Thursday, 17 February 2011


27 March 2010
Marlow 3  Bedworth United 3
Zamaretto Southern League, Division One Central
Attendance: 103
View all photographs (68)

Marlow Football Club is one of the oldest in existence: founded in 1870 as Great Marlow. One of the original 15 entrants to the FA Cup the following year, the club remains the only one to have entered the competition in every year since its inception.

In 1881-82 Marlow reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, only to be beaten by Old Etonians, at Kennington Oval. More recently, in 1992-93 they reached the 3rd Round proper and were rewarded with a home tie against Tottenham Hotspur. The game was switched to White Hart Lane, with Spurs winning 5-1. The same round was reached again two seasons later, with Marlow this time going down at Swindon Town.

After the Great War the club was forced to move from its ground at Crown Meadow, to rather basic surroundings at Star Meadow. This was unsatisfactory and Marlow were demoted as a consequence - an early example of ground grading!

Demotion prompted the club’s Honorary Secretary Alfred Davis to appeal for funding which enabled the club to purchase the ground in Oak Tree Road. Davis contributed much of the funding himself but sadly did not live to see the ground opened in 1924. Quite properly the ground was named in his memory, and one of the walls on the front of the stand carries a very attractive ornate wrought iron memorial. Trees were also planted to commemorate the work of Davis in 1936. The splendid wooden stand dates from 1930.

The ground had remained largely unchanged since my previous visit in 2004, although a pile of 'reclaimed' crush barriers, optimistically acquired from neighbours Wycombe Wanderers, was evidence behind the far goal.

Currently competing in the Central Division of the Zamaretto-sponsored Southern League, the visitors on this occasion were Bedworth United. As can be seen from the photographs it was grey and overcast for most of the afternoon, and a significant portion of the first half was spent in frustration, sheltering from heavy cloudbursts. Marlow led three times in the match but also conceded three goals themselves.

Ipswich Wanderers

13 March 2010
Ipswich Wanderers 1  March Town United 2
Eastern Counties League, Division One
Attendance: 39
View all photographs (73)

A relatively young club, Ipswich Wanderers FC originated as an under-14 boys' team in 1980. Eight years later, as Loadwell Ipswich FC the club was a founder member of Division One of the Eastern Counties League and in 1989 changed its name to Ipswich Wanderers FC.

The SEH Sports Ground in Humber Doucy Lane on the outskirts of Ipswich is gloriously ramshackle and in many ways a quintessential non-League venue, maintained by the hard work of a small but loyal group of volunteers. Blue and white painted corrugated iron predominates but the club can at least boast spectator cover on three sides. The oldest structures are the small seated stand and now disused dugouts on the near side of the pitch. Of particular interest are the wooden seats in the former, salvaged from Ipswich Town's Portman Road home and complete with erstwhile sponsors' name plates.

With their Football League neighbours at home, the usually small crowd was even sparser than usual for the visit of March Town United but the club officials were in good spirits and very welcoming, with tongues firmly in cheeks as I was asked not to photograph any of the dents! Whilst some might ridicule such a venue, for me it represents an antidote to the bland concrete 'bowl' and is emblematic of what 'real' non-League football is all about; a far cry from the exorbitance of the Premier League.

Windsor & Eton

6 March 2010
Windsor & Eton 4   Paulton Rovers 0
Zamaretto Southern League, Division One South & West
Attendance: 165
View all photographs (52)

Another non-League club with a long history, Windsor & Eton Temperance FC was formed on the 18 August 1892 by a merger of Windsor Phoenix and Windsor St. Albans. In 1893 the new club merged with Windsor Victoria and entered the first FA Amateur Cup. In 1902 the club was the subject of a take over, with the name being shortened as a consequence. Among prominent people connected with the club in this era was HRH Prince Christian. The royal patronage then continued with Kings George V and VI up to the present patron HRH The Duke of Edinburgh; hence the club nickname of 'The Royalists'.

The club moved to Stag Meadow on the edge of Windsor Great Park, in 1912 when the Royal Commission granted the club use of the field for a peppercorn rent, with free rein to expand at any time although it would appear that things aren't quite as straightforward today! Another change is that the club now finds itself immediately below the approach to Heathrow Airport, with planes flying overhead every few minutes.

In the 1920s the first wooden grandstand was erected at the ground, meaning the players no longer had to change in neighbouring pubs. This survived until 1943 when it burned down in mysterious cicumstances. Its replacement, dating from 1948, remains the focal point of the ground.

In a healthy position at the top of the Zamaretto Division One South & West (Southern League) table, Windsor welcomed third-placed Paulton Rovers to Stag Meadow with the visitors needed to maintain their own position in order to secure a play-off spot, having placed more games than those behind them. But it was the home side who consolidated their own position as champions-elect with a convincing victory. Such a shame that more spectators weren't there to see it, despite the initiative of not charging admission for U16s.

Windsor & Eton FC (Holdings) Ltd was officially wound up in the High Court on 2 February 2011 ending any hope of survival for Windsor & Eton FC. Having decided not to contest the winding up order from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs the curtain was finally brought down on the Club.

Club president, commentator Barry Davies, told BBC Berkshire: "The FA doesn't seem to be too generous to the lesser clubs.” “Not enough money in football these days filters down. It's one law for the rich and another for the poor.” He added: “There have been others at a very much higher level who've been bailed out in one fashion or another … It's a huge shame because a lot of unknown people will be suffering, people who've given their time for the club.”

Former Director Kevin Stott is now working with Crown Estates to ensure transfer of the Club’s lease to enable the social facilities to remain open. Stott is also in the process of putting together plans to resurrect the Club, under a new name, ready for the start of the 2011/12 season.


27 February 2010
Gresley 1  Whitehawk 3
FA Vase, Quarter Final
Attendance: 861
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Gresley’s Moat Ground had long been on my ‘hit list’ of grounds to visit, particularly since a move away from its tight confines has long been on the agenda of the Football Club.

Given the small size of the village of Church Gresley it is remarkable that the former Gresley Rovers FC managed to sustain a long spell in the Southern League (including six seasons in its Premier Division) and then the Northern Premier (Unibond) League over seventeen seasons. Unfortunately financial mismanagement by the previous regime and a six figure debt saw the club liquidated at the end of the 2008/09 season, and replaced by a new incarnation, minus the ‘Rovers’ suffix.

Accordingly, the new club had to start life several steps further down the non-League Football Pyramid, in the East Midlands Counties League, hence their participation in the FA Vase. Gresley’s opponents were Brighton-based Whitehawk, currently top of the Sussex County League, and looking a good bet for promotion.

The Moat Ground dates from 1909 and is hemmed in by the surrounding housing, with the covered areas behind each goal particularly narrow, as I discovered whilst trying to work my way through the bumper 861-strong crowd (more than four times Gresley’s usual attendance) with two cameras and a rucksack!

After a week of snow and torrential rain, the weather relented for just long enough for the tie to take place, but returned with a vengeance during the match, becoming increasingly wet and gloomy. Scott Kirkwood gave the Hawks a 17th minute lead and they looked set go in ahead at half-time before Matt Hill scored directly from a corner kick in first half stoppage time. Kicking down the slope in the second half, the equaliser gave Gresley some imputus, but Whitehawk soon regained their composure and ran out comfortable winners with two second half Wes Tate goals (pictured with Joint Manager George Parris).

Something I always endeavour in my photographs is to capture the essence of the occasion, and in particular to highlight all the volunteers who work so tirelessly behind the scenes. I think I achieved the latter to some degree at Gresley. A big thanks to all those who made me feel so welcome … and were happy to pose for the camera.


6 February 2010
Clapton 0  Enfield 1893 5
Essex Senior League
Attendance: approx. 30
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Founder members of the Southern League in 1894 along with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur; and then the Isthmian League in 1905, Clapton enjoyed their fair share of success after moving to their new home in 1888 after previously playing on Hackney Marshes and Elms Lane. The new ground was just behind the now boarded-up public house from which it took its name. Clapton were FA Amateur Cup finalists on six occasions, lifting the trophy on five. Even before joining the Southern League, crowds in excess of 3,000 would converge on the ground for friendly matches.

Looking around at The Old Spotted Dog Ground as kick-off approached it was hard to imagine 12,000 converging on the ground for a fixture against Spurs in November 1898, when temporary stands were erected to accommodate the spectators.

Walking from Forest Gate station, past the plethora of shops and restaurants that now cater for a large Muslim population it is not difficult to understand why Clapton are struggling for support, notwithstanding poor performances on the pitch. With West Ham United only ten minutes down the road, it will always be an uphill struggle to build a fanbase from a local demographic that is no longer football-oriented, with those who do show an interest more likely to be attracted to nearby Sporting Bengal or London APSA.

Now struggling near the foot of the Essex Senior League, having lost their continuous membership after finishing bottom of the Isthmian League in 2006, Clapton faced another club with an illustrious non-League pedigree, also fallen on hard times albeit for different reasons. Clapton may be struggling but at least they still have a ground they can call their own; the controversial sale of Enfield’s Southbury Road home in 1999 was the beginning of the end for Enfield FC.

In 2007 the club was disbanded and reformed after a losing a legal battle to remove the former owner’s debts. The new name of Enfield 1893 incorporated the year of the original club’s foundation, and distinguished it as the ‘real’ Enfield club, not Enfield Town FC, founded by disillusioned supporters as a ‘Fans’ Club’ six years earlier having seen the writing on the wall.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Chertsey Town

6 February 2010
Chertsey Town 1  Whitley Bay 1 aet
FA Vase, 5th Round
Attendance: 614
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Fifth Round FA Vase action as Surrey-based Chertsey Town of the Combined Counties League, and emphatic 6-0 winners over Plymouth Parkway in the previous Round, welcomed the competition favourites - cup holders Whitley Bay of the Northern League.

A crowd of 617 flocked to The Curfews' Alwyn's Lane ground, boosted by a substantial and vocal traveling contingent, having made the 600 mile round trip from the North East for the match.

Chertsey made a dream start and stunned the visitors when Ollie Treacher scored from 35 yards with only four minutes played. However, the euphoria was short-lived when Richard Hodgeson equalised for The Bay four minutes later.

In an entertaining game, Whitley Bay dominated for long periods, even after being reduced to ten men, but were unable to make their superiority count. However, in extra-time Bay keeper Terry Burke kept his side in the tie as Chertsey threw everything at them in the final minutes.

With the game going to a replay the following Saturday, it was Whitley Bay who eventually moved through to the Quarter Final stage, with a 2-1 win; and on to defeat Wroxham in the Final.

Glossop North End

28 February 2009
Glossop North End 5  Marske United 2
FA Vase, Quarter Final
Attendance: 1,000 +
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A crowd of just over 1,000 packed into Surrey Street, home of Glossop North End of the NW Counties League, for this FA Vase Quarter Final tie against Marske United of the Northern League.

Although the underdogs, the visitors from Cleveland brought a fervent traveling support with them to North Derbyshire and really got behind their team. The home fans, by comparison, were a little more subdued but were celebrating at the end as Glossop (in blue) won 5-2 and went on to be beaten finalists, by Whitley Bay, at Wembley Stadium.

Hampton & Richmond Borough

23 January 2010
Hampton & Richmond Borough 0  Bromley 2
Blue Square Conference South
Attendance: 470
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A visit to The Beveree, home of Hampton & Richmond Borough FC for a Blue Square Conference South fixture vs. Bromley. Hampton (or 'The Beavers' as they are known) have enjoyed a couple of good seasons and had narrowly missed out on promotion, but this season they find themselves at the wrong end of the League table. Visitors Bromley on the other hand (in white) are faring somewhat better in the top half of the table.

Final Score:
Hampton & Richmond 0 Bromley 2
Attendance: 470

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Dover Athletic

21 November 2009
Dover Athletic 3  Dartford 2
FA Trophy, Third Qualifying Round
Attendance: 1,084
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Dover is a very ancient town and so has many ancient names. Crabble derives from Crab Hole - a hole in which crabs are found. Old English: crabba hol (Thanks to Martin Shaw for this information). Crabble Athletic Ground itself is set into the side of a hill at River, on the outskirts of Dover itself and in this respect is quite an impressive venue. The presence of the Directors’ lounge on top of the main stand, above the press box below, also lends an additional bit of the character to the ground.

The now defunct Dover FC moved up to the current pitch in 1951, necessitating an uphill walk from spectators from the car park below. The bottom pitch is used solely for rugby and cricket these days, but saw football from 1897, when the first Dover club was playing in the Kent League.

The ‘professional’ Dover FC (semi-pro by todays standards, ie. not amateur) was formed in 1947 and an application was made for a grandstand on the south side of the top pitch. The application was turned down, but in October 1950 the club secured funding to extend the existing stand that already stood on the opposite touchline, having been built by the Army shortly after WW2. In April the following year, Dover moved up to the top pitch for good. It was an expensive move, with the Football Club paying the Town Council £300 per annum; whilst the rugby club on the bottom pitch were charged twenty-five shillings (£1.25) a match!

The new extended grandstand was officially opened on 25 August 1951. The following year the Supporters’ Association announced plans to provide covered terracing at the Town End of the ground (to the left if viewed from the turnstiles), where there was previously just the steep incline of the slope behind. Floodlights were also in place by this time. The 1,000 seat stand offers a decent enough view, but like the covered terraces at either end of the ground (see below), this is impeded by the numerous supporting columns.

In 1983 Dover FC folded with massive debts, and was replaced by the new Dover Athletic FC. The new club took the place of its predecessor in the Southern section of the Southern League, and gained promotion to the Premier Division at the end of the 1987/88 season. After finishing sixth in their first season, the club finished as champions in 1989/90 but were unable to take their place in the Conference due to the required ground improvements not having been completed by the May 1990 deadline. In 1992/93 the club again won the Premier Division and by this time were in a position to move up the Pyramid. New turnstiles had been built, and two new identical covered terraces had been erected at either end of the ground. In addition the seats in the main stand were all replaced, and a second 250 seat stand - The Family Stand - built at the Town End of the south touchline.

This was a cracking all-Kent derby in the FA Trophy. With both clubs going well Conference South and Ryman Premier Divisions respectively, and coupled with the added spice of a cup tie, over a thousand spectators converged on Dover's Crabble ground. They weren't disappointed as the two teams produced a thoroughly entertaining game.

Despite having home advantage and League status in their favour Dover (in white) had lost five of their previous six matches coming into the tie. However, they settled any early nerves when Adam Birchall gave them the lead on 7 minutes. Dartford however, encouraged by a vocal away following, came back and stunned their hosts to take a 2-1 lead through Jay May (27 min) and Danny Harris (34 min). Crucially Dover were then awarded a penalty three minutes later, which Frannie Collin coolly converted.

The second half brought only one further goal but no shortage of action. Dartford were handed a man advantage on the hour when Dover's Yado Mambo received a second yellow card and his marching orders. However it was the home side who made the all-important breakthrough when Nicky Southall made it 3-2 on 69 mins.

Dartford threw everything at Dover in the final stages but despite some desperate defending at times, the Conference side held firm to move into the first round proper of the competition.

Buckingham Town

10 October 2009
Buckingham Town 2  Rushden & Higham United 1
United Counties League, Division One
Attendance: 49
View all photographs (33)

I was actually ‘on assignment’ for Groundtastic magazine, taking photographs of the redevelopment of the iconic Wolverton Park ground in Milton Keynes. However, the opportunity to visit Ford Meadow was too good to miss, as it had been a ground on my ‘hit-list’ for some time.

According to Kerry Miller’s ‘History of Non League Football Grounds’ a local Vicar, the Rev. Stewart, was instrumental in forming Buckingham Town Football Club, following a meeting in the White Hart Hotel in 1883. That same year the newly formed club began playing on an area of meadow close to the River Ouse, and has done so ever since.

Until WW2 and the construction of a stand and dressing rooms, the playing area was little more than a roped off pitch, with players usually changing in the New Inn nearby. The early 1960s saw the first floodlights, perched along a series of telegraph poles that had been acquired from Coventry City’s training ground.

Ford Meadow’s riverside setting means that it has always been liable to flooding, but it is a little gem, tucked away behind some garages on the outskirts of Buckingham.

In 1986 the club won promotion to the Southern League, where it spent eleven seasons alternating between the Southern and Midland Divisions, and it is evident from the facilities that the ground has staged a higher level of football in the past, with additional cover opposite the substantial main stand.

The official record attendance is 2,451 for a 1st Round FA Cup tie vs Leyton Orient in 1984, but sadly there was nowhere near that for the visit of Rushden & Higham in this United Counties Division One fixture. Those that were in attendance however, were treated to a cracking game as a very young Buckingham side (in red) won with a last gasp winner to collect maximum points.

Treharris Athletic Western

29 August 2009
Treharris Athetic Western 0  Caerau Ely 3
Welsh League Division Two
Attendance: 30 approx.
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Treharris Football Club was founded in 1889 and claims to be the oldest club in South Wales. The village itself is not much older and was created around the sinking of a coal mine in 1873, known as the ‘Harris Navigation Colliery’, named after its owner Frederick Harris. Football was brought to the area by the men who arrived to work in the mine. Prior to formation of the Welsh Football League in 1902, Treharris were also founder members and inaugural champions of the South Wales League.

Currently competing in Division Two of the Welsh League as Treharris Athletic, the previous season had seen a further extension of the name following a merger with another local club, Treharris Western; hence the somewhat unusual Treharris Athletic Western FC.

Although in South Wales ostensibly for the ‘Welsh Hop’, fellow grounds enthusiast Mike Floate and I decided to leave the crowds of groundhoppers behind and instead headed for the Athletic Ground, which Mike had predicted I would love. He was right.

Caerou Ely (yellow strip) were the visitors and proved far too good for the home side, who nevertheless won us over with their hospitality, including half-time tea and biscuits in the smallest Committee Room I have ever seen. It was a difficult start to the season for Treharris, but they rallied and went on to finish in a respectable seventh place, with Caerou doing even better in third.

Link to Mike Floate's pics:

Ferndale Boys Club

29 August 2009
Ferndale Boys Club 2  Cwm Ni 2
South Wales Amateur League, Division Two
Attendance: 236*
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Based in Maerdy, South Wales, the original formation of Ferndale Boys Club dates from 1958, when a local Police Officer brought together a group of youngsters to compete against other teams at Under-10 level.

The club's first venture into senior football did not come until 1970 when it was elected into the local Rhondda League, playing home fixtures at Darran Park on a red artificial surface. In the mid-1990s however, Ferndale relocated a short distance to Maerdy Park which, like many lower league venues in the UK, boasts great scenery rather than accommodation for spectators.

The official attendance for this 10:30 kick-off was substantially increased by a coachload of 'groundhoppers', plus many more traveling independently, who descended on South Wales for the annual 'Welsh Hop'.

Although I like to visit new grounds, I'm not really a fan of organized 'hops', when a club whose usual attendance is only in double figures, invariably attracts ten times that number*. Great for the home club of course, but rather unreal.

Belper Town

2 May 2009
Belper Town 0  Stocksbridge Park Steels 1
Unibond Northern Premier League Division One South, Play-Off Final
Attendance: 1,000 approx.
View all photographs (16)

Whitstable Town

25 April 2009
Whitstable Town 1  Godalming Town 1
Ryman Isthmian League, Division One South
Attendance: 137
View all photographs (38)


18 April 2009
Penrith 2  West Allotment Celtic 0
Northern League, Division One
Attendance: 90 approx.
View all photographs (37)

FC Clacton

28 October 2008
FC Clacton 3  Debenham LC 0
Eastern Counties League, Division One
Attendance:  148
View all photographs (47)


18 October 2008
Horndean 1  Bemerton Heath Harlequins 2
Wessex League, Premier Division
Attendance: 32
View all photographs (30)

Friday, 28 January 2011


For over ten years I have been photographing, and sometimes writing about non-League football grounds, and endeavouring to capture the essence of the game at this level. Certainly the degree of skill exhibited on the pitch is nowhere near that of the elite Premier League, but often the football is no less entertaining. However, what makes non-League football so special is the sheer variety of settings in which it takes place: old grounds, new grounds, rural and industrial settings. Also the people themselves: fans who are happy to stand side-by-side with rival supporters and the thousands of volunteers who willingly give up their time to somehow keep the whole thing alive. Without non-League, there would be no Football League, and possibly no Premier League either.

What began as a passion for simply photographing and researching the history of a ground, including details that the 'casual' spectator might overlook, slowly grew into a desire to show its transformation on a match day, even when the attendance is only two figures. This in turn has gradually developed into the concept of the 'Photo Diary' where the events on and around the pitch are recorded. I endeavour to include action photographs but far more important is the setting itself. Thus I often retreat to the periphery, as sports photographers had to before the advent of long lenses; and also frequently shoot from a spectator's point-of view, moving around the ground accordingly.

Please be patient as I gradually add links to the various diaries dating from October 2008 but if you can't wait that long, you can check out the link to the award-winning Flickr site at the top of the page, where you can view the complete collection, and a few other things besides.

If you feel so inclined please feel free to check out my other websites (please note that Pyramid Passion is no longer being updated due to software incompatibility)