Hand over that dangerous Flag!

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.

HELP! Can you spare a grand Buddy?

I am not one that is used to readily accepting charity but the one thing this walk has taught me is that asking for help when you genuinely need it is an ok thing. Many, many people have helped me get this far and I couldnt have done anything like the miles I have done without the assistance of hundreds of heroes on the way. I am truely humbled by every one of them.

But, and its a big but, the many thousands I squirreled away to start up and support myself on this venture are fast running out. I estimate that even with many offers of accomodation in the coming 3-4 weeks I will run out of money with 25% of the Walk left to do.

So, I am making an appeal to anyone and everyone that follows my Blog and on Twitter and Facebook. Is there any Company or Organisation that could help with sponsorship of £1000 in order to allow me to complete this amazing experience and an opportunity to add to the nearly £4000 I have raised for Prostate Cancer UK so far.

In return I will advertise on my Webpage their help and mention them at every opportunity in the next 2 and 1/2 months in any promotion done of my Walk by clubs or local and national Media.

If you can help or know someone who can then please contact me via Email: walkthe92project@gmail.com Twitter: @walkthe9t2 or ring me on 07506 458000.

Many thanks in anticipation, I know there is someone out there who can help me.

Scott Mclachlan

I forgot to give this a title…

The Humber Bridge was just as wobbly and bouncy as the Severn Bridge, I crossed it in wet and windy weather that really wasnt pleasant, with my pack on I feel like a weather vane being thrown this way and that. It was quite scary to be honest, I am not great with heights and kept as close to the road bridge as possible. It was a relief to get to the other side to be honest!

I was being put up in a pub in a village south of the Humber called South Ferriby, its a tiny place but has 4000 years of history attributed to it and has been settled by Roman and Viking invaders through time. I had stopped by a pond to get my barings at the edge of the village when I was approached by a man on a motobility scooter walking two dogs, we got talking and I told him my story of why I was walking the countryside. I detected a familiar burr to the voice and it was only when I told him where I was from he chirpped up “Ah, Pompey fan eh…”and then I recognised the accent. Yes, a scummer. To be fair he said he had fond memories of Fratton Park from visits he made in the 50′s which fans of the two cities used to do. The intense rivalry between Pompey and Southampton is a recent thing according to historians and it wasn’t unusual for fans of either club visit the other instead of a long away trip.

Denis, who was helping me organise this leg, was treating me to dinner along with his partner who had also paid for my place to sleep that night, we drove out to a lovely little pub which had a carvery and with a nice evening of chat another great night with lovely people over we headed back to my digs.

After my appearance on Radio Humberside a few days earlier I was contacted by a lady called Ilona who was famous locally for being a “super scrimper” which I initially thought was to do with Scunthorpe but it turns out she is famous for being thrifty and not a football fan at all. She met me at South Ferriby and we set off past the local cement works and headed out cross country on a slightly longer but scenic route toward Scunthorpe. Ilona was a fascinating character, I heard her life story twice and she had spent most of her life as a truck driver which was amazing because of the size of her, 5ft and a bit and 8 stone.

She runs a Blog that details ways of saving money and living life on a budget. It was grand to have company and my own personal radio station for a few hours…:0) Her Blog is at www.meanqueen-lifeaftermoney.blogspot.com

When we got to Scunny we parted ways and I was then picked up by my host for the night, Martin O’Hara, who I had met at a supporters conference in the summer of 2011. Martin is Deputy Chair of FSF and has been involved in supporters politics for many years, more recently he turned round the Donny Rovers Trust and was acting secretary. Martin is another fascinating fella, like most who give their time freely to fans causes he is tireless and it was a good stop over for me to meet him and also see first hand what the Donny Trust were achieving at their club.

First of all though I was back at Glanford Park the next morning to meet the Iron Trust people led by Luke Thornhill. They are shareholders in Scunthorpe and were handing over another cheque for more shares whilst I was there, during the tour the club donated a signed shirt which I gave to Luke to auction on my behalf. Another friendly small club that were delighted to help me.

Following the visit I had to walk 11 miles towards Doncaster and head for a small village called Thorne where I was staying in a hotel for the night. It was being paid for by an old friend called Donny Wayne who I have known for many years now. Donny joined the Anoraks list which was a Pompey Fans internet forum that was started in 1997 by Jamie Kinnea at Birmingham using the University server, it brought Pomey Fans home and abroad together for the first time together to discuss Pompey and hundreds of friendships have been formed from its creation, even weddings and babies!

A member of the Donny Rovers Trust, Lee Croft, joined me on the road from Thorne into Doncaster and it again made for an interesting walk having company and being able to discuss issues that effect Trusts and share experiences. We did the walk in less than 4 hours and passed the old Belle Vue ground which is still a derelict site waiting for redevelopment, you can see why the club is thriving with a brand new ground in picturesque surroundings, the old one was a right hole. Martin met us there and we enjoyed a good look around and more nattering about Trust business as well as a well earned cup of tea and some cake!

Donny Trust work closely with the club and have started an initiative called “In Rovers we Trust” which came from working with a chap called Mark Bradley who runs a consultancy firm on Fan Engagement, (I will talk more about Mark when I write about my trip to Sheffield Wednesday) they claim to have transformed how the club deal with the Fans inside 12 months, although it helps to have a Chairman that is keen to work with fans and Rovers certainly have that in John Ryan. He recently interviewed an 8 year old fan for the vacant managers job, which was a great story and showed him and Rovers in a very positive light.

Whilst in Doncaster I was being given refuge by a friend who had recently moved up there to work called Pete who I knew from my time in London, another Pompey exile. On the Friday night we adjourned to the local pub and polished off a few pints and some food and put the world to rights, we also briefly fell into conversation with a Glaswegian who asked about my badges on my Pompey top. A Rangers supporters so you can imagjne he was not at all happy about his clubs recent fortunes and the state of football north of the border.

Back at Petes we also drank a bottle of wine which did me no good at all the next day, it was a good job I had no walking to do! The next day was a huge slob day, Pete and I chilled out and tried to watch the Premier League games online and then got a take away for the evening, all in all a great way to spend a Saturday. I had a walk of 11 miles on the Sunday to a place called Goldthorpe on the way to Barnsley, its fair to say it had seen better days and much of it had been levelled, infact it reminded me of one of those French villages in a WW2 film when the only thing left standing was a Church with a sniper in it.

I got picked up by Donny Wayne and his wife Eileen who were treating me to a Sunday roast, we went to a country pub in Mexborough which was Waynes old home town, it was a nice end to a great weekend, I am lucky in the friends I have.

Next day I picked up from Goldthorpe to finish the walk into Barnsley, the weather was beginning to turn and I arrived in snow flurries, I was being met by Ray who was involved in the Barnsley Trust, he was very kindly putting me up in a local hotel whilst I stayed there. The tour of Oakwell was very interesting, not least because my guide tried to take me to parts of the old stand that had recently been boarded up, we spent 10 minutes trying to find a door that was not there anymore! In the evening Bradford were playing Oxford in the Youth cup, the game was almost called off due to the icy conditions but the ground is 90% sand which means that drainage is good and frost not a problem.

Bradford won 3-1 and I was very impressed with the organisation of the side and a few of their players, it was bitterly cold but having a Chicken Balti Pie and a couple of Bovrils soon helped with that. A perfect way to spend an evening!

Next Blog we finish Leg 5 in Sheffield and onto a snowy Leg 6

On and On into 2013….Over half way.

Only one day off and I’m back on the road, whilst most people were struggling with hangovers and cranberry sauce poisoning I was headed toward Bradford and the half way point. For the next two nights I was being hosted by Charles Jenkins, a Trust member and all round good guy who lives near Ilkley, he was also joining me on the 2nd day and the walk into Bradford itself. On Boxing day I walked from Ripley to a village called Beckwithshaw where Charles picked me up and then returned me the next morning. Luckily I didn’t have my pack because once I’d reached a place called Pool it the road ascended a muderously steep bank whilst it climbed up to a plateau where the Leeds-Bradford airport was sited, the highest in the UK. No shit says I, the climb almost bloody killed me.

Charles and I walked into Bradford when he joined me near a place called little London and after the horrible climb at Pool I was greatful that the majority of the next few miles were downhill apart from one long climb into Bradford itself, it had been a long day but having company for part of the journey always helps.

I had a fab tour of Bradford and as you would expect prior to their League Cup semi final against Aston Villa and the ticket queue for their home leg was long with lots of smiley faces in it even at 10 in the morning. Mike Thompson of the Bradford City Trust took me round the club and also escorted me into town to look at the Bradford fire memorial that had been donated by the twin German town of Hamm, it was a beautiful piece set in the new town square.

I tackled the two large climbs to Huddersfield that afternoon and arrived at my guest house digs just before 4pm, they were kindly being provided by Robert Pepper who is involved in the Terriers fan organisations and also very active in Supporters Direct. The match the following day saw Huddersfield vs Sheffield Weds and Robert picked me up to take me to the Gas Club to meet some colleagues of his and have a pre match pint. One Terrier fan I met was actor Reece Dinsdale who wished me well and subsequently also made a donation, we picked up our tickets and I was able to go pitch side and take some photos before the game, it was a poor 0-0 draw in the end livened up only by several smoke bombs let off by the Wednesday fans.

That evening Robert took me to a local country pub for dinner and we discussed Trust work and the state of SD and some of the findings of my walk and talks with many Trusts around the country.

And so, to end the year of 2012 I was headed to Leeds where I would spend New Years Eve in a Hotel near Elland Road, for the first time in days I had a walk that was fairly flat and I was very grateful for that, it took about 5 hours and I was safely holed up in my hotel base for the next three days. The following day I met a chap called Paul from the LUFC Trust who took the tour of Elland Road with me, he had good memories of Pompey having worked there many years ago for the church. He lived above the Shepherds Crook!

Elland Road is a big old stadium, it features something that is unusual so far on my walk, a statue that has been coloured in, the Billy Bremner tribute looks very odd to me with its rusty white kit and bright orange hair and a tatty scarf hanging from one arm. It was another new ground for me though and I would be back the next day to see Leeds take on Bolton, the third time I had seen the Lancashire club.

Leeds had kindly put me on an tour on New Years day but I decided a lie in would be better for me as I was feeling really jaded the last few days. I briefly met Paul and his son before I collected my ticket and headed in, it was right behind the dugout so I had a great view of Colin Wanker as he did his nut on a regular basis. Leeds were very fortunate to pull off a single goal win from a soft penalty but it meant that I had finally seen a home win on my travels.

A two day trek to York awaited me as my first bout of walking in 2013, I had a stop in Tadcaster overnight first, it is the home of a few breweries, notably John Smiths and Sam Smiths, the latter being a particular favourite of mine for their excellent stout. I stayed in a Sam Smiths hotel which was really the only place to stay in this picturesque town.

I was pleased that York had won the playoffs from the Confence, they were a Trust invovled club and the alternative was Luton and with all due respect a day spent walking through the historic city of York had to be miles better. I wasn’t disappointed, the City is steeped with thousands of years of history and the Minster has to be seen to believed, it is huge!

Once again a complete stranger was helping me in York, Stuart and his girlfriend Chloe were putting me up for a couple of nights, Stuart being a friend of my mate Duncan who he met on an overseas Cricket tour. We both went to York city the following morning and were quite disappointed with the reception we had got, I had already been told on the phone a whole list of things the club couldnt do for me but I expected a slightly better attitude when I arrived. I was in and out in 20mins with the groundsman taking us in to the ground to take some pictures. For a Trust based club and looking to involve the community the reception for me was the poorest so far, which is a shame.

Still, I saw much more of York on my way out that afternoon onto a place called Pocklington to cut down the miles I had to walk the following two days to my next club destination of Hull City. The countryside north of the Humber was very picturesque and the weather was cold and crisp in the Sunday I arrived at West Park and the KC Stadium, I was pleasantly surprised by a chap who stopped me as I arrived, he had passed me on the road and had also heard me on Radio Humberside a couple of days before. I was eventually met by Chris from the Hull City Official Supporters club who were looking after me for the next couple of days, he took me to the hotel a few miles out of town they had laid on.

He picked me up the next morning to visit the KC and I was given a great tour by the staff there, the Hull OSC have a really good relationship with the club and despite not being a Trust they seek to help the club treat their fans better and it seems to be working.

Next Blog will see me cross the Humber Bridge and back into Yorkshire. Bye for now.

Away in a manger…..

The weather the next day for the walk to Middlesboro was equally as grim as the previous day so the 8 mile Walk past the huge industrial park that is in the Wear was a real grind, the only saving grace was using the Transporter Bridge to cross into the City itself. I had previously wanted to use the one at Port Talbot, but it was closed on the Sunday I was there, which was quite annoying as I wasted an hour walking to it. I was told by some Boro fans on Twitter that a good cheap place to stay just off the Town Centre called the Princess Alice, i found it and talked to the Landlord who was kind enough to let me have a room for only a tenner a night, which was very generous. Once I had dried out and changed my clothes, I set off to the Riverside stadium in order to get my tour of Boro, its not too far a walk from the Town which is rather unusual for a new build of this size. Alongside the Stadium is the huge £2.7m Temenos art structure by Anish Kapoor which is very impressive, except when I spoke to the locals about it, none of them could tell me what it was! It clearly hadnt made an impression on them.

The Boro tour was given to me by the receptionist, who was very enthusiastic but we had to rush through as it was late on a Friday afternoon, still Club 45 was done and dusted.

I had a spare day the next day and it was a day I had been looking forward to for a while, Portsmouth were scheduled to play at Hartlepool and it was planned to be a day I would meet up again with a lot of mates and enjoy watching Pompey lose after a few beers. Trouble was the weather I had endured the last couple of days had put the match in danger of being called off, there was a planned pitch inspection at 8am so I set my alarm for 8am and kept my eye on Twitter to see what the decision was. It had only started raining again about 7am but it was set to last all day, the ref looked at the pitch and decided to check again at 9am, but I think everyone knew what the decision would be and eventually the ref called it off. Two friends Duncan and Deano had already left London on the train and they were searching the Internet to find a game on in the North East, as the rain came down matches were continuing to be called off, but Duncan found out that Durham AFC had an artificial pitch and they were playing at home, so I jumped on a train to Durham to meet them there.

We had a march around town having a whistle’stop tour of the place and a few pints on the way before jumping in a cab to Durham AFC for the match. It was still teeming down when we arrived so we were looking for somewhere dry and warm to watch the match, as we walked along the main stand, well the only stand, we saw a hospitality suite with a couple of people in it. Duncan started to tap on the window and point to his Pompey badge before then shouting through the window for us to be allowed in. With his usual charm and tact employed, we were ushered in to explain why we were there, we met the Chairman who was delighted to have us and we were treated really well with free booze and food! Durham romped to a 4-0 win as well in what was a pretty good match, so all in all a day that started with disappointment when the Pompey match was called off was turned into a cracking day at Durham AFC.

I was quite drunk when I got back to my Hotel room which didnt bode well for the walk the next day. I was heading for Northallerton before settling in on Christmas Eve in Ripon. A friend from Portsmouth, Jake Payne, was staying with In-Laws at Yarm and I was passing near to that on my route, so I dropped him a text message to see if he could meet me for a quick drink late morning. I didnt get a reply because his phone was off until well past lunchtime and I had already walked miles past Yarm even though the wind was pretty strong and set against me slowing me down. We agreed to meet in my digs in Northallerton and that evening he and his bro-in-law who was a Boro fan gave me some company and bought me a couple of pints. Jake has been involved in Pompey for many years now and is the main orgainser of the Hall of Fame annual dinners and awards, he told me some stories of life at Pompey recently that only served to highlight just how bad things had gotten at Fratton.

On Christmas Eve I trudged the 17miles to Ripon and to my resting place for the next two nights. I was staying in converted stables out the back of an Inn! I couldn’t think of a better place to stay over Christmas and I was delighted when the landlord handed me 3 Christmas Card and a Present! How lucky was I, friends had gambled on the post getting them there on time and for once Royal Mail delivered on time and didnt let anyone down.

I wandered up to the local supermarket and bought some goodies for the next day, Nuts, Cheese and Crackers and a healthy supply of chocolates, not forgetting also my Christmas Dinner which was Prawn sandwiches for starters and Turkey and Stuffing for main course. As conventional as I could make it.

On Christmas Day itself I ignored breakfast in return for a well overdue lie in, the present was opened and it contained a very nice range of chocolate liquers, yum! I had a lot of chocolate to get through the next few days, good job I was going to walk it off. Around lunchtime I went for a walk around Ripon, it was very quiet and peaceful and a lovely town, that peace was punctuated by some phone calls from friends wishing me a Happy Christmas, one even from as far away as Thailand, and along with the many Text and Tweet messages of support and goodwill I felt far from lonely. I had to admit the build up to Christmas had hit me hard, the realisation that I would be alone on Christmas Day had led me to have a few days of despair but I ended up being overwhlemed at just how many people we thinking of me.

It was an unusual Christmas, but a good one. Thanks to everyone who made contact over Christmas, I was touched by it. I walk on with hope in my heart because of you all.