Sporting Travels - 1980 onwards
Growing up in England, football was always going to be a big part of my childhood, and I took in a few games in the early 80s, firstly with family and then my father before going it alone from 1985. After moving to London in 1990, I went a little overboard with games and even had the idea of going to every football ground in the country. That idea ended after I moved away from the UK, but I've picked up a new hobby and added a few Baseball Parks and Stadiums on recent trips to the US.
There are a few stadium duplicates in there, but I've tried to add in my first visit to the stadium, as well as any memorable matches that I've also witnessed. Looking back, I went to some great stadiums, a few of which are no more. I saw some great matches with some superb players, some of whom are now considered legends. I'd love to say there was never a dull moment, but given my luck in picking matches, there definitely were.
Back then, we could decide to go to a game on a whim with no planning involved. As a kid, I could get the bus to West Bromwich, walk to the ground, stand in the Brummie Road End, get a programme and the bus home all for less than a fiver. Living in London it was a little more expensive, but we could still look at the days fixtures on a Saturday morning and decide which game we were going to see. Today, we all know the game has changed a lot, but what has changed most for me is that I wouldn't even know where to start if I wanted to watch my team from the Brummie Road again.
Roker Park: Sunderland 0 - 0 West Bromwich Albion
My first West Brom game. I was the only Albion fan in the family, so the decision to go was surely taken with me in mind and probably decided on a whim while we were staying in nearby Cleadon with my Grandparents. No goals, but I got to see some Albion heroes that day including Bryan Robson, John Wile, Tony Godden, Remi Moses, Ally Brown and two of the Three Degrees - Brendon Batson and my all-time hero Cyrille Regis. Unfortunately I was just a year or so too late to see the last of the Degrees - my other Albion hero, Laurie Cunningham. All I remember of the game was being at the front of the stand with my brother, close to the half-way line and big Cyrille collecting the ball to take a throw-in just in front of us.
December 26th, 1980
May 8th, 1982
The Hawthorns: West Bromwich Albion 0 - 1 Aston Villa
Scorer: Pat Heard
My first game at The Hawthorns, just after my tenth birthday. There was a 'family enclosure' but I'm glad my Dad took me to the Birmingham Road End, where we used to stand behind the goal. I got to see a few other Albion legends that I didn't see in my first match including Derek Statham, Ally Robertson and Martyn Bennett. I also got my one and only Albion player autograph that day - a young player by the name of Derek Monaghan. Bad result on the day, but we likely would not have seen the last-minute goal as my Dad liked to leave ten minutes before the end to beat the traffic, and the violence. I distinctly remember being guided away from fights which were starting well before the final whistle.
November 13th, 1982
The Hawthorns: West Bromwich Albion 3 - 3 Swansea
Scorers: Nicky Cross, Martin Jol, Peter Eastoe, Leighton James, Jeremy Charles, Robbie James
Every football fan truly believes that the things they do before and during a match directly influence the game. Some of us believe we really can jinx a result. Not sure what I did here, but this may have been the start of my 'Albion luck' as we blew a 3-0 lead in the last 20 minutes. Looking back, I think we were sat in the family enclosure, and maybe the only consolation that day was that I got to see big Cyrille Regis for the last time.
April 8th, 1985
The Hawthorns: West Bromwich Albion 1 - 0 Aston Villa
Scorer: Carl Valentine
Just short of my 13th birthday I finally got to see us beat the Villa and I should remember more. As it happens, it became our last win against Villa until April 2011.
February 21st, 1987
Fellows Park: Walsall 1 - 1 Watford
Scorers: Trevor Christie, David Bardsley
Nothing much to write home about, I went with a Walsall-supporting schoolmate to see this FA Cup match. A great Cup atmosphere with some notable players on show - a young John Barnes and former and future Baggies Nicky Cross and Craig Shakespeare.
May 9th, 1987
The Hawthorns: West Bromwich Albion 2 - 2 Bradford City
Scorers: Gary Robson, Don Goodman
Last game of the season of our first back in the Second Division. A new breed of players that I would see a lot over the next few years including our scorers above, Stuart Naylor as well as a young Carlton Palmer.
December 18th, 1987
Villa Park: Aston Villa 0 - 0 West Bromwich Albion
I remember this one as it was a Friday night game and it being a local derby away from home, I had to promise my parents I was meeting friends, which I wasn't. I sat with the Albion fans, so avoided most of the aggression.
March 8th, 1988
St. Andrews: Birmingham City 0 - 1 West Bromwich Albion
Scorer: Robbie Hopkins
A midweek game, I went with three Birmingham City supporters - two schoolmates and one of their Dads. We stood in the Birmingham end as Birmingham-born, ex-Birmingham City player & Birmingham City supporter, Robbie Hopkins scored a last-minute goal. I managed to keep my excitement in check to get out in one piece!
January 7th, 1989
The Hawthorns: West Bromwich Albion 1 - 1 Everton
Scorers: Colin Anderson, Kevin Sheedy
From memory, one of the greatest atmospheres I ever experienced in the Birmingham Road End and maybe the biggest attendance I was part of at over 31k. It was FA Cup day, and Albion were high flying in the Second Division and 'one of the most in-form teams in the country' as per Match of the Day. Everton were in the First Division of course and it was a superb game. We gave a great account of ourselves and should have beaten them. We gave Peter Reid a lot of stick too.
February 24th, 1989
Villa Park: Aston Villa 0 - 3 Wimbledon
Scorers: John Fashanu (2), Paul Miller
Most of my mates are Villa fans, so I sometimes tagged along for a good day out. I didn't last long on this day though, as I was escorted out of the ground for making 'obscene gestures' (flicking the V-sign) by some over-zealous West Midlands Police Officers. First and last time, but it's a story that's served me well over the years!
April 8th, 1989
The Hawthorns: West Bromwich Albion 2 - 3 Chelsea
Scorers: Colin Anderson, Tony Ford, Graham Roberts, David Lee, Kevin McAllister
Both teams were doing well in the Second Division, but this defeat pretty much ended our run at automatic promotion and we missed out on the play-offs too. We played well, scored first but were not good enough against the eventual champions.
April 15th, 1989
The Hawthorns: West Bromwich Albion 2 - 2 Plymouth Argyle
Scorers: Colin West, OG
Not a memorable game, but one of the most horrific days of my football-supporting childhood. I arrived at the ground as normal, but in the run up to kick-off, I felt nauseous and light-headed and had to sit down below the stand to get myself together. Feeling better as the match kicked off, we heard on someones radio about 'crowd trouble' at Hillsborough, with one person dead. Then six. We didn't get the full story until we got home. The most tragic day ever in English football and the worst day ever for the 96 families who lost their loved ones on that day. All they did was go to a football match, and they never came home.
January 6th, 1990
The Hawthorns: West Bromwich Albion 2 - 0 Wimbledon
Scorers: Gary Robson, Kevin Bartlett
A great FA Cup win against First Division opposition. I used to talk up the great partnership between our natural goalscorer Don Goodman and winger Kevin Bartlett, who had such pace. I was sad when he was sold for peanuts later that season.
January 27th, 1990
The Hawthorns: West Bromwich Albion 1 - 0 Charlton
Scorer: Tony Ford
A miserable day weather-wise, but a great win in the fourth round of the FA Cup against another First Division side. I'll always believe that Tony Ford's shot was not going in until a goal-line puddle diverted it into the goal. Who cares, they all count.
Side note - Tony Ford played over 1,000 games in his career, but never in the top flight.
May 5th, 1990
The Hawthorns: West Bromwich Albion 1 - 3 Ipswich Town
Scorer: Gary Bannister
I have no memory of this game itself, only the build up. I had turned 18 during the week and celebrated with friends on the Friday night before the match. Needless to say I had a terrible hangover which was made worse by sitting on a stop-start, jerky and stuffy double-decker bus, and as we pulled into West Bromwich town centre I was not in a good way. As we shuffled along the bus to exit, I couldn't hold it in and threw up over the back of the legs of the poor old lady in front of me. I didn't hang around and continued throwing up in the bus station while my mate apologized to all concerned. The match itself, who knows, but if my memory serves me well, I think we saw the return of Romeo Zondervan to The Hawthorns, playing for Ipswich of course.
September 29th, 1990
White Hart Lane: Tottenham Hotspur 2 - 1 Aston Villa
Scorers: Gary Lineker, Paul Allen, David Platt
My first London game and a post-Italia '90 match featuring some of it's stars including two of the scorers above as well as Paul Gascoigne. No dog in the fight for me, but always nice to see the Villa lose.
October 2nd, 1990
Craven Cottage: Fulham 2 - 2 Birmingham City
Scorers: Trevor Matthewson, Vince Overson, Gary Brazil, Leroy Rosenior
I must have been homesick, so when Birmingham City came to town, within (long) walking distance of my new student digs in London, I took the chance to go. I don't remember much, but it was a decent match in the company of some fellow Brummies.
October 6th, 1990
The Den: Milwall 4 - 1 West Bromwich Albion
Scorers: Colin West, Teddy Sheringham (3), Alex Rae
My first Albion match in London. I stood towards the back of the away stand and gladly taunted the Milwall fans until they started taking polaroid photos of us. Supposedly they used these to identify and beat up the opposition fans after the match. A terrible game for the Albion, but I suppose it was 'good' to have seen an England legend in his early years. After the thrashing, we were kept back for 45 minutes, then given a police escort to the coaches. Unfortunately I had to break away from the safety of the group and head home on the tube. Nasty.
October 20th, 1990
Plough Lane: Wimbledon 0 - 0 Aston Villa
I went with a few college mates and stood with the Villa fans in probably the worst worst game of football I've ever witnessed inside probably the worst ground. "Hans Segers, you play for a shit team" was the only memorable moment - shouted at the Wimbledon keeper by some Villa wag.
November 17th, 1990
Highbury: Arsenal 4 - 0 Southampton
Scorers: Alan Smith (2), Anders Limpar, Paul Merson
My first Arsenal game and the beginning of a small crush that lasted until West Brom started to play them after our promotion. I fell in with a few Gooners at college and made the trip up to Highbury a few more times that Championship-winning season. It was a great season.
November 24th, 1990
The Hawthorns: West Bromwich Albion 1 - 2 Sheffield Wednesday
Scorers: Gary Robson
No idea why I went back home for this match, but it was memorable only as it was the return of 'Big' Ron Atkinson, after twice walking out on West Brom. Firstly in 1981 when he went to Man. Utd and took Bryan Robson and Remi Moses with him, and then again in 1988 when he went to Athletico Madrid. Both big clubs of course, but we're a proud club and I'm ashamed to say that we gave him an awful lot of stick that day. He had the last laugh though, with two late goals and was quite happy to celebrate on the pitch when the second one went in. We probably deserved it to be honest - some of the abuse was way over the top.
November 28th, 1990
Highbury: Arsenal 2 - 6 Manchester United
Scorers: Alan Smith (2), Lee Sharpe (3), Mark Hughes, Danny Wallace, Clayton Blackmore
A mid-week League Cup thrashing, but a great game for a neutral which saw the emergence of some of Fergie's youngsters including hat-trick hero Lee Sharpe. Both teams had clashed on the pitch in their league match a month or so earlier, so lots of bad blood in this match but it ended in Arsenal's worst home defeat for fifty years.
December 1st, 1990
Upton Park: West Ham United 3 - 1 West Bromwich Albion
Scorers: Tony Ford, George Parris, Trevor Morley, Frank McAvennie
A missed penalty by Colin West is the only thing I remember about this easily-forgettable thrashing. I also recall some fun taunting of the ICF (Inter City Firm - West Ham's hooligan element), and being held back for way too long after the game. Once again, I had to break away from the safety of the herd to go home on the tube.
December 2nd, 1990
Highbury: Arsenal 3 - 0 Liverpool
Scorers: Paul Merson, Lee Dixon, Alan Smith
My third match in five days - no wonder I was always broke as a student. After the midweek thrashing, the Gooners feared the worse, but destroyed the previously-unbeaten Liverpool that day. Kudos to Bruce Grobbelaar who playfully acknowledged the taunting when 3-0 down. Not many do that with 5,000 people standing behind you in the Clock end.
January 19th, 1991
Loftus Road: Queen's Park Rangers 1 - 1 Manchester United
Scorers: Mike Phelan, Mark Falco
I don't remember anything about this match, but tagged along with my Man. Utd supporting mate. I seem to remember a late equalizer though - I think for QPR as I think my mate went home gutted.
March 9th, 1991
Stamford Bridge: Chelsea 3 - 2 Manchester United
Scorers: Tony Dorigo, Ken Monkou, Gordon Durie, Mark Hughes, Brian McClair
Another game with my Man. Utd-supporting mate, and I don't remember too much about this one either. But some legends amongst the scorers.
April 13th, 1991
Selhurst Park: Crystal Palace 0 - 0 Aston Villa
My Villa-supporting mates came down to London for this match - long way to go for a nil-nil draw. The night on the town made up for it though!
April 23rd, 1991
Vicarage Road: Watford 1 - 1 West Bromwich Albion
Scorer: Don Goodman
Not much to write home about I'm afraid, but a good, hard-fought point away from home. Not sure what happens when you go there now, but I remember arriving at the stadium, but then being directed around a large allotment before finally getting to the away end. Albion were struggling in the League though, they needed more than one point.
May 11th, 1991
The Dell: Southampton 1 - 1 Wimbledon
Scorers: Jimmy Case, John Fashanu
The worst day in Albion's history - we dropped to the third tier for the first time in 113 years. I couldn't get a ticket to go to Bristol to support them, so I went to Southampton with a Saints-supporting mate to keep my mind off it. When the news came through, I cried tears over Albion for the first time ever.
October 19th, 1991
Griffin Park: Brentford 1 - 2 West Bromwich Albion
Scorers: Don Goodman, Kwame Ampadu
The Third Division, no fun at all. But we played some new teams and won more than we lost. Despite winning, Bobby Gould was almost universally despised and anger was vented for the whole 90 minutes. I was in the home end, so had to keep schtum as we scored a late winner.
November 9th, 1991
Elm Park: Reading 1 - 2 West Bromwich Albion
Scorers: Don Goodman, Gary Robson
More winning against new teams. Zero memories of this one, but it was just a train-ride away, so of course I went.
October 14th, 1992
Wembley Stadium: England 1 - 1 Norway
Scorer: David Platt
My first England match and my first trip to Wembley - the real one. It was fun walking around looking for your team's flag - all teams who had played there had a flag in the rafters. Everyone wears their own Club's shirt too, and no serious animosity noticed. As Norway lined up to take a throw-in deep in our half, I noticed a big guy unmarked just outside the area and said the same to my mate - better watch out for him. He scored. This was an early qualification game for the 1994 World Cup which England ultimately failed to qualify for.
November 7th, 1992
Brisbane Road: Leyton Orient 2 - 0 West Bromwich Albion
West Brom still in the Third Division and more new teams to the 'home' of Laurie Cunningham - where he started out as a young player. I drove in my old mini, with a mate, his girlfriend and a girl I was seeing at the time. Not the ideal recipe for a fun day out at the football to be honest. A terrible game. One of those matches that give you zero pleasure whatsoever. Luther Blisset was playing for us for some reason. He missed a sitter. No goals, no hope.
January 2nd, 1993
The Hawthorns: West Bromwich Albion 0 - 2 West Ham United
Scorers: Clive Allen, Mark Robson
Another one of those matches where you wish you'd not bothered. The fog was so heavy, we couldn't see the other end of the pitch and West Ham didn't have to do much to win this FA Cup match. Then I worked my way back to my car only to see I'd left the lights on. After a two-hour wait for the AA, I was on my way home. Lousy day, and my last game in the Brummie Road End before it was pulled down in 1994.
May 30th, 1993
Wembley Stadium: Port Vale 0 - 3 West Bromwich Albion
Scorer: Andy Hunt, Ian Hamilton, Nicky Reid
One of the greatest days in our modern history. I had no ticket, but made my way to Wembley with 40 quid in my pocket. I asked a tout and was quoted 60. He took my 40 in the end, and as I walked away I realized I hadn't even checked which end it was in. Luckily I had a great seat and after a goalless first half, I saw my team win at the old Wembley. Not many Albion memories will top that, and we haven't won there since.
December 11th, 1993
Roots Hall: Southend 0 - 3 West Bromwich Albion
Scorers: Andy Hunt, Ian Hamilton, Bob Taylor
Back in the Second Division and one of the greatest turnarounds of any match I've attended. At 0-0, we conceded a penalty which of course spells the worst. Up steps Tony Lange, who saved the penalty, throws it out and we head down the other end and score. All within 30 seconds. Never have I witnessed such a fast swing of emotions at a football match.
April 12th, 1994
The Manor Ground: Oxford United 1 - 1 West Bromwich Albion
Scorer: Bob Taylor
Second time lucky for this match. I drove up for the first attempt but it was called off. I remember heading to the pub and meeting John Byrne and I think Jim Magilton who didn't take long to get the beers in. Second time was luckier with a great atmosphere and a hard-earned point in my last ever game on English soil.
July 3rd, 2015
Yankee Stadium: Tampa Bay Rays 5 @ New York Yankees 7
A long wait to resume my sporting travels, but 2015 saw my first visit to the US and the start of a new hobby to visit some classic US stadiums.
This was our first night in New York, and as much as I love baseball, it's hard to stay focused when jet-lagged and cold. We left at the middle of the 8th Inning with the Yankees down by three runs. Unfortunately, that's when the game came to life with another nine runs and a Yankee win in the bottom of the 12th Inning.
Notable players on show: Alex Rodriguez
July 12th, 2015
Fenway Park: New York Yankees 8 @ Boston Red Sox 6
A visit to the oldest ballpark in America and home of my Red Sox was always going to be top of list.
Not the result I wanted, but plenty of hits and a few lead changes. We were always in the game and not far from forcing extra innings with 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th. A pretty hot day in the centre field bleacher seats, but a great day out for all the family. The girls got to run the bases after the game and I got close to the hallowed turf.
Notable players on show: Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, Nathan Eovaldi,
July 21st, 2017
AT&T Park: San Diego Padres 12 @ San Francisco Giants 9
Two days before running the San Francisco Marathon, my daughter and I took in a great Giants game. Lots of hits in this one, the Padres were up by 3 runs until a great comeback by the Giants in the bottom of the 9th. Unfortunately it was getting colder and colder as the night wore on, and we bailed just as extra innings got going. The Padres finally won it with 3 runs un the top of the 11th inning.
We had great seats close to the 3rd base line in the hope of catching a foul ball, but it wasn't to be.
Notable players on show: Eduardo Nunez (prominent Red Sox in our 2018 World Series run)
November 7th, 2018
Staples Centre: Timberwolves 110 @ Lakers 114
The first night of my week-long sports-fest in L.A. saw me heading to Staples Centre to see LeBron James and the Lakers. As a Celtics man, I'll always root against the Lakers, but had to see arguably the games greatest ever player when I had the chance.
Very much of a touristy atmosphere around, but a pretty good game saw Lakers coming back in the 4th Quarter to win, with a decent 24 points from LeBron.
Notable players on show: LeBron James, Rajon Rondo (Celtics 2018 Championship legend).
November 9th, 2018
Vivint Smart Home Arena: Celtics 115 @ Jazz 123
A short flight from L.A. was all it took for me to see my Celtics in action.
A very passionate home crowd with constant jeering for the returning Gordon Hayward saw the Jazz come out on top. The Celtics got within 4 with 35 points in the 4th Quarter, but couldn't quite complete the comeback. Ex-Celtic Jae Crowder made the difference with 20 points off the bench.
Notable players on show: Jason Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown - young Celtics now but future legends.
November 10th, 2018
Staples Centre: Calgary Flames 1 @ L.A. Kings 0
While I'm not the NHL's biggest fan, it is something I follow from a distance and I took the chance to see a game when I got back from Salt Lake City. As usual with US sports, the national anthem is played at the start, but on this occasion with the Canadian Flames in town, we got two anthems.
Not much to write home about this one, with the only goal coming early in the 1st period. I'm glad I went, but I now know why I don't watch too much NHL.
Notable players on show: Who knows?
November 11th, 2018
L.A. Coliseum: Seattle Seahawks 31 @ L.A. Rams 36
I've been a NFL fan since 1986, so had to get a game in during my week-long sports-fest. Going to an NFL game is a big day out for all involved, with tailgate parties starting hours before the game starts. The food offerings are amazing too with all the classic American favourites available.
A great game saw several lead changes with the Rams coming out on top on their way to the Superbowl where they eventually lost to the Patriots. A great day out in the L.A. sunshine.
Notable players on show: Russell Wilson
November 12th, 2018