The Ground Designs Story
My obsession with football grounds began on Christmas Day 1984 when Santa dropped off a copy of Simon Inglis' seminal "The Football Grounds of England and Wales" book, and I vowed to visit every one of the 92 characterful homes detailed inside. The journey began early the following year in the salubrious surroundings of Saltergate for a glamorous encounter between Chesterfield and Scunthorpe.
By the end of the eighties I was well on my way, travelling near and far to watch Nottingham Forest (including Hillsborough, 96 RIP), and then through the nineties, as grounds were upgraded to "stadiums" in the post-Hillsborough era.
By this time I had started work as an Apprentice Draughtsman, drawing structural steelwork on an old-school drawing board, with pencil, set square, scale rule, etc. I loved this job but, as with most other things, technology eventually took over and the drawing boards were all replaced with CAD. After ten years of working as a draughtsman I eventually drifted away from the profession to run my own online business, which I've done in various forms ever since.
I still visit as many football grounds as possible - in Britain, Europe, and occasionally even further afield. I am still as obsessed with them as I was 30+ years ago, and in particular the structural and architectural details that make each one unique.
The idea for Ground Designs came about a coupe of years ago, when I was reading another, more recent, Simon Inglis book about the great football ground engineer Archibald Leitch, in which I found out he had also started his working life as an apprentice draughtsman. There were several beautiful old structural drawings featured inside and, just for fun, I decided to dust down my old pencil and set square, and set about recreating the famous criss-cross balcony steelwork from the Bullens Road Stand at Goodison. It developed from there, through a very laborious process, until eventually I had my first proper design in a digitalised format.
I liked the fact that it was a piece of "football art" without any obvious references, but that would still make sense to those in the know. Something that people might actually want to hang in their home, or office, rather than the usual garish football print offering.
People liked it, so I decided to do a few more, based on personal memories. When I closed my eyes and thought of Highbury, for example, the clock on the old Clock End was the first thing that came into my head, so I did that. With Anfield it was the mad colour scheme of the seats in the old Anfield Road End. Old Trafford, the sweeping cantilever roof of the late 80's, etc, etc.
I still start each design on the drawing board and work it up from there. I hope to one day have designs for all of the 92 in that original book from 1984 - a book I still use for reference and inspiration - and also for the more interesting new grounds, and some of the classic stadiums I have visited around the world.
The highest accolade I've had so far actually came from Simon Inglis himself, who contacted me via Twitter to say how much he liked my work. That'll do for me.
You can find Ground Designs work in the Art of Football Marketplace