The football grounds of Kent
PUBLISHED: 09:57 04 January 2013
A love of the beautiful game led one fan to photograph scores of non-league clubs, Robin Cottle reports
Mike Floate’s passion for the grassroots game is so strong he visited over 170 grounds to compile a book of his favourites.
But forget Old Trafford or the Emirates- Mike is in love with non-league stadiums.
And despite being a Swansea City supporter, who now play in the Premier League, his passion remains for Kent grounds belonging to clubs like Dartford FC, Ebbsfleet United and Guru Nanak FC.
“At non-league games you can move round, get the feel of being at a game without pressure to behave and can get to meet the players after the game,” he says.
“It is competitive on the field but real friendships are developed through a mutual love of the game afterwards.”
Mike first released a book, called Football Ground Frenzy Kent, in 1997 and a reprint was published recently. Here, he tells us his favourite grounds in north Kent:
Dartford FC, Princes Park
The new ground is without doubt the best new non-league ground in the country. The design is sympathetic in almost every way. It provides excellent viewing from proper terraces, the walkway is at the back so spectators can stand at the pitch rail, unlike other new grounds. A great atmosphere is generated by being fully enclosed at the corners.
Ebbsfleet (formerly Gravesend and Northfleet), Stonebridge Road
The best preserved traditional old ground with stand and terraces in the country! It should be preserved as a museum of football! The stand is over 100 years old, one of the oldest in the UK, and is a delightful sight, its proportions are such that it cannot be improved.
Guru Nanak FC, Khalsa Avenue
It is unique in the UK. The new Sikh temple provides an amazing backdrop and somehow makes a county league game seem more like an international fixture. On the far side of the temple was the old barracks ground with a stand which hosted crowds well into quadruple figures according to newspaper reports.
A small village club playing local football but on an enclosed pitch and with simple cover outside the changing rooms. A proper ground!
Corinthian FC, Gay Dawn Farm, Hartley
Corinthian is also very special - who else has a house in the corner of the ground other than Craven Cottage? Not only is the pitch superbly looked after but there is a second pitch also railed, floodlit and with simple spectator seating.