Just occasionally I get asked to do a piece for a programme which is a rather different task from what I do on this blog, still its good to do something different once in a while!
Rightly or wrongly I ask for the same thing. A copy of the programme with my article in, and if I’m writing about a specific game, a press pass too. I’m certainly up for doing a few more, so if you want me and my camera at your ground just contact me via this site.
This piece appeared in Hellenic League outfit AFC Hinksey’s programme a week or two ago. They asked for around 500 words on “Groundhopping,” and I think they were reasonably happy with what I gave them. Hope you enjoy it.
Groundhopping eh? The aim of watching a football match at as many grounds as possible. But why? Well, apart from why not, there is always the predominantly male trait of wanting to collect things. I suppose collecting something intangible is unusual, but there is something more than just aimless ticking. And what would I do with a boxful of stamp albums?
The hobby has many strands, the season ticket holder at a League club who watches local football during the week, right through to the number cruncher who never re-visits a ground. Yet each has a common thread. All are sick to death of modern football, where the supporter is treated like a commodity, and charged more and more and treated with more distain.
I got into the non-league scene when it got too expensive to follow my side both home and away. I remember being told that all this groundhopping would get me nowhere. That statement made me smile when I was sat in the away end at the Big Arch Stadium, Hiroshima! That wonder of what lies round the corner drives me, and many others.
Of course if all was interested in was football I’d have renewed my Sky Sports subscription. There are some cracking football grounds out there. You’re in one now, Culham Road is a gem to someone like me. If you like here, may I humbly suggest a trip to Hastings, or for the more adventurous what about Dalbeattie Star, or Garw in the Bridgend Valley? Or perhaps you ought to head to Lier in Belgium, Lyra in the 4th division has the kind of pitched roofed stand that these days are in short supply.
Eventually I found more than even the architecture, for football isn’t based on the fabric you’re stood or sat in, it’s based around you, the fan and the army of volunteers that make it all work on any given Saturday. I started to organise groundhops with GroundhopUK a few years ago, we did several in the Hellenic, and now many of the volunteers are now good friends of mine. It warms the heart when you see 300 people at a game where there’d normally be 20. It means you’ve made a difference, and in the end it led me to my conclusion of why we’re here.
The reason why you’ll turn up at a small football ground on a cold wet November evening is because you care. You care for your team, your friends, your town, even your country. For its heart and soul that drives us on. Any other reason and we wouldn’t be here shouting, watching and worrying. Enjoy the game.