It’s December, which means Christmas, which means one thing. Remembering things fondly that weren’t actually that good in the first place. So we’ll be doing that this week here, too.
Remember when I used to visit football grounds at night, when it was dark, so all you had were a couple of ropy photographs of a sign, and very limited commentary on the ground itself? Welcome to Northallerton!
Annoyingly it looks like a very decent little ground, so rest assured I’ll be back here during daylight at some point to report on it. But a few “private property” signs put me off any late night exploring.
Certainly the photos I’ve looked at of it during daylight hours make me think this has potential though. So while you’re sat trying to pretend you’re enjoying roasted chestnuts, strawberry cream and a dreadful festive film, just think that one day I’ll show you this ground properly!
My book isn’t at all festive but is absolutely the perfect Christmas gift. You can buy it here.
Due to a family emergency before having to set straight off for a gig in beautiful Matlock tonight, you very nearly didn’t get a blog. Then I remembered a day out watching North Shields play at the beginning of the season.
I’d visited Shields’ ground a while ago then lost the photos, so it’s nice to add a new destination to the blog. I’ll cover the ground properly at some point in the future, this visit was to watch a game rather than stadium tourism.
It’s a nice little Northern League ground, with two stands on either sideline. Small, but they do a job, and there’s plenty of standing too which is a good job due to their impressive sized gates.
The seating consists of old-school wooden benches, which get good plus points. Negatives were some sort of tasteless ale at half time, served in a bottle without any label on. And seats in the gents toilet? No idea whether that’s quirky enough for a thumbs up or weird enough for a thumbs down.
Either way, we’ll cover it properly quite soon, I just didn’t want you to go without. But it’s a canny ground a nice little day out.
My book is still available from the usual outlets. By which I mean Amazon, by clicking here.
“Yeah Andy, it’s easy enough to pull out a top notch football blog with your Benburbs and Butthole Lanes, but can you do it on a cold day at Stoke?” Ever the man that’s up for a challenge, I decided to find out.
The first thing I should probably mention is the name. I hate it, but the ground has been known as either this or the Britannia since it opened in 1997. It’s a real pity, as is the slightly menacing “no trespassing” sign dotted on a footpath nearby. It’s easy enough to ignore – like any other Premier League ground it’s pretty easy to wander around.
Thankfully there aren’t too many negatives here. Yes, there’s a dreadful Wall Of Fame (too popular a trend in modern stadia), yes it looks almost identical to Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Southampton, but that’s about it.
The positives are some snazzy bits of artwork – a tribute to Sir Stanley Matthews as well as a lovely bust of John Ritchie. There aren’t enough busts outside of football grounds – the campaign starts here. Much better than another bloody statue.
Also, you can see into the ground from some of the hills that sit above it – definite bonus points there, and that’s about it for Stoke City’s home. Is it a ground you could live your life without visiting? Absolutely. But its main stand is pretty impressive from the outside, and it’s a big old stadium to wander around, so I’d definitely say it’s worth a trip.
My book is still available from all good Amazons.
After last week’s philosophical controversy I thought we’d go for a little cracker to get things going here again. And with many of you thinking I’m an arsehole after the last entry, this one is entirely appropriate.
Because, tucked away at the bottom of Butthole Lane, not far off the A1 in Leicestershire, is this little delight. And yes, you read that address correctly.
I spotted the floodlights from the motorway whilst driving to a gig and further investigation revealed it was a must visit.
I’ve been twice and usually the gates are open, as people are working there, meaning you can grab a little peak inside. If not, it’s worth warning that there won’t be much to see from the outside, albeit you will get a decent view of the back of the ground’s biggest stand.
But, you can only judge as you find and three different and lovely stands, plus some shelter and terracing behind a goal, make this a cracking little find.
Plus, who in their right mind turns down a trip to Butthole Lane?
My book is still available to buy from Amazon and would be a great way to help support this blog.
After Todmorden last week just about nicked its way past the big question, today it’s time to get philosophical. So then – when is a football ground not a football ground?
Cullercoats FC have existed since 1915, and play a long way down the football ladder in the Northern Alliance. It’s a Saturday league, and home to some fairly sweet little grounds. But is this one?
I remember visiting the ground many years ago and despite there not being much to it now, there was less back then. Even now, it’s hard to say that there’s much more than a football pitch with a fence around it.
However, there’s a brick building adorned with the club badge, a very permanent shipping container that looks to have been converted into providing matchday services to spectators. It is, to all intents and purposes, a home.
In terms of the questions we need answered, it’s perfect. You can walk around the pitch and see everything on offer. And there are sponsors boards around the pitch, as well as a wonderful (if chilly) see view.
But is it a football ground? My usual requirement is at least floodlights, dugouts or a stand. And this has none of those. But it’s also a lot more than just a playing field. Should you visit? To watch a game, yes. It’s homely enough. But otherwise? It’s a rarity but I’m going to say no.
When is a book a book? When it’s written by me and available on Amazon.
I’m loaded with cold so this week’s will be brief but worthwhile. The Lancashire town of Todmorden is nestled amongst beautiful countryside but what’s the point of that if there’s no football ground to visit?
It absolutely fills the bare minimum of my requirements. No stands, no floodlights, but a fenced off pitch with advertising hoardings and dugouts too? It squeaks in, doubtless due to it being one of the more scenic places I’ve visited.
Stuck at the bottom of some beautiful green hills, you won’t find many better surroundings for a football ground anywhere in the United Kingdom. Plus, although there’s not much to see, it’s perfectly open for you to take in what is there.
Should you go out of your way to take it in? Probably not. Is it worth a detour and fifteen minutes of your time if you’re nearby? Absolutely.
My book is still ailable here and will help offset the cost of Strepsils.
Hillheads Park is one of the better Northern League grounds, one which I’ve had the fortune to visit on quite a few occasions.
There’s not loads to see from the outside, but as I was gigging nearby and they had a game during the day, I took the chance to go and watch them in action.
I know that’s not the entire point of this blog, but if you get the chance to visit the ground you really should. Their main stand is a thing of absolute beauty. A tunnel for the players to emerge from and packed full of character, it’s a real delight.
There’s terracing most of the way around as well as a covered stand on the opposite side. The whole place is a slightly shabby but simultaneously in remarkable nick. There can’t be many better grounds to visit in the North East.
For peering in from the outside (the usual point of this blog), it doesn’t score highly. But it would be a travesty to mark it down. A must visit.
My book, as ever, is available from Amazon.
Well blow me down if this one isn’t a little bit of a dazzler! I’m a big fan of sports being played in the wrong stadium. I love watching Wembley transformed for motor-racing, or rugby played at football grounds. And watching Lords transformed from the home of cricket into an archery arena for the London Olympics was a little bit special.
So, a football stadium that poses as a golf course during the day? Oh yes, Fulwood Amateur Football Club! Oh yes indeed. Truth be told, we really don’t need any further explanation, do we? I didn’t, but visited this little beaut, situated near Preston, a couple of years ago now.
It’s arguably unspectacular, but it does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s actually a driving range rather than a golf course, but let’s not pick it apart for something as trivial as that. If anything, that makes it easier to access during the day and take in its majesty.
A couple of covered stands and some dug outs are pretty much all there are to see here, other than an assortment of golfers teeing off and the distance markers, but that’s not really the point. Majestic is absolutely fair. It’s a definite must-see. A bizarre little gem.
I’m pretty sure my book is supposed to cost more than £2.69, but you can get it here before I figure out how to correct this.
Another show of how life changes is the history of this ground since this blog’s much-publicised hiatus. At the time I visited it, it was home to Durham City FC. Not any more.
The Northern League side left after a dispute over unpaid bills in 2015 and have played in nearby Consett since. It’s a real shame, especially after the initial buzz around the club after ex-Newcastle United defender Olivier Bernard purchased them in 2013.
New Ferens Park is a curious affair, however. Built outside of town in the middle of an industrial estate, with an artificial pitch, it’s pretty much everything I hate about football stadiums.
Its one saving grace is a curious main stand which is pretty visible from outside. It has a very strange covered stairwell that takes you outside and down to the clubhouse and hard standing which surrounds the rest of the pitch. This corrugated anomaly might just be what saves it.
I think that’s my mind made up. That main stand is unusual enough to be worth a visit. So, whether it’s during the day, or to watch Durham Ladies, who still ply their trade there, New Ferens gets a reluctant thumbs up from me.Edit
You’ve probably already bought my book, but it doesn’t hurt to remind you that it has aged magnificently and is available here.
So you’ve probably wondered when it would happen, that I visited a ground for a second time. Maybe you’ve even had some money waged on it. Well, here we are. Mighty Middlesborough take the honour.
Over the summer I ran a 5k race on Teesside, which started outside Boro’s home and finished with a lap of the pitch inside. So it was a terrific excuse to combine my two great loves in life – running and ground-spotting.
The race is a short run around Middlesborough, in memory of Boro legend Ali Brownlee, and a lovely day. And even if you aren’t into running, it’s the easiest way you’ll get to peak inside a proper football ground like this.
There’s not much I can really say about the stadium itself that hasn’t been said. It’s solid if a little unspectacular, but being able to enter a stadium when there’s not a match on always feels a little bit special.
So this is more of a race recommendation than one for the stadium, but if you fancy a neb of the Riverside then this is a definite thumbs up.