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DONE THE 92

To kick-off, we asked Mark Chatterton a few questions about his personal trek around the English motorway system:

Done the 92 questionnaire – Mark Chatterton (chatto)

Mark and a Bunny Girl
Mark (with Scunny Honey Bunny).

  • How many grounds had you visited before you realised you wanted to do the lot?
  • It was around the 50 grounds mark when I decided that I would like to “Do the 92”. I was on a coach going to see Southend play at Colchester and I was talking with a friend about how many different grounds we had both visited. When I added it up and saw that I had got over the “half way mark”, I thought it would be good to complete them all.

     

  • Did you choose the last ground you were going to visit or did it just pan out that way?
  • At the beginning of 2011 I had five more grounds still to visit – Exeter City, Rochdale, Bristol City, Accrington Stanley, Middlesbrough and Morecambe. I was thinking of making Accrington Stanley my last ground, with all its history, but having gone all the way to Rochdale in January only to find the game was called off, that meant another trip up north. In the end I went to Accrington Stanley to see Southend play there a few weeks before going to Rochdale. The positive write up for Rochdale in the Football Ground Guide swung it for me.  

     

  • Did you have company for some or all of it – were you in competition with anyone else and what happened to them?
  • No I did it by myself, though for many grounds in the 92, I did go with my son Peter, or other friends. I also found that it was a challenge to move up the league tables you have on the Doing The 92 website

     

  • How many had you done when you thought ‘Right, I’m going to finish this now’?
  • I had done about 70 grounds, when I decided that I would like to complete the 92. This was at the beginning of 2009 and initially I said I would finish it by the end of 2010, but in the end I extended it to the end of the 2010-2011 season.

     

  • Obvious question but, best day out?
  • Not counting my home teams, I would have to say St James’ Park, Newcastle United’s ground for the all round experience. I timed it so it was my 100th football ground (both league and non-league), and I was welcomed by Shaun Smith into the 100 Football Grounds Club. The fans were so friendly and the atmosphere was good, plus it is a massive stadium.

     

  • Did you manage to do more than one ground in a day at any point?
  • No. The most I did was in 2009, when I did Carlisle on Good Friday and Wigan Athletic on Easter Saturday, with almost Man City on Easter Sunday. But I don’t think my wife would have been too pleased with three football matches in three days!

     

  • What does Plainmoor have that Old Trafford never will?
  • I think with many of the big clubs, they may have the big game atmosphere, but the influence of money has taken away the traditional “footballing experience”. A smaller ground like Rochdale’s Plainmore has a certain “feeling” which you don’t get the higher up the league you go.  Things like being able to turn up on the day without a ticket, have a drink at a reasonable price, and being near to the pitch and the players wherever you sit, and actually go to a game on a Saturday afternoon, all adds up to a better “football experience” in my opinion.

     

  • Did you ever turn up to find the game wasn’t on, or that you’d gone to the wrong ground?
  • Yes, it happened to me a couple of times. In January 2010 I went up to see Notts County play Forest Green in the FA Cup. I arrived about midday and went off for a ride on Nottingham’s tram system. When I got back to the station, there didn’t seem many people about and then I realised that the game had been called off – due to a frozen pitch. Then this year in February, I was on the coach going to see Southend play at Accrington Stanley. We were about half an hour away from the ground when a phone call came through to say the game had been called off due to a waterlogged pitch. We all ended up going to watch Blackburn Rovers play Newcastle United!  The moral is try and avoid going to lower division clubs in the winter months!

     

  • Best/worst food on your travels?
  • Yes the pies at Morecambe were truly delicious, but even better were the pork and apple burgers at Exeter City. Can’t really say where the worst food was. It’s all a blur…….

     

  • Do you still call ‘League One’ ‘Division Three’?
  • Yes I do. I suppose I’m a bit of a traditionalist on that score, having attended football matches when it was just divisions 1,2,3 and 4. Why couldn’t they leave it as it was?

     

  •  Most and least welcoming hosts?
  • At nearly every ground I’ve been to, someone has spoken to me or vice versa. But I found the Carlisle fans not very willing to talk. Maybe it was because I sat in the middle of a load of season ticket holders, who all knew their mates. Ironically, the only person who spoke to me there was a Scotsman!

    The most friendly fans for me have been at Newcastle, Norwich, Wigan, Exeter and Brighton – proving that it doesn’t matter where you go in the country. You still get nice fans in all parts of the UK.

     

  • Any bizarre incidents along the way. Any brushes with anyone famous/infamous?
  • Quite a few. Here’s two of them:-

    I sat next to a nun at Chesterfield! Well actually it was a man dressed as a nun! He was in fancy dress along with several of his mates, who were Chesterfield fans who lived in other parts of the country. They all got together once a season for a home match, dressed in fancy dress and this was it.

    On the way to seeing Southend play at Grimsby for the final game of the 2004-5 season, our coach broke down, with twenty miles to go! Southend needed to win to gain automatic promotion, so we were all desperate to get there. As it was less than an hour to kick off, we ended up ringing up for a taxi to take us to the ground. The taxi driver promised to get us there in time for kick off and didn’t half take some risks along the winding Lincolnshire roads. How we got there in one piece I’ll never know. We missed about ten minutes of the game and then couldn’t get in as they’d shut the away fans’ turnstiles.  In the end Southend only drew and had to go into the play offs.

    As to brushes with the famous/infamous, I was at the match at Blackpool last season which Prince William attended. As we left the ground, there were all these paparazzi waiting, so we guessed someone important was there. At Rotherham I saw the Chuckle Brothers. Does that count?

     

  • Now you’ve joined the small band of 92ers do you plan to keep visiting new grounds as they are introduced to the League, or do you consider it to be a one-off, job-done deal?
  • I will go to any new grounds that come up as it does give you a bit of a buzz going to a new ground.

     

  • What was your memento/proof of each visit – program, photo, ticket stub, badge?
  • For most grounds I’ve got a ticket stub or a programme. Plus since 2009, I’ve taken photos of each ground I’ve visited. For some of them I forked out for a mascot figure from the club shop for my wife… to keep her sweet!

     

  • What are your favourite/worst experiences?
  • Apart from St James James’ Park, I would have to say going to Hillsborough in 2007 was a very memorable day. I went up to see Southend play and before the game I visited the memorial there to the 96. Then going into the Leppings Lane End was quite surreal. For the first ten minutes of the game I couldn’t keep my eyes off the perimeter wall down below us, thinking about all that had gone on down there.

    Then on a tram back into Sheffield a really nice Wednesday fan started talking to us, seeing my son in his Southend colours. Although Southend had lost 3-2, he said how well they had played and that they had deserved to win. Then at the station and on the train, different people spoke to us about football. All very friendly, which made us feel welcome.

    At the other extreme, I will go back to the 70’s when I went and saw QPR play at Loftus Road. I went with a friend who wasn’t a Rangers fan, but we ended up right in the middle of the singing section behind the goal. He wouldn’t move and I ended up pretending to be a QPR fan, joining in all the chants etc!

     

  • Any advice for anyone contemplating doing the 92?
  • Move to the Midlands! At least you haven’t got a far to travel as other fans in other parts of the country! Seriously, it doesn’t matter where you live, but I would say, don’t just go by car to all the grounds. For many of them I’ve gone by train, which is so much more relaxing, and if you book ahead you can get some quite cheap train fares. Also if you live in the South East and can get into London easily, virtual every footballing town in England and Wales is no more than three hours away by train from London. So you can get there and back in a day. That’s not to say that you can make a weekend of it though. Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Plymouth, Brighton and Blackpool are all worth a stay over.

    For more information about Mark's travels, see www.doingthe92plus.com

     

     


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