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, August 11, 2013


Aveley FC is a non league football club, that was formed in 1927. Aveley is a small town in Thurrock, Essex which is located just over sixteen miles east of central London.

'The Millers' played in local competition before joining the London League in 1949. The Premier Division title was lifted in 1954-55, and two years later the club made the switch to the Delphian League. Following the closure of that competition in 1963 Aveley joined the Athenian League.

After winning a divisional title Aveley joined the second tier of the Isthmian League in 1973 as founder members. In 1985-86 the club were relegated to the third tier of the league before bouncing back four years later. However, by 1995 two further relegation's had been suffered. 

The new millennium brought greater luck as the club were promoted to Division One North after league re-organisation. Further non league restructuring saw Aveley switched to the Southern League East Division for the 2004-05 campaign. They remained their for two seasons before moving back to Division One North of the Isthmian League.

Rod Stringer's side made an impact and were crowned champions in their second year back, and gaining promotion to the Premier Division. In their first season at their elevated status Aveley finished in third place, but were denied promotion after being defeated in the play offs by Boreham Wood at the semi final stage.

In 2011-12 the club were relegated once more.  A fifth place finish in 2012-13 gave the Millers a place in the play-offs, where they lost in the semi-final to Maldon & Tiptree.

Finances at Aveley were given a boost from the 2013-14 season as Grays Athletic moved into Mill Field as tenants. A couple of mid table finishes ensued as the club moved forward with plans for a new Parkside ground at nearby Belhus Park, which was ready for the 2017-18 season.

Justin Gardner was appointed as team manager in xxx, and he remained in place until October 2016 when the experienced non-league boss Terry Spillane took over the reigns. Despite being given an increased playing budget Spillane's side made a poor start in their new home.

Spillane was replaced by James Webster, who arrived from Brightlingsea Regent, who brought new players into the club.

Aveley FC will compete in the Isthmian League Division One North for the 2017-18 season.

My visits

Aveley 5 Kingsbury Town 1 (Monday 3rd January 2000) Isthmian League Division Three (att: approx 70)

My first live football match of the new millennium saw me visit Mill Field for a fourth tier Isthmian League encounter. I was keen to get out of the house and see some action and a new place, and with the game kicking off at noon it also gave me the opportunity to catch a bus to Grays Athletic v Bishop's Stortford at 3pm afterwards.

I took the train to Rainham before catching the bus which deposited me virtually outside the ground. It was a dull and cold day, but my enthusiasm was bright as I entered another new venue on my long list.

Mill Field was a better venue than I expected. A large Main Stand stood behind an open terrace which curved away from the pitch by the half way line. Opposite was a small cover to shelter standing spectators. Both ends were open with a just a couple of steps of terracing. The clubhouse was by the turnstile corner.

I decided to sit in the stand, which offered an excellent view of proceedings. A lady was on the tannoy and doing a fine job. It was a cold morning as the teams entered the fray, but the visiting defence would soon be in a sweat as they were led a merry dance.

Former Dagenham & Redbridge striker Tony Rogers led the carnage. I can't remember exactly how many he scored, but I'm pretty certain  he got a hat trick. He was simply too good for his opponents.

At half time I'd been into the clubhouse for a whisky to warm up, and have a look at England's Test Match in South Africa. Unbelievable it was colder inside than out!

I returned to my previous position and watched the one sided match for the second period. At full time I wandered over the road. Before long the number 22 bus had turned up which took me to Grays via Lakeside Shopping Centre for the second leg of my entertainment.

Wednesday 26th September 2007

My return visit to Mill Field was to take some photos as part of a day out where I called in on twelve different venues. The ground was unaltered, save for the far side cover missing. It had been blown away in gale force winds a few months earlier and was still awaiting repair.

Aveley 0 AFC Hornchurch 1 (Friday 19th August 2016) FA Cup Preliminary Round (att: 171)

The FA Cup will always be my favourite cup competition, so when the draw was made and fixtures announced, I didn’t need any convincing to head east for an Essex derby; especially as it was scheduled to be Aveley’s last season at their ageing Mill Field ground.

After a good walk through London, I took a train to Upminster before heading back on the tube to Elm Park to catch the 372 bus which dropped off a minute or two from the venue. Admission was a steep £10, and even though I went inside the ground thirty minutes or so befor kick off, I managed to snaffle the penultimate programme on sale for a further £2.

Mill Field was definitely showing signs of age. It still advertised Diadora League football on a board, when that particular sponsorship had ended for the Isthmian League in 1995. Since my last visit, a small cover had been placed behind the far goal and a scaffold cover had replaced the former shelter on the far side that had been blown away in a vicious storm a few years previously. The improvements were necessary as Grays Athletic were current tenants in the Premier Division of the Isthmian League.

A decent cheeseburger set me back £3.50, with a cup of tea a further quid. I settled on the steps in front of the fine old Main Stand to enjoy my feed. The structure may have been missing some of its seats, but it was still an impressive structure. The playing surface had plenty of grass on it.

Before the game I made the Urchins of Hornchurch favourites, but I knew it was going to be a tight affair. The visitors two front men; David Knight and George Purcell caused the home defence several problems early in the game.

As the excellent floodlights kicked in, the game became scrappy, not hugely helped by a down pitch wind. On twenty eight minutes Aveley’s Abs Seymour saw his free kick dip and come back off the crossbar. Callum Chafer made a fine save from the follow up.

Purcell came very close with a shot at the other end that was deflected just past the post. With the scoreline blank at the break I wandered round to the clubhouse, which was showing the Manchester United v Southampton Premier League game. The snack bar was in overdrive, but with no door between the rooms, the clubhouse was soon a very smokey place from the burgers on the griddle!

The second half produced a few half chances at either end, without either side really taking control. Aveley’s keeper Richard Robins hadn’t truly convinced me all evening, especially when having to use his feet.

He received a back pass which he dithered with. Urchins substitute Abs Thompson slid in with his tackle winning the ball and forcing it into the empty net with twenty three minutes remaining. Hornchurch should have probably made sure, but they missed a couple of chances through Kenzer Lee.

Aveley tried but could not break the away sides defence. A ball dropped on the edge of the box but Emmanuel Ighorae blazed his shot over the bar, to end proceedings and send Hornchurch through to the next round.

I caught the bus and then train back while listening to the GB Womens Hockey team secure a gold medal in the Olympics before I got back for a couple of pints before bed. 

Aveley 1 Norwich United 1 (Monday 27th November 2017) Isthmian League Division One North (att: 157)

My pal Tony Foster had tried to visit the new Parkside home of Aveley a few weeks previously, but had to abort the trip after getting snarled up in the traffic on the M25. When he said he’d give it another bash, I was more than keen as I was on early shift at work.

We departed from Stanmore at 5.30pm to give ourselves ample time. I’d seen warnings of delays near to the Lakeside Shopping Centre, so Tony had packed his AZ road map and I had my phone App at the ready.

The journey was OK until we got round to near to Junction 29. We came off and headed back towards the city on the A127 before cutting through Hornchurch and south to Aveley, from where it was just a short drive round the Bypass to the stadium.

The floodlights were not turned on despite their being only thirty minutes to the scheduled kick off time. A gent came to the entrance of the building to let us know that the start would be delayed as the referee had been stuck in traffic.

Parkside looked very impressive from the outside with the main building having Aveley FC displayed in large lighting. The car park was tidy and spacious. We went inside to the main bar, where the standards were maintained.

I was taken aback to see just how many houses were already in the vicinity of the ground, with more to follow. It looked as though the club had found a perfect location going forward; with their bar and function rooms having a ready made customer base.

This was light years away from the old Mill Field. While I loved tradition, this new facility really was top class. The toilets were habitable and the bar and function rooms attractive to events apart from football matches.

We were told that kick off was confirmed for 8pm. After a bit of confusion we paid out £10 admission fee as well as collecting a programme for £2. A Guinness and a San Miguel cost £4 each. Coffee’s were a very over the top £3.

We headed out into an increasingly cold evening just before the sides made their appearance. We decided on watching the first half from the far side, as I took in the surroundings of a really impressive new built with its artificial 4G pitch.

Both ends had two small covers either side of the goal. The Main Stand had a high roof over seating and a covered balcony, with some flat standing outside the bar area. Opposite was a seated stand, with more club pitches behind the perimeter fence. There was ample room for extensions, should the club require in the future.

The visiting side from East Anglia came into the game second from bottom in the table, with the hosts just a few spots above; despite a decent playing budget and recent change in manager, with James Webster arriving from Brightlingsea Regent.

It was ‘The Planters’ who took the early ascendancy with Liam Jackson having an effort saved by Millers custodian Rhys Madden. Norwich continued to press and look the most likely to score, but could not forge a clear opening.

Away goalie Andrew Wilton looked a decent shot stopper with poor judgement on crosses and so it proved. He pulled off a top stop from an Alex Teniola header, but then flapped at a high ball to allow the same forward to glance home from a corner on fifteen minutes.

The Millers looked to increase their lead. Star man Robbie Rees crossed to Jordan Watson, who teed up Teniola who saw his shot go just over the bar. Adam Hipperson missed a great chance to equalise, when he shot rather than set up two unmarked teammates who were better placed.

Watson saw an overhead kick go narrowly over on the stroke of half time for Aveley, before we decamped inside to try and warm up out of the bitter wind that often blows up the Thames Estuary and Essex lowlands.

We stayed at the rear of the Main Stand for the second half and got chatting to a friendly older Aveley fan, who told us all about the new ground and telling us that manager Webster had won substantial amounts in the National Lottery on two separate occasions.

The home side missed a great opportunity straight after the restart as Watson hit the post before Wilton denied Rees. Liam Moriarty saw an effort for United hooked away by George Woodward before Adam Probert had an effort saved by Madden.

Norwich continued to pile on the pressure; while Madden fell over with regularity every time he collected the ball. It was bordering on comedy at times, as he tried to eat up valuable seconds as his side tried to hang onto the lead.

Ben Jones saw a shot pushed onto the far post by Madden as the game became tetchy as it entered stoppage time. Henry Pollock seemed upset and also raised the ire of the home players as both teams indulged in a stand off; pushing and shoving each other.

Referee Scott Rudd appeared very reluctant to add to any administrative duties as he mysteriously refused to show any cards. As play restarted with a thrown in, the earlier protagonists reared up again.

I’m an advocate of not sending players off for the sake of it, but Mr Rudd had made a rod for his own back. I also admired the way that he’d added six minutes of additional time in retaliation to obvious time wasting, but the last few seconds threatened to turn into a huge brawl.

With calmness relatively restored a ball was launched into the Aveley area. Madden flapped at it wen he should have done better, as Sam Watts fired into the roof of the net, to spark celebrations nearly matching a winning goal in a World Cup Final.

United had indeed deserved a point from the encounter, but Aveley must have wondered how they’d tossed away two points. Our friend shrugged his shoulder in a phlegmatic manner. He’d seen it all before.

Tony got me back to Stanmore through the sparsely used A412, M11, A1 and A41 so I was home in bed in Kingsbury by 11.30pm to thaw out and get some valuable shut eye before an early start the next day.

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