Ray joined me for the walk to Rotherham the next day, it was another cold and crisp day, great walking conditions. Radio Sheffield gave me a call half way and did a live interview with me, the purpose was to try and get me some digs in Sheffield and amazingly it worked! A chap called Adi sent me an email and offered his help, he was a Forest fan but lived close enough to Sheffield to be able to put me up. When Ray and I arrived at the New York stadium we had a quick look around and then parted ways before I headed to my hotel for the night which was being paid for by a Rotherham fan called Danny.
I returned to the New York stadium the next morning and enjoyed a tour of this fabulous new build stadium which still smells of fresh paint in some corridors. We even went up to the TV gantry which had a fantastic view of the whole stadium from the height of the roof, Barry joined me as he runs the Rotherham History fan club and it was good fun being shown round with an enthusiastic fan.
There is a canal system that runs right into Sheffield from Rotherham and I followed that a few hours before heading across town to Bramall Lane to complete my walk to the first of the two Sheffield clubs. First to all I had to headback the way I came to meet up with my host for two nights Adi who worked in Meadowhall, which is a large shopping area North of Sheffield, we drove back to his place in Woodsetts.
Next day I was the guest of Sheffield Utd and was being given a ground tour by the one and only Tony Currie, a Utd legend and a player I remember from watching football in the 70′s and 80′s in an excellent QPR side. He is definately a larger than life character and it was a pleasure to spend some time with him looking around the Oldest Ground in the World. Bramall Lane was also a Cricket Oval so until recent history still only had 3 sides and was used for both Football and Cricket well into the 20th century.
Tony had me in stiches throughout the tour and it just shows the value of having ex players around the club who clearly love the place, they bring great value and a sense of pride in the club that they work for, clubs such as my Pompey have acted shamefully to its ex players in the past, we must look to rectify that for next season.
After completing the walk from Bramall Lane to Hillsborough which only took a couple of hours at most, I spent some time in Sheffield town centre before heading back to Meadowhall to meet up with Adi again to head to his gaff again, the snow was coming down and it looked as if it would snow all night so I was looking at my first period of really bad weather.
An early start the next morning, I was a guest on Radio Sheffield morning programme with Georgie Spanswick and Adi came with me. As we waited in the studio reception the Producer asked if we both wanted to go into the studio, Adi was really excited by this which made me laugh, we turned out to be a double act! It was a great interview, Georgie was an easy interviewer and I really enjoyed myself and it was fun to see Adi made up with being on the radio. After our 15 mins of fame he then took me to my digs for the night, I was staying with Tom who is yet another Pompey fan who was born and raised in Coventry, bizarrely enough.
He had agreed to put me up as he lived near to Bramall Lane and it would be easier to head to Chesterfield on Sunday from there. The second of the Sheffield clubs had a match on and I was going to have a quick tour before seeing Wednesday take on Wolves.
I took the Tram from the town centre to Hillsborough and headed to the Memorial to the 96 Liverpool fans who tragically lost their lives in 1989 at the FA Cup semi final, it looked eerie covered in snow and the hundreds of scarves and shirts left there was quite moving, I had seen it the previous day and vowed to return and leave my Walk The 92 Pompey shirt I had bought for wearing on my Walk, I hadnt seen a Pompey scarf or shirt there so I left mine and took some photos.
A young lady called Kelly was giving me the tour of Wednesdays infamous ground and I was lucky enough to meet the Club Chaplain who was very interested in what I was doing and insisted on posing fora couple of photos for his Blog so that he could promote the Walk. As we walked the corridors we ran into Chris Kirkland and Chris Maguire playing a game that involved kicking a ball against a wall, Maguire saw my Pompey top when I posed for a quick photo with Kirkland and was genuinely interested in the clubs situation, I couldn’t tell him any good news of course, but he wished us luck.
The game itself was a scrappy affair, Wednesday had the better chances but it ended goalless, I have certainly not had much luck the games I have seen! I watched the game from the newly relaunched family stand, the reason I was in that was because I had met up with Mark Bradley and his son, Mark was there observing the launch as part of his role as a guru for making things much better for Fans at clubs and improving the experience when they attend matches.
I have followed Marks Blogs for some time and also had Doncaster Rovers singing his praises when I visisted them earlier in the month. Mark is a very enthusiastic proponent of treating Fans well and I heartily agree, we should make good use of his work at Pompey in the future.
You can read Marks Blogs here: http://bradleyprojects.com/blog.php
I suffered a little trouble getting in, I had my bag checked and there was some consternation over my flag, apparently it shouldn’t be allowed into grounds without a fire safety certificate! I did point out I had already been inside Hillsborough and over 50 other grounds with it, but I had to leave it in Reception. Stewards! After the match I had to walk back to town, it is impossible to get on a Tram or Bus leaving Hillsborough, I met Tom and his girlfriend for some food and a couple of beers before we headed back to his place. The snow came again over night, making the days walking to Chesterfield the next day tricky going.
Tom joined me for the 11 mile walk to the Spireites town but before reaching there we walked through a village called Dronfield which is home to the oldest Football Club in the World, Sheffield FC. The ground was covered in deep snow but a gate into the ground was open and we snuck in taking lots of photos. You can become a member online, go to www.sheffieldfc.com to see details.
A couple of hours later and we were in Chesterfield and at their fairly new stadium, Tom shared a drink in a nearby pub with me and then headed to the station to get home, I watched the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea then met John O’Shaunnesy, yet another generous Pompey fan who was inviting me into his home. Yet more snow arrived that night but luckily I was spending the whole day in Chesterfield, it did make for an interesting attempt for John to get his car out of his lovely estate because the roads werent gritted at all, but we made it and I got to Chesterfield.
I did have one problem though, due to a communication mix up I hadn’t pre-organisedmy visit, I need not have worried though because when I arrived someone from the club was only too happy to show me around the place, so I got all the photos I needed and they even game me a couple of programmes to keep. I had a good look round Chesterfield and the crooked spire then met John to head back to his and a warm house, it was absolutely bitter and I was worried about Ice and Snow in the coming days.
From Chesterfield there was a 2 day trip to Derby and John and his wife had generously said I could stay with them one more night to save me money, so I walked through thick snow, sometimes a foot deep in places, towards the half way stop of Ripley.
On the way I passed through some old mining towns and one place called Clay Cross had some pit wheels as a memorial, I stopped to take some pictures and as I turned to leave an old chap told me he had worked all his life down a pit and had lost many friends in accidents, it was a very sobering chat but a rewarding one. Mining was a big part of British life until the 80′s, now all is left are Monuments and Working Mens clubs.
Next Blog sees me head through the East Midlands, see you then.