Book Review: Football Grounds Frenzy Floodlights by Mike Floate
As a kid travelling to away games, spotting the floodlights was part of the excitement of the day. And if I’m honest, even all these years later, there is still a thrill from spotting the pylons whether in the car or on a train. However, as old grounds have slowly disappeared and technology has advanced in the field of lighting, those distinctive pylons of my youth, are a very rare sight these days.
Therefore it is a real pleasure to be able to review two book about these metallic behemoths, the first Football Grounds Frenzy Floodlights by Mike Floate and the second Blinding Floodlights by Peter Miles. This review focuses on Mike Floate’s offering with a separate one for Peter Miles book.
This A5 sized book is in four parts, Introduction (providing the only text), The Underview, The Groundview and Getting to the Vetch Field. Over its 84 pages, 48 grounds are featured through 83 wonderfully atmospheric colour images.
The introduction details how this collection started, when Floate visited the Scottish club Queen of the South in 1996 and snapped the images of their floodlights (featured on pages 43 and 56), with the last picture to feature in this book taken in 2015. Whilst the majority of the pictures come from English League clubs, there are some from the non-league scene as well as Scotland and Belgium.
Some may argue that this is a pretty niche area within football, but what is important to remember is that nearly 40% of the stadiums featured have been demolished and those old style stands, and floodlights are now lost forever. This book contributes to recording architectural, industrial and social history in a brutalist-style artistry.
They also provide for me great memories and reminders of growing up in London and my regular visits to Fulham at Craven Cottage and Wimbledon’s old Plough Lane venue. The pylons at the Cottage that could be seen walking to the ground with my dad and indeed the nation, viewed as they were on the BBC every year at the Varsity Boat race as the Oxford and Cambridge crews swept past the ground on the Thames. Now as the stadium has changed, Fulham have adopted the tubular structures now favoured in the modern era, with the new Riverside Stand to have lighting within its roof, another feature of new ground design.
The images of Plough Lane also brought back a sadness, at thoughts of the grounds subsequent demolition, but Floate’s pictures on pages 38, 39, 57 and 58 made me smile too, as I recalled that The Dons, as they climbed the Football League arranged the bulbs in a ‘W’ formation in each of their four pylons. Happy days indeed.
Besides those wonderful nostalgic images from my days in South West London, there are some other eye-catching pictures within the book. And that is one of the beauties of this collection, in that you will notice something different every time you look at the images. Take for instance the pylon at Hereford’s Edgar Street ground (page 22), where the lower reaches of the structure were used to advertise businesses and forthcoming fixtures on various boards. Incongruously, an advert for World of Florida, Luxury Homes for Sale or Rent, sits side by side with those for local building and plumbing firms.
The book closes with Getting to the Vetch Field, a cracking photo-study and homage to Swansea City’s former home. The photos feature the lights from various spots around the streets, illustrating the stadiums land locked site in the heart of the city, and having a wonderful glow and atmosphere that only attending games at night can somehow bring.
Such a small book, but such a treasure.
(Newlands Printing Services. March 2016. Paperback: 84 pages)
This books and a range of other football related titles can be bought through Mike Floate’s website: www.footballgroundsfrenzy2.com as well as eBay and Amazon.