A hop, skip and a jump
For years I’ve known about the “92 Club” and people wearing the badge of honour that you get after visiting all 92 professional football grounds in England. What I had been blissfully unaware of though was the world of the serious groundhopper, for those were 92 grounds simply isn’t enough “hopping” takes on a whole new context and offers up list of possibilities that is both daunting and seemingly impossible to ever complete!
I’ve not idea how one gets into hopping, but clearly many are drawn into it either intentionally or unintentionally, perhaps one day you realise you’ve a fair few grounds under your belt and that’s it your away. However you get into it, as the saying goes, “theres an app for that” whilst racking up a few myself I had a quick browse of Apples App store and found “Groundhopper”, tick off grounds you’ve been to, dates, memorable moments goals, pies, coffee, the choice is yours! Currently it goes down to Step 4 of the Enlgish non-league pyramid (The BBC explain it much better than I for those blissfully unaware here) or in terms of actual leagues - Northern Premier League Division One homes of the likes of Lancaster City and there Giant Axe ground, cracking ground Wigan Robin Park won there 4-2, 13/12/2011 in the Lancashire Trophy ¼ final pics here since you asked!
Two things struck me about the Groundhopper app*, firstly the level of detail you can plan your visits with military precision thanks to integrated satellite images and fixture lists and more importantly, the next update must surely include Step 5 of non-league football which will bring the North West Counties Premier Division listings, sorted if Wigan Robin Parks promotion bid goes to plan!
The app seemingly also future proofs itself, filled your boots with English Football? Got them all? Theres 34 other countries to go at and I’m guessing even the hardest of the hardcore will be going some by the time they tick off places like MFK Tatran Liptovský Mikuláš in Slovenska Futbalova Liga (Slovakias 2nd Division to you and I!), looks quite tidy from the satellite shot mind and there at home this weekend (14/14/2012) to LAFC Lučenec if your tempted 3.30 kick off and your in luck……………. Just down the road Ružomberok are at home to Košice and it’s a 5.30 kick off in the Corgoň liga (Slovakias top division). Who knew this level of detail was only a couple of button clicks away, my good lady will be hiding my passport and camera if she gets wind of it!
Whilst I’m new to non-league football and it shows I’m sure, after almost two seasons of photographing, mainly in the North West Counties Division 1 I reckon I can pick your average “hopper” out of the crowd - Normally stood away from the regulars, has gone to great efforts to obtain a match day programme when told on the gate “they’ve sold out pal”, although most probably won’t have read it and it’ll have been slotted straight into an A4 document wallet for safe keeping. If its an early kick off, come the 85th minute they’ll be stood at the closest point to the exit where the pitch is still visible, ready for a quick getaway, there’s that game at 3 to get to not far from here…………………..
I’m sure as well the further down the non-league pyramid you go there’s every chance you’ll find yourself at a match where the “hoppers” out number fans of either side, a strange and unique footballing occurrence!
How many non-league grounds have I hopped? I couldn’t possibly say, I’ve not been keeping count, but, oh go on if you insist - I’ve barely scratched the service, 12 out of 18 in North West Counties Division 1 (Wigan Robin Park, Atherton Collieries, Rochdale Town, Irlam, Cheadle Town, Daisy Hill, Holker Old Boys, Oldham Boro, Northwich Villa, Nelson, Leek CSOB, Ashton Town) That leaves me “needing” Norton United, Abbey Hey, Eccleshall, Chadderton, Formby, AFC Darwen for a full set, subject to this seasons (2011/12) promotions and relegations of course.
In the North West Counties Premier Division I’ve 3 from 22 (Bacup, Runcorn Town, Ramsbottom United) as it stands, although Ramsbottom look good for promotion so if Wigan Robin Park carry on there good form and go up that could leave me with 20 at least to “aim” at next season!
Further up the pyramid I’ve ticked off Lancaster City as discussed and Chorley FCs Victory Park although I was running the line there so it probably doesn’t count and well, I certainly don’t want to talk about it, although I will say I’ve long since stopped “running lines” after taking on board the advice of those stood in close proximity on the terraces! I’ve also snuck in a trip to the ground at Lancashire FAs HQ in Leyland, I shall seek advice from the pro’s as to where such anomalies fit!
So if you’ve never ventured out into the welcoming world of non-league football, now’s as good a time as any, the weathers great, fixtures plentiful, there’s a whole other blog post I’m sure in the world that is non-league football and the great spectacles it delivers so I’ll leave that for another time.
*I've no connection with the Groundhopper App, I'm sure others are available, it was just the first I found and did the job etc etc so I didn't pay to much attention on what else was on offer!
Keywords: Football, Marc Taylor Sports Photographer, Sports Photography, ground hopping, groundhopper, groundhopping
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