Saturday, 16 September 2017

SCARBOROUGH ATHLETIC (Scarborough Sports Village)


After a midweek adventure in Italy, today it was a train trip to the North Yorkshire coast. After a 10 year absence, football has returned to the seaside town of Scarborough and what better opportunity to visit their new ground than an FA Cup tie. The magic of the cup indeed!

It has been a long road back for Scarborough Athletic, the football club that was formed on 25th June 2007 following the liquidation (with debts of £2.5M) of Scarborough FC.

The new club was set up by the Seadog Trust, a group of supporters who originally started the trust with the aim of gaining fan representation on the board of Scarborough FC.

As a result of the old club’s liquidation, the Seadog Trust moved quickly to ensure a football team continued to represent the town at the highest level possible. On 25th June 2007, Scarborough Athletic were accepted into the NCEL Division 1 for the 2007/08 season, and an agreement was reached for the club to use Bridlington’s Queensgate stadium as part of a ground share with no suitable stadium able to be used in Scarborough.

Scarborough's former home, The Athletic Ground, latterly known as the McCain Stadium, was demolished in 2011 and is now a Lidl supermarket. There was a covenant on the ground which meant it could only be used for sporting activities. The liquidators applied to have the covenant lifted but this was contested by the Council. As a result, in the interim, the stadium remained empty and derelict, and was subject to vandalism.

The council decided it would be more prudent to invest in a new facility in the town rather than regenerate the old ground. Incidentally the demolition costs were met by Featherstone Rovers who purchased the two of the stands as part of the deal.

The gates at the entrance to the ground were preserved and incorporated into the new ground to serve as a lasting reminder of the "Theatre of Chips"

Old meets the new: The gates of the old Athletic Stadium
next to the entrance to the new stadium

Construction work on the new the ground began in late 2015 and the work was completed in Summer 2017. The first match to be played at the stadium was a friendly on 15th July 2017 versus Sheffield United.

The ground has a capacity of 2,070 people, with a 250 seated. There is a covered terrace behind one of the goals and the rest is flat standing. I have to admit the views are not great if you can't get a spot on the barrier. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to claim a seat in the stand this afternoon and was a good spot.

And as for today's game, there was nothing to choose between the sides. It was goalless at half-time with neither side seriously threatening to break the deadlock.

Scarborough came out fastest for the second half but their opening goal had an element of fortune. A routine back-pass to RCA 'keeper Neal Bussey was sliced by the unfortunate custodian straight into the path of Emile Sinclair, who squared the ball to Michael Coulson who fired home from inside the penalty area

After the goal RCA had a decent spell of possession but in truth Tommy Taylor in the Scarborough goal was never really troubled.  In the 83rd minute Scarborough doubled their lead when a ball in from the right was swept home by Luke Dean. There were a few chances for the home side to extend their lead late on as RCA threw bodies forward, but that would have made the scoreline look very harsh on the visitors.


The win created a little piece of history for Scarborough Athletic as this is now the furthest the club have gone in the FA Cup since their formation. They will play at home to Stratford Town in the next round.

No trip to the seaside would have been complete without some fish and chips and this helped with soakage after a visit to the excellent Stumble Inn, their selection of six ales were in absolutely fine form. Neither the food nor beer contained Parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme though!

Thursday, 14 September 2017



After overcoming MFK Ružomberok and Hajduk Split in the qualifying rounds, the Europa League draw grouped Everton with Olimpique Lyonnais, Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio and Apollon Limassol. After the fixtures were sorted, the first matchday meant a visit to Italy.

I was very excited at the prospect of a trip to Atalanta BC's grand old Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia in Bergamo but unfortunately UEFA deem the ground unfit for international competitions. Apparently bad sight lines, inadequate facilities and no roof are things to be frowned upon in modern football!

So from a Groundhopper perspective, it was bad news as the game was moved 100km down the road to the Stadio Citta del Tricolore, the home of AC Reggiana and Sassuolo, in the city of Reggio Emilia. The ‘Tricolore’ in the name is a reference to the fact that the Italian flag had its origins in Reggio Emilia in the year 1797.

Looking around the ground you can see that the name MAPEI (a firm who produce adhesives, thinsets and sealants for buildings) is quite prominent. This is the company that sponsor the ground and this arrangement has not been without its controversy. 

The ground was/is the home of AC Reggiana and it was Reggiana's promotion to Serie A in 1993 and the need for a new ground which led to the building of Stadio Citta del Tricolore. The ground was opened in 1995 with a match against Juventus but the debts of the club began to build up and, after relegation to the the third tier of Italian football, the club was dissolved in 2005 but reformed soon afterwards.

Sassuolo had spent most of their history in regional football but investment from MAPEI  ensured a meteoric rise through the leagues. In 2006 the club were in C2 (the lowest level of Italian football) but by 2013 they were in Serie A.

After Reggiana were dissolved in 2005 the ownership of the ground reverted to the Tribunal of Reggio Emilia and in 2013 they held a public auction for the naming rights of the ground and it was MAPEI who won and renamed the ground MAPEI Stadium - Città del Tricolore and also relocated Sassuoulo to the ground. This has upset some Reggiana fans and led to demonstrations s and a fans protest group "Via il Sassuolo da Reggio Emilia".

Anyhow I digress, for tonight though it is Atalanta who are the 'home' team. They are a typical yo-yo team having spent many seasons flitting between Serie A and Serie B. The club are in a period of relative stability having been in Serie A since 2011. The club have returned to European football this season for the first time since 1991 after finishing 6th in table in 2016/17.

 It was a previous foray into European football that Atalanta came to this particular football fans' attention. In 1987 the club qualified for the European Cup Winners Cup but in the first round first leg Welsh side Merthyr Tydfil beat Atalanta 2-1 at Penderryn Park, a result which sent shock waves around Europe. Ultimately though the Italians did win through 3-2 on aggregate after winning the second leg 2-0. 

This was the season after Atalanta had suffered relegation from Serie A and when they went all the way to the semi-final, where they lost to eventual winners Mechelen, they became only the second team from outside a nations top flight to go that far in European competition. The other? Well that was Cardiff City in 1968.

After the excitement of visiting the capital city, and it's array of tourist attractions, and armed with just a few bottles of Peroni, my mate and myself made our way north by train, the journey from Rome to Reggio Emilia taking about 2.5 hours.

After hearing that there will be no alcohol sales near the ground we decided to jump off the train at Bologna, check into our hostel and, after spotting them in the fridge whilst checking in, take advantage of the selection of the bottles on offer (Vecchia Orsa brewery based in Crevalcore if you are interested).

It was a 40 minute trip from Bologna to Reggio Emilia and then a 10 minute walk to Piazza Martiri del 7 luglio where food and beer stalls had been set up. It would have been rude not to. There were plenty of Evertonians in the city after the club managed to secure a hefty allocation of 4,000 tickets but I would estimate only about half that number made the journey over to Italy. There were free buses laid on to take us from the Piazza to the ground, which took about 15 minutes. 

Naturally en-route songs were being sung and the travelling Blues were in a relaxed confident mood, no doubt helped by the beer that had been sunk. That was a good as it got as far as the evening went as once again Everton produced an absolute stinker of a performance.

Atalanta dominated the game from start to finish as Everton barely registered a shot on goal worthy of the name. The 'home side' took the lead after 27 minutes when the Blues failed to deal with a corner and the ball rebounded off Phil Jagielka into the path of Andrea Masiello who prodded home.

Alejandro Gomez (41) doubled the lead with a superb curling strike before Bryan Cristante (44) ran through the Toffees' static defence and placed the ball into the corner to put the hosts 3-0 at the interval. There was a chorus of boos from the travelling contingent of Blues and some tried to leave ground but were told they had to stay to the end and suffer with the rest of us!

It was more of the same in the second half but at least Everton managed to keep Atalanta out, but this was more by luck than judgement with Atalanta hitting the woodwork. There was plenty of fume at the end of the game as Everton's woeful record in Italy continued (Played 4 Lost 4).

I am not one of these supporters who believe their team has a divine right to win all the games they play but, taking away absolutely nothing from Atalanta, there are ways to lose and the way Everton capitulated with barely a whimper was rather worrying. Once again the 90 minutes of football had spoilt an otherwise fantastic trip. The cherry on the cake was losing my hat en-route back to Bologna after the game. Che palle!

Up the Toffees!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

AS ROMA (Stadio Olimpico)


These ideas are always fine on paper but are quite exhausting when the reality kicks in!

When Everton were drawn against Italian opposition in the Europa League, I decided to extend my visit by a couple of days and get another game in. As you do. With Roma hosting Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on the Tuesday, this was a no brainer.

However the best timings for flights to Rome were from the south so my journey began with a midnight drive to Stansted. That was when reality kicked in as that meant I only had the chance to grab a couple of hours sleep on the flight over.

I arrived in Rome around 10am and a direct bus from the airport dropped me off at the main station, Termini. This allowed time for a bonus afternoon game, having been given the heads up that the Roma v Atletico youth match was taking place at Stadio Tre Fontane, the home of Roma Rugby Club. The ground was built in the late 1950's for use in the Olympic Games, which Rome hosted in 1960.

The ground has two identical stands along each touchline and both are uncovered. This was not ideal for me as it was a very sunny and hot afternoon, so I was wilting in the heat.

It was free entry and I would guess there were around 1,200 watching the match. The first half was typical tippy-tappy stuff but the game sprang to life when Atleti took the lead after 61 minutes courtesy of Alberto Salido. They were soon 2-0 up thanks to a close range header from Giovanni Navarro (see below left) but Roma got one back with 10 mins to play when Kéres Masangu scored.

Roma were denied a draw thanks to a stunning stoppage time save from Atleti's Alex Dos Santos.

It was at the Tre Fontaine that I met up with my mate who had flown in from Hamburg and after watching the game in the heat we decided to retire to the Open Baladin bar (and it's 40 or so taps) before heading off to the main event of the evening.

After losing a little time sampling many of Baladin's ales, it meant we had to get a taxi from the bar to the ground as the Stadio Olimpico is about 7km north from where we were drinking and the clock was ticking.

The taxi driver was a Roma fan and we were his last job before he headed home to watch the game. I asked him about Roma and their rivalry with Lazio. He said the were the "out of towners" and couldn't understand how anyone from the city of Rome could support anyone else but Roma. The club play in the colours of the city he exclaimed as only an Italian does!

After weaving our way through the gridlocked roads, we arrived at the ground around 45 minutes before kick off and the queues to get in were huge. This was due largely to security checking the names on the ticket against the persons ID. I assume in a bid to clamp down on ticket touting.

Once you were through that gate, there was another gate where you scanned your ticket to gain entry to the ground. Even then more security were checking your ticket against your ID. So it seems if you manged to dodge through the first line they will get you at the second.

I was at my seat in time to hear the fans belt out the club anthem of "Roma Roma Roma". Stirring stuff. The seats on the halfway line were very good, especially when you consider there is an athletics track surrounding the pitch.

Stadio Olimpico was built to serve as the centrepiece of the Foro Italia sports complex, a project initiated by the regime of Mussolini. The ground was opened in 1937 as the Stadio dei Cipressi, with grass terraces. Building was halted as a result of World War II and it wasn't until 1953 that the two-tiered concrete structure was in place. The ground, now called the Stadio dei Centomila, was inaugurated with a match between Italy and Hungary.

The ground was used as the main stadium for the 1960 Olympic games and was renamed Stadio Olimpico to reflect this status. The ground was used for major football events, such as the 1968 and 1980 European Championships and the 1977 and 1984 European Cup Finals, but remained largely unchanged until Italy hosted the World Cup in 1990.


Initial plans were for renovation but they changed and led to the ground being demolished and completely rebuilt. The stands were now closer to the pitch and now had a roof. Italy played five tournament at the stadium but it was West Germany who won, beating Argentina 1-0 in the final. This was another reason my mate from Hamburg was made up to visit here tonight as he said it was great to finally be at the ground, even if his arrival was 27 years too late!!

The last major refurbishment the Stadio Olimpico underwent was in 2007 to keep it eligible to host future Champions League finals. This included, among other things, the replacement of all seats, the partial removal of the plastic glass fences between spectators and the field and an increase of toilet facilities. The ground is now classed as a UEFA Elite stadium.

AS Roma have plans to leave the Stadio Olympico and in 2014 presented their plans for the Stadio della Roma, which they hope to in by 2021. The stadium plans, incidentally, were drawn up by the same architect who is currently designing the proposed new Everton ground at Bramley Moore Docks.

The match tonight finished goalless but it was largely due to some inspired goalkeeping, especially from Roma's Brazilian stopper Alisson. It was a good game to watch but Roma definitely got away with it tonight. Saul hit the post twice as Atletico dominated the chances and they must be cursing their luck at only coming away with a point.

There were plenty of buses around the ground after the match to take fans back into the city centre. We managed to get back to Open Baladin just after midnight in order for some post match analysis before my body finally have up around 2am. It had certainly been a long day!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

CRIBBS FC (The Lawns)


It was an international weekend so I was heading south to watch Wales v Austria in Cardiff but, after scanning the fixture lists, I decided to take a slight diversion and take in a Western League game.

Cribbs were taking on Wells City at their immaculate home, The Lawns, which has been their base since 1978. Bristol Rovers also use the facilities for their training base.

Cribbs were actually founded in 1958, in London, as the works team for Sun Life Assurance. When Sun Life relocated to Bristol in 1976 the club joined the Bristol and Avon League but when The Lawns was opened they immediately joined the Avon Premier Combination League.

The club were promoted to the Gloucester League, as champions, in 2000. In 2012 the club won the Gloucester League, and cup for good measure, and were promoted to the Western League. In 2015 the club finished 3rd in Division One and were promoted to the Premier Division where they remain to this day.

In the meantime AXA had merged with Sun Life and the club changed their name to reflect this. In 2002 the Sun Life was dropped and the club was simply known as AXA FC. Following another company merger in 2011 the club became known as Cribbs Friends Life FC but in 2013 the company closed and the club renamed itself Cribbs Football Club.

This was the second time these two teams had met this season with Wells winning 2-1 in the FA Cup on the opening weekend of the season. This afternoon the conditions were perfect for football, with the sun shining and the pitch looking like a bowling green.

It was an very open first half but it was Cribbs who created the better of the many chances. However, after taking the lead after 13 minutes through Jacob Hodgson, they found themselves behind after goals from Darren Maynard (22) and Harry Davidson (37). It was all square at half time thanks to an equaliser from Charlie Aldom (41).

As is the case in games like this, the respective mangers made sure things were tightened up during the break so the second half was not as open. The game was decided eight minutes from the end when Cribbs were awarded a penalty and it was Hodgson who duly converted to seal the victory.

A superb day of football was completed in Cardiff as Wales beat Austria 1-0 to keep alive hopes of World Cup qualification.