On the first day of TBIR Christmas – The best new ground visited

In 2013 we have so far managed to notch up visits to 31 new grounds in 7 countries, but some will remain firmly in our memories more than others.  The common theme here is that none of the best ones are “new builds”.  The ones that make your foot tap, your spine tingle and heart skip a beat are ones that ooze history.  The top three that we would heartily recommend for different reasons are:-

3rd Place – Sheffield FC – Coach and Horses Ground
The official Home of Football.  Every football fan should make a pilgrimage here to shake the club warmly by the hand for giving us the game we love today.  The ground isn’t actually in Sheffield – heck, it’s not even in Yorkshire but who cares when you have the best pub in the world (The Coach and Horses) next door which has 6 (SIX) Thornbridge beers on tap and some superb food.  You could spend hours scanning the “members” wall which includes such luminaries as Sepp Blatter, Jack Warner and Def Leppard.  The football is in someway secondary to a great afternoon out, thinking about what we would have been doing if Sheffield FC had given up on their dreams.

2nd Place – Arundel FC – Mill Road
Close your eyes and imagine the scene.  It’s mid-August, the sun is shining, you have your best shorts on and a free afternoon.  What else could you want?  A beer?  Well how about some local Arundel Gold Ale?  A backdrop to the game?  One of the most beautiful castles in England?  Oh, go on then.  Arundel’s Mill Road ground is simply picture postcard perfect.  It’s hard to concentrate on the game with such a backdrop and worth the admission alone.  Have I mentioned the beer? Ah ok.

1st Place – KV Kortrijk – Guldensporenstadion
11179784356_32d5ba7885_bOnce in a while you stumble on a ground that just leaves you wanting more.  The Guldensporenstadion doesn’t tick any boxes when you look at it on paper.  The club have been mid-table fodder in Belgium for years, the stadium has a modest capacity with little redevelopment in recent years. But come to the “Battle of the Golden Spurs” stadion on a big match day you will never want to go anywhere else.  It has the lot.  A huge covered terrace where the very vocal fans wave flags, twirl scarves and basically sing their hearts out.  A hulking old main stand that looked like it had been transported from Swindon Town.  Add in some of the best football food, top class Belgium beer and you cannot fail to fall in love with both KVK and the Guldensporenstadion.

Tomorrow – 2013’s best EFW

On the second day of TBIR Christmas – The worst game in 2012

For every six goal cracker we have seen there have been a number of games that were immediately forgettable. Whilst we have traveled hundreds, even thousands of miles to watch the beautiful game, you cannot guarantee the match will be decent. So let’s celebrate those games which gave football a bad name in 2012.

3rd worst game in 2012 – Aveley 0 Lewes 0
7054392011_6a5b1b20cf_zLewes were dead and buried in the hunt for a play off spot until mid March, and then all of a sudden the squad discovered their mojo and went on an amazing run that saw them move into the play off spots with just a few games to go. Despite other teams having games in hand, the Rooks could almost touch end of season glory with a win in deepest, darkest Essex. Aveley’s Mill Road ground has seen better days. In fact it is one of the most desolate grounds in the Non League, held together with sticking tape and hard to love. Anything less than a win for the home side and they would be relegated. Banker away win, surely? Alas no. It was one of those games that you want to create a time machine and go back two hours and visit Lakeside instead.

2nd worst game in 2012 – New York Red Bulls 0 Sporting Club Kansas 2
8006064292_8089eb5917_bNothing demonstrates American’s love of sport more than a scheduled midweek game in the MLS on the same night the Yankees are playing. With a few minutes to kick off you could count the crowd in the Red Bull Arena with your hands and toes. Whilst the club have build a brand new stadium (albeit in the middle of nowhere), and have marketed themselves well in the Tri-State area, the fans don’t really appreciate them enough to make a mid-week game at 7pm when the Yankees are also playing. But this game was bad, not just because of the lack of atmosphere but because the home side, with talented players such as Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill simply couldn’t be bothered to raise themselves to play. It was a torrid game, punctuated by two goals from the away team that gave them all three points.

Worst game in 2012 – Ilford 0 Thamesmead Town 0
8060623821_af061df1c4_zIt is incredibly hard for Non League clubs in the area around west Essex/London borders to build a supporters base. Within a ten minute drive of Ilford there is a Premier League side, two nPower clubs and over a dozen Non League teams. Consequently clubs like Ilford have to fight for every fan. This game paired the two of the worst supported teams in the Ryman League North, with average attendances of 54 and 49 respectively. I’m sure the fact that they play at a municipal athletics ground hardly encourages floating fans, but games like this don’t help either. I watched for 45 minutes before I had to depart but in that time I didn’t see one chance on goal from either side. One half is not a reflection of a season, and I appreciate the predicament they are both in, but there has to be a loser for every winner and this year it is Ilford and Thamesmead Town. Sorry chaps.