Tuesday 30 August 2011

Derby County - Pride Park

Derby County FC
Pride Park
DE24 8XL

0871 482 1884
Official Website

Ground Number: 172
Saturday 27th August 2011
Derby County 1-2 Burnley
nPower Championship


When the Sun's ticket offer came up, Derby and Pride Park was on my list of venues to attend. After a mate agreed to come with me I ordered and paid for the tickets. Then a week after getting them, he said he couldn't afford it. Then I arranged someone else to come, they were all OK until a few days before the game, when they suddenly got offered a lift to Huddersfield, and I was left in the lurch once more. So on Wednesday night on the train to West Ham, I was desperately trying to flog my spare ticket on various forums and knackering my phone's battery in the process. Fortunately, I managed to get rid of my ticket over the next few days, to a fellow called Trekkie_Ram (forum username obviously) who turned out to be a thoroughly decent chap.

On the day I set off from home about 8:45 as I was planning to visit a couple of grounds on the way, as well as a few shops and Derby itself. First stop was Bugbrooke St Michaels, which is a tidy but smallish ground, not far from the M40-M1 road. Then Anstey Nomads, a slight detour off the M1, somewhere in Leicestershire again a small and tidy ground. Both perfectly suitable for their respective clubs and the level they play at. I eventually got to Derby after a couple more stops, around about 11.30. As the ground was only about a mile from the town, I decided to use an all-day car park between the station and the ground (not bad for £4) and walk into town. After a wander around, in which I bought not much at all, it was back to the car to chuck my stuff in the boot and get my tickets to the pub to sell one of them. As it was late, I got a taxi, though shockingly the taxi driver didn't know where the road was and didn't have a sat nav. So the whole point of spending an extra couple of quid to get me to where I wanted to, was fairly pointless. Of course, he didn't get a tip!

I got my rid of my spare ticket for face value as intended, it was just a relief to see the back of it, after 2 aborted 'sales' The pub we met in, The Brunswick, was supposed to do real cider (IE Weston's) but all they did was poxy Strongbow. They did have a ton of real ales though and it looked a decent if a bit crowded venue. As it was fairly hot, I was glad of any liquid refreshment at the time. On the way to the ground I called in at the Chippy - 2 Spring Rolls and Chips was great value (and a big portion) although the quality was a bit 'Southern' - not as good as the excellent chippies I had experienced in Macclesfield and Rochdale! I got into the ground at around 2.50 and was confronted by a pretty loud PA system, certainly one of the better ones I have heard. The game itself was good, livening up in the second half after Burnley scored. Derby equalized about 15 minutes later, but no sooner than a minute later Burnley were back in the lead and that was how it stayed. It was Burnley's first win of the season and ended Derby's 100% record, but you would have thought it was the other way round as the Clarets deserved their win.

Overall, I enjoyed my day out, and it was well worth ticking off Pride Park for a visit. The club was very friendly and helpful from booking the tickets (which incurred no postage or card fees) to the stewards at the ground itself. The atmosphere all seemed to stem from one part of the ground, apart from the occasional 'Come on Derby' chant. And I got drenched before and after the game, despite it remaining sunny whilst I was actually undercover in the ground. The roads after that game were not that bad, it took about 35 minutes from getting back to my car to get on the motorway, which was not a lot longer than usual.


PRIDE PARK is a smart and modern all-seater stadium, having been built in 1997 and with a capacity of 33,597. Legroom and views are excellent from all areas of the stadium. The food inside is just the standard football fare and the same with the drinks. There are a few places within walking distance, though the town is walkable if a fair old trek. That would probably be your best bet, as there are plenty of decent pubs and it's certainly a place I'd like to explore more, with me not being such a connoisseur on my first visit. 

Thursday 25 August 2011

West Ham United - The Boleyn Ground

West Ham United FC
Boleyn Ground
Green Street
Upton Park
E13 9AZ

020 8548 2748

Ground Number: 171
Wednesday 24th August 2011
West Ham United 1-2 Aldershot Town
Carling Cup 1st Round


When the draw for the Carling Cup was made, I was initially thinking of going to this game. I knew the tickets would be fairly cheap and I had long wanted to go to a game at The Boleyn Ground, as part of my quest to tick off the 92 and see games at each of the stadiums. However, I was soon disappointed. Owing to the England v Holland match being scheduled for the Wednesday, all games were put back to the Tuesday. And I was going to Wycombe v Colchester that night. Then something strange happened out of the blue. A massive half week of rioting in London! This lead to the game being postponed (and the England match cancelled) and rearranged for a date I could actually make. We may not have a lot to be grateful to the scrotes that tore up our towns and cities in a pitiful display of neanderthalism, but it actually turned out OK in this case!

I'd actually supported West Ham as a youngster. They were my other love, after Wycombe Wanderers when school rules dictated that you had to have a "Premiership Team" So in the days of Ludek Miklosko, Tim Breacker, Julian Dicks, Alvin Martin, Ian Bishop and the like, I was an armchair West Ham fan. I had many enjoyable moments from afar - the 2-0 win at then successful Blackburn in September 1993, denying Manchester United the title with a 1-1 draw in the last game of the season a year later and Paulo DiCanio's memorable goal against Fabien Barthez at Old Trafford in the late '90s. Not to mention some of Harry Redknapp's crazy transfer deals - for every Di Canio, there's a Marco Boogers! But when I got a job, I started watching Wycombe full time and going away a lot, I realised that I could only give my love to one team and that West Ham was just a schoolboy crush. And it wasn't the same anymore. Players like Julian Dicks and Alvin Martin who would put their head on the block for the club were replaced by foreign mercenaries and journeymen who were only in it for the money. Much the same could be said of the current team, relegated despite having a squad of several decent players, they are now under the uninspiring stewardship of Sam Allardyce - hardly a pupil from the Academy of Football that previous West Ham teams were so famous for.

Anyway, as I was going with Paul to the game, it made better sense to go from West Ruislip station as opposed to my normal Amersham stop, to save going back on myself when I dropped him off home. So we left there around 4.30, after a few train changes we were in London Waterloo station, where we were due to meet Aldershot fan Laura, who turned out to be a lovely lass and she bought her Portsmouth supporting friend Manda along for the ride. As it was still half an hour before we were due to meet, Paul & I went for a pint at a pub across the road. Forgotten what it's called actually, not that it mattered as it was just a boring generic pub serving boring generic cider and taking very large amounts of boring generic money for the privilege. Over £9 for a bottle of Desperado and a bottle of Bulmers. The pub where we had actually planned to meet up was a bit of a gem really, a nice traditional pub that served a decent pint of Weston's Bounds Scrumpy on tap, and probably a lot more too, but it was that busy I couldn't investigate properly. After chit chat and another cool pint, we made our way to Upton Park, the tube station near West Ham's stadium, arriving at about 7.15.

The area around the ground is certainly a multicultural and varied one. I can't think of any other grounds that have an Afro-Caribbean hairdresser, various halal meat butchers, restaurants of several nationalities and funeral directors right on its doorstep. I settled on a Pancake Roll and Chips (due to there being no Jamaican Pasties available!) before popping to the local shop to stock up on snacks and drinks to avoid the overpriced grub in the stadium. We took our seats right on kick-off. West Ham took the lead in the 16th minute when Junior Stanislas' 25-yard shot found it's way past former Wycombe keeper Jamie Young. West Ham continued to have the better of the chances but looking at the stats at half time, it was actually Aldershot who were edging the game. At the start of the second half, West Ham's Callum McNaughton was sent off for a professional foul. This lead to Aldershot really taking the game to West Ham and they were rewarded in the 77th minute when Luke Gutteridge finished after the keeper had parried the initial shot. And the hosts misery was complete 2 minutes time when Kirk Hylton finished well to seal a deserved victory for the Shots. I was really pleased for them but tried not to show it as I was in the West Ham end. The home fans roundly booed off the team at full time after an abject performance. So the latest in a long line of embarrassing cup defeats for the Hammers, not to mention struggling past the likes of Oxford, Farnborough and Emley. Their fans deserve better to be honest, time and again they are let down in cup competitions, it's something of an East-end tradition. We got back on the train after a long but quick queue, arriving back home around midnight. I eventually got to bed at 1, though I had to be up 3 hours later for work!


Typing this nine years on, as I tidy up this blog, West Ham now play at the truly dreadful 'London Stadium' thanks to poor ownership getting a deal on the cheap. Upton Park is sadly missed, with four separate stands that were close to the pick. Three of these were ultra-modern. The Trevor Brooking Stand and Bobby Moore stand were identical two-tier stands at either end of the pitch and these were built in the early 1990s to ensure that the ground game up to scratch following the 'Taylor Report'. The third new stand - the Alpari Stan was along the side and was set back slightly from the pitch. The one remaining stand housed the famous 'Chicken Run' - a place guaranteed to barrack both opponents and underperforming Hammers alike.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Thame United - ASM Stadium

Thame United FC
ASM Stadium
Meadow View Park
Tythrop Way

Ground Number: 170
Monday 1st August 2011
Thame United 1-1 Oxford United


Thame United moved into the ASM Stadium in January 2011, opening it with a game against Football League side Oxford United. The hosts might have lost 3-1 but the crowd which numbered a record 1,382 will have given them a good financial start in their new home. They have been in the Hellenic Premier ever since and have attained a respectable league placing in each of their seasons, ranging from 5th in 2015 where they gained their record points haul of 69 points to 10th in both 2011 and 2014.

The FA Cup has seen them reach the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round in their first full season at their new home. After defeating current Conference North side Brackley Town in the first qualifying round, they lost 3-1 to local rivals Oxford City. Last season saw their best FA Vase season since moving in. There were goals galore in the first 2 rounds with them beating Frimley Green 7-2 and Bridon Ropes 4-3. A more sensible scoreline greeted them in the next round as they beat Pagham 3-0. The 3rd round proved their limit though, as they were knocked out 2-1 by fellow Hellenic Leaguers Kidlington.


As Wycombe had no friendly planned for this random Monday night I took the opportunity to go with a few mates to see Hellenic League side Thame United play an Oxford United XI.

The game I sent to was a typical pre-season affair, with neither side really breaking sweat. Oxford's side was comprised of mainly youngsters with the odd first teamer like Simon Heslop thrown in for good measure. Thame took the lead and had further chances to extend it, despite Oxford having the better of the game. Oxford equalised about 10 minutes from time, probably the right result in the end, given the balance of play, and decent enough value for the £6 entry, even if it wasn't the best game I've seen.


As regular readers know, I am a huge fan of both the FA Cup and Friday night football, so it was inevitable that I'd be going to a game tonight. The only game at a new ground tonight was Lymington Town but they were playing their game at Bashley. I'm keen to avoid games where the landlord is not the home team if I can, especially in this case when I knew a decent lad called Sheridan who was a big fan of Bashley. So a revisit was in order, and out of all the choices on offer, Thame United was the closest at just over 15 miles away. It was also the only one that I'd not visited since I'd started this blog, so it only had a brief entry. Another Twitter user - the excellent @FACupFactfile had also chosen to go to this game, and I was hoping that Thame United would do well with a decent influx of 'hoppers' likely to turn up.

It was yet another easy day at work on the day of the game, with me getting out just after 10 for the second day in a row. Though I was enjoying the much-needed extra free time, it had been an expensive month for me and I couldn't afford for it to carry on for too long. I came home, and had a bath before having a bacon sarnie for lunch. I had more expense in the afternoon, going down to get a computer desk for £50 from Staples to use in my new setup. I came back and started preparing my blog for tonight's game. After a dinner of home made burgers, I got my things together, leaving home at around 6.30.

I got to the ground at 7.10, getting some pictures of the outside before going in the bar.  On discovering that they only had common ciders I went in the ground,  paying a pocket-friendly £5 for entry plus £1 for a decent programme with plenty to read in it.  I chatted to a hopper from Bristol who I'd seen a couple of times last season while I waited for kick off. I took up my favourite position of between the dugouts with 5 minutes to go and waited for the teams to come out.

Thame,  being the home side and finishing last season in a higher placing were firm favourites for the tie and they set about establishing their superiority early on. They had the first real chance of the game on 5 minutes as a great cross was put into an unmarked Thame forward, however, he conspired to blast it over the bar. This was much to the frustration of home manager Mark West who would have buried the chance in his prime at Wycombe. Abbey Rangers had a shot cleared off the line on the break before Thame took the lead on 10 minutes. Lynton Goss, who had played for Aylesbury in the Southern League last season unleashed a fizzer of a shot from outside the area which flew in the net to give the hosts the lead. The visitors thought they had equalised on 18 minutes, but Nick Ford's header from a looping cross was ruled out for offside. The same played cracked a superb volley on 25 minutes that deserved to go in, but Thame keeper  Henry Craven was equal to it, superbly tipping it around the post to keep his steam ahead. His opposite number was in good form also, saving from close range when Thame looked certain to score. The hosts were having a good spell at this point and they doubled their lead on 42 minutes when Andy Gledhill headed in after a few goalmouth scrambles.

Just before half time Thame keeper Craven came rushing out to the edge of the area and handled just outside of the box. Hawk-eyed referee John Perry who had a good game all night spotted this and booked the keeper as well as awarding the visitors a free-kick, right on the edge of the area. Danny Hartlebury's effort was not too far over, but his team went into the break 2-0 in arrears, which was maybe a tad harsh given the balance of the play. The second period started with a clutch of half chances without either keeper really being tested. The hosts had a chance to make it 3-0 on 65 minutes after they were awarded a penalty, but it was blasted wide. However, they were not to be denied for long as Lynton Goss grabbed his second and his sides third on 70 minutes. Visiting keeper Liam Stone got something on it, but couldn't prevent it creeping in.

It was well deserved for Goss, who was the best player on the night. The rest of the game played out with good intent, but both sides seemed to be content with the scoreline. The attendance was announced as 141, which some Thame fans seemed pleased with, but I can't help thinking that a good game and a great club deserved more. A large chunk of the crowd were hoppers and other non-Thame people and although there was some support from the town, the people of Thame need to put Coronation Street on Sky Plus and come and support their town in the greatest competition in the world. I for my part, left in good spirits. I was home shortly after 10, spending the rest of the evening relaxing with a couple of ciders and writing this blog. Later I studied the scores on the Real FA Cup website and was content that I'd made the right choice with tonight's game.


Thame United moved into the ASM STADIUM in 2011, after a long period of exile. The ground is situated around a mile from Thame town centre where there are a fair range of pubs and food places. There us a bar at the ground which is quite plush, but the drinks range akin to the usual clubhouse selection. There was also a tea bar, though I didn't indulge on either of my visits.

The only covered area is an impressive looking stand, with a seated capacity of around 150. It looks very smart, though practically, it is set way back from the pitch which makes for a strange view. The rest of the ground is open to the elements and flat standing. There are also 3G pitches for hire and a fair amount of parking too.It's a smart, modern well-designed ground with plenty of scope to expand should Thame progress on the pitch.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Wealdstone - Grosvenor Vale

Wealdstone FC
St George's Stadium
Grosvenor Vale

(01895) 637487
Official Website
Twitter (Supporters)
Twitter (Press Officer)

Ground Number: 167
Tuesday 26th July 2011
Wealdstone 1-1 Wycombe Wanderers
Pre Season Friendly


Wealdstone FC is one of non-leagues most famous names and have a rich and varied history. League wise their heyday came in the 1980s when they were big hitters at non-league's top table - the Conference, also formerly known as the Alliance for the early part of the decade. After winning promotion from the Southern League in 1982, they wasted no time in adapting to life at the higher level, finishing 3rd and 4th in their first 2 seasons before winning the Alliance Premier League (Conference) in 1985. Their joy was short lived however as a period of decline set in, which saw them relegated to the Isthmian League. Even worse they lost their Lower Mead ground in 1991 due to financial issues and spent the next 17 years in a nomadic existence, sharing at Watford, Yeading, Edgware and Northwood before finally buying Ruislip Manor's ground in 2008. After years of erratic form, they secured their status in the Ryman Premier before winning promotion in 2014 to the Conference South. Last season's 12th placed finish was their joint highest in the non-league pyramid since 1991 when they finished 12th in the Southern Premier, which was at that time at step 2.

Cup successes have been frequent for the Stones. Most notably they were the first team to complete the 'Non-League Double' when in 1985 they won the FA Trophy as well as the Gola League title. Beating Wycombe along the way, they defeated Boston United in the final at Wembley stadium. Since then, Colchester United and Wycombe Wanderers have also achieved this double. They also won the FA Trophy's predecessor, the FA Amateur Cup in 1966, beating Hendon 3-1 in the final. They have also had some great FA Cup runs, getting to the 3rd Round in 1978. After beating Maidstone in the 4th Qualifying Round they then went on to beat league sides Hereford United Wand Reading before losing to Queens Park Rangers.

As well as a number of players turning out for both Wycombe and Wealdstone, the club can also boast launching the careers of Jermaine Beckford, Stuart Pearce and Vinnie Jones. However, it is another hard man that the club have become famous across the world for. Step forward one Gordon Hill, AKA 'The Wealdstone Raider' The builder and roofer was just another fan, until one fateful day in March 2013, when Wealdstone travelled to Whitehawk FC. The game ended in a 1-1 draw, but a Youtube video was about to go viral. It showed the Raider, cigarette in one hand and pint in another heckling Whitehawk fans with the now famous phrases 'You want sum?', 'You got no fans' and I'll give it ya' Intoxicated at the time, usually the dullard authorities would be whining and calling for him to be banned for a fairly harmless exchange. However, the Raider has turned it around, becoming a minor celebrity and releasing a single for the charity Great Ormond Street Hospital, which he has raised over £10,000 for. The interest is not showing any signs of waning and the man himself refuses to take any money for himself, so hopefully a lot more money can be raised for charity.


Wycombe continued their sketchy pre-season form with a fortunate draw in Ruislip. It was fairly local for me so I could afford to leave fairly late, not much of a day out, but at least it saved me some cash. (The following is a report from Chairboys On The Net)

Wanderers fielded two trialists as they drew 1-1 away to Isthmian League and old rivals Wealdstone on Tuesday evening. Matt Bloomfield slotted home from close on 16 minutes to give Wycombe the lead but the home side hit back on the stroke of half-time when David Hicks tapped home past Steve Arnold. Manager Gary Waddock, who had previously stated he would not be using trialists in the pre-season games, gave a ninety minute run out to former Nottingham Forest defender Craig Doig. The 30-year-old is currently looking for a return to English football following spells playing in Indonesia and Australia. He originally enjoyed an 8-year spell with Forest before making more than 120 appearances for Northampton Town and then moving down under in the summer of 2009. The other trialist was 18-year-old West Ham Academy goalkeeper Deniz Mehmet. The Turkish U18 player took over in goal during the second period as Wanderers contained a lively Wealdstone side who hit the woodwork on two occasions


After a break of 10 days since my last game, I was looking forward to getting back into football, especially as it involved my own team. It would ‘only’ be my 4th game of the season - last season on this date I’d completed 12 games already. The reason for the drastically reduced numbers were twofold. Firstly I’d been in Las Vegas for just under a week and though I had a great time, sadly the Las Vegas Mobsters ‘soccer’ team were away. Also I was trying to be a bit more careful with my money this season, after going well over budget with last season’s exploits. On the day of the game I was on my day off from work, but with a long list of ‘jobs’ to do. Most of them remained incomplete but I did at least get some exercise by walking into town, hoping to start negating the effects that a week of excessive overindulgence had on my body. I also posted off a couple of parcels for things that I had sold on eBay, and further planned my football season, which will see me visiting my 500th ground in a weeks time. After having dinner I left just before 6, making good time, meeting Paul and Sue and getting to the ground at 6.50.

As soon as we got there and parked up I went straight in and got some pictures of the ground which to my reckoning had a new stand behind the goal since my last visit. I went and had a look in the club shop which had a great selection of programmes but sadly none that I needed. Until the game started I checked Facebook and listened to the very decent pre-match music selection. Wycombe had brought their whole squad and also featured 3 trialists. For the first half I stood behind the goal we were attacking and chatted to some of our fans including Anwar who I gave a list of potential games to attend in the next week. As for the game, we started well but despite having the better of the game the Stones took the lead on 35 minutes when Elliot Godfrey scored with an excellent volley from just outside the box. Wycombe needn't have worried though, within a few minutes they were level. It was trialist midfielder Luke O’Nien who headed in from a corner, his last club being Watford where he was released from in the close season. The second half started in much the same manner, despite changes to both sides. Wealdstone had improved a bit however as it was only a Marcus Bean clearance off the line and a miss from Wealdstone's Dale Binns that prevented the Stones from taking the lead. However, Wycombe were soon ahead when another trialist, Steven McGinn tucked the ball away at the back post after the home keeper flapped at a Joe Jacobson cross. The lead was extended on 65 minutes when Garry Thompson, our summer signing from Notts County finished from just inside the area. The result was probably justified though Wealdstone could count themselves unlucky not to get another goal on the scoresheet. It had been a nice evening at a really friendly club. As I was leaving one of their officials was wishing myself and other Wycombe fans the best of luck for the season. This was a really nice touch and added to the nice feeling I had about the game. It was nice to catch up with so many people as well. After dropping Paul & Sue off at 10.15, I was back home 15 minutes later. I watched TV in bed, but due to my head buzzing from the game, I hardly got a wink of sleep and was pretty tired when I got up for work at 4am the following morning.


GROSVENOR VALE was originally the home of Ruislip Manor. I visited there to take photos sometime around 2004. Since leaving the ground they have not had it easy, renaming themselves Tokyngton Manor. After the ground that they lodged at, Avenue Park in Greenford was deemed unsafe they had a years ban from the Spartan South Midlands League. They currently play in the Middlesex League, basing themselves at Amersham Town's ground.

Wealdstone took over the ground in 2008 and gave it a facelift, decking it out in the club colours and generally tidying the place up. The club are looking to progress as far as possible after controversially missing out on The Hive complex in Harrow after the council decided to give it to Barnet instead. They have made a pretty good job of it, improving facilities as they progressed up the leagues. There is cover on all 4 sides, including a decent sized terrace behind the goal and a new stand on the dar side. There are good tea bar, club shop and clubhouse facilities, while if you want more choice the town of Ruislip is not far away.