GROUNDHOPPING: Dead Football Grounds

This week, I visited a football ground I last visited in the 1989/1990 season when I saw Newcastle win there 3-0 on 21st October.

That day in 1989/90 season was a great day out at football with friends. A good drink and good fun.

The ground has changed considerably since then. In 1989/90 it was a crumbling decaying wreck of a ground. I would go as far as to say it was probably unsafe to host professional football. Amazingly, the ground remained in use for another seven years.

The ground today looked like this

 

brighton_goldstone2

However back in 1989.90 it looked more like the following pictures

goldstone groundbrighton main standgoldstone

Despite being a decaying ground, it was unique in that it had seating behind one goal. That was uncommon in the days before all-seater stadia.

Brighton were in free fall in the 1990s and had an owner who transferred the ground into his company and sold it from under the club leaving them homeless. They spent 2 seasons playing many miles away in Gillingham. That would have killed off many other clubs.

The club then played at an athletic stadium for 12 years. The Withdean Stadium was a horrible place to watch football with temporary seating arranged behind each goal – but with a running track between you and the pitch.

The picture below shows how far the fans are from the pitch behind the goal. This picture is taken from the seating.

800px-Withdean_Stadium_-_1_-_geograph-1993833

Watching from these seats is not very engaging and would put me off going week in week out. West Ham take note- the Olympic Stadium will have the same issues. It is not conducive to passionate support or even to encouraging people to go.

I only visited the Withdean Stadium on one occasion. I watched Orient get beaten there from the seating behind the goal. You may therefore think I do not have happy memories of this ground. You’d be wrong though as it was here that I finally completed the 92 football grounds –i.e. having watched a game at every football ground. To complete it I have actually visited well over 100 grounds as several teams have moved and some teams, e.g. Charlton I have seen play home games at three different grounds. Also as clubs come into and go out of the league the 92 grounds is a moving feast.

I will end with a picture of the Goldstone Ground

Brighton and Hove-20110920-00085

A sad reminder of a former football ground and a reminder to me to visit Brighton’s new ground this season at Falmer

USA–Hang Your Head In Shame

Today, the USA should be hanging its head in shame for its killing of TROY DAVIS. He was convicted in 1991 of the 1989 killing of an off duty policeman. Those who know me or read my posts will be aware that I am totally opposed to the use of the death penalty in any circumstances. That however is not the reason for this post. The story of Troy Davis is disturbing and is a damning indictment of the USA and its Criminal Justice System.

The Daily Telegraph provides the following timeline of events. I reproduce it as a guide to what happened.

August 19, 1989: Off-duty white police officer Mark MacPhail is working as a security guard at a Burger King in Savannah, Georgia when he intervenes in an argument between several men in the parking lot. He is shot in the heart and face without having drawn his gun and dies instantly.

August 23, 1989: Troy Davis, a 20-year-old unemployed black man, is arrested after being implicated by a witness.

April 1990: Davis pleads not guilty at a preliminary hearing.

August 1991: The trial begins with prosecutors seeking the death penalty.

August 28, 1991: The jury, composed of seven blacks and five whites, finds Davis guilty after less than two hours of deliberation.

August 30, 1991: Davis has testified during the sentencing phase of the trial, maintaining his innocence, but the jury recommends the death penalty and he is sentenced to death.

March 1992: A first request for a new trial is denied.

March 1993: Georgia’s Supreme Court upholds the conviction and the sentence.

December 2001: Davis files an appeal with the US federal district court saying seven of nine original witnesses have recanted their testimony.

May 2004: A judge declines to consider the claim and rejects other claims about unfair jury selection, ineffective defence counsel and prosecutorial misconduct.

September 2006: The 11th Circuit Court upholds this decision on appeal saying Davis has failed to substantively prove his innocence or show his original trial was constitutionally unfair.

June 2007: Davis’s execution is set for July 17, 2007.

July 16, 2007: After appeals rain in from notaries including Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles grants a 90-day stay of execution at the 11th hour.

August 2007: The Georgia Supreme Court grants Davis a discretionary appeal for a new trial on the basis of mistaken identity.

March 17, 2008: The Georgia Supreme Court denies the appeal by a 4-3 majority.

July 2008: Davis’s second execution date is scheduled for September 23, 2008.

September 23, 2008: The US Supreme Court issues a last minute emergency stay less than two hours before he is due to be put to death.

October 14, 2008: The US Supreme Court declines to hear Davis’s petition and sets a third execution date of October 27, 2008.

October 21, 2008: Lawyers for Davis request an emergency stay as rallies are held worldwide pleading for clemency.

October 24, 2008: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issues a stay of execution to consider a newly-filed habeas corpus petition.

December 9, 2008: A three-judge panel hears oral arguments at a hearing in Atlanta.

April 16, 2009: The panel denies Davis’s application by a 2-1 majority.

May 19, 2009: Davis files a petition for habeas corpus with the US Supreme Court.

August 17, 2009: In a rare move the US Supreme Court orders a Savannah federal district court to open a new hearing.

June 2010: A panel dismisses the appeal with Judge William Moore finding only one of the witness recantations wholly credible.

January 2011: Davis files a new appeal with the US Supreme Court.

March 2011: The appeal is rejected.

September 7, 2011: Georgia sets Davis’s fourth execution date for September 21, 2011.

September 20, 2011: The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denies Davis’s last-ditch bid for clemency.

September 21, 2011: The five-member board refuses to reverse its decision and also denies a request to allow Davis to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence.

7:00 pm (2300 GMT): Davis scheduled time to be put to death is delayed by the Supreme Court, as the nine justices weigh a final stay of execution, which they deny three hours later.

11:08 pm (0308 GMT) Davis is pronounced dead after receiving a lethal injection, with MacPhail’s relatives looking on.

 

So,  why is this case so damning on the USA?

The case against Troy Davis consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, all but two of the state’s non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony.

Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.

One of the two witnesses who has not recanted his testimony is Sylvester “Red” Coles — the principle alternative suspect, according to the defence, against whom there is new evidence implicating him as the gunman. Nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating Sylvester Coles.

You would have thought that where so many witnesses have recanted their evidence and even gone as  far as to swear affidavits to this effect, that the courts would at least order a retrial. Not in the USA though. This is not the first time the USA has refused to quash decisions that were clearly erroneous. The case of Cameron Todd Willingham is one such case

Cameron Todd Willingham

Of the 235 people put to death during the tenure of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the case of Cameron Todd Willingham might be the most controversial. Willingham was convicted and executed for the deaths of his three young daughters, who died in a fire at the family’s home. Prosecutors alleged that Willingham started the fire and killed the girls to cover up abuse; Willingham’s wife, who was not home at the time of the blaze, denied that he abused his children.

The crux of Willingham’s case, however, revolved around whether the fire was started on purpose at all. In 2004, a fire investigator, Gerald Hurst, looked into Willingham’s case. Hurst found multiple scientific errors in the initial report and concluded that there was no evidence of arson. A 2009 report by the Texas Forensic Science Commission would later come to the same conclusion.

The court also relied on the testimony of two psychologists who never met Willingham.

Despite the criticisms, both the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Perry declined to halt Willingham’s execution. He was put to death in 2004.

 

There you have the state’s own forensic Science commission concluding there was no evidence of arson and still the prisoner is executed. This is not an expert instructed by the defence, but the state’s own body reaching the conclusion there was no evidence of arson!

 

Back to the case of Troy Davis. – we have 7 out of 9 civilian witnesses recanting. 1 of the remaining 2 is the primary alternative suspect. There must be some doubt about the conviction in those circumstances surely.

In 2007 Georgia’s State Board of Pardons and Paroles vowed publically to not permit an execution unless there is “no doubt” about guilt. So how do they square that vow with this case? Unless of course the vow was mere words and was only intended to “fool” people into supporting the death penalty in the false belief that only ironclad cases get the death penalty.

Death penalty supporters like Bob Barr, former Texas Governor Mark White, and former FBI Director William Sessions also supported clemency in this case, for the same reason.

And at least three jurors from Davis’ trial  asked for his execution to be called off

 

In August 2010, an appeal was heard.  US District Court Judge William Moore  addressed not whether the state could demonstrate a watertight case against Troy Davis, but whether Troy Davis could show “by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in the light of the new evidence” that has emerged since his 1991 trial for the murder in 1989 of Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

The idea that someone has to prove they were innocent rather than the state having to prove someone is guilty is anathema to any right thinking person. It is also contrary to the basic human right not to be denied life of liberty except after a fair trial. i.e. that everyone has the right to freedom unless the state prove they are guilty of an offence. This is even more appalling when we are talking about the state killing someone because they cannot prove they are not guilty. It is a reverse of the accepted burden of proof.

Amnesty International had been urging people to contact the Georgia’s State Board of Pardons and Paroles  to urge them to stay the execution. The response of Georgia’s State Board of Pardons and Paroles  was to yesterday block emails sent via Amnesty International. So much for public opinion and public accountability.

The United States, according to Amnesty International, placed fifth in 2010’s global executions race, with 46 state-sanctioned killings of human beings. China came in first, with a death tally of 1,000-plus. Second-place Iran killed at least 252, North Korea in third snuffed 60, give or take a few, and Yemen pulled up fourth, killing 53, with maybe a few extra tossed in.

In Bad Company

In the past 10 years, 30 countries have outlawed the death penalty. Nations that considered the death penalty too barbaric, imprecise, antiquated or just plain immoral and stupid include Albania, Angola, Rwanda, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and the Vatican City. None of these countries have a Troy Davis problem today.

So much for being the world’s policeman! The USA should hang its head in shame that it is seen in the company of these countries.

 

To redress the balance of this post, I should state that:

  • I am not saying the decision here was based on race or anything of that nature.
  • I am also not saying that Troy Davis should not be punished for any offence he has committed.
  • Officer Mark MacPhail  was shot dead by someone and this should not be forgotten. The murderer deserves to be brought to justice
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right

The Future of Football is Here

Toddle off to your local Premiership club, pay up to £80 for a seat, ( average cost is >£40 ) to watch a single game. No choice in your seat location. Told to sit down even when exciting moments. Pay £3 – £5 for a match day programme. £50+ for a replica shirt. £5 for a burger etc.

Then find the kick off time has been changed at the last minute to early morning or late night instead of 3pm. Oh yes, and after you have booked the train to get there the DAY of the game has been changed. Shame those train tickets can’t and now there are no cheap train tickets left.

Customer friendly football- not at your Premiership football club. They need every penny they can wring out of you the fan so they can pay their players a pitiful sum of up to £250,000 per WEEK.

This may be bad enough, but then said players complain they have to play 2 games in a week. When I say 2 games, I mean part of 2 games as the poor tired poverty stricken players are substituted after 2/3rds of the game to rest the poor dears.

Passion, effort and commitment are seen every game though. Shame it is from the loyal fans rather than players.

All this sound all too familiar to you as a football fan? Well stop being a mug and paying through the nose to be treated like sh*t. There is an alternative.

Get yourself down to your local non-league football club. For me growing up, my local non-league club was SPENNYMOOR UNITED. I used to go every game to watch them until I moved away to University. After that, I started watching more and more  of Newcastle United and other league clubs. Indeed, until this season I was a season ticket holder at Newcastle and also at Leyton Orient. I still have my season ticket at Orient who are nearer to the alternative picture I will paint than Newcastle United are. Despite Newcastle having their best start to a season in around 18 years, I do not regret giving up my season ticket and have not been to a single game this season.

Spennymoor United are no more, they were replaced in 2005 by Spennymoor Town following a series of financial problems which are detailed elsewhere and are not relevant here. They play in the Skill Training Northern League (SNL) which is 5 levels below the Football League  or 9 levels below Newcastle United.

Spennymoor get crowds of 200-300. They have a stand with  around 300 seats. The rest of the ground is standing, with currently only 1 covered standing area. Sounds less appealing than a Premiership ground?

I have over the last 9 months started trying to get down to the Brewery Field when I am visiting Michelle my partner up in the North East, from my home in East London/ Essex.

Well here, you can get into the ground for £6. A programme for £1. Replica shirts for £20+. Tasty food including freshly cooked chips, curry etc. You can have a pint in the bar and still see the pitch.

Where to go in the ground, the choice is yours. You can walk round the ground, pick a spot to watch, move on at will. You can do as the faithful at Spennymoor do, stand behind the goal they are attacking in each half.

Segregation? What’s that? There is no need for segregation, alcohol bans or police officers. Indeed there are not even stewards in those horrid fluorescent jackets throwing their weight around and displaying their SIA accreditation. Fans happily mix and share banter.

There are still outbursts of songs, some supporting their team, some banter chants at opposition. Of course the referee is always a target for banter from fans. It is a universal topic.

So far, I have written over 600 words and not actually mentioned the football. The skill levels at this level of football may not match that exhibited by Premiership Players like in the clip below

 

At this level, players are unable to display such skill as that shown by the £50million rated Torres. At Spennymoor, the players would end up putting the ball in the net instead. Such tragic lack of ability.

On Saturday, I managed to get up to Spennymoor, via Northants and Sheffield. I took my son from his home in Northants to University in Sheffield for Freshers’ week, and after leaving him there, safely ensconced in his hall of residence and with beer tokens, I belted up the M1/ A1 to Spennymoor for the game in the FA cup 1st Qualifying Round against Dunston UTS. Although it is called the 1st Qualifying Round, it is actually the 3rd round of this seasons competion, after the Extra Preliminary Round and the Preliminary Round. I watched Spennymoor in the last round and wrote about the game here.

Today’s game was played on a warm sunny afternoon between 2 sides unbeaten in all competitions this season. Spennymoor had not beaten Dunston in a cup game for around 15 years.

The game was a great cup tie to watch. Dunston are a big strong side and play a lot of route one balls. They are good at this and it works well for them. Spennymoor by contrast play a passing game, and today for the 1st time this season, it seemed to work very well. The game ended in a 3-0 win for Spennymoor, but this doesn’t reflect the game.

Until Spennymoor scored 1st in the 64th minute, it was a very even game and the Spennymoor keeper had to produce several good saves. However, the first goal opened the floodgates and the second and third goals rapidly followed.

The scorer of the 2nd goal was booked for excessive celebrations. Compared to some of the celebrations you see on Match of the Day, it was nothing more than polite handshakes as can be seen in the video below.

The game was played between two sides who gave their all for their teams. You can’t ask for more than that from a player. Its a shame that some Premiership players don’t realise this.

Passion, commitment and effort from the players. Admission, programme and a pint and change from £10. Oh and home in time for tea! Come on down and watch football as it should be. Good honest football without the cost or the hassle. Football where you are made to feel welcome and valued. Where the players drink in the bar with the fans after the game.

At a Premiership club, would you be stood next to the directors of the club or exchanging views with directors of the opposition? You can be at this level.

SAM_1363SAM_1368SAM_1376SAM_1395

 

 

THE FUTURE OF FOOTBALL IS NON-LEAGUE – get watching your local club.

SPENNYMOOR TOWN FC – my sort of club

 

The future of football is HERE

Human Rights–Inhuman on the Rest of Us?

The Human Rights Act gets a lot of bad press and is slated by many people.The media have their own agenda to slate the act. Most of the people who criticise the Human Rights Act have little understanding of what it is or what it does.

Barely a day goes by without the act being blamed for something or other. The last week or so, it has been in the news over the proposed eviction of illegal occupants at Dale Farm in Basildon

The story is reported on the BBC at  Dale Farm Evictions and elsewhere on their website. Basically, Dale Farm is a site for “travellers” which has planning permission for around 50 pitches. Initially there were 50 families there, but others have moved in and in breach of planning legislation have settled the land. They have applied for planning permission and that has been removed.

As is the case with most people, when buildings are erected without planning permission, the council take enforcement action. Many people have had their homes demolished as a result of not obtaining planning permission.

However, this group of illegal occupants are claiming that to evict them would be in breach of their “human rights”. Apparently it is also racist to insist they obey the same laws as the rest of us.

So is the human rights act going to prevent these evictions and does it give these travellers the right to ignore the law.?

Well so far, the courts have steadfastly said no it doesn’t and I have to say I agree. If these travellers are allowed to stay on the site then it is rewarding the illegal actions of the travellers who do not have planning permission. (NB this only applies to the illegal occupants, not the legal ones). Effectively we would be saying there is no need t obtain planning permission as you can just ignore any refusals and restrictions on the same.

Quite what the EU and the UN think are breaches of the travellers human rights is beyond me. However, I suspect that they are making a similar mistake that others make and are forgetting that rights under the Human Rights Act are a balancing act between the rights of the individual and the wider society. For example, I have the right of free speech, but this is limited in that I am rightly not allowed to incite others to commit violence or to make race hatred type speeches.

In a similar way, the rights of these travellers have to be balanced against the rights of society at large.

So what are the rights under the Human Rights Act?

  • The right to life – protects your life, by law. The state is required to investigate suspicious deaths and deaths in custody.
  • The prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment – you should never be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way, no matter what the situation.
  • Protection against slavery and forced labour – you should not be treated like a slave or subjected to forced labour.
  • The right to liberty and freedom – you have the right to be free and the state can only imprison you with very good reason – for example, if you are convicted of a crime.
  • The right to a fair trial and no punishment without law – you are innocent until proven guilty. If accused of a crime, you have the right to hear the evidence against you, in a court of law.
  • Respect for privacy and family life and the right to marry – protects against unnecessary surveillance or intrusion into your life. You have the right to marry and raise a family.
  • Freedom of thought, religion and belief – you can believe what you like and practise your religion or beliefs.
  • Free speech and peaceful protest – you have a right to speak freely and join with others peacefully, to express your views.
  • No discrimination – everyone’s rights are equal. You should not be treated unfairly – because, for example, of your gender, race, sexuality, religion or age.
  • Protection of property, the right to an education and the right to free elections – protects against state interference with your possessions; means that no child can be denied an education and that elections must be free and fair.

Can you disagree with those rights? They are the basic rights that we are all entitled to. These are rights that any right thinking person would support.

The problem comes in the way the courts have interpreted claims brought citing human rights. As I mention above, it seems that in most of the controversial cases, the courts have failed to see the wood for the trees and missed the position of the wider society.

 

Finally, Liberty have produced a very good article on the HUMAN RIGHTS ACT MYTHS which is worth a read before you start to slate a very important piece of legislation. A good number of our politicians could do with learning what the Human Rights Act is before slating it and calling for reform, unless of course they don’t want people to have freedom to question their actions

Drive My Car?

I remember many years ago my father telling me that cars cost a fortune to buy and then a fortune to run. This was back in the days of Thatcherism when it seemed that everyone wanted to own a car. Remember “Basildon Man” aka “Mondeo Man” who was said to be responsible for the Tories winning elections in 1979,1983, 1987 and 1992?

This was the era when Margaret Thatcher is alleged to have said

A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.

I say allegedly as no one seems able to say when it was allegedly said by her. My dad wasn’t far wrong. He just forgot to mention how frustrating they are and keep going wrong at inopportune moments.

Anyway, after years of having flash cars, I finally grew up and have a functional car rather than flash. I have an 11 year old car and have owned it for nearly 7 years now. Its always soldiered on with an annual service and MOT, and not much more attention.

Well, it seems that the car has decided to take its revenge on me.

Broken_Car

Firstly, I noticed it was leaking diesel onto my drive. I booked it into the garage hoping that perhaps it only needed a fuel pipe replacing or repairing. Sadly not, it needed a whole new fuel tank. Whilst this expensive part was being replaced, I also decided to have the air conditioning fixed. That of course was expensive as well. It also signalled the end of the hot weather spell we had been having.

Never mind, the car would be sorted for many months…….

Well, two days later, the engine management light started coming on and the power of the engine was limited. The car would not do above 2500 revs and it meant disability scooters were going faster up hills than me. This however was an intermittent fault and only kicked in when I needed the car to get me somewhere fast. Who says cars don’t have minds of their own?

Well back to the garage and 3 days trying to track down the fault. Obviously, the car behaves as though there is no fault when the garage try to diagnose it. The engine management system is not showing any fault when the diagnostics are checked.

Eventually, the car slips up and reveals a fault to the garage and the garage is able to diagnose a fault in a sensor. A whole £30 of parts needed. That is all it costs.

So now, the car is fully repaired and working well? Well, not quite as 2 days later, I notice a slight leak of fuel again from near the petrol tank, so its back again to the garage. I’m on first name terms with them now. This time its a quick diagnosis and a seal just needs to be fitted properly. It was only a small gap and only noticeable when tank was filled to the brim.

This was fixed at no cost to me. Now, can I get the car to the MOT in November/ December without any further problems? Well car, are you going to behave?

basilfawltycar595

FIXING MY CAR

 

The fact I live in London is a plus at times like this as I cycle to work, have excellent public transport if I need to go anywhere, living near tube, train and bus services. I am also in walking distance of several supermarkets.

So, I suppose I should really count myself lucky and stop whingeing. Well that is what everyone else tells me.

Ground hopping: The Road to Wembley & Home! Spennymoor v Shildon 29th Aug 2011 & Spennymoor v S*nderland RCA 3rd Sep 2011–FA Cup

Its been a while since I have blogged. In my defence, its been a busy time. I have also been away from home the last week.

Well when I say away from home, I mean away from our London pad and staying at our country pad. “Our?” What do you mean by “Our?” I hear you ask. [ Or is it just those voices in my head again? You know the ones that keep telling me to pick up that knife and kill everyone] I am of course referring to Michelle and I.

After Michelle and Josh spending 4 weeks living down here in London, just as the riots started, we spent a week together on Tyneside. Well, when I say Tyneside, I mean the Tyne Valley. A most beautiful part of the country.

Whilst up there, I took the chance to go and watch Spennymoor Town FC in two games. Firstly on Monday, Spennymoor played host to Shildon in the Northern League in front of a crowd of 505. Given that Spennymoor were unbeaten this season and the reigning league champions, I expected a decent performance. Sadly, I was wrong.

A 3-0 home win would seem to tell a different story you may think. Well, until about the 70th minute the score was 0-0 and both sides were as bad as each other. Then Spennymoor brought on Keith Graydon as sub and he immediately changed the play. A penalty was awarded in 78th minute for a great save by the last Shildon player as he tipped the ball over the bar. Sadly for Shildon he wasn’t the goalkeeper and the referee saw it. A red card and a converted penalty ended the game. Almost immediately after this and a 2nd penalty for a foul and a 2nd goal (no red card this time). Then the goal of the game as Ruddy curled a great effort into the top of the net for a rather flattering 3-0 result.

This was Michelle and Josh’s first trip to the Brewery Field. Their verdict? The curry on the chips was good. Sadly, I think that verdict was about correct. Still it was a 3-0 win and another unbeaten game.

After the game I met my parents and went for a meal with them before returning to their home and playing a board game from my past. When I was a kid, we had a board game based on the London Underground system where you had to visit various stations. I’ve not seen the game in around 30 or so years. I even tried the London Transport Museum to buy a copy to no avail. However, Michelle found the game on sale in Hamley’s and bought it. The differences since 1972 are incredible, with many more underground lines and stations to use. It makes the game much harder to play, especially when you are drunk eh dad? Sadly, I didn’t win, but neither di I storm off  in a sulk – I must be maturing.

London Game

Tuesday 30th August brought a trip to Blackpool for Michelle, Josh and I. This time we did not stay at The Midland Hotel but instead stayed at the Premier Inn. Why did we go to Blackpool I hear you ask.? Well, Josh had never been to the Blackpool Illuminations so as they were to be switched on this week on 2nd September, it seemed a good time to go. Still with me?

Its not as stupid as it sounds. One night each year, in the week before the official turning on of the Blackpool Hallucinations, sorry Illuminations, the good folks of Blackpool close the seafront from Starr Gate to Bispham to all motorised transport so that cyclists can Ride the Lights. We rode the 5 miles route twice in each direction and also did a few extra miles to and from the seafront. in total we managed to ride 27 miles. Josh had only ever ridden a road bike on about 3 occasions before this. He looked good on the bike and so natural. Michelle again has only ridden a road bike a few times. Despite riding amongst somewhere in the region of 10,000 other cyclists, many of whom were a danger to others, neither Josh nor Michelle came to any harm. I have to say their riding skills are very good.

Obviously, to Ride the Lights we had to ensure our bikes were suitably lit. This meant fitting lights to the bikes being ridden by Josh & Michelle. The hardest part was fitting the lights in a place that meant they would not be obstructed when the bike was being ridden.

After the ride ended, we had showers and then headed to the hotel bar for a few bottles of wine (Coke for Josh – honestly) before the bar called last orders at midnight. Then it was time to satisfy the munchies with a late night walk to a pizza/ kebab shop. Finding the way out of the car park was hard after a few glasses of Vino as I am sure Michelle will confirm. Whilst waiting for our low calories pizzas, Michelle got chatting with a drunken “sweaty sock”[ Scottish person!]. I have to say it was surprise to find a drunken Scotsman. Its not often you find a Scotsman who is drunk.

Anyway, that was Blackpool. No horse’s heads at breakfast, no toilet rolls 5’ up the wall, no rules everywhere you look in the Premier Inn. Oh and the Midland Hotel appeared to be shut down now- karma!

Saturday brought a trip to Spennymoor to see them play S*nderland RCA in the FA Cup Preliminary Round. A game between the league leaders (RCA) and the league champions, (Spennymoor) with both sides unbeaten this season.

Unlike Monday, this was a rather enthralling game. A proper cup tie that was determined by a 1st half goal courtesy of a 25 yard drive from Harwood for Spennymoor.

The rain that poured down all afternoon did little to dampen the competitive atmosphere. The RCA players contested every decision of the referee and were lucky not to have more players booked for dissent.. RCA even managed to miss a penalty. They hit the post in the second half as well as forcing a couple of good saves from the Spennymoor keeper.

A 1-0 win to Spennymoor was not an unfair reflection of the game, but by the same token if RCA had earned a replay then Spennymoor could not have complained.

Unlike  Last Time I saw Spennymoor play RCA, there was no outburst from the Spennymoor manager. In fact, I have to say that given one or two of the decisions, I was surprised there were not more complaints from the  bench. It was interesting to see from my seat near the bench how the manager changed the game at relevant points with his tactical knowledge and well timed substitutions.

Spennymoor have a large squad and many players who would walk into most other teams. One of the issues for a side like this is how to keep everyone happy. It was good to see that the manager thanked everyone who was substituted for their contribution and that he has clearly fostered a good team spirit there.The sign of a good manager.

So the Moors are still on the Road to Wembley.

wembley-stadium-12

Me, sadly today I had to take the road home to London as I am back at work tomorrow.