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

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Woodlands Wellington (Singapore)

Woodlands Wellington FC were a professional club in the S.League in Singapore. The club was formed as Wellington FC in 1988 as a splinter group of Delhi Juniors. The clubs name derived from the fact that they played at the Deptford Ground on Wellington Road in the district of Sembawang.

After competing in the Sembawang Group League and then the National Island-Wide League, Wellington progressed to the National League as members of Division Two. In 1994 ‘The Rams’ won promotion as champions before lifting the Division One crown at the first attempt, as well as being runners up in the Singapore Cup.

The club were invited to become founder members of the S. League in 1996. A move to Woodlands Stadium was undertaken and at the same time their title changed to Woodlands Wellington FC.

The move paid dividends as the team often played in front of capacity crowds. After reasonable success, the club finished bottom of the table in 2001, which led to several big name signings in Singapore football.

Woodlands made the headlines in 2007 when the team walked off the pitch during a game against Tampines Rovers as a protest against refereeing decisions. The club were fined heavily and deducted six points.

Following the 2012 season rumours circulated that the club would drop out of the S. League for 2013 because of financial problems. Manager Matthew Tay quashed the reports as fans set up a ‘Save Woodlands’ awareness campaign.

A decent fifth place finish was a good return in 2013, but the Rams ended the 2014 campaign second from bottom under Head Coach Salim Moin, the former Singapore international midfielder.

In November 2014 it was announced that Woodlands Wellington would merge with Hougang United for the 2015 S. League season.

My visit

Woodlands Wellington 3 Harimau Muda II 2 (Thursday 30th October 2014) S. League Relegation Round (att: approx. 300)

After the previous days huge groundhop, I’d gone for a more laid back and relaxing day using the free bus tour on my three days tourist pass. I’d enjoyed seeing what Singapore had to offer, and I was really impressed by the mixture of heritage and modern architecture.

Following a lie down back at my hotel I decided to have a pre match beer. Initially I’d considered Raffles for a Singapore Sling, but the website was rather sketchy about their prices, and as my Dad always advocated; don’t enter shops etc if they don’t advertise prices.

Instead I opted to get off the train at Somerset, at one end of Orchard Road. Over the busy thoroughfare I found what would be as cheap as I’d find in the tourist quarter. My dark Warsteiner was $15 (£7.50). Thank God it was happy hour prices!

To be honest the view and ambience were such that I nearly got stuck in for the night, but common sense prevailed. Even though I was tired the SMRT red line ran from Orchard directly to Woodlands, albeit it taking the best part of forty five minutes.

On arrival I saw a set of bright floodlights, not where I imagined. Any confusion was soon quashed when I spotted the brighter glow coming from Woodlands Stadium just along the railway.

I missed the opening goal along with an elder holiday maker in front of me, as Nurshamil Ghani put the visitors from Malaysia ahead in the first minute. Muda were the team of the Malaysian under 20 national team and along with DPMM of Brunei and Albirex Niigata, offered overseas competition in the S. League.

I surveyed the scene of Woodlands Stadium. Once more there was an athletics track surrounding the pitch to offer the whole community facilities to be proud of. A long Main Stand with plastic seating in the centre was the only covered accommodation. The far side had semi-permanent open seating with the railway line running above it, with more temporary seating on the curves behind the goal.

The Rams fans cheered on their favourites with the usual drum banging out a beat. I decided to have a spell on the far side to try and avoid the heat, but even there I used the free fan come programme to try and create a breeze.

Around the half hour mark the hosts drew level thanks to an effort from the Korean Soon-Ho Moon. During the interval I wandered out the back by the clubhouse and ventured over to the excellent swimming complex in the hope of using a cash machine. I had no luck. Opposite was a huge sports hall, all run by the Singapore Sports Council.

After the break I was joined by the fan I’d gone in with. Richard was on holiday with his wife visiting their daughter. He was originally a Portsmouth fan when living on the south coast, before moving to Cullercoats and adopting Whitley Bay as his team and following non-league football.

We were having a really nice chat while watching what turned into a really decent second period. The game turned on the sending off of the visitors Afiq Faizal for a straight red on fifty five minutes, which we couldn’t quite work out. Presumably it was an off the ball incident?

Within three minutes Wellington had taken the lead with a goal from Fadhil Noh. They stretched it to 3-1 as Serbian defender Miloš Jevtić netted to the joy of the vocal home youngsters.

We were getting ready to leave when Muda grabbed a late consolation after building up some pressure with the goal of the game as substitute Muhamad Bahari scored with a bullet diving header.

I said my farewell on full time but said we’d probably see each other at the following evening’s game. To be honest I was absolutely starving. I went as fast as my tired and blistered feet would carry me over the unlit open ground the huge malls surrounding Woodlands station to withdraw some money and buy delicious pizza and cheese straws. Eating was discouraged on all public transport, but I broke pieces off on the quiet train.

After one change I alighted past my hotel at a stop called Dakota as I had a particular nightcap venue in mind. I took the short walk up the path alongside the Geylang River to a bar called The Tuck Shop on Gullemard Road, which overlooked the water.

It was just what the doctor ordered. It had outside seating as well as plenty around the bar itself. Bottles from all over the world were available as chilled out music at just the right volume piped out. The staff were friendly and knowledgeable. I went for the Summer Ale from the local Archipelago Brewery and it was simply superb coming in a proper glass, with its hoppy flavour. Yes it was the equivalent of £8, but that’s the local going rate. It was worth every cent for the ambience and moment.

Alas, I was too tired to contemplate another pint. The price wouldn’t have deterred me. I’d been ultra-careful on the trip to allow for a few pleasures. I walked up to Geylang Road and caught the bus home, settling for a Magnum ice cream before bed.

It had been a wonderful day. Only a week or so later did I discover for the second successive evening, I’d seen the last game for a club in its current form.

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