Sunday, September 27, 2009
Kettering Town, Huntingdon Town and St Ives Town
27-09-2009: A Sunday Drive
A leisurely drive from Kettering and across the Cambridgeshire Fens nets three new grounds. The ministering angel of domestic bliss was well chuffed…
Rockingham Road, Kettering, Northamptonshire
At one time footwear was Kettering’s main earner but now Weetabix is one of the biggest names in town, alongside JLB Credit, the head office of Peep Show character Mark Corrigan employers (fictitious of course). The town’s football club play at the 6,170 capacity Rockingham Road and have enjoyed a reasonable share of media attention down the years. Off the field Paul Gascoigne was club manager for thirty-nine days at the beginning of the 2005-06 and on the field they’ve enjoyed some decent runs in the FA Cup, reaching the fourth round proper last season where they succumbed 2-4 to Premier League Fulham.
More pictures here.
Jubilee Park, Kings Ripton Road, Cambridgeshire
Formed as recently as 1996, United Counties League side Huntingdon Town play at the 1,000 capacity Jubilee Park, on the Kings Ripton Road a couple of miles or so north east of the town centre. Jubilee Park has been their home since 2003 and has seen continued improvements since with £37,000 invested in a floodlighting system in 2004 and the opening of a new £1.1 million Clubhouse at the start of the current campaign. Oliver Cromwell (whose silhouette features on the club’s crest) was born in the town and was the local MP from 1628–29. Cromwell commanded the Roundheads in the Civil War and later becoming Lord Protector.
St Ives Town
Westwood Road, St Ives, Cambridgeshire
The town of St Ives sits on the meandering River Great Ouse, one of England’s longest navigable rivers. Sitting on the edge of the Fen’s, St Ives is quite picturesque, as is the seeting at Westwood Road the home of the local football club. Not to be confused with St Ives Town of the Cornwall Combination, the Saints have enjoyed a great deal of success in the past few years. In 2007-08 they achieved their highest ever finish in the football pyramid (6th in the United Counties League Premier) and also reached the fifth round of the FA Vase, a feat they repeated last season too.
More pictures here.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Opening of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand
26-09-2009: Ipswich Town 0 Newcastle United 4
Sir Bobby Robson, of course, managed both Ipswich Town and today’s opponents Newcastle United and before the game today and at half-time his many footballing achievements – especially those in Suffolk – were celebrated.
Just before kick-off forty former Town players where introduced to the crowd as they made their way onto to the pitch and when they had been joined by the starting line-ups for today’s match first “My Way” (a favourite of Sir Bobby’s) and “Abide With Me” where sung by the excellent Laura Wright. A minutes applause followed.
At half-time the former Town players re-emerged carrying a large banner bearing a single word – Legend - and Sir Bobby’s face. The FA Cup and UEFA Cup (trophies won by the Blue’s, under Robson, in 1978 and 1981 respectively) were also paraded.
Then Lady (Dame) Elsie Robson, accompanied by two of her and Sir Bobby’s sons, made her way to the centre circle for a ceremony to officially rename the North Stand as the Sir Bobby Robson Stand. Once the ceremonial ribbon had been cut 709 balloons were released – one for every senior game managed by Sir Bobby during 13-year reign at Portman Road.
A tasteful - and touching - celebration of the life of one very special person.
More pictures here.
Panorama Mania 5!
Five more panoramas - of varying degrees of quality – for you, all taken in 2004. First up, Walsall’s Bescot Stadium, home of the Saddlers since its official opening in 1990 by Sir Stanley Matthews, is currently known as the Banks’s Stadium after the Banks Brewery penned a sponsorship deal with the club in 2007.
Next it’s Rotherham United’s Millmoor Stadium taken from the Railway End. The Millers have been playing their home games at the Don Valley Stadium, a few miles away in Sheffield, since 2008, and will continue to do so until differences with the current owner of the ground Ken Booth are resolved. The Football League, who dished out a 17-point penalty to the club in the summer of 2008, for irregularities over the manner in which they had exited administration, have given Rotherham four years to return to Millmoor.
Nottingham Forest’s City Ground is an impressive sight. To the right is the Brian Clough Stand, built in 1980 from the proceeds of the tricky trees two European Cup wins (1979 and 1980). To the left is the Main Stand which was rebuilt in the late 1960’s after the original stand was burnt to the ground when a fire broke out during a home game against Leeds United. Forest hosted a number of games in Euro 96 and the Bridgford End (from where this panorama was shot) and Trent End (directly ahead) were both redeveloped in time for three qualifying group games involving Turkey, Croatia and Portugal.
Upton Park’s East Stand (out of picture to the left) is the only part of West Ham United’s home awaiting redevelopment, with plans in existence to replace it and up the capacity of the ground from 35,000 to 40,500. In 1993 the 9,000 seater Bobby Moore Stand (far goal) replaced the old South Bank, two years later the old North Bank was replaced by the 6,000 seat Centenary Stand (this panorama is taken from it’s lower tier), and in 2001 the 15,000 Dr Martens Stand (right touchline) was opened.
Its 32,500 capacity makes the Walkers Stadium the 19th largest stadium in England (according to Wikipedia) and the “centrepiece” of Leicester application to be part of England’s World Cup 2018 bid. The stadium cost Leicester City £37 million and was one of a number of reasons why the club went into administration (the first club relegated from the Premiership to do so) shortly after its opening. Sitting close to the Leicester branch of the Grand Union Canal, the stadium is a huge improvement in terms of spectator comfort over the cramped and arcane conditions that greeted away fans in the old barn at Filbert Street, but is deficient in both charm and character. For that take a walk along its 1920’s neighbour.
Friday, September 25, 2009
"Stamford Bridge will stagger humanity"
04-02-2004: The Shed, Stamford Bridge, London SW6
Lurking behind the hotel, residential flats, penthouses, restaurants, bars and fitness centre that form part of Chelsea Village is a stretch of roughly rendered 16’ high wall that was once the retaining wall of the Stamford Bridge South Bank terrace. Better known as The Shed, for many years it housed the more vociferous supporters of Chelsea FC.
Stamford Bridge was designed by the legendary football stadium architect Archie Leitch and opened its turnstiles for the first time for a friendly against Liverpool in September 1905. Bowl-like in shape its terraces were formed using clay excavated from nearby works on the capitals expanding underground system. With a capacity of 80,000 (a small grandstand with just 2,500 seats sat on the eastern touchline and offered the stadiums only cover) it drew rave reviews, “Stamford Bridge will stagger humanity”, reported one newspaper.
For thirty-years the stadium remained largely unaltered until the partial roofing of the South Bank terrace. Greyhound racing was the craze of the time (arriving at Stamford Bridge in the early 1930’s) and this covered area was built primarily to shelter bookmakers at race meetings, although it offered refuge for football fan’s who stood more than half-way up the terrace. The Shed acquired it’s nickname after WWII, and apart from the addition of a few crash barriers and security fences and the odd coat of paint that’s the way the terrace remained until its demolition in 1994.
In between it gained a certain notoriety as the home for some of the countries most infamous football hooligans. Chairman Ken Bates alienated many of them by calling for the installation of an electric fence to keep them off the pitch (following some particularly nasty scenes in 1988 when Chelsea lost in the Division 1/2 play-off's to Middlesboro) after the success of a similar system to control cattle on his dairy farm. The GLC rejected his proposal on health and safety grounds.
A few pictures of Chelsea Village can be found here.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Inspired by the names that he saw on pools coupons as a youngster, the third part of Jonathan Meades's journey around Scotland (Off Kilter on BBC 4) sees him take in, amongst others, the stadiums of Falkirk, Cowdenbeath, Dunfermline and Berwick (which of course is in England). Meades has produced some memorable TV programmes over the years and this is no exception...
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
22-09-2009: Whitton United 3 Long Melford 1
Ruel Fox, who made close to four hundred league appearances for Norwich City, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, and West Bromwich Albion between 1986 and 2002 was appointed chairman of Whitton United this summer. He had previously been player-manager with the club a few years back and although now 41 was still in tonight’s starting line-up, showing a few touches that were a class above everything else on display (no disrespect intended to the other players who served up ninety minutes of decent football).
Promoted to the Ridgeons Premier Division in 2008 financial problems forced the club to withdraw from the competition just after the campaign had got underway, although they were allowed to rejoin the league, albeit one division lower, for the 2009-10 season. The money problems were to some extent due to the cost of ground improvements required by the league, although the club seem to be confident that these improvements can be completed well within a new FA deadline of summer 2010.
Ipswich born Fox hails from Whitton Estate, from which the clubs draws many of it’s players and the majority of it’s support.
Friday, September 18, 2009
10-08-2002: Walsall 0 Ipswich Town 2
Here are a few exterior pictures of the Bescot Stadium taken when Town took on Walsall on the opening day of the 2002-03 season. The middle one shows the redevelopment of the Gilbert Alsop Stand (now the Floors 2 Go Stand) which towers over the other three sides of the ground and can be seen for several miles in each direction along the adjacent M6 motorway.
Alsop played, and scored, in Town's first ever Football League game on August 27th, 1938 at Portman Road, but it was at Walsall that he really made his mark netting 151 times in 195 appearances in two spells with the Saddlers.
He was a part of one of the greatest and most popular FA Cup upsets of all time, when Walsall beat Herbert Chapman’s all conquering Arsenal 2-0 in January 1933. The Gunners were not a popular side, made up of costly imports living a privileged London life style. The Midlands and the North of England were experiencing severe unemployment and this was seen very much as a victory for the common man.
A report from the time reads: “Arsenal enjoy champagne, gold and electrical massage in an atmosphere of prima donna preciousness. Walsall men eat fish and chips and drink beer.” Hmm, how times have changed.
After retiring, Alsop stayed on in the Walsall area, and became groundsman and trainer at their former ground, Fellows Park.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
12-09-2009: Wisbech Town 2 Norwich United 2
Today a trip to Wisbech Town - in the Cambridgeshire Fens - on the very extremities of the Ridgeons League. I think that only Godmanchester Rovers are further away from the HQ of the Eastern Counties Football League in Ipswich and, of course, the home of ExtremeGroundhopping.
OK, strictly speaking this was not a trip to Wisbech itself but the temporary home of the football club in the village of Outwell three miles to the south of Wisbech proper. The club moved to Outwell twelve months ago while a new stadium is built for them, although various planning hold ups have meant that the actual construction of the Fenmen’s new home didn’t begin until last week. All that appears to be outstanding now is approval of a grant by the Football Foundation, and so Wisbech Town will continue at Outwell (ground sharing with Cambridgeshire County League side the Outwell Swifts') until work is completed.
This temporary home (known as “The Nest” for reasons I’ve not been able to fathom) is essentially the village playing field (entrance for spectators is via the village hall) with various add-ons to bring it up to the required standard. A 118-seater stand of metal construction has been installed along one touchline, on the opposite touchline is small and low wooden stand (the dugouts sit either side of this) while three tent-like structures have also been added at various points around the pitch to provide shelter to those that prefer to watch their football in a fully upright position.
Floodlights have also been installed which, from what I gather, will remain in Outwell when the club move to their new home. The metal stand will however move with them. Record attendance at “The Nest” is 160, with just over 100 turning out to watch today’s game.
David Bauckham’s excellent Pyramid Passion has a number of pictures of the Fenmen’s old home here, which looked like a real gem of a place. It was sold for £1.4 million to a property developer to, ostensibly, clear the clubs debts. So another classic non-league ground lost forever. Their new home will be less than a mile away but I suspect it will struggle to come close to matching the character of it’s forerunner.
Away from football for a minute. Ipswich and Wisbech have one historical link in anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson. Clarkson (a bit of hero of mine which is why is getting a mention here) started his life in Wisbech and spent the later years of it in the small village of Playford a few miles to north-east of Ipswich. In between time he played a major role in the passage through parliament of the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which ended the British slave trade. There is a large memorial (with statue) in Wisbech and a smaller scale memorial close to his final resting place in Playford Church yard. Streets in Wisbech and Ipswich also bear his name.
Despite this Wisbech is quite an interesting place and here are some interesting (really) facts:
Ironically it was the draining of the Fens that brought prosperity to Wisbech. The draining left behind a rich landscape perfect for agriculture. Landowners and merchants grew wealthy and built rows of elegant homes along the banks of the River Nene in the centre of the town. Facing each other across the river they are considered to be, my guide book tells me, some of the finest examples of Georgian streets in the country, regularly featuring in costume dramas on TV and film.
Back to the football and Wisbech Town have enjoyed some success in the FA Cup, counting Ipswich Town, Colchester United, Reading, Newport County, Wycombe Wanderers, Brentford, Brighton & Hove Albion and Bristol Rovers amongst their opponents in that competition, although their 1-10 loss to the Brighton in 1965 remains the clubs record reverse. They’ve enjoyed some decent runs in the FA Vase too, reaching the semi’s two years in a row, the first in 1985 and again in 1986.
Two times winners of the United Counties League, and three times winners of the Eastern Counties League (most recently in 1991), they also spent twelve years in the Southern League finishing as Champions in 1962.
More pictures here.
Click on the thumbnail below for a panorama of "The Nest".
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
No 4: Travis E. Parker Field/Horace McCool Stadium, Cleveland, Mississippi
The 4th and last in the fleeting glimpses series is just an excuse to mention what must be one of the most bizarre sports on Planet Earth. The worrying thing is that the locals (anyone that lives within tobacco spitting distance of the Mississippi Delta – and in this case Cleveland, MS) think of it as quite a normal activity, but if you’ve ever lived, worked or holidayed in the southern US then you’ll perhaps understand. It was explained to me by the manager of the IT department I was temporarily seconded to, who was also ran a crop dusting business and did nice line in Delta State University Christmas Decorations (twenty-eight years later I still have the festive bauble he sold me).
Anyway, to take part you need a fishing licence, a pair of waders, a torch and a four-tined spear (that’s one more tine than King Neptune’s weapon boasts). As you wade out into the river (or other water setting were frogs are likely to be present) you use the torch to locate the frogs. Not only do their eyes reflect the light of the torch, making them easier to find, but the glare also dazzles them making it is easier to spear or “gig” them. The more frogs you can spear with one thrust the better. The frog or frogs are then placed in a net and the process is repeated until the net is either full or there are no more frogs – whichever comes first. Frogs leg’s (preferably battered in bread crumbs and tasting very much like chicken) are hugely popular across the Southern States of the US.
By the way, the Travis E. Parker Stadium is the home of the Delta State University athletics department. Opened in 1970 it has a capacity of 8,000.
No 3: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Slightly more that a fleeting glimpse was had on my trip to New Orleans of the Louisiana Superdome as I actually got to go inside. As luck would have it a boat show (desperate measures indeed for a groundhopper) was in progress and the $5.00 entrance fee allowed be to wander around at will.
This imposing concrete and steel building, not far from New Orleans’ French Quarter, is the largest domed structure in the world covering 53,000 square meters (or 13 acres in old money) and reaching 83 m (273 feet) at its peak. Not that dissimilar in shape to the Texas Stadium (covered in an older post) but boasting a much larger capacity – 72,968 for NFL games when it tenants the New Orleans Saints are in action.
It has hosted more NFL “Super Bowl’s” than any other North American stadium, including Super Bowl XX in 1986 that saw the Chicago Bear’s (Chicago my adopted home city at the time) thump the New England Patriots 46-10. Oddly, having watched every regular season and play-off Bears game on US TV (don’t even think about getting a ticket to watch a Bears game in the flesh) I watched the final in the UK, staying up until 3am in the morning to do so.
American Football enjoyed quiet a large following amongst TV viewers in the UK at the time aided by the success of the Bears and unlikely hero’s such as William “The Refigerator” Perry (pictured here on the left). Their “Super Bowl Shuffle” rap video was pretty neat too.
In more recent years the Superdome famoulsy became the refuge for 30,000 of the city’s population as they escaped the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Stories in the media led to speculation that the dome, which had suffered extensive damage during the storm, would have to be demolished, but a year and a month and $193 million in repairs and refurbishments later, it reopened.
No 2: Olympic Stadium, Seoul, South Korea
The Lotte World Hotel (from which this picture of the Olympic Stadium was taken in 1996) was within a few hundred meters of a subway station and I found getting around the capital to be quite painless using a combination of the subway system and, to a lesser extent, taxis. All route maps and signs are written in both Korean and English, and the pre-recorded announcements in the trains themselves are in Korean and English too. However, you’d be well advised to ask an English speaking local to write out in Korean any destination that you plan to reach by taxi, and hand this to the driver.
In a city as crowded as Seoul room is at a premium and looking up at roof tops gives you an idea of how ingeniously space can be used. Roof top miniature golf ranges for one. Quite bizarre. Worth checking out are the Karaoke Bars (hugely popular in the country) and the local cuisine* such as grilled beef served with Kimchi, a spicy vegetable dish.
Eating and Karaoke aside, as you would expect in the world’s second largest metropolitan area (population 24.5 million) there is quite a bit to see and do. Perhaps the most striking feature is the Han River which (roughly) splits the city in half and is more than a kilometer in width - that’s more than double the width of the Thames as it passes through central London. Also quite striking are the bridges than span the Han – some twenty-seven in all.
Not far from one of these crossings and a short distance away from the hotel, is the Seoul Olympic Stadium, built, ostensibly, for the 1988 Summer Olympics, but first used for the 10th Asian Games two years earlier. According to Wikipedia “the lines of the stadium's profile imitate the elegant curves of a Korean Joseon Dynasty porcelain vase” although you’d be hard pressed to tell that from my photo.
When first opened the stadium boasted a capacity of 100,000 although today this has been reduced to just under 70,000. Seating is on two-tiers with cover provided by a retractable roof. Overlooked as a venue for the 2002 Japan/Korea World Cup (the purpose built Seoul World Cup Stadium hosted the three games played in the capital) it is currently the home stadium of Seoul United in the K3 League, the third tier of organised football in Korea. Time limitations prevented me from getting a look inside the stadium which was a great shame.
The selection of host nation for the 2002 World Cup was a hot topic during my visit. Of course Korea and Japan went on to host the event as I looked enviously on at those able to make it there for all or part of the four week footie fest.
* a work colleague was quick to point out that the use of dog in Korean cooking was not quite as common as we in the west may have been lead to believe.
Monday, September 07, 2009
04-02-2004: Shaking off the dust covers
Fulham’s return to England’s top flight in 2001 left the club with just one year to upgrade their Craven Cottage ground to standards set out in the Taylor report. In other words the conversion of the two stands behind each goal from terracing to seating. No plans to make these changes were either made or submitted to the relevant authorities, and so, on April 27th, 2002, the Fulham faithful witnessed what they thought would be the last ever league game at the ground.
Two years of groundsharing with rivals QPR followed as various plans from assorted parties were bandied around, including: the construction of a brand new stadium elsewhere in London; levelling the existing Craven Cottage ground (the grade II listed Stevenage Round stand excepted) and building anew; and a more modest redevelopment of the ground that would see plastic seating bolted to the existing terraces and roofing added/extended.
The later plan was adopted and the pictures you see here show the Cottage as it was at the beginning of that refurbishment project in February 2004. Along with the conversion of the terraced areas three-storey hospitality areas were added at either side of the Hammersmith End Stand and one at the river elevation of the Putney End Stand. The old floodlights pylons (decommissioned prior to the Shepherd’s Bush move) were also taken down and replaced by more modern single pole affairs. Fulham returned “home” that summer and look set to remain there for the foreseeable future.
My thoughts on what it’s like watching a game there now (or rather several years ago) can be found here.
More pictures here.
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)