Come join the club - but leave York behind you!

Sulley Muntari scores against Aston Villa in his 'greatest-ever' Pomnpey display
Sulley Muntari scores against Aston Villa in his 'greatest-ever' Pomnpey display

It took two of them, then a third was called over to provide further scrutiny over the enigma-coded piece of paper.

‘This is one of those tickets you print at home, isn’t it,’ one of the Port Vale stewards responded.

He was right, of course. Yet my query centred specifically on where the seat and row number referred to in the home stand behind the goal.

‘Don’t worry about that,’ one of them replied. ‘Just sit wherever you like. But avoid seats with tickets on’.

Welcome to Vale Park, where Micky Adams’ side were locking horns with Crawley – and the setting for my final current ground of the existing 92 Football League clubs.

A crowd of 3,755 were at the League One fixture – 29 of them from John Gregory’s Crawley.

Notably, right-back for the Valiants was ex-Pompey defender Richard Duffy, whose misplaced backpass to Dean Kiely in September 2006 at Mansfield gifted the hosts a consolation goal.

The 2-1 League Cup result also saw the teams changing in Portakabins following a flooding at Field Mill.

Actually, of the current 92 Football League grounds, I have so far reported on Pompey at 83 of them.

Aston Villa, the club I support, was my maiden ground on April 16, 1986 – when Steve Hodge netted in a 1-0 win over Ipswich.

Years later, I would be in the Holte End with mouth agape as Ronny Rossenthal rounded Nigel Spink, only to smash the ball against the crossbar rather than into the empty net.

Later on – on Pompey duty – I would witness Sulley Muntari conjuring up his greatest-ever Blues display in December 2007.

My Pompey debut was February, 2001, and a 2-1 defeat against Bolton, with Michael Panopoulos netting late on.

Or so the records inform me – rather, unromantically, I cannot recall a thing.

Still, usually the memories come flooding back for each and every footballing location I have visited.

Take White Hart Lane when I can still picture a sullen Danijel Subotic sat on his own in the visiting dug-out ahead of a 2-0 Pompey defeat.

It turned out Avram Grant elected to go with a substitute short rather than name the Swiss flop in his match-day squad following a change of heart on the coach up.

Oxford’s Kassam Stadium provides pre-match Papa John’s pizza to press and was also the scene of a Papa Bouba Diop goal.

A crowd of 4,956 witnessed the Halley’s Comet moment during a 2-1 Pompey friendly victory in August 2008 – prompting him to afterwards set a 10-goal target for the season. That went well then.

Birmingham provided the setting for the second-worst Pompey debut I have ever seen, resulting in Anthony Vanden Borre being hauled off at half-time.

Carl Dickinson, clearly, tops the list.

Coventry is still widely regarded among those press in attendance as the coldest football match ever experienced when Pompey turned out in January 2010 for an FA Cup replay.

When Pompey levelled in stoppage time, even the staunchest Blues fan groaned following the realisation we had another 30 minutes in those arctic conditions.

Forget Rochdale being Richie Barker’s Pompey farewell, far more memorable was discovering the lady behind the counter at the chip shop across the road from Spotland knew locally-born Lisa Stansfield.

Apparently, she loves a pub quiz, too, while another customer present, when asked if she knew Stansfield, replied: ‘No, but my brother-in-law’s sister is Sheena Easton’.

Staying with managerial exits, Stoke dredges up Paul Hart’s final match in charge in October 2009 – a missed penalty by Prince Boateng influencing a costly 1-0 defeat.

Banned by the club at the time for writing Grant would be replacing him as manager, I sat at the back of the press room effectively gagged from asking questions, but in the knowledge he was on his way.

On another Britannia Stadium visit, the team coach set off without Niko Kranjcar as he conducted a post-match interview with me. Pompey press steward Mark Hogan had to taxi him home.

It was reminiscent of Danny Webber chasing the team bus at Carlisle in similar circumstances, after my News colleague Jordan Cross had kept him talking.

Barnsley’s Oakwell is right up there among the worst grounds, with its outside toilet with no roof and antediluvian stand which houses precarious tipping desks which once provided me with a soaking from former colleague Mark Storey’s coffee.

Hull is one of the more pleasant visits, with wallabies and llamas, along with an active aviary, situated in the neighbouring West Park.

But for me it will always be tainted after observing those later involved in the collapse of the football club clambering into two mini-buses.

Mark Jacob, Balram Chainrai, Ahmed Al Faraj and Peter Storrie were just some in attendance in October 2009.

There was Jermain Defoe’s disgustingly lethargic display at West Brom, Grant at Burnley embracing the crowd with arms outstretched following victory in administration, sitting next to Norman Cook at the Withdean (I have, of course, also been to the Amex), while Watford provided Steve Cotterill’s remarkable post-match rant at The Quay’s Martin Hopkins.

At Middlesbrough, there was Kanu’s surge from the half-way line to net before later put in a wheelchair at the airport, Millwall for its association with the much-missed Dream Team, and Blues fans’ protest about owners in the televised clash at Blackpool.

Tubs of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at Arsenal, the lively half-time radio chat with Mark Mudie about Chainrai at Plymouth, and at Notts County seeing The Bill legend Bob Cryer – particularly delightful for Pompey photographer Joe Pepler, whose wife once acted with him during an episode when he was shot.

My favourite ground – bar Villa Park and Fratton Park of course – is Anfield, primarily for the inspiring rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ which fades from a recording into the fans’ voices as the players take to the field. So special.

The worst is York, although largely driven by the wretched press facilities and this season’s 4-2 defeat.

So where next?

Well, I’ve been to Skrill Premier leaders Luton but crucially couldn’t get in as it was a sell-out.

It means on August 9, my 92 club tag will have been snatched away – and the obssession is kick-started again.