Friday, August 31, 2007
Revisited: Bray Wanderers
August 9th, 2001
Between the Wicklow Mountains to the west and the Irish Sea to the east sits the coastal town of Bray. A short ride south out of Dublin on the DART rail network this stretch of coast may not be as dramatic as that on Ireland’s western shores but it’s a pretty attractive place nonetheless. The market-cum-commuter town was at one time Ireland’s largest seaside resort and still attracts a fair number of holiday makers today.
A short walk from the Bray promenade sits the Carlisle Grounds, home of Bray Wanderers, a ground that blends in quite nicely with its surrounds. At the time of our visit a single covered stand (pictured), offering terraced accommodation, occupied the western touchline, but this has since disappeared to be replaced by a new 985 seater stand which opened for business in 2006. Along the opposite touchline, and offering a superb view of the aforementioned Wicklow Mountains, as well as the pitch, was an area of uncovered seating that junior and I occupied for the evening.
“The Seagulls” were founded or rather reformed in 1942 (their roots date back to 1922) but were not elected to the League of Ireland until 1985. They’ve had a see-saw time of things since being promoted and relegated between the Premier Division and Division One, which they topped in 1986, 1996 and 2000, on no less than eleven occasions. They are twice winners of the FAI Cup.
Bray included Nicky Byrne (of Westlife fame) in their line-up against Ipswich on that night back in 2001. Byrne, an accomplished goalie during his teens (he was a squad member of the Leeds side that won the FA Youth Cup in 1997), appeared as an outfield player for the last ten-minutes or so of an otherwise uneventful game.
Addendum: A few more pictures can be found here.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Ipswich Town 1 Crystal Palace 0
No matter what stage of the season it is it's still a pretty nice feeling to have your side topping the table. Three games and seven points is a nice return from the first two weeks of the 2007-08 season, and nice too to see Jon Walters carrying on his great run of form from 2006-07. His 72nd minute winner, a powerful header, capped a good all-round peformance by an Ipswich side that dominated the game and more than made up for the lamentable performance against the MK Dons midweek.
Vital statistics: Admission by season ticket, programme three pounds, attendance 19,382.
Match Number: 1390
Thursday, August 23, 2007
No 4 (in a series of several): Sir Tom Finney (1922- )
Located outside Preston North End's Deepdale ground, and by the entrance to the National Football Museum, is "The Splash", a statue of the former Preston and England forward Sir Tom Finney. The picture was taken on a very cold Sunday morning in February, 2005, with Sir Tom appearing to skate across the surface of the surrounding water feature.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Debenham Leisure Centre
Debenham Leisure Centre 2 Felixstowe & Walton United 0
It’s difficult to say too much about a place that you visit as dusk approaches and, apart from the odd street light, is pitch black when you leave, so in brief this mid-Suffolk village boasts two fords, one of which claims to be the longest in the UK, and is the largest settlement in Suffolk that the Victorian railways never reached. If you want to read a bit more about the later claim read the page on Debenham at the excellent Suffolk Churches website here (Mrs Extreme Groundhopping does a bit of Church hopping you may be interested to know and would swear by this site. If she were a little less lady-like that is).
The two sides played out two-two draw at Felixstowe & Walton United’s Dellwood Avenue ground on Saturday to set-up this first ever FA Cup tie to be held at Debenham LC’s “Maitlands” Ground. The pitch, to the rear of the Leisure Centre, from whom the club takes it’s name, has hard standing round its boundary and a brand new 114 seater grandstand of the identikit style supplied by the gentlemen at Arena Seating. Bland but functional and offering yours truly a comfortable spot, shielded from the drizzle, from which to watch the evening’s fayre. Which wasn’t pretty stuff.
“Worst number 10 to have played for Felixstowe for 40 years” was one visiting fans take on their new number, er, 10. And his team mates weren’t that much better. By all accounts Debenham LC were unlucky not to win the original tie and justice was done when they first took the lead on 65’ and doubled their advantage about 10 minutes later. Felixstowe saving their one solitary attempt on target until injury time.
Vital statistics: Admission 3 pounds, match programme 1 pound, attendance 189.
Match number: 1389
Sunday, August 19, 2007
No 3 (in a series of several): Sunderland Fan’s Statue at the Stadium of Light
Outside the main entrance to the Stadium of Light sits the statue not of a former manager or player (although one of the late Bob Stokoe has been erected further along) but of Sunderland fan’s themselves. It features a man, a woman and two children (not in shot) and an inscription beneath which reads...
“All generations come together at the Stadium of Light. A love of ‘The Lads’ has bonded together supporters for more than 125 years and will for many more years in the future. At Sunderland it is this statue to the fans that has pride of place. Supporters who have passed away have their support carried on by today's fans, just as the supporters of today will have their support continued through families and friends. We share this vision and bond as one because Sunderland AFC is For Us All”. Which is nice.
Picture taken prior to the Sunderland v Ipswich Championship fixture on Sunday November 21st, 2004 which, for the convenience of the travelling Ipswich support, kicked off at 1pm.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Walsham Le Willows
Walsham Le Willows 3 Stowmarket Town 0
Seven-hundred and thirty teams have entered this season's FA Cup competition and today saw the opening round, or rather the extra preliminary round, of the world’s oldest and most famous football competition. Any teams entering at this stage with aspirations of taking on the big boys will need to win five further matches and then battle their way through rounds one and two proper before taking a tilt at the Premiership money men in round three four-and-a-bit months from now in early January.
As a reward for having the most agreeable name you could think of for a footie club, a team you could imagine Mr Toad supporting, the actual FA Cup itself was on parade at Walsham Le Willows FC’s very pleasant Walsham Sports Club Ground this afternoon, and anyone could have their photograph taken with it. Anyone with a camera and a mate to wield it that is.
Definitely the closest I have ever gotten to the most famous trophy in the world, and the £4.50 admission charge today was £76.50 less than the last time I set eyes on it (which was from a considerable further distance away too) at the new Wembley last May.
Three sides have hard standing for spectators with the only other protection from the elements, apart from the new stand, offered by a small stand behind the northern goal. To the rear of the southern goal is a sizeable club house, and apart from a collection of oak and other mature deciduous trees dotted around the boundary that’s pretty much it.
Not that long ago Walsham where playing in the Bury (St Edmunds) League and, for a club from a small village in rural Suffolk, have done remarkably well to have progressed up the ladder to the Ridgeons Premier Division, where this season they’re making their debut.
Match Number: 1388
Friday, August 17, 2007
Revisited: The San Siro
December 6th, 2001
My first trip to Milan was in 1995 and my last visit there was in 2002. At first I hated the place but over the course of those seven years, and numerous trips back and forth between home and Italy’s largest city, I grew to love the place. I’m afraid I can’t quite bring myself to say that about the San Siro Stadium though.
Opened in 1926, the 85,000 seater San Siro Stadium, home to Inter and AC Milan, is probably one of the most easily recognisable stadiums in the world. Although commonly known as the San Siro it’s official name is the Giuseppe Meazza after the Inter, and later AC Milan, player of the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, a prolific goalscorer who famously spent the nights before big games sleeping in a brothel.
Considered to be one of the best football stadium’s in the world it doesn’t really do it for me I’m afraid. Too functional, too colourless and too impersonal. And no blummin’ toilet paper in the Gents!
On my visits to Milan I worked in offices around two kilometres north of the stadium, on the Viale del Ghisallo, and had managed to watch just one game there (Inter v Boa Vista, also in a UEFA Cup tie, in 1996) before between 8,500 and 9,500 other Ipswich supporter’s joined me there in early December 2001. A pretty impressive gathering it must be said for a team with a then average home attendance of 22,500 (although the Toon Army easily out did this in 2002 when 20,000 plus Geordies made the trip to Milan to watch Newcastle take on Inter in a Champions League Group Stage game).
Lighters and matches were confiscated from Town fan’s on entry to the Stadium by the local Police to prevent a repeat of an incident earlier in the season when Inter fans had set light to a moped and dropped it into the visiting fans enclosure from the tier above. Quite how the moped got into the stadium is anyone’s guess as is why they expected Suffolk fans to try and repeat the feat.
The game followed a 1-0 win at Portman Road, preceded by victories over Torpedo Moscow and Helsingborg IF. UEFA qualification had come courtesy of a sensational first season back in the Premiership which saw the Town finish 5th, narrowly missing out on Champions League qualification on the last day of the 2000-01 season. Those where the days!
A panorama can be found here.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Ipswich Town Reserves 2 Brighton & Hove Albion Reserves 0
Ipswich won the Eastern Division of the Football Combination last term, and Brighton the Central Division title, with tonight's play-off final being held over from last season due to fixture congestion. First half goals from Chris Casement and Billy Clarke (a real corker of a strike on the turn from the edge of the penalty area) where enough to give Ipswich the silverware. The game had died as a meaningful contest long before the final whistle and I was long gone before the trophy was presented, the only action of any consequence in the second half being the dismissal of Town's Danny Haynes for headbutting Seagull's defender Gary Hart.
Vital statistics: Admission by Season Ticket, no programme but free team sheet, attendance 860
Match Number: 1387
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
MK Dons 3 Ipswich Town 3
You may have heard that the MK Dons returned the medals and trophies won by the Crazy Gang, aka Wimbledon FC, back in the Eighties to Merton Borough Council just a week or so ago, and have officially restarted their history at 2004. So, if the Dons are admitting that they didn’t exist prior to 2004 then surely they should hand their League Share back and start at the bottom of the national league pyramid as did AFC Wimbledon in 2002. You could go round and round in circles arguing for and against the existence of this Buckinghamshire aberration but I don’t really think anyone cares that much anymore. So let’s move on.
Pete Winkleman, Chairman of the MK Dons, claims that that 30,000 stadium:mk (that colon is quite irritating isn’t it) or the Moocamp (slightly amusing) will be the best in the country when it’s complete. While I really don’t think that he thinks that’s the case it’s still going to be a pretty decent venue. IMHO.
Designed by architects HOK (Emirates Stadium, Millennium Stadium, North Stand at Portman Road, etc.), the stadium consists of two-tiers. The lower tier has a seating capacity of 22,000 and the upper tier (when fitted out in the next year or so) will add a further 10,000 seats. Behind one touchline is a multi-purpose indoor arena, named the “Cowshed” that will be used by Milton Keynes basketball team the Lions. Hotel facilities are also planned for the site.
The lower outer walls of the complex are covered in large black tiles and when complete the upper level will be wrapped with black and silver cladding. On the inside the colour scheme is similar, all the seating is black expect where the team’s name has been picked out in red and white along either touchline. There will be a gap between the outer walls and the underside of the stadium roof – presumably for ventilation? – which is held up by an interesting arrangement of steel roof supports. The overall effect I’m sure will be quite pleasing particularly at night when the place is lit up from outside and within.
Entry to the stadium is automated (simply slot your ticket barcode end first into a ticket scanner), there’s plenty of room on the lower concourse to move around in pre-game, and at half-time, more than adequate toilet facilities, and the seating is quite comfortable too (identical, expect in colour, to that used at the Emirates).
So, sorry AFC Wimbledon fans, but it’s a thumbs up for stadium:mk from me.
A panorama of stadium:mk, along with those of a hundred or more other European stadia, can be found here.
Match Number: 1386
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Blimey! While I was somewhat optimistic about the new season I didn't think we quite get off to such a flyer as we did at a very sunny Portman Road this afternoon. Town literally swept Wednesday aside with Alan Lee in great form - scoring twice and assisting in the other two Ipswich goals - and summer target Francis Jeffers (on loan to Town at the tail end of last season from Blackburn and opting for South Yorkshire ahead of Suffolk during the close season) not getting a look in against his former team mates. Lee's first came after a mere 80 seconds, a penalty after Pablo Counago had been tumbled in the area. Gary Roberts hit a tremendous volley to put Town 2-0 up after 11 minutes, Lee struck again after 25 minutes and Counago complete the Blue's scoring with a goal on the hour mark.
Vital statistics: Admission via Season Ticket, programme 3 pounds, attendance 23,099.
Match Number: 1385
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Woodbridge Town 2 AFC Sudbury 1
Woodbridge, the town, is located a few miles out along the A12 from Ipswich, and Woodbridge Town, the football club, overlooks the aforementioned dual carriageway in a residential area on the edge of one of East Suffolk's more desirable locales. Notcutts Park is a neat ground consisting of just the one stand, which has both seated and standing accomodation for a hundred or so spectators. I would imagine that its location atop a hill makes it a pretty bleak place to watch football on a wet and windy winters afternoon, but it's well appointed club house would make a more than adequate bolt hole for the less hardy. The club has one of the better websites of it's ilk that includes an excellent page on the club's history and some high quality pictures of past teams. Managed by the legendary Micky Stockwell, six-hundred and ten appearances for Ipswich between 1985 and 2000, tonight Ridgeons Premier Division Woodbridge made it four pre-season wins in a row with an injury time winner against an AFC Subdury side who finished a very creditable 5th in the Isthmian League Division One North last campaign.
Vital statistics: Admission 2 pounds, no programme available, attendance 195.
Match Number: 1384
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Ipswich Town 2 Panathinaikos 0
Town made short work of nineteen times Greek Champions Panathinaikos with two first half goals from Spanish striker Pablo Counago, recently re-signed from Malaga, doing enough to suggest that this may not be a season of struggle for the Town, as suggested in many quarters, after all. New Scottish 'keeper Neil Alexander, making his home debut, was rarely tested, while at the other end Ipswich had a number of chances to increase the score with Billy Clarke going very close on two occasions towards the end of the game. The crowd of 8,165 was somewhat dissapointing, given the pedigree of the opposition and the great weather, but once again the FPR playing surface looks in excellent condition. Bring on the Wednesday in next weekends league opener!
Vital statistics: Admission 12 Pounds, match programme 1 pound 50 pence, attendance 8,165
Match Number: 1383
Saturday, August 04, 2007
FC Clacton 4 Canvey Island 3
In nigh on perfect weather and 0-3 down at the break, FC Clacton of the Ridgeons League First Division, pulled off an unlikely win with a four-goal comeback in the second forty-five minutes to record a 4-3 win over fellow Essex-side Canvey Island. A fine win to mark the home sides first-ever match under their new name at the Rush Green Bowl ground. Formerly Clacton Town, the club were relegated from the Ridgeons Premier last season and re-formed as FC Clacton during the summer.
Visitors Canvey Island, who enjoyed a famous FA Cup run in the 2001-02 season defeating Northampton Town and Wigan Athletic on their way to the third round proper, had until last season enjoyed a highly successful ten years in the Isthmian League culminating in two-years in the Football Conference. This period included an FA Trophy final win in 2001. But financial problems have forced them to resign and drop down three levels to the Ryman League Division One North for the coming campaign.
This doesn’t seemed to have dampened the enthusiasm, or sense of humour, of a vociferous travelling support who included in their number an inflatable shark, complete with it’s own replica shirt with the unlikely name of Pablo Lamb Chop spelt out on its back.
Not so much as a solitary signpost to mark the way to the Rush Green Bowl which is hidden away behind the Clacton-on-Sea household recycling centre to the north-west of the town centre. Don’t let its location put you off though as this is a gem of a ground. An eclectic group of sheds, stands and other buildings surround the pitch. These include a large club-house (with beer garden behind the southern goal), separate corporate hospitality facilities, a large club shop and three-stands all of which are maintained to a high standard.
Another interesting feature of the Rush Green Bowl are it’s eight floodlight pylons, four along either touchline, which were donated by the family of the late Tommy Swift. Swift was a director of the club for almost twenty-years, and what a fitting tribute the gift makes to man who dedicated a good slice of his life to non-league football.
Match Number: 1382
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
No 2 (in a series of several): Jackie Milburn (1924-1988)
Picture of the Jackie Milburn Statue in Corporation Street, Newcastle, taken on November 20th, 2004.
a (mainly) pictorial account of one man's obsession with football stadia, floodlight pylon's and ipswich town football club
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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)