Sunday, March 28, 2010
27-03-2010: Downham Town 0 Ipswich Wanderers 3
About five miles shy of today’s destination is Oxbrough Hall. Originally built as a manor house it was converted to a brick quadrangular fortress - complete with moat - in the mid 15th century. Although extensively remodeled during the Victorian era the three storey gatehouse and towers on the north face of the hall were unaffected and, it must be said, are quite magnificent . There is pleasant circular walk through the grounds which was taken advantage of by yours truly although I didn’t venture inside having done so on a previous visit many moons ago with the ministering angel of domestic bliss and the two extreme groundhopping sproglets.
As one of the more attractive Fen towns Downham Market is worth a quick stroll too. Charles I, and a group of Dutch engineers, were responsible for getting the drainage of the fens underway in the 1600’s and the influence of the later can be seen in the construction of a number of buildings in the town . While the less than keen eye may miss the Dutch gables you would have to try really hard to overlook the quite distinctive clock tower that sits in the market square , the four faces of which were originally illuminated by gas light.
Half a mile out from the town centre along the old Kings Lynn road are the War Memorial Playing Fields a large green space in the middle of which sits Downham Town FC’s ground. In fitting with the name the area contains a Garden of Remembrance along with a cricket pitch, tennis and squash courts, kids play area and parking. There are plenty of mature trees – several large oak trees sit along one touchline – which, along with the sandstone wall that surrounds the greenery, all makes for a quite pleasant setting. The sunny (though slightly chilly) weather topped this off nicely.
With a wooden fence on just three sides of the ground, and sitting in the middle of a public park as it does, means that the club are unable to charge admission (certainly I wasn’t asked to cough up any cash) so an entire 90 minutes of football was watched for the price of a half-time cup of tea (50p including free scone). This was acquired from the clubhouse that the footballers share with the local cricket and running clubs. The fourth side has just a low retaining rail – which continues along the other three sides - and it was from here, and later from a wooden bench under a large oak tree back towards the road, that I watched the afternoon’s action. On the far side, beneath the aforementioned trees, are the dugouts (nicely painted red - the club colours) and three low stands. The centre one offers seating for around thirty (I would guess) and the two sides ones covered standing. All very civilized.
Founded in 1881, for many years the club competed in junior leagues in the Kings Lynn area before the move into senior league following election to the Peterborough & District League in the late 1940’s. Champions in 1962-63, 1973-74, 1978-79, 1986-87, 1987-88, they joined the Eastern Counties (now Ridgeons) League as founder members of the first division in 1988 and that’s were they’ve remained ever since, with a third place finish in 1999 their best placing so far.
More pictures here.
Well I’m not one for lists but after today’s trip to the Fens I need to visit just five more grounds to complete the set of 39 Ridgeons League venues, details of which can be found in this handy map...
Friday, March 26, 2010
The Manchester City Experience
05-06-2008: The Manchester City Museum
Close to two years ago Mrs ExtremeGroundhopping and I holidayed in the Peak District and made a couple of trips into Manchester during our weeks stay there. I’ve previoulsy covered our visits to Old Trafford and the City of Manchester Stadium here, here and here. Part of our tour of the latter include a visit to Manchester City’s Museum – The Manchester City Experience – and while I make no claim to being a fan of City (or one of United for that matter) I must say I was mightily impressed with both the tour and the museum. Here are some of the highlights (of the museum)...
(1) A hand bell that belonged to the late Helen "the bell" Turner who was a regular at Maine Road for over thirty years. A legend among City fans she sat at the front of the North Stand ringing the bell in support of the team. She developed a close friendship with goalkeeper Joe Corrigan and other players to such an extent that she was invited on to the pitch at Wembley to join in the team’s lap of honour after their League Cup victory in 1976.
(2) The old honours board from Maine Road records the clubs trophy haul and promotions. It really must rankle with fan’s that Manchester City’s finest hour (League Champions in 1968) was overshadowed by Manchester United’s European Cup Final victory at Wembley just a week later. In a similar way that it wrankles with Norwich City fans that the one and only time they managed a higher league finish than Ipswich during the 1970’s was in 1978 - when Town won the FA Cup!
(3) A bust of Joe Mercer sits close to the entrance . Mercer is quite easily the Sky Blue’s most successful manager. Between his appointment in 1965 and ignominious departure in 1971 (following a dispute with deputy Malcolm Allison), the club won the 1966 Second Division title, as mentioned above the First Division championship in 1968, the FA Cup in 1969, and both the League Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup in 1970. A period of success that City have abjectly failed to come anywhere close to replicating since.
(4) The next item I’d briefly considered posting as an entry the ‘Football Statues’ series but then thought better of it … a life size figure of Colin ‘King of the Kippax’ Bell . The Kippax was the popular and vociferous terrace at Maine Road while Colin Bell (who has a stand named after him at the City of Manchester Stadium) is considered to be City’s greatest ever player. In 394 league appearances for City between 1966 and 1979 he hit 117 goals with a further 7 for England (in 48 games) during the same period. The midfielders playing days at Maine Road coincided with the clubs most successful era and Bell may well have gone onto collect a century of international caps had it not been for a serious knee injury.
(5) Sticking with injuries perhaps the most famous one of all time was that picked up by goalkeeper Bert Trautmann who also features in the museum as a life size figure . Diving to make a save at the feet of Birmingham’s Peter Murphy in the 1956 FA Cup Final, Trautmann injured his neck but continued for the remaining quarter of an hours play making several crucial saves as City recorded a 3-1 victory. Three days later an X-Ray revealed that the former German paratrooper, and prisoner of war, had actually broken his neck! In 2004 Trautmann was awarded an OBE for his work in promoting Anglo-German relationships.
(6) Finally, and OK a bit Anoraky I’ll admit, the brass plate from an Ellison’s Rush Preventive Turnstile rescued from Maine Road before the wrecking crew moved in . Two companies in the Manchester area (WT Ellison & Co and WH Bailey) produced the majority of turnstiles installed at British stadia from the mid-1890’s to the 1980’s and in the intervening years the designs produced by both companies changed very little. The Ellison turnstile originally sold for just over £7 and had two features to separate it from its rivals. A foot pedal allowed the operator to lock and unlock the turnstile as each spectator passed through, allowing just one paying customer through at a time. It also had a finely engineered, and tamper-proof, brass mechanism with ceramic counters, to allow officials to tally the gate against monies collected. WT Ellison client’s found that their receipts rose considerably once the devices were in pace!
Well there you have it a very nicely put together collection of exhibits that is worth an hour of any ones time, City fan or not.
More pictures here.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
18-03-2010: Wealdstone 1 Croydon Athletic 0
With the likes of Stuart Pearce (1978-83) and Vinnie Jones (1984-86) in their ranks Wealdstone were a force to be reckoned with in the 1980’s, winning the Southern League Championship in 1982 and both the Alliance Premier League (forerunner of the Conference) and the FA Trophy in 1985 (a third Wembley success for the club).
They may well have gone on to achieve greater success had their application to join the Football League been rubber stamped but instead in all went horribly wrong. A management change and several poor league campaigns saw them relegated to the Southern League in 1990 at which point their Lower Mead ground was sold out from underneath them ‘in dubious circumstances’ by then Chairman Alan Clifton.
While the old ground became the site for a supermarket the Stones ground shared with Watford for two years, then with Yeading, followed by ten years at Edgware Town and a stint at Northwood. In the meantime construction of a new stadium in Canons Park began (2003) but this came to a complete halt just a year later when the company responsible for paying the builders went into liquidation.
In 2008, the chairman and vice-chairman of the club acquired a majority shareholding in Ruislip Manor Sports and Social Club and, most importantly, the Grosvenor Vale ground that went with it and it is here they have been playing for the past two seasons. It’s a higgledy piggledy affair but at least it’s a permanent home for the club for first time in seventeen years.
Olympic Stadium HDTV Ready
I don’t think the London Olympic Stadium is ever likely to be considered a classic but at least, now that the 28m-high lighting towers are being lifted into place, it is looking less and less like the chrome fruit basket that sits on top of our fridge. There will be forty-one of these floodlight towers hovering 180 feet above the playing area/running track - with more than enough candle power to beam HD TV footage around the world - positioned so that competitors and fans are not blinded by their output (see press release). The real measure of the place – at least visually – will be when the whole place is covered in a heavy duty wrap imprinted with sporting imagery. That will happen sometime early next year and then comparisons with the Bird’s Nest and other former Olympic Stadia will start in earnest.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
16-07-2004: Other People's Pictures
Joe Royle is pictured (above) arriving at the Energi Nord Arena, Aalborg, Denmark, for a pre-season friendly between AaB and Ipswich in the summer of 2004. Joe who, certainly in this neck of Ipswich, is fondly remembered for the three and two-third seasons he was Ipswich Town manager, even if his last season in charge (2005-06) was a rather dismal affair. Ipswich were heading downhill - quickly - when he arrived in November 2002, but he turned things around and come May 2003 the Blues had missed out on a play-off spot by just a few points. Successive play-off semi-finals were competed, but sadly lost, in 2004 and 2005, the latter after we had just missed out on automatic promotion by a single victory!
We were treated to some swashbuckling football in those three-and-a-half years. A 3-2 come from behind win against Sheffield United - with Town down to ten men - a 6-4 victory against Crewe, a 6-0 thumping of Nottingham Forest and a 4-2 win at QPR - fantastic stuff! And if BFJ's judgement was perhaps just a tad clouded when he signed Mark Fish on loan early in 2005-06 he will long be remembered in the mind of this Town fan as the man who brought us ... Shefki Kuqi!.
Thanks to Smiffy for the pictures, more of which can be found here, as I was otherwise engaged on the day.
06-03-2010: Norwich United 1 Cambridge Regional College 3
A bit of a change of routine for this Ridgeons League fixture as I travelled by train and shanks pony rather by car, starting with a late morning train out of Ipswich to Norwich. I always find arriving at Norwich Station uplifting (a fine, airy, light filled Victorian building that is always a pleasure to use). A quick change of platform and I hopped on a Lowestoft bound train for the ten minute journey to Brundell. The train tracks follow the River Yare out of Norwich, a river that links the city with the Norfolk Broads, eventually flowing out into the North Sea between Great Yarmouth and Gorleston. And very picturesque is it too.
The village of Brundell looks quite promising when you arrive with its proper old fashioned station with vintage footbridge and traditional gate crossing . I wandered down through the adjacent boat yard hoping for a glimpse of the broads, but there are security cameras and warning signs at every turn. Tall fences separate holiday homes on the banks of the broads from passers-by roadside. Not at all welcoming, but perhaps that is the point.
Brundell proper looked somewhat more welcoming/promising as I strolled north out towards Norwich United’s ground in the adjacent village of Blofield (a mile and a bit from the railway station). Ah, the country side, loads of 4x4’s and electronically gated homes. As the only person using legs to get around I was starred at suspiciously by a number of passing drivers.
Now in Blofield, I stopped off at the church, beckoned in by a large sign outside proclaiming it OPEN. So many churches have to be locked up to cut down on theft and vandalism so this was a pleasant surprise. Your average Norman affair but with some nice stained glass windows . One pub en route (not sampled), two village stores and two chippies (both shut) is all the two villages have to offer food and drink wise.
Across the A47 dual carriageway and there is the first sign pointing you in the direction of the ground – there’s still a few hundred yards to go though. First up is a bowling green, then a large car park with five-a-side pitch off to the right. Also off to the right is a full blown practice pitch (where players from both sides were warming up). Spectator access to the main pitch is through a door in the main club house. Admission is handed over to a lady standing at a turnstile cum tea bar. A convenient arrangement, that left me £6.50 lighter in pocket, but with steamy Styrofoam cuppa in hand.
So, time to tour the ground. After a bit of history that is. The club started as Poringland & District FC back in 1903 (a village five miles south of Norwich) becoming Norwich United in 1987, and moving to their current ground, Plantation Park, Blofield (five miles west of Norwich), in 1991. Relative late comers to the Eastern Counties/Ridgeons League (joining in 1989) they’ve won promotion to the Premier Division on two occasions and have become a fixture in the top tier since 2002.
The clubhouse is behind one goal, and to the right, is Plantation Park’s one covered stand . But an interesting one though, with seating in the middle and terracing on either side. Pictures describe it better than I can with words . While not that deep the back of the stand is at least three feet off the ground giving those standing up a decent view of the action. All maintained to a high order as is the rest of the place which, like most Non-League Grounds has a number of outbuildings, whose purpose is not entirely clear. In each of the two corners furthest away from the club house are two sheds, one big and one small, both with mobile phone towers looming over them.
There is another communication tower on the touchline opposite the stand, it is also along this touchline that the home and away dugouts sit. Simple breeze block affairs with aluminum/plastic roofing. Considering their over all importance in the scheme of a football match goals and nets at some grounds do look a bit neglected. Black electricians tape holds nets to posts that are often not set properly upright. But not so at Norwich United. Splendid green and blue nets attached to shiny white bars and uprights with additional net supports at the back . The pitch looked in good nick too. A credit to the groundsman.
More pictures here.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
No 17 (in a series of several): Oscar Bossaert (1887-1956)
If my knowledge of French extended beyond being able to recite the complete lyrics of Frère Jacques (learnt by heart under threat of the cane from the nun’s at the convent school I attended) then I would be able to gleen a bit more from this Wikipedia article about today’s subject Oscar Bossaert. As it stands all I can tell you is that Bossaert was a politician, chocolate manufacturer and former Racing White Daring Moolenbeek (RWD) player and chairman. RWD’s stadium was named in his honour - until it was rechristened the Edmond Machtens Stadium at some point – and this bust of him erected in the leafy eastern entrance to the ground.
Through a series or mergers and reformations RWD became FC Brussels, and a few more words on that and on my visit to their home in the summer of 2006 can be found here, while fellow hopper Rabbler was there just last year.
More Football Statues here.
14-09-1974: Luton Town 1 Ipswich Town 4 (Division 1)
The Oak Road Stand at Kenilworth Road (visited in '74 and '98 by yours truly) has a unusual roof which, built in three sections, rises from the right hand corner of the ground (as viewed from the pitch) and behind the goal to join up with the Main Stand on the left. Originally a home terrace it had 2,000 seats bolted to it in the mid-1980’s and become the away section shortly thereafter. But the roof is by no means the feature that makes the stand unique amongst (former) Football League grounds. To enter the stand you must pass through turnstiles underneath the upper floors of two terraced homes on Oak Road proceeding up a set of stairs which give you an elevated view of a number of well appointed back gardens. Quite what the residents think of footballing folk peering in through their bathroom and bedrooms windows every fortnight I can’t imagine...
Many thanks to former work colleague Chris Day for the pictures which were taken during ITFC’s visit to the Hatters in 2007.
Monday, March 01, 2010
No 16 (in a series of several): Memorial to the Golden Age of Hungarian Football
This rather striking statue/memorial was brought to my attention by fellow Ipswich Town fan Alasdair Ross over at From Portman Road to the San Siro. The statue is a memorial to Hungary’s “Gold Team” of the 1950’s, who, captained by the legendary Ferenc Puskás, became the first non-UK side to defeat England at Wembley Stadium. The inscription reads "A dicsőséges aranycsapat emlékére" which means "For the memory of our glorious golden team". It was erected in 2003 (the 50th anniversary of their 6-3 win in London). National Football Day in Hungary is 25th November, again related to that match. The names on the statue, which is located in Szeged, Hungary’s fourth largest city, are of the players and coaches of that era. Sadly it would appear that the statue has been vandalized.
Many thanks to Nemeth Miklos, who runs the www.magyarfutball.hu website, for the background info.
Photo from here.
More Football Statues here.
Amazing what you stumble across while wandering aimlessly around the internet. Not sure what I was looking for but discovered this gem on YouTube by a young singer/guitarist Pato Margetic from Michigan, USA. It transpires that Pato is the son of a hero of mine the former Chicago Sting striker Pato Margetic Senior. I’ve been threatening a post or two about the (sadly now defunct) Sting for some time now. Maybe I’ll do that soon. In the meantime I hope you’ll enjoy this (love the t-shirt)...
October 1999: Cretan Stadiums and Bull-Leaping at Knossos
I can’t remember which TV programme it was featured on but the Palace of Knossos, on the Greek Island of Crete, has a central court which, apparently, was or is the world’s first sports arena. This was not a fact shared with us by the official guide book as myself and Family ExtremeGroundhopping made our way around the Minoan ruin in October, 1999 as I would possibly have paid it far more attention.
The court area measures approximately 27 x 57 yards (which is 24 x 52 meters or about one-fifth the area of an average football pitch) and can be likened to the plazas that the Romans built for gladiatorial combat. It is in this and similar court yards at the Palaces of Malia and Phaistos that ‘bull-leaping’ is thought to have taken place.
On display at the nearby Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is this famous fresco – originally on one of the walls at Knossos – that depicts an acrobat flinging himself at and over a charging bull. So bonkers is the concept that many learned historians believe that not only is it the stuff of myth but physically impossible too.
But not so as anyone who watched the entirely unrelated Episode 6 of Paul Merton in Europe (Monday night February 15th) will tell you. Paul Merton completed his slightly bizarre tour of the continent visiting various people and points of interest on the Iberian peninsular. The ‘Have I Got News For You’ panelist was taken to a bull rink but not to see a traditional Spanish Bullfight but a blood, gore – and largely – cruelty free Recortes. In Recortes the bullfighter dodges around and, importantly, leeps over the bull without the use of a cape or sword as can be seen in the clip from YouTube (above). That’s the Minoan myth theory kicked in to touch.
Heraklion is Crete’s major population center and has the island’s principal airport so it is here that we and most visitors land (two million last year) before dispersing to the many hotels, apartments and campsites that are spread across the island. The Palace of Knossos is a twenty bus ride from the city centre and a visit is an absolute must.Brit Sir Arthur Evans spent much of his life, and his inherited fortune restoring the sprawling Minoan Palace in the early 20th century. In the city itself is the Archaeological Museum. Housed in a converted power station it contains a massive and fascinating collection of Minoan, Hellenic and Roman artifacts. The Venetian Fortress by the harbour is worth a wander around as is the city centre, but watch out for the crazed moped riders.
Since the relegation of their main island rivals OFI Crete from the Greek Superleague in 2009 the islands only top flight side are PAE Diethnis Enosis Ergotelis or Ergotelis for short. Both sides are based in Heraklion. Ergotelis (rather worryingly nicknamed the Canaries) play at the Pancretan Stadium 3 km’s west of the city centre, while OFI play at the Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium in the district of Kaminia on the main road out of the city, which by happy coincidence, takes you past the aforementioned Archaeological Museum.
Although the Pancretan Stadium was built since our visit eleven years ago its design is based on one originally put forward in the 1980’s but only became reality when Greece successfully bid to host the 2004 Olympics games and the Organising Committee in Athens named it as one of the venues of the football tournament. Built at a cost of €50 million the 26,240 all-seater ground hosted it’s first game in March 2004 (a friendly between Greece and Switzerland) followed by a number of group games plus the Iraq v Australia quarter-final in that summers men’s football tournament.
The Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium, more commonly known by its nickname Yedi Kule, was originally built in 1951, although numerous changes and modernizations have taken place since, including its conversion to a 9,000 all-seater in the summer of 2000.
The land on which the ground is built was, until the end of WWII, an abandoned Christian, Jewish and Armenian cemetery. One night fan’s and officials of OFI (who up until that point had presumably been playing elsewhere) cordoned off the area with fencing and returned later with a bulldozer to flatten out the land and turn it into a football pitch. Part of the old cemetery remains behind one of the stands.
Less than an hour bus ride to the west of Heraklion is Rethymno where we were based during our weeks stay. There’s not much NOT to like about this picturesque town. A great sandy beech and waterfront with a huge array of restaurants, bars and shops set against a back drop of a well maintained old Venetian town, a Venetian fortress and landmark lighthouse.
About two km’s south-west of the town centre is the Pavlos I. Vardinoyannis Stadium, with a capacity of 1,300. Consisting of a single stand this is a far more modest affair than its two Heraklion’s counterparts. Built in 1992 it no longer hosts professionals football following the demise of former tenant EAR (Enosi Atromitrou Rethimniakou) in 1999 but still sees regular use as an athletics arena.
And last but not least and a short bus ride even further west is the city of Hania. Built in 1936 the Hania Stadium is just a ten minute stroll from the city centre just out side the walls of the old Venetian town. Head south east and look out for its four floodlight pylons which are visible from most of the city.
At one time the ground had a capacity of 5,000 but of the original stands only the one on the western touchline remains. The original construction costs were covered by the wife of five times Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos who was born in Hafnia, while plans for an € 11 million facelift are in the offing.
There are other smaller stadia dotted around the island (there’s one in the shadow of the Ventian fort in Rethymno) that I will not attempt to cover here. But I hope, nonetheless, that my post has given you something of a taste for the island and its grounds. Facts and figures on Greek football are incredibly hard to verify as most info on the net is mostly, and unsurprisingly, in Greek, so if I’ve made any obvious mistakes please let me know - Efharisto.
Sepia pictures by Mrs ExtremeGroundhopping. Pictures of the Pancretan Stadium, Hania Stadium and Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium from Flickr. Picture of the Pavlos I. Vardinoyannis Stadium from EAP Athletics.
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)