Wow, what a first year of Groundhopping it has been. Before 2015 started i’d never heard of “Doing the 92”, “Groundhopping” or anything else similar for that matter. I simply knew that there were those mad people who followed their team to each and every home and away game, come rain or shine! Turns out I am now one of those mad people… Yes, we are mad but it’s great!
When sat at home this time last year watching a game of some sort, myself and a friend of mine, Liam, who has since accompanied me to a number of games decided that we wanted to go to a game soon; coinciding with the upcoming 3rd round FA Cup weekend we just had a look to see if there were any local-ish ties we could go to. I guess it was pot luck that we managed to pick a weekend where Cardiff City were at home on a Friday night on the 2nd of January against Colchester United. So there it was, before I knew it I had started a hobby that would soon take over every thought process I had when planning weekends or days in the future.
So Cardiff would be the location of my first venture of journey to visiting every single Football League ground in England and Wales. Who knew that after visiting Cardiff first I would fall into a trap of following the mighty Swansea City! I’m English as well. Oops. Ah well, the experience itself was alright. A decent first ground and game with a few mates from Bristol in Liam, Ben and Sam. Of whom I would continue my journey with in different ways. The Bluebirds came out on top 3-1 in a near-empty Cardiff City Stadium, just 4,194, the lowest ever attendance at the stadium.
So a good start but plenty more is to come! In the same weekend I ticked off Villa Park, the home of Aston Villa in a 1-0 victory over a Blackpool side in real trouble as a club. Also in January would be Craven Cottage for Fulham 3-2 Nottingham Forest and a Re-Visit to Villa Park for Aston Villa 0-2 Liverpool. So in the first month i’d already travelled 625 miles, spent approximately £75 on tickets and a fair amount on fuel! Luckily for me having mates alongside you does really help with that! So does being a student, i dread to think how much I’ve saved over the course of this year having that £12 student card!
February would be another busy month. First would be Old Trafford, the Theatre of Dreams for Manchester United 3-0 Cambridge United, Cheltenham Town 1-2 Bury and West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Southampton. (Oh, and 2 more Re-Visits to Villa Park. I’m a softy for some clubs!) 6 down… 86 to go. What have I let myself in for? All good fun though.
March… Busy, yet quite a boring month. No stand out games available to me so was more a case of a ticking the box for some grounds! Swindon Town 3-0 Notts County, Newport County 1-1 Cheltenham Town and Birmingham City 1-1 Huddersfield Town before going back to the place where the football love affair began, Ashton Gate for Bristol City 3-0 Crewe Alexandra. I set myself a goal of Doing the 92 properly though so I would have to go to each ground again, even ones i’d been to in the past. Finally, Stoke City 1-2 Crystal Palace. So 3 months in, 11 grounds visited, 38 goals witnessed and a lot a Nando’s digested. Shit, that rhymed. Awkward.
One of the best memories I have of 2015 is by far Easter, it was incredible. 4 days, 4 games with the addition of a stadium tour. Starting in Bristol on Good Friday myself and Liam made our way up to Shrewsbury Town 2-0 Dagenham and Redbridge at 3pm. Unfortunately we had to leave this game 10 minutes early to shoot East across the country to Derby County 2-2 Watford at 7.45pm – and is to this day, remains my favourite experience of Doing the 92 thus far. Following on from this it was back to Manchester for a Re-Visit to Old Trafford for Manchester United 3-1 Aston Villa. I guess this it where the weekend normally ends but it was home for 1 night before heading to London for a stadium tour at Stamford Bridge on Sunday which was followed by a trip to Vicarage Road for Watford 2-0 Middlesbrough. Yes, all this in one weekend… I needed a weekend to get over the weekend.
Anyway, the rest of April consisted of Reading 0-0 Blackburn Rovers, Leicester City 3-1 Swansea City and Ewood Park for Blackburn Rovers 2-0 Millwall. What a month.
May. The end of the season, every football fans worst nightmare – I still managed to fit 3 games in; Wolves 4-2 Millwall, Stevenage 1-1 Southend United and Arsenal 0-1 Swansea City. What a half season it had been! 20/92 in just 5 months I felt was a great start but still a long, long way to go! Onto 2015/16 with plenty of friendlies already planned.
I know this is a touchy subject – do friendlies count in “Doing the 92”? I think they do. So I do count them, however… I put in a lot of effort to plan to Re-Visit these grounds in a League game also! So over the summer months of 2015 I attended a number of friendlies. Bath City, Forest Green Rovers, Bristol Rovers, Nottingham Forest and AFC Bournemouth. This took my summer total at the start of the 2015/16 season to 23/92 (Following the relegation of Cheltenham Town to the National League). It was also my first ever game abroad as I went to the FC Barcelona 3-0 AS Roma friendly at Camp Nou in August which was incredible and just continued to fuel my love for Groundhopping.
Onto the 2015/16 season and what a season it was going to be! The remainder of August took me to Bristol Rovers for a Cup game, Portsmouth, Yeovil Town and Charlton Athletic. It was a good start to the season with 3 very entertaining games for different reasons, cup shocks, late goals and entertaining fans (including a streaker!) This was just a warm up to what was planned next… The Amsterdam ArenA! Netherlands vs. Iceland in the Euro 2016 Qualifiers, it was just incredible – in some ways it was a shame that the Iceland side won, however in others, it was absolutely amazing. Then from the heights of the Netherlands to the seaside in Southampton for a rubbish away day with Swansea City.
October and the year is slowly but surely coming to an end. This was a busy month, 9 games at 6 new grounds and they were Swansea City, Sheffield United, Notts County, Mansfield Town, Oxford United & Luton Town. My favourite of which was Mansfield Town 1-2 Bristol Rovers. My best away day ever, 3 red cards, 3 points and a 98th minute winner for Rovers. Incredible.
Into November, a few games planned but not many new grounds. Re-Visits to the Cardiff City Stadium, The Hawthorns and two trips to Old Trafford for the David Beckham’s Match for Children & my first Champions League game. An awful 0-0 draw between Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven. My new grounds were Rotherham United and Liverpool, both over one awesome weekend.
December. For some it’s about Christmas and others its about time off work for Football. I like a bit of both. So 3 games, all Re-Visits unfortunately, Bristol Rovers, Derby County & Exeter City to bring 2015 to a close. The memories that have been created this year are absolutely brilliant and ones I will never forget, amazing days, lots of great people and some amazing grounds! 57 games at a total of 43 grounds, 36 of them out of the 92, lots of goals and a hell of a lot of money spent… Bring on 2016.