Groundhopping Reflections 2017/2018 (815)

I went to my first football game in 1963, at Molineux when the legendary Stan Cullis was still on the managerial throne. Over the years I’ve been to thousands of games but mostly Wolves at home.

At the start of the season just gone (2017/2018) I sat down and worked out that I’d been to just 101 grounds. It may sound a lot, and it’s certainly more than the average football fan has been to, but it’s not many really. Discovering a groundhopping gene that was stirring from hibernation, I set about actively increasing the tally.

I ended up with 51 new grounds, with The New Saints, whether directly or indirectly, significantly contributing to that figure. There were the games involving TNS, the ones where being involved with the club opened doors to attend matches and the grounds that I visited after a day at Park Hall.

A total of 29, so well in excess of half of the new places I visited during the season were due to one of the three factors listed above. From Welsh tier three games to Champions League fixtures, they were all as a consequence of involvement in some way or another with the club.

The first stadium, way back in June of last year, was Manchester City’s training ground where we were invited to feature in Jamie Vardy’s V9 Academy. Number 51 was Porthmadog’s Y Traeth last weekend, but as that was nothing to do with TNS, the honour of the last game as far as the club is concerned goes to Llay Welfare FC.

With the Welsh National League playing evening games at the back end of the season as the days got longer, a trip to The Ring to see the match against Chirk AAA fitted in nicely after my day at Park Hall.

The one thing I must say though is that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every game. If you’re doing something that is just a box-ticking exercise, that’s pointless. That’s when it becomes an obsession and not a pleasure.

I’ve genuinely got something from every one. Whether 75,000 people at Old Trafford for a Champions League fixture or a midweek non-league match with a handful of people, they’ve all been great.

Talking of Champions League, the lead image is from TNS’ visit to Estadio Algarve in Portugal, as we took on Europa FC from Gibraltar. It won’t be long before that competition kicks off again and hopefully some new grounds to add to the 2018/2019 groundhopping adventure.

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