Saturday, 29 January 2011

Dover Athletic

21 November 2009
Dover Athletic 3  Dartford 2
FA Trophy, Third Qualifying Round
Attendance: 1,084
View all photographs (39)

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.
View all photographs (36)

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*
View all photographs (35)

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)