Friday, 14 April 2017

Aldershot Town F.C. - The Recreation Ground

Aldershot Town F.C.
Aldershot Town F.C.
The Recreation Ground Stadium
High Street
GU11 1TW

Ground Number: 40
Date: Saturday 18th March 2017
Score: Aldershot Town F.C. 2-0 Sutton United F.C.
Competition: Vanarama National League
Attendance: 2,197

Aldershot Town, a team that I have wanted to visit for around 4 years now and I started to want to go and groundhop to Aldershot Town when they were promoted to the football league around 9 years ago and at that time, I always used to play as Aldershot on FIFA as they were one of the more local teams to me on FIFA and this made me want to visit the club. When Aldershot were relegated back down to the National League, I lost pretty much all interest in the club as this was the time when I started to become a proper Sutton supporter and started to follow Sutton away as well as home and this meant that Sutton were my main priority and I had lost interest in trying to go to Aldershot.
I started to gain some interest in Aldershot again during the summer holidays of 2016 when I decided to take on the challenge of managing Aldershot on Football Manager 2015 and I was managing Aldershot for around 3 seasons on Football Manager and got them promoted twice (up to League One) and this meant I had played Football Manager for around a month as Aldershot manager in real time and I decided to buy an Aldershot scarf online for £12 as I kind of started to like the club again.
My kind of love for Aldershot Town has kind of been there for the past 9 or so years from me playing as them on FIFA and me managing them on Football Manager but when my dad announced to me that he had the day off for Aldershot away a week before the game, I was so happy and it felt like Sutton had just won a game in the last minute because I was really excited that after around 5 or so years, I will finally be visiting Aldershot Town F.C.
The week before the game went very slowly mainly due to me being at college on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday but was more likely to be because I was very excited that I am going to be visiting Aldershot Town on Saturday. My four days at college were not too stressful which was quite rare because college is normally stressful for me but this week seemed to be a lot more relaxed for some reason. Friday finally arrived and I had to go through one more day of college before the big day at Aldershot Town and the day was quite relaxed, the work was not very hard and we wasn't given too much and this meant I was able to come home in a good mood and I was staying round my dads tonight which meant I had to get all my stuff together for the weekend ready for when he comes round. Once I got home, I got all of my things together and I had a spare 15 minutes so I decided to look into the history of Aldershot Town F.C.
Aldershot Town F.C. were founded in 1992 and were the re-formation of the previously club Aldershot F.C. who folded in 1992. The club play in red and blue and their nicknames are `The Shots` and `The Rising Phoenix`. They currently play at The Recreation Ground which has a capacity of 7,100 and there are 2,136 seats. When the newly formed Aldershot Town F.C. were formed, they entered the Isthmian League Division Three in 1992 and their attendance for the clubs first competitive fixture had a higher attendance then the old Aldershot F.C. last ever game. Aldershot won the Isthmian League Division Three in their first season by 18 points and the club was promoted to the Isthmian League Division Two. After finishing in 3rd in their first year in the Isthmian League Division Two, the club were then promoted again and now they were competing in the Isthmian League Division One. The club remained in the Isthmian League First Division until the 1997/98 season when they were promoted to the Isthmian Premier Division and they played for the first time in the Premier Division in the 1998/99 season.
Then in the 2002/03 season, Aldershot won the Isthmian League Premier Division and they were promoted to the Conference and they entered the Conference for the 2003/04 season. The club competed well in the Conference for four long seasons and the club was finally promoted to the Football League in the 2007/08 season when they were the champions of the Conference. The newly formed Aldershot Town made it back to the Football League in 16 years and they entered the Football League in the 2008/09 season. The club competed in League Two for 5 season before finally getting relegated back down to the Conference in the 2012/13 season and since that year, the club have been battling it out in the Conference Premier.
So the day of the game finally arrived and the moment I woke up, I got straight out of bed and saw that I woke up quite late because I woke up at 8:15am which is very late for a Saturday as I normally find myself waking up at around 7am on a Saturday so I had a lye in as well which didn't hurt as we wasn't planning on leaving until 11ish. So after I woke up, I had a nice refreshing warm shower which really woke up and I had a nice breakfast which consisted of toasted muffins with butter which is one of my favourite breakfast options.
So after I finished filming my match day vlog intro which took around 5 minutes, I got all of my things together that I was taking to the game, I put my jumper on and then we went out to the car and put everything in the boot and then we finally left my dads house at 10:50am. We then had to drive up to my Uncle Ben`s house as we were taking him to the ground as well and we drove up to Banstead to pick him up and we got to his house at 11:12am and he had to get his things ready but he only took a minute and we left his house at 11:15am. We then had to drove up the A3 which would take us near to Aldershot and the A3 was pretty quiet which was really good because it meant we was able to drive there quickly and we turned off the A3 around 5 miles from Aldershot and then we had to drive down some small roads and we finally arrived in Aldershot at 12:15pm and we passed thre ground on the way and the town wasn't very busy and we headed for a car park which was around a 5/10 minute walk from the stadium.
We arrived at the car park at 12:22pm and we parked the car and had a quick walk to see what kind of places there were to eat in Aldershot and us being us headed straight for the Burger King and me being me had a bacon double cheese XL meal with coke, my dad had the chicken royale meal and my uncle Ben had like four small burgers and a coffee for £7. Once we started to eat, I started to really get in the mood for football because I just wanted to go to the stadium but next up on the list was to visit a local pub for a drink so we finished our Burger King at 12:50pm and we headed for the Crimea pub which is heavily suggested for away fans and we got to the pub at 12:57pm and the pub was very traditional and had a few of our close Sutton United friends inside and I got a pint of coke and the pub also had a dart board so me and a few of the other Sutton fans had a couple of games of darts.
We spent nearly an hour in the Crimea but after a few games of darts against my uncle and my mate Luke, I finished my pint of coke and we started to head off to the ground at 1:49pm and the ground was just a few minutes away so we slowly walked down to the ground and we got to the Recreation Ground at 2pm. Before I went through the turnstiles, I went in the club shop and I purchased a Aldershot Town pin badge for £4 to add to my collection of ground hopping pin badges. Once we got in the ground, we headed round to the where the away fans are normally segregated but the game today was not segregated but most of the Sutton fans stood/sat together. When we got to the area we was going in, we found out we only had a small seated section of around 150 seats and the open terrace we was hoping to go on was closed so I decided to put my flags up but around 20 minutes before kick off, they opened the terrace, so I took my flags down and put them up on the terrace. I then had a good chance to look at the ground.
The Recreation Ground is a lovely stadium and is one of my favourites that I have visited so far. I like how the ground is situated next to the high street but is covered by trees which gives the ground a rural feel to it. On one side is the North Stand. This was built by the supporters club in 1932, in preparation for the old Aldershot FC joining the league. It was built on top of some much older stone terracing, and is raised slightly above pitch level where the stone base of the terracing can still be seen. It originally had bench seating only in the front, central sections, but this was replaced with individual seats when new dressing rooms and offices and the Directors box were added in 1980. Further seating was also added in 2008 on Aldershot town’s promotion to the League to bring the total seats in the ground close to 2,000. However both ends and a small section behind the seats are still standing. The stand has two quirks, due to the way it was first built: the roof does not quite cover the first row or two of the seats; also, it was not built level, so when seen from across the pitch it is visibly higher towards its east end. 
At one end is the East Bank covered terrace. This stand has a classic looking barrel shaped roof and has a number of supporting pillars running across the front of it. Opposite is the High Street End. Until 2013 this area was unused for spectators having just a narrow path and some advertising hoardings. However to help the Club comply with League rules stipulating the number of seats that a ground must have, then a small prefabricated covered area was erected on one side of this end (towards the Main Stand). Called the Community Stand it comprises just four rows of seats and only runs from the corner flag to the goal area. It has a total seating capacity of 250. On the other side of this end is a two storey green portakabin that serves as a Police Control Box, otherwise this end is unused for spectators. The ground benefits from an impressive set of floodlights which I really like. (Description of The Recreation Ground is sourced from Football Ground Guide).
I love the Recreation Ground because it has a true non-league feeling to it and I like the way how the ground has a very traditional feeling to it and the changes that the club has done such as adding the small seated stand behind the goal all fits in with the stadium and it doesn't ruin the grounds tradition. After I put my flags up on the open terrace, I had some time to go and get some chips from the tea hut and the chips were really nice, they were not burnt or crusty, they were cooked perfectly and tasted amazing. I would really recommend getting a portion of chips when you go to Aldershot Town F.C.
So kick off was nearing and the Sutton fans were starting pour in and there were around 200 (216 announced) loyal Sutton fans who had made the 35 mile trip to Aldershot and for a small club like ourselves, a 216 loyal away support is really good. The teams came out and there was a huge roar from all around the stadium as both sets of fans clapped and cheered as their teams entered the pitch. The game kicked off and the Sutton loyal started to sing our normal songs and there were a decent amount of us singing as there was about a good 30 of us chanting and even when we got a corner or throw in, all of the Sutton fans clapped and it was quite loud. The Aldershot fans had a drummer and the drummer was okay, the rhythm wasn't always perfect but it seemed to work and there were around a good 200 Aldershot fans chanting but they kept on repeating the same 4/5 chants which was a bit disappointing because we have around 10/12 chants and we have a wider range of chants.
Sutton were dominating and we scored but unfortunately our player was offside, this meant the goal didn't count. Sutton continued to attack and had many good chances but Aldershot managed to catch us on the counter attack just before half time and Will Puddy deflected the shot into his own net and Aldershot found themselves 1-0 up at half time and was much not deserved as Sutton should have been at least 3-1 up at half time. My half time snack was chocolate coated rice crispy cakes and cookies and I had a chat with the other Sutton fans and we all still believed that we should be winning and we can still get something out of the game.
The second half started and Aldershot seem to be a bit better and Sutton just seemed to become less confident and we was giving away chances. Sutton had a few chances to get back into the game but we just didn't take our chances and Aldershot continued to attack and Sutton were punished in the 90th minute as Aldershot scored to seal the game and make the three points safe. The full time whistle went and we clapped the players off and I thought to myself that only losing 2-0 to a team that are around 8 places above us is not the worst result but we definitely deserved a point at the least.
I took my flags down and we headed back for the car and when we was walking out of the ground, a couple of elderly Aldershot fans said that we deserved to win the game and they wished us luck for the rest of the season. We left the ground at 5pm and headed back to the car park. The roads and paths were very busy which meant it took us a bit longer to get back to the car park but we finally got back to the car at 5:13pm. We were all disappointed that we didn't get anything from the game because we deserved a point at the absolute minimum.
We drove out of Aldershot and within a few minutes of driving, we were back in Surrey which was a shock because we thought that Aldershot was much further from Surrey but we drove up towards the A3 and there was a bit of traffic as there was a road accident but the traffic cleared after around 5 minutes and once we got on the A3, the journey was a piece of cake as there was no traffic and the roads were not too busy. We dropped my uncle Ben at his house at 6:20pm and we dropped our mate Tony off at his house at 6:42pm and we finally got home at 6:50pm. We got home and had a little bite to eat and then I had a quick shower before going to bed. I would definitely recommend going to Aldershot Town because it is quite friendly and the stadium is really unique.

Stadium: 8/10
Bar: 8/10
Food and Drink: 8/10
Atmosphere: 9/10
Friendliness: 8/10
Value For Money: 9/10
Overall Rating: 8.3/10

Monday, 3 April 2017

Solihull Moors F.C. - Damson Park

Solihull Moors F.C.
Solihull Moors F.C.
Damson Park Stadium
Damson Parkway
West Midlands
B91 2PP

Ground Number: 39
Date: Saturday 11th February 2017
Score: Solihull Moors F.C. 3-0 Sutton United F.C.
Competition: Vanarama National League
Attendance: 671

With Sutton`s away form still very bad, I still find it very addicting to go to away games because I am one of the people who are unable to go to every single away game which means if there is an opportunity to go to an away game, I have to take that opportunity and this weeks game was actually quite exciting for me because on Saturday, Sutton were playing away to Solihull Moors who were National League North champions and I was more excited because I had not been to many ex-National League North grounds before and Damson Park would allow me to tick another ground off my list.
The trains tickets from Euston to Birmingham International had been booked a few weeks ago and now it was only a few days before the game and as the hours went past, I got more excited because Damson Park would be ground number 40 for my blog and ground number 44 for me as I am waiting to do blogs on a couple of teams that I have already visited but I am waiting till I revisit them to do a blog on them as I am planning to go back to those grounds in the coming few months. The day before the game had arrived and I had to go to college and once I had finished college at 4:45, I went straight home to get my stuff as I was staying round my dads tonight. Once I got back to my dads and had a shower, I looked into the history of Solihull Moors F.C. before I went to bed.
Solihull Moors F.C. were formed in 2007 and the club was formed by the merger of Moor Green F.C. and Solihull Borough F.C. The clubs nickname is `The Moors` and they play in the colours of red and yellow. The club currently play at Damson Park which has a capacity of 3,050 and there are apparently 770 seats but seems to be more like 850/900. The newly formed Solihull Moors F.C. started out in the Conference North and in their first season (2007/08) they finished 17th. In the 2008/09 season, Solihull managed to make some progress but only by one place as they finished 16th but they did bring in 8 new players. The 2009/10 season didn't see much progress for Solihull as they finished 17th in the league but in the 2010/11 season, Solihull managed to finish in an impressive 7th in the league. The following few season saw Solihull finish in the same kind of position in the league but at the end of the 2015/16 season, Solihull managed to fight their way to win the Conference North and were promoted to the Conference Premier (National League Premier).
So the day of the game had finally arrived and I got up at 7:18am which was quite late for an away day because I normally find myself up at around 5am for an away day so I kind of counted this morning as a lye in for a football away day. Once I woke up, I quickly had a shower and had a wash and after getting out the shower, I felt very refreshed. I then had a small breakfast which was a couple of toasted muffins. We then cleaned up and got everything ready and we finally left my dads house at 8:17am. The roads were pretty quiet which was very good as it meant we was able to drive up to South Wimbledon without hitting any problems or traffic. The roads were so quiet, we managed to get to our parking spot where we like to park when we get the tube in 10 minutes after leaving my dads house. Once the car was parked, we got everything out of the car that we was taking and we made the short 5 or so minute walk to South Wimbledon tube station. When we got to the station, I quickly checked the balance on my Oyster Card to make sure I had enough balance to get to Euston and I had just over £5 on my card which was very handy as it meant I didn't have to top it up.
I tapped in and headed for the escalators down to the platforms and as soon as I stepped onto the escalator, the smell of the London Underground hit me and it is something that all Londoners will know about and only people who have been on the London Underground will understand but with me being born and travelling around London for my whole life, I am more than used to the smell. Once we got to the Northbound platform, the next train was a 2 minute wait and the train arrived into South Wimbledon at 8:43am and we stayed on the Northern Line until Stockwell and we then changed to the Victoria Line as it is much quicker to Euston than the Northern Line. The Victoria Line train was a little bit more busy but the main thing is the trains on the Victoria Line are more relaxing so the journey to Euston was a bit more relaxing and calm.
We finally arrived into Euston at 9:12am and when we got off the train, it seemed that pretty much everyone who was on our train was getting off as well. We followed the signs which directed us to the National Rail section of Euston and once we reached the main area in Euston, it was pretty busy but we was expecting it to be busy anyway. We then went to collect our tickets from the ticket machine and then we went to the departure boards to check whether our train had even arrived into Euston yet and it hadn't so we decided to go and have a proper breakfast as we only had time for a couple of muffins earlier in the morning, so we headed to Prime Burger which is in Euston Station at 9:40am and I got a Tropicana and a bacon roll which cost around £5 which was very expensive but food and drink at train stations are very expensive especially in the UK.
Prime Burger was scattered with other travellers and other football fans and there were some Chelsea and Tottenham fans sitting next to us and we heard that they travel all around the country to watch their team which was quite rare for me to hear because it is rare that I even hear a premier league fan going to a game at home let alone an away game so it made me realise that there are really some loyal fans of Premier League clubs but I am still much against how the Premier League is run and the amount of wage Premier League players receive.
After about 10 minutes of waiting, my bacon roll and my dads toast was ready and my dad got up to go and get them from the counter and when I took a bite in my bacon roll, it tasted really nice but the roll itself was not very soft which was a shame because I don't really like hard bacon rolls. After we finished eating, we headed back down to the departure boards to check whether our platform had been announced yet so we went to WHSmith and had a look at the magazines and me being me picked up an aviation magazine as have a strong interest in aviation as well as football and I read some of the articles about some commercial airlines but the magazines were around £5 which were much too expensive to buy and my dad being himself went and picked up a car magazine. After standing in WHSmith for around 5 or 10 minutes reading some magazines, we headed back to the departure boards and we sat down and had a chat about the game and some of the other fixtures in the other leagues and soon enough my dad received a text from Virgin Trains telling us we was able to board the train so we went straight to the platform and we had booked seats in the quiet coach which is right at the front of the train which meant we had a long walk and when we walked outside, it started to snow which was a surprise but we finally boarded the train at 10:52am.
Our seats were facing the opposite way the train was travelling and we didn't have a clear window seat and we didn't have any plug sockets to charge my phone which made me quite annoyed but I stayed positive and put my headphones on and listened to some music and the train finally departed Euston at 11:03am. The journey felt quite quick and was probably because I was listening to music for a large part of the journey and we only had to stop at like two stations but the journey was very relaxing and the songs I was listening to on my phone were increasing my excitement and made me more excited for the game. We finally pulled into Birmingham International at 12:19pm and we had to run to catch the 966 bus which was due to leave the station at 12:20pm but we managed to catch the bus and we paid for a ticket which took us to right outside the ground. The journey was very enjoyable for me as the bus went right past the runway at Birmingham International Airport and I could see a number of different aircraft and airlines which made me very happy as I am very interested in aviation.
The bus trip to the ground was quite short and we was at the ground at 12:26pm which meant the ground is only around 5/6 minutes away by bus. The ground seemed very small from the outside and that due to the fact that the ground is very small and is one of the smallest in the Vanarama National League. I took some pictures of the outside of the ground and we then went in the bar and my mates Johnnie, Ryan and Owen were already in the bar and they were watching the Arsenal v Hull City game and as soon as I sat down, I felt so relaxed as the seats in the bar are very comfortable. I had a pint of coke in the bar and my dad settled for a coffee and I found that my phone battery was quite low which was mainly due to the reason that I couldn't charge it on the train so I used a plug socket in the bar that wasn't being used to charge my phone. I then had a chat to Johnnie, Ryan and Owen about the game and we all thought we would be happy with a point as our away form is pretty bad and I agreed with them because the way we have been playing away from home recently, I would be over the moon with a point. I sat in the bar for a good hour and a half and at 2pm, I headed out to the ground as I needed to take some pictures of the ground.
I paid £8 to get in as a concession as I am a student and £8 for concessions is not that bad. Once I paid to get in, I was searched for security reasons which was pretty intimidating seeing as the game wasn't very big and there wasn't any risks of any violence etc. Once I passes through the search, I went into the club shop and purchased a Solihull Moors F.C. pin badge for £3 as I am collecting the pin badges of all the clubs I have visited. I then went around the ground to take some pictures and when I was taking some pictures, I felt that I didn't really like Damson Park but I do like how the ground has tradition.
Damson Park has a capacity of 3,050 and the ground has an open feel to it as it is mostly comprised of small stands and open flat standing areas. There is some seating in front of the Social Club building and up above there has been constructed a viewing platform for club officials and sponsors, which gives it a strange look. At the Damson Lane End is a small covered stand, which oddly has a mix of terrace and seating. I assume that the seats were added at some point to fulfil league requirements. Opposite is a small covered terrace was put in place at the end of 2016 and was originally located at Maidstone United F.C. Although only a few steps high, it has a capacity of 550. The remaining East side of the ground is mostly open to the elements. On one side is a small covered temporary seated stand, which was erected before the start of the 2016/17 season. The remainder of the this East side consists of some flat pathway and a perimeter fence. Just inside the main turnstiles is a small club shop housed in a porta cabin. The ground has a set of seven tall floodlight pylons, three of which are located on the Main Stand side and four running down the opposite side. (Description of Damson Park is sourced from Football Ground Guide).
Once I had walked around the ground and had taken some pictures, I went and got a cheeseburger then I went round to the Damson Lane End and clipped up my flags and then me and my dad had an interview with someone who was doing a video about the game and I was asked questions about our FA 5th Round tie against Arsenal. Then around 20 minutes before kick off, a bunch of teenagers which we called the `Solihull Youth` started randomly chanting some chants and were acting all hard and acting like hooligans. Then the teams came out and to our luck we was kicking the way I had clipped my flags up and the game kicked off and the majority of the Sutton fans came and stood with us. Within a few minutes of the game starting, Sutton found themselves one-nile down. The Sutton fans slightly became louder to show our support and luckily it seemed to work as we had a few chances to get back on level terms but it seemed like the ball just didn't want to go in the back of the net. Then we seemed to have a stroke of luck as we were awarded a penalty and Jamie Collins stepped up but the Solihull keeper saved Jamie's shot to keep Sutton at bay.
Both teams continued to press on and create chances for the remained of the first half but it seemed to benefit Solihull as they managed to clinch another goal in stoppage time before the half time whistle was blown. The half time whistle was blown and we took our flags down and walked round to the other end and clipped them up on the covered terrace and we all thought that this was a perfect example of Sutton`s typical away form this season. About 5 minutes before the second half kicked off, the so called `Solihull Youth came round to us and started acting all hard so the stewards got involved as they stood on the terrace we was kicking towards and when the stewards started to walk towards them, they all started running which showed that they are all cowards. They can give it all to the away fans but when the stewards get involved, they get all scared.
Sutton came out in the second half looking a little bit better which meant Doswell gave them a good talk during half time and we were creating many chances but the ball just didn't want to go in the back of the net and Solihull kept on catching us on the break/counter attack and it hit us right in the back as in the 70th minute, Solihull got a third goal and pretty much put the game to bed. Me and the rest of the young Sutton fans continued to chant and sing to show our support for our team and some of the others started some chants as well but the atmosphere had just seemed to drop massively.
With about 15 minutes to go, the floodlights in the ground went out and some floodlights on a nearby training centre or football facility also went out which meant we was able to finally laugh about something and this reminded me of when Sutton played a pre-season friendly away at our local rivals Carshalton Athletic last season as the floodlights in that game kept on going out. The full time whistle finally blew and the Sutton loyal who had travelled up to the West Midlands clapped their team and the players came over to us and said they were sorry about the performance and we all said that these things happen and this is one of the reasons why I love Sutton United, it is because the players are honest and the fans are not people who moan at their players for losing, they stick by their players and Jamie Collins came up to me and said `sorry` and I said "look, our away form has been very bad and we are expecting to stay up this year so don't put pressure on yourself about having to get all the points, we have many games where we can get the three points that we need to stay up so don't worry, I'm glad you said sorry and have a good trip back Jamie".
We waited for Johnnie to put all of his flags away and we left Damson Park at 4:41pm and we had 21 minutes to get back to the station and whilst walking back, we did a few chants to keep up our spirits and when we were passing the runway at Birmingham International Airport, a Ryanair flew past and me and my mate Ryan started chanting some football chants but added Ryanair to it instead as out names are both Ryan and made me laugh and made me proud to love football and love aviation. Then we got kind of lost and we only had around 30 minutes till our train left Birmingham International so me and my dad left Johnnie, Ryan and Owen as they were getting a later train and me and my dad had to run the last 10 minutes to catch the train.
When we got to the station, we had a few minutes to spare so we relaxed for a couple of minutes and we finally got back on the train at 6:02pm. When we got on the train, we had a clear window seat and a plug socket which mean I was able to charge my phone. About 30 minutes into the journey, the driver said there were problems ahead so we had changed onto the tracks which go to Northampton and we would go to London that way. This meant we was going to be back at Euston around 20 minutes late so me and my dad went to the buffet cart and go some dinner which was a hot tomato and chasse roll, a sandwich and crisps. Then we started talking to an Aston Villa fan on the train who was a season ticket holder in the Holte End and we found out that he lives in Brighton and still goes to every game and he was interested about us and we talked about football in general which was really good and it made the time fly by and we finally reached Euston at 8:19pm.
We wished the Aston Villa fan good luck for the rest of the season and he wished us luck and we replied by saying "yep we need all the luck we can get" and we headed back down to the Victoria Line and had a 1 minute wait. The train wasn't particularly busy and we got off at Stockwell and changed onto the Northern Line and we finally got back to South Wimbledon at 9:01pm. We walked back to the car and drove back to my dads house and the roads were very quiet and as soon as I got back to my dads at 9:25pm, I jumped on the bed and said "what a day".

Stadium: 6/10
Bar: 7/10
Food and Drink: 7/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Friendliness: 7/10
Value For Money: 7/10
Overall Rating: 6.7/10