Sunday, 2 August 2020

Basildon Town - Basildon Sports & Leisure Club

Basildon Town FC
Basildon Sports & Leisure Club
Gardiners Way
SS14 3HZ

01268 523773 (S&L Club)

Ground Number: 912
Saturday 1st August 2020
Basildon Town 1-3 Lakeside United


Basildon Town is the older of the town's two clubs, having been formed in 1946 when the area was made into a new town. They played in the Thurrock Combination and Parthenon League before making the step up to the London League with a best-ever finish of 4th coming in 1957. A couple of years later, they were forced out of their ground at Stacey's Corner due to the lease running out. They took some of the facilities with them and decamped to nearby Burnt Mills Lane, dropping back down to the Parthenon League. They briefly merged with Pitsea United from 1964-1968, joining the Essex Olympian League as founder members but the two sides went their separate ways. The clubs continued to groundshare at Pitsea's Gun Meadow though and Basildon Town were Essex Olympian League champions in 1969. The club suffered a blow in 1971 when they were evicted and so they moved to Eversley Road in Pitsea, dropping down to the Southend and District League, winning it in 1981 and gaining promotion back to the Essex Olympian League which had now expanded to multiple divisions. They were briefly known as Basildon Sports during this time.

Starting in Division 2, they remained here until 1989 when they dropped down to Division 3 upon league reorganization. A 4th place finish in 1992 saw them promoted to Division 2 but they only lasted at the higher level for a couple of seasons. They moved into their current home at Gardiners Close in 1995 and were Division 3 champions in 1999. The flitting between two levels continued for the first decade of the new millennium but they were soon to enjoy a sustained period of success. In 2013 they finished 4th in Division 3 and were promoted. They were Division 2 champions in 2015 and Division 1 champions in 2017, earning promotion to the Premier Division in the process. The 2017-18 season saw them finish rock bottom, winning just twice all season but they won promotion straight back up in 2019 as runners-up to Shenfield. Last season, the club was just outside the relegation zone when the Coronavirus epidemic bought an end to football and with the season declared null and void, they remain in the Premier Division for the coming season, going through the whole of last season without drawing a league game.

Basildon Town have won the Essex Olympian League Cup twice - firstly in 1969 as they beat Manor Athletic and then again in 2017 as Kelvedon Hatch were defeated 4-1. Other cup honours include the Parthenon League Cup in 1955, the Shaw Cup in 1964, the Southend Charity Cup twice, the Sadlers Cup in 1965, the French Cup in 1966, the Burnham Charity Cup twice, the Basildon Sports Council Trophy twice, the Ramuz Cup twice and the Stanford Charity Cup on three occasions.


The town of Basildon has a population of just over 107,000. Though it was briefly mentioned in the Doomsday Book as a village, it was created and expanded as a new town in 1948 to cope with the population overspill from London. The capital is 26 miles away with Chelmsford (11 miles) and Southend (10 miles) being the nearest large towns. The Eastgate Shopping Centre is one of it's bigger attractions and when it opened in 1985 and for a year it was the largest indoor shopping centre in Europe until the Metro Centre in Tyneside opened its doors in 1986. The town's most notable landmark is the Hollywood-Style 'Basildon' sign which you can see upon entering the town. The town was also used as the filming location for the brilliant BBC sitcom 'White Gold although it was actually set in Corringham, near Thurrock. Many famous people come from the town, most notably the band Depeche Mode, solo artists 'Kunt & The Gang' and Alison Moyet, actresses Kara Tointon & Denise Van Outen and footballers Darren Caskey, Justin Edinburgh, Michael Kightly and James Tomkins. Football-wise, the big team in the town are Basildon United who play close by and are in the Isthmian League North whilst nearby Bowers and Pitsea which forms part of the wider area of Basildon play in the Isthmian Premier. There is also a ladies team, AFC Basildon Women.

Sources used: Wikipedia, Basildon Borough History, Football Club History Database, Essex Olympian League site.


When I attended my last football match of the 2019/20 season, I had no idea of when it was going to resume. As I was on a fortnight off work, I'd been hoping for some midweek games, but one by one, leagues shut down their seasons and then on Monday 16th March, the FA shut down the whole of football, some games getting cancelled with little over an hours notice. Later on, and with too much haste, everything at step 3 and below was declared null and void, a slap in the face for the players and clubs that had worked so hard to achieve during the season. Time will tell, whether that was the correct decision and we won't truly know until much later on in the year. It would be a whole week later when the gormless government followed suit and put the country into lockdown. For me, due to medical conditions, that meant self-isolation apart from my daily exercise. My employer was superb, I remained off work for over three months on full pay which was a real blessing as I saved a lot of money. It wasn't so bad at first, I filled my time going over old blogs and redoing them, saving myself around ten revisits when the football did restart. I also started to plan for the next season, going deep down into step 7 and below to look at potential grounds, coming up with nearly 600 potential trips in England alone. My only other pleasure during lockdown were mail-ordered ciders and I enjoyed a fair few new brews that I'd not had before. Towards the end, I was getting restless and so I was glad to return to work at the start of July. It's safe to say that no one wanted this 'gift' that China sent us and it's safe to say that we had to suffer longer because of the government's poor handling of the virus, not that they were the only ones with Brazil and the US suffering from even worse leadership, though the guidance from the equally inept World Health Organisation was less than stellar with them keen to defend China and block any investigation that could potentially teach us more about the virus. In fact, the only major success story that I heard of was in New Zealand so it was far from a simple thing to deal with.

Back to something more positive then and I enjoyed my first taste of freedom with a couple of pints at the pub on Friday 10th July. The previous day, the government had announced that sport at grassroots level could return and so it was in the hands of the FA to provide guidance to clubs. Most clubs waited on the FA to announce plans but Hackney Wick were more proactive, announcing a friendly against Farnborough OBG for the 18th July which would have made a fantastic birthday present for me. It took a whole week for the FA to submit their plans, despite having had four months to put together a plan during the lockdown. In between, I gave in and bought a Wycombe Wanderers season ticket, despite a 40% increase. The gamble paid off as Wycombe won in the playoff final against Oxford United and were promoted to the Championship for the first time in their history. The £380 I paid for a seat on the halfway line was the same price as a place on an uncovered terrace behind the goal at Kings Lynn Town in the Conference. Maybe not such a bad deal after all then. The initial plan at the beginning of the year was to move up north where the housing is more affordable despite my folks thinking that anywhere up north is a crime hotspot. Not that Wycombe isn't a complete dive at times, of course. Maybe for the best with the unstable state of the country at the moment, something that you couldn't have foreseen at the start of the year. As it was, I didn't get a game on my birthday, but I did have a good day and semi-good news came when the FA announced that teams could play games from the 1st August - only without fans until they got permission from the government. Given that just about every other activity - pubs, restaurants, shops, cinemas, cricket with fans etc were allowed, it seemed ludicrous that they would not allow a handful of fans to watch a local non-league game.

Even a week before, I knew I'd be on my own as neither of my two hopping partners were available. My initial thought was a trip down to Hampshire to see Hampshire League side Stockbridge play, though Anwar said he fancied that one. It was disappointing to get the thumbs down from Frampton United, a club that plays at step 7 of the non-league pyramid but they had not included spectators in their plans when writing their risk assessment. I made up my mind the Sunday before and it came down to two choices - either Guru Nanak on the train or Basildon Town on in the car. With the possibility of a late cancellation, I opted for a drive over to Essex, knowing that I had a backup at Hatfield Peverel in reserve. It also meant I could see two games with the reserves kicking off around lunchtime. The clincher was the above video from 'The Basildon United Superfans'  which showed me that the ground was worth a visit. The week rolled by fine, but there was a bit of a curveball thrown Friday lunchtime with Boris Johnson announcing restricted measures for certain parts of the country. People were not allowed to see their next-door neighbour or their family, yet they were allowed to go and congregate down the pub. Madness. Wycombe had no such restrictions so it was a ten-mile walk for me to the Rose and Crown and back for a couple of pints. It was a quiet evening with a couple of cans, with me thankful that my game was still going ahead - our esteemed Prime Minister had ruled out anything in the top ten levels of English football - at least with fans.

I had a reasonable night's sleep though my body clock woke me up not long after my usual work time of 4am, dozing off again and getting out of bed at 6. I killed time recalling old games on this date. It was 29 years to the day of my first ever football game as Wycombe beat Watford 2-1 in 1991. The 140 days since my last match on March 14th was the longest I'd ever gone without a game since that date. The rest of the morning was quite productive - I had a bath and managed to get my daily walk for exercise as well as potentially making plans for a game in midweek at Earls Colne. I left at 10.40 and had a reasonable journey, getting to Basildon at 12.10. It had taken a bit longer than intended to get to the game, so I knocked the idea of taking a walk to Tesco on the head. The club was very organised and had made plenty of parking available for fans and players alike. I spent the time before the game catching up online and having some crisps and Irn Bru.

The first game kicked off at 12:29 and saw Basildon United's reserve side take on Lakeside United, who as the name suggests, play in the shadow of the Lakeside shopping centre near Grays. They've been known as Linford Wanderers and A1 Sports at various points during their history. In 2018/19 they had a reasonable season in Division 2, finishing 5th. Results last season have been deleted but they start the coming season in Division 3 alongside the hosts. Basildon Town lined up in their home kit of blue whilst Lakeside United wore their usual red and black stripes. The game started with Lakeside on the front foot, but there were no real chances to speak of. The first incident of note came when the Basildon keeper was injured following a challenge and needed five minutes of treatment for a gashed knee. The first real chance came on 17 minutes when the Lakeside #7 screwed wide of the left-hand post. Five minutes later #9 held off a challenge and hit a shot just wide of the right-hand post from just inside the area. Basildon had a chance on the break after 23 minutes, but #14 fired wide after getting clear of the defence. The Lakeside #7 was at it again in injury time, his shot forced a corner and then he headed home from the resulting kick. Six minutes was all was needed for half time with us back underway at 13:26. Lakeside continued to dominate, blasting over the bar just after the restart and al shooting wide from a narrow angle. Basildon's #16  got wide down the right but there was no-one to support him. The hosts standout chance came when #17 hit the bar from outside the area after 59 minutes. This was a sustained period of attack from Basildon, a few minutes later there was pinball in the area but they couldn't put the ball away. Six minutes from time, Lakeside made it 2-0 with a shot into the bottom right-hand corner. Basildon had a chance to reduce the arrears a few minutes from time, a big lad forced the visiting keeper into a good save with an excellent curling shot. The game was sealed a minute from time with a free-kick from Lakeside - the shot from 20 yards going straight in.

The main game kicked off at 14.30 and saw Basildon United face up to Barnston. Their opponents were based in a village 25 miles north of the hosts. They played in the Essex Olympian League up until 2009 but moved to the Essex & Suffolk Border League since then. They've been in the step 7 Premier Division since 2013 but have always finished in the bottom half of the table and in the last few seasons in and around the bottom few places. Both sides home kits were all blue so the visitors were forced to wear a smart yellow kit. It was good to see fellow hopper Laurence there as well as the Basildon United superfans - Tommy and Mia - in attendance. This time the hosts were straight at it four minutes in an excellent corner was put in from the left and the ball was put home at the back post from a few yards out. After ten minutes, a Basildon free-kick went just wide. The vast majority of the 66 in attendance would have been happy to see Basildon dominating and it took a couple of smart saves from the visiting keeper to keep it at 1-0. It was 2-0 after 56 minutes, a free-kick was parried by the visiting keeper and Basildon's player followed up.A sustained period of dominance by the hosts saw a goalmouth scramble but it came to nothing and their #18 hit the post from outside the area. The hosts continued to dominate and a great ball forward found #7 but he didn't have the pace, a defender tracked back and got in enough of a tackle to put the player off of his shot. Branston pulled one back seven minutes from time, a shot from just inside the area finding the bottom left of the net. The game was sealed on 90  minutes with a shot from inside the penalty area. I left around 4.10 and listened to the preview of the FA Cup Final on the way home. I was in at 5.30, just in time for the game. I had a lovely dinner of steak and a couple of ciders as Arsenal triumphed 2-1. I had a game of Scrabble with the family and played an online quiz before going to bed around 10.

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Now 2-0 to Basildon Town against Barnston.

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THE BASILDON SPORTS & SOCIAL CLUB is a fairly basic venue, but one that is decent for step 7 and worth a visit. There's no hard standing or cover but there is a rail around the pitch and a battered club sign to say who plays there. The social club itself is pretty smart and modern and offers a reasonable range of drinks. There was also a barbecue available when I went. There's a large car park at the ground although alternative parking is available at the Basildon Post Office Club and along the side of the road. The ground is located around 2.5 miles walk (or 4 miles drive) from the town and train station. The town doesn't have many great pubs but has a Wetherspoons. There is also a Taco Bell in the shopping centre, amongst other takeaways. There is a Tesco 10 minutes walk away or a KFC and McDonalds slightly nearer.

Thursday, 18 June 2020


It's been 96 days since my last game and I am missing it like mad. However, it seems as if it will be ages before we get to another game, thanks to our own government's handling of a no-good virus. I thought I'd deal with this cabin fever by putting a few tips about groundhopping that I've picked up over the years. If you disagree or have any other tips to offer, get in touch. I want as many people as possible to enjoy this wonderful hobby and although we can't participate at the moment, most of my time is spent thinking about where I'd like to visit when we are allowed to.


I wish I'd started hopping earlier. For one, I missed out on so many grounds that have long gone, also, it would have been cheaper with discounts on things, especially travel, with railcards and the like. These cards tend to discriminate against solo adults, which defies belief considering getting single-occupant cars off the road would have by far the most positive impact on the environment compared to groups of people in cars. Also, if you start young enough and you can rope your parents in, then basically, it's free. I managed a reasonable amount on this basis, but all of them came without me even being pro-active or asking.


When I started hopping, I first concentrated on the 92, then expanded to down to step four and then down to step 6, my main inspiration being the 2013 Northern Counties East (er) hop where I visited some lovely places. Since then, I've done some below step 6 with a stand or cover and found them to be very decent and offering free entry. My latest 'requirement' is for there to be at least a rail around the pitch, though I'd not rule any ground out if the circumstances were right. Basically, for me, it's a balancing act between having a decent amount to choose from and not being swamped with too many choices (basically every single football pitch in the country)


Having a car is by far the easiest method of hopping, though not everyone has access to one, or can drive. Plus, they are very expensive to own and service on top of pricey petrol. Having other hoppers come with you can be a real help in keeping costs down and also you get some good company. I'm truly grateful to my two main hoppers, Anwar and Chris for coming with me and as neither of them can drive, I'd like to think that the feeling is reciprocated. Driving also limits pub visits, as I rarely drink midweek, I prefer to drive to midweek games when transport finishes early and use public transport (or my legs in the case of Wycombe home games) at the weekends.

Sadly, trains can be extremely expensive and seemingly the preserve of high-earners in most cases. There are some good value options to be had and Transport For London & West Midlands Railway are some of the better value operators out there. For the former, the walk-up prices mean you can have unlimited travel in London and a large surrounding area for little over £12 and if you use contactless cards, it's often a lot less than that. Sadly, I've very few grounds left to do in London, as the flexibility is great, especially in wet weather when games fall victim to the weather and a late replan is needed. Plus there is something for everyone in London, be it food places, pubs or other attractions, so you can make a real day out of it. Another good value way to obtain train tickets is to buy in advance. I can get a return to Birmingham for as little as £12 from High Wycombe, which is tremendous value and with Birmingham having both a large range of choice and being a good transport hub to other parts of the country, it is a good starting point for a game.

Otherwise, try Megabus or National Express where you can pick up returns to major cities such as Manchester and Newcastle for well under £20 if you pick the right times. The latter has better comfort and customer service but tends to have less cheap buses, especially overnight. Local bus services vary in cost. I've paid £6 in Derby for a five-mile round trip with only an hourly bus service too, but have found good value in the West Midlands and West Yorkshire with unlimited travel over a large area for around £4. Around my local area, I think it's a set £4.70 for a return bus, whether it be to High Wycombe, five miles down the road, or another 30 to Reading. Walking and cycling (if you have a bike) are free and provide a nice amount of exercise, though the former is only viable for local trips.


I think that groundhopping should be about the whole day out and not just the time at the ground. The best way is to get yourself on a Groundhop UK day - they will typically provide the opportunity to 'tick off' three or four grounds in one day in a set area. They even lay on transport for those unable to drive and those who want to give the car a rest. Generally, these events run over weekends, but there's nothing to stop you from doing just a day if you can't make the whole event. They are generally good value for money and a nice opportunity to spend time with like-minded people. Generally, you can expect at least four events per season, sadly some leagues resist the opportunity to make money for their clubs and no one else does such tours.

Aside from that, there's very little opportunity to do more than one game in a day, especially at the weekend. There should be more morning games, such as the Midland U21 League which kicks off at 10.30. Aside from games moved for TV, or the occasional game in Wales, doubles are rare. There's other stuff to do of course and I always like to find something nice to eat when out and about, plus a decent pub at weekends. Basically, whatever your other hobbies are, try and fit them in before and after your game.


To find fixtures in the first place, the lazy man's way is to download the Futbology App. This covers steps 1-6 (not cup games though) and if you fill in your details of grounds visited, then they can filter them out and sort by distance. The Football Traveller Magazine covers all the cups, plus leagues below and is handy to go through with a highlighter and pick options out.

Once you have chosen your game, double-check the address and route on Google Maps. It's also advisable to plan in a few backups, especially in wet weather. It's also good to keep an eye on social media accounts. Some clubs don't update them very often, or the volunteer that runs the account may be busy. For that reason, I will set up a Twitter list with the home team, away team and leagues of all my fixtures to reduce the chance of a wasted journey. Finally, follow and interact with fellow groundhoppers on Twitter and forums and you'll find plenty of stuff that you'd otherwise miss.


Tickets, especially for the bigger clubs, can be tricky to get, virtually impossible for the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United. Added to that, they are sold at high prices, especially when through a third party. The FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League are undervalued, meaning less interest and cheaper tickets. Also consider going in the away end, useful tip if the visitors have a small support or have to travel a long way for a midweek game. As an additional tip, Twitter competitions can provide free tickets, as can the SkyBet Rewards app. The fact that you didn't actually go to the game is not an issue, just download a Fake GPS app from the Google Play Store. I used mine to check into the Futbology App early, but it has many purposes.


Back when I started watching football there was no such thing as digital cameras and everything had to be taken on film. Looking at some old Argos catalogues, it wasn't as an expensive business as I remembered (around 30p a print in today's money) but it was still a lot of money for me when I only got just over a quid a week pocket money. I've had a digital camera since 2003, though memory was expensive at the start - I remember paying £30 for a 32MB (not GB) back in 2004. Nowadays, any modern phone will have a half decent camera on it and the pictures are great to look back on. I tend to get snaps of random stuff such as the tea bar list- useful for other hoppers to see and be interesting to look at the prices in years to come.


Most important of all, enjoy yourself. If you go into something with doubts, you'll never enjoy it. You never know when the next cracking game is going to come up, even if the ground isn't up to much. Also, to tie in with the tip above, make a day of it, visit a nice pub, treat yourself to a nice meal and explore the town, then even if the game is rotten you'll have done something good.


If you are thinking of blogging, or already blog, then I'd suggest taking a look at other blogs to see what they do. Though mine will never be the best blog on the internet, a couple of other bloggers have used what appears to be the same template as me and I'm glad to have helped. I started blogging in 2011, started seriously hopping in 2012, but it wasn't until 2016 that I finally hit upon the format that I am fairly happy with. It had meant that I've done a fair few revisits to get older blogs up to standard and during the coronavirus pandemic, revisiting and rewriting old blogs to improve them. The main reason for starting a blog was that I'd forgotten so many little details of my trips over the years and wanted something to look back on. Also, like with social media, it seemed a good way to find and interact with like-minded people. Having people read my blog is nice, but it's not the endgame. I tag all clubs in my tweet publicizing my blog, but the vast majority don't even respond or retweet, which a shame as another aim of this blog is to inspire people to visit their club.

A few days before the game, I'll set my mind on a first choice, detailing food and drink options around the area and if needed, pubs and public transport details. Although this should really be included in the hopping section above. I'll also research the club's history and any local area information to try and get a feel for the place and put the club's current status into perspective. Good sites, at least for clubs down to step 6 of Non-League are the FCHD (Football Club History Database) and Wikipedia. Old Non-League Directories are available on eBay for a few quid and these often fill in any gaps or provide information on clubs that have slipped down the rankings. Generally, the 1990s was when the directory was at it's strongest as it had time to gather more information and was not like the modern-day stripped back version that has become less relevant with the emergence of online resources. If all else fails, then a Google search can often help, some league websites are more useful than others, with the Essex Olympian League providing good information that is unavailable elsewhere.

I'll also start my blog, writing about the build-up to the game and the reason why I chose that game. The bulk of the blog is done on the day though and by far the most useful app for this is Simplenote. This allows editing on your phone, tablet and computer - in fact, anything with an internet browser. For keeping notes on the game, I'll generally use a notepad and pen, or if I forget, Google Keep voice notes. If I'm on public transport, I like to get the most of this done before I get home, therefore remaining productive on my journey and not forgetting anything. I prefer to edit my pictures when I get home, though it's doable on my Chromebook, it's far more comfortable to do on a PC with bigger screen and better editing tools.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

The Wycombe Wanderer Awards - Season 2019/20

Well, I wasn't expecting to do this after so few games, 89 in total, by far my lowest since I started groundhopping. Football has taken a back seat for now, what with a worldwide pandemic. With so many lives lost and many more ruined, that is understandable. Once we are rid of this vile, racist, ageist, elitist murdering virus we will be back and non-league clubs especially will need our support and I'm certainly not planning on holding back when we resume. I hope I can do so in the good company of the many great people who I have met over the years pursuing this wonderful hobby. It's been 81 days since my last game (at the day of writing) and this will surely surpass the 95-day record that I have between games since I started watching in 1991.

I've saved a good amount of cash mind, staying in, indeed having to self isolate due to health reasons and I'm hugely grateful to my employer (which hasn't always been the happiest areas of my life) for continuing to pay me and support me during this tricky period. The year of 2020 was meant to be the year I finally gave myself the kick up the backside I needed - find a new job, get onto the property ladder (even in a new area if needed, I favoured the North-East) and visit some new countries. But this has now all been kicked into the long grass by a worldwide crisis and it's a venture into the unknown for most. But nevertheless, enough waffle, here are the awards for my truncated season.


Though they are not worthy of being called our rivals due to the way they formed, getting a result against this illegitimate mob is always good. Even better when we came from behind and got a last-minute winner in a drama-packed game.


A dreadful performance in the last game of the decade as we were totally outclassed by a Coventry side that had not won away all season. And there was kit envy on our part as their black and white away kit was dead smart.


A real treat of a game at a fairly basic but historic venue as Epping came from two goals down to draw in an exciting game only to lose on penalties in an Anagram Trophy game.


Friendlies are rarely decent games and this one was no exception as two sides played out a dull contest on a warm July afternoon. At least entry was free.


On my penultimate day of football, I was at AVRO FC for Golcar United's North West Counties League game, the venue having been changed due to a waterlogged pitch at Golcar. It allowed me to see a game in the Manchester area before an overnight coach home and the opener was a real beauty. A free-kick was hammered against the defensive wall, only to fall at the feet of Michael Tunnicliffe who smashed the ball home via the underside of the crossbar from 25 yards for a brilliant strike.


A hidden gem at step 8 of Non-League - the Leicestershire Senior Division 1 in this case. You'll have to go during the day as there are no lights and the track leading down to the ground is a real challenge for most cars, but once you get there, it's well worth it. Delightfully ramshackle and plenty of cover for wet weather.


Sadly, my visit to the cider crazy city of Bristol was all too brief, but this pub was an absolute cracker with around 20 good ciders on offer. A lovely vibe too and the only pub that my journey involved a motorboat as I took a shortcut across the River Avon.


Not a world-beater by any means, but I have been waiting for many years to find a semi-decent pub in the previously terrible area of High Wycombe. This was a chance find on the first day of the season when I visited to redeem a free pint off of a phone app. I finally found a pub that served decent cider in High Wycombe and at very fair prices too. I straight away made it my designated pre-match pub in Wycombe and as well as the good drink choice, a friendly King Charles Spaniel called Bruce and brilliant landlord and landlady (Chris and Kirsten) have made sure that I have visited on plenty of non-matchdays too.



I visited when I took fellow hopper Anwar to Tuffley Rovers. It had been a couple of years since we had last visited here due to lack of grounds around the area but it was excellent as ever, delivering great food at reasonable prices and with a sit-in option too.


Just as with my pub of choice, I've been going to the same takeaway all season. I first discovered this place when in the area getting my car fixed a few years previously and it has been spot on every time. A wide range of tasty options and all at great prices and an ideal stopping place, halfway between town and the ground.


Club shops that sell old programmes are rare nowadays, so to find this was a real bonus as there must have been a couple of thousand at least on offer. I got two books for 50p each. Sadly, clubs don't see old programmes as profitable but what they don't realize is that people will make a special effort to visit a good shop and it might put a few on the gate.


It's hardly been a vintage season for programs, with demand falling thanks to a lot of information being available online, a lot of programmes are no more than a token effort to meet requirements. But the Clay Cross Town effort ranked well in the awards and was well presented with a decent amount of facts and articles. Impressive for a step 7 side.


I don't often eat in the ground, for reasons you will see below. But Brigg was a real treat, some made pie, well-cooked chips, mushy peas and gravy, all for £4. Totally delicious and you'd struggle to find better in an outside establishment.


I don't like nominating 'worst' awards as I want to keep this blog positive and encourage people to visit clubs. But this was poor. It was actually for a White Ensign game, the day after a Great Wakering game. As a result, fans were treated to a single choice - hot dogs comprising of a cheap sausage in a stale bun, clearly leftover from the previous days game. And they put butter in the bun too, revolting!


Nothing special on the drinks front, but a better range than most and nice cold drinks too. Spacious and had sports TV too and well priced.


I don't do this blog for views, I do it to keep a record of my visits to look back on, however, I do like people to see it and hopefully visit a ground they like the look of. Also to meet new people. Sadly, after spending a fair bit of cash and time visiting clubs, few bother to take the few seconds to retweet (I'd say the ratio was about 10% at most) Sarratt were one of the smaller clubs that I visited, but they did retweet and as a result, it was my most read blog of the season with a (still small) 405 views. Decent considering the average of 150 - 200 though.


Plenty of brilliant clubs on this front, so hard to pick a winner. But I plumped for Peacehaven & Telscombe who gifted me free entry after my original visit there was called off. This was despite it not being their fault as opponents Eastbourne United pulled out a few days before the game. They also made the effort to DM me on Twitter to keep me up to date to make sure I was kept in the loop. Top class.


There will be many better tributes elsewhere online, but Dulwich Hamlet fanatic and groundhopper in denial Mishi was a much-loved part of the non-league scene. Having met him on a number of occasions, I could vouch for the fact that he was a top bloke. Having survived a heart attack and foot infection earlier in 2019, the year had been an awful one for him. A second heart attack saw him not so lucky and he will be much missed by many.


Well, after the fiasco at Stowmarket, I didn't think that someone could get any lower, but the 'gentleman' who masquerades as the president of China absolutely trumped it by ending the season once and for all and causing the whole world misery. Not content with making his own people's lives a misery, allowing filthy hygiene standards at a local market and then being economical with the truth has meant that the whole world has suffered. Not deliberate of course and football is way down the pecking order with getting on for 400,000 dead at the time of writing, far more than there should have been over here thanks to own government's hopeless handling of the pandemic. This is not a slight against the good people of China who have provided the world with so many good things, but their government I don't have any time for.

But in runners-up spot, what is it with the Eastern Counties League and stupid referees. This is the second occasion a referee has opted to be the centre of attention rather than show common sense. The man concerned (name deleted given the bigger picture) called the game off eight minutes before kick-off with both teams happy to play. The groundsman was even willing to fix the problem if only the referee would delay kick-off at Stowmarket Town v Walsham-Le-Willows by 15 minutes but the man in the middle was not listening. This came after another referee, (name deleted again) called off a match at Felixstowe with a few hundred in attendance on a Friday night. By the time we'd got our money back and got back to our cars, the fog had cleared, by which time the referee was filling his face with free food in the hospitality tent! Late kickoffs are becoming a real problem with several late call-offs with zero consideration for the fans. It affects attendances no doubt, as I and other hoppers have reduced faith in games going ahead and so opt to stay in and save a wasted journey. 


Very much up in the air at the moment, what with the current situation. But I've not been aboard for a few years, so that is a must, especially with vouchers to use from my cancelled booking this season. Belgium & Holland was my original intention and that stands a high chance of figuring again. I also plan to do a lot more Friday nighters, with some long-distance ones involving an overnight stop and a game or two on Saturday.

Costs for this season are as yet unknown, what with me not knowing what is happening with my season ticket and also not yet having worked out all my car costs fully. However, I can reveal that I spent £207 on 'extras' - this includes programmes and more basic food and drink. It doesn't include when I have gone somewhere special to eat, nor does it include special ciders as I regard that as a separate hobby. For Wycombe games, if we win I add nothing to my costs if we draw, my football costs added are half of what I spent and if we lose my costs cop for the lot. My hobby, my rules.

Monday, 16 March 2020

Chester FC - Deva Stadium

Chester FC
Deva Stadium
Bumpers Lane

01244 371376
Official Website

Ground Number: 92
Tuesday 10th April 2004
Chester City 0-2 Wycombe Wanderers
Coca Cola League 2



The club was formed as Chester FC and was established in 1885 as an amalgamation of Chester Rovers and Old King's Scholars. They added the 'City' suffix in 1983. In 1999, American Terry Smith took over the club and despite no knowledge of English Football insisted on becoming the manager and baffling the players with bizarre tactics. Steven Vaughan took over as owner in 2001 and initially appeared to be a saviour. However, during his controversial reign, the club entered administration in 2009. Laughably, the FA allowed the club to be taken over by a company owned by the Vaughan family. Unsurprisingly, the season was a complete disaster with the club starting the season with a 25-point penalty due to debts not being paid. A record-low attendance of 425 was recorded for the 1-0 defeat at home to Salisbury on Tuesday 19th January 2010 as fans stayed away in protest. The club's final game on Saturday, February 6th 2010 recorded an attendance of just 460 for a 2-1 defeat at home to Ebbsfleet United. The club failed to fulfil their next fixture at Forest Green Rovers and were thrown out of the league and their record expunged.


Former grounds include Faulkner Street, The OId Showground, Whipcord Lane and Sealand Road. The latter was Chester's home from 1906 until 1990. Following the failure to gain a safety certificate for the venue, the land was sold to a supermarket and the club was forced to share with Macclesfield Town for two years. They moved into their purpose-built Deva Stadium in 1992, the first match coming on 25th August with a 2-1 defeat to Stockport County. The club's nickname of 'The Seals' is a nod to the name of their former home. 


Chester started out playing friendlies only before joining the Combination in 1890. They'd remain here until 1910, save for between 1899 and 1901 when the club was temporarily disbanded as they did not have a home ground. They were champions here in 1909, following five runners-up spots in a row. The Lancashire Combination was next up, with Chester staying between 1910 and 1914 before the outbreak of World War 1. When football resumed in 1919, they played in the Cheshire League and were champions in 1922, 1926 and 1927. They'd leave for the Football League in 1931 but return in 2000, spending four years in the Conference before winning promotion back as champions in 2004. Following another relegation in 2009, the club would return to the Conference but would go out of business later that season with their results being officially expunged.


The club would have two spells in the Football League, the first lasting from 1931 until 2000 and the second from 2004 until 2009. Their best season would come in 1978
when they finished 5th in the third tier and the joint worst being in 1953 and 1954 when they finished bottom of the 3rd Division North which was the bottom tier at the time. The club was not automatically relegated though but they'd finish bottom of the lot again in 2000 and this time they were relegated.


In the FA Cup, the club's best-ever run in the FA Cup has been to the 5th Round twice - firstly in 1977 when they lost 1-0 at Wolves and then again in 1980 when they went out 2-1 at Ipswich Town. Chester reached the League Cup semi-finals in 1975, losing 5-4 to Aston Villa over two legs. Cup wins include the Welsh Cup (three times) and the  Bob Lord Trophy (Conference League Cup) in 2001. They also reached the area final of the Football League Trophy in 1987 (losing to Mansfield Town) and the semi-final of the FA Trophy in 2001 (losing 4-0 on aggregate to Canvey Island)


Chester have a bitter rivalry with local rivals Wrexham. The vast majority of Chester's stadium is actually in Wales and just 12 miles separate the two clubs. The rivalry is so intense is that the game is one of the only in the UK to be designated a 'bubble match' where away fans are forced to travel to the games on official coaches. Wrexham held the upper hand over their rivals with 66 wins to Chester's 49 with 31 games ending in a draw. Big wins include a 6-1 win for Chester in February 1965 and a 7-0 win for Wrexham in April 1953.


Chester's record income from a transfer came when they sold Ian Rush to Liverpool for £300,000 in 1980 and the record spent was £150,000 for Kevin Ellison from Tranmere Rovers. Record football league appearance holder is defender Ray Gill who played 406 times between 1951 and 1962. Their record scorer was Stuart Rimmer with 135 goals in 361 games over two spells in the 1980s and 1990s.


The two clubs were regular opponents during the early 1990s and mid-late 2000s. Over the 14 meetings, Wycombe very much holds the upper hand with ten wins to Chester's two with the other two games ending in draws. Chester City was Wycombe's opponent for a home game in 1993 with Wycombe winning 1-0 thanks to a Keith Scott goal. By coincidence, Wycombe would be the first-ever opponent for Chester when we beat them 2-0 in August 2004.  

Several players have played for both clubs.....

Cyrille Regis - sadly no longer with us. A great player who scored 9 in 35 for Wycombe and 7 in 29 for Chester.

Tony Hemmings - another good one for Wycombe, the pacy striker scored 12 goals in 49 for us and 2 in 19 for Chester.

Terry Howard - cultured defender who made 61 appearances for Wycombe in the 90s, on loan at Chester as a youngster in 1987.

Jermaine McSporran - great striker picked up from Oxford City for £75k in 1998, 41 goals in 186 apps for Wycombe. Single outing for Chester.

Iain Turner - young Everton keeper (at the time) who had loan spells at both clubs.

Carlos Lopez - a single appearance for both as a defender, the worst player ever to play for Wycombe in the Football League.

Brian McGorry - another hopeless player, a midfielder with 4 appearances for Wycombe and 14 for Chester. 

Drewe Broughton - a well-travelled striker who made 3 apps for Wycombe and 14 for Chester scoring 2 goals.

Alex Lynch - a goalkeeper who made 4 appearances (covering injury) for Wycombe and 27 for the new Chester club.


Following the demise of the old club, Chester fans would get together to form a phoenix club. Chester FC was formed in 2010 and would start out in the NPL D1 North (step 4 of non-league) Three straight league wins saw them promoted to the Conference / National League, but they struggled, with a best-ever finish of 12th in 2015. They were eventually relegated in 2018 and remain in the National North to this day. The club remains fan-owned and are currently managed by no-nonsense pair Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley who became well-known thanks to the BBC documentary about Salford City where they managed previously. 


The walled city of Chester dates back to Roman times and is close to the Welsh border. It has a population of 79,645 and is twinned with Sens in France, Lorrach in Germany and Senigallia in Italy. Famous people from the city include radio presenter Mike Parry, actors Daniel Craig and Malcolm Hebden, comedians Russ Abbott and Bob Mills and footballers Tom Heaton, Danny Murphy, Michael Owen and Ryan Shawcross.


I've made five visits to the Deva Stadium in all, but don't really have any strong memories of them. All of them were made during my seven-year run of not missing a game home or away for Wycombe but it was never a ground I really looked forward to visiting, owing to its isolated location. Nowadays with Google Maps, it wouldn't be so much of an issue, but I had a rotten sense of direction and no knowledge of the local area. On the upside, the Chester fans were always very decent and friendly and the stewarding fairly relaxed.

My first visit came in August 2004. The two teams were getting used to League Two - Wycombe after being relegated the previous season and Chester playing their first home game back in the Football League after a four-year absence. I travelled on the official supporters' coach and had a pretty decent Tuesday evening with Wycombe running out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Mike Williamson and Danny Senda. The same method was used for the following seasons game. Chester triumphed 1-0 thanks to a goal from Stuart Drummond as we slumped to a fifth consecutive defeat. I also used the same coach for our game there in January 2007, Wycombe winning 1-0 under Paul Lambert thanks to a Jermaine Easter goal.

I'd be roped into driving for our game during the 2007/08 season where we shared a 2-2 draw with Chester City. Sergio Torres opened the scoring on 13 minutes for Wycombe but Chris Holdroyd would equalise for the hosts three minutes later. They turned the game on its head, taking the lead through a John Murphy goal but John Sutton would equalise for the Chairboys. My final visit in August 2008 would be the final game of my seven-year run as I got fed up watching dull football at the same old places. I went on the Independent Supporters Club coach this time with my Dad and as always, we stopped at a pub. On the day goals from John Mousinho gave Wycombe a 2-0 victory. The season would end in contrasting fortunes for the clubs, Wycombe unconvincingly winning promotion under Pater Taylor playing dreadful football which was preferable to Chester City's season as they were relegated out of the Football League.


THE DEVA STADIUM is a smart but unremarkable ground that opened in 1992 and was not unlike Wycombe's home at the time. Three sides are seated with a capacity of 5.500 seats although the away end was originally terraced. Now the only standing area is the Hary McNally Terrace whose 1000 capacity is for home fans only. The food and club shop is fairly standard fare from what I remember. There's a small bar at the ground, otherwise, your options are limited to retail parks (10 minutes walk) or the city centre (25 minutes walk)