Blackhall Welfare Park (Blackhall Hardwick)

It’s a short and sweet one this week folks, as some of the grounds I recovered after my phone breaking are some of the rubbish ones. This is one of those.

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We visited the ground in the dark and there was absolutely nothing to see. A bit of the sign at the front, the fence, and that’s about it. I’ve included some daylight pictures from Google just to give you an idea, I’ve no idea why the fence is different.

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Our good friends from Google show it as a tidy little ground with terracing on both sides, but let’s be honest, there’s not loads more we can talk about. Plus, I’m in a bit of a rush myself.

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In short, it’s a nice little ground. It’s one that you’ll be able to see into as long as it’s not dark. Otherwise, as these photos show, there’s nowt!

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Hebburn Sports & Social Ground (Hebburn Town)

Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking and I’ve got it. Sort of. “Andy, isn’t the Hebburn Sports & Social Ground technically two different grounds?” Yep, you’re right. As per the following satellite show you’ll notice two football pitches, one is home to Hebburn Town, the other is of course Hebburn Reyrolles.

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There’s also a cricket pitch in the middle of the two, with tennis courts as well. It’s a busy facility, but for now we’ll be concentrating on the side of the ground set aside for Hebburn Town FC. It’s certainly an important one with regards my fascination with stadia. To my knowledge it’s the first football ground I can ever remember being inside. Me and my dad went in for the back end of a cup game many years back.

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It was also where I developed a love of non-league football many years later. Whilst studying at university I did a dissertation on non-league football and with the ground being a 12 minute walk from my house it was incredibly convenient. I’d spend Saturday afternoons watching the team and falling in love with football again. I have no doubt those two years are partly behind my love of the ramshackle grounds ahead of the pristine new atrocities we see nowadays.

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That’s certainly not to describe Hebburn’s home as ramshackle, far from it. The main stand isn’t bad at all. It offers shelter and is in really good condition, although there’s not much else to report on. One interesting addition since I attended regularly is behind one of the goals and it’s curious to say the least.

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It’s sort of a stand, erected to meet league regulations on the amount of covered standing required. And so it’s there, but seemingly rarely used, just taking up space. One of my favourite things about the ground is behind that goal though. If you hit a shot high enough to clear the goal and the stand, and the road running by it, then you’ll have to pop into the cemetery behind to retrieve it (the stone archway in the photo below). The closest ground to a cemetery? Certainly so far, although I’m fairly certain it will be beaten.

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And that’s pretty much that. There’s no other stands at the ground, just soft grass along one touchline where the cricket wicket usually is in the summer. So you can see the bulk of the ground from the outside, although I’d also recommend visiting anyway. It’s a great club and I always look forward to visiting.

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Northern Echo Arena (Darlington 2003-2012)

In over 100 grounds covered so far on our little blog, this becomes the third stadium of a select group, I’ll give you the time it takes to scroll past the first photograph to guess what it is.

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Yep, that’s right. It’s the third time we’ve featured a building that isn’t a football stadium! Admittedly it has a very different feel to the previous two. Worcestershire County Cricket Club was in the very formative days of the blog and Arsenal’s former home Highbury still stands but has been converted into housing.

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Whereas this ground still stands, looking pretty much exactly the same as when it was home to Darlington Football Club. The stadium was the brainchild, in the loosest sense of the word, of former chairman George Reynolds. Despite average crowds of around 4,000 at Feetham, Reynolds moved them to their new 25,000 capacity stadium in 2003.

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It was a disastrous move as Reynolds was unpopular, the team were struggling and the ground was a long way out of town. Crowds dwindled to an average of 2,000 before the club folded, moved out of the stadium and started again in 2012.

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The ground would have sat empty but Mowden Park rugby club bought it and so it still serves a function, even if the ground is unlikely to ever reach somewhere approaching capacity.

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For the casual tourist it’s an interesting visit. There’s no doubt it is a great stadium, and a side door was open when we visited allowing a peak inside. But even without that it’s worthwhile and its history alone makes it a very worthy inclusion on this list.

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Bloomfield Road (Blackpool)

Don’t even start. I know what you’re thinking. “Oooh, I’m pretty sure Tranent Juniors should be next. Have you just given up or something?”

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Look, it’s always a wise idea if you’re taking hundreds of photographs of football grounds, to back up those images incase anything bad happens, but let’s be honest. If you’re the sort of idiot who spends your time driving to loads of football grounds, you aren’t a wise person.

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So the pictures of the rest of my trip, taking in at least half a dozen stadiums around Scotland, are gone. As are images of a couple of other dozen grounds I’d visited including the likes of Alfreton, Matlock Town and Barnsley. Stupid phone and stupid technology.

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Somehow Bloomfield Road survived and I’ve honestly no idea how. It’s a weird looking place, most of it looks very little like a football stadium. I’m not sure if that made me not like it, or its survival makes me annoyed by it.

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But there’s plenty to see, arguably too much. A grotty temporary stand is accessed via a back lane with possibly the least glamorous media entrance in all of football.

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One side of the ground is simply a hotel, and looks like one rather than a stadium. Its only saving grace is a Scotland Yard-esque sign outside of it.

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But I’ll be honest here, I’ve ran out of enthusiasm now. My pecker is down. I’ll be back next week and hopefully I might have been able to recover one or two others. If not we’re looking at Motherwell in the dark.

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