The Three Euro Bobbydazzler (Havre AC)

Havre Atheltic Club are France’s oldest recorded football club, tracing their roots back to English residents in the port town forming an athletic and rugby club in 1872. A quixotic melange of football and rugby rules were employed before association rules were fully adopted in 1894, a year after Mulhouse albeit that side were in Germany in those days.

So when an old but only moderately successful club suddenly built a new all singing, all dancing 25,000 seater stadium for 80 million euros it would be rude not to check it out. We arrive in Le Havre conscious that the new arena is opposite the old stomping ground of HAC, the Stade Jules Deschaseaux. It’s still an impressive sight itself, all pre-cast concrete and wavy roofs cleverly set into a steep hill. It is also fortressed like a maximum security prison. Pleas to gain admittance into the crumbling relic fall on deaf ears and we have to content ourselves to the match ahead.

The Le Havre commune have a decreed a condition that the club must follow “commune week” once a year and charge the populace a minimal fee for entry for one game. Luckily for us it means we gain admittance to this stunning edifice for the princely investment of three euros. A wafer thin but gratis programme is secured and then we find our seats. To be fair the stunningly cheap ticket offer has not meant a full house, far from it. We estimate between 3,000 and 4,000 occupy an ocean of empty blue seats. It comes as as a shock to us all that after the game websites declare 9,112 are in attendance. Internally the ground is aesthetically pleasing, the single wave on the main stand confirming its superiority over the uniform stands around the rest of the stadium.

In the concourses prior to kick off the blue casing we long to see illuminated remains dim but casts an interesting hue around the internal skeleton of the stadium. The concourses are further enhanced with brightly coloured tiled walls.

The game itself between two mid table sides flashes by, Yohann Riviere gives the home side the lead before halftime with a crisp shot, only for Vincent Gragnic to restore parity moments after the restart. Though both sides have ample opportunities to create a winning goal, profligate finishing, however, sees the spoils shared. The home players are unjustly booed off the pitch at the final whistle.

On departure the full majesty of the Stade Oceane becomes clear. The encircling blue exterior is alight with electricity and emits an ethereal electric blue glow, like a remake of Close Encounters of the Third Kind has chosen the harbour front at Le Havre as a film set. Full marks for the audaciousness of this new build and its undoubted beauty but one wonders what they will have to do to fill the stadium on a regular basis.

Havre Athletic Club (1)1 (Riviere 42) Nimes Olympique (0) 1 (Gragnic 48)

Attendance: 9,112

HAC:

1. Zacharre Boucher; 19. Benjamin Genton(c); 13. Cyriaque Louvion; 3. Benjamin Mendy; 10. Walid Mesloub; 5. Zargo Toure; 8. Distel Zola; 17. Alexandre Bonnet; 11. Yohann Riviere; 20. Geoffrey Malfleury; 22. Riyad Mahrez.

Subs: 9. Riad Zouri (for 22, 62 mins); 6. Julien Francois (for 10, 70 mins); 14. Bengali Koita (for 20, 70 mins); 16. Johnny Placide; 21. Maxime Le Marchand.

Nimes:

16. Cyrille Merville; 33. Salaheddine Sbai; 22. Aurelien Bauche; 18. Benoit Poulain (c); 29. Vincent Gragnac; 11. Mouritala Ogunbiyi; 13. Komlan Amewou; 27. Pierre Bouby; 19. Moussa Sidibe; 12. Seydou Kone; 10. Nicolas Benezet.

Subs: 7. Matthieu Robail (for 11, 85 mins); 9. Romain Thibault (12, 90 mins); 1. Haidar Al-Shaibani; 4. Sebastien Piocelle; 21. Yassine Haddou.

Yellow cards: Riviere (HAC) and Sbai (Nimes)

Gallery

Banishing Preconceptions (Glentoran)

Figures indicate that with tourist places up 2500% in the last five years and unprecedented levels of investment, Belfast is booming. While the “peace” walls, political murals and segregated areas still exist, this is now a peaceful welcoming and fun place to visit.

For football enthusiasts the Irish League grounds have seen little investment as yet and as such are redolent of a bygone era on the mainland.

Glentoran’s ground at The Oval is a fine example, swathes of curving terrace at either end of the ground and two distinctly picturesque stands on either side. The perimeter of the stadium has some fine artwork and murals, the area of East Belfast is clearly depicted as are images of musical icons Van Morrison and Gary Moore. You enter the ground to the rear of the main stand which is bedecked with two large images of Glens heroes of yore, Fred Roberts and Sammy Hughes. A club clearly respectful of its history.

£10 entry and a further £3 for a very readable programme and the beauty of this immaculate ground is immediately obvious. The main stand is twin tiered, the lower having “The Oval” picked out in white seats. The upper section again allows local artistic talent to show its skill with several murals around the staircases and rear walls. The exposed carcass of the roof would indicate at much older superstructure than the more recent but yet sympathetic re-cladding of the roof and exterior. The stand opposite looks like a large covered terrace which has had seats bolted to the steps. Coloured seats pick out “Glentoran”.

The City End terrace is where the away fans are housed, a vast open terrace cut in half by a dividing fence. The unique back drop of the redundant Harland and Wolff cranes of Samson and Goliath and several warehouses again evoke a bygone time. The opposite end has a vast grass bank with another substantial uncovered terrace set into it. Here Glensmen from the provinces display their colours with flags representing Larne, Ballymacarrett, Westbourne, Newtonards and Carryduff. Tifo stickers from Govan Glens and the Legion 1882 group are also evident.

The game itself has a dour first half with Richard Clarke’s optimistic effort somehow beating the visiting keeper and going in off the post. The visitors make a double change at half time with Andrew Mitchell lucky to not be almost immediately red carded for a blatant elbow right in front of the main stand. Popular he is not. The other Glenavon substitute, Marc Brown, makes a more positive impact levelling the scores after 69 minutes. The parity lasted barely three minutes when Mark Clarke netted a deserved winner for the home side.

The attendance is not given, I find out later it is 933, although at least another 300 were watching the Glens match and Manchester United v Stoke City from the supporters bar underneath the upper tier of the main stand.

20/10/2012 – Danske Bank Premiership

Glentoran (1)2 (R.Clarke 29, M.Clarke 72) Glenavon (0)1 (Brown 69)

Attendance:933

Glentoran: 18. Aaron Hogg; 3.Marcus Kane; 4. Richard Clarke; 7. Sean Ward (c); 8. David Howland; 10. Stuart Elliott; 11. Stephen Carson; 12. Mark Clarke; 17. Jimmy Callacher; 20. Jim O’Hanlon; 23. John McGuigan.

Subs: 16. Stephen McAlorum (for 23, 72 mins); 19. Martin Murray (for 11, 77 mins); 21. Carl McComb (for 10, 87 mins); 26. Stephen Gordon; 27. Kevin Bradley.

Glenavon:

1. Andrew Coleman; 3. Kyle Neil; 4. Eddie McCallion (c); 6. Mark Haughey; 7. Andrew Kilmartin; 8. Ciaran Doherty; 11. Kris Lindsay; 12. Matty Burrows; 17. Andrew McGrory; 18. Mark Turkington; 80. Gary Hamilton.

Subs: 14. Marc Brown (for 18, 46 mins); 19. Andrew Mitchell (for 12, 46 mins); 21. Robbie White (for 3, 90 mins); 15. Sean McCashin; 28. Jason Rogers.

Yellow cards: Doherty and Mitchell (both Glenavon)

Gallery