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, April 20, 2014

Morecambe

















Morecambe FC are a professional football club from the seaside resort of the same name on the Lancashire coast in the north west of England. Despite football in the town dating back to the turn of the 20th century, Morecambe were not formed until 1920 following a meeting at the West View Hotel.


The club secured a place in the Lancashire Combination and played games at Woodhill Lane, sharing with Morecambe Cricket Club and attracting good crowds for their local derbies. After just one season the club moved to a new ground at Roseberry Park. After the then president Mr JB Christie purchased the ground for the club it was renamed Christie Park.



In 1924-25 Morecambe were crowned as Lancashire Combination champions, but the ensuing years saw the club struggle on the pitch and through a lack of finance off it. However, ‘The Shrimps’ fortunes improved from 1960 as a supporters club was formed and ground improvements carried out as Ken Horton led the side as player manager.


In 1960-61 the side reached the third round of the FA Cup where they went out 1-0 to Weymouth. In 1968 the Lancashire Senior Cup was lifted as the club became founder members of the Northern Premier League before The Shrimps reached Wembley in 1974. After defeating South Shields over two legs in the semi final, Dartford were beaten in the final of the FA Trophy.

Christie Park, as scanned from a book

Unfortunately the club didn’t maintain the form and suffered several barren years with attendances dropping massively. An upturn returned when Morecambe finished as Northern Premier League runners up in 1994-95 and were accepted into the Football Conference for the following season.

Former Northern Ireland international Jimmy Harvey put together an excellent side, which put the town on the football map. In 2000-01 they reached the fifth round of the FA Trophy as well as getting to the third round of the FA Cup. Ipswich Town conquered 3-0 in front of the Match of the Day cameras.


The Main Stand at Christie Park, as scanned from a book

The following season saw an even better FA Trophy run as Morecambe reached the semi finals before going out 4-1 on aggregate to Stevenage Borough. The 2002-03 campaign saw The Shrimps once again reach the FA Cup third round. Once again they were drawn against Ipswich Town. This time the game took place at Portman Road and ended in a 4-0 win to the Championship club.


The run continued in 2003-04 as Morecambe reached the end of season play offs. However, in the semi final Dagenham & Redbridge proved to be too strong. In November 2005 Harvey suffered a heart attack during the home game with Cambridge United. Harvey’s close friend Sammy McIlroy was brought in as caretaker. Harvey was sacked on the first day of his day back at the helm with McIlroy employed in his place, which precipitated a feud between the pair. The team missed out once again in the play off semi finals; this time to Hereford United.



In 2006-07 Morecambe were promoted to the Football League. After seeing off York City in the semi finals of the play offs, Exeter City were defeated in the final at Wembley. After the final, the club announced plans to move to a new stadium a couple of seasons later under the chairmanship of Peter McGuigan.


After a couple of seasons finding their feet in the League, Morecambe reached the play offs in 2009-10. The semi final tie against Dagenham & Redbridge was their last ever game at Christie Park. The game finished 2-1, but it was not enough as the first leg was lost 6-0 at Victoria Road.



Andy Fleming scored the first two goals at the newly opened Globe Arena in the League Cup tie against Coventry City on the 10th August 2010. In May 2011 manager McIlroy and his assistant Mark Lillis left the club through mutual consent after a poor finish, with former defender Jim Bentley taking over.

Bentley’s first two seasons ended in lower mid table finishes after some promising strings of results at times. The 2013-14 campaign followed suit, before Morecambe finished mid table in 2014-15.



Morecambe FC will play in the Football League Two in the 2015-16 season.


My visit


Morecambe 1 Scunthorpe United 1 (Friday 18th April 2014) Football League Two (att: 2,952)

Having pondered on several occasions, I bit the bullet before I headed to Thailand for my annual Spring holiday and booked my rail tickets for what turned out to be a vital Good Friday clash.



Scunthorpe sat at the top of the table before kick off, with Morecambe desperately requiring points to secure their Football League place. After a sleep following night shift I headed to Euston to board a packed train to Lancaster on a stunningly beautiful day. The young lady who sat next to me had incredibly just returned that morning from Thailand and had been to Chiang Mai, where I’d played cricket just a couple of weeks before.

The journey was smooth, allowing me plenty of dozes before we pulled into Lancaster. I’d only ever been through the town briefly in 1974 on the way home from a family holiday in Blackpool. I was most impressed. It looked a lovely place.



Even better was the fact that my connection to the coast allowed me time to walk down the hill and visit The Giant Axe; the home of Lancaster City. With photos taken I got on the ten minute ride to Morecambe with some very down to earth people and their offspring.

I left the station at 2.35 and set out for the Globe Arena on foot. My research was bang on. Fifteen minutes later I was entering the complex on Westgate. As it was such a glorious day I plumped for a place on the open side terrace for just £14. A brilliant programme celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the Shrimps FA Trophy cost me a further £3.


Once inside I examined the excellent Globe Arena. The main Peter McGuigan Stand was superbly designed to maximise corporate guests, without the detriment of paying fans in the single tier set out, with a raised section at the rear of the centre for sponsors. Both ends behind the goals are covered terracing. The home Town End was slightly larger, whereas the away East Stand was raised. Finally the open North Terrace replicated the old Car Wash Side at Christie Park, consisting of two sections with a flat area on the half way line. A TV gantry was above this side, while the corner towards the away fans had a control box and small electric scoreboard.


The visiting fans from Lincolnshire numbered 1,194 and were in fine voice. I stood towards their section in the first half. The game was fairly level but I always had the feeling that Iron were more threatening going forward. Kevin Ellison did his best to create up front for The Shrimps.


On twenty two minutes Scunthorpe went ahead when Sam Winnall headed a cross into the ground. It looped over Barry Roche in the home net. Dave Syers nearly doubled the advantage four minutes later, but his header was scrambled off the line.

I enjoyed a fine meat and potato pie and a cup of tea just before the interval. I was definitely up north as I was asked if I wanted mushy peas and gravy to accompany the delicacy. The teams went off for their refreshments with Morecambe not really looking like levelling the scores.


After the break the game took on a similar pattern, but Morecambe gradually began to create the occasional opportunity. Padraig Amond had a shot that the excellent former Bottesford Town keeper Sam Slocombe dealt with. He then kept out a low drive from ex Iron Andy Wright. Scunthorpe continued to be a handful on the break.

With thirteen minutes left on the clock, the referee Steve Rushton became the centre of attention. A shot from outside the area was charged down by a Scunthorpe arm. Ellison smashed in the rebound off the underside of the bar, but the official had already blown for a free kick. Slocombe made a good save from the resulting free kick from the boot of Ryan Williams. The custodian made further top class stops from Jack Redshaw and Shaun Beeley.


With just four minutes remaining I had to head off to make sure I caught the 5.08 train. As I headed up Acre Moss Lane I heard an enormous roar. I presumed that Scunthorpe had doubled their lead? However, when I reached the station I read that substitute Jack Sampson had headed home a Jamie Devitt cross to spark wild celebrations as the goal secured a vital point for Morecambe in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

After a short wait at Lancaster I was onboard the speedy Virgin Train service back to the capital. I slept for a couple of hours and then again when I got home before work. It had been a long day, but the effort was well worth it.


Sometimes it can be easy to get too traditional and lament about the historical clubs struggling down the pyramid, while the likes of Accrington Stanley, Fleetwood, Burton Albion and Morecambe play in the League. My visit left me in no doubt just how much The Shrimps deserved their status, hard is it can be at times as a Scarborough supporter.

The stadium and set up at the Globe Arena was second to none. The stewards were friendly and the catering first rate. Most of all, they found themselves as a League club because they did it right on the pitch. I wished them every success going forward. All power to their elbow!


I was certainly delighted to have visited my current ninety first League ground.


To see my clip of the teams entering the Globe Arena, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRLIo3L3qfs&list=UUuIHNmGQ2lRbtwwp7tLYDDQ






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