Thursday, September 29, 2005
Boyhood Heroes #1: David Johnson
I tuned into BBC Breakfast TV this morning at around 7:45 and some grey haired bloke was being interviewed about Everton’s chances in the second leg of their UEFA Cup Tie tonight. On closer inspection, and aided after a few seconds by a helpful beeb caption, I realised in was none other than one of my boyhood heroes David Johnson (the Mark I model).
Jonty, who Uncle Bobby signed from Everton, definitely looks the worse for age and if you didn’t know any better you would never have guessed he was once a finely tuned athlete. Anyway, as well as having a pretty decent goals per game ratio during his few years in Suffolk he also, in my humble opinion, scored one of Ipswich Town’s greatest ever European goals in the 2-1 win over Feyenoord in Rotterdam in 1975. A match, incidentally, that marked my European away debut. In the teeming rain he leapt like a gazelle to head home a Clive Woods cross from just inside the Feyenoord box. Fantastic stuff.
He moved onto fame and fortune at Liverpool a year or so later, collecting a couple of Championship medals and a European Cup medal I believe. But he obviously never lost his love for the Town which was evident when I sat just a few rows behind him at Wembley for the 78 Cup Final. Despite requiring two crutches to get himself around (he was nursing a broken ankle at the time) he was really giving his all in support of Town’s cause screaming and leaping around like an escapee from a madhouse.
Reminisce over. Thank you for your attention.
Addendum: Further to the above post the reason why he doesn’t look that good at the moment is best explained by the fact that he suffered a heart attack last year and had to undergo major surgery. A case of foot placed well and truly in mouth.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Witham Town 3 Edgware Town 0
Isthmian League Division Two
Witham Town’s Spa Road ground is just 20-yards or so from the main Norwich-London Liverpool Street railway line and in this very visible location has been an intended target of mine for a visit for a good number of years. Although I’ve travelled through Witham by train umpteen hundreds of times in the intervening years the last time and indeed the only time I had ever visited the place before was way back in my college days when I went on a junket to the foundry owned and operated by Crittall’s Windows.
Crittall’s started life as ironmongers becoming manufacturers of metal window frames in the late 1800’s, a product that would have a huge impact on the architecture of the 20th-Century, not least driving yours truly up the wall spending untold hours as I did in my first home, fitted out with said windows, sanding the things down and then repainting them. Ever tried applying a primer coat to galvanised steel? Anyway, between 1920 and the late 1960's Crittall’s were the largest employers in Witham although more recently their window manufacturing operation, and the companies workforce, have relocated 8 miles north up the B1018 to Braintree.
Witham Town FC moved to their current home at Spa Road in 1975 having previously played, among other places, at the Crittall’s owned “The Park”. The club’s roots however date back well before then with records showing their having competed in junior football well over 150 years ago. Like most clubs they struggled to keep going during the war years and their distinctive crest, featuring a phoenix rising from the ashes, emphasises this. They have slowly moved up through the ranks joining the Essex and Suffolk Border League in 1958 and becoming title winning founder members of the Essex Senior League in 1971-72.
Their next ESL title came in 1985-86, when they were also victorious in the Essex Senior Trophy, and this prompted the club to make the step up to the Isthmian League the following season. In 1996 they escaped relegation to Division Three on goal difference but were not so lucky in 2000 when they were demoted, although they are now back in Division Two owing to a regional reconstruction of the league. At a national level their best endeavours came in 1986-87 when they reached the 5th round of the FA Vase before succumbing to Falmouth Town 2-1. This game also set Spa Road’s attendance record of 600.
Today’s match programme notes inform us that Edgware “Don’t appear to have entered” either the FA Cup or FA Vase this season, and I would have been none the wiser for the reason why if it hadn’t been for a conversation during the second half with one of the small number of travelling Edgware supporters. Edgware it seems failed to get relevant approval from the Middlesex Football Association to enter either competition having failed to pay a number of outstanding fines from last year. They are naughty boys it would appear, not on the field but rather off it, with all number of sins committed administratively whilst the club went through a series of boardroom upheavals. Apparently even their youth side were banned from competing for a number of months when a team registration deadline was missed.
The Town of Edgware had a side back in 1915 although Edgware Town FC was founded as late as 1939 and – boardroom battles aside - has enjoyed a spectacularly average time of things since. Corinthian League runners-up in 1953-54 and Spartan League Champions twice in 1987-88 and 1989-90 they joined the Isthmian League the following season. Division Three Champions in 1991-92, they spent nine seasons in Division Two before relegation in 2001 but, like Witham, they now find themselves back in Division Two owing to the reorganisation of the league. However, the club has produced some half decent players in recent years including Brian Stein (Luton, Chelsea & England) and Dave Beasant (Wimbledon, Newcastle, Chelsea & Nottingham Forest).
Close to a month into the season and this is only the second league game of the 2005-06 campaign for Witham (3rd) and for that matter only the third for visitors Edgware (2nd) so billing today’s game as a top of the table clash is somewhat meaningless. Just thirty games apiece for sides in Division Two of the Isthmian League this season as the league prepares to reorganise next summer as part of an overhaul to the national pyramid structure below Football League level. A new Associate Members Trophy (AMT) has been established to make up for a lack of league action for the divisions sixteen teams so this season Witham will compete in six different cup competitions, and over the past four weeks they have already taken part in the opening rounds of the three of them: FA Cup, FA Vase and the AMT.
A relatively even first half with a limited number of opportunities gave way to a second period that gradually saw the home side take command and eventually take the lead through Bennett after 71 minutes. Bennett’s goal, after Edgware failed to clear a free kick, was followed five minutes later by Witham’s second when Rose headed powerfully into his own net and the third came shortly afterwards when Rowell side-footed home from close range.
One standout player was the Edgware Town ‘keeper who made a number of great stops particularly in the second half. My Edgware friend for the afternoon had never seen him play before and a more unlikely looking keeper it would be difficult to imagine. Without getting into pie master analogies (I’m hardly one to prattle on about the overweight) parallels between the visiting keeping and one Fatty Foulkes who was Chelsea’s first goalkeeper and first captain were easy to draw (for a fertile imagination such as mine anyway). Foulkes played for the Londoner’s in their inaugural 1905-06 season and despite weighing in at 22 stone was by all accounts a very agile and accomplished glovesman.
Match: 23 (2005/06) 1,267 (Lifetime)
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Gosport Borough 1 Lymington Town 1
Wessex League Division One
No doubt about it Borough are a well run outfit. Not only do they appear to have the coaching staff and players in place to mount a serious challenge for the Wessex League Division One title (they lie in third place undefeated after eight games at the time of writing) but the match day experience at home games is enhanced by a polished PA announcer, a very well written and informative match day magazine and a helpful match day crew. Their Privett Park ground is neat and well maintained - with plans afoot for a new £10,000 stand along one touchline that will provide cover for 200 standing spectators – and the burger van is half decent too. And to cap all that their reserves currently top their league as do their youth side.
A slight blip tonight, however, with the yellow and blues unable to overcome a stubborn Lymington Town side, doing well in the top flight after finishing as second division champions last campaign. Having rarely threatened the visitors goal in the opening period Boro’ went ahead on the half-hour when midfielder John Cripps drove the ball home from the edge of the area following a poorly cleared free-kick. Lymington deservedly equalised early in the second period after the pacy Kevin James was brought down in the area and Paul Sims converted the spot kick.
A crowd in excess of 400 is expected for the visit of Bath City in the FA Cup this Saturday although I will be back in East Anglia and hopefully at Spa Road for the Ryman League game between Witham and Edgware.
Match: 22 (2005/06) 1,266 (Lifetime)
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Ipswich Town 0 Norwich City 1
It’s quite amazing how upbeat most Town fan’s are following this 1-0 loss, in somewhat contentious circumstances, to the forces of darkness and evil from the wrong end of the A140.
There is absolutely no doubt that the match turned on the dismissal of right-back Castro Sito in the first half. His tangle with Norwich’s Kevin Lisbee on the edge of the area was deemed a foul and as last man the referee dispensed a red card – a decision lambasted in the press and later RESCINDED by the FA.
Darren Huckerby’s winner, in the early stages of the second half, exploited the absence of Sito on the right flank, to give a highly unimpressive Norwich side a very hollow victory.
The 10-men in blue and white displayed more passion than the side has in recent games, and despite having picked up just one point from their last four league outings there were positive signs of a recovery of the form that took Town to the play-offs last season.
And there’s nothing better that a sense of righteous indignation to make any defeat feel a little more bearable.
Match: 21 (2005/06) 1,265 (Lifetime)
Saturday, September 17, 2005
900 and counting ...No football to report on today but justed noticed that the visitor count for ExtremeGroundhopping has limped past the 900 mark and also discovered, and quite chuffed, that my humble blog is featured in the Londonists review of football blogs.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Romsey Town 7 Queens Keep Southampton 1
Wessex League Cup 1st Round
I called home before the start of tonight’s game and explained to the good lady that I was in Romsey and we got around, as you do, to a discussion on the merits of the local topography. I mentioned Romsey Abbey and how Nikolaus Pevsner described it in the Hampshire edition of his forty-six volume “Buildings of England” (if you’ve not read/browsed any of these masterpeices you must at least have seen the BBC TV programme a few years ago entitled "Travels with Pevsner").
Mrs Extreme Groundhopping then suggested I should pen a book under a similar title “Travels with Chev”, perhaps, which would discuss the architectural merits or otherwise of football grounds across the length and breadth of the country: “Each ground would be covered by informed narrative describing the local area and setting the football club within it’s context”, she suggested. Regular visitors to this blog (and unbelievably there are) at this stage would point out to her that I can barely pen a grammatically correct or interesting account of a visit to one ground let alone a thomb covering several thousand.
Anyway I digress. Romsey, the town, derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon "Rum's Eg", or “area of Rum surrounded by marsh land”, and was originally settled in AD 907 as a religious community by the daughter of King Edward The Elder, who was son of King Alfred The Great, who begat such and such, etc. It later became a nunnery under the rule of St. Ethelflaeda who was sanctified for such acts as the chanting of psalms late at night, whilst standing naked in the freezing water of the nearby River Test! The town has been sacked by marauding Vikings and struck by the Black death while its Abbey survived the worst excesses of the Henry the something or other’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.
That’s the bit on the local area out of the way.
Just to the south of the town centre, and adjacent to the Romsey Rapids Leisure Centre, the Bypass Ground has a smallish club house (closed) and a collection of outhouses in one corner of the ground that function as changing rooms, first aid post and storage area for the mower. A Barbeque “pit” and a collection of picnic benches also form part of this enclave. Covered trainers benches are located just to the front on this ensemble while over on the far touchline there is a small covered stand with seating for, at a push, sixty spectators (with a threatening sign informing all and sundry that the centre section is for club officials ONLY – it was empty).
As for tonight’s Wessex League Cup 1st Round tie the draw had pitted Romsey Town (Division 2) against Queens Keep Southampton (Division 3 and what a great name for a side) and a bit of romp it proved to be for the home side. With no programme or team sheet to go by I shall use names as shouted by spectators at players during the game for my brief resume of the match.
Not quite switched on after their short journey from Southampton, QK were one-nil down after just two minutes and had the home side turned the chances handed to them into goals with more regularity we wouldn’t have had to wait until the dying moments of the half for more net busters. But it was worth the wait as three top-draw strikes arrived in quick succession. A smartly taken free-kick caught “Dumper”, QK’s centre-half, off guard and Romsey’s “Assassin” nipped past him and lobbed the ‘keeper beautifully from the edge of the area. A further free kick saw a 35-yard bullet hit the back of the net (and before you could say the name of the Dutch player who scored from just inside the half line against Scotland in the 1970 Mexico World Cup) QK has lost possession from the kick-off and an equally impressive 30-yarder was struck by the “Assassin” from open play.
Four-zip at the half.
Two minutes into the second half the “Assassin” hit his hat-trick goal to make it 5-0 and a quick reply from QK reduced the deficit to 5-1. A 15-yard strike from an oblique angle (this was a game of many splendidly struck goals) made it 6-1 on the hour and the final goal of the game, for 7-1, was scrambled home thirteen minutes from the end.
Seven-one at full-time. Well worth the £3.00 for admission. Don’t hold your breath for the book.
Match: 20 (2005/06) 1,264 (Lifetime)
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
United Services Portsmouth 3 Hamble Club 1 (aet)
Wessex League Cup 1st Round
Having thought that I was done in Hampshire for the time being my client had other ideas and so I find myself back on the south-coast for another month. And tonight, rather than watching Ipswich take on Southampton in the Coca-Cola Championship at Portman Road, ironically/irritatingly I find myself 180 miles away and not far from the Saint’s home at St Mary’s.
A quick scan of available games to watch down here throws up the match between United Services Portsmouth (Division Two) and Hamble Club (Division Three) in the Wessex League Cup 1st Round. United Services play at the Victory Stadium in central Portsmouth. Close to the Historic Dockyard - home of many a famous ship, including of course Nelson’s HMS Victory - entry to the ground is via the HMS Temeraire complex on Burnaby Road about a ten-minute walk from Portsmouth Harbour Station.
HMS Temeraire is the home of the RN’s School of Physical Training and Recreation and, interestingly (possibly), follows a distinguished line of naval ships and establishments to have bourn the name. Perhaps best known as the subject of Turner’s classic painting ‘The Fighting Temeraire’, the first Temeraire was actually a French ship captured by the British at Lagos in 1759. It then saw action for the RN at Belle Isle in 1761, and at Martinique and Havannah in 1762.
The second Temeraire was involved at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, assisting Admiral Nelson and HMS Victory, then featuring in the aforementioned Turner before being broken up in 1838. An 8540-ton battleship built at Chatham in 1876 was the next vessel to pick up the name, serving in Hornbey’s passage of the Dardanelles in 1878, featuring in the bombardment of Alexandria in 1882, and later landing a naval force for action at Khartoum. The last ship to carry the moniker was an 18,600-ton battleship built at the beginning of the last century, which saw service at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. But enough of the history lesson.
In the shadow of the much mocked and maligned Portsmouth Spinnaker (personally I think it looks the business and is a fitting design for an area which has had such an important role to play in Britain’s maritime history), the Victory Stadium, which, coincidentally, is featured in the latest edition of Groundtastic, is within spitting distance of Premiership Portsmouth’s Fratton Park, a stadium for which I can think of nothing positive to say at all. If you’ve sat in the away end in the rain for ninety minutes, or had to shield a 10-year old son from the flaying fists of some Pompey half-wits, you’ll know were I’m coming from. However, the Victory Stadium, is well maintained and well appointed - as you would expect of a military facility - and with lights that put to shame those used by many League One and League Two sides, or for that matter some used by clubs in the Championship.
The playing surface is encircled by an athletics track, which in turn is bordered by uncovered hard standing and some rather attractive deciduous trees. The aforementioned floodlight pylons are eight in number while covered seating is available in an impressive grandstand along one of the touchlines, and managers, coaches and subs, etc can take cover in two movable Perspex ‘dugouts’.
According to tonight’s programme notes the record attendance for a United Services Portsmouth match was 80 for the visit a number of years ago by neighbouring Gosport Borough. A quick count puts this evening’s attendance at around the 25 mark all rattling around in what must be one of the largest grandstands in the Wessex League having as it does a seating capacity of 430.
Portsmouth Royal Navy FC until renamed to United Services Portsmouth just last year was originally formed forty-three years ago in 1962. The change of name also marked the opening up of the side to players from all of the armed services as well as civilians, which seems to have instantly reaped dividends as promotion to Division Two of the Sydenham’s sponsored Wessex League was won last May.
As for the action itself the first half was largely incident free but the restart was marked by a flurry of activity that looked to have decided the game. Hamble hit the post on 47, and a poorly taken free-kick by the visitors was quickly cleared up field a minute later to one of United Services Portsmouth strike force who rounded the Hamble ‘keeper and fired home into the unguarded net.
And that looked to be it until two minutes from the end when another harmless looking Hamble free-kick was deflected into the top corner of the United Services Portsmouth goal by one of their defenders. The visitors then had two further decent chances to pull of a surprise late win but spurned them both before the referee blew for time.
Hamble’s joy at forcing extra time was, however, short lived as United Services Portsmouth hit two quick goals in the early minutes of the first period of extra time. The second an odd affair that saw a free-kick from the edge of the ‘D’ bobble across the box before glancing off a Hamble player and trickling into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Match: 19 (2005/06) 1,263 (Lifetime)
Saturday, September 10, 2005
SEH Sports Ground, Ipswich
Further to my earlier post, a panorama showing the SEH Sports Ground this afternoon can be found here.
Ipswich Wanderers 1 Hemel Hempstead Town 1
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round
A lively FA cup encounter between Wanderers and Hemel Hempstead Town of the Southern League with 1-1 a fair result from a ‘proverbial’ game of two halves.
The home side took the lead just before the half-hour mark, having dominated the opening stages of the match, but missed several good chances to extend that lead before the break. Hemel then deservedly levelled on the hour and forced two good saves from Wanderers ‘keeper Jamie Stannard in the dying minutes of the tie having pretty much dominated the second period. The sides will replay this coming Tuesday.
Hemel brought thirty or so fans with them, including a drum and claxon horn ensemble (pictured), which helped boost today’s attendance to a decent 126. Wanderer’s averaged around 45 a game last season and with the current campaign just over a month old that figure has increased to a 100-plus I believe.
Though early days yet this is inline with a general increase in attendances at non-league grounds (four-figure crowds at the newly formed FCUM and AFC Wimbledon aside). Lets hope those becoming disillusioned with the game at the upper end of the pyramid, as witnessed by swathes of empty seats at some recent Premiership games, opt for games lower down the ladder rather than being lost to the game altogether. It’s cheap, accessible, family friendly and above all entertaining.
[Incidentally, it’s not my intention to convert this blog into a diary of goings on at the SEH Sports Ground – despite having attended three consecutive Wanderers home games there in the past fortnight – and I will be back on my travels again this coming week.]
Match: 18 (2005/06) 1,262 (Lifetime)
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Harrogate Town AFC
Wetherby Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire
The town of Harrogate owes its early fame as a spa town to the discovery of mineral springs way back in 1571 and more recently to its horticultural shows first staged by the North of England Horticultural Society in 1923 and now held biannually. The 2003 winner of the ‘Large Town’ category in Britain in Bloom, Harrogate also holds the dubious distinction of hosting the 1982 Eurovision Song Contest courtesy of victory the previous year by Bucks Fizz and "Making your mind up"!
The original club Harrogate AFC was formed in 1914 and purchased Wetherby Road in 1920 although the ground was sold to Harrogate Corporation following the winding up of the club in 1932. After reforming as Harrogate Hotspurs in 1935, the club played at the ‘Stray’ for eleven years before returning ‘home’ in 1946, becoming Harrogate Town AFC two years later. In 1950 a crowd of 4,280 witnessed a local cup tie between Town and Harrogate Railway Athletic which remains the clubs record attendance to this day. Floodlights were first installed in 1982, Leeds United sending over a full strength side for an inaugural match, with Accrington Stanley providing the opposition for the first competitive match under their illumination in an FA Cup replay.
The club were founder members of Nationwide Conference North in 2004 having spent the preceding 17 years in the Northern Premier League. They were champions of Division One of the NPL two years earlier, and other honors include West Riding County Cup (1925, 1927, 1963, 1973, 2003), Yorkshire League Champions (1927), Yorkshire League Division 2 Champions (1982) and North Premier League Division One Cup (1990).
Much like the town itself the ground is attractive while not overly showy, and is located about a mile east of the centre along the A661. The main cantilevered grandstand, which occupies part of the eastern touchline, was opened in 1990, and faces a low covered terrace across the other side of the pitch. A club shop and bar/function room can be found at the southern end of the ground while parking on match days could prove a bit manic with just a small pay and display car park to the north. No such problems for myself, however, visiting the day after Town’s 4-1 home defeat of Worcester City, the win taking their record to the season to 3 wins and 3 defeats.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Ipswich Wanderers 0 AFC Sudbury 2
Ridgeons Premier League
I forgot to mention in my notes on last Tuesday’s groundhop that Ipswich Wanderers player-manager Jason Dozzell also has the honour of being the youngest ever player to score in the top flight of English football. Dozzell was still at school when he scored for Ipswich Town against Coventry City at Portman Road aged 16 years and 57 days.
Much was made of Everton’s James Vaughan’s goal in their 4-0 trashing of Crystal Palace back in April. His second half strike made him the youngest ever scorer in the Premiership - at aged 16 years and 271 days - but despite the forgetful way that Sky TV deals with anything that happened in English football prior to the inception of the Premier League in 1992 it didn’t break Dazzer’s record.
As for today’s game first place AFC Sudbury maintained there 100% start to the Ridgeons Premier League season beating Wanderer’s two-nil in this top of the table clash. Tom English converted a 61st minute penalty after the aforementioned Dozzell had upended a Sudbury player in the penalty area, and the four in a row reigning Champions sealed victory with around 10 minutes left through Darren Bethell [proper report and pics here].
Match: 17 (2005/06) 1,261 (Lifetime)
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Ipswich Witches 40 Coventry Bees 54
Sky Bet Elite League
Speedway was a big deal back in the late 70’s I seem to remember, with five-figure crowds and previously unseen coverage in the national press. While today the sport remains popular with TV audiences, through its deal with Sky TV, attendances at the tracks have dropped off significantly.
It was the late 70’s that saw my last visit to Foxhall Stadium, which at the time boasted the old East Stand from Portman Road. The old 1930's stand had been sold to the Speedway Promoters by then Town manager Bobby Robson. Sadly, it was later severely damaged in a storm and is no more.
There was sizeable contingent of Coventry fans at the meet. So I would imagine that Speedway has groundhoppers too!
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Ground Visit RecordENGLAND
(Fitness First Stadium)
(Wicor Recreation Ground)
(King's Marsh Stadium)
(Alton (Bass) Sports Ground)
(Brantham Athletic Sports & Social Club)
Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton & Hove Albion
(New Writtle Street)
(Chelmsford Sport & Athletics Centre)
(Saunders Honda Stadium)
Dagenham & Redbridge
Debenham Leisure Centre
(Brewers Green Lane)
(Rush Green Bowl)
Felixstowe & Walton United
Great Yarmouth Town
(Wellesley Recreation Ground)
Harwich & Parkeston
Havant & Waterlooville
(West Leigh Park)
(Glass World Stadium)
(Five Heads Park)
(SEH Sports Ground )
(The New Den)
(National Hockey Stadium)
Netley Central Sports
(Station Road Recreation Ground)
(St James' Park)
(Cricket Field Road)
Preston North End
Queens Park Rangers
Saffron Walden Town
(Raymond McEnhill Stadium)
Soham Town Rangers
(Julius Martin Lane)
St Albans City
(New Farm Road)
(Green Meadows Stadium)
(Stadium of Light)
(White Hart Lane)
United Services Portsmouth
(Vosper Thornycroft Sports Ground)
Walsham Le Willows
(Walsham Sports Club Ground)
West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
(King George V Playing Field )
(Denplan City Ground)
(St. Georges Lane)
Heart of Midlothian
(North Sydney Oval)
SW Wacker Innsbruck
(Constant Vanden Stock Stadium)
1. FC Koeln
1. FC Union Berlin
(Stadion An der Alten Försterei)
(Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam)
(GN Bouw Stadion)
(Abe Lenstra Stadium)
(Willem II Stadion)
(Gamla Ullevi (Old))
(Comiskey Park I)
Tampa Bay Rowdies
(Tampa Bay Stadium)