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

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Newport County

Newport County AFC are a professional club from the old iron and coal mining city of Newport in South Wales. The club were formed in 1912, moving into Somerton Park in the east of the city.

‘The Ironsides’ became members of the Southern League Division Two under their official name; The Newport & Monmouth County Association Football Club. Not surprisingly, the shorter Newport County was soon adopted. By 1919 the club joined the enlarged First Division of the Southern League after the club had been re-formed for the fist time.

County became members of the Football League Division Three South for the 1920-21 campaign. However, their initial League spell lasted just eleven years, with the club dropping back down to the Southern League.

Newport’s sabbatical was a short one as they rejoined the League for 1932-33. In 1938-39 the club were crowned champions and promotion to Division Two. However, the outbreak of World War Two disrupted their plans. After peace was restored the 1946-47 season saw Newport relegated in bottom place. The season saw a record 13-0 defeat against Newcastle United at St James’ Park.

Wins over Brighton & Hove Albion, Leytonstone, Leeds United and Huddersfield Town saw County reach the FA Cup Fifth Round in 1949 before going out to semi-finalists and League champions Portsmouth.

Following League re-organisation County were placed in Division Three in the summer of 1958. Four years later the club were relegated to Division Four. In 1963 The Ironsides reached the Welsh Cup Final but lost to Borough United. Following a disastrous season manager Billy Lucas side just missed out on promotion in 1972-73.

In 1978 Len Ashurst took over as team boss and under Chairman Richard Ford the club had its most fruitful spell. In 1979-80 the side including Tommy Tynan, John Aldridge and Nigel Vaughan won promotion to Division Three and also defeated Shrewsbury Town in the Welsh Cup Final.

Somerton Park in its prime
This meant European Cup Winners Cup football at Somerton Park. County saw off Crusaders and then Haugar of Norway before being drawn against the East German side Carl Jeiss Jena in the last eight. After drawing the first leg 2-2 away, County lost the home leg 1-0 despite a gallant effort.

To see extended highlights of the Somerton Park clash, go to:

Colin Addison took over from the departing Ashurst, leading the side to their highest League finish, as they ended in fourth place in 1982-83. Incredibly County had led the table in April after a home win over Cardiff City as a crowd of 16,052 fans packed in.

Somerton Park in multi use for Speedway
After Addison departed a succession of managers came and went in rapid succession as County went into freefall as finances began to cripple the club. In 1986-87 Newport were relegated despite reaching the Welsh Cup Final where they lost to Merthyr Tydfil. Even worse was to follow as the following season saw yet another demotion. County only picked up twenty five points all season as their sixty year spell as a League club came to an end.

The disaster came to an end as County failed to complete their first season in the Football Conference, as they resigned in March with debts of £330,000 under American owner Jerry Sherman.

In June 1989 the club was reformed as Newport AFC by four hundred supporters. David Hando was appointed as chairman and former player and manager John Relish was put in charge of the team. ‘The Exiles’ were forced to play their home matches in the Hellenic League eighty miles away at Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire. The local council considered the club to be a continuation of the old one so it denied them the use of Somerton Park owing to outstanding rent arrears.

Somerton Park stages Newport AFC action
The Hellenic League ‘double’ was secured at the first attempt and won promotion to the Southern League. County returned to their traditional home stadium in 1990, but after a couple of seasons they were forced out again. This time it was the FA of Wales who caused the decampment to Meadow Park, the home of Gloucester City.

 FAW Secretary Alun Evans was trying to promote the newly formed League of Wales and tried to force County out of the English League system and into the new league. Newport fought this move at the High Court and won. The club returned home to the newly built Newport Stadium, also known as Spytty Park.

Spytty Park
1994-95 was their first season back home and they celebrated by winning the Midland Division crown. Two years later Newport were relegated to the Southern Division. The club were switched back to the Midland Division for 1988-89, going on to win promotion to the Premier Division as runners up. The club were renamed as Newport County a few weeks later.

Tim Harris took the side to the first round of the FA Cup in 2000-01 before Peter Nicholas took over the reigns taking County to the final of the FAW Premier Cup where they suffered a heavy loss to Wrexham.

Following non league restructuring County were placed in the newly formed Conference South for the 2004-05 campaign. In October 2005 Peter Beadle took over as manager with ‘Port winning the last ever FAW Premier Cup Final in 2008 by defeating Llanelli. However, for the second successive season County just missed out on the play offs leading to the departure of Beadle to be replaced by Dean Holdsworth.

County won the Conference South in 2009-10 with a record 103 points. In January 2011 Holdsworth moved on to take the managers job at Aldershot Town with Anthony Hudson replacing him. He was sacked in September 2011 with County bottom of the Conference. Justin Edinburgh took over and gradually improved matters.

County also reached Wembley Stadium for the first time where they were defeated 2-0 by York City in the FA Trophy Final of 2012. The good vibes continued a few weeks later when it was announced that County had agreed to share Rodney Parade in the city centre with Newport Gwent Dragons and Newport Rugby Clubs.

In August 2012 EuroMillions winner Les Scadding invested in the club and succeeded Chris Blight as Chairman. A further ten year lease was signed to stay at Rodney Parade in February 2013 to satisfy the Football League’s rules if promotion was secured.

County reached the play offs at the end of the 2012-13 season. After defeating Grimsby Town over two legs they returned to Wembley where Wrexham were defeated 2-0 with goals from Christian Jolley and Aaron O'Connor to send the club back into the League after a gap of twenty five years.

Edinburgh’s side flirted with the play off places for a short spell in their first season back in the League for a short spell before finishing in mid table. With County in sixth place in February 2015 Edinburgh departed to take the managers job at Gillingham.

Jimmy Dack stood in for the remainder of the season, before Terry Butcher was appointed as the new boss as Scadding resigned his posts at the club as well as withdrawing funding. This put the club in a precarious position. Butcher was left with few players and results reflected it.

With Coiunty in the relegation places Butcher was dismissed with John Sheridan coming in as his replacement in October 2015.

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

My visit

Newport County 1 Burton Albion 1 (Monday 21st April 2014) Football League Two (att: 2,630)

This day and match will always hold a special place in my heart as I completed visiting the current ninety two Premier and League grounds for the first time.

This achievement gave me great satisfaction. Through research I came to the conclusion that my first game had been Hull City v Crystal Palace at Boothferry Park in December 1968, so it had taken me the best part of forty six years.

The Easter Monday weather was very pleasant, with the packed train arriving a couple of minutes late into Newport. The ground was under fifteen minutes away on foot over the River Usk and past the city’s old Roman ruins. I joined the growing crowds walking up Rodney Road towards the entrance.

Access was via a gate which led behind the posts of the complex’s second pitch. The large clubhouse was serving drinks to thirsty fans next to the football clubs offices. I obtained a programme, which while pricey for £3.50 was also of top class quality. At the ticket booth I opted for a place on the Hazell paddock terrace for £18.

As time was getting on I didn’t have time for libation. Instead I opted for a decent cheeseburger and a cup of tea to enjoy while in the sunshine behind the goal as I took photos of what I thought was a perfect lower division venue.

The Hazell Stand ran for three quarters of the extended playing area required for staging rugby and football. It had a large seating tier at the back of the terracing. The cavernous roof hung right over the touchline. The final bit of that side consisted of open terracing. Opposite was the new Bisley Stand, which was a single tier of seating with corporate facilities at the rear and at the north corner. The North or Town End was an open terracing with a bar at the rear that could open for rugby games, but ridiculously not for football. The players emerged from a pavilion at the south east corner of the ground. Alongside this was a section of open seating backed by a video board used for rugby and corporate boxes.

To see the teams come out for the match, click on:


I was most touched by the messages of congratulations coming from Facebook and Twitter in reply to my posts as the game got under way.

The Ambers made a great start on five minutes as Andy Sandell rifled home low and hard from outside the box. They continued to play plenty of decent football, while a buzz was going around the terracing that David Moyes was about to be sacked by Man Utd.

Burton gradually worked their way into the game, backed by a couple of hundred or so fans segregated in the far end of the Bisley Stand. They were given a rather soft penalty, much to the annoyance of the locals. Michael Symes made no mistake from the spot.

Chris Zebroski impressed up front for The Exiles as they pressed to retake the lead. George Berry lookalike Marcus Holness did his best to lead the Burton defence. As the sides went off for the break I decided to take a place down the side in the Hazell Stand.

The view and atmosphere on the paddock took me back. Despite the stanchions holding up the roof and restricting a few views, I absolutely loved it. I was a few feet away from the action as the wide men tried to deceive the full back. Under the stand there was a crowded bar and toilets. It was just the sort of place my Dad and Grandad’s will have watched a lot of their football from in years gone by. The pavilion in the corner reminded me of some old Scottish grounds.

County played some lovely stuff after the break on a testing dry surface that had suffered multiple postponements earlier in the season. They missed a few half chances mainly created by the art of wide man Robbie Wilmott. The Brewers also created a few opportunities of their own including a shot from Alex MacDonald, which hit the post.

As the game entered stoppage time Shaun Jeffers missed a great chance to seal the win for County, but his free header was straight at keeper Dean Lyness. I headed off and back towards the station past several closed buildings.

I was so close to clinching my second winning bet in three days. Only Brighton had let me down by not defeating Blackpool. Despite this the day was a great success. Not even a very painful gum abscess could dampen my joy at finally completing a boyhood ambition. I was quite pleased I’d completed it at such a typical old venue.

The images of Somerton Park and Spytty Park have been taken from the internet.


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  3. Hi Rob
    How odd that you completed the 92 at a rugby ground ! I've watched a few rugby matches there, even rugby league, but never soccer. However, having visited Somerton frequently back in the day I think we can safely say Rodney Parade is the best ground County have ever had. Your general history is a few hundred years out though, the ruins by Newport bridge are the Norman castle, not Roman.

  4. You have shared a great information about Brighton & Hove to London Heathrow and Heathrow to Brighton & Hove.Which are very informative for us.Thanks

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