Friday, July 19, 2013
Confessions of a Groundhopper - blogging for the Northwest Football Awards
One of the first things I do when the fixtures come out is look out for all the away trips that can take in a new ground.
I admit it, I’m a groundhopper and this is my confession. I’ve watched football on 135 different grounds around the world, all but a dozen in Britain. I love the feeling of walking through the turnstiles at a new ground, sampling the atmosphere, tasting the pies, weighing up the balance of two teams of toilers at an unfamiliar standard and feeding off the crowd's knowledge of who is who.
One of my favourite ever football books is The Football Grounds of England and Wales by Simon Inglis. He lovingly describes the architecture and the setting of each ground.
I also devoured the photography of Stuart Clarke – Homes of Football.
Last season I notched off Chesterfield as the 76th of the current 92, partly as a homage to see Adebayo Akinfenwa, the cult Northampton Town player and a favourite on FIFA 12 on the Xbox.
Except it isn't, it was my 63rd. I've lost 11 who have new stadiums, and then there is the Wimbledon situation which I'm not sure how I count that.
On the Punk 92 I'm at 76. That is, if you’ve watched one of the 92 at their ground it counts.
Of the92.net rules, it's 63. Same with the 92 Club.
I have a badge celebrating my membership of the 100 Grounds Club, and love visiting the blog with its stories of toilet blocks, railway sleeper terraces and rebuilt clubhouses.
But as I said, I count non-league as well and of the total grounds visited it's now at 135. My short term targets are to get all the Greater Manchester non-league grounds.
In an age when so many new stadiums are so boring and so much the same – it’s a treat to sample a rough character of the non-league set-ups. It’s great that the North West Football Awards has such strong connections to the grass roots of football through community clubs categories and a recognition of the progress made throughout the Conference and Conference North.
To give my non-league adventures a bit of a purpose I'm going to try and chalk off the Greater Manchester grounds this season. But next up will be Glossop North End this Saturday, then any one from Curzon Ashton, Radcliffe Borough, Ramsbottom United (steam trains too!) or Trafford.
Also as a part-time Blackburn Rovers fan I’ll be taking in away games, especially targeting new grounds - we’re looking forward to Doncaster Rovers in the league this season for a first trip to the Keepmoat Stadium on August the 16th.