Ten Lost Non-League Grounds

The sheer amount of non-league grounds that have disappeared in the last three decades is staggering. Here I pause to remember just a handful of them.

ROSSENDALE UNITED

GROUND: Dark Lane, Staghills Road, Newchurch, Waterfoot, Lancashire

RECORD ATTENDANCE: 3,450 v Shrewsbury Town (FA Cup) 22/11/1975

Rossendale United were formed in 1898 after the demise of the areas two previously dominant sides Rawtenstall and Myrtle Grove, the latter having made an audacious attempt at Football League membership as Rossendale FC in 1894. The newly formed club took over at the Dark Lane ground that had previously been used for Rugby Union. The magnificent main stand was opened in August 1928 but by the late 1970’s it was decidedly worse for wear. However, extensive renovation and a smart blue and white paint job had seen the old stand returned to its former glory. The Dark Lane ground was first lit up with floodlights in 1959 although the present set date from 1972. The new set of pylons were funded by the clubs tremendous run in the 1971 FA Cup when they were finally defeated by Bolton Wanderers in the Second Round in front of a 12,000 crowd in a match staged at Bury’s Gigg Lane ground. An important event happened in 1982 when the club secured a long term future when a 99 year lease was agreed with the grounds owners. The clubs promotion to the Northern Premier League in 1989 saw further ground improvements. The club hit hard times and were relegated back to the North West Counties League and towards the end of the 2010/11 season the board resigned en masse and the owner of the ground had decided to foreclose having failed to find a buyer for the site. In June 2011 a new committee had decided to form a new club, Rossendale FC, and apply to rejoin senior football using the Dark Lane ground. However, this venture was abruptly ended when a calamitous fire engulfed an already badly vandalised ground.

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STANLEY UNITED

GROUND: Hill Top Ground, High Road, Stanley, County Durham

RECORD ATTENDANCE: 5,000 v Leytonstone (FA Amateur Cup) 1920

The home of Stanley United has been nicknamed the Hill Top ground, which is something of an understatement as a drive to the ground involved a climb through the Stockley Fells to the small mining village of Stanley that sits high above the Durham town of Crook. The two sides were bitter rivals in the 1930’s and, indeed, Stanley lost their Northern League place to Crook in 1936. However, the club were re-elected to that prestigious competition in 1945. They remained in the Northern League until the end of the 1973/74 season when they resigned due to a lack of volunteers to run the club. They dropped down to the Durham City and District League before moving to the Wearside League. The High Road ground had been home since the end of World War I and was a remarkably atmospheric ground. On the far side was a large covered stand which provided very welcome refuge from biting winds. The grounds most well-known feature of the ground was on the opposite side where, within the ground itself, was an old two up, two down house. This provided changing facilities and upstairs were the tea bar which had amazingly wonky floorboards. The club last competed in the Wearside League in the 2002/03 season and after a few seasons in local football called it a day, citing a lack of support. The stand and house were swiftly demolished and all that remains of this much loved venue is a few twisted pitch railings.

Stanley United 1996

Stanley United 1996 (1)

COCKFIELD

GROUND: Hazel Grove, Coalfield, County Durham

A renowned village club who made their own little piece of history when, in 1928, they reached the final of the FA Amateur Cup. They had and excellent record in that competition throughout their glory days of the 1920’s, but without doubt reaching the final was a crowning achievement that made national headlines of a tiny Durham mining village. Sadly, as so often happens, the opposition in the final, Leyton did not follow the script and triumphed 3-2 in the final in front of 12,200 spectators at Ayresome Park. The club played in several local leagues before gaining election to the prestigious Northern League in 1921. The club remained in that League until the competition ceased in for World War II. The club later fell on hard times, especially when the colliery closed, and eventually disbanded for many years, until a revival came about in 1985. The Hazel Grove ground has been home throughout most of their history and when I visited the ground, even though I was alone for some time before players arrived, you could sense the history and atmosphere of this classic ground. The rough hewn timber stand and its more modern tin cover opposite provide much needed shelter from the elements. The ground positively ached for a large gathering, you could almost hear the ghosts of yesterday watching those great old Amateur Cup matches and earthy yells of ‘Play up Cockfield.’ After some good years in the Durham Alliance the club dropped down to the Crook & District League and the Hazel Grove ground was heading towards dereliction not helped by the attentions of local vandals. The club sadly folded in 2010 after an approach to the local parish council for funding for repairs to the dressing rooms was rejected.

Cockfield 1996 (1)

Cockfield 1996

EDGWARE TOWN

GROUND: White Lion Ground, High Street, Edgware, Middlesex

RECORD ATTENDANCE: 8,500 v Wealdstone (FA Cup) 29/10/1949

The newly formed Edgware F.C. acquired the use of the field behind the White Lion Public House in 1939 and after the war the grandstand was opened and steep banking created around the ground. The covered terrace was erected a few years later. By the late 1970’s the White Lion Ground had long since seen its better days and was crumbling badly. The lack of care eventually resulted in the old grandstand being totally destroyed by a fire in 1982. The club benefited from the insurance payout which provided a new stand of almost identical size . A groundshare with long time rivals Wealdstone, which had started in 1995, had seen the ground gentrified further. Edgware had been relegated from the Isthmian League at the end of the 2004/05 season but had won the Spartan South Midlands League treble in their first season in that competition. Returning to the Isthmian League the future looked bright until Wealdstone’s owner acquired a majority shareholding in Ruislip Manor F.C. and announced his intention to redevelop that club’s Grosvenor Vale ground. By the end of the 2007/08 season Edgware simply ran out of funds and folded. The ground still remains, the main stand is a pile of rubble and the turnstile blocks are part demolished. The cover on the far side remains but has been overtaken by nature.

Edgware TFC

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ENFIELD

GROUND: Southbury Road, Enfield, Middlesex

RECORD ATTENDANCE: 10,000 v Tottenham Hotspur 10/10/1962

Much was been written about the demise of Enfield’s much loved Southbury Road ground. The problems really started when Saracens RUFC moved from Southgate to share at Enfield’s ground. The large covered terrace opposite the main stand was demolished and had temporary open seating erected. However, when Saracens swiftly departed for Watford, the side was tarmaced over with no terrace or cover. The asset stripping of the club continued unabaited in the late 1990’s and the ground was lost to developers in 1999 and bulldozed with indecent haste. Various relocation plans were mooted at the Tesco Country Club in Cheshunt or Brimsdown Rovers ground at Goldsdown Road. Empty promises then saw this once well supported club playing in crowds of under 100, miles away at Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park ground. Now known as Enfield 1893 they now play in the Essex Senior League using the Goldsdown Road ground. In 2001 some disgruntled and heartbroken officials and supporters formed their own club, Enfield Town, who have latterly returned to the Borough occupying the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium in Donkey Lane, replete with it’s listed status Art Deco cafeteria.

Enfield

enfield SR

TOOTING AND MITCHAM UNITED

GROUND: Sandy Lane, Mitcham, Surrey

RECORD ATTENDANCE: 17,500 v QPR (FA Cup) 08/12/1956

When Tooting and Mitcham United left Sandy Lane for their new Imperial Fields ground in Bishopsford Road they abandoned the last large scale venue left in the London area. Sandy Lane was built in 1932 with all the austentation of that era. The huge grandstand, built in 1958, stretched along the majority of the near side of the ground and replaced the original gable roofed wooden stand, itself extended in 1932. The rest of the ground had large sections of terrace. The clubhouse was behind the stand and showed many fading photos of Tooting and Mitcham’s glory years when great cup runs and five figure crowds were not unusual at Sandy Lane. However, with the 2,000 capacity grandstand having wooden bench seating rather than the more politically correct plastic tip-up seats, Sandy Lane was becoming something of an albatross around the club’s neck. It was a terrible shame that this leviathan of a ground had no place in the modern game. If you never visited Sandy Lane, you missed out on an integral part of British football history.

Tooting & Mitcham

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MOOR GREEN

GROUND: The Moorlands, Sherwood Road, Hall Green, Birmingham

RECORD ATTENDANCE: 5,000 v Romford (FA Amateur Cup) 1951

Few grounds had sacrificed so much to appease a local authority planning committee as The Moorlands. In order to obtain permission to erect floodlights at the ground in 1983, the club had to rotate the pitch through 90 degrees. This meant the classic 1930 wooden main stand and dressing rooms contained within, were left stranded behind one of the re-sited goals at the Delamere Road end. The two extensive open terraces that previously stood behind either goal were demolished. Also the second pitch which was rented to Highgate United was also lost. Even with all the work done, the council only granted permission for pylons that could be winched down and out of sight when not in use. Not only were these considerably more expensive than conventional pylons, but they require a good deal of manual labour to erect before every evening game. Both sides had flat hard standing, but the Petersfield Road end had a shallow terrace laid along the entire dead ball line. This end was eventually covered to give the ground a more enclosed feel. Tragedy struck in 2005 when The Moorlands was devastated by fire in a mindless arson attack. Unable to continue the club merged with Solihull Borough in 2007 forming the current Solihull Moors club.

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CHELMSFORD CITY

GROUND: New Writtle Street, Chelmsford, Essex

RECORD ATTENDANCE: 16,807 v Colchester United (Southern League) 10/09/1949

Call me morbid, but I felt I had to go New Writtle Street one more time when it was being demolished in July 1999. I photographed the wreckage, the main stand gutted, broken and twisted floodlight pylons lying like slain goliaths across the pitch. It was indeed a sorry sight. As I snapped away I realised I was not alone, an old man in his seventies was standing on the old uncovered terrace. We spoke at length, he had supported City since 1940, just two years after the professional club was formed, replacing the old amateur Chelmsford FC at New Writtle Street. The Stadium, as it was simply known, had been opened in 1925 and had been developed so well that the club applied for Football League membership on no less than 18 occasions. The old man reckoned the beginning of the end of New Writtle Street came in 1989 when the board took the unwise step of demolishing the pitch length covered terrace, known as The Barn, on the Central Park side of the ground. Its unusual barrelled roof, fairly common if not exactly indiginous to Essex (fine examples are to be found at Southend United and at one time at Southend Manor), marked this out as a classic stand. It was demolished in order for the pitch to be rotated through ninety degrees to allow total redevelopment of the ground to Conference standard. Unfortuately the council turned down City’s planning application, the first of many such run-ins. The ground saw some memorable matches, the noise that could be generated by a full Wolseley End at a big game was something else. By the summer of 1997 the receivers had to be called in and City were booted off the ground six days after the opening League fixture of the 1997/98 campaign. So hasty and unceremonious was the exit that officials had to return to claim equipment and fittings. The club spent the rest of the season at Maldon Town, although the groundshare was to end in acrimony on both sides. The huge site was eventually sold to Countryside Commercial for a meagre £900,000 and now hosts a housing development and the vast Esporta fitness centre. I wonder how much the site is worth now. The club’s meagre recompense dwindled by the week in rent to Billericay Town were dark days for the Clarets. The County Council turned down several planning applications before consenting to the club returning to the city at the Melbourne Athletics Stadium. As the old man and I parted, my wish had been for the councillors and property developers to see his face and the sorrow it showed.

Chelmsford City - NWS

New Writtle Street 1999

WISBECH TOWN

GROUND: Fenland Park, Lerowe Road, Walsoken, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire

RECORD ATTENDANCE: 8,004 v Peterborough United (Midland League) 25/08/1957

Interestingly in his autobiography former England international, Les Ferdinand, described Fenland Park as the most intimidating venue that he ever played at as a footballer. I can understand that sentiment, with its ample covered end terraces and its infamous dark, brooding cowshed, which was originally a farmyard barn. Packed full with hostile marauding Fenmen, I can imagine the young Ferdinand’s reticence. Although it was only opened in 1947, Fenland Park was one of those great venues which appeared to be far older than it actually was. The ground’s original main stand was a timber affair that followed the club from their previous home at Harecroft Road. In the late 1980’s this stand was condemned, demolished and replaced by a brand new seated stand in late 1990. The club boasted such a fine ground with extensive cover that, unusually, no improvements were required when Wisbech gained promotion back to the Southern League in 1997. However, their return to a higher grade was somewhat brief, ending in relegation back to the Eastern Counties League at the end of the 2001/02 campaign. In early 2008 the club had decided to build a new ground and as a condition of sale moved out of Fenland Park in September of that year. They began a two year hiatus at Outwell Swifts ground at The Nest which was augmented with stands and floodlights for the duration. By August 2010 the Fenman had taken occupancy of their new modern home at the Fenland Stadium.

Wisbech old ground

Wisbech old ground (1)

GLOUCESTER CITY

GROUND: Meadow Park, Sudmeadow Road, Hempsted, Gloucester

RECORD ATTENDANCE: 4,000 v Dagenham & Redbridge (FA Trophy) 12/04/1997

Gloucester City have led a nomadic existence since their formation in 1889. The club went to and from various grounds, each with their own problems, until settling at Longlevens in 1935. The ground was out of town and when the club were offered a substantial amount of money by a housing developer in 1960 they began to search for a new ground. Horton Road took four years to acquire and develop but was never built to the originally intended ground scale. This was due to to lack of support and finance and when dog racing, introduced in the 1970’s, was a financial disaster, and coupled with the pitch’s poor drainage, the club sold the ground to builders in 1979. As part of the sale City were provided with a new stadium at Sudmeadow Road although it was not completed until 1986. The club now had an excellent modern but characterful stadium and a vibrant social club. However, the first warning of problems with the ground came in 1990 when the stadium was out of commission for a month when it was flooded by the River Severn. That vast stretch of flowing water returned to haunt the club again in July 2007. Meadow Park was engulfed in a huge amount of flood water, eight foot deep with just the crossbars peeping out above the water line. The club has never been able to return to the stadium groundsharing at Forest Green Rovers, Cirencester Town and currently Cheltenham Town.

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Gloucs

No Sweat, No Glory (Club Brugge)

Club Brugge Koninklijke Voetbalvereniging is arguably the most well known Belgian club to English football supporters. This would stem from their two European final defeats to that great Liverpool side of the seventies, Club losing both the 1976 UEFA Cup Final (4-3 over two legs) and two years later the European Cup Final (1-0 at Wembley) to the men from Anfield.

Club Brugge were founded in November in 1891 and own the coveted matricule number 3. Only Royal Antwerp and the dormant matricule number 2 of the Daring Club of Bruxelles are above them in the genealogy rankings of the Belgian F.A. Domestically the Blue Blacks have won 13 Belgian League titles and ten Belgian cups. The clubs’ motto is “No sweat, no glory” and anyone wishing to join the club not only has to sign their normal contract but also the following commitment to the football club and its’ ideals:

“Playing for Club Brugge is an honour, something that comes with responsibilities. By signing my contract and this agreement, I acknowledge that I share the beliefs of this club:

In football, hard work pays off in the end. We play football in a team, as a team. Winning is important, but the way you win makes all the difference. The game takes place on the field, but winning is a team effort on and off the field.
I hereby pledge to honour Club Brugge’s belief in commitment and hard work, to prove myself worthy of this spirit and attitude, on and off the field. I commit myself to pursuing the club’s dream and sharing this dream with my team members, the staff, the sponsors and most importantly: our fans. May I never let you down”

The club was originally formed by old boys of two Bruges schools, the Broeders Xavarianen and the Koninklijk Athenium. FC Brugeois merged with Brugsche FC in 1897 and again five years later with Vlasmsche FC. In 1912 the club moved into their legendary home of De Klokke which would later be renamed the Albert Dyserynckstadion in honour of their president who died suddenly in 1931.

The club spent the inter-war years in Division Two but following promotion to the top flight in 1959, Club have remained Pro League stalwarts ever since. RFC Brugeois changed their name to the Flemish version of Club Brugge KV in 1972 and began a golden period which saw five Belgian titles won during the seventies, mainly under the tutelage of Ernst Happel.

In 1975 the club moved into the newly opened Olympiastadion which they share with city neighbours Cercle. The old Klokke ground would survive for many more years, mainly used by amateur teams, before sadly being demolished in 1999.

Klokke (1)

The sadly demolished “De Klokke” ground

The new stadium is in the Sint-Andries area of Bruges and is owned by the city. Starkly of its architectural era, all pre-cast concrete and cantilevered roofs it has a capacity just shy of 30,000. The stadium was renovated for the 2000 European Championships and was re-christened the Jan Breydelstadion. Breydel was an insurgent Flemish militiaman who was instrumental in the Bruges Matins, a night time massacre at a French garrison that pre-empted the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302. Traditionally Club attract gates of roughly three times more than Cercle to this stadium.

Tonight’s game against a plucky KSC Lokeren side is a tight affair, a 21st minute goal from striker Tom De Sutter opens the scoring and is enough to secure three points for the hosts as Lokeren fail to breakdown a stoic home rearguard.

You will either love or hate the Jan Breydelstadion, some say its already looking dated given its relatively recent vintage. Also with its high sided open corners and uncovered lower tiers, it’s not the most weatherproof stadium around. Others will love it for its audaciousness in concrete design and its twin colouring of blue for Club and green for Cercle. Which ever camp you fall in you have to admire the “No Sweat, No Glory” ethic Club Brugge try to promote as well as their undoubtedly deserved place in European football history.

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Jupiler Pro League – Sunday November 3rd 2013 (Kick Off 18.00pm)

Club Brugge K.V. (1) 1 (De Sutter 21)

KSC Lokeren (0) 0

Attendance: 24,000 (at the Jan Breydelstadion)

Club:

21. Mathew Ryan; 4. Óscar Duarte; 28. Laurens De Bock; 40. Bjorn Engels; 3. Timmy Simons (c); 32. Valdes Odjidja-Ofoe; 17. Waldemir Sobota; 19. Thomas Meunier; 13. Victor Vázquez; 16. Maxime Lestienne; 9. Tom De Sutter.

Subs: 8. Lior Refaelov (for 17,86 mins); 10. Jesper Jørgensen (for 13,79 mins); 22. Eidur Gudjohnsen (for 9,69 mins); 33. Vladan Kujović; 41. Birger Verstaete; 44. Brandon Mechele; 90. Kehinde Fatai.

Lokeren:

1. Boubacar Barry; 13. Georgios Galitsios; 4. Jérémy Taravel; 3. Denis Odai; 2. Alexander Scholz; 8. Koen Persoons; 7. Killian Overmeire (c); 24. Ayanda Patosi; 29. Nill De Pauw; 9. Hamdi Harbaoui; 20. Hans Vanaken.

Subs: 10. Ivan Leko; 19. Junior Dutra (for 7,72 mins); 22. Djordje Despotović; 23. Eugene Ansah (for 24,85 mins); 25.Alexander Corryn; 26. Cédric Mingiedi; 30. Davino Verhulst.

Yellow Cards: Sobota, Lestienne (Club); Galitsios, Vanaken, Overmeire, Harbaoui (Lokeren).

Gallery

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Brugge ticket

Buffalo Stance (KAA Gent)

I have to admit I am not the greatest fan of modern football arenas, while some have stunning architectural merit, Renzo Piano’s amazing San Nicola in Bari springs readily to mind, most are bland and featureless. So when KAA Gent took it upon themselves to drag Belgium stadia design into the new millennia one couldn’t help but be intrigued by their new home at the Ghelamco Arena. The 20,000 seater stadium opened earlier this season, becoming Belgium’s first total new build stadium since the Jan Breydelstadion was inaugurated way back in 1975.

Koninklijke Atletiek Associatie Gent (also often referred to as La Gantoise) are one of Belgium’s oldest clubs. Its veteran matricule number of 7 dates back to formation in 1864. The association also has a track and field team and a hockey side, although the football club came somewhat later in 1900. The club adopted the Flemish version of their name in 1971.

The club have the unusual nickname of the Buffalos which derives from an early twentieth century visit to the city of Wild West showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody.

The club has never won the Belgian title, being runners up on two occasions, the most recent being in 2009/10. The Buffalos have spent some periods in the second tier but their current spell in the Pro League has remained unbroken since 1989/90. Indeed in 1991/92 Gent enjoyed their best ever European run, reaching the quarter final of the UEFA Cup before falling to Ajax.

Until this season Gent had played at the Jules Ottenstadion in Gentbrugge since 1920. It was built in time for the Summer Olympics of 1920 and hosted the Italy v Egypt match. The old stadium has now been demolished and will be redeveloped for housing.

Gent first mooted a plan for a new stadium some ten years ago with it initially being ready for the 2007/08 season. However, a number of delays put the plans substantially in arrears. Finally the new arena was ready for occupancy for the start of this current season. Initially the new venue was called the Arteveldestadion before naming rights were sold to the constructor Ghelamco. It took some four years to get the venue into usable state, I won’t say complete as there is still work ongoing on a number of internal fixtures and fittings.

The stadium is handily located just off the E40 and E17 highways and is the first environmentally built stadium in BeNeLux. Most noticable is the floodlighting arrangement, drenchlights being integrally fitted underneath the roof to reduce light pollution. The exterior wall has a second layer to conserve energy, the roof is fitted with photovoltaic panelling to harvest energy whilst rain water is captured for use in the pitch irrigation system. All very impressive but what is it actually like for the spectator? Its a clean and shiny, and dare I say sterile, as you would expect from a modern day arena, however, there are some notable pluses. The leg room is substantial and the seats themselves are comfortable with some “give” in them. The sightlines all around the stadium are first class which goes some way to negating the wide access channel between the pitch and the stands.

Today’s game is a big one for Gent who have not won a League game since August. Their Wallonian guests Standard Liège top the table despite a few recent hiccups. The home side huff and puff but ultimately fail to score a goal, the game being won by a wonderful strike from the ever impressive youngster Michy Batshuayi. Standard can even afford the profligacy of a 28th minute penalty miss, Mpoku hitting the post having snatched the ball out of Batshuayi’s hands in order to take the kick. It is the third time I have seen Standard this season and not only have they won all three, Batshuayi has scored five times. He really is one to watch in the very near future.

In truth you do have to admire the Buffalos bold stance in moving Belgium stadiums into a new era, I for one hope the move pays off for them.

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Jupiler Pro League – Sunday November 3rd 2013 (Kick off: 14.30pm)

K.A.A. Gent (0) 0 Standard de Liège (0) 1 (Batshuayi 54)

Attendance: 19,149 (at the Ghelamco Arena)

Gent:

33. Sergio Padt; 4. Valery Nahayo; 19. Rafinha; 21. Nana Asare; 26. Christophe Lepoint; 10. Renato Neto; 24. Yaya Soumahoro; 39. Sloan Privat; 28. Nicklas Pedersen; 7. Yassine El Ghanassy; 9. Brecht Dejaegere.

Subs: 1. Franck Boeckx; 11. Hervé Kage (for 24,63 mins); 12. Jan Vandeputte; 16. Rodgers Kola (for 39,63 mins); 17. Hannes Van Der Bruggen (for 9,71 mins); 23. Ervin Zukanović; 31. Remi Mareval.

Standard

30. Yohann Thuram; 23. Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez; 4. Daniel Opare; 36. Dino Arslanagic; 21. William Vainqueur; 17. Yoni Buyeus; 25. Antonio Kanu; 40. Paul Mpoku; 39. Imoh Ezekiel; 23. Michy Batshuayi.

Subs: 6. Laurent Ciman; 7. Reza Ghoochannejhad; 8. Ronnie Stam (for 23,86 mins); 11. Frédéric Bulot (for 33,61 mins); 15. Julien De Sart; 16. Anthony Moris; 75. Alpaslan Ozturk (for 4,83 mins).

Red Card: Nahayo (Gent)

Yellow Cards: Nahayo, Neto (Gent); Arslangic, Vanqueur, Batshuayi, Ozturk (all Standard).

Gallery

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Gent prog

Gent ticket

The Golden Spurs (KV Kortrijk)

Sport Club Courtraisien were formed 1901 and are registered with the Royal Belgian Football Association as club number 19 under their matricule system. By 1951 they had changed their name to Koninklijke Kortrijk Sport. A rival team in the city called Stade Kortrijk had been formed in 1923. By 1971 both clubs were struggling badly so the two clubs merged forming Koninklijke Voetbalclub Kortrijk. The club have adopted the nickname of “De Kerels” which roughly translates as “the Guys” or “the Boys”.

The club had enjoyed a spell in the top flight at the turn of the twentieth century which ended in relegation at the end of the 1910/11 season. Little did they know at the time it would be fully 65 years before Kortrijk would grace the elite division again. The club spent much of the 70’s and 80’s moving between the second and first tiers. Disaster struck in 2001 when KVK were declared insolvent and were relegated to Division Three. The club rebuilt and progressed back up the rankings, the club’s current spell in the Pro League has lasted since 2008/09.

The club play at the wonderful Guldensporenstadion which was named after the Franco/Flemish Battle of the Golden Spurs which took place in Kortrijk during July 1302. A relatively small venue with a capacity of 9,300, it has single tiered stands which makes for an intimate atmosphere.

The Reds fans are certainly a hearty and welcoming bunch and they are in fine voice tonight as De Kerels have been in good form this season. Against a struggling KV Oostende the hosts are two up before half time, a great free kick from Benito Raman and a wonderfully powerful run and finish by their burly Senegalese striker Elimane Coulibaly. Heavy rainfall makes playing conditions difficult, particularly in the second half, but the home side win 2-0 with some margin to spare.

If a traditional small town stadium and a club punching above its weight appeals to you, a visit to the Guldensporen comes highly recommended.

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Jupiler Pro League – Saturday November 2nd 2013

KV Kortrijk (2) 2 (Raman 13, Coulibaly 45)

KV Oostende (0) 0

Attendance: 6,604 (at the Guldensporenstadion)

Kortrijk:

16. Darren Keet; 3. Baptiste Martin; 7. Stijn De Smet; 8. Nebojsa Pavlovic (c); 11. Mustapha Oussalah; 17. Gertjan De Mets; 21. Brecht Capon; 25. Michael Heylen; 27. Benito Raman; 29. Romain Reynaud; 31. Elimane Coulibaly.

Subs: 1. Patrick Deman; 5. Branimir Petrovic (for 5,90 mins) 9. Teddy Chevalier (for 9,68 mins); 10. Robert Klaasen; 12. Gregory Mahau; 15. Dylan Ragolle (for 27,80 mins); 23. Baptiste Ulens.

Oostende:

31. Cederic Berthelin; 2. Xavier Luissint (c); 3. Niels De Schutter; 6. Baptiste Schmisser; 7. Sebastien Siani; 9. Laurent Depoitre; 13. Frederic Brillant; 16. Yohan Brouckaert; 22. Jonathan Wilmet; 26. Jordan Lukaku; 27. Franck Berrier.

Subs: 1. Mulopo Kudimbana; 11. Thomas Foket (for 3,85 mins); 14. Tom Van Imschoot; 19. Denis Dessaer; 23. Nyashi Mushekwi (for 9,52 mins); 25. Fernando Canesin (for 16,63 mins); 28. Adam Vaas.

Yellow Cards: Martin, De Mets, Coulibaly (all Kortrijk), Canesin (Oostende).

Gallery

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Kortrijk ticket

From Blood Comes Gold (RC Lens)

Racing Club de Lens were formed in 1906 and were modestly successful before moving to the Stade Félix Bollaert in 1932. They had previously played on several grounds including the Parc des Glissoirs and the Stade Rauol Briquet. The latter is still in use, albeit substantially modernised, by the clubs under 19 side. It is now known as the Stade Léo-Legrange.

It wasn’t until 1924 that RC Lens adopted their now intrinsic “sang et or” (blood and gold) colours having previously played in green and black and later still all blue. There are a couple of folkloric reasons as to why the colours were adopted. One is that the then club president René Moglia was passing the ruins of the Church of St Léger when one of the clubs directors mentioned it was the last vestige of the Spanish invasion and occupation of 1648. The red and yellow colours of the Spanish flag were adopted as the new club colours. The second school of thought is the colours represent the cities long association with the coal mining industry. The gold representing the “black gold” that fuelled the local economy and the blood being that shed by the miners in the extraction process.

Even though the coal industry ceased in the area in the 1960’s the club still has a miners lamp on its crest. The closure of the mine nearly cost the club its existence as both the board and the stadium were fiscally dependant on the industry. When the mines closed the club went through a tough period which was only resolved when the Bollaert was taken over by the commune and rented to the club.

The club enjoyed a golden era in the top flight between 1953 and 1968 when they were relegated to Ligue 2. A year later the mining company’s administrator pulled the plug on the last remaining support and the club were forced to return to amateur status. Under the guidance of general manager Henri Trannin the ship is steadied and by the 1980’s the club is solvent and seeking investors. The renaissance was completed under the management of “The Druid” Daniel Leclercq in the 1997/98 season when Lens were crowned French champions for the first and only time.

In 1998 the Stade Félix Bollaert was used as a host venue for the World Cup, renovations giving a capacity of just over 41,000. The name of the stadium is a dedication to the former chairman of the Lens Mining Company who sadly died before the stadium was completed. In 2012 it was renamed the Bollaert-Delelis after the death of André Delelis, who was the Commerce Minister in the Mitterand administration. The stadium will also host games in the 2016 European Championships.

The turn of the century prove problematic for Lens and relegation is suffered in both 2008 and 2011. The Lenois have also become famous for its academy being the mother club of some notable names in the modern era like Rafael Varane (Real Madrid), Geoffrey Kondogbia (Monaco) and Premier League names Adel Taraabt, Mohammed Diame and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Ordering tickets in advance for Lens games proved problematic, incorrect information given by stadium staff mean that a lengthy search is needed to locate where our pre-purchased tickets are kept. For the record if you ever visit the Bollaert reserved ticked for the Delacourt and Lepagnot tribunes are held at the main ticket outlet to the left of the megastore but those for the Trannin and Xerces-Marek tribunes are held at a small kiosk hidden out of view at the top of the first flight of stairs of the Xerces-Marek tribune.

In today’s game against near neighbours SM Caen an impressive crowd in excess of 31,000 gathers at the Bollaert. Two early goals for Lens prove vital as they are reduced to ten men before half time when Pierrick Valdivia gets himself sent off. Caen get themselves back into the game in the second half without looking like they will find a goal. However, with eight minutes left Mathieu Duhamel sticks out a right foot and guides a driven cross into the Lens net. A grandstand finish is somewhat avoided when a visiting substitute manages to get himself booked twice in the closing minutes. Lens hold on to the three points and the end of the game sees the players go over to their ultras and perform some sort of strange salutation, a deathly silence followed by three loud exaltations. The club clearly has a cherished bond with its supporters and one does hope they can soon return to Ligue 1 and re-contest the fabled “Derby du Nord” with Lille OSC.

One final touching moment is the naming of the exit route outside as the Allée du Marc-Vivien Foé, who spent five years as a youngster with Lens before his tragic death at the age of 28 in 2003.

RCL_carre

France Ligue 2 – November 2nd 2013 (14.00pm)

Racing Club de Lens (2) 2 (Cyprien 3, Chavarria 16)

Stade Malherbe Caen (0) 1 (Duhamel 82)

Attendance: 31,293 (at the Stade Félix Bollaert-Delelis)

Lens:

16. Alphonse Aréola; 5. Ala Eddine Yahia; 4. Ahmed Kantari; 25. Jean-Phillipe Gbamin; 24. Ludovic Baal; 6. Jérôme Lemoigne (c); 18. Pierrick Valdivia; 23. Wylan Cyprien; 9. Adamo Coulibaly; 10. Edgar Salli; 11. Pablo Chavarria.

Subs: 1. Rudy Riou; 8. Pierre Ducasse; 14. Deme N’Diaye (for 10,80 mins); 20. Lalaina Nomenjanahany (for 9,90 mins); 27. Loic Landré (for 27,45 mins)

Caen:

16. Damien Perquis; 23. Jean Calvé; 13. Jean-Jacques Pierre; 19. Felipe Saad; 12. Denis Appiah; 2. Nicolas Seube (c); 10. Fayçal Fajr; 27. Thomas Lemar; 17. Ngolo Kanté; 7. Mathieu Duhamel; 11. Bengali Koita.

Subs: 5. Laurent Agouazi (for 2,71 mins); 14. Aurélien Montaroup (for 19,67 mins); 18. Mathias Autret (for 27,46 mins); 22. Alexandre Raineau; 30. Thomas Bosmel.

Red Cards: Valdivia (Lens); Agouazi (Caen).

Yellow Cards: Kantari, Lemoigne (Lens); Calvé, Koita, Agouazi (Caen)

Gallery

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