Spud Thornhill: The day I became a member of the 92 club at Brentford match and the sofa that almost got us a ticket

"Suddenly they opened the sliding door of the back of the van. Phil, who was laying down on the sof

"Suddenly they opened the sliding door of the back of the van. Phil, who was laying down on the sofa, suddenly sat up and greeted the officer with "evening, officer!" PA Photo/Handout - Credit: Archant

One of my ultimate ambitions as a football fan was to visit all 92 grounds in the top four divisions. This became reality on March 15, 2008 when I watched Morecambe win 3-1 against Norwich’s opponents today, Brentford.

Like many football fans, I have a passion for football grounds.

Even if I’m driving through some random town, I’ll have a look for its football ground.

Last summer, with Mrs Spud, we were driving through Harrogate when I diverted towards Harrogate Town’s ground.

Mrs Spud is used to it. She has stopped saying anything now – she just sits in the car whilst I grab my anorak and go for a look around and take a few pictures.


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The 92 club is where you visit every ground in the top four divisions for a competitive game (friendlies don’t count).

I’m sure some of the Brentford fans who’ll be at Carrow Road and were at Morecambe’s old Christie Park that day won’t have the same warm feeling as I do.

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It was a day I’ll never forget in my pursuit of the 92 club membership.

I usually have two fellow Canaries, Phil Keenan and John Bowen, groundhopping with me when I do new stadiums.

They both completed their 92 grounds in the 90s.

Since 2008, we still visit new grounds or grounds of clubs who are entering the Football League for the first time.

I’ve always said every ground has a story when I’ve visited and my story from that day in 2008 was not at the ground but on the long journey back.

Back then, more often than not, John would travel with myself, Phil and sometimes another groundhopper in his old works van.

In the back of his van was a sofa.

Many times if it was just the three of us, me and Phil would fight over the sofa.

Looking back we were a little bit wrong travelling in it – especially as the old van was on its last legs as well.

Morecambe was the final ground to visit for me and we wouldn’t need to do any more new grounds until the following season.

John said before the game he would be scrapping the van and that the sofa would have to go with it, so we were making our final trip; it was a sad moment, but one Phil and myself accepted.

Morecambe is a 600-mile round trip, near enough. We were nearly home, when, on the road between Swaffham and Dereham we were pulled over by the Norfolk Constabulary.

I’m not sure what made them suspicious, but I’m sure there were a few things wrong, what with the van being close to the end of its working life.

While one officer spoke to John, the two others were giving the van a once over.

There I was sitting in the front expecting them to find one or two things to pull us up on.

When suddenly they opened the sliding door of the back of the van. Phil, who was laying down on the sofa, suddenly sat up and greeted the officer with “evening, officer!”

The officer burst out laughing and called his two colleagues, and another one who was in the police van, saying, “look at this”.

We were waiting for the ticket and a penalty, but the officers were too busy laughing.

It was frustrating knowing we were going to get done with only about 20 miles left with this van.

The officers started to write out the ticket, when a colleague had a call saying their assistance was needed in Dereham.

They needed to get there quickly.

John was told that it was his lucky day and escaped a fine.

Before the officers left he said: “Once you’re home, ditch the sofa.”

All three of us gave a sigh of relief.

John disposed of the sofa and it was an end to his faithful van.

This is one of many, many stories from my travels and I would recommend it to anybody – so in two weeks time with Norwich not having a game on the Saturday, it may be worthwhile taking in a neutral gameinstead of going shopping.

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