Making Capital. Union St Gilloise 1-0 Lommel United

Another blank midweek for Fareham and a look at all the fixtures. Belgium’s 2nd Division are having an “English Week” with a full set of midweek games and the one that stood out for me was in Brussels and Union St Gilloise’s art deco stadium.

Upon arriving in Brussels like all good tourists, it would be rude not to take in the sites and the one we had time for was Stade Adrien Bertelson, now home to Brussels League side Maccabi Brussels. This is also the former home of RFC La Forestoise  who had a spell in the first division in the 1940’s until they merged in 1996 with Royal Uccle Leopold.

Whilst there was athletics training going on, we were welcome to walk round and take photos and what a stadium. Huge sweeping overgrown terraces around an athletics track with an old wooden stand (used as the athletes kit bag store room at the time) with concrete crush barriers too.

After that is was a quick trip to the supermarket on the corner to restock the Belgian beer crates. Beer is the staple diet of Belgians and they do a bloody job in brewing it with their supermarkets selling a large range and its cheap too. What costs you £4-50 in a pub/bar here costs around €1 in the supermarkets and generally comes in 6 packs, so no need to splash out excessively or buy whole cases of one particular beer.

Then a quick pit stop at a typical Belgian beer house but one with a difference. Moeder Lambic bar on Rue de Savoie.  Lambic beer is like Marmite – you either love it or hate it, Think of bitter ciders and you’ll get the idea. Lambic brewing is Unlike conventional beers, which are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer’s yeasts, lambic is produced by spontaneous fermentation: it is exposed to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Zenne valley, in which Brussels lies. It is this unusual process which gives the beer its distinctive flavour.

Finally to the ground itself the Stade Josef Marien. Parking is of the street environs around the ground so with a spot secured we headed to the ticket office and despite the damp day and night, decided to stand for €10 (at todays exchange rate of 1.32 = £7.70) which is less than some Step 5 clubs in Englands are charging for 2nd Division football.

As for the stadium, it takes your breath away. Built when the club were a powerhouse in the early 20th century, indeed between 1933 and 1935 they didn’t lose a game in that period. The experts on Bargain Hunt would go crazy over its Art Deco exterior. There’s more borded up old ticket windows than in your average high street and really one to be seen to be believed.

Whilst no programme was available, team sheets were freely handed out by the main entrance with its stained glasses panels and marble busts of former club officials and the stewards were happy for us to go in and take photos of these.

Then to the club bar which I bet has changed little in years. As per usual in Belgium is was the token system – You buy your tokens in one place and hand them over at the bar for your drink.

Finally it was time to head into the ground itself. First thing you notice as you walk through is the old George & Dragon/Whitbread Ales sign hanging from the wall of the clubhouse, the customary search and you’re in. Very much a 2 sided ground. Both ends flattened out. There’s evidence of old overgrown terrace in a fenced off part where a scoreboard stands not that it was used tonight.

One side is the main stand all along one side with a paddock terrace in front of it. The far end of it housing the 70 or so away fans, whilst opposite is a 40+ step terrace where the majority of the crowd which looked approx 1000 stood and got the atmosphere cranking up louder and more boisterous as the game went on.

As for the actual match itself, it was a typical tight Belgian 2nd Division game, not helped by the visitors being reduced to 10 men before half time thus camping in their own half to try and secure a point and all seemed to be going well in that regard as chances were few and far between for the home side until a sweet volley by Faure in the 89th minute  sent the place into raptures, Flares lit, plastic beer glasses and contents flying everywhere and this continued well after the final whistle when the USG went over to them to not only applaud their supporters for their backing, but keeper Anthony Sadin actually led the singing!

A shame we had to leave but leave we had to, making it back to Dunkerque in plenty of time for the 2am ferry back to Dover.

Match Stats

7/10/15

Belgian 2nd Division

Union St Gilloise 1-0 Lommel Utd

Admission €10, Free teamsheet,

Att: Given as 750 but looked more

Beer by token system €2,

Black Pudding Hot Dog €3.50

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Friends and Family. Anstey Nomads 2-0 Clifton All Whites

Another weekend without a Fareham game, so a chance to earn brownie points, see family and also get in some football. What more do you need on a blank Saturday?

The Brownie points was taking my dad to visit, clean and put flowers on the graves of some of my relatives on his side of the clan. 1 Died before I was born, 1 I didn’t know at all and the other I have very few memories off in my dim and distant past.

Onwards then to see family in Anstey, a small village just north of Leicester – except they were out when we first called round so finally with messages left as to where we were going to be, we headed across the village to the Cropston Road – the home of Anstey Nomads.

Normally its the parents who take their children to football, in this case it was the other way round as Splodge Senior joined me for his ground no 7 and my 1175th. At this rate, he’ll have to start up his own records.

Already there was Rob Hornby who’d come further than us that morning returning from a family holiday in Cornwall who was on League committee duties on behalf of the Notts Senior League. Details of his last ever groundhop and blog on all things Notts and Derbyshire football can be found here:

http://aroundthegrounds2015-16.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/the-farewell-groundhop.html

After a chat and a quick drink, and being joined by one half of Groundhop UK who had to stay local we headed into the ground. Details of their forthcoming Western League hop & others can be found here:

http://www.granddaysoutnetwork.co.uk/footballweekends.html

Being based in Hampshire, despite the family in Leicestershire and friends in Notts the East Midlands Counties League isn’t one I’ve done alot of. Indeed this was only my 5th if you include the former Kimberley Town FC then in the Notts Senior League, (Kimberley Miners Welfare now play there) and Blackwell Miners Welfare (sadly to the best of my knowledge, no more), but the set up was tidy with plenty of Anstey Nomads logos’ around the ground.

There’s a 3 row stand immediately in front of the clubhouse with a further 3 step terrace in front of the changing room block, whilst on the far side and a nice touch by the club naming the cover the Mitchell Stand.

On the pitch it looked an intriguing contest with Nomads 6th in the step 6 league, whilst their opponents were 3rd in the step 7 Nottinghamshire Senior League having scored 35 goals in their 8 league games to date, and it was the visitors who despite their name, playing in all blue to avoid a kit clash who looked confident and started the brighter having a 50/50 call for a penalty turned down midway through the first half. but good chances at either end were at a premium with the Anstey keeper making 1 good save late on whilst Anstey whilst looking quick failed to test the visitors keeper in the first half.

Half time and a cuppa and a go on the football card and a tidy £19 profit. 3 prize wins at football already this season equalling the last 5 seasons in 1 swoop, just what is going on? Perhaps I need to consider re-doing the lottery again.

The 2nd half was early when Anstey scored and this seemed to knock the stuffing out of the visitors. A cross-cum-shot deceiving the keeper who could only parry the ball into the net.

Anstey grew in confidence too and wrapped up the game & a place in Mondays 1st round proper draw 9 minutes from time with a wonderful goal, excellent passing and movement, deep cross and bang – volleyed home at the back post by the onrushing midfield player. A training ground move of the highest quality.

Clifton tried hard to get back into the game but missed the cutting edge which their results in the league show that they do possess and it was the home side celebrating at the final whistle whilst Splodge Senior and I headed back up the Groby road where the family were now waiting for us.

Match Stats

3/10/15: FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Rd

Anstey Nomads 2-0 Clifton All Whites

Att: 86

Admission £5, Prog £1

Tea £1, Sausage Cob £1.70

The Proper Game. Tuffley Rovers 2-3 Milton United

People who know me well, know of my complete dis-interest in Rugby whether it be the Union or League versions. Sorry neither tick any boxes for me at all and I’d rather watch paint dry.

So a chance for me to stick my own proverbial 2 fingers up at one of the codes by watching the beautiful game in the Gloucester heartland of Union during its World Cup was not one I was going to turn down so up the A34/M4/A417 I headed for Tuffley, just south of the City Centre.

The club have returned to playing at this level for the first time in 10 years, when ground grading requirements and the cost to implement them saw them resign from the Hellenic League & consolidate back in the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League mid-season in 2005-06, but consolidate they have and the ground is neat and tidy with plenty of room for more including a proposed clubhouse, so things are on the up

The welcome was warm as I paid my £3 to get in. Yes just £3 to watch Step 5 football. Was that a mistake by the gateman, had he charged me for an OAP? Nope just £3. Its not often I feel guilty when entering a football ground after paying to get in but here I did. The programme at £1.50 was excellent reading too, and despite a tricky start at this higher level for many of the players, it welcome, the programme all helped exude the positivity of the club towards the future.

The ground itself is interesting. There’s 2 stands, one either side of the pitch with seating, the one on the right hand side is one of those stands hoppers hate as being idendikit, but the club have done something different about it, covering the outside with wooden panels. The seats in the original stand to the left of the pitch are wooden and there are also a few bolted on to the front of the changing room block which give it an unusual quirk.

The evenings opponents were Milton United based just outside Didcot  and their journey time here of around an hour and a half at rush hour wouldn’t have been great or much less than mine at 2 hours, indeed the last of the players and the kit didn’t arrive at the ground until shortly before 7:20.

Mistaking me for a home supporter during the warm up, one of the Milton players said something I’m sure all Step 5 and Step 6 footballers can agree with. “Its crazy, the league send us all this way (55 miles for those interested) midweek when we are at work.” “We don’t get paid, some will have to take time of work, we wont see our loved ones and kids tonight much before midnight, yet this Saturday a side from Oxford 10 miles down the road are coming to us, whilst next Tuesday Brimscombe & Thrupp (Stroud area) have to make nearly as long a journey as this to our ground, It just doesn’t make sense.”

He’s right, it doesn’t and unfortunately in 10 or so years time I really do fear for semi-professional football in this country when things like this, ever more barmy ground-grading regulations, lack of volunteers to take up the mantle from todays crop decide enough is enough. But that’s enough despair for one blog entry.

Its an enjoyable game, Tuffley new at this level are working hard, but you can tell they are just slightly less experienced at this level that Milton. The little things like where the forward runs to, when to stay tight or drop of your opponent, defending 1 on 1 at your own corner. You know things you notice but don’t realise you have until thinking about it later on the drive home, and in the end despite an injury time 2nd goal for the hosts to make it interesting right at the end, these blips were to prove crucial.

Match Stats

22/9/15 Hellenic League Premier Division

Tuffley Rovers 2-3 Milton United

Admission £3, Programme £1.50

Att: 52

Tea £1. Chips 50p

Doubling Up Part II. Almondsbury UWE 1-0 Radstock Town

Even as I set off from the car park after the game at Hanney, I still didn’t have an idea where I was going. Indeed I started off and in my mind I was heading north to Warwickshire but even know I’ve no idea why, once I got back to the A420 I turned right not left and headed towards Swindon, The M4 and Bristol to finally tick off one of the 2 remaining grounds I had to do in the Western League.

I’d tried to do this one twice before but both times was thwarted by the weather, so with a balmy late summers day of bright sunshine it would surely be a case of 3rd time lucky?

The ground is dead easy to find. Where the M4 and M5 meet, head south and turn off at the A38, under the motorway and take the first right into Almondsbury Sports and Social club. The entrance to the ground is at the back of there.

Opposite side of the road turn left and you’ll come to the HQ of the Gloucestershire FA where I initially saw Almondsbury Town play in the Hellenic League before they died and nowadays Roman Glass St George and Winterbourne United share the 3g pitch ground.

Back to UWE and a word for the absolute massive cheese and onion roll I had for a bargain £1.20 in the social club. There was probably more than that’s worth of cheese in it. In the end I had to concede defeat to it and throw 1/4 of it in the bin.

The UWE part of the clubs name is simply University of the West of England who the club have a partnership with.

Those who like history programmes such as Time Team would love this ground as it appears to be on top of a Norman Motte and Bailey castle mound raised 8-10 foot over the cricket pitch and subsequent fields next to it, entrance is reached by a set of steps with a paybox perched on top. It didnt look overly safe to me if it was windy so after exchanging pleasantries and a £5 to get in and the programme I was on top of the world!

The ground is loud thanks to the M5 running next to it and has a stand and small area of cover next to it on the cricket pitch side, but the ditches surrounding the pitch leave little room for anything else other than the pathway around the pitch on the other 3 sides.

As for the game itself, not one that will live in the memory as the sides cancelled each other out. Both sides had a reasonable shout for a first half penalty turned down and just as I was settling down for a 0-0 and had text a mate to say there’s more chance of peace breaking out in the middle east than a goal here, on 79 minutes a smart low finish across the goal into the bottom right hand corner gave the hosts what proved to be the only goal.

Almost immediately Radstock thought they had equalised when a drive crashed against the underside of the bar, bounced on the line and was cleared, but a goal wasnt awarded and whilst they had most of the possession after, they rarely looked like scoring the equaliser and headed back to Somerset defeated and needing just the league’s newest club Chipping Sodbury Town to complete the league.

A word of advice for anyone travelling back to the South Coast from Bristol, even though if you take the direct A36 from Bath-Southampton its about 30 miles less fuel than the M4, A34 route avoid it at all costs. Despite being 6:20 in the evening on a Saturday it still took the best part of 45 minutes alone to go through Bath.

Finally – recommended pub stop is the Red Lion in Heytesbury just the Salisbury side of Warminster. After being defeated by the Cheese and Onion roll I was still stuffed but the food looked lovely and was keenly priced and the beer was superbly kept and one I will go back to if for no other reason than to see the award given to Heytesbury FC of the Trowbridge and District League by the FA for being 100 years old that is hanging up in the toilets!

Match Stats

Western League Division 1

Almondsbury UWE 1-0 Radstock Town

Att: 38

Admission £5 including programme

Tea: £1

Cheese and Onion Roll in Social Club £1.20

Doubling Up Part 1. Hanney United 4-2 Marcham

Last Saturday with Town having no game, I headed up the A34 to take in part 1 of the days North Berks League groundhop day and Hanney United vs Marcham as part of my own double.

The mist was rolling in as I drove over the hills at East Illsley and the Milton Interchange exit but with a bright day forecast I didn’t have any great concerns over a ppment.

Arriving in the village of East Hanney,  thank god the club saw fit to put up signs early and regularly for directions to the ground as my Sat Nav was going to send me left onto the A420 heading towards Faringdon and Swindon rather than the required right turn. Following these I arrived at the Village recreation ground to be met by 2 lads doing a great job in showing the masses where to park safely and also for a swift exit for wherever your 2nd game of the day was planned.

As you’d expect at what is effectively 8 leagues below the bottom of the Football League, regular spectator facilities were few and far between with the pitch roped off with black bags adorning it for people to put their rubbish in. One thing I do smile about when visiting clubs in this league is the quirky semi-circle marked behind both goals. Anyone have an idea why?

Hanney were excellent hosts and I hope they made a killing from the 171 present with hopefully one or 2 interested locals now spending their Saturday afternoons watching their local team or even better get involved in helping to run the club.

There were Gazebo’s aplenty put up, one to take a gate and sell an excellent programme for £4, another selling beers, raffle tickets and showing off the North Berks Challenge cup and a history of the club. Another selling the teas and coffee’s and slices of cake and the grill was doing a roaring trade & my breakfast pangs were ended with a massive bacon roll.

“What do you think the score will be?” Chris Garner aka The Wavendonian asked me as the teams came out. Pretending I knew what I was talking about a quick look at the league table on my phone saw the hosts higher up the table after 2 games played and “4-2 home win” I blurted out.

Marcham were there to prove me wrong and took the game to the hosts twice taking the lead. The 2nd with a free kick with more bend than any banana you’ve ever seen. Roberto Carlos etc would all be nodding their approval at it, but by half time it was all square thanks to a penalty and weak back pass capitalised on.

Half time back to the Gazebo for a slice of to die for Victoria Sponge and tea and a check on the raffle ticket numbers and lo and behold your’s truly had one a prize again. Twice in the space of a month- that’s some sort of record for me and bottle of Bourbon was safely collected.

Back to the game and Hanney came out 2nd half upping the ante and in the end running out deserving 4-2 winners courtesy of 2 headers. Just a shame I forgot to place my bet beforehand!

Now where to go in the afternoon?

Match Stats

19/9/15 North Berks League Division 2

Hanney United 4-2 Marcham

Admission £4 inc programme

Att:171

Bacon Roll £2.50, Tea £1, Victoria Sponge 50p

The Time is… Meridian VP 0-4 Glebe

As per normal when there’s no Fareham midweek game to worry about on a Tuesday night, it was a case of where to go and a quick chat with Luke ‘aka Sussexhopper’ it was off to SE London and a rare tick for me (just my 4th) in the Kent Invicta League where we met up with Richard Bysouth who’d crossed from the other side of the Thames.

The ground is relatively easy to find just off the A2/A207 opposite Charlton Park and around a mile from Charlton Athletic who were also at home. Despite that, the roads behaved themselves and we arrived in plenty of time for a drink in the club before hand. The bottled Waggledance hitting the spot.

The question we all asked before hand was why the name. Well with the ground is the Borough of Greenwich, that answered the Meridian part, but VP? Vice-Presidents, Name of sponsors? Nope Valley Park

The ground has been undoubtedly tidied up over the past few seasons. An 5 row stand is the only cover not that it was needed this evening, with the hard standing and rail around the pitch looking brand new. The sides are being landscaped, but have still got plenty there to keep you intrigued, and there’s plenty of 3g pitches in use outside throughout.

As for the game, Glebe dominated from the start and if it wasnt for the home keeper having an inspired evening they would have won even more comfortably than the scoreline suggests and on this showing are well worth going to watch if you’re in the region.

Match Stats

15/9/15 Meridian VP 0-4 Glebe

Admission with Programme: £6

Att: 17

No Pleasant Valley Sunday Meonstoke A-A Wickham Dynamos

Despite my love of football, for a variety of reasons, its been along time – the best part of 20 years since I went out to specifically watch a sunday league game, so when during the summer, I was asked to watch the odd game in the Meon Valley league this year I went “why not” and with no club duties required headed up to the Meon Valley with no idea what to expect.

Meonstoke is a pretty little village between just off the A32 between Droxford and Corhampton and the club play on the village rec on Pound Lane by the village hall, sharing with the cricket club and has plenty of views of the valley.

There’s no footballing furniture here to admire, just a team happy to play with their mates.

And after 15 minutes their happiness eluded as they raced into a 2-0 lead, a fantastic strike, and a soft but definite penalty for a pull back and spent the rest of the half attacking at will whilst dealing well with what Dynamos could throw at them.

The opening of the 2nd half was certainly one to watch. Meonstoke guilty of some misses Ronnie Rosenthal would be proud of (for any youngsters out there https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzK9p6_CCqk) and were made to pay for them as Wickham had levelled matters up by the 65th minute.

The home side quickly regained the lead once more from the spot but on 80 minutes the game was ended early. Wickham, whose pace up front was causing problems throughout the 2nd half levelled matters but the accidental collision between the scorer and the home keeper saw the keeper come off 2nd best and in agony.

Credit to both teams management and the supporters who immediately came to his aid to make him as comfortable as possible, but with him unable to move and the Ambulance no-where in sight, there was little option left open to the ref other than to abandon the game at 3-3.

After losing one of our own players recently to a double leg break, I wish the lad a quick recovery.

Match Stats

Meon Valley League Division 1

Meonstoke 3-3 Wickham Dynamos (Abandoned on 80 mins)

Admission/Prog: N/A

Headcount: 21

Wet! Dudley Sports 0-3 Wolverhampton Sporting Community

With all respect to both clubs, I wasnt meant to be there. I was meant to still be in North Wales but circumstances dictated that come Tuesday morning it was better that I head home.

Even then I expected to get back home in time for our Hampshire Senior Cup tie (Lost 1-0, 1 stretchered off with a broken tibia and fibia, 2 sent off!) but the delights of the M6 meant that come 4pm I was still north of Birmingham so gave up on it and a check of the fixtures and voila, Dudley Sports it was.

First stop however was the now almost compulsory visit to a local hostelry – The Vine. Brewery tap for Lathams beers. It was as if I’d stepped back in time inside and that’s not just the prices of £3.50 for a pint and a massive ham salad cob.

Arriving at the ground shortly before 7pm and the heavens opened and opened and continued to open and after everything else which had gone wrong was half expecting it to be postponed or if started abandoned as everyone steadfastly refused to leave their cars until absolutely necessary

The ground is interesting. Going through the pay gate, you walk across a pitch before reaching the main pitch, railed off with a stand one side and 2 small areas of cover on the dug out side with the changing rooms and tea bar located beyond these.

The seating inside the stand and cover itself is well worth mentioning. Padded seats in the middle of the stand with bench seats opposite, with church pew seats located in the 2 areas of cover.

The teams came out with the deluge still in full flow now joined by a thunderstorm whilst all around the ground the skies were clearing up but as far as I was concerned I let out a sigh of relief as we started but it wasnt until shortly before half time that the rain finally stopped

Once they took the lead on 27 minutes, the result was never really in doubt, W.S.C. were too quick in thought for the hosts who had chances of their own but second best on the night. 2 free headers and a quick breakaway winning the points.

West Midlands Regional League Premier Division

Dudley Sports 0-3 Wolverhampton Sporting Community

Admission £5, Programme £1

Att: 29 (headcount)

ffarwel a diolch i chi to the Welsh Alliance Groundhop

Penmaenmawr Phoenix 3-4 Greenfield

And so we reached the final destination. Just off the A55 on the way back home we came to the village of Penmaenmawr.

Halfway up the hill this was a final stunning location, you couldnt look in any direction and not be wowed. It has everything, the sea, the hills, what appears as wilderness, it was just wow.

Changing rooms and toilets are outside the ground, walk up to it & there was a large area of cover to the left of the entrance where the well organised, food and bar and raffle were set, and whilst another one was on the halfway line, upon investigation this was used as the dug-outs.

The hosts were proud to host this event involving several elements of the local youths to entertain us in case the match didnt, with one of the youth teams acting as mascots, a local dance group dancing before the game and at half time and cheering the teams out.

Their efforts were rewarded with a Welsh hop record crowd of 431

A shame for them that their high flying opponents didnt read the script turning round a 2-1 half time deficit to win 4-3 in a real hum-dinger, but the real winners were all of us privileged enough to attend not just this game, but whatever part of the weekend. The clubs were brilliant, the League were fantastic and credit also to Laurence and Chris organising the event.

Welsh Alliance Division 2

Penmaenmawr Phoenix 3-4 Greenfields

Admission and Programme: £26 covered all 6 matches I attended Sunday and Monday

Att: 431

N.W. Wales and Anglesey will always have a place in my football heart

Super Bay. Llanllyfni 4-1 Treaddur Bay United

Without doubt, first and foremost thanks to Treaddur Bay Utd for stepping into the breech with no more than 24 hours notice when 2 clubs were unable to fulfil the scheduled league fixture.

They were impressed with what the hordes brought to them on the Saturday and were only too happy to help out their league, a fellow club, groundhop organiser and 200+ groundhoppers by bringing this cup tie forward. Ok it may not have been their strongest squad, but they did it

The village is tight-knit, and the club are proud to be part of the community as they move up the Welsh pyramid from the Gwynedd league after winning it last season.

Worthy of note was noticing the posters advertising the game were bang up to date with the correct opponents and prevalent in the village, extra pages printed for the programmes all this despite the extremely short notice.

Previous discussions to merge with Pen-Y-Groes elsewhere in the valley were dismissed out of hand and the club are the better for that and on this showing are worth keeping an eye on how much they can progress.

Its well hidden just off the main road but opens out in front of you as you reach it. Railed off with limited cover, once more fortune smiled on us as the sun continued to shine with barely a cloud in the sky and Snowdon looking down on us was magnificent.

This was the best game of the hop in my opinion as the Division 2 side took the game to their higher division opponents  and were rewarded with a clinical 2nd half display to progress.

Welsh Alliance League Cup 1st Round

Llanllyfni 4-1 Treaddur Bay United

Admission & Programme: £26 covered all 6 matches for the weekend and the extra pages printed for the hastily arranged game.

Att: 307