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A week or two ago I was asked by the United Counties League Facebook page to write a guest article. It quite deliberately doesn’t mention the Peterborough & District League, who are also involved in August’s hop, after all it was for a purely UCL audience!

I’m a groundhopper, there I’ve said it, and the United Counties League and I go back to October 2003. I’d just moved to Banbury, and saw that Woodford United were at home to Stewarts & Lloyds. The ground was a devil to find, it helped when the lights were switched on, and I watched S & L triumph once their regular goalkeeper arrived and was substituted on! The people were friendly, and the barbeque tasted as good as it smelled!

I must have enjoyed myself, I watched Buckingham Town the next day, with the steam from the showers rising between the sleepers of the stand, and from then on my occasional odyssey has taken me through past members and present, the latest being Sleaford Town, with just 3 clubs left to visit, Wisbech, Harrowby, and Holbeach. As I’ve visited more and more clubs, over 1500 so far, I’ve not wanted to finish off the UCL, I like to have something to look forward to in a league.

For the vast majority of my groundhopping I’ve found my heart lies with Step 5 and 6. Big enough to cope, small enough to care isn’t a bad maxim to this level I’ve found, and you get the quirks too. I remember the Chinese Takeaway menu-style programme at Northampton Spencer, and the Higham Town’s gift to me of a club tie, now defunct I suppose! I’d better wear it when I next visit the merged club at Hayden Road. Mind you, I never did get a programme from the ON Chenecks!

I learned more about clubs and leagues when I became Chris Berezai’s deputy at GroundhopUK, we organise football weekends in Non-League. We’ve worked with leagues such as the Northern Counties East, Hellenic, and Welsh Alliance, so when we were approached by the UCL to run a groundhop for them I couldn’t help but be interested.

Now the news is out there; we’ll be opening up the season in the first weekend of August. In year 1 we’ll be visiting Deeping Rangers, with their Wembley turnstiles, Yaxley with their manhole covers walkways, and Peterborough Sports, who built a Step 5-compliant ground in a matter of weeks. I’m also looking forward to paying Peterborough Northern Star a re-visit. They didn’t have floodlights when I went last! Am I right in thinking that their lights used to grace an ex-UCL club, St Neots Town at their old Rowley Park ground?

That of course is just year one. We’ll visit every UCL first eleven on their own ground that wants us there, the only thing is that people will have to be patient; we can’t do them all at once! I’ll be hard work, but the weekends are rewarding in every sense of the term, and I get to see all those grounds and people I haven’t seen in years.

I genuinely feel I’m coming full circle with the league.

If you’d like more information, why not join our mailing list? Just email Chris on groundhopuk@yahoo.com. See you in August!