand at the other end. To the left was another two tiered construction, The West Stand. Built in 2001 to replace the old stand and paddock, the two sections were divided by a row of corporate boxes. This stand also contained all the players facilities and directors box. Finally on the far side was The East Stand, which was a large single tier of seats, where once a covered terrace stood.

I said my thank you's, as one of the groundstaff mentioned that it was wise not ask the same at Tynecastle as they'd lock me in! I went on my way back to Leith Walk and on to my next venue; St Mark's Park, the home of non league Craigroyston.


Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2 Heart of Midlothian 2 after extra time – Inverness win 4-2 on penalties (Sunday 2nd February 2014) Scottish League Cup Semi Final (att: 12,762)





Once a month I have a Sunday off work and don’t have to return until 4.15pm on the Monday. This offers scope to get to games a bit further away than normal, so I decided it was about time to get adventurous.

Having accumulated enough Reward Points with East Coast Trains for a free ride back from Edinburgh to London, I also booked the 11pm coach for the Saturday night from Victoria to the Scottish capital. My kind workmate John Yorke took me off early so that I could get to my departure time, as I must admit to being a little nervy about what to expect.


Fortunately the service had lots of space so that I secured a double seat to myself. I took a sleeping tablet and apart from a comfort break at Woodhall Services on the M1, I knew very little about the journey as I drifted in and out of slumber. We arrived at Edinburgh bus station at 7.30am with the light breaking on a clear, cold and windy morning.

Feeling remarkably good I set off on a touristy walk over the North Bridge and then up the Royal Mile up to the Castle, before heading down into Grassmarket and back round to the new town via Lothian Road. It was a perfect morning for taking photos, and I felt quite happy with myself as I entered the cold Standing Order pub to take advantage of the good value Wetherspoon breakfast menu while watching Sky Sports News and listening to England’s final debacle on their tour of Australia. The unfillable filter coffee deal kept me going for a while longer while I perused the papers.


With the match kicking off at 12.15 for TV it was high time to seek refreshment. Although my room wasn’t ready at the York Lodge B&B on York Place they kindly allowed me to leave my overnight bag. Continuing along I was thinking of bars along Easter Road until I saw two gents cut down Broughton Street in Hearts scarves towards the Cask & Barrel. The pubs website had stated that they opened at 12.30 on a Sunday, but I just had a hunch that I may have been in look. Another fan was outside the shut doors but he told me that they were about to open at 11am.

The beer was just as good as I remembered from my visit a year earlier. The Orkney Best glided down like cream. I was in a really good mood when I joined the growing crowds along Brunswick Road, Easter Road and then up Albion Road, where I purchased a good match programme for £3.


My £20 ticket was for the East Stand. There was time to grab a pie and head up to the top row before the teams came out in bright sunshine. Hearts fans filled the stand I was in as well as half of the main West Stand and the bottom tier of the South Stand. Around 1,500 Caley fans occupied the lower tier of the North Stand. Their support was magnificent as it was not possible to get to the game on the day by public transport from The Highlands. My seat was tremendous with an excellent view of the pitch as well as glimpses of Arthurs Seat and Salisbury Crags behind the south end. Everyone at the back decided to stand up, which was a good idea on such a cold day.

The first half got underway with Inverness the better side. Gradually the young Jambos side got to grips, aided by the non stop tackling of Jamie Hamill. Their keeper Jamie MacDonald made a fine save close to the break when Billy McKay broke through. The sides had met the previous season at the same stage and at he same venue. On that occasion the Edinburgh side won the game after a penalty shoot out. Chances were so few after forty five minutes that there was a real possibility of the same result once again.


I went downstairs at the break to use the facilities and enjoy another pie and a much needed Bovril as the cold bit. The prices were not cheap. It was only ten pence less for my drink!

Hearts returned following the interval looking good, but Caley went ahead in slightly controversial circumstances. It looked like a clearance struck one of their players hands, but the referee, who upset the Jambo’s at regular intervals, said no. The ball was rolled into the path of Greg Tansey who nearly tore the net from twenty five yards on fifty four minutes.


However, the game changed dramatically on sixty eight minutes when Caley’s Gary Warren picked up a second yellow card for bringing down a player on the edge of the box. The Heart’s fans celebrated as though they had scored. Perhaps they could see into the future, as their side’s training ground set piece saw Jamie Hamill’s shot deflect past Den Brill in the Highlander’s net, to cue total mayhem.

Two minutes later, Hearts were awarded another free kick around twenty five yards out. Hamill stepped up and scored with a brilliant curling shot. The Caley fans stood silently in disbelief.


The created a couple of chances that were wasted, before Josh Meekings totally lost his head and brought down a breaking Hearts man with a pre-meditated body check. Referee John Beaton showed him a straight red card. It all looked over for his team.

Hearts were within a minute of reaching the final, in one of the worst seasons in their history as they struggled for their very existence. They had a corner but somehow lost the ball. Play switched to the other end, and after a scramble the ball broke loose to Nick Ross who somehow bundled it into the corner in front of his admiring fans.


A few seconds after the restart, Mr Beaton blew the final whistle. Hearts players collapsed to the floor in sheer agony. Their manager Gary Locke somehow had to motivate them. Whatever he told them didn’t work. His tactics were completely wrong, keeping on four defenders against an occasional lone striker. There were too many passes without the wide men getting to the byline past their defender. Inverness made nonsense of the numerical advantage as they created the better chances.

The game would be decided on a penalty kicks once again, to be taken at our end. Their supporters were not exactly happy. I learned plenty of phrases as well as the words to “Hearts, Hearts Glorious Hearts”, which was repeated many times.


Hearts went first, but both sides missed their openers. I was not alone in sensing it wasn’t going to be Hearts day. Thistle did not miss another spot kick, which meant when Paul McCallum missed it left Ross Draper to slot home the winner and send Inverness to their first national cup final.

It took some time to get out of the stadium. I followed the crowds up Easter Road, forgoing the temptation of the packed pubs to watch the Ireland v Scotland Six Nations Rugby, to cut across to Leith Walk and then to my room for a siesta and shower, before going out to sample some ales in excellent pubs.


I was back home with a large fish and battered burger supper to watch all the highlights on Sportscene at 10pm. The game looked just as dramatic on TV although the two red cards did seems a little on the harsh side.

Following breakfast the next morning in The Playfair, I was on the 10.30am train ready for work that afternoon. It had been a brilliant brief visit to a magnificent city and one of the best games I’d seen in ages.










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