Last night, on a cold Tuesday night at Barnet, I completed the 92. For those of you who don’t have a clue, it means, I have now watched a game of football at all current 92 Football League grounds. (Until West Ham move to the Olympic Stadium next season, but I want to savour this moment until then!). You can call me sad, crazy, weird, up to you. But it was a personal feeling for me to have accomplished this feat.
The Hive – The 92 in sight
Obviously it would be better to visit all 92 grounds with the Swans (I have been to 77 with the Swans*), but it’s almost impossible to do this with just 1 club. Some Portsmouth fans at Barnet yesterday were on 91, all with Portsmouth. The majority of clubs don’t go on massive rises and falls so quickly and teams like Arsenal and Everton never get relegated, so if you were a fan of these teams you would never complete it with 1 club.
*I also went to the ‘old’ grounds of Brighton, Chesterfield, Colchester & Rotherham with the Swans
Anyway. My first ever visit to one of the current 92 was on the 6th Spetember 2003 at Yeovil Town’s Huish Park, the Super Swans being their opponents that day. The home team won 2-0 on that occasion, but I remember it was sunny…… I was only 17 then (yes really) and I got the travelling ‘bug’ from then on. At that stage I never even knew there was such a thing as ‘The 92’ and I had no other interest at the time to watch other random football games.
Ah those were the days…..!
I’ve been lucky enough to witness the Swans rise from League 2 to the Premier League and was also lucky (or unlucky) to be able to go to the likes of Hartlepool, Carlisle and Blackpool. Places that are extremely difficult and very pricey to get to by train. It was only when the Swans got promoted to the Premier League back in 2011 that I started looking at how many grounds I had left and it was then I made the conscience decision to complete all the grounds. As back then I never used to miss any Swans matches, so playing on Sundays and Mondays would give me more opportunity to complete it.
During the time the Swans got promoted, the likes of Colchester, Brighton and Chesterfield had all had ‘new’ grounds, so I had to visit them. I had already been to Layer Road, the Withdean and Saltergate respectively.
Fast forward 12 and a half years later and I was so close to achieving one of my (recent) life goals. This season I have been to Brighton, Oxford, Rotherham, Wimbledon and Fleetwood Town, so Barnet’s ‘The Hive’ was my elusive final ground to complete the set. Annoyingly (for me) Portsmouth, Barnet’s opponents, had the audacity to beat Ipswich in the FA Cup 3rd Round, meaning the game would be re-arranged for a midweek rather than be played on a Saturday.
On the weekend I spent a few days in Germany, where I watched 3 Bundesliga games, (so much better than the Premier League, but that’s a blog for another day) and as I like to do things weirdly, I travelled all the way from Heathrow to Swansea on the coach on the Monday, before heading back up to London again the day after. Long story, but never mind.
I had visited Barnet’s old ground Underhill back in March 2012, but a year later they decided to announce a change of stadiums and last season they got promoted back to the Football League.
Me at Underhill, back in 2012, against Torquay (I haven’t changed a bit)
I arrived my usual early self at The Hive (Barnet’s nickname is the Bees – get it?) but waited for my Twitter friend Emily and her Dad (who both support Portsmouth) to arrive, I was glad to share the experience with people I know on this momentous – okay maybe too strong a word – occasion. They may not have been glad of my company though!
The Hive has a capacity of just over 5600 and is quite bland in all honesty, at least Underhill had a bit more of a (cliché alert) character about the place.
The game was in no way a classic, I really could not watch Barnet every week, they just tried to stop Portsmouth by fouling them at every opportunity. A typical Martin Allen team I suppose. Their goal came in a strange way too, Portsmouth’s throw-in got reversed to a Barnet throw by the referee as the Pompey player was not taking it from the correct place. The ball was thrown in long, a Barnet player was fouled in the box. Penalty. Ex Portsmouth player John Akinde – who was hopeless all night – scored.
John Akinde scores the penalty
Portsmouth had all of the ball and all of the play, but failed to make the Barnet keeper work (sound familiar?), as well as simple passes going out of play. They are definitely one of the more frustrating teams to watch (This was my 5th Portsmouth game of the season). It finished 1-0 to Barnet in the end and boos echoed from the away end, but my personal feat had been achieved. Finally. Until August at least.
I can’t prove that I’ve been to all 92 and I probably don’t fit all of the criteria needed on the ‘official’ 92 club – yes there is really an official club – but I don’t care. (Apparently it still counts if you’ve not visited a team’s new ground!) I’ve seen a football game at all of the current 92 Football League grounds, some memorable ones and some I wish I didn’t remember at all (York 0-0 Carlisle for one!). Unfortunately I don’t have all of my tickets stubs either, back in the old days I just used to pay on the gate for a Swans away game. None of this online booking malarkey.
Proof I went to Barnet at least
I will probably make myself sound old here, but I sort of wish I had a photo of me at all of the 92 grounds, but ‘back in my day’ there were no cameras on mobile phones, not many people really had digital cameras, just those wind along ones and Twitter was something only birds did. (I could always go back again to the grounds and do this I guess….)
I can now tick this off my bucket list, bur I need to find a new challenge. Getting a girlfriend could be up there (but do miracles happen?). Best to stick to a footballing one, if anyone has any ideas, let me know. I will achieve my other aim of seeing Wales play in a major tournament in June (WE QUALIFIED!). Watching a game in every UEFA Nation was suggested to me on Instagram. The UEFA 54? I’ve done 28 already, but it’s difficult to just pop over onto a plane to Kazakhstan! As well as watching a game on every Continent. I don’t think the Penguins have a team in Antarctica, so it would just be Africa left for me on that one.
At least it has given me more time to do other stuff. I quite fancy going to some intense Derbies. Celtic v Rangers, Partizan v Red Star Belgrade, Fenerbache v Galatasaray – though I do value my life somewhat.
Thanks for all of the well wishes on Twitter/Facebook, for some reason some of you have been just as excited as me. I’ll still have to go to any new grounds that get built and any newly promoted team from the Conference (please not Gateshead or Grimsby).