Saturday 18 July 2009

Ashford Town (Middlesex)

Ashford Town (Middlesex) is a much maligned ground. Unfairly so, in my humble opinion. Granted it's not going to win any awards, but it's got beautiful character in its own ugly way! As far as I'm concerned it's not the stadium itself that lets the club down, but 'location darling, location!'

It's a good half hour hike or more from the station, and it is set off the main road. Trust me, you need this sign on the busy road to spot the turning!

Once going along Short Lane you see this sign.

The ground is set back on the right, past the entrance. Here is the turnstile block. As I was taking this photo a club official, all blazered up, came out of the clubhouse & asked me what I was doing. Fully expecting to be told off & asked to leave, I explained I'd been to Bedfont Sports earlier, & that I was just a Dulwich Hamlet fan, who wanted to take a few photos of the ground. Imagine my surprise when he asked if I was Mishi! To which I replied I was. He said he looked in on here regularly & that I could take as much time inside as I wanted! Whoever you were..thank you for your kindness!

Outside, to the left of the turnstiles, was the standardised Ryman club sign.

Once through them there is the team changes board, from their previous home match.

From this corner we're going to head clockwise around the ground. The first structure we see is this seating area.

Looking back behind the 'ugly' open goal is the fuel tanks for the nearby Heathrow Airport. These are probably partly responsible for the 'ground reputation'.

Past the low rows of seating we've just seen is this small covered terrace.

And then there's this modern toilet block. Which tells you what a decent club this is. I'm presuming these had to built for ground grading reasons, to have toilets for spectators inside the ground. they could have done it on the cheap with portakabin style bogs, as many clubs do. but instead chose to erect this proper structure.

Moving on there is now only open hard standing to the far corner.

With not much more behind the goal, as we can see from here.

Before we move on round, one look back over our shoulder at the area we've covered so far.

Now we'e going behind the goal. More open standing all along.

But with a few steps of terracing in the middle, right behind the goal.

From here we look down the far side, and see a small, but smart, stand for the first time.

We will get there, but at the moment we look through the netting to the stand we've already walked past, as we came in.

At the corner now, I do like this smart enough ground, with these corner flags in club colours. but what a let down! How tatty! Please buy a new set! ;-)

Open down this side as well...

Until we get to the seats.

Going up in them we look over the playing surface.

In the back row we look across the seating. Why the blue I don't know. Maybe tangerine was too expensive?

This is one of the dugouts.

And now we're on the pitch itself.

From the middle, looking directly at this stand we can see the club initials in the seats.

Ugly though they are, I can somehow see some beauty in those huge holders. how 'arty farty' is that? ;-)

From the middle we look at the other seating area once more.

Now we're walking down toward the area behind the goal, here we look back at the lettered stand.

it's a tight squeeze behind the goal. Impossible to build terracing, which is why people sometimes are negative about this place.

At the far corner, which is practically where we started, are these gates to the changing rooms.

And so ends or tour of Short Lane. As we leave i notice this sign that says 'welcome'. Unlike some clubs they genuinely mean it, as on the few times that I've seen Dulwich Hamlet here they've always been warm to our fans.

Wednesday 15 July 2009


Until my trip to Glasgow this June Celtic was the only Scottish ground I have seen a match at. Way back in July 1999, when I was up there for the weekend with my brother Ferenc, & one of my Dulwich Hamlet friends Phil, for Celtic versus Leeds United, in a pre season match. My brother is a Leeds United fan, whereas for both myself & Phil it was a ground we always wanted to go to, a 'sporting pilgrimage' almost, as he has Irish parentage, & I went to Catholic schools, so everyone followed Celtic results! We both had tickets for Celtic areas, wheras my brother was in the away end.

Almost ten years later I returned, not for a match, but to take the Stadium Tour. Thoroughly enjoyable, but if truth be told, not a patch on the Ibrox one! So come on, tag along, and stroll round Celtic Park with me!

Here is a view from outside.

And the other end. Note the brickwork at the bottom...

Packed with commemorative bricks.

And there were a lot of them!

Set back, nearer to the main road, at the side of the car park, is the club shop. now I love my 'football junk', the tackier the better! For my 'private football museum' at home! I bought a large Celtic snowdome for a bargain three quid. I flew up with only handluggage, & had it confiscated, as you are not allowed liquids over 100ml. on planes! I was more gobsmacked than angry! How much crazier can these 'anti-terror' regulations get?

This is the main entrance, from where the tour started. Notice the statue to the left, to the bottom right you can just see the bottom of another. A poorly thought out snap, with it not being in shot. Apologies!

The one you saw is of Brother Walfred, who founded the Club way back in 1888.

There are images on all four sides, as you can see here,with partial reflections of me in them (whoops!):

The other one is of one of the legendary 'Lisbon Lions' Jimmy Johnstone , again with various bronze reliefs on each side.

We will see the whole tour, the places where 'matchday fans' would not see, but first we will 'fast forward' to the stadium itself.

Here we are heading down the players' tunnel.

Directly behind the dugout.

This is the view of the tunnel from in front of the dugouts, with the most expensive seats, in the upper centre, behind.

This is further along, and the section I sat in a decade ago. The green wall, to the far left, is where the away fans are put. I do recall that I was wearing jeans & a light blue demin type shirt. A real fashion 'faux pas', as I lots of 'Paddingtons', though nobody actually said anything! I must've been the only person out of the 50,000+ Celtic fans wearing blue!

Here we look up to the away corner. Leeds packed it out that day, I think they had over 2,000 fans. At the time my brother said all the food & drink from the tea bars was branded with Celtic packaging. There wasn't much for him, as he's vegetarian, so he had to make to with a Celtic packet of crisps, as he was quite peckish, not having had anything since breakfast. just as he was about to eat them a rather more right wing Leeds fan who he knew grabbed them & threw them on the floor: "What are you eating that Fenian shit for?" Oh dear..what can you say to that?

I'm now 'panning' my camera round the ground. This is behind the goal, & the 'Lisbon Lions' stand end.

Opposite the main stand the empty seats look magnificent. Call me old fashioned I'm not too keen on the Nike logo, but I'm sure it's more than financially worthwhile!

Moving on, this is the Jock Stein Stand. The electronic scoreboard was on, with various commerical adverts for the Club. What a waste..there were only two other people, a couple from Denmark, on this tour with me. (And all your goodselves, looking in with me now, of course!)

Another look at the tunnel, this time directly down it.

A closer look at the main stand again, easier to do, as this is area where we are stood!

I could walk along a small area of the touchline, so here we are slightly further along.

Up above is this gantry. I'll be honest, I can't recall what it's purpose was. Press area? Restaurant? I can't recall.

Now we've moved up to the higher tier, in the main stand. These are the posh seats, and are much sought after. Apparently celebrity fans Rod Stewart & Billy Connolly both have one next to each other, but don't actually get to that many games, due to other worldwide commitments.

From up here we have a superb view across the pitch.

And left, to the Jock Stein end.

With one last glance, to our left, inside the actual stadium, before I take you round the tour inside.

Here is a picture of one of the greatest ever Celtic players Kenny Dalglish.

This is a sculpture, presented, by the Celtic Supporters Association, as a gift, to commemorate the centenary in 1988.

There now follows a number of snaps from within the Club boardroom/trophyroom. Impressive? Yes...but I was actually surprised by how 'little' there was on display. For a club with their history & European pedigree I just expected a lot more...

A small bust of the club founder.

Here are some 'close ups', or as 'close up' as snaps can be with my basic digital 'box brownie' (!). On the tour you are told what the main trophies are, but I wasn't taking notes, & can't recall many of them.

I believe these were Scottish Reserve League championships, which Celtic tend to dominate.

The wood based memento on the left commemorates the 1966/67 season, when they also won the Scottish domestic treble, as well as the Glasgow Cup, with that European thing as well! ;-)

Ah yes...that's the one!

This one is slightly blurred...but it's a Faberge style Egg, dedicated to Jimmy Johnstone!

We're now out in a corridor, where there were a number of cases displaying shirts. Thes from the Tommy Burns tribute match, 31st May 2009.

Some very early memorabilia, sadly I didn't note what the cup was.

And Celtic & Scotland shirts from last season.

No entry to this room!

The home changing room, adorned with shirts.

A 'rare' snap of myself!

The 'boot room', minus the boots!

A relaxing bath after the match..

A wise quote from a wise man.

As the hoarding says: 2007/08 champions. Shame they blew retaining it last season!

The sponsors boards, for television interviews.

The post-match press grillings are from here.

The media room is adorned with old shirts from down the generations.

Some of the amazing Celtic support from the UEFA Cup Final in Seville, in 2003.

A bust of Jock Stein. This is who I would have expected to actually have expected to have a statue outside the stadium.

One last picture. The never to be forgotten 'Lisbon Lions' of 1967.