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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Angers SCO (France)

Angers Sporting Club de l'Ouest, or Angers SCO as the club are more commonly known, is a professional football club from the historic city in western France who were formed in 1919.

Beginning life in the local Division d'Honneur and playing at Stade Jean-Bouin, Angers progressed to regional football in 1931, before becoming founding members of Ligue 2 for the 1945-46 season. A young Raymond Kopa began his career at the club in 1949 before finding fame elsewhere.

Success came in the 1955-56 campaign as ASCO were promoted to Ligue 1 under manager Karel Michlowsky as league runners-up.

‘Les Scoïstes’ retained their top flight status until 1968, when they were relegated. However, their absence lasted just one season as they returned as champions. A fourth place finish in 1971-72 was rewarded with a place in the following seasons UEFA Cup.

However, Angers went out on aggregate in the first round to Berliner FC Dynamo. On their return to Ligue 1, Angers established themselves before suffering relegation in 1975 after finishing the season third from the bottom of the table despite the goals of Bozidar Antic.

The club returned to Ligue 1 after just one season away once again. The joy was short lived as Anger were demoted twelve months later, but remarkably they won promotion straight back up, to round off four seasons that the loyal fans were unlikely to forget.

The next spell in Ligue 1 lasted until 1981. On this occasion the relegation would take some time to recover from as ASCO remained in Ligue 2 until the conclusion of the 1992-93 campaign. Once again the top tier proved a bit too much for the club as they returned to the second level the following season.

The next time that Angers departed Ligue 2 it was in the wrong direction as they went down to the third tier National division in 1996. Over the next ten years the club would yo yo between the two leagues; spending the 2000-01, 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons at the higher level, but the others in the National division.

Promotion was secured in 2006-07 under the stewardship of Jean-Louis Garcia and from there Angers stabilised for seven seasons, with Stéphane Moulin taking over as head coach in 2011, before winning promotion back to Ligue 1 at the end of the 2014-15 season.

On their return Angers finished in a mid table berth under the captaincy of Olivier Auriac and the creative skills of Billy Ketkeophomphone.

Angers SCO will play in Ligue 1 in the 2016-17 season.

My visit

Angers SCO 0 Stade Rennais 0 (Wednesday 8th February 2017) Ligue 1 (att: 10,897)

It was the third day of my mini French break and for the second time in a month I’d broken away from the Paris to see what else was on offer; aided as usual by the fixture calendar of course!

A nice morning had been spent sightseeing and working out my evening’s pub activities upon my return before having a ride out to Colombes. My mode of transport south west was by Flixbus as the train fair was too expensive.

After a couple of drinks and collecting some food for my journey, I settled back on the coach. Unfortunately for me an older French couple in the seats in front decided that they’d like to use their reclining seats, nearly breaking my knees in the process. Fortunately there was nobody in the seat next to me, so I could stretch sideways.

It was nice to drift in and out of sleep on the journey, which took us down motorways before coming off on the outskirts of Le Mans, where some passengers departed. Just less than an hour later we entered Angers.

It looked a pretty city, with its old castle being most striking. Parts of the city looked historic, although the station was so modern I struggled to exactly work out where it was. Unfortunately the time restraints meant that I wouldn’t have much time to explore.

Instead I set off walking to the stadium, going past a pretty college and heading straight down Rue Volney. I knew that the stadium wasn’t too close, but I was surprised it was as far as it turned out. More and more black and white clad fans joined the walk with still no signs of the floodlights.

I kept checking bus timetables for after the game as I was pushed for time. I wasn’t having any luck on the transport front. Eventually the walk down the long slope opened out at into
Boulevard Pierre de Coubertin, with its food and souvenir stalls on one side and Stade Jean Bouin straight in front.

Hunger was getting the better of me so I bought a spicy sausage in a bread roll with delicious fried onions. The problem now was to find my entrance into my standing position inside the stadium. It was at that point I should have asked for help.

However, I was at my most determined. The result was that I walked right to the end I had my ticket for, but in the wrong corner. A steward pointed me back in the right direction. At least it gave me some exercise I suppose!

My gate was the one nearest to the food stand. The confusion came about because the gates served the Main Stand as well as the terrace; with access underneath. At last I was inside after scanning my €15 ticket. I was given a free colour four page programme.

Access to my block was under the main stand, but even then it was confusing as a toilet block seemed to be in the way half way along. I retraced my steps and then noticed some small arrowed signage. I needed to go up some steps and then back down again to avoid the toilets. At last I found my correct place.

Stade Jean Bouin was a traditional ground, which had obviously being modernised in recent years. The single tiered Tribune Jean Bouin was the main stand on the left. Opposite was Tribune St Leonard, which was a semi-permanent new stand, a bit like the ones found at Fulham’s Craven Cottage. The far end Tribune Coubertin was a similar construction, while finally I stood on the steep open terraced Tribune Colombier, with its old style segregation just across from the centre.

My view was fantastic. I’d checked out the weather forecast in advance, and with no rain being due, I saved myself a few Euro’s. A lot of the spectators in Colombier appeared to be students, with Angers being a university city. A few tried to drum up an atmosphere, whereas most of the noise was coming from the far end. The fans used the metal floors of the newer stands to make quite a din at times.

To see the teams enter the fray, click here.

The match itself was not exactly what could be termed as a thriller. There was definitely plenty of skill and pace on show, but like too many modern matches, there seemed to be too many passes instead of creativity or directness.

Angers had the better of the first half with skipper Cheikh Ndoye seeing his header tipped over by Rennes keeper Benoit Costil. Pierrick Capelle also had a shot that went narrowly wide for the hosts.

At the interval I decided to stand in lower section as I needed to be away before full time. I didn’t indulge in any catering as the club had adopted a club card system, which needed to be loaded to purchase anything.

The second half had even less goalmouth action, although Costil did make an excellent stop to deny Ndoye. It was obvious to me that there was unlikely to be a goal, so with just over ten minutes to go I made my move to ensure I didn’t miss my train back to the capital.

Sure enough I was right. I’d made good time cack to the station, so I could buy some snacks for on board. The 21:08 service arrived bang on time. It wasn’t too full so I could enjoy a relaxing ride back. The journey took just over an hour and a half.

On reaching Paris Montparnasse I walked to find the platform for Metro 4 and went the seven stops to Châtelet, then finding the correct exit for Rue St Denis. It was time to see if my morning recce was up to scratch.

First up was Hall’s Beer Tavern, where a helpful local barman charged up my phone, while I watched France’s equivalent to Match of the Day. I caught up with the highlights of my game. I’d missed an away player being sent off, and Angers’ Pepe missing a sitter.

The Thistle enticed my in by its advert for €5 Euro pints of Innis & Gunn all day. Again, it tried to dress itself up as a British bar, but the clientele was made up of local youngsters. It did the job before I ended up at my final destination.

Although La Cordonnerie served Stella out of plastic glasses, it was only €4 a pint. This was most acceptable! The bar had a mixed clientele but played good vibrant music and the crowd were up for a good time. Some stood outside with beers.

My day was done, after finding something for supper anyway! It had been another fantastic day out visiting places I’d never seen before. The match at Angers could have been a a lot better, but that’s the gamble with football. I was still glad that I made the effort.


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