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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Coventry United

Coventry United FC is a non-league football club from the West Midlands city of the same name, in response to Coventry City FC’s ownership and the move to share Sixfields with Northampton Town in the summer of 2013.

United were formed by four co-chairmen; Jason Kay, Jason Timms, Marcus Green and Pete Schofield along with Secretary Graham Wood. Edwin Greaves was named as team manager. The club started out life playing in the Midland Football League Division Three.

The club adopted the city’s civic colours of red and green and began playing at the Alan Higgs Centre; a community sports facility named in honour of Alan Higgs; a self made millionaire from his house building business, who wanted his legacy to create a charity to help deprived children from the city.

Cov United finished as league runners-up in their debut season; a campaign that included a 28-0 victory over Polesworth. In 2014-15 the team were crowned as champions of the Midland Football League Division Two.

The club extended its community roots in the summer of 2015 with a takeover of Coventry City Ladies FC; while the men’s first team won a third successive promotion when winning the Division One title in 2015-16.

United finished their first campaign in the step five Midland League Premier Division in eighth position. Greaves was replaced by Terry Anderson as manager towards the conclusion of the season.

United brokered a move to share Butts Park Arena close to the city centre to share with Coventry Rugby FC and Coventry Bears Rugby League FC for the start of the 2017-18 season as community and team awards continued to be collected.

Coventry United FC will play in the Midland League Premier Division in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Coventry United 3 Tipton Town 1 (Sunday 10th September 2017) FA Vase First Qualifying Round (att: 282)

With the day off work I was mulling over my options. Games at Ascot United, Erith & Belvedere and Barkingside all looked decent enough; but for some reason the tie in Coventry was shouting out to me.

My mind was made up following a text to Ian Anderson; a fellow Scarborough fan who’s based in Northampton. He also fancied it. It was about time that we met up for a game and I could also hand over a bag full of programmes taking up space in my studio.

The offer of a rail fare for just £22 return was another factor to throw into the equation. However, I nearly made a real mess of a seemingly simple ride down to Euston.

I’d forgotten that planned engineering works would add time to the trip. I ended up getting on the wrong bus from Baker Street to compound matters, but I got lucky with another dropping me outside the major terminal soon after.

I’d got the timing of departure slightly wrong; but in my favour. There was time to grab a baguette that emptied my pocket of change and then managed to find a seat on the slow London Midland service among the many overweight punters who all had those annoying drag along small cases.

Perhaps it was just my age, but I couldn’t work out why nearly everyone needed to travel with such items, thus blocking up spaces on the train; and that’s before our increasingly obese population struggle to fit between the seats.

Anyway, I was on my way. My pre planning was shown up for its incompetence when we stopped at Harrow and Wealdstone, just forty minutes at most from home. The rest of the decent ride was spent listening to music and reading The Non League Paper.

The train pulled in at 12.30 and within fifteen minutes I’d negotiated a short cut by the ring road where a pavement one stood before walking down Butts Road for my first view of the arena before entering the magnificent Broomfield Tavern.

I’d heard lots about this pub from my drinking pal Steve Speller, who’d used it a few times with friends and family before going to watch Wasps play at the Ricoh Arena. He rated it very highly, and it was easy to see how.

While there was only another three patrons inside, two of them were groundhoppers; including Luke from Worthing who I’d not seen for a season or two. We had a good chat while enjoying some fine regional ales as more and more neutral fans arrived.

By 1.30 Ian had joined us. Thirty minutes later the pub was teaming with fellow ‘hoppers’; many of whom post on the excellent Non League Matters Forum; which can be seen here. It was great to meet some posters for the first time in a really good buzzing atmosphere.

Ian had tried to get some extra programmes to bring to the pub for the fans, but the club were already limiting sales to two per person. They’d been caught out by the interest in the match. With my issue secured we were among the last four to leave.

Admission to the match was £6; with admission being gained by buying a ticket at the hut by the gate. The programme setting me back £1.50. Ian had also grabbed me a very professional little book handed out by the club which detailed their history and aims for the future. It all had a very professional feel.

United shared the shop with the rugby union club just inside the gate and sold a decent range of souvenirs. Ian had been a few times previously to watch Coventry Bears in rugby league action so he was familiar with the set up.

The first port of call was the area under the Main Stand; which had a bar serving real ale and a hot food counter; as well as a couple of well sized toilets. I purchased a chicken and mushroom Pukka Pie along with French Fries for a reasonable price of £4 before we took our seats.

The stand was one tier of steep seating with decent leg room. The subs and coaches occupied a small area in the centre. There was hard standing behind both ends and along the far side; although that was cordoned off for the match.

Extra bars and food areas were located on two of the open sections, but were not required for the match in question. An electric scoreboard adorned the far side on top of a small cover that looked like it may have been for corporate clients?

There was certainly room for expansion on two sides, which explained why Coventry City looked at a possible share before they secured their return to the Ricoh. The only downside with the venue was the standard of the pitch; with long grass protecting the surface from its extensive use.

Tipton Town came into the match in second place in Division One the West Midlands (Regional) League, while United were in the same position of the Midland League Premier Division; albeit two levels above their visitors.

The game started in the gloom with rain falling. United’s Aaron Opoku brought out the best in the young visiting keeper Josh Morgan with a stinging drive on five minutes. The pressure continued and only a fine tackle from Jamie Moore denied Tom McGuire.

Town gradually grew into the game and launched a couple of attacks of their own. Jon Patrick fired in a low cross that evaded his team mates with the goal gaping. TJ Davies showed fine footwork as skipper Paul Henley came close to the final touch.

Ten minutes before the interval Tipton took the lead in comical fashion. Debutant United keeper James Behan made a complete hash of a back pass and lost control of the ball with his feet; leaving Ebey Marango with an open net to roll the ball home.

Morgan made a save from Craig Reid in the last action of the first half before we decamped downstairs for a drink while looking at the news from other games around the country. The pint of Uno wasn’t bad.

Cov came flying out of the blocks after the restart as Chris Cox had a skidding shot saves with the wind getting stronger and squally showers continuing. Lewis Worsey countered for Town but the inevitable eventually happened on fifty minutes.

Cox’s left footed free kick from wide on the right got caught in the wind and evaded defenders, forwards and keeper Moore alike and went straight in at the far post as the hosts drew level. The home crowd really began to get behind their side.

Henley went forward as Tipton nearly regained the lead with a header before O’Grady found room and smashed home an unstoppable rising shot just before the hour mark. The visitors already had a couple of lads well capable of filling their shirts before two hefty subs came on. I wouldn’t mind owning a take away in Tipton!

Henley once again had half a chance as Behan nearly fumbled his shot to an advancing attacker. However, the danger was averted before O’Grady ran through the scattered defence who had pushed up in search of an equaliser to make the score 3-1.

Both sides had given everything in awkward conditions on a less than pristine pitch and produced a decent spectacle. Ian headed off towards home, while I returned for just one more pint in the Broomfield.

The pub had some kind of community event on with patrons enjoying a buffet and a band playing over the road in a pub. Two friendly United fans were delighted that the game had grabbed the attention of the ‘hopping’ fraternity and that the gate was actually 380, but complimentary tickets were not included in the official figure.

My train back had started at Birmingham New Street and was already busy on reaching Coventry. I was not amused by those on board; with many putting bags on vacant seats or sitting in the aisle seat while the window pew was vacant.

It was maybe tiredness, but such behavior appalled me. What an ignorant, selfish nation we had increasingly become. I found a seat, but you’d have thought I was an ace criminal, the way the occupier next to me glanced in my direction.

My mood wasn’t helped after receiving some nasty vitriol from a customer old enough to be my Dad at wo0rk the previous day as well as putting up with anti social youngsters who fear no-one and cause grief for decent folk; knowing full well that there’s nothing to stop them.

Fortunately I drifted off for much of the journey back before waking near Watford Junction. There was no way I was going to make the same error on my return, as I alighted at Harrow and Wealdstone before heading home for a sleep before work early the following morning.

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