Saturday 7 March 2009

Herne Bay

I've only been to Herne Bay once, back in the late nineties the Hamlet had an FA Cup tie here. I do recall the ground being half decent, but it had just been turned down by the Southern League ground graders, which I thought was crazy. Looking at it again now, as I visited the ground before another Hamlet game at nearby Whitstable Town, I cannot believe it was turned down.
Wandering around it you get the feel of a well kept, but at the same time almost ramshackle ground, despite it being tidy. Close your eyes and you can conjure up a picture of several thousand locals packed in for Kent League derby matches half a century ago. I don't know if that was the case, that's just how I imagine it!

As I was walking round a chap came out of the clubhouse, I explained I was just taking a few photos, & that I was a Dulwich Hamlet fan going to Whitstable. He was none to complimentary about them, and compared their fixtures to Celtic playing Rangers!

The ground is less than ten minutes from the station, easy to find, helped by these signs.

As you approach the ground you see the car park, and this view belies what a delight this ground is.

Club board outside. On the day I visited, & Kent League new boys Norton Sports-who groundshare here-were due to be at home. But there was nothing at all to suggest that Norton Sports are based at Herne Bay.

The general price for this level, but it's apparently cheaper in the equivalent leagues up north.

These are the turnstiles, from just inside the entrance.

Just inside the gates is this wooden shed, some sort of club building, though I'm not sure exactly what it is.

We're going to move round the ground in a clockwise direction, & along this side are the clubhouse, with the changing rooms & dugouts part of a strange small stand further along, the blue structure.

Before we walk along there we look across the pitch to the main stand on the far side.

Hard standing in front of the clubhouse.

From here we look back behind the goal, where there is some covered terracing.

Here we reach the stand/dugouts.

Built with the help of outside funding.

As you can see from this angle this 'stand' has the dugouts built in, and the small amount of seats in it are for home & away club officials only, now you know why i described it as 'strange'. I can't recall having seen anything similar.

Here is the home bench.

Past this stand there is open hard standing up to the corner.

Has a neighbours fence been broken deliberately, converted to a makeshift ladder, to retrieve balls hoofed out of the ground?

From the side we get our first decent glimpse of the cover behind the far goal.

Before we move round there we glance back down the touchline.

Behind the goal, it's more hard standing, up until the terrace.

Close up you can see it's an old, but smart example od decent terracing.

From the back of it we look to the left, at the main stand.

And down the right, where we've already been.

From the front you can see why this must be one of the best grounds in the Kent League.

From behind the goal (well ok, I did go on the pitch!) we see the main stand.

A view of the behind the goal cover before we turn round the next corner.

Down the side it's more hard standing, up to the stand.

Here we are right up next to it.

In the centre there's a set of gates, here is my poor attempt at an 'arty' shot!

At the rear is one of the poorest attempts I've ever seen at having a 'press box'!

Further down the stand we look down the rows.

And past the stand is more hard standing, with some grown over bankin behind it. I'm wondering if there is some ancient old terracing underneath it?

And we turn the corner for the last leg of our tour.

From behind the goal we look up to the other end.

Here is the clean, painted in club colours, terrace.

Good of serco to suppport the local club...shame they couldn't get their name right!

A look down the side where we started our walk around the ground, before we leave.

On the way out I spotted this sign on the wall, which amused me!

Friday 6 March 2009

Well if you can't blow your own trumpet...

I'm not sure exactly what site it was, but my mate William is signed up to some sort of Yahoo group, & he forwarded me today's one! It's called the 'Early Doors blog, which you have to sign up to, & is in association with Eurosport. The main story was about 'Winning ugly'.
I copy the article here:
As Cristiano Ronaldo and Steven Taylor went into the tunnel after a fractious first half at St James' Park last night, a riled-up Ronaldo taunted his opponent.
"Your style of football is s**t," he sneered.
"Well you're ugly!" Taylor hit back.
It was an insult that must have penetrated Ronaldo's very core. All those hours spent on the sunbed, in front of the mirror road-testing different brands of hair gel, at the dentist's getting those perfect, white teeth. Was it all in vain?
Well, Taylor later gifted Manchester United the match with a backpass so ugly it made Luke Chadwick look like Luke Perry, so the joke was on him.
But he was right in one sense - United were decidedly ugly. Heck, for 10 minutes we nearly had a title race.
Edwin van der Sar - possibly as fed up as everyone else by his clean sheet record - pat-a-caked a Jonas Gutierrez shot straight to Peter Lovenkrands as Newcastle went in front.
Van der Sar's streak ended at 1,311 minutes, although it is significantly less if you include the Club World Cup, which you have to if you buy into this whole quintuple nonsense - the Dutchman managed to let in three goals against Gamba Osaka, a team desperately in need of a corporate tie-in with a prawn company.
It might have been worse, as Obafemi Martins gave a surprisingly ragged Nemanja Vidic the runaround - and an inadvertent elbow to the face that left the Serbian looking like an extra from Platoon.
Martins looked certain to make it two when he left Vidic for dead at the edge of the box, but the defender responded with an act of cynicism so pure and concentrated that Gordon Ramsay could call it a 'cynicism reduction' and serve it with a fillet steak and shallot puree.
As Martins scampered past, Vidic extended a leg and an arm to bring him down. He cheerfully accepted a yellow card in exchange for stopping a near-certain goal, and less than two minutes later United were on terms.
It was the very essence of a professional foul. Should he have been sent off? Perhaps. But that was never going to happen and Vidic knew it.
Admittedly he looked a bit silly, and the Match of the Day commentator asked incredulously: "One of the best defenders in the league?"
Yes. And that sequence proved exactly why. There is a time for artfully nicking the ball off the striker's toes and a time for, well, not.
And Vidic's impression of a nightclub bouncer denying entry to a drunken reveller wearing trainers, no collar and with vomit all down his front was probably worth at least two points to United.
It reminded ED of Vidic's full debut against Wolves in 2006, back when he was supposed to be rubbish, when he was stitched up by Kenny Miller of all people. Except he wasn't.
He halted Miller with the most blatant bodycheck imaginable and was duly booked.
Everybody tutted and said it showed how far out of his depth he was. In retrospect, it was exactly the kind of challenge that makes him so formidable/such a cheat, depending on your allegiance.

But it wasn't that I was interested in! For the email header from William told me: SCROLL DOWN TO WEBSITE OF THE I did!

And here's what was featured:

WEBSITE OF THE DAY: ED doesn't normally promote other sites, but it was rather taken by the endearingly trainspotter-ish Grounds for Concern blog which features a Dulwich Hamlet fan travelling the world (well, Belgium and the Czech Republic) and taking copious photos of football stadiums. Ever wondered what a KV Mechelen home game looks like? Now's your chance to find out. It might sound geeky, and it is, but you'll soon find yourself curiously compelled to take a gander at Slavoj Vysehrad's ground.

Amazing or what? Well it made my day! Thank you to whoever wrote it!

Wednesday 4 March 2009

KV Mechelen; Mechelen, Belgium

I visited KV Mechelen on Friday 27th February, it was the televised First Division match. It's a cracking little stadium, very tight, but still with terracing, almost like an old English ground, as a lot of Belgian grounds are. The game was against RC Genk, and they pulled off a bit of a shock result, winning by the odd goal in three, much to the delight of the home crowd! The visitors missed a few chances, but if you don't take them you don't deserve to win, and it was an enjoyable match to watch, & a great ground to 'tick off'.

These huge banners were hung up at either end in the main stand.

Here is the main entrance gates.

Fans queue up to get in.

I was standing in section F, at the front of the main stand, ticket cost 17 euros.

Just inside the turnstiles was this mural, painted onto the side of some club offices.

From the turnstiles corner I look into the ground, here is my first sight of the seats behind the goal.

And across to the covered terrace on the far side. It's about forty five minutes before kick off, the empty section is for the away fans, who haven't arrived yet.

And to the left, from this corner, is the terracing in front of the main stand.

I'm not usually a 'floodlights' person, i just wondered what the photo would come out like. Now I know.

By the turnstiles was the club shop. Scarves are quite expensive now that the pound has shrunk against the euro. What is strange about them is that they have them in Flemish-KV Mechelen- & the same in French-FC Malines-even though this is a Flemish area.

Under the stand is a supporters' bar. The crest was on the wall of it.

And this board displaying the league fixtures, & the current first division table on the right.

Halfway down, behind the main stand, is the entrance to the executive areas. Just inside is this plaque. I had to ask a steward for permission to snap it.

But the steward did insist on a picture of himself with the plaque, which I will email to him.

As I moved on behind the stand I saw this brass band, with fans & their banners behind.

This is section F, the part of terrace for which I have a ticket.

From here we look to the two tiered stand behind the goal, seating up top, with terracing in front.

A look at the far corner, with a strange little stand behind the flag.

The band & flags start parading round pre amtch.

Here they go past me

And stop in front of the middle of the main stand, presumably where all the bigwigs sit.

Here we look across to the away section, which is filling up.

The home fans in full voice!

And huge banner!

Another look across, showing both the home & away terraces.

A bit of goalmouth action, there's only a few minutes to go, so I'm going to sneak into that stand, to take some snaps from up there.

From the steps on the side I take a picture of the terrace below it.

And here is the seated area above, including members of the pre-match brass band!

Here we look down the side, with the terrace at the front where I watched the match from.

Another look at the front of the stand, behind the goal.

Looking over to the terrace, from a higher angle.

And across the pitch, to the corporate area.

Game over, the Mechelen team celebrate in front of their hardcore fans.

They continue round to applaud me for coming to watch them from London! ;-)

And milk the applause round the side, before heading down the tunnel.

As the ground empties out I go up into the main stand to get some more pictures of the ground, from this level.

Up in the seats we look down the stand, with the corporate business type seats behind the goal.

Here we get a view of the glass fronted stand.

And also look back to the 'ordinary' supporters end.

These benches & seats behind are in front of the glassed area.

A last glance down the main stand side

Before we go over to take a shot of the now empty away fans terrace.

With the yellow home section past it.

One final look down the main stand, as I hunt for a team sheet, which was only available in the posh areas. Luckily I managed to pick one up, then it was time to go.

Just down the road I spotted this supporters' bar on the corner of the road leading up to the ground.