I managed to attend just over 80 games this season, but a more important stat was bagging 35 new grounds, which isn’t bad considering I’m not what you would call a professional ground hopper. What I mean by this term is; I’m not your stereotypical ground hopper ( I don’t own an anorak for starters) who would probably snigger at such a small total over a full season. I do support 2 football clubs, which are generally my football priority, so I don’t have every Saturday free to go somewhere new every week. I also have my fantastic wife and family to consider, as I actually do have a life apart from football (well, just about) so all things considered I think I’ve done well this season the push my total closer to the 200 mark.
The obvious highlight was Gateshead’s promotion to the Conference North after finishing 3rd over the regular season and winning the play-offs. The Tynesiders played a brand of entertaining football, played in the right manner and were by far the best team in the league, it’s baffling how we weren’t league champions anyway. A big thanks and well done to manager Ian Bogie and his assistant Jeff Wrightson on such a fantastic job in their first full season in charge, the club have a bright future ahead and the Heed Army are looking ahead to next season already, in the Conference North with Bogie and Jeff.
The soap opera which is Newcastle United continues, with no sign of the show being axed, much to the delight of the southern based press. Sam Alladyce’s appointment was greeted with optimism amongst the majority of the Toon Army, a new manager with different ideas and a new approach, little did we know that this new approach would have such a negative effect. Looking back at my first game of the pre-season at Hartlepool, reading the post again there seemed so much to look forward to, but the dreadful Alladyce brand of football resulted in the natives getting restless, which usually ends with the same sorry conclusion. Personally I would have gave Big Sam a full season, then judge his performance and review the situation over the summer, as I’m not too keen on managerial changes and upheaval in the middle of the season. As much as I love Keegan, I was a bit embarrassed about the over the top euphoria which greeted his second managerial coming, but after a poor start he did eventually turn things round, so we’ll have to see what .progress is made in the transfer window and see how next season develops. Of course a soap opera has to have a series finale cliff hanger, cue our star midfielder ending up in the nick for 6 months, you can see how that story and the rest of the show develops when the series restarts in August.
King Kev celebrates becoming Facebook friends with ShaunSmith
The 100 Football Grounds Club squad went over the 100 mark recently, which I’m delighted with, my only real disappointment this season was the ‘Groundhoppers Union Meeting’couldn’t go ahead as originally planned, as their was plenty of interest, maybe we could have another try next season, so watch this space. I did however meet up with a few of the squad, namely the Matlock Pieman, Graham Crofts,Jamie from Fitba Daft, el Queso Grande,The Groundhog and the annual pre-match Toon v Spurs pint with Simple Pieman.
My main aim this season grounds wise, was to finish off the Northern League. I went into the season with 14 of the 42 still to visit, I managed to rattle through 11 of them by the turn of the new year, however I just managed to squeeze in those last 3 before the season ended, next season there'll be two new ANL grounds; Ashington’s Woodhorn Lane and the long trip over to Cumbria for league newcomers Whitehaven.
The highlights were my favoured trips north of the border, the Scottish Cup Final was such a great occasion with Queen of the South making their first final appearance and I also enjoyed my trip to St. Mirren’s Love Street. Following Gateshead away is always a great day out and a good laugh, I wish I could have gone to a few more games on the road with the ‘Heed Army’ but I’ll be trying my best next season, as there’s some cracking away venues in the Conf..sorry!..Blue Square North to look forward to.
Finally I’d like to thank everyone who logs on to the site, cheers for the nice comments and the good feedback I’ve received. This season the blog won an award, and also made the final list of nominees for the Football Fanzine Awards, so I’m naturally thrilled to get the recognition for the wee bit of graft I put in. This website seems to have now turned into my raison d’etre, so I’ll be looking forward to next season, discovering pastures new, armed with my camera, notebook and pen, but definitely, categorically and without a shadow of a doubt, no bliddy anorak! ;-)