Wednesday 15 November 2023

Guildford City - Spectrum Arena

Guildford City FC
Spectrum Arena

Ground Number: 267
Wednesday 24th April 2013
Guildford City 1-3 Biggleswade Town
Southern League - Division 1 Central


The current incarnation of the club can trace its roots back to 1996 when they were officially formed. The bulk of the squad consisted of players from Burpham who following the formation of the new club left the Surrey County Premier League. They'd been established there for five seasons and that was where the newly-named AFC Guildford would start life. They benefited from a floodlit ground at the Spectrum Arena but could only finish as high as 4th in 2001. In 2003, the league effectively became Division 1 of the Combined Counties League and the rebranding saw Guildford romp to the title and earn promotion to the Premier Division. For the 2005/06 season, they were known as Guildford United before switching to Guildford City. Fortunes on the pitch varied wildly between relegation battles and promotion attempts. In 2008, Guildford City finished as runners-up to Merstham. In 2011 and 2012 they were Combined Counties League champions, only gaining promotion at the second attempt after ground grading issues the first time around. They earned promotion to the Southern League Division 1 Central. Guildford City had their best finish in their history as they finished 9th in 2012/13. An enforced switch to the Southern League D1 South & West saw turmoil with the manager leaving for Chipstead, getting sacked and then returning to Guildford City. Even so, they finished bottom and were relegated back to the Combined Counties League. They've played in the top tier ever since, finishing 7th in 2019. When the league was regionalised in 2021, Guildford City were placed in the Premier South.

2010 saw the club's best-ever FA Cup run. They beat Egham Town, Three Bridges and Tonbridge Angels before a 2-1 defeat to Clevedon Town in the 2nd Qualifying Round. Two unremarkable seasons were spent in the FA Trophy. In the FA Vase, Guildford City enjoyed their best run in the 2010/11 season. They beat Sevenoaks Town, South Park, Horley Town, Brading Town and Moneyfields before losing to Leiston in the 4th Round.  The record attendance of 295 came for an FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round game against Kinstonian in 2012. The Spectrum Arena started out as a basic venue but improvements were made over the years. For a while. Guildford City shared at Cranleigh whilst works were carried out. The club is keen to relocate from the ground however, and has pursued various options including groundsharing with Woking and joining community regeneration projects – none of which has yet come to fruition. The club has strong connections to German football club Freiburger FC, with Freiburg in Breisgau being a sister city of Guildford, and publishes news and results of the later club on its website, just as Freiburg does for City. The club is also linked to Havnar Bóltfelag from the Faroe Islands.

The first club in the town was amateur side Guildford, formed in 1877 and known as the "Pinks". They played home matches at the Woodbridge Road Sports Ground. A successful start led to a number of people mooting a new professional club and by the end of 1920, Guildford United was formed. They joined the Southern League in 1921 and in 1927 changed their name to Guildford City.  This was due to a cathedral being built in Guildford but it never actually attained city status. Whilst the league remained as a single-tier setup, Guildford City were champions in 1938 & 1956. They missed the cut for the Premier Division when the league expanded in 1959 but the following year earned promotion with a 5th place finish. 1965 saw the club's best-ever finish as they finished as runners-up to Weymouth in the Southern Premier. Towards the end of its life, the club struggled in the Premier Division and yoyo'd between Divisions. Finances were the main factor with the Joseph's Road ground sold in 1970 and vacated in 1974. A brief merger with Dorking lasted less than two seasons with the team playing at Dorking's Meadowbank ground. The club resigned from the league in December 1976. Dorking Town would take its place the following season. The club was considered professional despite playing non-league football. This led to great success in the FA Cup. Three times they reached the 2nd Round, beating Wycombe Wanderers as hot favourites in 1965 before losing 3-0 to QPR. The original Guildford City spent their entire existence at Joseph's Road before it was sold for development in 1974. The ground had a capacity of around 10,000, the record attendance being 9,932 for an FA Cup replay against Aldershot in the 1938–39 season.

The Guildford United name lives on with a Surrey County League side playing at the local Kings College ground on a basic 3G pitch. The population of Guildford is around 77,000 and it is located approximately 30 miles southwest of central London. The name "Guildford" is thought to derive from a crossing of the River Wey, a tributary of the River Thames that flows through the town centre. Its most famous landmark, the castle dates from around 1100 and is located to the south of the town centre. The Guildford Flames ice hockey team is based at the Spectrum Leisure Centre and played its first competitive games in the 1992–93 season. Between 2005 and 2016, the team won the English Premier League four times and, in the 2018–19 season, were Patton Conference champions. The Stranglers were based in the town in the early 1970s and were briefly known as "The Guildford Stranglers". The band played their first gig at the Star Inn, in Quarry Street, in 1974. Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford is also from the town. The late  Bill Turnbull, Wycombe Wanderers fan, journalist and radio and TV presenter, was born in Guildford and Michael Buerk also lives in the town. Footballers John Hollins, David Howells and Alex McCarthy were born in Guildford. Alan Turing (1912–1954) mathematician and computer scientist – lived in Ennismore Avenue from 1927 to 1931, when he became a student at King's College, Cambridge University.


To be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to doing Guildford City. I had been there a few years back, and from the outside, it looked pretty poor and had a running track around the pitch. Several times I decided against going, but I got to the point where I needed it to complete the Southern League Division 1 Central. I found a date that I had no other game planned on and would go there with an open mind. After all, the league that I would be watching had provided by far the best games of all the competitions that I had seen this season. And from looking on the Guildford website, there were a few good points about it, if not the view itself. Also, it would be nearby and a fairly cheap night out as well. After having a curry for dinner, I left home just before 6.30, hoping for little traffic, as I had not left much margin for error if I wanted to make kick-off. There did turn out to be traffic and according to my sat nav, I was due to arrive 5 minutes late. so I put my foot down to make up time. In the end, the traffic cleared and I was there just before 7.30. The ground was a bit tidier and smarter than I remember it and so after taking some pictures, I went and took a seat in the stand, which was some way from the pitch. Entry was also great value at £4 thanks to an offer that I could take advantage of, thanks to my Wycombe season ticket.

Guildford City had a bright start and they were ahead in little over a minute. Simon Cooper latched onto a ball over the top before rounding the Biggleswade Town keeper. Biggleswade had a number of chances to equalise but eventually drew level on 35 minutes, thanks to a Joel Mason header. By this time the visitors had the bit between their teeth and were ahead within a few minutes, Mason getting his second, this time volleying home from the edge of the area. Mason turned provided for the goal that sealed the game on the hour mark, setting up Paul Barnes for a header to make it 3-1 to Biggleswade Town. After the game, it was a fairly easy trip home and although the ground wasn't the best, I'd still enjoyed my visit, it had been another good game of football and a reasonable price to get in. After watching Corrie which I had recorded earlier that evening, I went to bed, knowing that an even later night was to follow tomorrow.

15/11/23 - 1-2 v Horley Town, Surrey Senior Cup R2

Though the Spectrum Arena was far from my favourite ground, it was over a decade since I'd last visited. Fellow hopper Colin was keen to tick this off and after seeing that they had an intriguing history, I decided to update my blog. We had initially planned to visit on 20th September as a backup to Sherborne. However, both matches fell victim to the constant rain that has blighted the UK this year. The same was true of our second attempt on 1st December, an earlier decision made this time as opposed to the first time when I was already en route. It was not the ideal time to go with a late night before an early start at work on the morning of the game. However, it was a while since I'd taken Colin to a game and so I decided I could grab an afternoon nap if needed. That proved to be the case. Having got back from Wombwell last night at 1 and got up for work at 5, I only had just over three hours of sleep. Two extra hours of overtime meant that I finished at 2. It wasn't the greatest of nap but I got an hour or so to make sure I wouldn't get tired later. I had dinner and left just before 6.10 to meet Colin off of his bus. I checked before leaving but the journey looked awful and I was hoping that the traffic would clear up a bit. It did, but it was still horrendous getting off at junction 10 where a large section of road was sectioned off, but of course, no work being done. From there though, it was easy to get to the ground. We were there just over five minutes before kickoff, parking in the huge car park. It was the standard £8 to get in. I also had a decent burger for £4. Nice and thick and in a proper bun, great value. Less so Colin's pin badge which was £6, the guy selling it apologising as he could do nothing about the supplier cost.
The game was a Surrey Senior Cup game but between two Combined Counties Premier South sides. Guildford City were 12th and Horley Town were 10th. The hosts were on a run of seven games without a win, their last when they triumphed 2-1 at Ash United in the Aldershot Senior Cup on 10th October. Their last win in the league came on 16th September when they beat Fleet Town 2-1. There had been some big defeats in that time and that included a 6-1 loss to tonight's visitors Horley Town in the league game. Horley had faced a tricky journey of around 35 miles around the M25 unless they went cross country. They'd been in mixed form, losing 3-2 against Balham and winning 3-2 at Sutton Common Rovers in their last couple. Guildford started on fire, having a shot cleared off the line in the first minute. A Ben Thompson header from a corner gave them the lead on 13 minutes. However, four minutes later, Horley were level, Sam Harper getting on the end of a floated Harry Mark free kick. Both sides had chances but the second half was not as good with Horley edging it. Guildford too had a good spell but two minutes into injury time a brilliant goal from Scott Walker won it for Horley who found the top right corner from 25 yards.

THE SPECTRUM ARENA is one of the most uninspiring grounds at any level, thanks in a large part due to the running track. 10 lanes, plus extra space separate the main stand from the action on the pitch. At least it's raised well above pitch level, so the view is improved somewhat. Even so, you feel totally detached from the action and can hear the nearby roads better than you can the players. Standing is also up here, along with more in front of the stand. The only other area of cover is opposite, a small area of covered standing. The tea bar is pretty standard for this level, as is the club shop. The clubhouse is a small PortaCabin offering cans and bottles. Despite all this, the ground is in nice surroundings, with grass banks and trees surrounding it. This friendly club offers half-price admission to season ticket holders of any club, which is a great thing to do.


There had been some improvements since my last visit and I also looked upon the place more favourably. The car park was a good first impression, very large. Some new cosmetic changes too. The bar is basic with a range of cans. The tea bar does a great burger. The stand is now fully seated with around 500 red and white seats making it good enough for step 3. Some of them are padded seats with the club crest. Overall, well worth the revisit. The club makes a big effort on social media and deserves more support than it gets.

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