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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bamber Bridge

Football in Bamber Bridge can be traced back to the 1800’s, but the current club was formed in 1974 following an amalgamation with neighbours Walton-le-Dale FC. Bamber Bridge itself is a large suburban village three miles south east of Preston in Lancashire.

‘Brig’ as the club are nicknamed played in local football, going on to win the Preston & District League Premier Division on four occasions as well as collecting local cups before becoming members of the North West Counties League for the 1990-91 season.

In the 1991-92 campaign the club won the Division Two title as well as embarking on a fine FA Vase run. An appearance at Wembley was denied at the semi final stage by Wimborne Town.

The success continued at Ironbridge as Bamber Bridge finished runners-up in their inaugural Division One season and winning promotion to the Northern Premier League for the 1993-94 season. Promotion was achieved to the Premier Division in 1995-96 as well as lifting the leagues’ Challenge Cup and the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy.

With former player Tony Greenwood managing the side, Brig won the NPL title at the first attempt, but were denied promotion to the Conference owing to ground grading issues. Greenwood departed but returned in time for a fine FA Cup run in 1999-00, which saw the team go out 1-0 to Cambridge United.

Relegation was suffered in 2000-01 back to Division One, but Brig returned to the top flight following the re-organisation of non-league football in 2004. Unfortunately they went down again after just one season; going on to play in Division One North for the 2007-08 campaign.

The seqason in new surroundings ended with a 3-2 Play-Off defeat at the semi-final stage against FC United of Manchester. Greenwood returned for a third spell in charge of the side after a five year spell at Fleetwood Town before being replaced by Neil Crowe and Neil Reynolds for the 2013-14 season.

In April 2014, Irongate was renamed the Sir Tom Finney Stadium after the local hero who had recently passed away. Brig reached the play offs and defeated Warrington Town before going down 3-2 at home to Ramsbottom United in the final, watched by a gate of 1,206.

Not to be deterred the management team added former Preston heroes Paul McKenna and Jon Macken to the squad during the 2014-15 season and were once again rewarded with a play off place, where Northwich Victoria were dispatched 2-1 after extra time in the semi-final.

Bamber Bridge will play in the Northern Premier League in the 2015-16 season.

My visit

Bamber Bridge 0 Scarborough Athletic 0 (Saturday 7th March 2015) Northern Premier League Division One North (att: 352)

It was a day why I follow my team and why I’m a passionate football fan.

The day started with a bus to Wembley Central and then a train down to Euston to grab some food for the train journey north to Preston. After nodding off near to Birmingham, I awoke to hear a conversation on a mobile phone as an aging gent lamented of his team’s awful performances.

I quickly deducted that he was a Blackpool supporter as he described their awful performance that I had also witnessed at Brentford ten days earlier. He still travelled from Cheltenham for games and shared similar interests and thoughts on the game as myself, so the ride was a most pleasant one.

I met my good mate Guy in The Old Vic opposite the station as Bradford City were taking on Reading in the quarter final of the FA Cup. We departed after a pint, but quickly returned as I realised that I’d mixed up the town centre with that of Wigan, much to the barman’s mirth.

Our train journey on to Bamber Bridge was delayed as the staff couldn’t get the train to work properly. No announcements were made, making the wait frustrating. It must have been twice as bad for the Portsmouth fans on board as they waited to travel to Accrington; just a few years after reaching the FA Cup Final as a Premier League side. It’s a funny old game!

Eventually we arrived and walked to the ground through a housing estate. It was only 2pm but we didn’t see any other pub so we gambled on a good clubhouse. Our punt paid off.

The Sir Tom Finney Stadium was a fine arena. We entered the ground behind the goal and immediately through the turnstiles was a cover towards the corner flag. The two storey sponsors block was directly behind the goal with the clubhouse downstairs along with a fine refreshment counter and a small open terrace in front. A seated stand straddled the half way line down one touchline before giving way to a cover with a couple of steps, which continued right behind the far goal. The final side was open with a couple of wide steps and grass behind.

The clubhouse was excellent, with a choice of two local real ales. One was not quite right, but the efficient staff changed it immediately and set about putting things right. Quite a sizeable away support was congregating, thanks in part to the generosity of Viking Seadog Are Guttlevik who subsidies the Supporters Club coach so that fans only had to pay £5 return.

Another round of scares had circulated the Surfing Seadog fans forum during the week, but I checked with the directors face to face to make sure that we were not in meltdown. I was more than happy with their replies. It would appear they had got to deal with a new ground along with the other everyday issues; although some did acknowledge that communication did need sharpening up.

As soon as I saw the team sheet I was confident. While there was plenty of criticism over the line up and tactics the previous week for the 0-0 draw with Lancaster City, the gaffers were bang on the money this time. Boro had three quality fit centre backs available, so they picked them all, leaving out the inconsistent Steve Ridley.

The catering scored ten out of ten, with a pie, chips and gravy to die for cost just £3.25. It was ideal food to eat while concentrating on the compelling action taking place.

Bamber Bridge looked the more likely to score as they carved out some decent opportunities, but fortunately for Boro Joe Cracknell was having an excellent day between the sticks as his Hull City coach looked on.

It was all level at the break. Following the interval the game followed a similar pattern. It looked like one goal would be the winner. Boro chipped away but created nothing too clear cut, before Brig were awarded a penalty kick. Cracknell dived the right way to keep out Darren Smith’s shot in the sixty sixth minute. Despite late home pressure, Boro kept a deserved battling point back over the Pennines.

As a Seadog, my biggest shock was that we didn't win 1-0. No question about it. We would have lost that game and conceded three or four in the first few months of the 2014-15 season. There was a real commitment and team spirit out there. Paul Foot and Bryan Hughes had installed so many good things since they took over. Best of all, the team now had strength, pace and some brute force when necessary. They no longer rolled over and had their bellies tickled.

It was a proper old game, just like the NPL stuff I was brought up on as a young un. Neither side were afraid to get stuck in and put their bodies on the line. It’s exactly how it should be. Referees are going to get decisions wrong at Step 4. If they didn’t they’d be officiating at Step 1 or in the Football League. I didn’t agree with all of the refs calls, but he did his best.

Some of Boro's last ditch defending was heroic. Ben Middleton's tackle when the forward was about to pull the trigger in stoppage was breath taking. Dean Lisles had put in as good a performance as I can remember from a Seadog defender. Paul Robson was as ever calm, faultless and as hard as nails. Joe Cracknell was brilliant. At the other end we chipped away without really creating anything clear cut. Everyone played their hearts out and never gave Brig a moment’s peace. I only wish that the two excellent hard sides had a better surface to play on so the ball players could have enjoyed the game more. It was firm and bobbly and often the players had to concentrate on their first touch, when they should be taking it as read. It was a great advert for 3G pitches.

I had a couple of hours to kill after the game before my returning train from Preston, but I didn’t fancy any alcohol. Instead I walked around the city centre and enjoyed a tea before having a sleep on the journey south. I alighted at Watford Junction to save time and was indoors for Match of the Day.

I was somewhat dismayed to read some ridiculous whining on the Bamber Bridge Facebook page, accusing the Boro side of being extremely dirty and negative. I could only put it down to the frustration of a missed penalty, missing a few clear cut chances and some at the club were still carping at November's abandonment following a serious knee injury inflicted on Chris Bolder; especially as they realised that they' would get a far harder game at Queensgate two weeks later than they did back then. It was a shame as I really rated Brig as a club and a team. Anyone who didn't enjoy it all could only be either extremely one eyed or they didn't understand what football was all about.

It was a really top day out.

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