Croft Park (Blyth)

Keeping with the rather tedious FA Cup theme (I’ve written a book you know!), Blyth Spartans are a famous team from the competition’s history, and even reached the fourth round this season.

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A two night run in Blyth earlier this month meant I was able to take in Croft Park and I hit lucky in that the club seemed to be open during the day.

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That meant a quick peak inside and it’s a wonderfully loveable ground. Decked out in the club colours of green, it’s a very decent sized stadium with four covered stands. Three terraces with the Port of Blyth an all-seater affair.

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Overall I was impressed. I’m not too sure how much will be visible if the ground is locked – I suspect it all depends which side you visit from – but on a random Tuesday afternoon it provided excellent value. Thumbs up.

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Woodhorn Lane Update

A hugely exciting week for Blyth’s Northumberland rivals. First up was the installation of what is presumably a lift shaft, although it seems odd that that’s the first thing to go in. But hey, I’ve never built a football stadium. The following day saw the beginning of the steelwork going up and it’s safe to say it’s looking pretty good all of a sudden!
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Millennium Stadium (Wales)

Seeing as I’ve recently written a book about the FA Cup, this was a handy chance to visit somewhere that’s actually hosted six FA Cup Finals.

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That was from 2001-2006 whilst Wembley was being built and included the stunning game between Liverpool and West Ham United in 2006. It’s also hosted several Wales matches since it opened in 1999 as well as some of the football during the London 2012 Olympic Games.

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In terms of the stadium itself I didn’t see much. I visited with fellow comic Danny Deegan after a show in the city and with a six hour drive ahead of us we were both in something of a rush to hit the road.

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There’s plenty of it to see though, even without much exploration. It seemed like it might be tricky to walk around but that’s a guess based on visiting at night when I didn’t really want to be there. I can’t say I really tried.

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It’s absolutely massive however and juts out into the sky and it’d be wrong of me to give it anything other than praise. Even if there isn’t much to explore there’s plenty to see and you won’t feel let down by it.
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Woodhorn Lane Update

It seems to be at that weird period where loads of groundwork is happening but it’s not really visible. Two sections of the old stand seem to have moved to the other side of the fence, there’s some gravel down for vehicles to get into the main building area and some numbers painted onto the rubble. So progress, but not loads of it.
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Stadium Of Light (Sunderland)

I’ll be honest here and reveal right away that this is the best stadium in the world. And I know you’re thinking that I’m a Sunderland fan that’s bottled this entire project but hear me out…
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I’ve been to the Stadium Of Light more than any other football ground in the world, and that will probably always be the case. I had a season ticket there for nearly ten years but something caught my eye on a recent visit that made it stand out.
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I was doing a gig for Hilarity Bites in Sunderland and decided to drop by the stadium. I thought I knew every nook and cranny but headed to what is always a favourite part – panel 20 on the club’s “wall of fame”.
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It’s a popular scheme where fans pay a ridiculous amount of money to have their name inscribed on a brick that adorns their stadium wall. I’ll be honest – I generally hate it nowadays, but back when the Stadium Of Light opened I was one of the mugs who forked out £25 for the privilege.
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So anyway, I headed to my panel to take a snap of my name and something stood out. Not Paul Gadd, the real name of Gary Glitter, nor Alison Wylie who I went to school with. No – etched maybe a foot away from my brick is that of…
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LIONEL FUCKING PEREZ! Well, I think the club edited his middle name out but if you’re unfamiliar with Lionel then let me explain. He played 75 times for Sunderland between 1996-98 and despite not being great he’s pretty much my favourite footballer ever. He was definitely one of the coolest players I’ve seen. If you remember Eric Cantona’s sublime chip for Manchester United – Lionel was in goal for that.
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So I’m sorry, but for the weird quirk of my name appearing within about 50cm of Lionel Perez’s on the stadium wall, then Sunderland’s home is absolutely bloody well brilliant.
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Woodhorn Lane Update

So Ashington Football Club have been in the news this week. I know! You’re thinking old Fury’s efforts have been finally recognised, aren’t you? No, as it turns out. The club announced ex-England cricketer Steve Harmison as their new manager in one of the oddest appointments in history. I was tempted to pop along to his first game but instead got some snaps the day after.
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Remember to buy my book, My Cup Upset, from Amazon and other eBook stores. Thanks.

Deepdale (Preston North End)

It’s a long time since I’ve been to Deepdale but I was blown away by the changes since I was last there.
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Admittedly all that’s really happened is that they’ve replaced a stand, but it’s meant going from a ramshackle half-finished ground to something that feels like a proper football stadium.
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As an added bonus, I couldn’t even tell you which stand is the new one – they’re all impressively immaculate. And huge, too.
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Preston might not be the biggest capacity ground we’ve covered on this blog but some wonderful steelwork make it visible from some distance and it’s also perfectly satisfactory in the dark too.
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Well lit, visually pleasant and not in the middle of an industrial estate either. There’s a brilliant water feature that’s also a statue (of Sir Tom Finney) but annoyingly my battery died by the time I got to it.
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Apologies for the brevity of this week’s post but please don’t doubt my sincerity – Deepdale is a brilliant one to check off your list.
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Woodhorn Lane Update
Not the busiest of weeks. The ground seems to be cleared and dug down into for foundations. Hopefully some steelwork to go in too but a fortnight of rain and snow probably hasn’t helped much.
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