This is our favorite kind of Reader Report, in which people genuinely surprise us with where they wind up going to a game. Terry went groundhopping to West Ham United’s Europa League semifinal at London Stadium and to Sheppey United’s league title game in Kent.
A Reader Report is simply when readers of our blog and newsletter, and clients of Groundhopper Guides, tell us about their experience at the grounds. You can read more of Reader Reports here.
We’ve helped Terry go groundhopping a few times, including at Chelsea and Crystal Palace, and this time he wanted to see West Ham United play in the semifinals of the Europa League. He purchased our Academy Lounge package at London Stadium.
When we asked him how the game went, he sent us a reader report which included a surprise: He also went to a big game at Sheppey United, on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent! Even Groundhopper Paul, veteran of more than 100 games of soccer around the UK, had never heard of that club.
Terry gave us some background:
Sheppey United are a stones throw away from my Mum’s house, and she is a season ticket holder. I catch the odd game when I’m over. The gates are pretty big for the Ites (usually 400-ish) compared to other teams in that division. And now they will be playing in the Isthmian League next season.
Yes, they are the Ites. The nickname comes from being called the Sheppey-ites by 19th century press, and it stuck. Their YouTube channel is IteTV.
So how did it go for Terry, the Hammers, and the Ites? We’ll let him take it from here.
This Reader Report was written by Terry Phipps. It has been edited for clarity. All photos and videos are courtesy of Terry unless otherwise noted.
Sheppey United vs Tower Hamlets – April 23, 2022 – Holm Park, Halfway, Isle of Sheppey, Kent
This was the title decider for the Southern Counties East Premier Division — tier 9 in the English pyramid. Sheppey United had already achieved promotion to the Isthmian League for next season, but this game would decide who won the league title.
A record crowd of 1,282 attended the game to witness a 3-0 win, from a Warren Mfula hat trick. The Ites gained 102 points for the season, two ahead of their nearest rivals Chatham Town. This was the first league title in 27 years and the supporters certainly enjoyed the party.
In all this season, the Ites won the league, the delayed 2019-20 Kent Senior Trophy, the current version of the same trophy, and the Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup. It’s a quadruple season that will never be forgotten.
West Ham United vs Eintracht Frankfurt – April 29, 2022 – UEFA Europa League Semifinal, London Stadium
West Ham last won the European Cup Winners Cup in 1965, before I was born. They last made a European semifinal in 1976 having qualified by winning the FA Cup in 1975. It’s been a long time to get to their next semifinal — this time in the Europa League.
When I booked my flight to the UK, I planned my travel so that if West Ham beat Lyon in the quarterfinals, and if we were drawn to play at home first, I could maybe get to watch the semifinal game at London Stadium. Now how to make that happen? As soon as the result of the Lyon game came in and the fixture dates were confirmed, I contacted Groundhopper Guides to see if they could help me get tickets.
They quickly responded with availability and pricing but I took too long to confirm what I wanted, and those tickets were snapped up! I thought the chance was gone. However, the Groundhopper team did not give up and sourced me some other ticket options a couple of days later. As George Peppard says – I love it when a plan comes together!
I stayed in the Hilton close to the Westfield Mall; just made it easier to have a base close to the ground. I booked parking local to the hotel in advance. I took my Mum and my nephew to the game and we made a day of it, no rushing around. That said, I’d advise people to show up to the ground at least two hours before the kick off. There was quite a delay in processing the tickets and getting into the ground. We did make it for kick off though did not get a drink in beforehand!
That said, a couple of points of note:
- The stadium staff were actively looking for away supporters to make sure there was proper segregation in the ground. They checked ID and nationalities. I saw German supporters refused entry to the game. Some supporters tried to enter hospitality with their Frankfurt shirts and scarves, and did not get in.
- If you are an away supporter and manage to get into the ground, maybe by not wearing colors, it’s probably best not to stand and cheer when your team scores. This happened twice. First, those supporters were in danger of getting hurt, and second, they were found and escorted out of the ground.
The game itself was excellent, attendance 58,108, although not the right result for me personally. Frankfurt scored inside a minute, and that deflated the home crowd, though I have to say I was impressed by the Eintracht Frankfurt away support. West Ham equalized after 20 minutes as Antonio scrambled in a Lanzini free kick.
In the second half Frankfurt restored their lead when Kamada scored off a rebound of an Ariola save. Bowen made an amazing overhead kick that hit the crossbar and bounced way from goal in injury time.
After the game, we left the Academy bar and headed into the night as the stadium emptied. An enjoyable game, difficult result, but at least I was there. Until next time.