Saturday, August 26, 2017

Bath City FC

Bath City 1 Poole Town 0 - Conference South

Bath is the largest city in the Somerset, England, known for its Roman-built baths. Bath is in the valley of the River Avon, 97 miles west of London and 11 miles south-east of Bristol. The city became a World Heritage Site in 1987. The city became a spa with the Latin name Aquæ Sulis ("the waters of Sulis") c. AD 60 when the Romans built baths and a temple in the valley of the River Avon, although hot springs were known even before then. Archaeological evidence shows that the site of the Roman baths' main spring may have been treated as a shrine by the Britons. Water bubbling up from the ground as geothermal springs originates as rain on the Mendip Hills. The rain percolates through limestone aquifers to a depth of between 9,000 to 14,000 ft where geothermal energy raises the water's temperature to between 64 and 96 °C. Under pressure, the heated water rises to the surface along fissures and faults in the limestone. Hot water at a temperature of 46 °C rises here at the rate of 257,364 gallons daily.

Most buildings in Bath are made from the local, golden-coloured Bath Stone, and many date from the 18th and 19th century. The dominant style of architecture in Central Bath is Georgian. The most spectacular of Bath's terraces is the Royal Crescent, built between 1767 and 1774 and designed by the younger John Wood. But all is not what it seems; while Wood designed the great curved façade of what appears to be about 30 houses with Ionic columns on a rusticated ground floor, that was the extent of his input. Each purchaser bought a certain length of the façade, and then employed their own architect to build a house to their own specifications behind it!

Formed in 1889 as Bath AFC, Bath City's history is entirely in non-league football. They changed their name to Bath Railway in 1902 before settling on the name Bath City FC. In 1908 they commenced playing competitive league format football, joining the Western League Division Two. For the 1921–22 season they moved up to Southern League, English section. After the War the club resumed playing in the Southern League which they won in the 1959–60 season. In the 1977–78 season the club won the Southern League title for a second time. For the next season they fell short of election to the Football League by a narrow margin so they became founder members of the Alliance Premier League, now the Conference National. They finished runners-up at this level in 1985 but champions Wealdstone did not meet Football League stadium capacity requirements, so Bath City were allowed to apply for election to the Football League Fourth Division (the election system was in its penultimate season before the introduction of automatic promotion and relegation). They narrowly missed out on election to the Football League.  A year later they were runners up in the same league. In 1989 however they were relegated back to the Southern League but were promoted back next season. Here they remained until they were relegated once more to the Southern League in 1997. The club narrowly missed out on promotion to the Conference South in the season 2005–06 season finishing second in the Southern League and lost to Bedford Town. However, the following season they won promotion as winners of the Southern League in their second season under manager John Relish.

On a busy bank holiday weekend, the trains out of London Paddington were particularly busy as there was engineering work taking place to the west of Swindon. This meant that the services to Bristol Temple Meads were rammed. However, my train kept good time. On arrival at Bath I took the opportunity to have a wander around the centre before venturing out towards the ground.

En route to Twerton Park,  I was pleased to visit the Royal Oak micro pub. At the bar I requested something dark and local. In return I received a pint of Sirius (4.5%) from Ralph's Ruin. Brewed on the premises so you can't get any more local than that!  A fine ale indeed!  Anyone with an interest in good beer and visiting Bath City FC will enjoy this pub, less than ten minutes’ walk from Twerton Park, on the main road.

I had visited this magnificent venue back in 1989 when I saw homeless Bristol Rovers play Notts County in a Football League match. Since then I had long yearned for a revisit to watch a Bath City match. I have to say that Twerton Park is even better than I remembered it to be. A couple of covered seated stands are situated on the main side of the pitch. These are complimented by vast terracing for the remaining parts of the ground. In particular, the side terrace is fully covered and is a tremendous spot from where to watch football. The tea bar is on a raised level meaning that you can continue to watch the match as you queue!

Bath City FC ground out a narrow victory in an entertaining match for their third straight win, following defeat in their opening three fixtures. Immediately prior to catching my return train to Paddington, I visited Graze, adjacent to the railway station, this "trendy" establishment is also home to the Bath Ales microbrewery. I enjoyed a pint of Platform 3 (4.5%).

Attendance: 484
Admission: £13:00 
Programme: £2:50
Tea: £1:00
Pasty: £2:00


Earlier visit to Twerton Park

2 September 1989 - Bristol Rovers 3 Notts County 2 - League Division Three - Attendance: 4,753

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Forest Green Rovers FC

Forest Green Rovers 4 Yeovil Town 3 - League Two

Nailsworth is a town in Gloucestershire, lying 4 miles south of Stroud, in one of the Stroud Valleys in the Cotswolds. In ancient times Nailsworth was a settlement at the confluence of the Avening Valley and the Woodchester Valley, on the Nailsworth Stream. Among many notable historic medieval buildings in the area are Beverston Castle and Owlpen Manor. In the modern era Nailsworth was a small mill town and centre for brewing. It was connected directly to the UK national rail network between 1867 and 1947 with a station that was the terminus of the Stonehouse and Nailsworth Railway. The River Frome, which runs through the town, was also the site of an important trout fishery. These days Nailsworth is visited in the summer by walkers. It holds a farmers' market every fourth Saturday in the month.

The football club was established in 1889 by Reverend E.J.H. Peach, representing the Forest Green area of Nailsworth. The name Rovers was adopted in 1893, and the following year the club were founder members of the Mid-Gloucestershire League. The first home league match on 6 October was a 1–1 draw with Brimscombe and the club went on to finish the 1894–95 season in third place. Forest Green were amongst the founders of the Gloucestershire County League in 1968, where they played until moving up to the Premier Division of the Hellenic League in 1975 under the management of Peter Goring. Forest Green's first season in the Hellenic League Premier Division saw them finish fourth. Although they then spent two seasons in lower mid-table, a third-place finish in 1978–79 was the start of a successful four years, culminating in the 1981–82 season, in which they won the Hellenic League and reached the final of the FA Vase. At Wembley they defeated Rainworth Miners Welfare 3–0 to win the trophy. At the end of the season the club were promoted to the Midland Division of the Southern League. Although they finished third in their first season in the new league, the next six seasons were spent in mid-table.

In 1989 the club was renamed Stroud Football Club. Another season in mid-table was followed by two in which they finished in the bottom five. After reverting to their original name, the club continued to struggle in the league until they were transferred to the Southern Division in 1995. The 1997–98 season saw them win the Southern League Premier Division, securing a second successive promotion and entry to the Football Conference. In Forest Green's first season in the Conference they finished twelfth, as well as reaching the final of the FA Trophy, becoming the first team to play in the final of both the FA Vase and the FA Trophy. A third consecutive play-off campaign was secured with a third-place finish in 2016–17. After beating Dagenham & Redbridge 3–1 in the semi-finals, the club defeated Tranmere Rovers by the same scoreline in the final at Wembley, earning promotion to League Two. This made Nailsworth the smallest town ever to host a Football League club.

The New Lawn has been the home stadium of Forest Green Rovers since 2006. The stadium has a capacity of 5,147, of which 2,000 is seated. It replaced The Lawn Ground as Forest Green Rovers' home stadium. The stadium was due to cost the club £3 million and was approved in October 2003 by local council members, despite much local opposition due to the controversial siting of the development on school playing fields. Work started on the stadium on the 3 May 2005. The new ground has facilities to house 230 car parking places, 3 coach parking places. The stadium also has a leisure club, gym, sauna, conference and meeting facilities.

To reach the ground by public transport, I travelled by train from London Paddington to Stroud. The journey after Swindon through the start of the Cotswolds is picturesque and set the scene for Forest Green. At Stroud I was able to catch the half hourly 63 bus service to Forest Green, the ground being only a few minute's walk from the bus stop. The surrounding area is a mixture of residential or countryside. The nearest retail or refreshment options are down the hill in Nailsworth. However, for this match and probably most, the club restaurant was open to all (vegan fare) and there is also a secondary bar area at the end of the main stand. Both of these facilities had real ale (vegan) from the Stroud Brewery.  

I sat in the main stand which is the only seated part of the stadium. Behind each goal is covered terracing. The remaining side of the ground is open terracing used to house the sizable away following from Yeovil. This match was tremendously entertaining. Yeovil Town took the lead early on and added to this with a further goal from the penalty spot. Forest Green Rovers hit back with a goal a few minutes later, only for the Somerset outfit to restore their two goal cushion. Immediately before the break the home side pulled another goal back and straight after the interval levelled the scores at 3-3.

The comeback was completed when they scored a fourth and decisive goal. Both sides continued to attack for the remainder of the match. I felt a draw would have been fair but am pleased to have witnessed history being made as Forest Green Rovers won a Football League match for the first time. Getting back to Stroud was not as easy as the earlier. It seems that the 17.06 bus left earlier than timetabled or terminated its journey at an earlier stop. This appears to be a regular occurrence as the drivers avoid the steady stream of football cars leaving the ground at the end of matches. However, the next bus did run and by this time the football traffic had almost gone. There is a Wetherspoons public house (The Lord John) very close to Stroud Station and further refreshment was taken before catching the 19.35 service to London Paddington.

Attendance: 2615
Admission: £19:00
Programme: £3:0

Friday, April 14, 2017

Yaxley FC

Yaxley 3 Peterborough Sports 3 - United Counties League, Premier Division

Yaxley is a village and civil parish in Cambridgeshire and lies approximately 4 miles south of Peterborough, just off the A15 road. Yaxley is situated within Huntingdonshire which is a non-metropolitan district of Cambridgeshire as well as being a historic county of England. The village is located near the Hampton township, and is approximately three miles north-east of junction 16 of the A1(M) at Norman Cross. Yaxley once belonged to the Abbey of Thorney, and at one time had a weekly market and an annual fair. The manor was the property of Colonel Proby in 1910. There was once a small mere on this spot called Yaxley Mere and navigable water between Yaxley, Holme and onwards to the sea at King's Lynn. The peat of the fen here used to be over 10 feet thick with occasional outcrops of Oxford clay, but there is no sand or gravel.

The current Yaxley FC was established in 1962 and joined Division Three South of the Peterborough & District League. In 1963 they were renamed Yaxley British Legion and in 1965 were promoted to Division Two. Although they were relegated back to Division Three South in 1967, they returned to Division Two after winning Division Three South in 1968–69. They won Division Two in 1970–71 and were promoted to Division One. The following year they dropped British Legion from their name. After finishing second in the league for four consecutive seasons, they were promoted to the Premier Division in 1975, the same season in which they won the Huntingdonshire Senior Cup for the first time. The following season they retained the Senior Cup. The club won the Premier Division in 1976–77 and again in 1983–84, a season in which they won the Hunts Senior Cup for the second successive season. In 1986 they were renamed Coalite Yaxley as part of a sponsorship deal. In 1988 they became founder members of Division One of the Eastern Counties League. A change of sponsor in 1990 saw the club renamed Clarksteel Yaxley. In 1992 the club were expelled from the ECL as their Middleton Road ground did not meet the league's requirements (it was in a park, had no stands and needed temporary dugouts to be put in place on matchdays). The club dropped into the Huntingdonshire League. In 1995 the club finally moved to Leading Drove and were accepted into Division One of the United Counties League and won the division at the second attempt, and were promoted to the Premier Division.

I was fortunate to be offered a lift to Leading Drove, the journey via the M11, A14 and A1(M) was swift and we arrived at Yaxley in good time to take some early photographs of the ground before venturing along the High Street in search of refreshment. A good Chinese take-away assisted in this respect. Yaxley is clearly a mix of old and new with a number of thatched roof dwellings interspersed with more recent buildings.

It is clear that the ground at Yaxley has undergone tremendous change in recent times, the most notable aspect of this being the installation of a very impressive artificial playing surface. There is a decent sized covered seated stand adjacent to the main club building, which houses the bar, tea bar and changing facilities. This building is L shaped and fits very neatly into the corner of the ground. There are two additional covered areas, much smaller but housing a single row of seats. These are situated along either side of the ground, diagonally opposite each other.

This Good Friday evening fixture probably benefited from not clashing with Peterborough United who played in the afternoon. Also being a local derby, the foresight of the clubs was rewarded by a bumper crowd of 250. Peterborough Sports FC are the newly crowned champions of the United Counties League and were given a guard of honour by their hosts as they entered the pitch before the match. Yaxley themselves are also having a good season, sitting in 3rd place and therefore this fixture promised to be an interesting encounter.

Yaxley led twice in the first period before being pegged back at 2-2 by the interval. An improving Peterborough Sports began to show why they have had such a good season and soon in the second period had taken the lead for the first time. As the match progressed both sides created chances and it was fitting that Yaxley grabbed a 3rd goal in the closing minutes to gain a well-deserved draw. The quality of football was a great advert for the United Counties League – a very enjoyable evening out. This Pieman was back home in Cheshunt for 11pm and as ever, grateful for the lift.

Attendance: 250
Admission: £6:00
Programme: £1:0
Tea: £1:00 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Folkestone Invicta FC

Folkestone Invicta 1 Harlow Town 4 - Isthmian League, Premier Division
Folkestone is a port town on the English Channel, in Kent. The town lies on the southern edge of the North Downs at a valley between two cliffs. It was an important harbour and shipping port for most of the 19th and 20th century. The area of Folkestone has been occupied since at least the Mesolithic era. In 2010, worked flints were discovered below the remains of the Folkestone Roman Villa. The East Cliff area was excavated in 1924 and most recently from 2010 - 2011, which has produced artefacts from the Mesolithic period through to the Roman Era. On the East Cliff, an extensive Iron Age oppidum existed, which produced quern-stones on an almost industrial scale. These querns, or stones used for grinding cereals into flour, were traded for continental exports such as pottery and wine. A modest Roman style villa was constructed over the Iron Age settlement sometime during the first century AD, followed by a more luxurious one in about 200 AD. The villa was abandoned sometime during the third or fourth century for unknown reasons. The major landmark in Folkestone, apart from the harbour, is the Leas, the cliffs above the beach. A Martello Tower stands on the cliff above Copt Point. Built in 1806 as a defence against Napoleon, it has also been a Coast Guard lookout, a family home, a golf clubhouse and a Second World War Naval mine control post. It now houses a visitor centre. The Folkestone White Horse is carved on Cheriton Hill above the Channel Tunnel terminal.

Folkestone Invicta Football Club, which was formed in 1936 and played in the East Kent Amateur League (now the Kent County League), took over use of the Cheriton Road ground in early 1991 after the demise of the old Folkestone club who had enjoyed a long history in the Southern League. Under manager Gary Staniforth, Invicta joined the Winstonlead Kent League and completed the Division Two league and cup double during the 1991-92 season, also winning the Kent Intermediate Shield that season. Invicta achieved senior status and joined Division One of the Kent League, making steady progress in its first two seasons at this level. 

The nearest the club came to another trophy during these two seasons was when they lost the 1994 Kent Senior Trophy Final. The club continued to make good progress in 1998-99 as Southern League football returned to Folkestone. Invicta finished third in the Southern League Southern Division behind champions Havant & Waterlooville and runners up Margate, with the promotion race going to the final day of the season. Invicta also reached the final of the 1999 Kent Senior Cup The club also made its mark in the FA Trophy by beating Conference club Hayes to reach the Third Round before going out 8-4 in an incredible tie away to three-times winners Woking. The 2003-04 season was more successful for Invicta as the club finished fifth in the Eastern Division to win promotion via the re-structuring of the non-league game. The club switched from the Southern League to the Isthmian Premier League for the 2004-05. In 2016 Invicta won the Isthmian League Division One South Championship by 24 points and Manager Neil Cugley completed 1,000 matches as the club's manager.

A direct train service from London Bridge saw this Pieman reach Folkestone Central in around an hour and a half. Folkestone West is a slightly nearer station to the football ground, but local resident and retired colleague Paul Denham suggested the former as it was close to a couple of hostelries in town that he wanted to show us! The Firkin Alehouse on Cheriton Place was our first calling point. Once the site of a hairdressers, this small micro pub is outstanding in quality and range of ales and ciders. There is no bar, you select your choice from the displayed list and your drink is delivered to you from the back room. Oakham Preacher (4.3%) was an inspired choice. The full bodied smooth delicate bitterness was a perfect start to the day in Folkestone. A few doors along from here is Chambers, another pub dispensing a selection of real ales. I enjoyed my pint of English Pale Ale (4.3%). This fine beer is brewed at Hythe by The Range Ales for Chambers.

A swift walk to the ground enabled a further opportunity for real ale in the form of Hardy & Hansons bitter, straight from the barrel – superb. This was in Bar Invicta, one of two bars in the ground. The Cheriton Road ground is a fantastic throw back to a previous era. Three sides of the ground are terraced and sufficiently banked to afford a very good view from all points. One of the ends is fully covered and along part of the remaining side is a decent covered seated stand. Overall this is a fantastic stadium which oozes character.

The two teams had met the previous Tuesday in the reverse fixture. Harlow Town led 2-0 until the 88th minute but two late goals meant that the Kent side enjoyed a share of the spoils. Therefore, the return fixture at Folkestone could be interesting! Played in gusty winds, it was the visitors that adapted best to the conditions and by half time had established a three goal lead. This was extended further after the break and although Invicta did grab a goal, this was merely a consolation. A late red card for a petulant kick reduced the home side to ten men.

Cheriton Road is a joy to visit. A wonderful old fashioned stadium with extremely friendly people. Easy to get to and good beer options. The 17:11 service from Folkestone West was caught with ease and a couple of hours later, via London I was home in Cheshunt.


Attendance: 328
Admission: £10:00
Programme: £1:50 (32 pages)
Tea: £1:00

Thursday, February 16, 2017

KAA Gent

KAA Gent 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0 - UEFA Europa League, Round of 32 1st Leg

Ghent is a city and a municipality in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province and after Antwerp the largest municipality of Belgium. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Leie and in the Late Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe. The municipality comprises the city of Ghent proper and the surrounding towns of Afsnee, Desteldonk, Drongen, Gentbrugge, Ledeberg, Mariakerke, Mendonk, Oostakker, Sint-Amandsberg, Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Sint-Kruis-Winkel, Wondelgem and Zwijnaarde. The ten-day-long Ghent Festival every year is attended by about 1–1.5 million visitors. Much of the city's medieval architecture remains intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored. Its centre is the largest carfree area in Belgium. Highlights are the Saint Bavo Cathedral with the Ghent Altarpiece, the belfry, the Gravensteen Castle, and the splendid architecture along the old Graslei Harbour. Ghent has established a blend between comfort of living and history; it is not a city-museum. The city of Ghent also houses three béguinages and numerous churches including Saint-Jacob's, Saint-Nicolas' and Saint Michael's. In the 19th century Ghent's most famous architect, Louis Roelandt, built the university hall Aula, the opera house and the main courthouse. Highlights of modern architecture are the university buildings by Henry Van de Velde.

Koninklijke Atletiek Associatie Gent, is a Belgian football, track and field and hockey club, based in the city of Ghent, East Flanders. The club has been playing in the Belgian Pro League since the 1989–90 season. They won the national league once, in 2014–15, in addition to three Belgian Cup victories. Gent played their home matches in the Jules Ottenstadion in Gentbrugge from 1920 until 2013, when they moved to the Ghelamco Arena. The team colours are blue and white. The field hockey and track and field divisions were founded in 1864, making it one of the oldest sports clubs in Belgium. The club was then known under its French name La Gantoise (and it is still referred to as such in the French-speaking part of Belgium). They changed their name to the current Dutch version in 1971. The football division opened in 1900. The nickname of the club is De Buffalo's, a term coined after a visit of the original Buffalo Bill and his Wild West circus to the city in the early 20th century. Ghent enjoyed a first spell at the highest level in Belgian football between 1913–14 and 1928–29, and a second one from 1936–37 to 1966–67. In the 1970s and 1980s, the club had several promotions and relegations between the first and second divisions, to come back at the highest level in 1989. The club reached the 1991–92 UEFA Cup quarterfinals, which is their best achievement ever in European competitions. 

The Ghelamco Arena (also called Arteveldestadion) was officially opened on July 17, 2013, making it the first new-built Belgian football stadium since 1974. The stadium seats 20,000 and replaced the Jules Ottenstadion, which had been Gent's home since 1920. The stadium hosted its first competitive match on 4 August 2013, when Gent won 2-1 against KV Mechelen. The stadium is situated on the site of the Groothandelsmarkt (Trade Market), near the R4 and the Ringvaart and close to the E17 and E40 motorways. 

A morning Eurostar departure from London St Pancras to Brussels saw this Pieman arrive in Gent early afternoon on the day of the match. A brief stroll around town en-route to my hotel was pleasant and I was able to appreciate the appeal of the place. I was also able to enjoy a few different Belgian beers in a couple of bars. The number 8 bus runs from the centre of town directly to the stadium with the fare being €3. Even a couple of hours before the match, the traffic near the ground was extremely slow and we walked the last bit. UEFA schedule Europa League matches during the commuter rush hour, which is a really clever arrangement!

The stadium is, as you would expect for a new build, decent with a good view afforded from all areas. The away section is tucked away in a corner. The refreshment facilities (like many on the continent) do not accept cash. Vouchers have to be purchased for €2 before you can use them for purchases. However, this itself seems rather daft as the cheapest fare available cost €4. The match itself was a poor spectacle with the home side edging a dull encounter 1-0 against a lifeless Tottenham Hotspur side.
After the match, we managed to squeeze on a solitary number 8 bus which enabled us to get back to town relatively easily, once it had left the immediate vicinity of the ground. I noticed that a lot of the Gent supporters either cycled or walked, which on reflection does seem the better option.

A frustrating evening for the Tottenham Hotspur supporters leaving little margin for error in the second leg at Wembley Stadium.

Attendance: 19,267
Admission: €40
Programme: Only available in VIP and Press Areas (Free)

Friday, January 06, 2017

West Ham United FC

West Ham United 0 Manchester City 5 - FA Cup, 3rd Round

West Ham is in the London Borough of Newham in London. In the west it is a post-industrial neighbourhood abutting the site of the London Olympic Park and in the east it is mostly residential, consisting of Victorian terraced housing interspersed with higher density post-war social housing. The area has been one of the most deprived in the country and as part of the New Deal for Communities programme it forms, with neighbouring Plaistow, a regeneration area. A settlement in the area named Ham is first recorded as Hamme in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 958 and then in the 1086 Domesday Book as Hame. The earliest recorded use of West Ham, as distinct from East Ham, is in 1186 as Westhamma. It is formed from Old English 'hamm' and means 'a dry area of land between rivers or marshland', referring to the location of the settlement within boundaries formed by the rivers Lea, Thames and Roding and their marshes. West Ham is located 6.1 miles east of Charing Cross.

The club was founded in 1895 as Thames Ironworks and reformed in 1900 as West Ham United. The club has traditionally played in a claret and blue home strip with white shorts. West Ham competed in the Southern League and Western League before joining the Football League in 1919; they were promoted to the top flight in 1923, when they also played in the first FA Cup Final at Wembley. In 1940, the club won the inaugural Football League War Cup. West Ham have been winners of the FA Cup three times, in 1964, 1975, and 1980, and have also been runners-up twice, in 1923, and 2006. The club have reached two major European finals, winning the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1965 and finishing runners up in the same competition in 1976. West Ham also won the Intertoto Cup in 1999. They are one of eight clubs never to have fallen below the second tier of English football, spending 59 of 91 league seasons in the top flight, up to and including the 2016–17 season. The club's highest league position to date came in 1985–86 when they achieved third place in the then First Division. Three West Ham players were members of the 1966 World Cup final-winning England team: captain Bobby Moore and goalscorers Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. Celebrity fans include Petch and Iron Maiden.

The team's supporters are famous for their rendition of the chorus of their team's anthem, "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" introduced to the club by former manager Charlie Paynter in the late 1920s. A Pears soap commercial featuring the curly haired child in the Millais' "Bubbles" was well known at the time. The child resembled a player, Billy J. "Bubbles" Murray, from local schoolboy team, Park School, where the headmaster was Cornelius Beal. Beal was known locally for his music and rhyme and wrote special words to the tune of "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" whenever any player was having a good game. “I'm forever blowing bubbles, Pretty bubbles in the air. They fly so high, nearly reach the sky,Then like my dreams they fade and die. Fortune's always hiding, I've looked everywhere ... I'm forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.”

The London Stadium (originally known as the Olympic Stadium) is a stadium in Stratford, at Marshgate Lane in the Lower Lea Valley. It was constructed to serve as the home stadium for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, hosting the track and field events and opening and closing ceremonies. It was subsequently renovated as a multi-purpose stadium, with its primary tenants being West Ham United Football Club and UK Athletics. However, the stadium operators arrange many other events for the stadium. The stadium site is on former industrial land between the River Lea (which re-joins the Navigation below Old Ford Lock), the City Mill River, and the Old Pudding Mill River; parts of the Bow Back Rivers. To make room for the stadium, the already partially obstructed Pudding Mill River, a short channel of the Lea which ran from the west side of the stadium south-eastwards across the stadium site, was filled in.

This Pieman had not intended making his initial visit to the London Stadium until May 2017 when Tottenham Hotspur visit in the Premier League. However, a colleague was unwell and unable to attend the match. I was able to offer my services as a late replacement and in doing so, recompleted my set of all current Premier League and Football League venues (“the 92”). I travelled to Stratford and completed my pre-match journey by going a further one stop east on the Docklands Light Railway (Canary Wharf branch) to Pudding Mill Lane. This station is a convenient alternative to the main Stratford station where you have the additional clash with Westfield shopping and is less than ten minutes walk from the London Stadium.

Having grabbed (just) a couple of daylight photographs outside the stadium and purchased match programmes, I was able to have a wander around the site. I was surprised to see that here was still construction work taking place around the Olympic Park but can see that there are a number of long term projects. Pudding Mill lane station being one such building site. I decided to get something to eat and swerved Westfield by opting for some decent fish and chips near Maryland station. It had started to rain by this time and sitting in this restaurant provided a good interlude. When returning to the stadium it was not possible to continue through the Westfield Centre as this route is blocked. Spectators are directed around the centre. Once inside the stadium I was able to take some more photographs and reflect on my only previous visit (2012) for a track and field evening at the Paralympics.

My seat for the match was in the lower tier along the side; tenth row near the half way line and the view was superb. History was being made as this was the first ever FA Cup-tie to be staged at this venue. City led 3-0 at the break; Yaya Toure starting the rout by firing a debatable penalty into the bottom left corner. Havard Nordtveit bundled Bacary Sagna's teasing cross into his own net, just 146 seconds before David Silva's composed tap-in. Shortly after the restart, Sergio Aguero cheekily diverted in Toure's shot and John Stones headed in his first Blues goal as the visitors comfortably saw the game out. I felt that Manchester City could have stepped up another gear if necessary. Health and Safety is clearly taken seriously at this venue and many of the home supporters willingly joined in with an emergency evacuation from late in the first half through to full time. My walk back to Stratford station was slower than previously experienced due to congestion but still only took around twenty minutes. An interesting if unexpected evening out in East London!

Attendance: 56,975
Admission: £25:00
Programme: £3:50 (100 pages)
Tea: £2:30 (not for me at those prices)
Subsequent visits to this venue

5 May 2017 - West Ham United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0 - Premier League - Attendance: 56,992
23 September 2017 - West Ham United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3 - Premier League - Attendance: 56,988

Total 3