Updated: Monday, 19th August 2019 @ 10:17am

Trafford FC get a visit from a seasoned 'ground-hopper' on a mission

Trafford FC get a visit from a seasoned 'ground-hopper' on a mission

By Daniel Etchells

Waking up bright and early to travel over 200 miles to watch Trafford FC vs Clitheroe FC might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly does for experienced football ground-hopper Dennis Woods.

Having been there to see the Evo-Stick First Division North clash at Trafford’s Shawe View home, the 42-year-old West Ham United supporter continued to close in on his target to attend a football match at every English club’s ground from the Premier League down to Non-League level 4.

A civil servant by trade working for London’s Ministry of Justice, Dennis ironically ticked off the then 92 Football League grounds in 1992 and has also been a spectator at every Scottish League ground since starting his journey in 1986.

Asked where he initially got his inspiration from, Dennis, who is now just nine ground visits away from reaching his aim, said: “It started off by following my team West Ham as a season ticket holder.

“Initially when West Ham were away it was about thinking I’ll go and see another London team play such as Fulham, Chelsea or Arsenal.

“I gradually expanded to go into the south coast and my width got wider. Then I started watching West Ham away outside of London and it just went from there.”

Dennis has had to contend with changes to the Non-League structure over the years, such as the establishment of the Blue Square Premier, North and South and Evo-Stick Premier, North and South divisions.

“The closer I get, the goal posts - pardon the pun - keep moving,” he said.

Despite his seemingly uncontrollable desire to add to his ground tally, Dennis stressed that he is keen to focus on achieving more rounded aims and then set himself new goals.

He also recognises the importance of fulfilling his family commitments as a married man and isn’t concerned that there are other ground-hopping fanatics out there who are even more dedicated than himself.

“I don’t see it as a competition; I enjoy what I do,” he said.

“It’s just a hobby and if it becomes too much of a competition I think it takes something away from what you’re doing.”

He added: “For me it’s about trying to achieve something so to say I’ve done that.

“I remember meeting some people on a train back from Preston and they’d been to a Non-League Conference game. I thought to myself I wouldn’t mind doing the Conference but that I’d go no lower than that - and here I am at Trafford!”

Dennis also travels to European grounds which forms the basis for his ‘Woodsy’s World’ feature in the monthly magazine, Non-League Digest.

He admits that planning trips abroad can be quite difficult and time consuming but his love for travelling, seeing places and meeting people means he doesn’t get put off.

And having exercised his passions at Trafford on Saturday, along with countless other lower league grounds over the years, Dennis is clear as to where the real heart of football lies.

“Football’s not about making loads of money,” he said.

“If you’re fortunate to have the talent then that’s good but for me it’s about the genuine people at the clubs in the community and there should be more done for clubs.

“Clubs run so many different youth teams and that gets people off the streets, gives them an identity and gives them something to believe in. That’s what it should be about.”

For more information on the Non-League Digest magazine and their regular Overseas Groundhopping feature, visit their website - http://nonleaguedigest.com.