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

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Halesowen Town

Halesowen Town FC is a non league football club from the town of the same name in the West Midlands, located around seven miles west of Birmingham, that was once prominent for its manufacturing of nails.

The football club was formed in 1873, making them one of the oldest in the Midlands. The team spent their early years playing friendly games before becoming members of the Birmingham Combination playing at The Grove. The ground originally also staged cricket and was donated to the town by James Grove, whose button making factory stood next to the venue.

Following World War Two ‘The Yeltz’ joined the Birmingham & District League for the 1946-47 season and winning the title at the first attempt. In 1957 Town were relegated but regained their top flight place at the first attempt. In 1962 the league changed its name to the West Midlands (Regional) League.

The sixties saw the team consistently perform well, but by contrast the seventies was a decade of struggle, before Yeltz had a major rejuvenation from the early eighties. In 1983 Halesowen reached the FA Vase Final at Wembley, where they were defeated 1-0 by league rivals VS Rugby.

However, despite that disappointment the team lifted the West Midlands (Regional) League title, with the goals of brothers Paul and Lee Joinson doing much of the damage along the way. The club also won the Thorn EMI six a side competition against Heybridge Swifts to collect prize money and a set of floodlights for The Grove.

Town retained the league title and made it a hat trick in 1985. To add to the jubilation the club returned to Wembley. On this occasion they made no mistake as a 3-1 win over Fleetwood Town won the FA Vase.

Unbelievably Halesowen went on to win their fourth consecutive league crown and returned to Wembley, where a Southall side including Les Ferdinand was defeated 3-0 under the tutelage of Paddy Page.


Despite the success the Southern League refused the club entry into their league as they decided that The Grove was incapable of handling large crowds, despite Yeltz already attracting larger crowds than most clubs in the competition. Town carried out improvements including the leveling of the pitch and the erection of the Harry Rudge Stand.

Eventually in 1986 the club was accepted into the Southern League Midland Division, which was won in 1989 leading to promotion to the Premier Division. During that period Town reached the first round of the FA Cup on seven successive occasions, but losing each time. Amongst the victors were Southend United, Brentford, Cardiff City and Tranmere Rovers.

Jim Rodwell was sold to Rushden & Diamonds for a £40,000 fee as the club continued to improve. In 1995-96 Yeltz were runners up in the Southern League to Rushden & Diamonds. By 2001 financial constraints led to relegation, but Brendan Phillips side returned at the first attempt after claiming the Western Division title.

The yo-yo years continued as first Yeltz went back down to the Western Division but then won an immediate promotion back to the Premier Division in 2004. Paul Holleran’s side reached the first round of the FA Cup where they went out to Yeading and just missed out on a place in the play offs.

In late 2006 former Birmingham City and Walsall winger Martin O’Connor took over as team manager as the team once again just fell short. In October 2007 an unidentified new owner bought the club and brought in Morrell Maison as the new manager. Ron Atkinson was employed as a consultant as the side lost in the Play Off Final to Team Bath.

However, all was not well off the pitch as the club entered into administration. Maison and Atkinson departed to be replaced by Matt Clarke, while Godfrey & Graham Ingram took the club out of administration and gradually turned the fortunes around as Stefan Moore smashed home the goals.

At the end of the 2010-11 season businessmen Steve Lynch took over the club as the club were relegated back to the South & West Division. He put an experienced management team in place with Shaun Cunnington coming in as manager who steadied the ship through a difficult period as well as signing Ben Haseley who would prove to be an excellent capture. Eventually he was replaced by Tipton Town boss John Hill.

In 2012-13 Yeltz were transferred for geographical reasons to the Northern Premier League Division One South. After finishing the season in seventh place, the goals of Haseley and the experience of Football League veterans Iyseden Christie and Neil MacKenzie proved too much for their opponents as Yeltz won the title and promotion to the Premier Division.

Halesowen Town FC will play in the Northern Premier League Premier Division in the 2014-15 season.

My visit

Halesowen Town 2 Hednesford Town 1 (Monday 4th August 2014) Pre Season Friendly (att: 250)

Unfortunately I didn’t get chance to visit The Grove with Scarborough Athletic the previous season, as I was on my cricket tour to Chiang Mai at the time. Reports and seeing photos encouraged me to eventually pay a visit. After studying the excellent Non League Matters Kempster Forum I noted the friendly game coincided with a day off work. I booked the trains well in advance.

The day had begun with intrigue as the service from Marylebone was packed, predominantly with people of Muslim and Oriental backgrounds. Could they be visiting Warwick Castle or perhaps Shakespeare Country at Stratford? No. They all got out at Bicester to visit the Shopping Village. What I strange modern world we live in!

The weather was most pleasant as I alighted at Moor Street in Birmingham. I wanted to get some photos and visit some new and old football grounds. I travelled to Aston Villa and Walsall before relaxing in The Wellington with some fine ale.

The late afternoon and early evening saw me call in at the grounds of Stourbridge, Lye Town and Cradley Town, which they were sharing with Black Country Rangers. The no.9 bus deposited me just near The Grove. My one day £6.20 travelcard had offered me full value. After walking around the perimeter I found myself by the turnstiles.

It cost £5 admission. No programmes or teamsheets were for sale. I didn’t fancy a beer so I headed to the Yeltz Cafe to refuel. I opted for a small sausage, chips and curry sauce with a tea for £3. It hit the spot and I thought very decent value. I sat out in the warm sunshine to enjoy the meal and take in the surroundings.

I was at on a decent sized open terracing that ran the length of the pitch, and slightly raised above the playing surface. Opposite was the low seated Harry Rudge Stand. This gave way in the corner to narrow open standing. An open terracing then gradually built up behind the goal and joined with the open side. The Shed was raised above pitch level behind the other goal. This shallow terrace had a low roof. I imagined it had seen and heard some excitement over the years. The players came out to the pitch through a fenced gap further behind the goal. I thought it was a cracking venue, with plenty of traditional features, but a nod to the new with the modern floodlight system.

The staff in the James Grove Bar kindly charged up my battery pack for my IPhone while I took in the game. As ever I watched from various different points to appreciate all of the ground. Both sides played some excellent football, and were certainly giving it their all. The visiting Pitmen had taken a decent support along with them.

Yeltz took the lead with a howler in the Hednesford rearguard. A ball from Neil MacKenzie saw defender Jamie Ashmore make a real hash of things to allow the impressive Ben Haseley to round the keeper Danny Crane and slot into the empty goal on thirty five minutes.

The visitors continued to construct decent moves without finding the crucial final ball. However, they equalised on the stroke of the interval. A cross was hooked over from Paul Sullivan, which evaded the home ‘keeper Matt Sargeant to result in a couple of defenders colliding under pressure. Curtis Tilt put the ball into his own net.

I relaxed at half time in the back of The Shed before the teams re-emerged. I didn’t have to wait long to see the moment of the night. On fifty two minutes Tilt collected a cleared ball on his chest on the edge of the box before rifling a twenty yard half volley into the top corner of the net.

Play went from end to end as the usual substitutes were made by the managers looking to try and use the game to find their best starting line ups. I had a good chat with a local who spotted my Scarborough shirt. He told me that he had been chatting to another Seadog at a Scottish Junior game at Dunbar the week earlier. He was really a Hereford United and West Bromwich Albion fan but disillusionment was steering him more to the non league game.

I left a couple of minutes before full time to catch the bus back into Birmingham. I noted that Broad Street looked the place to be if looking for a lively evening. Instead I returned to the Welly for some more excellent Belma from the PIctish Brewery, while reflecting on our fallen heroes on the anniversary of the outbreak of World War One. It certainly put things into perspective.

The train got me back to Watford Junction bang on time so that I could catch the no.142 down to Stanmore and connect with the N98 to get me back indoors by 1.30am.

It had been a long but thoroughly enjoyable day out, meeting good people, seeing football venues and a game as well as trying some top class beer. A perfect day off work.

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