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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Rushall Olympic

Rushall Olympic FC is a non-league football club from the former mining village of Rushall, which is located just north of Walsall in the West Midlands. The club was formed in 1893.

Initially Rushall played friendly games before becoming members of the Cannock & District League in 1895 before progressing to the Walsall & District League, where they competed at various levels.

The team played on a field behind the Miners Arms pub; using the hostelry as changing rooms. Most of the players worked down the local pit. The original club disbanded just prior to World War Two.

In 1951 Olympic were reformed by some local enthusiasts, playing at Rowley Place and using a local fish and chip shop as their headquarters. The club secured a place in the Walsall & District Amateur League; going on to win both divisions in consecutive seasons to progress to the Staffordshire County League (South).

‘The Pics’ continued moving forward with yet another title win at the first attempt. They then went on to win the Division One championship four times in the second half of the 1960’s. Rushall made a move to share the facilities at the Aston University Sports Ground, while securing land for their new Dales Lane home, which opened in 1977.

The endeavour paid dividends as the club were accepted into the West Midlands (Regional) League for the 1978-79 season; going on to win Division One in their second season to secure promotion to the Premier Division.

Pics became founder members of the Midland Football Alliance in 1994-95. The new millennium saw another Olympic surge. The club finished as league runners-up in 2001-02 and 2002-03. It would be third time lucky as Rushall were crowned as the Midland Football Alliance champions of 2004-05 to secure promotion to the Southern League Division One Midlands.

In 2008-09 the club were transferred to the Northern Premier League Division One South. In their debut season a fifth place finish ensured a place in the play-offs; where Pics were defeated 1-0 by Belper Town.

Neil Kitching came in as manager to replace Paul Holleran in the summer of 2009. His side finished in third place in 2010-11 before going on to defeat Brigg Town and then Grantham Town to reach the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League.

In Rushall’s first season as a step three club they finished in a creditable eighth place finish and reached the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup. In 2012-13 Olympic just missed out on the play-offs with a sixth place ending.

The club continued to consolidate before Kitching left on amicable terms in the summer of 2014.  The former Bolton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion midfielder Richard Sneekes was appointed as the new manager.

Sneekes led the side to a mid table finish before departing to Sutton Coldfield Town. Joint chairman John Allen stepped into the breach as team boss in November 2016.

Rushall Olympic FC will play in the Northern Premier League Premier Division in the 2016-17 season.

My visit

Rushall Olympic 1 Halesowen Town 2 (Saturday 29th October 2016) FA Trophy First Qualifying Round (att: 189)

My old mate Ron Heywood was over with the New Zealand senior indoor cricket team and playing in the World Series event in Erdington in the north of Birmingham. I stayed in the city the previous evening and enjoyed the fine ales on offer.

The cricket was absolutely top class. I bumped into Andy Walton, a fine player who I knew from the Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes. I’m not sure which one of us was most shocked? It was also nice to see Mike Gatting there and to have a chat.

After lunch I said my goodbyes and caught a bus down to Aston before taking a train to Walsall. The service was busy as Coventry City were the visitors at the Bescot Stadium. I carried on through the pedestrian centre and to the bus station for the number 997, which dropped me a few yards from the ground ten minutes before kick off.

I paid my £9 admission along with a further couple of quid for an excellent programme. It was soon apparent that quite a few fans had travelled to support the visiting Yeltz. I’d resisted other opportunities of food and was rewarded with a fine portion of steak pie, chips and a tea, which came to £4.50. It was absolutely top drawer.

I’d settled down in a seat to enjoy my food and take in the surroundings of the Dale Lane ground that had plenty of character.

I was in one of two identical modern build seated stands which faced each other at the far end of the ground. Behind the goal was a long low cover. Further along the ‘top’ side was another cover along the middle third of the pitch. 

The far side was open standing with a TV gantry on the half way line. The entrance end was flat open standing and also contained the changing rooms, tea bar and clubhouse. There was quite a large slope down from the top side right across the pitch.

The programme described the visitors as “our good friends”. The next ninety minutes had me undecided whether that was a genuine welcome or irony? What I got was a feisty local derby with absolutely no love lost between the teams.

Halesowen had a couple of chances that flew just wide after a fairly even start. Then at the other end the visiting keeper Dan Platt made a fine low save from Rushall’s Alex Reid. Matt Birley hit the post for Yeltz, before they took the lead on thirty nine minutes.

Former Pic, Ethan Delaney headed home at the back post. The challenges were flying in, with Olympic’s being forced off Aris Christophorou after a bad tackle. The referee was getting plenty of advice from the players, benches and crowd.

At half time I gathered up the messages on my phone. I was to finish filing my report from the Thailand International Cricket Sixes. The fellas in Bangkok were sending me the results and news of anything notable, while I put the jigsaw together in Walsall. Oh for the joys of modern technology!

For the second half I decided to sit in the opposite seats down the slope, while continuing my task. It baffled me how reporters and statisticians manage to multi task match after match. Pics equalised soon after the break through a powerful Joe Hull header.

However, their task was made more difficult just a minute later as substitute Marlon Walters was given a straight red card by the referee after the linesman saw a stamp. That merely increased the verbal’s between the benches and towards the officials.

Gradually Halesowen took control of the game. It was no surprise when Jordan Goddard fired in what would prove to be the winner. Jose Veiga in the Pics goal pulled off some fine saves to keep the score down. It hadn't been a match for the timid or those who abhor plenty of profanities.

At full time I walked down the lane to catch the 35B bus back to Walsall and then a train to New Street. This left me with an hour to kill in the magnificent Wellington before my train back to London.

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