Tuesday 15 November 2011

Bury - Gigg Lane

Bury FC
Gigg Lane

08445 790009

Ground Number: 100
Tuesday 7th December 2004
Bury 2-2 Wycombe Wanderers
Coca Cola League 2


1:  The club was established in 1885 by local football enthusiast Aiden Arrowsmith. He brokered meetings between two local church teams Bury Wesleyans and Bury Unitarians. It was agreed that they should merge and turn professional. They'd join the Lancashire League as founder members in 1889 and finish as champions in 1891 and 1892.

2:  Bury FC were elected to the Football League in 1894. There were only two tiers in those days and the club won Division 2 at the first attempt. They were regulars amongst the top teams in their early days, finishing as high as 4th in Division 1 in 1926. In 1929, they were relegated and have not played in the top tier since. They've played in all four divisions of the Football League, last playing in the second tier as recently as 1999. The record low finish came in 2007 with a 21st place finish in League 2, some 14 points clear of relegation.

3:  The club has played at Gigg Lane for the entirety of their history. The stadium has been floodlit since 1953 and once had a capacity of 35,000, the record attendance when Bolton Wanderers visited in the FA Cup 3rd Round in January 1960. To comply with the Taylor Report, the ground was converted to an all-seater between 1993 and 1999. The Manchester Road End boasted the scoreboard from Leicester City's Filbert Street between 2002 & 2011.

4:  Bury won the FA Cup in 1900 (beating Southampton 4-0) and 1903 (beating Derby County 6-0, a record margin of victory in a final until Manchester City matched it in 2019). In modern-day terms, they last reached the 4th Round in 2016 (losing 3-1 to Hull City and 5th Round in 1986 (losing 3-0 to Watford. In terms of losing to Non-League teams, Chorley beat them 2-1 in 1990 and Blyth Spartans won 2-0 at Gigg Lane in 1995.

5:  Bury reached the League Cup Semi-Final in 1963, going out 4-3 to Birmingham City over two legs.

6:  In terms of local cups, Bury have won the Lancashire Cup on eleven occasions, the Manchester Cup on twelve occasions, the Lancashire Junior Cup in 1890 and the North West Regional Wartime Championship in 1940

7:  Bury FC are the only club to have scored over 1000 goals in each of the Football League's four tiers, completing the set in 2005.

8:  The club's traditional rivals are Bolton Wanderers, though they have not competed against each other much in recent years. Other rivals include Rochdale and Oldham Athletic due to their geographical location.

9:  The club is nicknamed 'The Shakers' This can be traced back to 1892 when their chairman-manager J Tingham quoted to the press before a Lancashire Cup Final 'We shall shake em, in fact, we are the shakers. The name stuck, though it has been used against them in recent years with rivals calling them 'the bucket shakers' due to their often perilous financial position. This looked to have come to a head on Tuesday 27th August 2019 when they were expelled from the Football League. Plenty has been written about the situation, though fingers can be pointed at the stubborn and scruffy Steve Dale whose inane ramblings and reluctance to sell the club without personal gain looks to have killed the club. The previous owner Stuart Donald was no better, racking up enormous debts. The football world as a whole though has been poisoned at all but the very top by TV money and coupled with the EFL's slap-dash approach to vetting owners, it looks likely that Bury FC will have to start over in non-league.

10: The town of Bury itself has a population of just over 78,000. It's known for being the home of the black pudding (an essential part of a full English breakfast in my book). Famous people from the town include Robert Peel (founder of the Metropolitan Police and Conservative Party), actresses Helen Flanagan & Nikki Sanderson, actor Antony Cotton, footballers Gary Neville, Phil Neville & Andy Goram and Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair.


My first visit to Gigg Lane was actually on Tuesday 18th September 2001, despite what the information above says. That would have made it ground number 62 for me, though I wasn't keeping a count or even groundhopping at that stage. Anyway, I went up on the supporters' coach, as I did in those days. We arrived at 6.30 and were given a really friendly welcome by the club, including a bloke wearing a pale blue suit and riding around on a unicycle that sticks in my mind for some reason. I went into the bar and had a pint or two and some chips before going into the ground around half an hour before the scheduled kick-off. There was an issue with the floodlights on one side but all appeared to be OK when they got three of the four pylons working and the pitch was perfectly well lit, albeit slightly dim in one corner, the one near our end. It turned out to be not as dim as the referee who called the game off at 8.15 with zero consideration for the fans that had travelled. I had to write to the Bury secretary to get my money refunded, which at the time was around £14 after they gave us a slip of paper on the way out. We watched a DVD of Germany 1-5 England on the coach on the way on the way home and were back in Wycombe around midnight.

The replay was scheduled for a few weeks later, but I couldn't make it. Indeed, it would be over three years until I would visit again properly, this was in the midst of my seven-year run without missing a Wycombe game, which ran from December 2001 until August 2008. It was in December 2004 and we drew 2-2 on another Tuesday night. I didn't remember much about that visit but the following year was a lot more memorable, as it ended our 21-game unbeaten run in the league. It was the last Saturday before Christmas and all appeared fine as Kevin Betsy gave us the lead. However, goals in the 87th minute from Paul Scott and in injury time from Gareth Whalley meant that we suffered our first league defeat in over seven months. I remember them playing Slade's 'Merry Christmas Everybody' on the tannoy at the end and stopping for a curry near Aston Villa's ground on the way home as I'd got a lift with my Dad & Brother. Our best result at Gigg Lane came on a Saturday in February 2007, where unusually for a Paul Lambert side, we scored four goals as we won 4-0.

Thanks to me writing a Wycombe blog during the 2007/08 season, I can recall my visit in February 2008 (yet another Tuesday) with a lot more clarity as I went with my workmate Paul. After Saturday’s disappointing result against Mansfield, a good result in the game against Bury was essential. For me it meant an early start, as I was planning to travel up early, stay the night, then have a tour of Old Trafford tomorrow. As well as visiting various football grounds on the way up, we also stopped off in Warrington at Morrisons for a much-needed breakfast. Coincidentally the topic of discussion on the radio was Warrington related, what with the news that Gary Newlove’s widow wanted the death penalty for the people that murdered her husband. It’s been covered elsewhere, but his revolting killers booted his head “like a football” while his sobbing 12-year-old daughter watched. We eventually got up to Bury just before lunchtime, before having a look round the town and going back to the hotel for a bit of a relax. The owner sorted me out with a copy of the United V City programme from Sunday’s game that I had looking for, so thumbs up to the White Horse in Bury. Terry Christian on BBC Radio Manchester kept me entertained for a couple of hours before we set off for Gigg Lane just before 6. I fancied a leisurely stroll. But poor Paul's legs couldn’t take the 10-minute marathon, so whinged into submission I drove. Bury (and a lot of their local rivals) have always been a pleasure to visit due to their friendly club and supporters. Generally travels with Wycombe are trouble-free, but the North West always seems to offer the best welcome.

The first half was fantastic for Wycombe. We were playing some really good stuff and went 2-0 up. Sergio Torres and Scott McGleish from the penalty spot doing the damage. Bury’s furious protests were ignored as Leon Knight went down under pressure and McGleish set Wycombe on their way to what looked an inevitable win. Even in the 2nd half Wycombe continued to control the game. The turning point game-wise came when the influential Tommy Doherty was replaced. Shortly after Russell Martin’s handball in the area was penalised, Bury’s top scorer Andy Bishop did the business from the spot. Wycombe continued to press though, Torres forcing a desperate save from Bury keeper Darren Randolph. Perhaps it was inevitable then, that through bad luck or failure to kill the game off that Bury got the equaliser. It was a great free-kick from Brian-Barry Murphy, a curling shot into the top right-hand corner that rescued a point for the Shakers.


I did go to the Old Trafford Tour the following afternoon, but frustratingly, I was not yet into groundhopping at the time, so didn't see a game on the way back, what a waste! I made two more visits to Gigg Lane, firstly for a dull 0-0 in September 2008, though it's a testament to how much I enjoyed going to Bury that I made that one, as I was very much a part-time away fan by then. I visited again in April 2011 went on the Independent Supporters Club coach for that one and I recall stopping at the excellent 'Trackside' pub en route. It was a memorable day on the field too, as we celebrated a 3-1 win that meant promotion was in our own hands under manager Gary Waddock. Despite falling behind after ten minutes - a Ryan Lowe penalty converted after a handball in the area. We recovered though and a Gareth Ainsworth header ten minutes later levelled things up. A couple of Ben Strevens goals on 63 and 88 minutes ensured we won and we completed the job the following weekend at home to Southend as we earned promotion to League 1.


GIGG LANE is a decent  ground, another one that is all-seater with no terracing though. There are three separate stands - the Cemetery end behind the goal, where away fans were originally housed. The main stand, which has the dressing rooms and bars underneath and is probably the oldest part of the ground. The other 2 sides have a stand that is joined together in a half bowl with the corner filled in, this is the most modern area of the ground.

The tea bar and club shop are pretty standard for the level. Though I've not been in there since my first visit, I recall the bar being pretty decent, spacious, admitting away fans and doing food too. The Staff Of Life pub near the ground was another one that I visited.  It's a friendly club and this extends to the town which is a nice place to visit. As previously mentioned, the Trackside is well worth a visit. Other pubs that appear to be worth a visit are The Robert Peel (Wetherspoons) and The Thirsty Fish (Micropub)

Lincoln City - Sincil Bank

Lincoln City FC
Sincil Bank

0870 899 2005
Official Website

Ground Number: 38
Saturday 8th May 1999
Lincoln City 0-1 Wycombe Wanderers
Nationwide League Division 2


The club was formed in 1884 and initially started out in non-league football. After playing in the Midland League (of which they were champions in 1890, they were founder members of the Football League Division 2.  Lincoln City had spent single seasons away from the Football League, but they've always bounced back straight away. That was apart from 2011 until 2017 which they spent in the Conference, struggling in the main part and finishing as low as 17th in 2011/12. It took the brilliant leadership of Danny and Nicky Cowley to lead them back into the league - despite their highest previous finish being 13th the former Braintree Town and Concord Rangers pair led them to a convincing title win last season. The success has continued this season and the Imps look all set for another title challenge with the team pushing for the playoffs. It's a far cry from their record league finish since the league expanded to four divisions - this came in 1982 when under the leadership of Colin Murphy, they finished 4th in the third tier. In the early days of the Football League, they finished 5th in Division 2 in 1902, a point and a place behind Woolwich Arsenal.

Amazingly, Lincoln City's record FA Cup run came last season whilst they were a non-league club. Starting in the 4th Qualifying Round, they had routine victories over Guiseley and Altrincham to reach the 2nd Round. There, they faced League 1 Oldham Athletic and defeated then 3-2 in their first giant-killing. Victories over Championship side Ipswich and Premiershi[ Burnley followed before a 5-0 defeat at Arsenal. In the League Cup, the 4th Round was reached in 1967 where they lost in a replay to Brian Clough's Derby County. The FA Trophy Semi Final was reached in 2017, however, Lincoln City lost 3-2 on aggregate to York City. They also reached the Northern area final of the Football League Trophy in 2001, losing 2-0 on aggregate to Port Vale.  Local Cup wins include the Lincolnshire Senior Cup on a record 38 occasions with the runners-up spot being claimed a further 32 times. 


I'd made seven previous visits to Sincil Bank, prior to updating this blog. My first visit to Lincoln City's Sincil Bank ground was probably Wycombe's most famous one. It came after we had staged a miraculous recovery in the final weeks of the 98/99 season to give us a chance of avoiding relegation. We had beaten Manchester City and Wigan Athletic in recent weeks and needed results to go our way on the last day, as well as winning at Lincoln. As it turned out, we did the business, Paul Emblen scoring the only goal of the game 10 minutes from time. The unfortunate victims were York City, who had not been in the relegation zone all season, but a late bad run sealed their fate on the final day. Wycombe fans travelled in numbers to see the game, over 30 coaches went and overall 2,500 Chairboys attended the game.

My subsequent visits produced a mixed bag of results, but  I used a combination of driving and supporters coach to get there. It was a mixed bag of results, Wycombe victorious on their first three visits and then Lincoln taking the next three games by virtue of a 1-0 scoreline. The seventh visit was a good one for Wycombe as we won promotion under Gary Waddock. The football was pretty good that year but it was Gavin McCallum who opened the scoring for Lincoln on 17 minutes. Wycombe had lots of chances but it was two goals from left-back Andy Sandell that sealed the win for Wycombe in front of a rather smaller away following of 212.

VISIT 8: LINCOLN C 0-0 WYCOMBE W (L2, 17/4/18)

Continuing with my trend of going to Wycombe games at grounds, that I'd not been to for a while. Lincoln was pretty near the top of the list, as that was one of the cities that I fancied a look around. It was originally scheduled for Saturday 7th April but was moved to midweek due to Lincoln's participation in the Checkatrade Trophy Final. It was a bit annoying as it would mean a late night before having to get up at 4 am for work the following day. As per usual, I'd be going with the Independent Supporters Club as they picked up from right outside my house. I found out on Saturday what pub they were stopping at - The Centurion in North Hykeham and it didn't take my fancy. The cider list looked dreadful - the fact that they thought 'cider drinkers will be pleased to know that we sell Old Mout' said all you need to know. Not wanting to drink awful alcopops and knowing that Lincoln had a decent range of pubs, I did my research on public transport. I was pleased to find that I could get a bus for £2.60 into town, that if I couldn't get dropped off en-route. I did my research into pubs, finding three stops with a potential fourth should time allow.

On the day of the game, it was my usual day off of work and so I had a decent night’s sleep for once. After getting ready I walked down town and bought a few things including a Chicken Dhansak for lunch. After coming home, I had an hour and a half to eat my lunch and relax. By the time 1.30 came around, I got my stuff together and left for the coach which went from just down the road. It was a fancy coach with USB charging points, which made a change. I was glad when my Dad offered to pay for my coach. It had been an expensive day in Yeovil on Saturday - over a day's wages doing an unpleasant job and the experience had been a poor one, despite the win. We got to the pub in North Hykeham just before 5 and then it was a dash across the road to the bus stop and a 15-minute wait for the bus. It was actually 45 minutes late due to an accident somewhere and that would have explained the two ambulances I saw rushing off towards the city.

Despite delays, I was still at my first pitstop by 5.50. Wetherspoons 161 for me was the Square Sail in a nice location by a canal. Even so, I was pleased to get a pint of Cockeyed Pear Mania for a bargain £2.19 a pint. The next stop was Wetherspoons 162, The Ritz. A bit rough around the edges, but I procured one of my favourite ciders, Black Dragon for £3.09 a pint. I'd been hoping to eat here, but it was very busy and I was unable to procure a table. Time was getting on by now and with a lot of takeaways closed, my next stop was the Hop and Barley micropub. There I had a pint of Angels Leaf, a new one for me. About 80% of the takeaways in Lincoln seemed to be closed, but eventually, I found myself some Spring Rolls and chips at a place called Bamboo after walking back into town. They were ok, but not exceptional, but I only paid £3.60 and the portion size was good. From there, it was a short walk to the ground with me arriving at 7.30. For the second game in a row, the on-pitch action provided little excitement, but a goalless draw was a good point for Wycombe. It was a fair result too, the hosts having the better of the first half, but Wycombe doing better in the second. It was a fairly physical game and as a result, the game overran by 20 minutes. After getting back to the coach at 10, we were on our way. Looking at the league table, Wycombe’s future was uncertain with Exeter two points behind us, but we were at least, guaranteed a playoff place. It took ages to get home as there were four overnight road closures and we had to take a massively extended route on the coach. I did get a tiny bit of sleep, but not nearly enough. Eventually, I got home at 1.25, having a quick drink and heading straight to bed with me up in a couple of hours. It took me ages to get to sleep, so I was knackered the next morning, so I grabbed my usual afternoon nap.


SINCIL BANK is a decent lower division ground, not too different to Adams Park in terms of capacity and facilities. The tea bar is a bit of a disappointment mind, the tempting sounding 'Lincolnshire Sausage Bap' is a dried out sausage in a stale roll. There's also a bar at the ground and although the range of drinks is poor, you can get some cracking baps in there. Not the bar maid's, but the ones filled with meat which are of a good size and delicious. The town is also close by and has many good establishments if you are a discerning drinker like me. Overall Lincoln is a nice place to visit. Though on a few occasions we have encountered the less savoury side of the Lincoln support, but it would be unfair to brand them all as the "Jeremy Kyle generation" as the good far outweighs the bad.

For most of our visits there, Wycombe fans have been given the right-hand section of the Lincolnshire Co-Op Stand, a large all seated stand that holds around 5500 fans.


To the left is the Stacey West Stand, this seats around 2000 and was a former terrace. This is where 2500 Wycombe fans were located back in 1999, for the previously mentioned "great escape". In between my last two visits, this has reverted to being the stand for visiting supporters.

Opposite are 2 stands. My personal favourite in terms of looks - the Lincolnshire Echo Stand, seating around 1200. Next to it, a small family stand, which looks like the type you would find at a non-league club. It provides an extra 300 seats.

Finally, to the right, is the IMPS stand. Decked out in green seats, this holds about 800 fans and has a row of executive boxes behind it.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Fleetwood Town - Highbury

Fleetwood Town FC
Highbury Stadium
Park Avenue

01253 770702

Ground Number: 183
Saturday 12th November 2011
Fleetwood Town 2-0 Wycombe Wanderers
FA Cup 1st Round


Though there were two previous incarnations of the club (1911-1976 & 1977-1996) the current one was only formed in 1997. Initially known as Fleetwood Wanderers, they changed their name to Fleetwood Freeport without playing a game thanks to a sponsorship deal. Initially starting in the North West Counties League, they won its second tier in 1999. It would take them another 6 years to gain their second promotion, by which time they were known as Fleetwood Town, following a name change in 2002. This kick-started a huge period of success, after a runners-up spot behind the NPL Division 1 behind Mossley in 2005/06 season saw the club promoted to the Premier Division. It would take until 2007/08 for Fleetwood to be promoted again, this time as champions, to the Conference North. Again it would take a couple of seasons for another promotion, the 2009-10 season would see a 2nd place finish and the playoffs. Victories over Droylsden & Alfreton Town would see a promotion to the Conference Premier. Despite a 5th place finish, a heavy 8-1 aggregate defeat to AFC Wimbledon in the playoff semi-finals meant that the club would have to wait until 2012 for promotion but they'd more than make up for it, finishing with 103 points, 5 points ahead of their nearest challenger. 2013/14 would see a 4th place finish in League 2 and victories over York City & Burton Albion in the playoffs would see them promoted to League 1 where they remain to this day. A 4th place finish in 2017 is their best effort so far, with Fleetwood being denied promotion by Bradford City who beat them in the playoff semi-finals.

In the FA Cup, the best progress has been to the 3rd Round, a feat achieved on three occasions. After six straight League Cup exits at the first hurdle, Fleetwood Town finally progressed beyond the 1st Round this season, with a victory on penalties over Carlisle United, their reward a game at Leicester City which they lost 4-0. Little success was enjoyed in the FA Trophy with a 2nd Round defeat to Dover Athletic in 2009 being the best they could muster. Though a previous incarnation of the club reached the FA Vase in 1985, the best the current club could do was the 4th Round. The 2002-03 season saw them beat Alsager Town, Nantwich Town, Thornaby & Abbey Hey were beaten before a 3-1 defeat at Brigg Town. In the now maligned Football League Trophy, Fleetwood Town reached the area final in 2014, losing to Chesterfield over two legs. Local Cup wins include the North West Counties 1st Division Cup in 1999, the NPL Challenge Cup in 2007 and the Peter Swales Trophy in 2008.

Records for the club include a 13-0 win over Oldham Town in 1998, whilst the record attendance of 5,123 came for a game against local rivals Blackpool in April 2016. Record appearance holder for the club is Nathan Pond with 498 prior to joining Salford City earlier this year. Right back Connor McLaughlin earned 25 international caps for Northern Ireland whilst at the club prior to his transfer to Millwall last year. Record purchase was Jamille Matt from Kidderminster Harriers for £300,000 in January 2013 whilst the £1,700000 received from Leicester City in May 2012 remains a record for a non-league side. The town of Fleetwood itself has a population of just under 26,000 with fish production being one of the main contributors to its economy, despite its decline from around 1960 onwards. The town's biggest employer is Lofthouse who make the Lozenge 'Fisherman's Friend'. Famous people from the town include Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood, the MP, landowner and developer who the town is named after and comedian Syd Little who formed a comedy duo with Eddie Large called 'Little & Large'


I was delighted when Wycombe were drawn away at Fleetwood in the FA Cup 1st Round, as I had not yet seen a game there. I had made an attempt before to see a game, I was staying up in Blackpool for the Easter weekend as Wycombe had a game up at Morecambe on Saturday. I went up on the Good Friday with friends Paul & Sue and was planning to go to Fleetwood Town v Prescot Cables in the NPL Premier. The hosts won 3-1 in front of a crowd of 681 which sadly didn't include me. Despite leaving around 9 am and leaving plenty of time to check in at our B&B, a long delay on the M6 at the usual bad point of Stoke. In the end, we only got to Blackpool around kick off time which was very annoying. These days, I'd have alternate plans in place but I wasn't such a committed groundhopper back then. I did at least go back and get pictures on the following Sunday and was glad that I did as the ground changed a lot prior to my next visit.

The game that Wycombe was going to play up there was tagged as a potential giant-killing, but thankfully the kick-off time was not moved to accommodate TV coverage. I had to work before making my way to the game, so after 4 hours toiling, I set off for Fleetwood at 9am and after a shockingly hassle-free journey, I got to Fleetwood just before 1, seeing former Wycombe striker Magno Silva Viera in the car behind on the way to the ground. After a look around their town, I made my way to the previously recommended Strawberry Gardens pub And it turned out to be excellent. 4 real ciders, I very much enjoyed my Berry Cider and my Cheddar Valley cider. If there were more pubs like this, where some imagination went into the drinks they served, then I am certain not so many would be closing down. After the pub, the Highbury Chippy, right outside the ground was excellent too. Steak Pudding, Mushy Peas and Chips were just what I needed to soak up those 2 pints. I also bought a pennant from the club shop at a very reasonable £2.50.

As for the game itself, the less said about it, the better. Wycombe were dire, as they have been on several occasions this season. Fair play to Fleetwood though, they were excellent and fully deserved their result, and would have given Wycombe at their best a good game. The Cod Army completely dominated the game and fully deserved the result. Richard Brodie had already hit the bar when former Accrington striker Andy Mangan put Fleetwood ahead. Brodie was then sent off just after the half-hour mark, for an elbow on Leon Johnson. Despite having the man advantage, it didn't get much better for Wycombe. We had a couple of quarter (less than half) chances but nothing came of it. And it was no shock and fully deserved when Jamie Vardy put the home side 2-0 up. Fleetwood had already hit the woodwork a couple more times before the goal and it wouldn't have been hard on Wycombe if they had repeated their 5-0 victory over Mansfield in the last round, this time out. 

So, a truly awful display by Wycombe, even if it was against a decent Fleetwood side. Little did we know at that time that Jamie Vardy's career would be such a success with him being capped and scoring for England. Jordan Ibe would also come on as a sub for Wycombe and he made a multi-million-pound move of his own to Liverpool. After the game, I popped into the local shop and was happy to find that they did fiery Irn-Bru, which I had been meaning to try for ages. I got home just after 9pm, and had a couple of much-needed cans before bed, as I was up early for work again.


HIGHBURY is a smart and modern ground and has seen significant redevelopment since my first visit in 2008. Pride of place goes to the Main Stand, built around 2010 which holds 2,000. On the opposite side is a smaller stand, this holds just shy of 700. The remainder of the 5,372 capacity is covered terracing. Away fans are given the Percy Ronson Terrace and this is the only remaining stand from my first visit. Visiting fans are also allocated a block of the large main stand.

The food in the ground is the usual dull football fare along with the usual price hikes. The club shop is very good though, at least it was when I went for the FA Cup game. Though there were no old programmes, there was a great range of merchandise at reasonable prices. Outside, the Highbury Chippy provides a good meal for a fair price. There's an excellent pub near the ground, The Strawberry Gardens is a few minutes walk away and does good food, real ales and ciders as well as bottled Belgian Beers. Alternative pubs are available and there is a Wetherspoons in the town centre.