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, February 22, 2015

Merstham



Merstham FC is a non league football club who were formed in 1892 who come from the small town of the same name in Surrey; located around nineteen miles south of central London.


‘The Moatsiders’ played their football in the Redhill & District League, which they won on four occasions, before joining the Surrey Intermediate League in 1951. The move proved successful as they lifted the league title in 1952-53. In 1964 Merstham moved to the Surrey Senior League.


The 1970-71 season saw the club crowned as champions before further progression by way of a move to the London Spartan League came in 1978. In 1984 Merstham joined the Combined Counties League.

The Moatsiders finished as runners-up in the league on four occasions before sealing the title in 2007-08 as well as lifting the Surrey Senior Cup and the league’s Premier Challenge Cup. A fine run in the FA Vase to the quarter final stage saw Merstham eventually go out to Needham Market under manager Mick Sullivan.


The incredible season ended in promotion to the Isthmian League Division One South. However, Sullivan departed in the summer of 2009 to join Leatherhead, along with several players. The managers job changed hands a few times further before Hayden Bird took over in January 2012 to steady the ship.


The 2013-14 season saw Merstham finish in seventh position; the highest in the clubs history. This was to be trumped in 2014-15 as the team reached the play offs. Faversham Town and then Folkestone Invicta were defeated as Merstham were promoted to the Premier Division.

The 2016-17 campaign saw the Moatsiders embark on a fantastic FA Cup run. Wins against East Preston, Colliers Wood United, Thamesmead Town and Ebbsfleet United saw the team progress to the first round proper.


Bird's side were drawn at home to Oxford United, which attracted a record attendance of 1,920 and the live TV cameras. Merstham went down 5-0 but finished the season in style by lifting the Surrey Senior Cup.


Merstham FC will play in the Isthmian League Premier Division in the 2015-16 season.


My visits

Merstham 2 Horsham 1 (Tuesday 10th February 2015) Isthmian League Division One South (att: 151)



It was my turn on early shifts at work and I definitely wanted some light relief following a brief siesta. There was the usual excellent choice on a Tuesday night around the metropolis. Merstham won the vote as train times fitted in well.



I arrived around ten minutes before kick off at Moatside and was immediately impressed. After paying my £8 admission a vocal and welcoming man sold me the £2 programme and a golden goal ticket. 

The programme was from when the game was originally meant to be played before the weather intervened. An updated four page insert did the job. I also purchased a 50/50 draw ticket from an almost apologetic lady.


It was time for a lap of the ground to take in the surroundings and take some photos. Moatside was just about the perfect ground for a club at that particular level. The changing and board rooms were in a low pavilion with a few steps in front for a decent view. 


Further along on the half way line was a low seated stand with flat standing further along. This continued behind the Albury End goal up to a small covered terrace towards the corner flag. A small changing block for the clubs youth sides stood alongside. 

The far touchline contained neat boxes for the managers and substitutes before the scene was completed by a low cover adapted from scaffolding at the Church End. The whole arena was enclosed by high hedges.


The man on the PA was clear and concise and everyone seemed welcoming. The club gave a perfect example of how to run a matchday  There was a real community feel to the place and it was certainly encouraging to see a few youngsters in attendance while Premier League football was live on TV.

The game was also enjoyable on a rolled pitch with a few undulations.. It looked at first as though it was going to be a question of how many Merstham would rack up as they totally dominated the first half hour. 


However, they didn't get nearly enough shots away with one or two individuals being greedy with the ball; especially the little number 7; Taurean Roberts who seemed to think he was Wilf Saha or Raheen Sterling. 

Surely more team play would have opened up the visitors? As it was, it took a fine shot from just outside the box from Tommy Hutchings to put the Moatsiders ahead around seven minutes before the break.


At the interval I went outside the ground and across the alleyway to the clubhouse. A selection of real ale by the bottle was available so I opted for the Bishop's Finger at  £3.10 while seeing the other scores come in and sneaking a look at the Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur clash.



Horsham had weathered the storm pretty well and even had a break or two of their own, which continued more and more after the restart. They equalised when a fine cross was expertly headed into the corner by Bailo Camara to the delight of the twenty or so away fans who got behind their side all night.


Tackles flew in throughout, and were accepted in good spirit by both sides. I thought the young referee got most things spot on and had a good game. Merstham missed a couple of very decent opportunities of their own before I departed a couple of minutes before the end to catch the 9.41 back to London.

Not for the first time I missed the winner. According to Twitter the Hornet fans were surprised at the five minutes added on; which was when the decider was scored. My train inevitably turned up at 9.47 so I could have stayed.


As it was Horsham had an attack saved with the rebound being struck against the post. From the rebound The Moatsiders went straight up the other end and scored as a great run from Peter Adeniyi set up Omar Folkes to slot the ball home.

I felt sorry for Horsham and hoped that they got sorted on and off the pitch soon, especially in trying to find a suitable home ground. Well done to Merstham. It was a really decent matchday experience in pleasant and welcoming surroundings.


Merstham 1 Hendon 1 (Tuesday 13th March 2018) Isthmian League Premier Division (att: 137)


I’d done a couple of night shifts, so I was ready for a beer and a trip out. I knew that Merstham would be a pleasant evening, so I needed no second invitation to head to The Falcon at Clapham Junction for some pre match lubrication.

My Scarborough supporting mate and former club chairman Simon Cope joined me. Dons fan Neil arrived for a quick drink before we headed to the platform after a bit of confusion caused by me leaving my hat in the pub. We were just in time to get onboard with Dean and Keith.


The thirty minute journey passed quickly as we chatted away with Keith having his usual quiz questions to test our knowledge and patience. At the other end I was glad to see an open field opposite the ground. I really shouldn’t have over indulged in the pub!

The prices in the homely clubhouse were very acceptable, before we paid our £10 admission across the other side of the path to enter the ground. I’d bought the £2 programme earlier. It was the edition for the original intended date for the game, with an updated insert.


The pitch was sticky after the previous snow, but perfectly playable. The surface seemed to be slippy, so it would benefit those of decent technical ability. We headed to the far end, as I grabbed a decent cheeseburger on route.

Merstham were a much improved side, on a decent run of form. Hendon had been drawing a few too many games, with their position in the playoff places hanging by a thread. Injuries were gradually clearing up, but the team was far from full strength.


The game was niggly after the early exchanges. Luke Tingey received a deserved yellow card for dragging down the diminutive winger Alex Addai, who was giving him a torrid time. Ashley Nathaniel-George had a shot stopped by the hosts keeper Ashlee Jones.

Hendon went ahead on twenty minutes, after Zak Walker was brought down by Jones as the striker rounded him. Niko Muir stepped up to send the custodian the wrong way from twelve yards. It looked likely that an away win was on the cards at that stage.


Joseph was denied by a brilliant Jones stop before Tom Lovelock reciprocated in the visitor’s net as he pushed an Alberto Lubango shot behind for a corner. Simon Cooper was unmarked from the resulting set piece to head home six minutes before the interval.

Tingey somehow got away without a second yellow and sending off from referee Zack Ellis just before the break. Hendon boss Gary McCann tore into his side in the dressing rooms, with the noise carrying well beyond the four walls.


Skipper Arthur Lee was running late after being stuck in traffic, but he replaced Tingey at the break. Addai also gave the big man plenty to think about as play went from end to end in an encounter that Simon was enjoying as a neutral.

Joseph hit the outside of the Merstham post after the hosts had enjoyed a good spell of possession with a few half chances. Hendon were doing their very best to create clear cut chances, but the ball just wouldn’t fall.


Joseph tried to reach a ball with Jones saving bravely. It was a good honest 50/50 challenge. Some of the Merstham players went wild and started a bout of pushing and shoving. Thankfully the ref was not influenced to send anybody off.

Jones acted like a proper professional, when he could have rolled around. The visiting fans were quick to congratulate him; which is exactly how the game should be played. Some of the Moatsider players had been quick to moan to the referee throughout the game.


Ben Harrison hooked away a dangerous effort from Muir, before substitute Tom Collins brought out a fine save from Lovelock with a free kick, before a half chance was spurned from the resulting corner.

Lee was booked for dragging down the excellent Addai, who was unanimously named as man of the match among our own little throng. The presence of Lovelock in the Hendon net ensured that the Greens secured a point; which was just about the correct result.


At full time Dean, Simon and Gerry the new Silver Jubilee Park car park attendant followed me and trusted my research. Sure enough we had time for a quick pint, with the Harvey’s Sussex Bitter hitting the spot.

We joined the other Dons fans for the train back to London Bridge; with a couple of Dulwich fans getting on at East Croydon. They were down on their luck with the ground situation and losing to Metropolitan Police on penalties in the League Cup semi-final.


We headed back on the Jubilee line, and I even had time for a couple of pints with Steve Barnes back at Moons in Kingsbury to round off a very decent night out. 




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