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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Chesham United

Chesham United FC is a semi-professional football club from the small market town of the same name which sits at the foot of the Chilterns in the county of Buckinghamshire.

Football in the town began in 1879 with the formation of Chesham Town FC. They merged in 1919 with Chesham Generals, the team of the General Baptist Church to form Chesham United FC. The club took on the nickname of ‘The Generals’.

After competing for several years in local football, United joined the Spartan League and then the Corinthian League for the 1947-48 season. The club finished as league runners-up in 1960-61 before it was disbanded in 1964 with clubs moving to the newly formed Athenian League Division One.

The 1967-68 campaign saw Chesham embark on a tremendous run in the FA Amateur Cup. Wins over Corinthian Casuals and Oxford City led to a semi-final against Wealdstone at Craven Cottage, which was won 2-0. In the final at Wembley, United went down 1-0 to Leytonstone. 

Chesham joined the new Isthmian League Division Two in 1974. The league was renamed Division One in 1977, the same year the club lost 1-0 in the first round of the FA Cup away to Brentford.

In 1979-80 a marathon run in the FA Cup all the way from the first qualifying round saw victories against Boreham Wood, Haverhill Rovers, Bedford Town, Maidstone United, Minehead and Merthyr Tydfil set up a third round clash at The Meadow against Cambridge United. The visitors left town with a 2-0 win.

In 1986 the team were relegated to Division Two North, before bouncing back as champions at the first attempt. In 1991 the Division One title was secured as Chesham joined the Premier Division. The magnificent spell continued at Amy Lane as The Generals were crowned as Isthmian League champions in 1992-93.

However, the spell wasn’t to continue, as the side were relegated to Division One a couple of years later. In 1997 another championship sent Chesham back to the Premier Division. In 2002-03 a further relegation led to a place in Division One North before non-league football was re-organised. United were placed in the Southern League Premier Division for the 2004-05 season.

In 2007 Chesham were relegated to Division One South & West, before regaining their Premier Division status in 2010 after a 4-0 victory over Slough Town in the final of the play-offs.

In 2010-11 AFC Totton defeated United in the semi-finals of the play-offs, before Hemel Hempstead Town inflicted another defeat at the same stage the following season. The 2013-14 season ended with Chesham as league runners-up. Once again they missed out on promotion through the play-offs. Stourbridge were beaten before St Albans City went up courtesy of a 3-1 in front of a packed Meadow audience.

Andy Leese’s side finished mid-table in 2014-15, before the side once again showed their FA Cup pedigree in 2015-16. Aylesbury, Paulton Rovers, North Leigh and Enfield Town were all defeated to set up a first round clash at Bristol Rovers. United won the game at the Memorial Stadium through a Ryan Blake goal. Chesham were drawn away to Bradford City or Aldershot in round two.

Chesham United will play in the Southern League Premier Division in the 2015-16 season.

My visits

Chesham United 1 Baldock Town 3 (Saturday 18th September 1999) FA Cup Second Qualifying Round (att: approx. 250)

This was one of the first games I attended as a groundhopper since my permanent move to London the previous April. The cricket season at Lord’s was coming to a close and I was keen to adventure.

I took the Metropolitan line from Wembley Park after a ride on the Jubilee from my Willesden Green room. The small town impressed me. Although my memory isn’t crystal clear, I think I had a beer in the Wetherspoons in the High Street before continuing to Amy Lane.

The ground impressed me at once. The turnstile end with Chesham Cricket Club behind had several rows of shallow terracing with a cover at the rear. An unusual feature were individual blocks of concrete for fans to stand on. The far Meadow End was pretty similar. The far side had a cover over the middle third of the terrace. The Main Stand was at the rear of a decent sized open terrace and covered the middle third of the pitch. Towards the cricket end was an excellent clubhouse with decent views of the pitch.

Baldock were the club that produced future Premier League star Kevin Phillips. Sadly the club went bust a year or two later, before being re-formed down the pyramid without their old home ground.

As I recall, the result was a bit of a shock.

Autumn 2006

My return to The Meadow was a weekday afternoon after work. I wanted to get some photos on my digital camera. It was a pleasant afternoon and the friendly club secretary opened a gate for me.

Unfortunately I lost the photos when I had a serious malfunction on my laptop after a holiday in October 2014.

Chesham United 3 Redditch United 0 (Tuesday 6th October 2015) Southern League Premier Division (att: 203)

Having finished my latest spell of night shifts I had various options of matches, as was the norm on a Tuesday evening. However, there’s nothing quite as nice as going to a game with a pal, so when Tony Foster fancied a trip into the Chilterns, my mind was made up.

It’s amazing to think just how far the tube network is spread over. The ride up to Chesham along the branch line after a change at Chalfont & Latimer was like been in the provinces in the north of the country. Although I’d done the ride a couple of times previously, it was easy to forget how detached the pleasant little town actually was.

As it wasn’t even 6.30, my first task was to find the best pub to kill an hour or so. A brief look through the window at a couple on the High Street didn’t do much for the imagination, but I was to strike lucky right at the end of the strip. 

The sign outside for a bottle shop and tasting station had me hooked; even more so when I entered and saw a line of dispensers built into the wall, as was the vogue with some newer places in the city. The establishment was owned by the local Red Squirrel Brewery and most of their beers were on offer in draught form. A large selection of bottles adorned the shelves in the customer area, in the manner of a traditional off licence.

I tried three different draught ales, and was most impressed by the quality, freshness, taste and definitely the prices. No beer cost more than £3.10, with most being in the £2.60 region. The customers were a nice sensible crowd and the lad behind the bar, knowledgeable and helpful.

It seemed a bit of a shame to venture out into the rain, but it was getting near to kick off time. I entered The Meadow just as the teams were about to kick off through a turnstile directly behind the goal. Further entrances were available in the corner. Admission was £10. I picked up a free team sheet and paid £2.50 for a programme, which was a bit on the pricey side.

As the vague notion of eating in the pub pre match had gone for a burton, I purchased a decent cheese burger and chips from the van near the entrances. Another tea bar was available down the side where I stood with Tony. Toilets were also available on that side, which all added up to being a good comfortable football ground.

On the pitch, Chesham went for it straight from the kick off, with a fine display of attacking football which caused the Redditch defence plenty of problems. However, it was the visitors who missed a good opportunity to take the lead, before the Generals went one up.

Kelvin Bossman sent in a low cross low which Ryan Blake missed at the near post. Brad Wadkins was following up to shot home from fifteen yards. Around ten minutes before the interval it was 2-0. Dave Pearce controlled in the box before firing past Jose Veiga in the Redditch net.

At the break we wandered over to the Main Stand side, having a look in the clubhouse, which looked to be serving a hand pulled Chesham United beer as fans watched some continental football on the European satellite channel. Many sat by the window and watched the game outside from there.

There seemed to be a good vibe around the well appointed ground. I’d forgotten just what an excellent non-league football venue The Meadow was.

The second half started with Redditch needing a quick reply. They mounted a couple of attacks without really threatening. Some of the visiting players gradually became niggly, and showed some dissent at the referee’s decisions.

After Veiga made a decent save, the resulting corner was half cleared to where George Fenton was blocked off. The ref pointed to the penalty spot. Veiga led the protests along with several of his colleagues. Pearce slotted home from twelve yards to make it 3-0.

The Midlanders rallied late on and created a few half opportunities, but it was too little, too late. Chesham deservedly ran out the winners. I had enjoyed the game. Both Tony and I agreed that the home sides pace had prevailed.

Tony had parked just outside and we were soon on our way, once a grumpy neighbour had held up all the match traffic as he manoeuvred his large car into his drive. Roads were closed for relaying on the way back, but the good old satnav did its job. We both commented on just how many good looking country pubs we passed. 

My driver dropped me at Pinner station and I was in my local in Kingsbury at 10.30 to tell my real ale pals about my pre match find!