Friday, 13 August 2010

For the love of the grounds...

I've started daring to dream about the next tour around the football grounds of britain. Last September's Journey To The 92 was a thousand experiences i'll try desperately never to forget. But although we tried desperately not to miss anything on the way round through meticulous planning and hours, days, weeks and even months of research, we still missed things... I find myself planning the next tour, trying to go back over old ground, picking up the extra photos and football gallery visits whilst including as many new stadiums and interesting experience opportunities as the time restraints placed on a once/twice in a lifetime adventure such as this will allow..

From as far back as I can remember, i've loved traveling to new places and the opportunity to see new grounds. Ever since my first visit to Roots Hall to see Southend United beat Sunderland by two goals to nil, i've been hooked. Within a year my Dad had taken me to see games at Wembley, Old Trafford, Selhurst Park and by my 13th birthday i'd already seen a game at the home of 10 different teams including my first visit to Priestfield Stadium. A visit that ultimately changed my life to a certain degree. I'd never had to stand to watch a game before and yet the passion racing through the stadium took away any thoughts of wanting or needing to sit down. The Gills won 1-0against Scarborough clinching promotion to the 3rd tier of the English game. I was in a stadium i'd never visited, watching a team I knew nothing about and yet by the time the full time whistle blew, I felt like I was part of something very special. Like i'd found my footballing family. I was a southern based Manchester United follower no more.

Away trips to Stoke City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County and Leicester City followed, amongst others, through the glory, nosebleed years of 2000-2005 and since the decline in form, less glamorous road trips to Wycombe, Leyton Orient and Accrington have taken their toll. But I wouldn't change any of it. Each trip holds it's own special place in my heart and mind. Not all good asi'm sure you'll understand. The 6-0 drubbing at Molineux stands out as one of the most depressing days i've ever had to endure as a fan, although the stand out 2 moments came in consecutive year play off finals at the old Wembley Stadium. The infamous 99 final with Man City, beaten only to 'most memorable' by the 2000 final defeat of Wigan Athletic.

Since I started to drive, back in 2003, it's given me more freedom to go and discover new stadia. Unfortunately, with more freedom came more scope for my obsessive compulsive dissorder to begin it's very slow but very real, take over of my life! I guess this was amplified by a trip in July when Mrs tothe92 and I went off to Sheffield for an appointment with a back specialist. I found myself with a list of more than 12 teams that i was convinced we could visit in this short 48 hour period we were going to be in control of the hire car for. As in most relationships, my hopes were shot down with a firm "I dont think so", so I settled for stopping at 2 and sneakily driving past 2 others claiming it to simply be a coincidence that they happened to be along the roads google maps was taking us along..

I guess I take it to an extreme. I’ll seek out grounds of non-league clubs as I drive through tiny villages and if by accident I happen to notice floodlight pylons towering above sets of houses as i'm making my way past I have to go and investigate. I remember dragging my 13 year old cousin on a whirlwind tube tour round London visiting Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, West Ham and Wembley all before it got dark.

I'm an addict. It's something that will never change. But why would I want it to?...

1 comment:

  1. Haha, I know the feeling, though I did once seriously confuse an ex-girlfriend by dragging her through the less salubrious parts of Stirling just to take some photos of Albion's ground.