As my adventures in 2015/16 get closer, I find myself thinking “What can I do this season?” Every season since I started this endeavour to groundhop the country I always find myself saying things like ”I must visit there this season,” and “Oh, I have to pencil that into my diary at some point.” For the record, I don’t have a diary. More often than not though, I make it up as the weeks go along, usually working around my weekends watching Swansea City away.
Well, here are some of those “I should really do that this season” thoughts for my upcoming season of football travel.
Attend a Women’s Football Match
“Your’re a sexist, misogynistic dinosaur.” Well unlike the label Judi Dench’s M gives Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in Goldeneye, I would like to think I am definitely not sexist. Yet, somehow I am still yet to attend a women’s football match. There have been a few near visits on football-less Sundays, but ultimately I’ve failed to attend one. This is getting sorted this season. There’s plenty of opportunities to go watch Man City W.F.C at the shiny new Academy Stadium, but it would be nice to combine my first women’s football game with ticking off a new ground.
Keep ploughing through ‘The 92’
I ticked off a host of Football League grounds I’d never been to last season, as well as finally going to Stamford Bridge after all of Swansea’s time in the Premier League! And so this season, I go on. I’m now up to 65/92, so it would be nice to get over the 72 mark and get within 20 of the big 92.
The north is the main target this season with Hartlepool, Mansfield, Middlesbrough and Sheffield United (how the hell haven’t I been there yet?) being key targets. Plus, Swansea head to Watford this season which will also be a new one for me and the only Premier League ground I haven’t visited. Feel free to invite me along to your club and I’ll try to fit it in.
Attend more ‘Hipster games’
This is just a giver for any season. What exactly is a ‘hipster game’? It’s a term we coined for some of the more outlandish and ‘hip’ fixtures that we have been too over the past few years. In the past few seasons I’ve seen Dinamo Bucharest v Hearts in Leigh, New York City v St. Mirren at the City Academy Stadium, Northern Ireland v Qatar in Crewe and even Stockport Sports v a young American academy team called the Mid City Lions from Atlanta. However, the pinnacle of ‘hipster games’ will always remain to be the impromptu Club Brugge v Otalul Galati game next to a golf course at Mottram Hall – a luxury resort in the Cheshire countryside. Hopefully more will pop up this season – the wackier, the better.
Find another ‘Turton’
The biggest surprise of the season for me was Turton FC’s amazing ground, Thomason Fold. Admittedly, there was very little to it, but the showstopper of the place was undoubtedly the scenery. On a sunny evening in April it looked absolutely beautiful (just check out the photos on the blog about our visit here). That spontaneous venture north of Bolton has prompted me to look around more of the Lancashire League clubs and Step 7 and below grounds for another hidden gem like Thomason Fold. My first new ground of the season will probably be at West Lancashire League club Longridge Town’s home, the Mike Riding Ground. Maybe that will be this season’s Turton…
Crawley v Morecambe/ Morecambe v Crawley
‘The Matt Harrison Derby’ as it’s been dubbed (solely by me if I’m being totally honest): Crawley v Morecambe. Morecambe have dominated these pages as my supposed ‘second team’ over the past few seasons, yet Crawley took the limelight in 2015 with their fans even securing my prestigious ‘Fans of the Season’ award in my regular end of season awards blog. Crawley’s relegation to League Two will now see them take on Morecambe in a battle of two Lost Boyos favourites and a dual for my ‘second team’ affection. I suppose I have to go and witness one of these clashes, although how I opt for which end to go in will be interesting. Possibly a half in each end…
Head to Germany
Simple really. German football still has that hype surrounding it and I want to see more of it live. I loved going to the incredible Olympic Stadium in Berlin back in February 2014 to watch the Hertha Berlin v Wolfsburg and the atmosphere was everything I expected from a Bundesliga experience. Yet, I also knew that I wanted more. Another trip to Deutschland awaits and hopefully I’ll fit in more games this time.
(NOTE: I have flights to Stuttgart booked, so this is going to happen!)
Somehow I’ve still never ever got around to crossing the Irish sea to either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. I had a whale of a time with the Northern Irish fans for my last game of the season in Crewe, but to be honest I want to do the whole boring ‘being a tourist’ Dublin-thing first. Of course, this will encompass some sort of football too. Maybe one for a Bank Holiday weekend or one of my half term holidays.
A few years ago, fellow Welshman Rhys ‘Chester’ Hartley told me that I should visit Clapton FC and their antiquated, iconic ground. I always make a note of any recommendations, as I find such recommendations usually end up being the best experiences. But trips to London saw me dragged elsewhere and a visit Clapton has been delayed repeatedly. I need to sort this. If there is one club I have heard about repeatedly over the past 12 months it is Clapton FC – mainly because of the ‘Clapton Ultras’. From what I can tell, the fans are some of the most fun you’ll find in non-league and also some of the most ‘left-wing’ too. Plus, the club boasts the brilliantly named ’Old Spotted Dog Ground’, which is also considered the oldest football ground in London. Clapton FC sits very much towards the top of my list this season.
So there you go, there are some ideas to where you might find me in 2015/16 and you can also expect the usual array of random football, flat caps and double thumbs up. As always, I am open to suggestions too. If you want to tweet me to sell why I should visit a certain ground/club – regardless of what level they are at – then get tweeting @MattLostBoyo. (Tip: I’m a sucker for an old school stadium, lots of good pubs near the ground and generally fun fans).
A usual I’ll be posting my adventures about my adventures on various social media throughout the season too: