Friday, 8 October 2010

Anything for the Weekend?

FRIDAY 8 October - Hellenic League Premier
Wantage Town v Oxford City Nomads
SATURDAY 9 October - League Two
Morecambe v Shrewsbury Town
SUNDAY 10 October - Conference
Fleetwood Town v Cambridge United

Although I always insert the element of randomness into my 'hopping whenever possible, sometimes the fixture lists throw up combinations that are too good to be ignored for practical reasons, and this weekend falls into that category.

I do like to keep my "92" up to date * , which is why I started this season at Chesterfield (shortly before this blog came into existence).  Morecambe have a new stadium too, and I had always earmarked Morecambe's game against Shrewsbury Town as my preferred fixture.  There is a very good reason for this which I will explain when the relevant blog entry comes along, but...


It turns out that this game is scheduled for Saturday 9 October... and is in the right geographical direction for me to take in a Step 5 Hellenic League fixture at Wantage Town, as a neutral, en route on Friday night.

That would be good in itself, but imagine my surprise and delight when I noticed that Fleetwood Town's Conference game against Cambridge United is on Sunday afternoon.  This is a gorgeous moment of chance which means that "The 116" will also be restored by the end of the weekend. **  I will be supporting Cambridge United, in a nostalgic nod to my student days.

A combination of circumstances that cannot be ignored, I hope you agree.  Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

For my overseas readers and other hoppertunists looking in:

*  "The 92" is a traditional groundhopper's milestone ... there are 92 clubs in total in the top four divisions of English football comprising the Premiership, Championship, League One and League Two.  Yes, we all know it's a stupid naming system.  Every so often a club will build a new stadium so it is occasionally necessary to re-visit clubs (at least in my personal rules it is), and in recent years this has been at the rate of two or three in a season.

** The fifth division is called the Conference (don't ask) and has 24 clubs, 92+24=116, so completing "The 116" is the next level of grand hopperatic performance.  The Conference is Step 1 of so-called "non-league" football. (Yes, we know that's stupid too.)  I completed The 116 for the first time last year, and this weekend's trip to Fleetwood Town will restore the full set - they were promoted from Step 2 last year.

You can begin to see why most groundhoppers have their own idiosyncratic rules of engagement.  At levels below this, the complexities of ground-sharing, or even of clubs folding, pop up more frequently, but for me the next milestone would be to add all of Step 2, currently another 43 grounds, but usually 44.  (The anomaly is caused by the recent sad demise of Ilkeston Town.)  I have four more to go at this level, a high personal priority for this 'hopping season.

Chesterfield celebrate the first league game at the B2B Stadium in August 2010

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