Welcome to volume one of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume two of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Thursday, January 18, 2018

CF Torre Levante (Spain)

Club de Fútbol Torre Levante Orriols is an amateur football club based in the east coast Spanish city of Valencia that was formed in 1976; starting out in the fourth tier of regional football.

Torre Levante were promoted to the third tier Segunda Regional de la Comunidad Valenciana in 1982-83, before progressing to Primera Regional in 1989-90 at their Campo Municipal Orriols home.

Another promotion arrived in 1994-95 as Torre collected the divisional title to rise to Regional Preferente de la Comunidad Valenciana; the top flight of regional football. The side suffered relegation in 2000-01, before regaining their status in 2002-03 with a group league title.

After a collection of top five finishes, CF Torre Levante won promotion from Grupo 2 in 2012-13 to progress to the Tercera División; after defeating UD Horadada and Burjassot CF through the play-offs.

The junior section rose to División de Honor Juvenil; the highest national ranking; while several promotions were achieved at different age levels in the regional Liga Autonómica, while in a long standing arrangement with Atlético de Madrid.

After a couple of low table finishes, Torre ended the 2015-16 and then 2016-17 campaigns in ninth position with Gerardo Reyes top scoring in the latter season.

CF Torre Levante will play in the Tercera División Grupo VI in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Tuesday 9th January 2018

I’d arrived on an early morning flight from Luton to Valencia and was ready to explore the city and visit some of the smaller football clubs. The number 3 Metro took me directly from the airport to Machado; where I alighted to be greeted by bright sunshine.

Within a couple of minutes I’d found my bearings and was walking down Carrer d’Alfauir; where I came to Campo de Futbol del Torre Levante. The ground was locked, but I got good photo opportunities through the wire fence.

It wasn’t the biggest of Tercera venues, but it was adequate and ideally located in the heart of the community. Three steps of open terrace stood behind the near goal and along one side, either side of the team benches; which were most impressive. I’d seen smaller stands on my travels.

Two small covered stands occupied the opposite touchline, along with a clubhouse and changing rooms in the north west corner. The end bordered by Carrer de Santa Genoveva Torres was open flat standing.

Once done, I cut through Parque Orriols to take a look at the Ciutat de València stadium of La Liga club, Levante UD. Unfortunately, the stadium was fully locked so I could only guess what it looked like inside. I headed away to take a ride to the suburb of Paterna.

Paterna CF (Spain)

Paterna Club de Fútbol is a football club founded in 1934, who are based in the Spanish town of the same name; which is located in the suburbs of the east coast city of Valencia. The club played football in the regional Comunidad Valenciana for several decades.

Paterna found themselves in the fourth tier Preferente de la Comunidad Valenciana in the 1970-71 campaign; where they remained until the end of the 1976-77 season, when there was a re-organisation of Spanish football.

The club remained at the same level; only playing in the Tercera División and then competing at that level until 1983-84 when the side returned to the fifth tier Preferente Regional. Twelve months later Paterna dropped down yet another level.

The team returned to the fifth level in 1989-90 after winning a divisional Primera Regional title. The momentum continued as one of the Preferente Regional group championships was collected at the first attempt, with Paterna returning to the Tercera División.

However, relegation followed after just one season. Paterna suffered a further demotion in 1993-94 to pile on further misery to the Estadio Gerardo Salvador regulars. The 1997-98 season saw the club return to the fifth tier following a runners-up finish.

The team won their Preferente Regional title in 2003-04, but were relegated after just one season of Tercera División football. It wouldn’t be until the conclusion of the 2012-13 season before the club regained their fourth tier status.

The 2013-14 campaign saw Paterna reach the promotion play-offs with a fourth place finish; where they lost out in the first round to CF Montañesa. Gerardo Reyes topped the scoring charts the following season.

Paterna CF ended the 2015-16 campaign in fourteenth spot, before ending the following season one place lower.

Paterna CF will play in Tercera División Grup VI in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Tuesday 9th January 2018

I’d arrived in Valencia for a two night stay to include matches at Mestalla and then a few miles north at Villarreal the following evening. I was already underway with a proper look at the venue of Tercera División club Torre Levante.

The ride from Machado to Paterna meant changing from Metro line 3 to 2 at Ángel Guimerá; from where I got out at Beniferri to take a look at the impressive, but half finished Nou Mestalla; which was a stand out feature as we came in to land.

I continued on; with the actual train journeys taking just under half an hour. On alighting I followed the track north along Calle Vias del Ferrocarril before arriving at Estadio Gerardo Salvador.

The nearest end appeared to be occupied by a small open terrace backed by a swimming pool according to Google Maps. However, the whole end was a construction site. I decided not to try and explain myself to gain access.

The rest of the stadium was locked; but not all was lost. One corner offered a view on a raised block by the level crossing by the main entrance to the stadium. Further pictures were taken by standing on the wall offering protection from the railway. I received a few puzzled looks!

Paterna’s home was impressive; even in mid transition. A covered stand ran the full length of the far side, with seating in the centre blocks. The entrance end had a decent sized open terracing; while the railway side was open and flat; but looked like it was awaiting development.

Delighted with my work, I walked back to the station to take a train to Estació de Túria; from where I set out on a fantastic walk through the old town of a really beautiful city. I ended up by the old Estació del Nord before enjoying some well earned brews in Blue Moon Craft Beer.

CF Nules (Spain)

Club de Fútbol Nules is a semi-professional football club formed on October 19th 1931 as FC Nules, who are located in the town of Nules in the east of Spain around 18 km south of Castellón.

The club started out life playing at Campo del Calvario and playing in the second division of the Comunidad Valenciana; the second tier of regional football, before advancing to the first division.

In 1934-35 Nules were crowned as first divison champions following a 6-1 thrashing of CD Burriana. Football was suspended a year later owing to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

The club resumed as CF Nules in 1939, returning to play second tier regional football in the first division; where the team won the group and divisional title. Nules won their second division title in 1940 with a 2-1 victory over Olímpico de Catarroja.

Nules were elevated to the Tercera División for the 1943-44 season after several seasons of good performances. The league was restructured after the team finished in fifth place; leading to demotion back to regional football.

Serious financial troubles led to the club being dissolved in 1946. Several attempts were made to unite the local football community to form and new club. This was achieved in 1951 as the name of CF Nules was kept, with the team playing at the new Estadio Noulas.

Vicente Roselló Martínez became club president as the club established itself in the second division of Comunidad Valenciana regional football before winning promotion and then joining the Regional Preferente on its inauguration in 1970.

After several seasons at the same level, Nules won promotion to the Tercera División in 1985-86; which created great interest in the club around the town. The return to the fourth tier saw a third place finish before the club won promotion to Segunda División B.

Over 3,000 locals received the team and celebrated at Plaza Mayor de Nules. The team led by player-coach Cuartango drew a record attendance of 4,000 to Estadio Noulas against Lorca CF. However; the side was relegated at the completion of the 1988-89 campaign.

Nules suffered a further relegation from the Tercera División as economic troubles hit the club. The team stabilised in the Preferente Regional before winning promotion back to the fourth tier in 1994-95 following victory in the play-offs over Español de San Vicente.

Within a couple of seasons Nules had returned to regional football; where they remained playing in both the Preferente and Primera. In 2005-06 the team were relegated to the second regional Primera before returning for the 2007-8 campaign under coach José Luis Sorribes Galera.

The club received a boost as the El Nuevo Estadio Noulas opened in 2011, offering brand new facilities; while the team remained at top level regional football, before being relegated in 2014-15.

In May 2015 the stadium was renamed Estadi Noulas - Municipal Camp Antonio Pérez Balada in honour of a former player and local resident who also represented CD Castellón, Atlético de Madrid and Valencia CF.

The team regained their position in the Preferente Regional at the first attempt; going on to finish in fifteenth position in Grupo I in the 2016-17 season.

CF Nules will play in Preferente de la Comunidad Valenciana Grupo I in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Wednesday 10th January 2018

It’s fair to say that my day hadn’t gone exactly to plan; but it had still been top class. I’d changed my mind as to which venues were realistically viable for time constraints and possible access.

In the end, my intention was to visit the home of UD Puçol, and then CF Nules, before heading to the Villarreal v Leganés tie in the Copa Del Rey. If only it had been that simple.

All was well as I walked from the Hulot B&B through the old town to Estació del Nord; where I grabbed some lunch before boarding what I thought was the train to Puçol. I sat back and relaxed before becoming aware that not all was quite right as we sped past my intended stop.

The next stop was Sagunt; which opened up the possibility of taking a bus a couple of miles to Port de Sagunt to take a look at the home stadium of CD Acero. However, my ticket wouldn’t let me through the gates.

The station attendant came walking over. I used all my best sign language and apologetic tones to explain “Ingleses” and “Puçol” while shaking my head. He simply smiled and opened the barrier. Rail workers of the world were united. It’s as if we’d met before in the distant past.

Predictably enough, the buses didn’t work down to Acero. I sat in the sun on the platform awaiting the next train to Nules. I took meagre consolation by taking a photos of the lofty and ancient Castell de Sagunt; which overlooked the town.

Once in Nules it was a fifteen minute walk south to the Camp de Futbol Noulas Antonio Pérez Balada, through a pleasant little town. The venue was naturally locked, in keeping with the rest of the day.

Not all was lost as a raised area on the side of the main road out of town, which afforded me some reasonable views to take photos. The venue consisted of a decent sized covered stand down the far side and flat open standing.

A smaller sided pitch stood between the road and the main venue, with a swimming pool giving the north end an enclosed feel. The changing rooms and club facilities were in the corner between the pool and the stand.

My mini tour was complete. I returned to the station for the train to Villarreal to enjoy some refreshments and the evening’s entertainment.

Villarreal CF (Spain)

Villarreal Club de Fútbol, S.A.D., or Villarreal CF as the club is commonly known is a professional football club from the Spanish eastern city of Vila-real, which was formed on March 10th 1923 as Villarreal CD.

The team started off playing in white shirts and black shorts in their El Madrigal home, playing their first ever game against local rivals CD Castellón. After playing local football and friendlies, the club joined the Spanish pyramid at regional level; commencing in the 1929-30 season.

The team came close to winning promotion to the national Segunda División in 1934-35, but lost their vital game with Cartagena CF. Villareal won the first division of the Comunitat Valenciana in 1935-36 before football was suspended during the Spanish Civil War.

Football recommenced in 1939 with Villareal being placed in the second tier of regional football. The club changed their title to CAF Villarreal in 1942 as the team adopted their yellow shirts.

Villareal won promotion in 1950-51 before another change of name followed in 1954, to the current Villarreal CF along with a new badge. In 1955-56 the team progressed to the Tercera Liga; the third tier of national football, before returning to regional status in 1960-61.

In 1966-67, ‘El Submarino Amarillo’; The Yellow Submarine, was promoted from the regional first division back to the Tercera Liga; going on to win promotion in 1969-70 to the second tier Segunda División for the first time.

Their spell lasted two seasons before returning to Tercera División. Worse was to come in the 1975-76 season as Villareal were relegated to the Regional Preferente; before winning back their Tercera status at the first attempt.

The Tercera División’s became the fourth tier following reorganisation of Spanish football in 1977; with Villareal regaining their third tier status with promotion to Segunda Liga B in 1986-87.

A return to Segunda Liga B followed in 1989-90; with the team continuing the impetus the following season as they reached the second level Segunda Liga. The team initially struggled but reached the play-offs in in 1997-98; with Villareal defeating SD Compostela on away goals.

Villareal kicked off the 1998-99 in the top flight La Liga for the first time as the gradual development of El Madrigal continued, as José Antonio Irulegui coached the team. The team was relegated, despite the goals of Gică Craioveanu and Manolo Alfaro.

Paquito took over as coach and led his charges back to La Liga in 1999-00; where the team stabilised their status with two fifteenth place finishes under the stewardship of Víctor Muñoz. Success in the Intertoto Cup saw Villareal qualify for the UEFA Cup of 2003-04.

Wins against Trabzonspor, Torpedo Moscow, Beşiktaş, AS Roma and Celtic saw Villareal progress all the way to the semi-final; where they were defeated 1-0 on aggregate by local rivals Valencia CF. Juan Román Riquelme and Sonny Anderson weighed in with goals through the run under coach Benito Floro.

New coach Manuel Pellegrini arrived for the 2004-05 season saw El Submarino Amarillo reach the last eight of the UEFA Cup where they went out to Dutch side AZ; but the side finished in a best ever third place in La Liga.

Diego Forlán topped the scoring chart as Villareal qualified for the following season’s Champions League, where the side defeated Everton, progressed through a group including Manchester United and then defeated Rangers and Internazionale before bowing out to Arsenal in the semi-final. Villareal finished as La Liga runners-up in 2007-08.

Two more good La Liga finishes arrived as Marcos Senna and Robert Pirès created chances from midfield for Nihat Kahveci and Joseba Llorente. Pellegrini was replaced by Ernesto Valverde in the summer of 2009, who lasted just six months before Juan Carlos Garrido took over team affairs.

A fourth place league finish followed in 2010-11 as Giuseppe Rossi put away the chances created by Santi Cazorla. Villareal also went close to honours in the Europa League; going out in the semi-finals to eventual winners, FC Porto.

Villareal suffered a traumatic 2011-12 campaign. Garrido was replaced as coach by José Molina in December before being sacked within a few months as Miguel Ángel Lotina tried but failed to prevent relegation to Segunda División.

Manuel Preciado was appointed as the new head coach in June 2012, but died from a heart attack a few days later. Julio Velázquez lasted until the winter break before Marcelino was appointed to lead the team.

Villareal finished as runners-up and won promotion back to La Liga in 2012-13, despite the departure of star players Borja Valero, Diego López, Rossi and Nilmar. The goalkeeping of Juan Carlos went a long way to restoring top flight status.

Two consecutive sixth placed finishes ensued as Bruno captained the team, Denis Cheryshev created in midfield and Sergio Asenjo took up goalkeeping duties. Villareal finished the 2015-16 campaign in fourth place.

Bruno Soriano captained the team as Roberto Soldado knocked in the goals; while Alphonse Areola starred between the posts. The team qualified for the Champions League in the 2015-16 season.

Villareal finished third in their group and dropped down to the Europa League; from where they progressed to the knock out stages. SSC Napoli, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Sparta Praha were defeated before Liverpool ended the run in the semi-finals with Cédric Bakambu and Denis Suárez starring.

Marcelino was replaced as coach by Fran Escribá in August 2016 who took the team to a fifth place finish. Javier Calleja was appointed as coach at the renamed Estadio de la Cerámica in September 2017 as Pablo Fornals pulled the creative strings on the pitch.

Villareal CF will play in La Liga in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Villarreal CF 2 CD Leganés 1 - aggregate 2-2; Leganés win on away goals (Wednesday 10th January 2018) Copa Del Rey Round of 16 (att: 12,122)

The TV companies had been very kind to me with their coverage of Copa Del Rey second leg games, well after I’d booked my flights for a two night stay in Valencia. I knew that Levante, Valencia and Villarreal were all at home; but it was purely by chance that I could get to two games.

My train journey north was full of my usual adventure and mishap; meaning I only got to see the home of CF Nules. Nevertheless, I was in good form as I got off the train ready to go and buy a ticket before relaxing with a beer or three.

I’d researched that the club shop would be open in the town centre; but the store on Plaça Major remained shut. Perhaps all hands were needed up at Estadio de la Ceramica; as El Madrigal had been renamed.

The walk from the main square to the stadium took in lots of narrow lanes in the neat and tidy town before I walked up Carrer Ermita; which took me to a large open area outside the stadium.

I’d got my eye on returning into town to try out Beer-attack; which looked tempting, with the promise of several beers on tap. However, it was at least ten minutes away. I wanted to be inside the ground a little earlier as experience told me that navigation inside Spanish venues wasn’t the easiest.

Instead, I crossed the road once I’d obtained my match ticket for €20. There was something appealing about Bar Deportivo, despite their being quite a good choice of other venues, which looked to be slightly more up market.

I immediately felt at home, as old boys played cards on a Formica topped table with a green baize cloth. There was a real down to earth but friendly feel to the place. I sat at the bar and ordered a pint of Amstel Ora; which was a dark golden beer.

Within minutes the glass collector, come general aid started to remove the seats at the bar in advance of the growing crowd. I was using my principle that smiling went a long way if there was a language barrier. I was soon making friends.

There was a free table, so I went to sit down. Two older fans soon arrived. I think they asked if the other seats were free. Again I smiled and made gestures that they were welcome to join me. They soon established that I was not a local.

Between us we established that I was there for the match, I’d been to watch Valencia the previous evening and I thought that Villarreal were about to win 2-0. I wasn’t quite ready to take in the quick fire Castellon being uttered my way mind!

My friend the glass collector was also doing table service. When he saw that I was nearly ready for a refill he pointed, I nodded and a beer was promptly delivered. I gave him a small tip on top of the €2.50 charge. I didn’t have any wait when I next needed service.

I’d left it as late as I could before I followed the crowds along Carrer Blasco Ibáñez behind the Main Stand. Several shops were selling beer and cheap snacks. I opted for a large bag of crisps for just €1 before going in.

Entrance to my stand was under some buildings; with programmes free to take from a rack. I was in Fondo Norte; a large bank of open seating, with a covered section above the corporate facilities at the back to house visiting fans behind a Perspex screen.

Estadio de la Ceramica was a decent venue. The opposite goal; Fondo Sur Cubierto had a larger cover but was not dissimilar to where I was; with its corner sections adjoining the side stands.

The Preferencia had a small bottom tier with its own roof; while the upper section had cover for only the back few rows. The final side; Tribuna, contained the main corporate facilities on their own tier at the rear under the most substantial roof in the arena.

As with Valencia, I waited to see which seats were vacant before taking up the best position. I couldn’t complain with any view on offer as I settled down to what promised to be an intriguing tie, as the home side looked to make up a one goal deficit from the first leg.

The game quickly took on the look of a defence against attack training session, as the side from Madrid were determined to progress to the last eight of the competition for the first time. Carlos Bacca, on loan from Milan came close when heading a free kick over the bar in the early stages.

The same player was frustrated as visiting keeper Nereo Champagne saved his low curling effort. The custodian made an excellent stop from Pablo Fornals, who really should have done better from ten yards.

Leganés were rewarded for their resolute defending on the half hour mark when a pass found Nabil El Zhar just inside the Villarreal half. He ran at the heart of the defence before dinking a delightful chip over Mariano Barbosa, which dipped under the bar.

The visiting players were naturally delighted. The away goal meant that the hosts would have to score three times to go through. Just two minutes later Samu Castillejo had a good chance to equalise when put through; but Champagne saved once again.

The keeper pulled off another top stop from a fierce Jaume Costa drive as the home support became even more exasperated. Their frustration was beginning to become apparent in their team as the half came to a close.

During the interval I went for a wander to get some different angles for photos and to get the blood flowing. It had been a pleasant day, but the temperatures had now dropped to around 5°. I went further back for the second half, just in front of the corporate area.

Two minutes after the break, El Submarino Amarillo were back in the game, as Nicola Sansone brought down a looping cross at the far post with his head before firing home into the top of the net.

Suddenly I felt like I’d been slapped from behind. I looked round to see what was going on? The ladies in the corporate area were in charge of pumping air into the blow up dancing figures that are seen at some events. They blew around and one had found the back of my head!

Champagne continued to pull of some top stops, while he and his team showed off some top class time wasting skills and acting worthy of an award. It’s fair to say it wasn’t going down well; especially as Enes Ünal had a goal chalked off for offside.

Half chances continued to arrive, but Villarreal were denied by a mixture of poor finishing, brave defending and excellent goalkeeping. Leganés missed a great opportunity to put the game to bed on a break away, but the finish was woeful.

With just two minutes remaining, home substitute Denis Cheryshev fired in from a low pull back to set up a grandstand finish. The board showed that there would be four additional minutes.

However, it wasn’t to be for the locals despite a frantic finale, including a foray for late set pieces from goalkeeper Barbosa. The home side received a decent ovation from their fans. I applauded both teams. I’d really enjoyed the match. If only Villarreal had scored ten minutes earlier.

The timings meant that I had just enough time to return to Bar Deportivo, where the welcome was as warm as before and some vocal youths were settling down to watch the Real Madrid against Numancia game.

My train back to Valencia took around an hour. I’d considered going for some drinks, but I decided to quit while ahead and grab some supper and walk back to my hotel for a decent night sleep before heading to the airport the following morning.