Meet football superfan Mark Ashmore, who has attended matches at all 158 current English and Scottish football grounds in top nine leagues

Mark Ashmore (right) exchanges scarves with East Fife boss Greig McDonald before watching game at his 42nd and final Scottish league groundMark Ashmore (right) exchanges scarves with East Fife boss Greig McDonald before watching game at his 42nd and final Scottish league ground
Mark Ashmore (right) exchanges scarves with East Fife boss Greig McDonald before watching game at his 42nd and final Scottish league ground
After a remarkable overall journey spanning 30 years, football superfan Mark Ashmore’s trip to East Fife’s 4-0 home League 2 success over Elgin City at Bayview Stadium on Saturday, December 9 saw him complete visits to all 158 British football stadiums for competitivegames involving teams in the current top five English and top four Scottish divisions.

"It was very special and East Fife were absolutely wonderful," Ashmore, 52, a health and safety manager from Chesterfield, told the Fife Free Press. “They gave me a grand tour, they looked after me, they announced it on the tannoy.

"I spoke to and exchanged football scarves with the East Fife manager Greig McDonald and he was very complimentary. He thought it was a great thing to achieve and he asked how Chesterfield were getting on this season.

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"We’re doing really well actually (top of the National League) and I’m confident we’ll go up because we’ve got a very good in depth squad.

Mark's top game: Chesterfield v Middlesbrough in 1997 FA Cup semi-finalMark's top game: Chesterfield v Middlesbrough in 1997 FA Cup semi-final
Mark's top game: Chesterfield v Middlesbrough in 1997 FA Cup semi-final

"A group of friends back home in Chesterfield had got in touch with them and they put an article in the programme about me.

“I felt quite emotional because I realised this was a 30-year journey. A good chunk of my life has been dedicated to getting to where I am now.

"It has cost me a lot of money, multiple thousands of pounds. In the early days most of my money went on the football so holidays were very infrequent.

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"But now my child (32-year-old Scott) has moved out, I’ve paid the mortgage so it’s OK.

"Clubs will move to new grounds coming into the leagues so I’ll probably end up going back and doing a few more. But at some point you’ve got to draw a line in the sand and say: ‘That’s it, I think today is the day, I have achieved something momentous’.

"I’ve also managed to watch a large chunk of Chesterfield games but I now have the opportunity of getting a Chesterfield season ticket. I wouldn’t have had the value out of getting one before as I was shooting off to all these other places.”

Of the thousands of games he’s watched in his life, Ashmore rates the unforgettable occasion when then second division Chesterfield drew 3-3 in a 1997 FA Cup semi-final against top flight Middlesbrough – featuring stars like Fabrizio Ravanelli, Emerson and Juninho – at Old Trafford, to be his favourite.

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He said: "For a small team like Chesterfield at that level to get that far was a one off. We were 2-0 up, then 2-1 up and we had a ‘goal’ where the ball hit the bar and came down over the line but the goal wasn’t given. If today’s technology was available then I think it would have stood and we would have been through to an FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley.

"But Middlesbrough came back to 2-2 to take it into extra time, went 3-2 up and then we equalised in the last minute of extra time to take it to a replay at Hillsborough where we ran out of steam and lost 3-0.”

Ashmore praised his wife Clair for being “very supportive” as he travelled to football grounds across the country – sometimes she was also in attendance – over the past three decades.

"I take my hat off to my wife for letting me do this,” he said. "She was nowhere near completing all the ground visits with me but she must have been to 50% of them.

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"She has let me have weekends away to chalk off these grounds.

"I have been going to the games with a friend for many years – fellow Chesterfield fan Fred Tomsett – but he has been very ill in the last six months so I finished the last few off with just me going up for a weekend.”

The first Scottish league ground Ashmore attended was Ayr United’s Somerset Park, way back in 1995.

He recalled: “The Scottish season started a week earlier than the English season so a group of us decided to go to a Scottish game.

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"It was Ayr United 1-2 Greenock Morton. I don’t think Ayr United’s ground has changed since 1995. It’s still one of the old traditional grounds.

"My initial plan was just to go to games at all the English stadiums. But there was just this sort of ‘off the cuff’ showing up at a Scottish game, then you go to another and all of a sudden you start thinking: ‘I’ve done 10 grounds, let’s see if I can do more’.

"What it’s done is really get me into some lovely places in Scotland. If I didn’t visit the football grounds I probably wouldn’t have visited them at all.”

Ashmore also stressed that, in addition to the 42 clubs currently in the SPFL’s four divisions, he has also visited the grounds of three current Scottish Lowland Football League clubs – Berwick Rangers, East Stirlingshire and Cowdenbeath – and Brechin City who are now in the Highland League.

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He added: "Take away the Old Firm, take away the other bigger teams and when you get down to that really low level in Scotland, there are some absolutely wonderful people and wonderful community clubs.

"Berwick Rangers is a very interesting one. I did 599 consecutive games without missing a Chesterfield FC match from 1992 to 2003.

"I didn’t miss a match home or away and I went to every single ground. That’s where I visited most grounds in England.

"I just thought it was a stone around my neck and I thought: ‘I’ve got to break this cycle’.

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"And I did it when I missed a game at Cardiff City and I went to Berwick that weekend instead in 2003.

"I got the bit between my teeth and thought I wanted to do all the Scottish grounds.

"Berwick is always one of those ground hopping places that people will do because it’s in England.

"It’s one of those quirky ones where everyone wants to say: ‘I’ve been to Berwick’.”

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