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 their maintenance.

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 fortunate 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 heightens 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 try today. They'll be delighted 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. Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby as he grows into a young man!

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


November 2018

Monday, February 8, 2016

S.B.V. Excelsior (Holland)

S.B.V. Excelsior is a professional football club from the Dutch city of Rotterdam, who were formed on the 23rd July 1902 as Rotterdamse Voetbal en Atletiek Vereniging Excelsior (Rotterdam Football and Athletics Union Excelsior).

A close group of friends from the Kralingen district of the city had been playing football on the fields of Woudestein for many years previously. The city municipality gave them official permission to use the land as Excelsior were formed, as they became one of the first working class clubs in the country.

The club played in regional football for their first few decades, reaching the final of the KNVB Beker (Dutch FA Cup) in 1929-30, when they were defeated 1-0 by near neighbours Feyenoord. During this period the team had spells playing at Afrikaanderplein and then Toepad before returning to Woudestein.

In 1945-46 Excelsior won promotion to the Eerste klasse, which was the highest level of football in the country before professionalism was introduced in 1954, following a deciding match against VUC, which attracted a crowd of 52,000 to De Kuip.

Excelsior were the main club behind the beginning of payments to players. As the smallest club in the city, they required to be innovative to survive. Professionalism would allow them to compete, argued chairman Henk Zon.

The KNVB agreed and professional football was introduced to The Netherlands in August 1954. They missed out on a place in the Eredivisie when it was introduced for the 1956-57 season, continuing in one the two second tier Eerste Divisie’s. In 1958 the club once again became pioneers by covering the stands at their Woudestein stadium.

In 1962-63 the Eerste Divisie was halved in size, with just one division. Excelsior remained in the second tier. However, they went down to Tweede Divisie in 1964-65. After three mid table finishes they returned to Eerste Divisie at the conclusion of the 1968-69 campaign.

Better news was still to come for Excelsior as they were promoted to the Eredivisie at the first attempt to enjoy top flight football. After flirting with relegation for two seasons ‘The Old Paper Club’ as Excelsior were often known as because of chairman Zon’s business empire, went back down in 1972-73.

The resilient team won promotion at the first attempt after claiming the Eerste Divisie title. It was at this point that Zon attempted to introduce shirt sponsorship. An ‘A’ was placed on the front of playing shirts, which the chairman claimed signified the ‘A Team’. The KNVB disagreed and realised it was a plug for sponsors Akai.

The Eredivisie spell lasted two seasons. In 1978-79 Excelsior once again lifted the championship of the Eerste Divisie to return to the top level as a relationship with Feyenoord was formed. Once again, they remained their for just two years, returning to the highest level the following season through the play offs.

The assistance of Feyenoord aided Excelsior to remain in the top division until 1986-87, when they finished bottom of the table. The team would remain in the second tier until 2001-02, when promotion was won through the play offs. They made an immediate return back down through the relegation play offs.

In 2005-06 Excelsior once again lifted the Eerste Divisie crown, before returning to compete for it once again a couple of seasons later. The next flirtation with top flight football came at the end of the 2009-10 season following a win in the play offs.

In 2012-13 Leon Vlemmings side went back down in last place. Marinus Dijkhuizen took the side straight back up, once again through the play off rounds. After averting relegation by one spot in 2014-15, Dijkhuizen departed to take up the Brentford manager’s job. He was replaced by Fons Groenendijk, as the connection with Feyenoord was ended.

S.B.V. Excelsior will play in the Eredivisie in the 2015-16 season.

My visit

Thursday 28th January 2016

The only previous times that I’d been to Rotterdam were when I used the city to access the North Sea Ferry with my brother Nick when going and coming home from the World Cup in Italy in 1990. I was looking forward to having a proper look, and of course there was no better way of doing that than visiting city wide football clubs.

Once I’d deposited my bag off in the lockers at the station I soon found the correct stop for the number 24 tram towards De Esch. The ten stops took me through the rather sterile city centre. In fairness it wasn’t really Rotterdam’s fault that it had to be built virtually from scratch from 1945, as my barman friend in Arnhem had pointed out.

The area between Blaak station and Oostplein looked decent enough bar wise and offered an option for later in the evening. After around twenty minutes I got out at the Woudestein stop, which was conveniently located right outside the stadium.

After a walk behind the Main Stand and taking a couple of limited photos I walked round the back of the goal nearest the tram. Fortunately enough there was a gate open and I was inside. There were a few people scattered around tidying up after the previous night’s match against PSV.

Stadion Woudestein had four raised seated stands, with one on each side around the artificial playing surface. The total capacity was just over 3,500, but all was neat and tidy. Flat open areas in each corner completed the scene. A supporter’s bar was in the corner where I stood. It was a perfect size for a club of Excelsior’s standing.

Once I’d taken all my photos I travelled by tram and metro towards the home of Sparta to educate myself further.

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