On the 12th Day of Christmas …

The festive period is officially done, so it’s time for a belated look back at 2018 on Groundhoppers.blog.

The Highlights:

My second E-book, ‘Snow on the Seats’, was published. Looking at the transformation of Russian football in the years leading up to the World Cup, it attracted what an opportunistic PR manager would describe as ‘worldwide attention’. The excellent Set Pieces website ran a feature, Russia Beyond got in touch from Moscow to talk about it, Mike Amos and the Northern Echo did me proud and even Durham University took an interest. The book, which is about far more than just the World Cup, is still available (and relevant) and you can get a copy on your Kindle for just £1.99 from Amazon. ‘Ancients & Mariners’, the story of the 2016-17 Northern League season is also still available at the bargain price of 99p. Watch out for more publications in the coming year.

third goal cellie
James Fairley celebrates his long-range goal.

Page views were up again, and this year was the biggest percentage increase so far. The World Cup helped with this – two old stories about Moscow’s Izmailovo Stadium and Russia’s oldest football ground in Kaliningrad captured the imagination of fans visiting this summer’s tournament. Back home, FA Vase action in Hebburn and the sad fate of Billingham Synthonia’s Central Avenue became the site’s most widely-read posts so far. With more and more followers on social media, I’d like to think that 2019 will bring even more people to the site – if you enjoy it, please spread the word.

synners main stand 2
An overgrown pitch in front of the main stand at Central Avenue, former home of Billingham Synthonia.

Special thanks this season go to the66pow blog for adding Groundhoppers to its list of recommended blogs.

The new ticks:

Family commitments slowed my collection of new grounds and venues (and reduced the frequency of posts on the blog). But there were still a few new additions, as listed below.

Gala Fairydean for Brutalist architecture
Annfield Plain for characterful Wearside League surroundings
Malmo FF (no photos, so unfortunately no blog)
Fremad Amager for a 0-0 draw involving a seldom-scoring Arsenal legend
FC Kobenhavn for inflatables and frustrations
Tranmere Rovers for a Dukla Prague away kit
Wolviston for rural delights on a summer night
Stokesley SC for a one-sided cup tie
Haringey Borough for the romance of the FA Cup
FC United of Newcastle for a step away from modern football

absolutely dylan 3
Absolutely Dylan clears the last on the way to winning the 3:20 at Sedgefield.

Away from football, I took my daughter to Sedgefield Races which was a tick for both of us and ice hockey at Whitley Bay (a tick for her only). And there was the little matter of working for the IIHF at the World Women’s U18 Championship in Dmitrov, Russia, the Men’s World Championship in Copenhagen and the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

old poster
Belmont FC, the forerunners of Tranmere Rovers.

The future:

2019 started with two new grounds – football at Blackpool on New Year’s Day, rugby at Hartlepool Rovers on Jan. 5. I’m hoping to continue my trips to former Northern League grounds to find out what’s happened to them since the clubs moved on. And I’m also hoping to get another book out after the end of the current season.

Thanks for reading, and happy hopping in 2019!

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