My Back Pictures - 35 Leeds Road

Huddersfield Town 2v2 Newcastle United
Monday 7th May 1984
Football League Division 2

One of the first grounds to be knocked down and replaced with a swanky new stadium was Huddersfield Town’s Leeds Road in the Kirklees borough of Yorkshire. The old ground was set amongst the picturesque backdrop of Last of The Summer Wine, but on a Bank Holiday Monday in 1984 these tranquil surroundings were invaded by 12,000 Geordies arriving for a promotion party.
This particular era evokes some of my fondest memories supporting the lads away from home. On reflection it’s hard to believe that up to this point, I had been following United for only ten years, but what an eventful decade it had been. 
My first season ended with embarrassment and in floods of tears on 5th May 1974 as a United side not only lost to Liverpool at ‘It’s a Knockout’ on Grandstand but were also humiliated on FA Cup final day, and when I say humiliation I don’t just mean the purple tracksuit tops the players wore as Moncur lead the players out of the Wembley tunnel.
This was following by my first Wembley visit in ’76 (more crying) the departure of my first hero Supermac, the Gordon Lee exit, the players revolt which lead to the appointment of Richard Dinnis, a brief stint in Europe and eventual relegation in 1978.
Bill McGarry had a crack at a quickie return by assembling an experienced side but fell short. The board then turned to Arthur Cox who made a steady but uninspiring start, as the club looked as far away from a return to the big time, as the night they played the last home game in Division One against Norwich City in front of a 7,000 crowd and the sad sight of a demolished Leazers End.
After the most uninspiring season in 1981-82 which is fondly known as “The Bobby Shinton Season” when the spoon nosed striker was the club’s top scorer, netting 7 times out of a grand total of a piddly 30, me and my mate Jimmy decided to purchase season tickets for the following season. 
This wasn’t because of the prospect of an exciting season ahead, with the likes of Trewick, Halliday and Haddock, it was because we went to every home game anyway and there was the added attraction of a bargain early purchase price of £38 in the East Stand benches.
As it turned out this was a master stroke on our part and the best value for money from a week’s giro ever, because in the space of a few weeks United shocked the football world with the signing of England captain Kevin Keegan from Southampton for £100,000, and the rest as they say is history.
United eventually finished fifth in Keegan’s first season, hovering on the outskirts of the promotion places without actually threatening to make the final cut. The team had improved greatly with the signings of McDermott, Clarke, McCreery and the emergence of youngster Chris Waddle, however the team lacked that extra spark, which came the following season as a little lad from Wallsend came half way around the world to play for his hometown club.

As I’ve mentioned this particular period conjures up some great memories. I travelled to away matches with the Newcastle United Supporters Club on the Armstrong Galley coaches. Bookings for away travel were taking at the club shop in the Haymarket, where you purchased your travel tickets and also got your membership book stamped, so you could show off how many away matches you’d attended. The “Sarnie Squad” always used to travel on the same bus together with John Moody (who took these photographs) as our coach steward. 

During that promotion season I travelled to almost every away match, even back in those days I was an avid football ground bagger, making sure I went to the grounds I hadn’t been to that season, as I was positive that we were on our way up and hoping we wouldn’t be returning to these Second Division backwaters again.
The promotion party was expected to take place nine days before the last away game at Huddersfield, when we took over the tiny Abbey Stadium in Cambridge. The required victory was a formality when you consider our hosts were without a solitary win in 31 games. However in typical Newcastle United tradition we blew it, going down to a shock 1-0 defeat, which still ranks as the greatest day in their 35 year Football league history.
The players made up for that disappointing afternoon in the Fens with a dazzling display the following Saturday, thrashing Derby County 4-0 which virtually guaranteed promotion, as we lead fourth place Grimsby Town by six-points with two games remaining, plus we had the advantage of a 15 goal swing in our favour.

And so to make it all official (i.e. when our name is coloured in different from the others in the league table on final score) we just needed a point at Leeds Road. United went into the game without our talisman Keegan for the one and only time that season, but what difference would it make? Keegan was retiring so we had to get used to not having him in the side, plus it was only Huddersfield Town, we’ll piss this especially with a large fanatical backing which would virtually make it like a home game.
Prior to kick off trouble flared in the cow shed paddock, the terrace shared between both home and away supporters. Running battles took place with the police struggling to cope until the aggro died down as just as kick off approached. There were Geordies here, Geordies there, Geordies every *cough* where, as the Toon Army ranks were gathered in different pockets of the ground with a few climbing the floodlight pylons to get the best possible view.

As for the match itself, The Terriers started the game in a positive manner against a United side which looked disjointed and nervous in the first quarter of an hour. In the 22nd minute the Yorkshiremen took the lead, when a free kick from Brian Laws was flicked on by Jones and Cooper was on hand to smash home from six yards.
Four minutes later Town doubled their lead when a long ball from Wilson got caught in the wind and in true comical United style the ball glanced off the back of Steve Carney’s head over the hapless Kevin Carr. The script wasn’t going according to plan and as the ball hit the net a thought crossed my mind which was echoed by a fellow Toon fan standing next to me on the terrace; "We're shite without Keegan, we're a one man team"
Any negative doubts I had were soon diminished by half time by Keegan’s “Heir Apparent” Peter Beardsley who produced two pieces of magic in a frantic five minute spell just before half time. Wearing the United legend’s coveted number 7 shirt in his absence, he halved the deficit on 41 minutes. A cross by McDermott found David Mills just inside the area, who laying the ball into the path of Pedro who unleashed a vicious 20 yard drive which rifled into the roof of the net for his 19th goal of the season.
Two minutes later John Anderson had a goal disallowed for offside, and then on the stroke of half time United were level. Beardsley returned the earlier favour by flicking the ball into the penalty area for Mills to score his fifth goal in only ten full appearances during this campaign.
United failed to capitalise on their supremacy in the second half as Beardsley continued to torment the Terriers defence, but it didn’t matter, we had done enough and it was now official - Newcastle United were back in the First Division after a six year absence.

The final whistle was greeted with a mass invasion of the Leeds Road pitch from the Geordie hordes, as Arthur Cox and the players were chaired off the pitch by the supporters. We stayed behind as the players finally remerged to do a lap of honour with Kenny Wharton holding the “Pride of Blakelaw” banner which had first made its appearance at St James Park 48 hours earlier.

A fabulous finish to one of my favourite seasons, this matchday being one of many highlights which including great away wins at Leeds, Man City, Charlton and the best of the lot being the 4-1 win at Portsmouth. These matches were all attended on the Armstrong Galley buses with the Supporters Club, an organisation which is still sadly missed, nevertheless the spirit of the “Sarnie Squad” will always live on. 

This updated version titled 'The Sarnie Squad' from the post originally written in September 2006 was published for Issue 8 of Toon Talk Magazine.

Editor Steve Wraith describes the magazine as;
The young upstart of Newcastle United fanzines. Its the new kid on the estate who spray paints his tag on your corner shop wall...the new boy next door who sits on your wall and hockles on your driveway...the new lad who drinks your special brew and snogs your lass.

More details on Toon Talk and where to purchase the magazine can be found on the website;

My Matchday - 311 Cressing Road

Braintree Town 3v1 Gateshead 
Blue Sq.Bet Premier
Saturday 10th March 2012

After a couple of weeks travelling north and catching two games in one day there was only one destination this week, as the only way was Essex to watch my beloved Gateshead in action at Braintree Town.

The town was first recorded in the 1085 Domesday Book as Brantry and Branchetreu, when originally consisted of 30 acres of land owned by Richard, the son of Count Gilbert. From the 17th century the town prospered as Flemish immigrants made the town famous for its wool trade, until the vocation died out in the early 19th century. Braintree then became a centre for silk manufacturing and by the mid-19th century thrived in agricultural and textile, benefitting by the rail connection to London.
Braintree is 40 miles from London in the north of the county and has contiguous grown with several surrounding settlements. The town is referred to as Braintree and Broking, with the main part of Braintree to the south of Stane Street and Broking to the north.

Manor Works FC formed out of the Crittall Window Company works team in 1898, giving the nickname of “The Iron” The new club replaced the defunct Braintree F.C side in the North Essex League, going on to win the title on three occasions in 1905–06, 1910–11 and 1911–12.

The club were renamed Crittall Athletic in 1921, progressing to the Spartan League in 1928 and founder members of the Eastern Counties League in 1935. They won the league in its second season, but left to join the new Essex County League which folded after a single season and so they made a quick return to the ECL.

After the Second World War they played in the Eastern Division London League. They rejected the chance the return to the ECL in 1947 until eventually returning in 1952, the same year as a record attendance of over 4,000 for a testimonial against Tottenham Hotspur. They turned professional two years later but financial problems forced a U-turn, dropping down into the Border League at the end of the 1954–55 season.

The sixties was an eventful decade winning a league and cup double, before twice switching divisions to the Greater London League in 1964, and then to the Metropolitan League in 1966. They were renamed Braintree & Crittall Athletic in 1968 and at the turn of the 1970s they again returned to the Eastern Counties.

The club became Braintree FC in 1981 and two years later added the Town suffix. They won back-to-back ECL titles from 1984 before stepped up to the Southern League in 1991. Due to Geographical reasons they switched the Isthmian League in 1996 and over the next ten years progressed through the three divisions to reach the Conference South in 2006. After twice losing out in the play-offs they won the title last season to earn a place in the top division of the Non-League pyramid.
The Manor Works originally played at the Fair Field, before a move to Spaldings Meadow in 1903. The club moved to Cressing Road in 1923, built by the Window Company to provide recreation facilities for its workforce with a 400 seated covered stand and three sides of banking. In 1926 a new clubhouse and changing rooms were built, then in the 1930s a second stand was built opposite the original structure known as No.2 Stand. After the War the second stand was cut in half and attached onto each side of No.1 stand, meaning the Cressing Road end was fully covered but the opposite side was desolate.

In 1967 floodlights were installed before the ground fell into decline, with one side of the attached stand demolished due to a state of disrepair, then the other side was destroyed in a severe gale in 1974. The rest of the stand was taken down in 1975 and a lack of funds saw the ground closed for two years.
The ground began to take shape again from 1990 with a new seated stand, followed by an enclosure supplied from Bedworth’s ground. New terracing was laid and cover was added at the Quag End. Cressing Road has seen numerous changes in almost 80 years of existence and improvements and changes have continued this season with just a few finishing touches left to complete its reconstruction.
The ground is quite homely decked out in blue with orange crash barriers and trimmings. The Main Stand contains 553 blue seats and stands centrally, running half pitch length with terracing at each side and six supporting pillars. The TV gantry is positioned on top of the roof. Opposite is the Cressing Road Terrace which is two thirds covered and has a 1300 capacity with the team dugouts at the front.

The changing rooms, Iron Bar clubhouse and club shop are behind the nearside goal. The terrace has recently seen improvements with a new section recently added and can accommodate approximately 800 fans. Behind the far goal is the open Quag End terrace which also been restored with improvements almost complete. The ground has a set of eight floodlight pylons, four at each side and for sponsorship purposes is known as the Amlin Stadium with an overall capacity of 4,151.
This was the fourth meeting between Braintree Town and Gateshead this season, the previous three games have finished all square but a win result was never in doubt this time as The Iron outmuscled, out battled and outplayed a team which again looked out of sorts and disjointed, producing another poor performance.

The host took a two goal lead with two goals in the opening six minutes. Britt Assombalonga struck first in the 5th minute, giving time and space to curl a right foot shot from the edge of the box, then a minute later a similar goal, this time the defence stood off Ben Wright, allowing him to fire a low hard shot past Farman.

Gateshead had plenty of possession but posed little threat and the second half began in a similar ilk to the first as Assombalonga added his second on 55 minutes. The big striker got on the end of a through ball, left totally unmarked, the slack defending gave him plenty of time to tee up his shot and volley home to make it 3-0.

Braintree looked dangerous with every venture forward while the Heed didn’t muster a single shot on target until the 90th minute, when a corner kick was cleared out to Jamie Chandler who chested and volleyed the ball high into the net from 25 yards. It was a shame that such a wonderful goal was nothing but a token consolation.
Overall a good home performance from The Iron while Gateshead’s chances of reaching the play-offs become more remote as the weeks and fixtures go by.
No public transport required for yours truly this week, with much appreciation to Andrew Gelder (aka “Adolf Travel”) for the door-to-door lift to Essex, with the other car spaces taking up by young Mark Thompson and Squad#185 Simon Grobari. After a false start we finally hit the A1 at 9.25am arriving in the home town of Louis Spence and The Prodigy just after 1.30pm
According to the gateman at the ground it was a half an hour walk to the town centre, which put everyone off following me to Wetherspoons. The stroll only took just over ten minutes (That’s at Postman’s pace…Eddy) giving me plenty of time to enjoy a couple of local ales from the Brentwood Brewery in The Picture Palace. This particular branch of ‘Spoons is very impressive, in its previous life the building was the Embassy Cinema and maintains its original features, with the old cinema screen still in use to beam live football.
I had a quick look around the town and the market place, avoiding the temptation to buy a cheap electric guitar before heading back to Cressing Road for the game.
The Heed backing was giving a boost with a few Toon fans making use of their pre-booked train tickets for the Arsenal match, which has been moved to Monday night for live broadcast. I also seen a few faces I hadn’t seen for a while, as well as Squad#194 Keith Arthur who had travelled down from York.
This was one of those days when a good day out was spoilt by 90 minutes of football, but at least I’m pleased to tick off another ground amongst the top 116 clubs. However trips away aren’t just about the football, as some of the Geordies in the crowd only visited Essex for one reason, with claims on the terraces and chants of “We only come for the vajazzle”

Matchday stats
BTFC 3(Assombalonga 5,55 Wright 6) GFC 1(Chandler 90)
Admission £15
Programme £2

My Matchday - 309 Pittodrie Stadium

Aberdeen 1v1 Celtic
Scottish Premier League
Saturday 3rd March 2012

For a second successive Saturday, Aberdeen were giving the noon TV slot, this week entertaining champions elect Celtic at Pittodrie. Last week I saw the Dons in action at St Mirren as part of a Scottish groundhopping double and again I was back in northern Britain to take advantage of another early kick-off to bag another two new grounds.

Aberdeen is the third most populous city in Scotland, situated between the rivers Dee and Don on the North Sea coast line. Aberdeen is traditionally home to fishing, textile mills, shipbuilding and paper making. The city is nicknamed the “Granite City” in relation to the grey granite which was quarried at Rubislaw for over 300 years until production ceased in 1971. The stone was used for paving setts, kerb and building stones, and also monumental and ornamental pieces, seen at the likes of the terraces at the Houses of Parliament and at Waterloo Bridge in London. Aberdeen is also known as the Silver City with Golden Sands and also the Oil Capital of Europe since the discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s.

Pittodrie was opened in 1899, the original tenants being the first Aberdeen club, which amalgamated with Victoria United and Orion to form Aberdeen FC on the 18th April 1903. The land, situated only 500 metres from the North Sea, was leased from Mr Knight Erskine of Pittodrie(a village 20 miles north-west of Aberdeen) although the origin of the name may well stem from the Celtic interpretation meaning ‘ a place of manure’ as the ground was built upon a former dung mound for police horses.
The first game at Pittodrie Park took place on the 2nd September 1899, when the original club hammered Dumbarton 7-1, with the integrated club drawing 1-1 with Stenhousemuir on 15th August 1903 in front of 8000 spectators. The ground also held a Scottish international in its early days, with a match against Wales in February 1900.
Pittodrie came to prominence once the club purchased the ground outright in December 1920. The Main Stand including club offices, dressing rooms and trophy room was built in 1925 and the land opposite on Pittodrie Street was purchased in 1928.The ground became a football pioneer in this decade with the first ever dugouts introduced by club coach Donald Coleman, built to study the players footwork from a lower level to the pitch.
During the 1950’s a record attendance of 45,061 was set in March ‘54 for a Scottish Cup tie against Hearts, cover was added at the Beach End and then in October 1959 Luton Town provided the opposition in a friendly match as floodlights were switched on for the first time.

The Main Stand became all seated prior to the 1968-69 season with seats installed in the paddock as part of £100,000 worth of ground improvements, which coincided with the renaming from a Park to a Stadium. In February 1971 part of the Main Stand was destroyed by fire which also gutted the dressing rooms and club offices, this mini-disaster was the catalyst for the eventual conversion to an all-seated stadium. The restoration work on the stand cost £140,000, and then as a cost cutting exercise, expensive crash barriers with replaced with bench seats, so by 1973 both the Merkland Road End and Beach End became seated stands. The final stand to be transformed was the uncovered South Side making Pittodrie Britain’s first all seated stadium in 1978.

The Main stand still looks in good shape for a structure which is approaching its 90th birthday. The stand has a number of supporting pillars which has restricted views amongst the 3,655 red seats. You’ll notice where the roof was extended after the fire, now covering the former paddock. At the rear of the stand are 24 executive boxes installed in 1985 and at the front are the historic dugouts at each side of the tunnel.
The south side became the South Stand in 1980, following the construction of a cantilever roof covering the majority of the stand, with the benches replaced by individual seats the following year. The stand has 8,400 seats with the east part of the stand housing the away fans and just over half the stand put by for matches with the Old Firm. The television gantry is suspended centrally and the stand is filled with both red and amber seats.
Named after the club’s former player, manager and long serving chairman, the £4.5m Richard Donald Stand is the stadium’s most recent development replacing the Beach End stand in 1992-93. The two tier structure towers over the rest of the ground, almost twice the size of its three mates with 6,064 red seats split by a row of 12 executive boxes, which brings the overall ground capacity to 22,199.

Behind the west goal is the Merkland Stand which is now the club’s family stand and also has a section for disabled supporters near the pitch. The stand entrance façade constructed from local granite stone has stood since 1928 when the club bought the land on Pittodrie Street.  The stand has 3,545 red flip seats and a new low roof was built in 1985. In between this stand and the South Stand is the only section of uncovered seating in the corner.

My day started early on the 0630 from Newcastle to Edinburgh, from where I caught the 0828 Scotrail service to Aberdeen, where on-board  I met squad#173 Andy Hudson for the first time, who introduced himself to me via a tweet!  We arrived in the Granite City just before 11am and marched straight to the nearest ‘Spoons for a swift pint before jumping a taxi to the stadium. Our approach to the ground was accompanied by rowdy Celtic fans, who also provided a good atmosphere within the stadium.
The match itself took a while to get going, what the game desired was Aberdeen to take lead to give the match more of an edge, but it was Celtic who broke the deadlock on 28 minutes. A Kris Commons through ball was played into Anthony Stokes who showed good control to round the keeper before slotting home from a tight angle.
Celtic looked set to boss the game and extend their lead, but just before the interval the Dons equalised. Scott Vernon’s pass found Rae whose effort took a wicked deflection off Andre Blackman to give Foster no chance.

Aberdeen played much better in the second period and had chances to win it, going close with a Rory Fallon effort, before Vernon headed narrowly wide and a golden opportunity was wasted by Mitchel Megginson. The Dons battled well in the closing stages as Celtic pushed for a winner, but on the whole the draw was a fair result. The hosts can be satisfied with ending Celtic’s 17 game winning streak and both clubs remain unbeaten in 2012.
Andy made a sharp exit from the press box to catch the train to Arbroath, missing the closing stages but thankfully no winning goal. Gayfield was also part of my original plan for the double, until a text message on Friday night meant a plan B was required. So for my second new ground of the day I left Pittodrie and took a leisurely stroll up Ardarroch Road to Aberdeen Sports Village, arriving with time to spare for a 2pm kick off at Lewis United.

Matchday stats
AFC 1(Blackman 44OG) CFC 1(Stokes 28)
Admission:Press (normally £20)
Programme £3

Ground no.309 Pittodrie Stadium - Matchday Web album (18 pictures)

My Matchday - 310 Aberdeen Sports Village

Lewis United 4v6 Banchory St. Ternan
SJFA North Superleague
Saturday 3rd March 2012

After the match at Aberdeen my original plan was for myself and Squad#173 Andy Hudson to travel down to Arbroath with Squad#68 Jonathan Elton who was hiring a car from Edinburgh Airport. Unfortunately Jonathan was stuck in the America, his flight to London was cancelled meaning he was unable to catch his planned flight to Scotland the following day.
On receiving the news I scanned the internet looking for Scottish Junior fixtures with hopefully a 2pm kick off. It didn’t take me long to find a game, as Aberdeen based Lewis United were at home in the North Region Superleague. I looked on Google Maps to find the distance between the two grounds and you can imagine my upmost delight on finding that it’s 0.3miles and a 6 minute walk, basically just around the corner.

The Chris Anderson Stadium (formerly the Linksfield Stadium) is part of the Aberdeen Sports Village. The complex includes an indoor football pitch and athletics area, hockey pitch, squash courts and also includes a seminar and office centre. The stadium was rebuild between 2007 and 2009 and during this period Lewis United played all their games away for one season before ground sharing with neighbours East End F.C.

From 2009 Lewis United agreed a ten year lease to use the main outdoor pitch which is surrounded by an 8 lane running track. There’s a neat looking 500 seated stand which backs onto the main building at the village, which is fitted with silver plastic flip seats and a flat Perspex aided roof. The stand is the only spectator point in the ground, there’s also standing room on the balcony which leads out to the exit. Refreshments are found in the Village Centre, with a café area in reception and there are also hot drinks machines.
Over the far side next to the hockey pitch is New Advocates Park, the home of East End, where you can see the action in one half of the pitch. If I was the kind of groundhopper who briefly visits grounds and still counts them, then I could have done a treble today, watching the first half at Lewis and the second at East End. The Richard Donald Stand at Pittodrie can also be clearly seen, in fact if both clubs were at home at the same time you would probably viddy both games from the stand’s top tier.

Lewis United formed as a Juvenile side out of John Lewis & Sons shipbuilders in Aberdeen in 1942, becoming a Junior outfit in 1947 and nicknamed “The Hoops” because of their Celtic style green and white shirts. The club are very much a cup winning team gaining many honours between the 1950s and 1970s in most notably the Archibald Cup, McLeman Cup, North East League Cup and lifting the Duthie Cup seven times.
The Hoops won the North East Division One League title in 1996-97 and the Morrison Trophy three times, the last of which came in 2002-03. Despite being homeless at the time, promotion was achieved to the Northern Region Superleague in 2008.

The (deep breathe) North Region Junior FA PMAC Group Superleague clash with Banchory St Ternon produced ten goals and amongst them one of the best strikes I’ve seen this season. Instead of a proper full detailed match report, which would take up at least 1000 words I’ll just make do with a summary of proceedings.
The Hoops took the lead on nine minutes through centre-forward Law, before the visitors got a foothold on the game and eventually equalising on 33 minutes. A corner kick was cleared out of the danger zone and picked up by right back Burke who unleashed a raker of a shot from at least 35 yards which flew into the top corner of the net. An absolutely stunning goal, it’s a pity that a crowd of only 24 and the players and managers were the only fortunate ones to witness such a strike.

McRae headed the visitors into a half time lead, then two goals early in the second half by Watt and Carroll put Banchory 4-1 ahead, but Lewis wouldn’t lie down, hitting back through Bescott and McCormack to make it 3-4 with only an hour played. But any hope of snatching a draw were diminished as the Saints added a further two goals to their tally and a consolation from United resulted in a final score of four goals to six.

Instead of watching this ten goal thriller I could have still have made it to Arbroath, but this meant leaving Pittodrie early and rushing to catch the 1404 train. Then once arriving in Arbroath I would have missed the kick off and also the end of the match, having to leave early to head south. However I’m not too bothered as there’ll be other opportunities to visit Gayfield, plus I would have missed out on an entertaining encounter and going to a ground that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought of visiting. So yet again, I have to announce that I enjoyed another cracking day out whilst travelling north and the furthest point that I’ve hit the north so far.

Matchday stats LUFC 4 BSTFC 6 (full scorers and goal times to be confirmed) att.24(HC) admission & programme:none