|Gathering around the centre circle at Fareham Town.|
Both Google and Microsoft provide free satellite photos. They're blurry, but good enough for the purpose they serve. Then there's Google Street View, which is great for planning the last few hundred yards to any ground you wish to visit - memorise the landmarks, spot the nearest chippie, etc.
My personal favourite though is Microsoft's Bing Maps, and particularly, the so-called Bird's Eye view. I just love looking at football grounds from the air, and the oblique photography used in Bird's Eye is very useful. For example, I was considering a trip to Cove FC's Squirrels Lane ground. Whereas Street View stops before the car park (but you do get a tantalising glimpse of floodlights behind the semis!), Bird's Eye shows the ground in its wholeness - from four different angles, no less.
Now, if I could work out a way of linking directly to a football ground on Bird's Eye, I would...but I can't, so instead I've taken a screenshot of Fareham Town's ground to illustrate its splendour. This is particularly good, because there was actually a match going on when the plane flew overhead! Fareham play in red, the opposition look as though they are in blue. The curious thing is, that there are no spectators in the ground. Why? Even a reserve match would have a few people dotted around the rails! I can't work that out at all.
Anyway, you can see how far back Fareham's stand is from the pitch in this photo. I recently saw a picture of a match at Fareham in the 1980s, and the stand abutted the pitch in those days. Did they move the pitch in order to fit the new changing rooms in? Again, I don't know the answer, but it looks likely judging from the changing rooms' current position.
So, finding Bird's Eye on Bing Maps...go to the right where it says London Street Map. Click on this, and a dropdown menu will appear. Bird's Eye is at the bottom, hidden away, unadvertised elsewhere. Let me know if you see any matches happening elsewhere - and if anyone has a theory concerning the lack of spectators at the illustrated match (a pre-season practice game, maybe?), let me know in the comments below.
*Edit* Having looked at Fareham's ground again from the other three angles, I have spotted a few spectators along the rails on the stand side - not many though. Perhaps they were all having a pre-match drink in the V Club (the bar under the stand) in the illustrated photo?