Saturday, April 30, 2005
Win sets up tense finale
Ipswich Town drew level with Wigan on points in the Championship with a 5-1 trashing of Crewe at FPR earlier, but remain third on goal difference, setting up a nerve-biting finale to the season next Sunday at Brighton. More on that here.
Match: 73 (2004/05) 1,237 (Lifetime)
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Bury Town 0 AFC Sudbury 1
After faltering at Soham Town Rangers on Tuesday evening (suffering a 3-1 reverse), AFC Sudbury clinched their fifth consecutive Ridgeons Premier (Eastern Counties) League league title with a 1-0 win over their nearest challengers and local rivals Bury Town at Ram Meadow, Bury St Edmunds. In front of a healthy crowd of 457 Sudbury’s Simon Hyde first half goal proved to be the decider and AFC can now look forward to their FA Vase Final against Didcot at Tottenham’s White Hart Lane on May 14th where they will be looking to go one better than their two previous appearances in the final having lost their the last two seasons.
Bury Town, who are assured the runner’s-up spot have the Suffolk Premier Cup Final at Portman Road, Ipswich next Tuesday as a consolation. Bury held mighty Bournemouth & Boscombe to a 0-0 draw at their old Kings Road ground in the 1st round of the FA Cup way back in 1968/69 season, going out 3-0 in the replay. They have enjoyed a reasonable amount of success in local league and cup competitions and this season reached the quarter-finals of the FA Vase, the second time they have done so.
Incidentally, on the bench, but a non-participant in AFC’s win last night, was one Lee Norfolk, who as well as being a half decent midfielder at this level also has the distinction of being the first New Zealander to play in the Premiership, making as he did a couple of top-flight appearances for Ipswich in 1995.
I used to live next door to the daughter of one of the Bury Town’s director’s and remember a conversation I had with him a few years back about the costs associated with running a non-league side. Surprisingly, in Bury’s case anyway, the major one is not player fees, not referee expenses, not travel expenses, nor the cost of maintaining their Ram Meadow ground, but balls and the loss of same! Quite a few find their way into a small river that runs along one side of the ground or the dense undergrowth and trees behind one goal, but many are just plain nicked. On one occasion a ball sailed over the fence behind the goal into the car park beyond. As my director friend went to retrieve it he discovered a motorist placing the 45 quid plastic orb in the trunk of his car and then calmly driving off with it!
Ram Meadow is located just to the east of the Town centre and behind one of the town’s main car parks so parking is never a problem for fans. The ground, which looks much the better for a lick of paint last summer, has cover on all four sides, a small amount of seating along both flanks and concrete terracing at each end. The clubhouse is open matchdays, for those requiring a beer or something stronger, while hot refreshments are available from the adjacent and quite decent Just-A-Bite snack bar.
Having lived in and around Bury for many years I can personally recommend a visit to the Town itself, before, during or after a game, which veritably oozes charm and quaintness. Requiring particular mention is the St Edmundsbury Cathedral and one of the better uses to which public funds were put to celebrate the Millennium. The “Suffolk Cathedral Millennium Projects” aim is to complete the last unfinished Anglican cathedral in England. Construction of the nave began way back in 1503 and while the east end was completely rebuilt between 1963 and 1970 the tower and other works were left unfinished – until know. As the tower approaches completion it has transformed the skyline of the Suffolk town. More on that here.
Match: 72 (2004/05) 1,236 (Lifetime)
Just received issue 40 of Groundstastic, which one contributor aptly describes as “Porn for people who like football grounds”. The august publication celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Norwich City Reserves 0 Ipswich Town Reserves 0
This will be the Canaries last reserve home fixture of the season. Town, who completed their home fixtures with a 4-1 loss last Tuesday to Chelsea, have three away games left, and nine points to play for, as they look to avoid finishing the FA Premier Reserve League (South) season with the wooden spoon.
So, should I travel the 49.1 miles from Ipswich to Norwich for this crucial fixtures or stay at home and watch Chelsea v Liverpool in some highfaluting European Cup game followed by Desperate Housewives on Channel 4? An easy choice if you follow the “turn off your crap celeb infested tv and go and do something more interesting instead” maxim
Well the game ended goalless, with both sides missing opportunities to win the game in the second period, but it was worth the effort. Town lined up with five players from last weeks victorious FA Youth Cup winning side including Shane Supple. The young Irish 'keeper continued his excellent run of form making several good saves to keep the home side at bay towards the end of the ninety minutes while at the other end James Scowcroft, the ever impressive Dean McDonald and Liam Craig all had efforts scrambled off the line. The 3,668-strong crowd were on their feet in injury time when Paul McVeigh netted but the Norwich striker was well offside. The point lifts Town off the bottom of the table for the first time in six months and above Portsmouth who they face in their final match of the season on May 10th .
All credit to Norwich they really do do the business of encouraging youngsters to come along to their games and that showed last night with a good percentage of last nights 3,668 crowd being pre-teens and their mums. In fact a trio of mother, daughter and grandmother plonked themselves down next to myself for the duration.
Ground improvements at Carrow Road, which began with the construction of a new River Stand in 2003, were finished earlier this year with the completion of an in-fill at the corner of the South and River Stand (where my brother-in-law sits – but that’s another story) giving the Canaries home an overall capacity of 26,000.
No picture’s to show you of the current ground I’m afraid as my daughter needed the camera for the evening to complete work on an ‘A’ level Art project. However, I recently discovered the above picture, of Carrow Road circa 1935, and ‘borrowed’ it from this excellent site. The-Plunketts features some 3,600 black and white pictures of Norfolk’s County Seat taken over the past seventy-years.
Match: 71 (2004/05) 1,235 (Lifetime)
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
158 Grounds In 1 Week?
On the 11th June 2005, two Stafford Rangers fans(Ian Saberton and Ian Preston) are going to attempt to travel to 158 football grounds in the space of one week. Read the how, the why and the when here.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
World Cup Tickets
B*stards. Got an automatic email message from FIFA ticketing saying I had been unsuccessful in my application for tickets for next years World Cup in Germany. I had applied for first phase tickets for games at Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Munich, for myself and young son, but with four million applications for just 812,000 tickets I’m sure I was not the only one to be disappointed. Will just have to try again in the next ballot which takes place during May.
Follow-up comment: Not for one moment suggesting that our Teutonic friends have rigged the ticket balloting system for next summers World Cup in their favour but our group of eleven that applied for a total of 61 tickets have been allocated just three!
Being interested in photography, although not particularly good at it, we decided to head over to the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television in Bradford before setting off on the journey back home to Suffolk. Mrs Extreme Groundhopping is not convinced, but by an amazing coincidence an exhibition by Dutch Photographer Hans Van Der Meer (whose work I have seen before on the net and very much admire) entitled “The Other Side of Football” was running. Here I quote from the promotional blurb on the nmpft’s website.
"Hans van der Meer has been photographing football matches in the amateur leagues in Holland and beyond since 1995. The resulting pictures, often taken on pitches in apparently bizarre locations, are an amusing yet touching homage to passion and comradeship more than compensating for a lack of skill and professionalism [These are available in a book entitled ‘Dutch Fields’]. The exhibition will include new work made by Hans van der Meer in the Bradford area [soon to be available in a book entitled ‘Yorkshire Fields’]."
The exhibition runs until May 2nd – go and see it if you get the chance.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Leeds United 1 Ipswich Town 1
Elland Road, another League ground I hadn'’t been to in donkey’s years. Sadly Town's 1-1 draw means that Sunderland are promoted to the Premiership and the Blue's are left to fight it out with Wigan for the one remaining automatic promotion spot.
Shefki Kuqi had put us ahead after just six minutes but once again ineptness in defence costs us dear and in under a minute the home side has equalised through Matthew Spring. At the death Darren Currie, on his uncle Tony’s old stomping ground, had the chance to clinch all three points and move us a point above the Latics and into second place but football’s most tattooed player shot wide from just eight yards with the goal at his mercy.
As for the ground, it may look impressive but the sightlines from the away section (seats bolted onto old terracing – with absolutely no legroom) are awful, particularly from row E where we were shoe horned in. It must be said that the Stewarding was excellent with the men in fluorescent jackets most helpful and courteous.
Match: 70 (2004/05) 1,234 (Lifetime)
Friday, April 22, 2005
The plan to start the sporting element of I and Mrs Extreme Groundhopping’s weekend in Leeds with my first live Rugby League game in well over twenty-five years failed as we arrived later than expected at our base near Headingley Stadium (Leeds Tykes drew 30-30 with Worcester for the record). But not to worry as that minor disappointment was more than made up for with a visit to Brett’s Fish & Chip Shop which is short walk from the cricket and rugby ground.
Bretts has an olde worlde tea shop look and ambiance and the owners and staff take great pride in the way the food is prepared and served. Outside and in is very quaint. The exterior is covered with vines and is one of the few buildings in the immediate area that still has a front garden, while inside the restraunt has the original wooden panelling from when it first opened its doors in the early 1930’s.
The fish (I can personally vouch for the Haddock special) is coated with traditional beef dripping and the chips are almost perfect. Bretts is a meeting place for the local and not so local sporting fraternity - Vodafone have their press parties bashes here whenever Headingley is hosting a Test Match - indeed we had an interesting chat with a director of Yeovil Town FC (but actuallly a West Brom supporter) who was in town for the County Championship game between Yorkshire v Somerset, while the current Irish owner is a Motor Sport enthusiast.
Back to the stadium: One of the most famous stadiums in world sport (so the blurb says), Headingley, was opened in 1890 and has staged many Rugby League internationals, as well as countless finals. Headingley, which is shared by Leeds Rhinos (League) and Leeds Tykes (Union), backs onto the Headingley Cricket ground, the home of Yorkshire County Cricket Club. There is covered seating along one touchline and a covered terrace opposite, while both ends have open terracing for an overall capacity of 23,000. Amen.
Off to Yorkshire for the weekend primarily for Ipswich Town's Championship game with Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday. These weekends away with Mrs Extreme Groundhopping generally involve visits to stately homes, cathedrals and castles to keep the good lady happy (I am interested in such things myself it must be said), so after a stop at the splendid Burghley House, near Stamford, we headed directly north to Lincoln to look around the Cathedral there (and to take a few snaps of Sincil Bank, home of League Two side Lincoln City).
The Sincil Bank ground, like most post-Taylor Report, has undergone some pretty radical changes since I was last there for a league game back in 1979 (The Imps opposition that day I forget). The old wooden stand that I remember sitting in on the eastern touchline has been replaced, as have the stands on all four sides of the ground, so that it now looks like any of a multitude of redeveloped grounds. While I realise that this level of football is not awash with money surely there is still room for a bit of flare and imagination when designs are drawn up. Anyway, the overall capacity stands at 10,500, and despite having no floodlight pylons to “home in on” the ground is very well signposted and consequently easy to find located as it is in a residential area about a mile to the southeast of the city centre.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
A Season with Verona
I'm currently reading Tim Parks excellent A Season with Verona in which the author describes his journeying around Italy to watch FC Hellas Vernoa during the 2000-01 Serie 'A' season - a sort of groundhopping tour de force. As a picture does indeed paint a thousand words, and for my own benefit as I like to see what I'm dealing with, below are links to various sites that contain pictures of the stadiums he visits, and which I will add to as I progress through the book. No slight intended on Mr Parks narrative by the way.
Stadium 1: San Nicola - AS Bari
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Leiston 4 Newmarket Town 1
This weeks ground hop took me to Victory Road, Leiston for the mid-table Ridgeons Premier League fixture between Leiston FC and Newmarket Town. It also gave me the opportunity, after the game, to walk along one of my favourite stretches of Suffolk coastline, namely Sizewell Beach, two miles from Leiston.
Sizewell beach is predominantly shingle, two to three miles long, has a backdrop of managed sand dunes, a fishing hamlet and nuclear reactors Sizewell ‘A’ and ‘B’, but don’t let the latter put you off visiting if you happen to be in the area. This is my kind of seaside - very few people, the North Sea brooding away in background, and for the most part completely unspoilt. And by fishing hamlet, I mean active fishing hamlet, with about a dozen boats regularly putting out to sea to do battle with herring and sprat shoals.
The construction of Sizewell ‘B’ sparked off one of the largest ever public inquiries in the UK which ran for over two-years from January 1983 to March 1985. The future of nuclear power in Britain, said the Government of the time, lay with the widely used Pressurised Water Reactor design and Sizewell ‘B’ would be the first of its type in the UK. Construction was eventually completed in 1994, and the first electricity from the site flowed into the national grid the following February. Since completion of Sizewell ‘B’ no further nuclear reactors have either been built or ordered. But I digress.
Back to the football and before the game a reunion bash had been held for 1954-55 Leiston youth side that had won the Suffolk Minor Cup at Portman Road, Ipswich. That season the Leiston youngsters also took on the mighty Arsenal at Highbury in the FA Youth Cup, were they scored first but eventually lost 9-1.
One of Suffolk’s oldest clubs, Leiston are members of the FA, celebrate their 125th anniversary this year, and are playing in top tier of the Ridgeons Eastern Counties League for the first time in their history. Two of their former player’s, Jackie Warne and Ted Phillips, went on to bigger and better things with Ipswich Town. Ted Phillips notably winning a League Championship medal with Town under Alf Ramsey in 1962.
The main event today, watched by a healthy crowd of 190 and proudly sponsored by Premier Toilet Hire, ended with a 4-1 victory for Leiston against the visiting “Jockeys”. The Royal Blue's took a three-one lead into the changing rooms at the interval, in main thanks to new singing and striker Caleb Ebanks, who bagged a couple and had run the Newmarket defence ragged. Ebanks was oddly subbed at half-time and the home side took their foot off the pedal in the second as Newmarket buoyed by their late goal in the first forty-five mounted a comeback. But score again they couldn’t and Leiston killed the game off with a fourth goal ten minutes from time.
Next up for your amiable host, the hitherto virgin territory of Rugby Union, as Leeds Tykes take on Worcester this Friday at Headingley.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
North Stand at Portman Road
HKO CEO Rod Sheard features in one of the Chapter's of Simon Inglis' excellent book Sightlines, talking primarily about HKO's role in the construction of Stadium Australia for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. While I was doing some web based research on that project I stumbled across the specialty architect's website. I probably knew it at the time, but had forgotten about it in the intervening years, that HKO were involved in the construction of the new North Stand at Portman Road, Ipswich. The project was "officially" completed in time for the start of the 2002/03 Football League season and the stand has been my viewpoint for all senior ITFC games since then. Click here for further info on HKO.
Purpose built stadium for the Chicago Fire
Twenty odd years ago I was a Chicago Sting season ticket holder, and while “Der Sting” folded many many years ago I still keep a watch on the professional game in the US, such as it is, and the Windy City’s latest team the Chicago Fire. The Fire, who currently play at Soldier Field in downtown Chicago, are having their own purpose built stadium constructed out at Bridgeview (a suburb west of the City and not far from the home of one branch of Mrs Extreme Groundhopping's family).The 20,000-seater arena looks quite the business and will become only the 4th "soccer" specific stadium in the US. Columbus Crew Stadium was the first when it opened in 1999, the Los Angeles Galaxy's Home Depot Center was the second and the FC Dallas stadium in Frisco, Texas will become the third when it opens this spring.
Further details here.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Felixstowe & Walton United
Felixstowe & Walton United 0 Walsham-le-Willows 3
Forgive me dear readers for it has been over two-weeks since my last ground hop (although I have watched five consecutive matches at Portman Road in the intervening days - versus Derby and Rotherham in the Championship, Derby and Spurs in the Premier Reserve League and Spurs in the FA Youth Cup semi-final, since you are kind enough to ask).
A local hop this weekend travelling the short eleven miles along the A14 from the homestead in Ipswich to Dellwood Avenue, Felixstowe for the Ridgeons League Division One clash between Felixstowe & Walton United (18th) v Walsham-le-Willows (8th).
The football club shares the locale, and the changing and administration facilities, with the local cricket and hockey clubs (indeed there was a hockey game in progress Saturday afternoon). Taking a right from the car park you pass the cricket pavilion on your left and join a paved footpath for about twenty-yards. This leads you to the entrance to the football ground, which is ringed by trees, and separated from the cricket and hockey fields by a six-foot high wooden fence.
The main feature of the ground is its rather unique floodlighting system. Six collapsible floodlight pylons are hand-winched into an erect position when needed, but remain, flaccid, for want of a better word I guess, to keep the neighbouring homeowners happy at other times by avoiding any interruption to the skyline. Which is fair enough I guess but this caused me some confusion as I normally rely on finding a ground for the first time by using pylons as a landmark. It was also Walsham’s first visit to Dellwood Avenue having joined just the Ridgeon’s sponsored Eastern Counties League back in the summer.
The current Felixstowe club, the "Seasiders", was formed as recently as July 2000 with the merger of Felixstowe Town and Walton United. Felixstowe Town FC had been formed in 1890 and Walton United in 1895 and the two sides had merged briefly once before during WW2 but reverted back to their separate identities at the end of hostilities. Neither club have enjoyed a great deal of success although Walton did win the Suffolk & Ipswich League and Suffolk Senior Cup in 1999.
Back to the ground. There is a small grandstand along the near touchline that has clearly seen better days and which, based on charring to some of the wooden floorboards, appears to have survived a number of attempts by local kids to set it ablaze. But it provided more than adequate cover from a chilly wind that was blowing in off the North Sea half-a-mile away for most of the ninety minutes.
Not one for detailed match reports but suffice it to say that (a) the visitors were good value for their 3-0 win, taking the lead after just 6 minutes, in front of a crowd of 82, of whom around a third were supporting the Willows, and (b) the referee sported not only an arm in a sling but also what appeared at a distance to be a colourful rodent atop his head but what at closer range proved to be fading maroon and yellow Mohican. Don't think that will catch on with G Poll and Company in the Premiership somehow.
Friday, April 01, 2005
Borussia Dortmund 1 Motherwell 0
OK, I haven’t just been to Dortmund but was reminded of the place while putting in a last minute application for tickets at next years World Cup in Germany, for which Dortmund, and its impressive Westfalenstadion, is one of the 12 host cities.
The Westfalenstadion has undergone some dramatic changes since my one and only visit their back on October 13, 1994 for the 1st Round UEFA Cup tie between Borussia and Motherwell of the SPL. That night 35,420 were packed into a ground that now boasts a capacity of 82,808.
Dortmund was just a short autobahn drive away from Bochum were I worked for 6-months, and an advance guard of ‘Well fans staying at our hotel in the Ruhr valley city alerted myself, and a work colleague, to the impending game – which he was up for as well.
The visiting fans, around 1000 in number, and as you would expect of travelling Scottish support, were quite voluble through out the ninety minutes. Down as underdogs against a Dortmund side challenging for the Bundesliga title, Motherwell’s cause was not helped when one of their number was harshly red carded for a robust but what looked to be a fair challenge in the second half, and the home side went on to record a fortunate 1-0 victory.
Parallel to the main stadium is what used to be Borussia's former home until the late 1960's and is now used as an athletics stadium. The complex also had half a dozen car parks, it’s own railway station, etc, etc – it was big then and in its latest upgraded condition will be a fine venue for WC’06.
After the Motherwell game it was impossible to get tickets for home ties or when tickets were available take time of from work to get to the games as all of them kicked-off late afternoon/early evening for the benefit of German TV camera’s.
Borussia's progressed to the final, beating Slovan Bratislava 4-2 on aggregate, RC Deportivo La Coruna 3-2 on aggregate (after extra time – a pulsating game that I watched on TV), SS Lazio 2-1 in the semi-finals before succumbing 4-3 to Juventus in one of last two-legged UEFA Cup finals.
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)