DID YOU KNOW.....
     
 

 

 

Football has a million and one stories and just as many facts and figures. Here are a few of them - the record-breaking, unusual and bizarre.

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PAST FRONT PAGE PICTURES

The latest Front Page Picture is on the Home Page - but here are a selection from previous weeks....

A picture of the Burnt Ash football team in 1957/58 - and you know one of them is going to be famous. But which one? One really has a Colin Bell look about him, probably too long ago for Frank Lampard and definitely too long ago for Peter Crouch. No the famous one is the far left on the middle row - David Jones. He because David Bowie in later life, and doesn't he look angelic in that picture! So what was the future of the other thirteen I wonder? Did any of them go on to play football at a higher level in later life or, like the most of the rest of us, did they come various cogs in the general wheels of life. Does anyone know?

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The new stand at Liverpool is an impressive building but it will surely never match the
iconic status that was given to a former part of the Anfield ground ....the Kop. Unveiled in
1906 the huge embankment on the south side of the ground was originally known as the
Oakfield Road bank but was soon renamed the 'Spion Kop' after the site of a famous and
bloody battle in the Boer War. It was one of the highest embankments in English football with the uncovered terracing having the reputation of being bitterly cold in winter although the Kopites gained a degree of comfort when a roof was added in 1928.In its heyday the Kop accommodated around 30,000 standing fans but that figured had been halved by the time of its closure. The Taylor report which followed the Hillsborough disaster brought standing in the top divisions to an end and the final match for the standing Kop came on Saturday 30th April 1994 when Norwich gained a 1-0 Premier League victory.

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One of my favourite pictures of the City Ground home of Nottingham Forest taken in the year it opened, 1898. It looks a very basic ground which was partly due to the fact that the club was run by a committee and so money was tight. Crowds were also a bit more sparse in those days. The first match there was a Division 1 fixture against Blackburn Rovers on the opening day of the 1998/99 season, September 3rd 1898, when 15,000 were present to see the visitors win 1-0. Only the local derby against Notts County had a better crowd at the City Ground, 16,000, with the top crowd of their season being the return at Notts County, 20,000. Several of Forest's home League matches saw crowds of just 3,000 present, including their match against Liverpool (things would change!). County were better supported that season, and finished above Forest in the First Division table! If the modern Cloughie stand could be superimposed on that picture it would dominate the whole area!

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Pubs and football grounds seem to go together very well, although not usually as a perch to watch a match from! The Old Peacock Pub is next to the Elland Road home of Leeds United and is pictured in 1972 - health and safety hadn't been invented then! Leeds were involved in one of the closest finishes to a top flight season. Derby won the title finishing a point ahead of Leeds (2nd), Liverpool and Manchester City (1971/72 League table & results). This picture though was taken at an FA Cup 4th round replay with Liverpool which had kicked off at 2.30 on a Wednesday afternoon in February. The reason? The miners were on strike and in those days no coal meant no electricity and so floodlights couldn't be used. Not that the unusual timing did much to keep the fans away with the attendance of 45,821 - plus the ones on the roof - being Elland Road's third best crowd of the season.

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Bolton Wanderers played their first match at the pictured Pikes Lane ground in 1880
but it was on September 8th 1888 that the ground won its place in football history.
On that day it was one of five grounds that hosted the first ever Football League
matches - Bolton lost 3-6 to Derby County in front of 5000 spectators.
The formation of the Football League. There was a grandstand along one side but the
most popular viewing point was from a hill next to one of the other touchlines on
which assembled up to 4000 fans. It wasn't the most popular of grounds
with poor facilities and a pitch which soon turned into a mud-bath but its end came
after the landlords upped the rent from £35 - a year! - in 1888 to £175 five years later.
Bolton played their last match at Pikes Lane in 1895 and then moved to Burnden Park.
The ground was sold for building - in those pre-Ikea and Tesco days just ordinary
houses were built on the site!

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Bristol Rovers former Eastville Stadium home was probably best remembered by most for the flower beds behind the goals and the aroma from the local gas works. A more tragic memory would be of the fire that destroyed the South Stand in August 1980 following the first Division 3 match of the season, against Orient. Rovers were then forced to play their next five League and Cup matches on 'enemy' territory - Ashton Gate. Their final match at Eastville was in April 1986 with Rovers then moving to share Bath City City's Twerton Park ground before arriving at the Memorial Ground. Eastville is now the site of an IKEA store.

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The old Wembley in 2003 in its last days. It still think that within the £800 million or so it
cost to build the new stadium a few bob could have been found to incorporate those towers into the new building or move them somewhere else. To me it was vandalism at its worst when they were demolished. As I turned round and walked away after taking the photo there was a clap of thunder - in January! That just about summed up what I thought. Anyway the old ground was with us from 1923 to 2000 which the new ground staging its first matches in 2007.

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Fires in wooden stands were once not uncommon although thankfully never with the tragic consequences of the Valley Parade disaster. On April 3rd 1950 a fire in the West Stand of the former Leeds Road home of Huddersfield Town destroyed most of the upper tier and roof. The club were forced to play their next two matches at the Elland Road home of Leeds United and ironically in the second of those matches - against Newcastle United - the 37,766 crowd was their best 'home' attendance of the season. The stand was rebuilt during the summer and re-opened at the start of the 1950/51 season. Huddersfield played their last League match at Leeds Road on 30th April 1994 against Blackpool before their move to the Alfred McAlpine Stadium.

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Evidence of a torture chamber at Highbury! No, this is not a picture of a bloke in a
bubble-bath but of Arsenal player Wilf Copping in an ice bath in 1934. It's painful just looking at it, and he doesn't look too chuffed about it either! Quite what his injury
was that needed that sort of treatment is unknown but under manager
Herbert Chapman the Gunners were the top club in the country at the time and were innovators of many things that are normal practice now. Thankfully not this one though.

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One of the iconic sights at a football ground over the years was the clock at Arsenal's former home at Highbury. An idea of Arsenal's innovative manager at the time - Herbert Chapman - the first of many clocks counted down the 45 minutes of each half but it was changed to a standard clock after criticism that the 'countdown' undermined the match officials. Pictured are workers installing the clock in the 1930s - it was originally positioned on the north side of the ground but moved to its traditional home on the south side, the 'Clock End',  when the north bank was developed.

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If you have every been at match and thought it would be more entertaining watching the cars park in the car park you once could have done just that at a former home of Port Vale. Vale played their last match at the Old Recreation Ground on 22nd April 1950 - Aldershot won 1-0 - and the pitch was rapidly turned into a car park. A car park it remained until the 1980s when it became the inevitable shopping centre.

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Don't they look young!
A 14-year-old David Beckham signs schoolboy forms for Manchester United 1989 and starts the relationship with Alex Ferguson that was to last until Beckham left to join Real Madrid in 2003. Sir Alex retired as manager at Old Trafford ten years after that.

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Fulham's Craven Cottage ground in the late 1940's. Just the one stand with the Craven Cottage itself  in the bottom right-hand corner. All four sides now have covered stands but in those days the open terraces saw a record attendance at the ground of 49,335 against Millwall in 1938. On boat race day the riverside terracing also proved to be the perfect viewing point for anyone not totally absorbed by the game of football on offer! The whole area looks neat and tidy with not a car or television aerial - or a person - in sight.

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Whatever you think about the global warming debate there can be no argument that the winter months of 2015/16 have seen some extreme weather conditions with tragic consequences in various parts of the country. As far as League football goes Brunton Park in what has become Carlisle-on-Sea has been worst hit. Flooding at the ground is not unknown but this time it has seen the club exiled from their home ground, the pitch having to be relayed and considerable damage to the club buildings. May the sun start to shine in everybody affected.

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Shocked at the state of the Eastleigh ground for their FA Cup tie against Bolton Wanderers (January 9th 2016)? In days gone by, before undersoil heating became the norm, even the topgrounds in the country had pitches that looked more like ploughed fields rather than the snooker-table finish we now expect. Pictured is the Maine Road ground of Manchester City and the treatment it was getting to make it playable for the FA Cup tie against Swindon Town on January 10th 1953. The match was played - and City won 7-0!

Link - Postponed matches

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A piece of footballing history being demolished. Following their move to Glanford Park in 1988 Scunthorpe's former home at the Old Show Ground was demolished - inevitably to make way for a supermarket! Although they had hoped to dismantle the pictured stand and move it to Glanford Park that idea had to be abandoned because of the cost. When it was built it was the first cantilever stand - a stand with no supporting pillars to block the view - at a British football ground. A local steel company had built it for them on favourable terms hoping that it would be a showcase for other clubs. The stand was officially opened on 23rd August 1958 with Glanford Park staging its last match on 18th May 1988.

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Back in the 1980's Chelsea weren't alone in suffering crowd problems but their response to an FA warning after a pitch invasion during a League Cup semi against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in March 1985 was both unique and shocking. Controversial chairman Ken Bates had a 12-foot high electrified fence built around the pitch which was due to be switched on for a First Division match against Tottenham on Saturday April 27th 1985. Football supporters everywhere were outraged and just 3 days before the proposed switch-on the Greater London Council threatened High Court action - believing there to have been a breach of safety and planning rules - unless Chelsea abandoned their intention of allowing the 12-volts to flow. The match against Spurs was planned to be a celebration of their 80th anniversary of first playing at Stamford Bridge but all the headlines were about that fence. The match ended 1-1 and the electricity wasn't switched on - and never was.

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Well, the previous picture was how they sold the match-day programme
up't north in the old days while in contrast this picture shows how they were sold in the south in the swinging sixties. A picture from Stamford Bridge in 1966. I just have a feeling that buying a programme was more part of the routine at Chelsea than at Darlington?
Or not!

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Now that's what programmes were all about! Buying a 3d programme from the bloke in the hut was an important part of a match-day routine, you just needed one to make the
match-day experience complete!. That programme that had about 20 pages and wasn't what we get now -  a small booklet that weighs a ton, costs a fortune, doesn't fit in any pocket and contains no more information - buts loads more adverts - than those 3d publications. The programme hut at the old Feethams home of Darlington - but a bit more recent than when programmes cost 3d I think!

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Cardiff City v Chelsea at Ninian Park in March 1921. Over 45,000 were assembled for an FA Cup 4th Round tie with every conceivable vantage point being taken. No way would that be acceptable now - Health and Safety would see that match abandoned...and to be fair I wouldn't fancy standing below that lot on the roof! Cardiff won 1-0.

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I still think that the demolition of the Twin Towers at Wembley was an act of total vandalism - surely there was enough money around in football to take them down and rebuild them as part of the new Wembley. But at least that left the Twin Towers of Darlington with the entrance to the old Feethams football ground/cricket ground having a passing resemblance to the Twin Towers of Wembley - providing you've got a good imagination that is! Sadly even they went. After Darlington left the Feethams for the Arena (what a disaster!) in 2013 the towers where taken down down and rebuilt nearby to make way for a housing development on the old ground. But - of course - they don't look anything like the days when thousands of fans passed through them on the way to a match.

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There are a few British grounds with a railway line just outside their ground but none with
one inside the ground. I don't think the health and safety rules would allow it! But Slovakian amateur side
TJ Tatran Čierny Balog have a ground with a railway line
between the pitch and the stand. Really - unique or what? And I guess rather than be able to park the proverbial bus in front of the goal if they could build a siding they could park a train between their goal and the opposing forward line!

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A brilliant picture of Maine Road, the home ground of Manchester City between 1923 and 2003. In 1934 it hosted the highest attendance at a League ground in England - 84,569 for an FA Cup quarter final against Stoke City. It clearly shows the different styles of the stands built over the years and the lack of space round the ground. Whether you are a fan or not of the new grounds like their current Etihad home they generally have enough space around them to swing a cat!

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Kevin Keegan and family, a PR picture from the 1970s which was meant to show that footballers were just like the rest of us. It had to be said though that you probably
needed to be a football superstar if you were going to be able to afford the weekly shampoo bill that must have put a strain even on the Keegan finances!

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Well, I never stood at the Roker End for a match but I did stand there when Roker Park
  was being demolished. Sunderland's first match at their old ground was on 10th September 1898 when 30,000 were present for First Division match against Liverpool.
The record crowd at Roker was for an FA Cup tie against Derby County on 8th March 1933 when 75,118 were present but by the time the ground was demolished capacity
had been cut to less than half that figure. Liverpool provided the opposition for the last match at Roker, a friendly on 13th May 1997 - almost 99 years after that first
match at the ground.

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England's third place in the recent World Cup is a far cry from the beginnings of organised women's football in this country. That was back in the First World War
when the women who worked in the munitions factories in the north played
organised football to improve morale.
The top team of the time was the
Dick, Kerrs ladies side from Preston. They attracted an attendance of over 10,000
for a Christmas Day match at Preston's Deepdale ground in 1917 while on Boxing Day 1920 over 53,000 were present at Goodison Park for a friendly against
St Helens Ladies. Earlier in 1920 they had played against a French side in what is considered to be the first unofficial women's international fixture. Dressed in a
tea-cosy hat and the Newcastle United style kit the traditional Dick, Kerrs pre-match greeting was a kiss rather than a hand-shake - and by the looks of that picture
that kiss appeared to be a bit more passionate than a peck on the cheek!

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I've always wanted to watch a match from the Cottage at Craven Cottage.
The closest I have got though was watching the pitch getting a sun-tan! With
undersoil heating and artificial sun to get the grass growing the science of pitch maintenance has moved a long way from the last Front Page Picture -
bales of hay at White Hart Lane in the 1920s!

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Premier League matches are occasionally postponed because of freezing weather
when the car parks become dangerous or the water pipes are frozen (so no toilets!) but
postponed because of a frozen pitch? No way - nowadays you just press a button to switch the undersoil heating on. But back in the 1920s the state of the art method of preventing a frozen pitch was...straw! A picture of White Hart Lane on a day when hundreds of bales of straw were put on the pitch to keep the frost at bay. And then it all had to be taken off again not long before the match was played. Amazing.

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When Wimbledon first upped sticks and moved from London to Milton Keynes
their first home was the National Hockey Stadium, picture above with one of the
town's famous roundabouts. Wimbledon played their first home League match
there on September 27th 2003, a 2-2 draw with Burnley. They remained Wimbledon
for that season before becoming Milton Keynes Dons. MK Dons moved
to the newly-built Stadium mk at the start of the 2007/08 season.
The National Hockey Stadium has since been demolished.

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OK, this isn't the best-known of architectural awards but my prize for the most substantial bits of masonry at a football ground goes to Newcastle United and
their old crowd barriers. Those were some hefty structures at St James' Park
 but along with so much more they have disappeared
 to make way for the modern all-seater ground.

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An image of Derby County's Baseball Ground taken after the last match played there -
a youth fixture against Newcastle in 2003. Pride Park had been opened in
1997 with the Baseball Ground then being used for reserve and youth matches
and so wasn't in the best state of repair at the time. But the memories -
Cloughie, Real Madrid, Steve Bloomer, Juventus, Kevin Hector, Benfica,
Peter Shilton.......you never lose those memories!

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A picture of Peterborough United's London Road ground during its transformation
in the late 1950s. What is still the club's Main Stand had just been built behind
the old stand which was then demolished (the point at which the picture was taken)
The pitch was then moved over towards the Main Stand leaving space the other side where the Glebe Road terraces were constructed (later replaced by the family stand). Amazingly this was all done when Posh played in the Midland League although attendances in those days regularly topped 10,000.

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Whatever club you support there can be fewer sadder sights in football than a derelict football ground awaiting demolition. The memories are being betrayed I guess. Scarborough FC were founded in 1879 and spent 12 seasons in the Football League
 from 1987/88. Scarborough first used their Seamer Road ground - later called the McCain Stadium - in 1898 and it remained their home until they went bust in 2007.
The ground then fell into disrepair until demolished in 2011.

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Who said people preferred to stand up in the good old days! Long before Health and Safety was invented these fans amongst a 45,646 crowd at the Den in January 1957 found a more comfortable way to watch the FA Cup 4th Round tie. The original Den was opened in 1910 when Millwall were still in the Southern League. Their last Football League match there was against Bristol Rovers on 8th May 1993. The floodlights were first used - for their proper purpose that is - in a friendly against Manchester United
on 5th October 1953.

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Yeovil Town's old Huish Ground famously had a side-to-side slope of around 8 feet but
I'm guessing that this one is a tad steeper. But it's surely got to be a must on every
Groundhoppers list!

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Following the final game of cricket at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane ground in 1973
the last ground to host both Football League and County Championship matches
was the County Ground at Northampton. Originally a cricket ground, Northampton Town
were residents of the County Ground from their formation in 1897. The picture was taken in the mid 1960s at about the time the Cobblers played their only season in the old
First Division (1965/66). The football pitch had the reputation of having the worst playing
surface in the League which was largely the result of the pitch being used as a spectator
area/car park/picnic area during the cricket season, as shown in the picture. The Cobblers played their last match there on Tuesday October 11th 1994, a 0-1 Division 3 defeat by Mansfield Town. Four days later they drew 1-1 with Barnet in their first match
at the Sixfields Stadium.

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England had the Charltons and the Nevilles but on 20th April 1955 Wales became the
first of the Home countries to play two sets of brothers in an international team.

John and Mel Charles, Ivor and Len Allchurch were in their side for the 3-2 victory over
Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast. John Charles scored a hat-trick.

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Well if that was a goal celebration it certainly didn't catch on! Liverpool's Ray Clemence
didn't look too happy with the situation at a West Ham v Liverpool match at
Upton Park in 1972.

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It's hard to believe that the pictured ground hosted the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool
and Manchester United in League matches until the early 1990s.
Plough Lane had been the home of Wimbledon from 1912 with the ground first
hosting Football League football when Southern League Wimbledon were elected
to the competition in 1977. Amazingly by their tenth season in the competition Wimbledon were in the top division and in their 11th season they won
the FA Cup! The club played their last League match at Plough Lane
against Crystal Palace on May 4th 1991 before moving to a groundshare at
Selhurst Park and eventually to Milton Keynes. Plough Lane was used until 1998
as the home for the reserve teams of Wimbledon and Crystal Palace
but was demolished in 2002 and later became a housing estate.

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Wembley, Saturday April 28th 1923. The first match at the stadium, the
FA Cup final between Bolton and West Ham. The official attendance
was 126,047 but perhaps 200,000 got into the ground - it was the last FA Cup final
not to be all-ticket. What I find amazing about the picture is that London is missing, Wembley appears to be in the middle of a field!
Things have certainly changed over the past 90 years or so.

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Over the years football clubs have shared their grounds with some unusual neighbours. Probably the best example of that is at Everton's Goodison Park ground. When Everton played their first match at Goodison in 1892 there was a church in the corner of the ground and St Luke's Church is still very much there and has become an important part of of the Everton scene.

In recent years the church premises at the corner of Goodison have been used to dispense refreshments to the masses but in years gone by the roof of the church was used by spectators to watch the match. I'm not sure when that was - 4 bob (20p) to get in so it had to be years before there were any thoughts of Health & Safety!

The church certainly didn't stop Goodison from becoming one of the top grounds in the country. Pictured is Pele in action at the ground for Brazil against Bulgaria in the 1966 World Cup finals.

Link - Everton

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Probably the most unusual ground to stage Football League matches was The Nest, Norwich City’s home ground before they moved to Carrow Road. The Canaries had their home at The Nest from 1908, when they were in the Southern League, to 1935 by when they had progressed to the Second Division of the Football League. What made it unusual was that it was built in the bottom of a chalk pit with one end of the ground being next to the quarry cliff which had a retaining wall some 50 feet high and just a few feet from the touchline – and there were terraces for spectators at the top of it! It was dangerous for the players and precarious for the fans and once a barrier did give way (without any injuries) while on another occasion part of the pitch dropped 25 feet when there was movement in the old chalk workings. For safety reasons Norwich had to move and they signed a lease on a sports ground in Carrow Road in June 1935 and transformed it into a ground which hosted 29,779 fans for a Second Division match against West Ham United just 82 days later.

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You couldn't get much more East End than 'Only Fools and Horses', the long running
TV comedy series which starred David Jason as Del Boy. But in reality the home of the
Trotters wasn't in Peckham but far away in...Bristol! The building which doubled as their
Nelson Mandela House home was in fact a tower-block which overlooked the Bristol City
ground with much of the filming taking place around the Ashton Gate stadium.
Sorry if that shatters your illusions!
Link - Bristol City

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A picture of The Valley home of Charlton Athletic showing the vast terracing
which at one time saw the ground as the largest League ground in Europe. On
12th February 1938 a ground record crowd of 75,031 saw Charlton entertain
Aston Villa in the FA Cup although the modern Valley has a capacity of a tad over 27,000. Between 1985 and 1992 - when this picture was taken - money
problems meant that they had to leave their home and groundshare with
Crystal Palace and West Ham United.
Link - Charlton Athletic

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Well, it's turned chillier recently but with global warming I doubt if we are going to experience the winter we had in the 1962/63 season. The 'big freeze' hit the country
just before Christmas 1962 and then followed hundreds of postponements and
abandoned matches before the next full programme was played in the
 Football League - on March 16th 1963.
Before the days of undersoil heating clubs tried many different ideas to thaw
the pitches, including using flame-throwers at Blackpool and braziers at
Stoke City's Victoria Ground (pictured). You can't imagine Stoke's maestro Stanley Matthews playing on a pitch like that!
Link - Postponed Matches

* * * * * *

Well it's been all-change at Northern Premier League Stamford over the past few weeks. Saturday November 22nd 2014 saw the Daniels play their last match at Wothorpe Road after 118 years in residence (top picture). On Friday December 5th the first match was played at their new Zeeco Stadium - a friendly between the Stamford Youth side and their counterparts from Blackstone (bottom picture). Certainly a major change! The worst moan seem to be from the St Johns Ambulance man - he had no ice. Ironic really - the temperature felt like about minus 20! Love it or hate it - now that's a matter of opinion!

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I sat in the old stand at Peterborough the other day - not my favourite stand and although they were new seats they were still a bit 'cosy'. Or should I say no leg room (or arm room)! But they were nothing to compare with the picture above. I don't know if it is a 'naughty' seat for a fan who misbehaves but there seems little other point in having it. I don't know where the picture was taken but if this is what is meant by a restricted view seat I think I would always pay the extra!

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Sheffield United was formed by Yorkshire Cricket Club in March 1889 just six days after Bramall Lane had staged an FA Cup semi-final which had taken £600 in receipts - the cricket club decided that regular football at the ground would prove successful (Bramall Lane). It did prove successful, so much so that the football club became the senior partner and eventually evicted the cricket club from the ground. Yorkshire played their last County match at Bramall Lane in August 1973, drawing with Leicestershire. The South Stand at Bramall Lane was then built on part of the former cricket ground, finally enclosing the football ground on all four sides. Pictured above is the building of the South Stand with the cricket pavilion later being demolished to make way for a car park.

* * * * * *

A picture taken in 2014 of what is left of Belle Vue, the former home of Doncaster Rovers. In its time the pitch was considered one of the best playing surfaces in the country, but no more. Since Donny last played there in 2006 before their move to the Keepmoat all the stands have gone leaving just a shell of terraces and pitch. An eerie scene and a long way from the time in 1948 when a record crowd of 37,099 saw them play Hull City at the ground.