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, October 3, 2015

New York Red Bulls (USA)

New York Red Bulls are a football club based in Harrison, New Jersey who were originally formed as Empire Soccer Club and then New York/New Jersey MetroStars  in 1995.

Eddie Firmani, the experienced ex head coach of New York Cosmos was the clubs first head coach, with USA World Cup stars Tab Ramos and Tony Meola joining the Italian Roberto Donadoni.

MetroStars caused a sensation when they registered players Juninho and Túlio with fans and the media alike presuming that they were the Brazilian stars of the same name. However, both were juniors who were later released.

The team were ready to go in the first season of Major League Soccer (MLS) with the team playing at Giants Stadium, where they shared with NFL teams New York Giants and New York Jets.

In 1998 the club’s location was dropped from their title as they became known as MetroStars. The side had a terrible 1999 season with former USA team boss Bora Milutinović in charge of team affairs.

To improve matters, the signing of German legend Lothar Matthäus improved matters both on and off the pitch. The club became the first MLS team to lift an overseas trophy when Dynamo Kyiv and then Norway’s Viking FK were defeated to win the La Manga Cup in 2004.

In 2005 MetroStars reached the play-offs but were knocked out at the first stage by New England Revolution. The following year the Red Bull organisation bought the club and changed its title, colours and logo.

Huge crowds flocked to Giants Stadium to see the locals defeat Bayern Munich 4-2 and then a second friendly against FC Barcelona that ended in a 4-1 defeat in front of a sell out crowd of 79,000 fans. Davis Beckham’s appearance with LA Galaxy drew a gate of 66,238.

Bruce Arena took over as head coach following a disappointing World Cup campaign in charge of the USA. The goals of Jozy Altidore helped the team to the 2007 play-offs, but once again they were eliminated by Revolution.

Juan Carlos Osorio was named as head coach in 2008 with Juan Pablo Ángel the stand out player. Altidore was sold for a record $10 million transfer fee to Villarreal CF. Once again, Red Bulls reached the play-offs. On this occasion they saw off the two time defending champions Houston Dynamo and then Real Salt Lake to make the MLS Final. In the showpiece held in Los Angeles, New York went down 3-1 to Columbus Crew.

The successful campaign led to qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League of 2009–10. Red Bulls went out on aggregate to Trinidad and Tobago side W Connection. The team endured an even worse league season, with fans wanting the firing of Sporting Director Jeff Agoos, while Osorio resigned.

2010 saw a new head coach in the shape of the Swede Hans Backe. The club also opened their new Red Bull Arena in Harrison, across the river from New York and close to Newark. The signing of Thierry Henry captivated the home support along with Mexican international Rafael Márquez.

However, the 2010 season ultimately ended in disappointment as the Eastern Conference semi-finals saw the Red Bulls fall to the San Jose Earthquakes. The team won the 2011 Emirates Cup in London after defeating Paris Saint-Germain and then drawing with Arsenal. DC United ended the championship hopes with a play-off defeat.

Former player Mike Petke was named as the new head coach for the 2013 season following a overhaul of the staff off the pitch. Several prominent players were sold or traded. The 2014 season saw the signs of improvement and a run all the way to the Eastern Conference final following wins over Sporting Kansas City and DC United.

New England Revolution defeated Red Bulls in the final, with Henry announcing his retirement following the game. On January 7, 2015 Jesse Marsch was named head coach of New York Red Bulls.

New York Red Bulls will play in the MLS Eastern Conference in the 2015 season.

My visit

New York Red Bulls 2 Orlando City 5 (Friday 25th September 2015) MLS Eastern Conference (att: 20,695)

My first ever visit to the USA for a long weekend in New York had started better than I could have dreamed of. After a few beers on the opening night, I had enjoyed a cruise around Manhattan and a life long dream of going up the Empire State Building before lunch watching the Friday night football back from Europe.

Having taken a siesta at my room at the West Side YMCA by Central Park and Columbus Circle, it was time to try and fight through the crowds and security as Pope Francis was being greeted by 80,000 worshipers over the road. It was also United Nations week in the city, which was adding to the heightened security.

The subway took me to Penn Station where I changed for an E train to the World Trade Center. Following the signs, I had soon got my return ticket and was by the huge building sight still rebuilding the area following the 2001 September 11 atrocities. The PATH train heading to Penn Station in Newark was busy. I was glad to see a few Red Bulls shirts on board to signify I’d caught the correct train.

The journey took around twenty minutes to Harrison. Red Bull Arena stood across some wasteland a ten minute walk away. It was good to see some small tailgate party’s in action on the vast car parks, with kids having impromptu games. The future of the game in the US seemed bright. On the cruise I saw numerous pitches on the East Lower Village, but little baseball and no American Football.

I followed the signs to the entrances of the immaculate stadium. My advance ticket cost $30 (around £20). There were no programmes, but free posters were given out. I went upstairs and was impressed to see free phone chargers in locked cabinets for public usage. The catering however, was not very fan friendly.

There were numerous concessions with some tremendous options, but the prices were ridiculous. Craft beers were as much as $11 a pint. The food wasn’t much cheaper. The best option I could find was the hot dog and Pepsi combo for $9; until I then saw the size of the hot dog. I was not impressed; especially when the same dogs were given away for free in the brilliant Rudy’s Bar & Grill at 44th St 9th Avenue. I went upstairs to enjoy my meal and take in the scene.

The Red Bull Arena was a fine stadium. The Main Stand had a lower deck with corporate and media facilities above. The other three sides wrapped around the rest of the arena with one continuous roof, which rose over the far touchline to add aesthetics. Each side had a lower section with another above. The wide concourse ran all the way around at the back of the lower tier.

Before kick off the current Cosmos manager and former Metrostars goal scoring hero Giovani Savarese was presented to the crowd, while the jumbotrons showed highlights of his career. The full regalia of American sport followed as servicemen were given a warm welcome on the pitch and the national anthem was sung. There were swathes of empty seats around the arena, so I was more than surprised when the official attendance was announced.

Both teams had some well known names. The visitors from Orlando were managed by Adrian Heath and fielded Brazilian legend Kaká in the number ten shirt. Red Bulls started with Bradley Wright-Phillips, with his brother Shaun on the bench.

As the game began I made a video for my Facebook page, commenting on how so many football matches of all levels around the globe appeared to be following a similar pattern of sterile neat play and short passing without error or risk taking. How little I knew!

Orlando went ahead when some very slack marking allowed Cyle Larin to flick home Kaká’s corner with a fine header on twenty four minutes. The predominantly young support carried on cheering. Many were from local clubs, which was good to see, including plenty of young girls who have fallen for the game. The Ultras downstairs were doing their best to rouse their heroes.

Earlier in the season Red Bulls had beaten their new rivals New York City on three occasions. It would also seem that it had led to plenty of bother between the fans. I cannot condone any violence, but I sympathised heavily with Red Bulls who had worked long and hard over the previous twenty years to build support, community links and a base of their own. New York City just popped up and were given Yankee Stadium as a base. That did not appear fair to me.

They were rewarded four minutes later. Sacha Kljestan played in a free kick to the back post. Matt Miazga headed it back across goal where a diving Dax McCarty swooped to level with his head. City defender Seb Hines was carried off after a long delay after trying to prevent the goal.

The men on the PA earned their cash. All announcements, including for yellow cards, were made in Spanish and English to appeal to the home support. It seemed that “Ladies and gentlemen. Your attention please,” seemed to boom out every few minutes. Red Bulls spurned two great opportunities to draw level before the break. McCarty hit the crossbar with a header and Bradley Wright-Phillips headed against the post.

City substitute Carlos Rivas put Larin through with a fine pass just before the break. The forward made no mistake finishing with style past New York custodian Luis Robles. At the break I wandered round the concourse and found somewhere to charge my phone before deciding to take a seat at the far end near to the fifty or so purple clad away fans.

I expected a big response from the home side who were riding high in the standings. Orlando were having a very indifferent campaign, but they had pace aplenty and it was worrying the home side.

Just one minute after the restart, the pace of Rivas and Larin caused absolute mayhem, causing Red Bulls defender Damien Perrinelle to put into his own net trying to cut out a square ball. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was turning into superb entertainment.

Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch was sent to the stands by referee Jorge Gonzalez as the shambles on the pitch got too much for him. Just before the hour mark Lloyd Sam narrowed the deficit with a fine swivel and shot from a low Gonzalo Veron cross.

Surely this would be the time for Red Bulls to turn the game around? Not a chance as Orlando had very different ideas. Their pace and counter attacking was just too much for the home side. Kaká was past his very best pace wise, but he ran the game from midfield. His footballing brain stood out like a sore thumb.

Once again Rivas set up the Canadian star Larin who fired into the roof of the net from just inside the area on sixty one minutes to make it 4-2. Red Bulls bought on Shaun Wright-Phillips with twenty minutes remaining to try and change things. Seven minutes later they were down to ten men after Miazga received his second yellow card.

With the very last action of the game City scored a fifth goal after numerous near misses. They had poured forward at will taking pot shots at the home net. This time it was left to Bryan Rochez who made no mistake firing into the bottom corner.

City thoroughly deserved their win. Red Bulls were shocking at the back and would have probably been better off fielding female pop trio Wilson Phillips than the Wright-Phillips brothers. I’d put in a more exhausting shift during the day.

As everyone left the stadium they were given a thermal drink flask from match sponsors Bayer, which was a nice touch. Courtesy school buses were awaiting us outside on the junction of Cape May Street and Pete Higgins Boulevard. Within a few minutes we were back at Newark Penn Station. I got on the wrong train and headed back to New York Penn. The conductor was most sympathetic and told me not to worry about a ticket.

I decided to walk to my new found local bar past Madison Square Gardens and the main Post Office building. This offered me the chance to grab some value pizza slice on the way up 9th Avenue.

My old Scarborough FC Black Death shirt attracted attention back at the pub. I got chatting with Raul, an Argentinian now based in New York. He was delighted to speak to someone of his age who preferred non commercialised football. He insisted it was football and not soccer. He reiterated the point to his pal who responded with “Go Jets!”

Raul supported Huracon, the club where Osvaldo Ardiles had cut his teeth. We had a great laugh chatting about football and music. My new friend loved British punk. Top barman Conor kept providing us with drinks in the packed bar before I had to call it a night as I had a 7am bus to Boston for more MLS action the following day.

To see how that turned out totally unexpectedly, click here!

A brief video as part of my New York tour diary can be see by clicking on the link:


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