Hopping Around

Only three more games this week to write about. I had planned to go to games tomorrow ( Friday 11th ) and Saturday, but owing to a welcome change in plans I have ended my week of ground hopping early.

Barkingside 1 v 0 Hackney Wick FC – Eastern Counties League Div. 1 South Monday 7 September 2020

A very local game for me as I can walk to and from the ground. Its a regular venue for me as both Barkingside and also Ilford play here. Barkingside ironically used to play at Oakside which was the venue of last game I attended. Barkingside are a favourite club of mine for several reasons, apart from being so close to my home. The Chairman Jimmy is always so welcoming and puts a huge amount of effort into making people welcome. Also Barkingside often play on Monday nights or Friday night to avoid clashes with other games and to attract the ground hoppers.

One slight difference for this game was the need to ring Jimmy to get a reservation for the game because of the covid restrictions. imagine having to ring the chairman at Manchester United on a match day for a ticket?

So, after a stroll to the ground and after a temperature check etc, I wandered along to the Main Stand to take my seat for tonight’s Eastern Counties League Division 1 South game ( step 6 ). There was a much higher than usual crowd for the game. It was later announced as 155, compared to the usual 50-75. Part of the reason for the extra fans was the regular East London ground hoppers. Many of whom I had not spoken to since early in the year pre lockdown. It was good to catch up and learn that none had suffered physically owing to Covid.

Barkingside took the lead from a good header from a good free kick in the first half. That proved to be the difference between the two sides. The game itself was an entertaining affair, probably more so than one would expect from a step 6 game ( that’s the 10th tier of English football). The lack of further goals was no reflection on the entertainment value.

A few of noticeable events tonight were:

  • a) the relative quality of the pitch. It certainly looked far better than I remember. This may simply be because of the lack of use since early March, but I think that work has been done to improve the pitch.
  • b) parked up against the fence around the pitch was a scooter. Not something you expect to see at a football match.
  • c) In the second half, the Barkingside chairman Jimmy made a point of thanking those in the main stand for attending. A nice gesture that sums up the friendly nature of this club

A short walk home and I was in the house only 15 minutes after the final whistle

Good value for £6

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Waltham Forest 1 v 2 FC Stansted Essex Senior League Tuesday 8 September 2020

Tuesday night saw me make the short trip to Wadham Lodge Sports Centre to watch Waltham Forest host FC Stansted in the Essex Senior League. This is a step 5 league and at the same level in the pyramid as the Northern League in theory. In practice, the Northern League is much stronger as shown by the fact that the 2019/2020 FA Vase Final is between 2 Northern League sides. It is several years since an Essex Senior League side reached the semi finals of the FA Vase ( Bowers & Pitsea who lost to eventual winners Morpeth (from the northern League!)). I hadn’t been to Wadham Lodge since the start of last season. I’m not sure why as its not very far from my home.

Another lively and entertaining game tonight. Waltham Forest took the lead after 13 minutes from a penalty after a clear foul inside the area. Lots of protest from the Stansted players, but it was one of the simplest decisions the referee had to make.

After 34 minutes it was 1-1 with Stansted equalising after a goalmouth scramble.

The whole game was a rather feisty affair and it was credit to the referee that he never sent anyone off and only sin binned 1 player. Stansted in particular seemed to be very pumped up for it and seemed to want to argue everything. Their competitive spirit was rewarded in the 74th minute when they scored after a corner. It was a bit of a turn around as 4 minutes earlier Stansted could have been 2-1 down when Waltham Forest hit the post.

It was probably a fair reflection of the game and another entertaining game.

Admission £7

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Ilford FC 6 v 2 Redbridge FC Essex Senior League Wednesday 9 September 2020

So Wednesday and my 2nd visit in 48 hours to Cricklefields. This time to see Ilford play. Last week, you will recall I saw Ilford lose at home in the FA Cup to a side from a division below them, whereas on Saturday I saw Redbridge unlucky not to beat a Sawbridgeworth side who would probably have been promoted if it wasn’t for the lockdown last season. On this basis, you may have expected Redbridge to be favourites, but other ground hoppers who watched Redbridge in the FA Cup last week said they were very poor.

After only 18 minutes of tonight’s game, Ilford were 3-0 up. Its a while since Ilford were so dominant in a game. It was 1-0 after 5 minutes. After 16 minutes, it was 2-0 with a David Beckham –esq free kick. One of the best free kicks I will see this season. Two minutes later, Ilford had made it 3-0 after beating the offside trap and a well taken goal.

Shortly before half time Redbridge pulled one back from the penalty spot giving a slight chance of making a game of it in the second half.

The second half was dominated by Ilford with goals in the 70th and 72nd minutes to make it 5-1.
A few minutes later a Redbridge player launched into a foul mouthed rant at the referee accusing the referee of timewasting. The foul mouth rant was heard by everyone in the ground and should have resulted in an immediate red card for the foul mouthed yob. The referee chose to ignore completely the incident…or did he?


A minute or less later the ball was played forward by Ilford and the Redbridge foul mouthed yob challenged for the ball and was penalised by the referee with a straight red card for an elbow ( allegedly). Some may think the referee had in mind the foul mouthed rant when making his decision.

This was not the ned of it, because as he walked off the pitch and along the running track, the Redbridge player resorted to a further foul mouthed rant about the referee , the decision etc. I wonder if the yob realised that his rant was directly in front of both the ESL Chairman and Secretary? Could make for an interesting hearing if he is stupid enough to appeal his card.

After this, the player went into the changing room, got changed, came back out to near the main stand where he spoke to the league chairman and sat down quietly to watch the last few minutes of the game. Technically this is not allowed as a player sent off has to remain in the changing room and can’t return to the stands. A rather silly rule it seems to me. I can’t see the harm done by the player watching the game as opposed to being detained in the changing room like a prisoner in a cell.

After 83 minutes, Redbridge were 6-1 down and a minute later it was 6-2. That was the final score.

Another entertaining game and probably the best I have seen from Ilford in many years. What a contrast to a week ago.

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So, three enjoyable games in three nights and all for a total sum of less than £20. Great value for money.

That’s my lot for this week. Next week? I haven’t got as far as planning that yet, other than perhaps Barkingside on the Friday for the FA Vase tie



Glad To Be Back–Football Has Come Home

Football is back and on Wednesday night I went to watch my first competitive football match since mid March.

To be honest, it was actually the 2nd game I had seen.

Frenford 0 v 5 Coggleshall Town Pre Season Match 22 August 2020

The first was a one sided friendly game between Frenford FC and Coggleshall town FC which saw Frenford lose 5-0 to a side 2 divisions above them. That game marked the 1st game at Frenford’s redeveloped ground that admitted spectators. Even though Frenford are based in Ilford, it is the first time I have ever visited their ground. I did see them last season when they were ground sharing with Bowers & Pitsea whilst their ground was being redeveloped. Frenford have an interesting history. They started out as a boys club and now have a first team playing at step 6 of the Pyramid ( 10th Tier of English Football).

Frenford have a new 3G pitch on a ground that has apparently been turned through 90 degrees since they last played there. There are 2 seated stands there, but at present no other covered accommodation. When I went, I ended up cycling there ( not my original plan), but was allowed to take my bike into the ground and left it next to one of the stands. In the new Covid era, as well as paying, I had to give my name and phone number for contact tracing purposes. There appeared to be no refreshments in the ground, but I am not sure if you could have got them in the clubhouse. I expect this will change once the season proper starts.

As I said above, Frenford were outclassed by their visitors, but that is not surprising given their visitors are 2 levels above Frenford. There is little more to say really other than Frenford was a friendly club and one to visit again.

Ilford 1 v 3 Halstead Town FC FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round 2 September 2020

As the FA Cup is late starting this season, the FA have scrapped replays in the early rounds. This meant tonight’s tie would reach a conclusion.

After cycling to Frenford, tonight’s game was reached by pony – Shank’s Pony. Its only a mile from my home, so I walked to the game.

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For probably the first time since Ilford reformed, there was a queue to get into the ground. Indeed the attendance was well over 200 compared to their normal 50 or so.  There were several reasons for this, including quite a number of Halstead fans and people desperate for football after the lockdown. Indeed all the programmes had gone by the time I got there.

Into the main stand, and there were the usual groundhoppers there. It was good to catch up as I hadn’t seen them since February / early March time.

Tonight’s FA cup tie saw 9th tier Ilford hosting 10th tier Halstead. It was the first competitive game for both sides. Ilford started very strongly and hit the post in the 1st minute and were a goal ahead by the time 5 minutes had gone. It looked as though this was going to be a very one sided game. Unfortunately for Ilford, no one had told Halstead this.

After 34 minutes a blooper by the Ilford keeper allowed Halstead to score a simple goal. Its to be hoped no one recorded this incident to save the embarrassment of the keeper. Only 5 minutes later, Halstead were ahead. Could a cup shock be on the cards?

There were no more goals in the first half, but only 1 minute into the 2nd half, Halstead extended their lead and surely took the game out of Ilford’s reach.

There was no more scoring in the game and after a rather good cup tie, Halstead Town claimed victory and a place in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup. Ilford must be disappointed after letting victory be taken from them by lower ranked opposition.

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Redbridge FC 2 v 2 Saffron Walden Town FC Essex Senior League 5 September 2020

Today brought lots of choice in games to watch. There were pre season doule headers at Avely and at Barking and it was also the opening round of the Essex Senior League. I only decided on which game to attend as I returned from my late morning bike ride. After a quick 36 miles, it was 13:30 and therefore time was limited as to where to go. I decided to cycle over to Redbridge for their game. Mainly because it was near and I could cycle there so didn’t need to shower and change etc before going.

Redbridge play at Oakside Stadium in Barkingside and its fair to say it has been gradually deteriorating for a number of years now, but it was convenient and a competitive game was more appealing than a pre season double header with no doubt lots of substitutions etc.

Arriving at the ground I was allowed to bring my bike inside and safely chain it up to railings near the clubhouse. Thank you Redbridge FC. I had to pass a temperature test and to scan in using the EvePass system. Interestingly, this said I was at West Essex not Redbridge. West Essex had played there on Wednesday night, so wonder if it was an old barcode. I am not sure how the system works if truth be told.

Once into the ground, the first think I noticed was the massive smartening up of the ground since my last visit. A new fence around the ground, new dug outs, the removal of the dilapidated covered stand opposite the main stand, the cleaning of the seats in the Main Stand and most significantly the work that had been done to the pitch. The ground now looks a lot more welcoming and I for one am more likely to attend at games here when it looks like this.

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Saffron Walden were top of the Essex Senior League last season when the season was abandoned, so they have to be one of the favourites this season. Redbridge finished mid table last season, so it was not unreasonable to expect an away win today.

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As I wandered around the ground before the game, I had a lengthy chat with the Redbridge club secretary who approached me after noticing my UK Police Unity Tour cycling shirt. It was interesting to learn of the work the club officials have put in. Many clubs have similar hard working officials who never get the credit they deserve. I think its fair to say Redbridge know where they would like to go and deserve to succeed.

The game started, and it was easy to tell that Saffron Walden possessed the more skilfull side, but the work rate of the Redbridge side was fantastic and they made life uncomfortable for Saffron Walden. Indeed, Redbridge should have taken the lead after 29 minutes when they were awarded a penalty. Sadly it was a poorly taken one and the keeper dived to his right and saved it

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Six minutes later, Saffron Walden were unlucky not to take the lead when they hit the post and the ball bounced away with the keeper well beaten. Half time came with the game still scoreless. Chances at both ends in a very enjoyable first half.

Seven minutes into the second half, and somewhat against the run of play, Redbridge took the lead with a breakaway goal. A shock on the cards?

The lead did not last long and after 59 minutes, Saffron Walden were level and it was no more than they deserved.

On 72 minutes, Redbridge had the ball in the back of the net only for it to be ruled out for offside. A correct decision in my opinion.

Three minutes later and another Redbridge goal ruled out, this time for a foul and correctly so again I think.

Two disallowed goals, a missed penalty and one that counted. Redbridge could have been 4-1 up!

On 81 minutes, Redbridge went 2-1 up and it seemed there was no way back for the visitors. That was so until the 94th minute when from an attacking set piece, Saffron Walden got an equaliser.

There was a total of 8 minutes of stoppage time played, and still time for more drama with the referee threatening to abandon the game as the ball went out of the ground and all the spare balls had been used, even the visitors warm up balls had been used. Eventually a ball was found and the last 2 minutes could be played out.

Imagine a game being abandoned in stoppage time owing to no match ball!

A very enjoyable 2-2 draw was the final result and if Redbridge keep up their battling performances, they will surprise a few people this season.

The game was fantastic value for the £5 admission fee and an afternoon I thoroughly enjoyed.

However, I can’t end this match report without a couple of negative comments.

1. The foul language used by some of the players, especially the Redbridge players make it a venue I would hesitate to suggest people bring their kids. Quite gratuitous foul language is not needed, and the referee should have dealt with it.

2. At half time the haranguing of the referee by a manager / coach again was not needed and again, the referee should have dealt with it firmly and sent the person concerned off. The referee is not there to be shouted at and abused

3. The language and behaviour of some of those from Saffron Walden sitting in the seats reserved for away officials casts a bad reflection upon Saffron Walden which is a lovely club. It is something the Saffron Walden officials need to clamp down up. Sitting in the officials seats, it suggests the persons were players from the club.

however, I am not going to let these three points ruin my afternoon and I will be back at Oakside again soon to watch Redbridge

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Ground Hopping USA Style: Philadelphia Union v LA Galaxy 15th May 2013

This was a bonus game and a return to a ground I visited in May 2011. As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, I was visiting Philadelphia with my mother, sister and brother. As I was showing them the Commodore Barry Bridge next to the Philadelphia Union ground on Tuesday 14th May, I noticed a sign advertising a game between Philadelphia Union v LA Galaxy on 15th May. A chance to take in another Philadelphia Union game seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss.

So, after begging and pleading I got permission from my mummy to go to the game. Boy can I beg and plead with the best of them- well so Michelle says. Oh and no, I did not stamp my feet or pull my sulky face.

So 15th May saw my brother and I heading down to Chester, West Philadelphia to go to the PPL Park for the game. Martin, my brother had never been to a game in the USA before, so it was a new experience for him.

The first thing to note is the ground is around 20 miles from the centre of Philadelphia, but this is not unusual for US sporting teams. The ground is in one of the less salubrious parts of town and one I would not like to walk around at night alone. Parking at the ground is plentiful, and very profitable for the Union at $20 per vehicle. Put this into context, match tickets were only $25 each for excellent seats behind the goal.

After parking, we bought match tickets and then took a wander around the ground. Outside the ground there is what can only be designed as a fan zone, with a live band, lots of stalls advertising other events, and kids play areas as well as the obligatory food and alcohol stalls.

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Martin commented on the number of female fans there were at the fan zone. He was right, there were indeed far more females than you see at an English game. The atmosphere was very friendly. There was non of the edge that you get at games across Europe. It was indeed a real family atmosphere.

We then had a wander round to the Sons Of Ben BBQ area. This is an area reserved for the Union supporters club who make lots of noise and have exclusive use in the ground of the Riverside End. They spend the whole game making lots of noise and providing passionate support to their team. Two years ago, I managed to gatecrash their BBQ and got free food, beer etc and purchased a couple of t shirts. This time with it being a night game, the BBQ etc did not take place. This was slightly disappointing, but understandable.

Continuing around the outside of the ground, I was explaining to Martin how their would be no away fans as LA was some 2,500 or so miles from Philadelphia. Just as I aid this we bumped into a group of around 50 or so LA Galaxy Fans who had flown to Philadelphia especially for this game and were then heading to New York for the game there on the Sunday.

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These guys are amazing. We in England complain about a round trip of 500 miles. These guys are doing over 5000 miles for an away game, a midweek game at that. I had a few minutes chat with them. Inside the ground, this small band of fans gave fantastic support to their team for the whole 90 minutes despite being massively outnumbered. Its good to see such passion and loyalty amongst football fans has engulfed the USA.

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Once inside the ground, it was no surprise to find that the stadium had not changed in the last 2 years. The ground is a very new ground and as good facilities as you will find anywhere.

The prices inside the ground were as expensive as in the English Premiership, with a pint of beer being $9.50 and a small bottle of lager $5. Food was equally as expensive. Premiership values? Not sure about that that, but definitely premiership prices for food and drink.

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The teams come out behind the Stars and Stripes Flag and then the National Anthem is played before kick off. As always in the USA, the Anthem is respected.

The game itself saw LA Galaxy a goal up almost straight from the kick off. A route was looking likely. LA Galaxy had Robbie Keane upfront and Landon Donovan the USA captain and ex Chelsea keeper Carlo Cuddiccini playing. The next 10 or so minutes confirmed that it would be an LA Galaxy route, but slowly Union got back into the game and eventually equalised, but then just before half time conceded a 2nd goal.

The second half was largely even until Galaxy scored a 3rd and then a fourth goal. As back in England, the 3rd and 4th goals produced mass exoduses of home fans from the ground. This pleased me on a selfish level as it meant the car park was less busy when we left.

Despite the football, the Sons of Ben gave 90 minutes of loud raucous support.

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Leaving the ground after the game, it was good to see that Martin had enjoyed himself. It was nice to spend a rare evening with him. Perhaps I can get him to come and watch Spennymoor with me- got to try recruiting people. It was also nice that my mother and sister had been able to had a night to themselves. So it had been a good night all round.

My thoughts on the game were as follows:

1. The standard of football was certainly top end of Championship if not Premiership standard

2. There was far less cheating and diving than in professional games in England.

3. The lack of dissent from the players to the officials was very noticeable

4. The support from the Sons of Ben and the away fans was passionate and never ceased for the full 90 minutes of the game.

5. The atmosphere in the ground was very family friendly with lots of females present

6. The Americans seem to be more obsessed by statistics than we are in England. This is a feature of all American sports coverage of all sports

7. The Americans still have, in general, to develop an understanding of the game in the same was as found in Europe.

 

Would I go back again? Definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed my 3rd MLS game and my 2nd visit to Philadelphia.

Ground Hopping: Hemel Hempstead Town FC v Gosport Borough 6th May 2013

 

This may well turn out to be the fastest blog post you will ever read. It is certainly the fastest post I have ever typed. I’ll come back to that later.

Well, after the events of Saturday and a trip to Wembley Stadium for some obscure little match of no significance to me, I spent Sunday recuperating. I have to confess that I was not in any state for ground hopping on Sunday.

Michelle & Josh had gone home on Sunday night, which meant they were able to go to see Spennymoor at Shildon in the Bank Holiday Monday fixture and then back to Spennymoor for the FA Vase victory parade. Sadly for me, I couldn’t go as I had to pack for my holiday, and I was in no fit state to drive 600 miles.

I chose instead to take in the Evo Stik Southern Premier League Premier Division play off final at Hemel Hempstead between Hemel and Gosport Borough. At stake was a place in the Conference South for next season.

I knew there would be a reasonable crowd there. I hadn’t been to Hemel’s ground before before so followed my sat nav’s directions, but it was not necessary as the sheer numbers of people going towards the ground showed me where it was.  I parked on the street relatively near the ground as the car parks were full. There was even a relatively large police presence outside the ground for a game some 6 levels below the Premiership.

Unusually for a non league game, there were turnstiles for ticket holders and separate ones for those paying cash. It was £10 to get in, which seemed reasonable for a game of such importance, Remember some clubs 2 divisions below this level were charging that much this season weren’t they Darlington? ( they charged £10 for a seat and £8 to stand – Hemel charged £10 to sit or stand)

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Inside the ground and the first thing that struck me was there were no programmes at the turnstiles and the ground seemed pretty full. Behind the bottom goal were the Hemel massive. Given the fact Hemel usually get gates under 400, it was a fair bet that many of them had not been to many games, but like most successful sides they get a lot of glory hunters. I did find programmes on sale at the 2nd set of turnstiles, there were loads there, but seemingly they didn’t share with the other turnstiles!

The seats were already full and the ground was buzzing. I thought the Spennymoor v Darlington game in February was a good atmosphere for a non league game, but this was even better. The Gosport fans had taken over the goal behind the top end of the ground. There were perhaps 2-300 of them in total.

It was great to hear the friendly tanoy announcer asking kids not to sit with their legs over the wall around the pitch today. It harked back to days gone by. The bar in the ground was doing a roaring trade with people enjoying their pints  in plastic glasses on the terraces. A real carnival atmosphere and a buzz of anticipation ran around the place. The glorious sunshine helped.

I had gone to the game wearing my Spennymoor Town shirt (had to bask in the glory) and had several Hemel fans come over and chat to me about the Vase Final and offer their congratulations. This is one of the great things about non league football- the camaraderie between fans of different games.

Stood on the terraces behind the top goal, I got talking to an Oxford fan Paul who had been to the Vase Final on Saturday in the Spennymoor end and had been cheering us on. He is a prolific ground hopper as well as an Oxford United season ticket holder who attends most Oxford home and away games. Indeed on the day after the Vase final he was at the Conference play off at Wembley  so Monday was his 3rd game in as many days. I spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with him. He was a very knowledgeable football fan and as a neutral he was able to call the game fairly. Its nice to meet football fans who are not so wrapped up in their own club and can hold a conversation about other teams, unlike some of those 1883 fans of some clubs who think the world revolves around their club.

So the game started with Gosport playing down the hill, and after only a few minutes they were 1 up when Hemel forgot to mark the Gosport players. A very sloppy goal to give away and it seemed to throw Hemel. By half time it was pretty much one way traffic, with Gosport getting a 2nd from a free kick over the wall a la David Beckham. Minutes later, Gosport nearly had a third goal when they hit the post. This tie was dead and buried.

Hemel did have a few chances, but these were well dealt with by the athletic and powerfully built Gosport goalkeeper. He had the physique of a boxer and came off his line frequently and to good effect. So half time came and the score was 2-0, what could Hemel do to get back into the game?

Paul and I expected Hemel to come out for the second half and throw everything including the kitchen sink at Gosport. We were very much mistaken. Hemel seemed to have no belief in themselves and the game looked like petering out into a 2-0 to Gosport, or perhaps even more. Even the Hemel fans seemed resigned to this as they made little noise. The travelling Gosport fans were confidently singing “The Gosport are going up”.

Then rather out of the blue with about 10 minutes left Hemel scored from a header when just like Gosport’s opener, the defence failed to mark the attacking player. Hemel 1 Gosport 2, this might liven things up for the last 10 minutes.Gosport seemingly ignored the wake up call and continued to sleep walk their way to the final whistle. Then a moment of magic with a run and shot from outside the area by a Hemel player levelled the scoring. It was as good a shot as any I’ve seen this season, apart from Rasher’s at Wembley for Spennymoor (and no goal this season beats that in my mind ).

2-2 and could Gosport recover from the shock of conceding 2 late goals and having promotion denied so late on in the game? Extra time ensued and this was a lively affair with both sides having chances, Gosport seemingly managing to recover from the blow of those 2 late goals.

The Hemel fans were in great voice now, and the Gosport fans singing “The Gosport are going up” sounded almost as though they were pleading. The confidence had gone from the fans.

 

No goals in extra time and so it was to penalties. 9 of the 10 penalties were scored, with the Gosport keeper saving one of them. This was rather fitting as he had been outstanding during the game. Despite Gosport probably just (and I mean just) being the better side, their keeper had made far more saves than the Hemel keeper over the 120 minutes.

The joy on the faces of the Gosport players, fans and officials was a delight to see. We were even treated to the sight of the female physio for Gosport running round the pitch in her bra in celebration, and showing off her extensive collection of tattoos.

 

Penalties are an awful way to miss out on promotion, but I do not know any other way to decide the drawn game. A great advert for football. Both sets of fans made a great atmosphere today and deserve a word of praise.

One other feature of the day that I must mention was another throwback. The Gosport number 6 had a beard. Whatever happened to footballers having facial hair.

I left and got home to several emails from Michelle and my father who had been to the Spennymoor victory parade that saw in the region of 10,000 people turn out to welcome the team back with the Vase. When you consider the town only has a population of 18,000, it was a magnificent and incredible turn out.

I just want to add a personal thanks to the Spennymoor fans, volunteers, players and directors who all took the time to chart to my partner Michelle on Monday and made her and her 2 boys feels so welcome at a game and the parade when she went without me. You have got a fan in Michelle and both her boys and she will be spreading the word to others about Spennymoor.

My experiences today and those of Michelle convince me more than ever that Non league football is the future. I am almost (I said almost) at the stage where I do not care in Newcastle are relegated.

I must just end this post by saying RIP to Steve Carney, the former Blyth and Newcastle player who died aged 55 from cancer. Steve was a member of that Blyth side that got to the FA Cup 5th round replay in 1978 and then played for Newcastle United for several years. He will be remembered by me as a player who never gave less than 100% and who never shirked a tackle. There is a great write up about him on the blog about Blyth. I do not have internet access as I type this so will try to remember to add the link in due course. (http://blythspirit.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/green-white-cult-heroes-steve-carney/ )

Now, you will recall my opening paragraph about this 1600 word blog and claiming it was the fastest I have ever written. Well the reason for that is I am typing it at 534 mph at a height of 39,000 ft as I fly across the Atlantic to Newark in preparation for the Police Unity Tour ride starting on Thursday. So Monday was almost certainly my last football match this season.

The preparation for going to the USA consisted of me packing my bike into the box, remembering to deflate the tyres, take the handlebars off etc. Then I carefully packed the bike into the box, wrapped it up, put my shoes helmet and pedals in the box. I carefully put the lid on the box and fastened all 5 ties. Job done. Next I packed my clothing and realised I could not find my GPS device for the bike. I had it before I took the bike to pieces. I searched the house, unpacked my bags, checked ever drawer in the house. Then I unpacked the bike bog took everything out and still couldn’t find it. As I cursed my luck and repacked everything I winged onto Michelle my text message about losing the GPS. Then I unpacked my bike again, checked in my cycling shoes and found the GPS was there.

Grrrrr- so that means I have packed my bike 3 times before getting to load it into the car. Who said “Stupid is as stupid does”? Forest Spen?

Anyway, eventually I got myself packed and headed off to Heathrow Airport. I wonder what I have left behind. Obviously not the laptop, but I am sure I will have left something behind. Knowing me it will be my pants and socks or 1 pedal from my bike.

If I have forgotten anything, I am going to blame Michelle for not doing my packing for me. I mean, I am a man after all and am therefore not capable of doing anything domesticated successfully. Look what happened when I tried to use the steam cleaner.

I have had several texts today from people wishing me well and thanks everyone for that. It is always nice to have a few words of encouragement.

Star Wars Day: The Moors (Empire) Strikes Back

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So, yesterday was Star Wars Day (May the fourth!) and it was also the FA Vase Final at Wembley involving Spennymoor Town and Tunbridge Wells. The scene is set perfectly for me to write a blog laden with references to Star Wars films and to compare the players/ fans / officials as characters from the Star Wars films.

Well, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you as I am the one person in the World who has never seen any of the Star Wars films. Whilst I’m in confession mode, let me admit to not having seen a single Star Trek Film either. I could make other confessions, but I’m afraid that police officers may read this blog……

Anyway the chance to watch your hometown team playing in a cup final at Wembley is the thing of dreams for any football fan and this year I finally got the chance.

Let me start by repeating how I have returned to watching Spennymoor Town despite living in London. My partner lives in the Tyne Valley, so I am often in the North East, but have stopped following Newcastle United owing to several factors, including :

1. Sky high ticket prices

2. Greedy players interested only in their salaries and not in the club or its fans

3. Greedy clubs switching game times at the drop of a hat for convenience of TV and ignoring the paying fans and their travel issues

4. Over zealous policing and  big brother attitudes of clubs stewards and police

So, I got myself down to the Brewery Field to watch Spennymoor who I used to watch before moving away when I went to University. The standard of football may be lower, but the games are involving 22 players who want to play and play for pride.

However, for me what made it even more attractive was the people, the fans, the club officials etc. You feels part of the club, not just a cash cow. All non league clubs have people like this involved. I now regularly travel up from London  and try to take in as many Spennymoor games and when in London ground hop around many local clubs.

Anyway, to the Vase final. I arranged for Michelle and Josh to come down to London for the weekend. Tom, my son and his partner , were travelling down from Sheffield just for the game. So we ensured we were at the Globe for 11am.

The weather gods were smiling on us, but not good enough when I left home for me to carry out my threat to wear shorts – sorry ladies. No 6am coach for me- one of the benefits of living in London area! I did however wear with pride my Spennymoor Town shirt.

The Globe at Baker Street was packed (as always on a Wembley match day) so it was round the corner to Tesco Express for a carry out and straight up to Wembley Stadium. Two of our group had never been to  Wembley, so they had that experience of the first look from Wembley Park Tube Station up Wembley Way. Its a fantastic sight and one that never fails to take my breath away, although it was better in my view with the Twin Towers of last century.

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Last time I was on Wembley Way it was just before kick off at the Blackpool v West Ham Play off final which was played before a nearly full house.

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The smaller number of people didn’t matter because today was my hometown team and no words are needed to explain that to any football fan.

Anyway, off to the ground and to the ticket office for 5 tickets. Amazingly they were for block 102, the nearest block to the halfway line save for the corporate seats. Quite how we got these when those who bought weeks ago got tickets further down the touchline. A result!

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Tickets bought, it was time to head off to one of the well known Wembley pubs, “The Green Man”. This is up the hill from the ground in Dagmar Avenue. When we got there, another bonus, it was a Spennymoor pub. The coaches were parked in the car park and the bar was busy with Moors fans. This pub knows how to to look after its customers. All the bar staff inside had make up/ tattoos saying Spennymoor or something similar. The pub has a very big beer garden with several outside bars and even a barbeque. The landlord should be congratulated for his good business sense and the treatment of his staff.

Given the effort the pub staff had gone to, it would have been churlish of me not to do my best to drink the pub dry. It seemed that several others were doing the same. There was a great atmosphere at the bar, as may be expected it was a happy place. People seemed to be relaxed and the pre match tension was drowned in alcohol.

I met a couple of fellow Newcastle fans that I’ve known for many many years, neither are Spennymoor fans, but had come with their kids to support a north east team at Wembley. It was good to catch up with them as I’ve not seen them for a long time.

It was also good to see so many familiar faces from the Brewery Field and it adds to that feeling of being part of a family. It is some 29 years since I left Spennymoor for University, but despite this, I saw many faces I recall from my childhood. All looking older and like me much heavier than I recall but, it was a nice trip down memory lane.

[ I digress at this point to say that as a result of this game, I came across my best friend from primary school days on Facebook on Friday. I had not spoken to him for probably the best part of 30 years. It was good to catch up with him. I’ll be trying to sort out a drink next time I am in Spennymoor. I’m not sure why we lost touch, but it will be good to catch up]

As kick off time approached, it was time to roll down the hill and into Wembley Stadium. The stewards where we were were unusually pleasant and chatty. They seemed to be enjoying the day and were doing their best to make the day a positive experience. So different from so many stewards at “big” football matches. I am thinking here primarily of premiership matches.

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The National Anthem was belted out my many. Being a patriot and a Monarchist, I love to hear and sing the anthems. It also meant that kick off was only minutes away. This is the moment it really hit home that Spennymoor Town were at Wembley Stadium. I remember the realisation in 1998 that Newcastle were in the FA Cup Final. That day it was when they played Abide With Me. Today, it was even more striking. Memories of so near yet so far in 1978 came to mind, but it was now just a distant memory and no longer was that horrible painful memory.

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There were around 5000 fans down from Spennymoor which is equivalent to over 1/4 of the population of the town. It is a fantastic percentage of the town to attend the game. Especially when one recalls the crowd at last years final was around 5000 in total.

However, the vocal Spennymoor support was dwarfed by the sheer numbers of the 11,000 fans of Tunbridge Wells. However, it should be born in mind that the population of Tunbridge Wells is 108,000 and its on the doorstep of Wembley when compared to the 600 mile round trip Spennymoor fans had to make. Still, it was excellent numbers to bring to the game.

Anthems over and it was kick off time. The moment I never expected to see was here. Spennymoor were playing at Wembley. Pride, passion, 100% committed to the cause, and that was me, the players were not far behind either.

My perception of the game was probably skewed by my love of Spennymoor and 10pints, but it seemed to me that Spennymoor were in control of the game without actually making that many chances. Give them their due, Tunbridge were making a fight of it. So with 16 minutes on the clock, I took the opportunity to use the facilities under the stand….just bloody typical, whilst I am there, Paulo Di Tichio (Gavin Cogdon) chose to win a header and open the scoring the Moors. He celebrated with his customary handstand which seems to have upset those Softy southern shandy drinkers from Tunbridge who seem to think that its not allowed to celebrate a goal in a cup final. You can see for yourself in the video clips in this post what he did. The quote comes from one of those delicate Tunbridge Wells fans on the Spennymoor message boards

Other than your no.10 Cogdon you can be very proud of your team. His disgusting, silly nonsense to the crowd after he scored was embarrassing. :roll: But worse for you from then on he lost it completely and had a terrible game. He didn’t win a challenge after that and spent most of the time on the floor crying and complaining to the ref. Useless and he let you down. You should have taken him off

This is the same Gavin Cogdon who ran the Tunbridge defence ragged and for me was the man of the match (But then I’m biased as I sponsor his kit).

The rest of the first half was played out without any more scoring, but was without much doubt dominated by Spennymoor without creating many clear cut chances.

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The second half saw Tunbridge coming into the game more. Still however, Spennymoor seemed to be comfortable when disaster struck, a punch from Deano was struck into the goal for a Tunbridge equaliser on 78 mins. Heartbreak? Surely we were going to lose now as Tunbridge were in the ascendancy. Michelle said to me as I sat with my head in my hands that Spennymoor would have to prove how much they wanted to win.  This they did and within 2 minutes the ball fell to Rasher Graydon on the edge of the penalty area and he rifled the ball into the net and the noise tells you what his goal meant to Spennymoor fans. (listen to the noise at the 9 minute mark on the 2nd video clip).

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Football is a cruel game. For Spennymoor fans from despair to elation in 2 minutes. For Tunbridge fans from hope to despair in the same period.

Those last 10 minutes of the game seemed to last an eternity. As the clock ticked eventually over to 90 minutes, the 4th official put up the board. 1 minute, possibly 2? No, it was FIVE, bl**dy minutes. Five where did he get that from. It must be a sick joke? Was Alex Ferguson managing Tunbridge as this was Ferguson time? In reality, after 6 substitutions and 2 goals amongst other stoppages, it was probably about right, but it did nothing for my nerves or my heart.

Then the referee eventually put us out of our misery. I finally got to see a team in black and white win at Wembley 37 years after first seeing a team in black and white at Wembley.

What happened over the next fifteen or so minutes reminds me of what is good about non league football. The pride and excitement and pleasure of all the players and officials at Spennymoor Town was so obvious to see. This was not about money, but personal pride for the players.

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Seeing the pride and passion when the players lifted the FA Vase was a special moment. It was even more special to see Bobby Moore almost run up the steps despite his broken leg and see him lifting the cup.

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One of the memories for me of the day was when Jason Ainsley, the  manager and other players came over to the fans and shook hands, thanked us for coming etc. Thanking us? They’d just given us the best footballing experience of our lives.

Another reminder of the difference between the over paid prima donnas of the premiership who couldn’t care about the fans, and the genuine passion and respect for the club of non league players.

Today’s win is not just down to the players and coaching staff, but it is also the result of lots of hard work by Brad Groves, the directors, the numerous volunteers who all give their time to help the club whether it be selling half time draw tickets, selling programmes, working in the bar or those charged with bringing in sponsors, dealing with the FA, Council or Northern League. Each and everyone of the clubs volunteers has played no small part in bringing that success to the club. They all deserve to be thanked for getting the club to this stage.

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Eventually, we had to leave the ground along with thousands of happy smiling Spennymoor fans. We made our way via the under used Wembley Stadium station to Marylebone for a quick pint in the Perseverance, but it was shut. Bad planning there on our part, so a pint in The Globe over the road (not to be confused with the Globe at Baker Street.). Then we all headed to the Hamilton Hall Pub at Liverpool Street Station for a few beers and repeated explanations that it was a Spennymoor shirt I was wearing and not a Newcastle one. (Newcastle were playing at nearby West Ham, so understandable mistake for people to make). It was fantastic to hear people congratulating us and sharing the feel good factor towards non league football..

A few more beers were sunk before Tom & Hannah left to go back to Sheffield and Michelle, Josh and I had a few more drinks and chatted with the locals and analysed the game. Michelle commented that there was often no one in the box and she had wanted more action in the box. Probably a fair assessment of the situation, but to me that was irrelevant as all that was in my mind last night was that Spennymoor Town had won the FA Vase at Wembley.

One other pleasing thing was the number of texts, tweets and phone calls I received from fans of other clubs sending congratulations. Its nice that there is a community spirit even between fans of rival teams.

On Monday, Spennymoor have a league game at Shildon AFC and following that they are heading back to Spennymoor for an open topped bus tour and a Civic Reception in the Town Hall. I am gutted not to be there but I fly to America on Tuesday for this year’s Police Unity Tour bike ride so need to spend time on Monday packing my bike etc. Still, Michelle is going to the game and the parade and is instructed to get lots of pictures for me.

I notice that Tunbridge Wells have a league game tomorrow at home to Canterbury. Wonder if I went to watch the game in my Spennymoor shirt if I would be made welcome? Do I have the bottle to find out?

 

This post is about me and very self indulgent you may think. To be honest I don’t make any apologies. I intend to savour the memory as long as I can.

 

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Ground Hopping: Bishop Stortford FC v Bradford Park Avenue – Blue Square Bet Conference North: 20th April 2013

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Today’s trip saw me travelling up North from London to a game in the Conference North. So, I drove the 25 or so miles from Ilford to Bishop Stortford. The FA in their wisdom, sorry short sighted stupidity have set up the national pyramid so the boundary for the North/South split moves south every year.

The reason for this is that below the Conference North/ South, there are 3 feeder leagues, the Northern Premier League, The Southern Premier League and the Rymans League (Isthmian League). Each league promotes 2 teams into the regional conference divisions and 3 are relegated from each of Conference North & South. However, the Southern & Isthmian Leagues are both Southern based Leagues, so it means 4 Southern teams get promoted each year and only 3 southern teams are relegated.

Pretty obvious when you think about it, but that is the FA for you.

Anyway, back to today’s game. After perusing the Non League Papers for fixtures on Saturday, I saw that Bishop Stortford were at home and are only 25 or so miles from my home. I like Bishop Stortford as when I was a kid, they were a member of the Isthmian League which like the Northern League (and the Western League) were sponsored by Rothmans. They were traditional amateur leagues full of clubs with lots of Amateur cup tradition like Enfield, Ilford, Wycombe, Dagenham and others. Indeed, Bishop Stortford were the last winners of the FA Amateur Cup in 1974 when they beat Ilford in the Final at Wembley.  Bishop Stortford went on to become the first club to win both the FA Amateur Cup and the FA Trophy when they won in 1981.

Since then, they have experienced mixed fortunes, including moving to a new ground in 1999.

I have experienced some issues about taking pictures at some grounds, so I decided to email Bishop Stortford on Friday to see if they would agree to my taking pictures. I got a very nice response from the club Website & PR Manager, confirming I’d be most welcome and that if I introduced myself at the club shop he would give me a pin badge. Such a welcoming approach made my mind up that Bishop Stortford was to be today’s game.

It was also 39 years ago today that Bishop Stortford won the FA Amateur Cup

The ground itself is just off the M11 at the end of an industrial estate. The only parking nearby is at the ground for which the club charge £1. A nominal fee for a well maintained and relatively secure car park.

The ground is entered by turnstile at either side of the main stand, which also houses the function suite / club house. Admission price of £12 is about average for this level of football. Once in the ground, I sought out the PR officer, Tim Lamb who welcomed me to the ground as did a couple of other fans. Tim handed me a badge and enquired about my ground hopping. The initial impression of the club was very favourable.

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A look at the ground made me realise how simple and effective it was. Each end of the ground has a terraced covered stand (about 9 steps of terracing. The stands run about half the width of the ground with 3-4 steps of uncovered terracing at either side

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The main stand houses the dressing rooms and the club bar (which I did not visit- honest!). The main stand straddles the halfway line and is simple yet very impressive. At the side of the main stand is tarmac/concrete hard standing and catering outlets which serve the usual football fare at very reasonable prices.

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Opposite the main stand is a much smaller seated stand with terracing to either side of it. All in all the ground is very simple but very effective and one of the best non league grounds I have been to. The pitch seemed to be in excellent condition.

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Enough of the ground, what about the football? Well it started of slowly and for the first 20 or so minutes it had the feel of a meaningless end of season game, despite being one that mattered to both sides. Bradford with a slim chance of the play offs and Bishop Stortford needing a win for safety. The game improved as it went on, with Bishop Stortford equalising on the stroke of half time.

The second half was a better contest with bishop Stortford scoring a second goal and deservedly winning 2-1. This despite the referee who seemed to dislike Bishop Stortford and could not be called a “homer”.

The support from the Bishop Stortford fans behind the goal was impressive given how few there were. They sang for most of the 90 minutes. The songs would have earned low marks from the Northern League’s happy shopper but were in the best traditions of football and the non league scene in particular. There were songs about there hatred of Harrow Borough – presumably an Isthmian in league rivalry. There were songs suggesting the rather portly Bradford keeper was “paid in Pukka Pies”, songs about Bishop Stortford never having lost at Wembley and a very politically incorrect chant suggesting the linesman from Hampshire/Dorset was a “mermaid buggerer”. That was a new chant to me.

The fact that Bishop Stortford bizarrely have to play in the Blue Square Bet North division clearly is not popular with a chant of “This is the worst league, we’ve ever been in. We want to go home” to the Sloop John B tune.

If it wasn’t the football or the fans entertaining me, I could always watch the planes coming in to land at nearby Stansted Airport behind the “Airport End Stand”.DSCF0115

Overall, I had a great afternoon at a club that has made the transition from a successful transition from a leading amateur club to a professional club going places. Other clubs have done this, but I’m not sure any have done it without losing that great friendly spirit of the old amateur days. The other pleasing thing was to see the number of children at the ground. A sure sign of a positive future for the club.

This is a club that is well worth a visit and one I will definitely return to, the football, the people and the terrace banter made it a good day. That and the fact I was halfway back to London by the time Sports Report started on Radio 5 Live. Indeed by 17:30 I was in the Gym in Ilford trying to exercise off the calories in the Jumbo Hotdog and other delicious food in the ground.

Ground Hopping: New Mills v AFC Goole Evostik Northern Premier League Div 1 North – 8th April 2013

I was in Manchester for a couple of days work, so I took the opportunity of a bit of ground hopping. It was the night of the Manchester United v Manchester City game and I was staying in a hotel which had a free bar for 2 hours. So did I stay in the bar and watch the game on Sky TV like most sensible people would?

You already know the answer to that when you read the word “sensible”. Yes, I decided to drive up into the Peak District on a freezing cold night when it was blowing a gale to watch New Mills against AFC Goole.

I was staying in the same hotel in Manchester that is used for the Prawn Sandwich brigade hospitality. As I was leaving the hotel, coaches were loading up with Asians and Eastern Europeans who had paid an arm and a leg for a prawn sandwich and a match ticket. The concierge at the hotel asked if I was going to the football, when I said yes, he tried to escort me onto one of the coaches. He wouldn’t accept my protestations that the coach wasn’t going to take me where I wanted. He did not appear to understand that there could be more than one football match that night.

I eventually got away and drove to New Mills which is situated seemingly on top of a hill in the Peak District. The sight of snow as I got higher and higher should have been a warning as to how cold it was.

The ground itself is easily missed. The main stand is very low rise and not particularly striking from the outside. The ground is also a little way from the centre of New Mills.

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Arriving at the main entrance, I got an unwelcome surprise.

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The poster showed the game was on the 10th April, not the 8th. Had I misread the fixture list in The Non League Paper or had the paper got the listing wrong. Either way, it was a waste to come this far for a game that wasn’t on.

Fortunately, the turnstiles were open, and an enquiry revealed that New Mills were playing against AFC Goole tonight instead of the Wednesday. Apparently the fixture had be re-arranged again to try to fit all the remaining games in.

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The main sign outside the ground still showed the game from the preceding Saturday!

Inside the ground and my first look at the ground. The first think I noticed was the slope on the pitch and the fact the changing rooms are behind the goal, and up several steps. An unusual layout.

The crowd seemed rather sparse, this was because many people stayed away to watch the Manchester derby on Sky TV. Indeed, the game was being shown live in the clubhouse inside the ground and it seemed as many people were watching the Manchester derby in there as were watching New Mills v Goole.

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The referee appears to be hunting for the teams.

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The above pictures shows some of the quirks of non league football, with picnic tables in side the ground and the player’s tunnel being a couple of pieces of fencing which are opened after the team is on the pitch.

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The ground is locate at the top of a hill and provides a great view across the Valley. It is a very picturesque location and the ground is in keeping with the surroundings, doing its best to blend in.

The game itself is between a New Mills team chasing promotion and a Goole team fighting against relegation although that was not obvious for the first 25 minutes with both sides coming close to scoring. New Mills scored first, Goole hit straight back, but then 2 quick goals demoralised Goole and heads started to drop. The fact that Goole were playing downhill and with the wind behind them probably made the game look more even.

I spent most of the first half chatting with a very knowledgeable football fan who watches Macclesfield, New Mills and one or two other local sides and had travelled all over the country to games. He’d been to most of the Northern League grounds over the years.

He pointed out to me that I would be unable to walk around all the ground as they had shovelled snow over the advertising hoardings at the bottom end of the ground. Sure enough, the bottom part of the ground was closed to spectators. Not that this made a lot of difference with the size of the crowd (92).

The only stand was a slightly unusual affair consisting of terracing at one end and seats at the other end. This was down one side of the ground. The other 3 sides of the ground were open to the elements. The ground did have the almost compulsory phone mast though.

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The wind made for a very cold night, and it did little to encourage some fans out of the bar to watch the football of New Mills rather than the SKY TV offering of the Manchester derby.

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A very friendly little club with a draw back of being surrounded by bigger clubs in easy commuting distance. It would be good to see a club like this progress. A non league club whose fan’s don’t have a chip on their shoulder unlike some clubs.

 

I arrived back at my hotel just as the prawn sandwich brigade were returning from seeing Man U lose at home to Man City. From the looks on their faces, I had a far better night than they did. My match cost me £6.50. Their night cost the several hundreds of pounds each.

Ground Hopping: Rotherham v Chesterfield League 2 February 16th 2013

A very belated post I know. There are good reasons for the delay, but at present I have not made the excuse up.

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Anyway, this game was 24 hours after the Spennymoor v Darlington game. It was appropriate as  back in 2000, Darlington missed out on promotion after losing in the promotion play off to Peterborough. The other 2 sides promoted that season from what is now League 2 were Swansea City and Rotherham. It is interesting to see what has happened to those clubs in the intervening years.

Swansea narrowly avoided bankruptcy and going out of the league and are rejuvenated in a new ground and in the Premiership and won the League Cup this season. They are having the most successful season in their club’s history.

Peterborough have oscillated between the Championship and League 2, but at the time of writing are still in the Championship.

Rotherham have also oscillated between the Championship and League 2, have been into administration more than once, and been forced to play home games in Sheffield. They now have a brand new stadium in Rotherham, hence my visit there. Rotherham have been into administration at least twice in that time.

Darlington however appear not to have seen any ups in those 13 years. The best they have managed was a very unlucky play off defeat in 2008, when they lost on penalties after a brave struggle with Rochdale. Darlington struggled to get 11 players out for the 2nd leg game. The players did the club proud in the circumstances. Darlington have been into administration 3 times in this period and are now playing at Level 9, some 8 levels below Swansea, 7 levels below Peterborough and 5 below Rotherham. It is amazing how the fortunes of clubs that were so close that season have varied.

Anyway, back to the trip to Rotherham. I decided to visit as they are playing in a new ground, The New York Stadium which was built by the council on a brown field site in the town. I stayed in Sheffield the night with my son who is a student there and his Godfather who came up from Cardiff for the weekend. No, not Marlon Brando, although there is a resemblance some may say.

Arriving at Sheffield railway station for the train to Rotherham, we were greeted by numerous police officers on the platform surrounding the 2013 version of the infamous Chesterfield Bastard Squad. I have to say they were an embarrassment to the name. If they were anyone over 18 I’d be surprised. They couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag, but they thought they looked the part. They did, if the part is to look like a geek.

They made themselves look silly when they got off the train in Rotherham and waited for the police to escort them to the pub whilst chanting about what they would do to Rotherham fans. Its hard to be brave behind lots of police isn’t it?

The three of us decamped into Wetherspoons for a bit of light refreshment before wandering over to the ground. The real ale in Wetherspoons had a familiar name.

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I thought Double Maxim had died when the Vaux Brewery Closed. Wishful thinking?

This is another of those modern concrete grounds that looks as if it comes from IKEA. It is functionally very good, with plenty of leg room in the seats, not a bad view in the ground etc.

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It might be the New York Stadium, but there are no Giants playing there!

The family stand seems to have been named knowing Tom & I were coming

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Anyway, into the ground and the first thing is that all the stands were not identical. They do provide a great ground for a League Two club.

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The game itself was a frenetic local derby which was eventually won 1-0 by Rotherham. The atmosphere was great for a League 2 game.

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So, you may think that it was all positive at the game? Well, there was one thing that surprised me, the catering outlets all shut at the end of half time. They are surely missing a trick there. Think of the extra income they could gain by actually selling food & drink.

After the game, ok during the 2nd half, we left the ground and headed back to Wetherspoons for a quick pint of 3. As we left Wetherspoons to go to the railway station, there appeared to have been an incident outside. The police were trying to separate fans, directing Rotherham fans back to the bars and Chesterfield fans to the railway station. They were bemused when they asked us “Rotherham or Chesterfield lads?” and got the replies “Newcastle United”, “Leyton Orient” and “Fulham”. They were even more bemused after we got to the station and then walked back through the police lines to the pub again. Well we had 30 minutes to wait for a train, so time for another pint.

So, game over, drink on board, it was time to head back to Sheffield and meet up with Matt & Lynn from Barnsley for a few beers. Tom decided to order food for us all in the pub. So, I let him… more fool me. This is what I got

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Was he trying to tell me something?