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

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Stourbridge















Stourbridge FC is a non league football club from the town formerly at the centre of glass making of the same name in north Worcestershire, located around thirteen miles west of Birmingham.

The club were formed in 1876 as Stourbridge Standard. By the late 1880’s they had dropped the Standard suffix, joining the Birmingham & District League for the 1890-91 season. In 1924 ‘The Glassboys’ were crowned as champions, by which time the club had also lifted the Worcestershire Senior Cup on four occasions.


A move to the Birmingham Combination came after World War Two, and with it came success. They lifted the league title in 1952, also winning the Birmingham, Worcestershire and Herefordshire Senior Cups. Two years later Stourbridge rejoined the Birmingham & District League.



 In 1962 the league changed its name to the West Midlands (Regional) League. Stourbridge finished runners up in the first season under the new guise. The club won more senior cups before entering the Southern League Division One North in 1971. In 1973-74 manager Alan Grunby led his side to the championship and promotion, as well as finishing as runners up in the Welsh Cup. Strikers Ray Haywood and Chic Bates ran amok, each scoring fifty goals before moving on to Shrewsbury Town.



Two years later the club were relegated before the Southern League did away with a Premier Division in 1979. Future top flight striker Tony Cunningham starred with the side before being sold to Lincoln City. Stourbridge were placed in the Midland Division. In 1982 when the league reverted to the old format, The Glassboys found themselves in the Premier Division.



However, their spell lasted just one season before they were relegated to the Midland Division. A poor 1987-88 season saw the club end in a relegation spot, but they were reprieved in the close season. In 1991 Stourbridge won the Midland Division but were denied promotion as Amblecote was shared with Stourbridge Cricket club.

Despite two new chairmen arriving and the appointment of experienced coaches in the consequent years, Stourbridge were relegated to the Midland Alliance in 2001. Within three seasons the club lifted the League Cup and two league titles under Mark Harrison and then Joe Jackson. The club were refused promotion because of the ground grading regulations of the time.



Gary Hackett took over as manager after initially sharing the role with Jon Ford. He led the side to a runners-up position in the league and promotion following a re-organisation of non league football and a rethink on ground grading issues. Stourbridge joined the Southern League Midland Division for the 2006-07 campaign.



In their second season back, The Glassboys won promotion to the Premier Division via the play offs. After defeating Sutton Coldfield Town, Leamington were seen off at The New Windmill in the final. After gradually consolidating their place in the division, the club reached the first round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history in the 2009-10 season after beating Bromsgrove Rovers, Evesham United, Hucknall Town and Buxton. Walsall ended the run at Amblecote with a 1-0 win in front of a crowd of 2,014.



The feat was repeated in 2011-12. On this occasion Bewdley Town, Barwell, Evesham United and Rushall Olympic were defeated in the qualifying rounds. The Glassboys reward was an away draw with Plymouth Argyle. The game at Home Park ended 3-3, with ESPN choosing to show live coverage of the replay at The War Memorial Ground. Stourbridge won the match 2-0 as two temporary stands were erected on the cricket field to fit in the crowd of 2,519.



Stevenage came visiting in round two and left with a 3-0 victory. A third temporary stand had gone up to fit in the 3,067 attendance. In 2012-13, Stourbridge ended as league runners up but lost out in the play offs to Gosport Borough. This was repeated the following campaign. This time it was Chesham United who denied the club at the same stage.



In the summer of 2014 Stourbridge were transferred across to the Northern Premier League to geographically balance the structure of the non league pyramid. The 2015-16 season saw the side reach the first round of the FA Cup once again. Eastleigh ended the run with a 2-0 victory at Amblecote.



Stourbridge FC will play in the Northern Premier League Premier Division in the 2016-17 season.


My visits

Monday 4th August 2014

It was the final day of my monthly long weekend off work. I had booked tickets in advance to Birmingham to visit some new clubs, enjoying a relaxing ale or two and to conclude the day at the Halesowen Town v Hednesford Town Pre Season Friendly.

Indeed I found the beers in The Wellington on Bennetts Hill in the city centre most therapeutic before I boarded the train west from Snow Hill. Getting to Stourbridge Town station meant catching the service stopping at Stourbridge Junction and changing. I wasn’t ready for what came next.


Our train awaited on what transpired to be the smallest branch line in the UK. A small single car train, about the size of a town centre ‘hopper’ bus was to take us the rest of the way. It had a driver and a conductor. How clever. Surely that was the way forward rather than shutting branch lines?

The Interchange bus station was just next door. I thought I’d take advantage of my travelcard and catch a bus to the ground. Somehow I got on a service that didn’t go anywhere near my intended target and required a good fifteen minute hike to get back on track. Eventually I found myself entering the brick arch at the entrance to The War Memorial Ground at Amblecote.



The ground had been left to the town in memory of those who had lost their lives in conflict and was home to both The Glassboys and Stourbridge Cricket Club, which had its own magnificent old pavilion in the far corner.

To the left on entering the ground was the clubhouse, changing rooms and facilities of the football club before open standing lay behind the goal. The far touchline had two sections of open terracing, with a stand in the centre section, containing seating in the middle section and terracing on either side. A large roofed terrace was behind the far goal.



I continued and did a full lap of the arena. It was well worth a look as I love both sports. I imagined a time when many clubs shared facilities in the way the clubs of Stourbridge did. I pondered on the ridiculous nature of some of the ground grading stipulations, especially bearing in mind some fine stadiums I’d visited around the world which would fail under the FA’s jurisdiction.



I headed back down the hill to the town centre and to the bus station to take the no.9 service on to Lye for my next destination.

Stourbridge 0 Sutton Coldfield Town 1 (Monday 10th October 2016) Northern Premier League Premier Division (att: 529)




Amblecote had impressed me when I passed through a couple of years earlier, and with a day off from work I decided to head to the West Midlands. The fixtures had been kind to me, as I’d already been to the under 23’s match at the Ricoh Arena earlier in the afternoon between Coventry City and Crewe Alexandra.


A couple of good beers in the excellent Craven Arms in Birmingham had helped my good mood even further, before I caught the train from Snow Hill to Stourbridge Junction and then onto the Town station on the lovely dinky service.


It was certainly easier on this occasion to find my way to the ground. The town centre looked really good with lots of decent pubs and individual shops rather than too many chains. The floodlights on the hill proved to be an excellent guide.


Admission was £10, a decent programme £2.50 and a ticket for the half time draw a further quid. I headed to the clubhouse, which served a good pint of Banks Sunbeam for £2.50. I’d let the crowds diminish near the tea hut before going to get my food.

My heart was set on faggots, a local meatball delicacy. They’d sold out, which was obviously a sign that they were good. Instead I plumped for a fine portion of cheeseburger and chips for £4.


I fancied a home win before kick off. Stour were already embarking on a decent FA Cup run and had sound form in the league, while the visitors were struggling at the wrong end of the table.


The first half was a very tight affair with hardly any goal scoring chances of any note. It would be the Royals who went in ahead at the break following a poor free kick was spilled by Glassboys keeper Matt Gould For Danny O’Callaghan to slot the ball home.

At half time we were kept entertained by the music of a local West Midlands radio channel. I decided against another pint and went for a cup of tea as the weather began to chill.


The second half was one of frustration for the home fans as their favourites couldn’t break through a resolute visiting defence. The Sutton fans congregated under the roof at the far end, and amongst their numbers had a fantastic band. To listen click here.


With the match nearing its conclusion I made a move to ensure that I caught the last train back to Birmingham, where I had forty minutes to kill before my service back down south. I alighted at Watford Junction to take the 142 bus to Stanmore before a night bus deposited me home.







2 comments:

  1. Interesting blog you have here. We have a new ground for season 2014-15 season at Duns FC if you are ever up our way. A Man City XI were the visitors on opening night in July. Ground info on our website

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