Manchopper in….Tottenham

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Result: Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Manchester City (Premier League)

Venue: White Hart Lane (Sunday 2nd October 2016, 2.15pm)

Att: 31,793

Following last seasons trip to Chelsea and on the late-evening coach journey back from London, the subject of our next venture was quickly brought up. Unsurprisingly I didn’t hesitate in bringing up, the soon to be lost, White Hart Lane for the trip and with my City-supporting pal Ashley in agreement with the fact that this would be a good outing, it was set in stone that we would be off here, if circumstance allowed, during Season 2016-’17.

Fast-forward to September and with tickets and travel sorted and with thanks to my Dad on getting us there for 6.30am, we once again found ourselves waiting in the lovely surroundings of Manchester Shudehill, alongside a number of “other football” fans heading to Wembley for their strange version and the odd-drunk still making their way home after a heavy outing over the previous evening. Our Megabus (more on them later) arrived and we were soon whisked onwards towards the Capital.

After having the morning’s journey ably passed with help from the Malaysian GP, we were soon into the winding streets leading towards Victoria coach station. Eventually, we pulled into the station and were swiftly making our way over to the rail interchange of the same name, where we would catch the tube through to Seven Sisters station. After a 5-hour trip down, I was in desperate need of some sort of liquid to quench my thirst and oh, how luck would have it (obviously, there was no research into this), there was a Wetherspoons right in front of us. I was soon joined by a 5AM Saint, in lieu of a lack of Punk IPA, with my phone gaining some much-needed energy, following the amount I’d forced it into using on the way down.

Heading to Victoria

Heading to Victoria

Wetherspoons!

Wetherspoons!

Soon enough, we descended into the underground station, along with the masses, with my railcard coming in more than handy, to ensure an all-zone ticket for £8.00, over Ashley’s return of just under £10. For a 20 minute journey. How does anyone afford this regularly?! Anyway, payment complete and ticket in hand, we were through the gates and swiftly onto one of the regular trains over to Seven Sisters.

After being mistaken for a girl’s Dad upon reaching the top of the escalator, much to their amusement (though I hope I don’t look so old yet), we undertook the 30 minute walk down the bustling street, heading for the large white and blue-clad cranes tasked with the sad mission of demolishing the great, old stadium. Having arrived with time in hand, we agreed on heading straight for the ground as to beat most of the rush and to secure some food without the requirement of a queue. After purchasing a bog-standard programme (£3.50) from directly outside the turnstile, we were soon inside, after a search of both body and bag (happily not together in one word). A quick shout here for the Spurs stewards, who were really courteous and friendly towards the tasks. When you can share a quip with a steward, you know they’re good.

En route...

En route…

Arriving at the Lane

Arriving at the Lane

Through the turnstiles with success, we were into the concourse and after a quick visit to the facilities, it was to the food bars for a pair of Steak & Ale pies, complete with printed logo on top, for £4.00 a pop. They were ok, nothing too special though, as to be expected I guess. After finding our seats, we soon found ourselves in the midst of a conversation between two City fans, berating the fact that a foreign fan had got a ticket for the game, thus robbing it off an “actual” fan. “Head down, head down” I thought. Would I survive two hours? Well, you know the answer, unless this is all being written by a ghost…on that note watch the film with Ewan McGregor in by that name. It’s great. I did, however, sort of like City during their time in the lower leagues and Paul Dickov’s goal against Gillingham still sticks in my mind, so let me off here guys!

Anyway, as most of you know what the make-up of White Hart Lane is (seats, lots of seats) with a gaping hole in the far corner to the away end, where I was excited to be under the futuristic-looking police-box, let’s move straight on to the history of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club…

History Lesson:

Founded in 1882, Tottenham Hotspur first competed in the Southern League from 1896, winning it in 1900 and remained here through until 1908 when they were elected to the Football League’s 2nd Division. Their first major success came in the form of the 1901 FA Cup, making Spurs the first non-league club since the formation of the Football League to win it. 1909 saw Spurs promoted to Division 1 as runners-up, where they remained until relegation in 1915.

Upon resumption of football after the war, 1920 saw Spurs back in Division One as Division 2 champions to prior season. 1920-’21 saw a second FA Cup lifted as well as being league runners-up. Relegated again in 1928, they were promoted again in 1933 as runners-up, but a short two season stay back in the top division is all that followed. The end of WWII thankfully arrived and 1950 saw Spurs again back in the top division as Division 2 champions, but this time with much more success, as Spurs took their first Football League title.

Clubs faced by Spurs at WHL

Clubs faced by Spurs at WHL

Spurs won the League & Cup double in 1961 and successfully defended the Cup the following season. 1963 saw Tottenham become the first British club to win a UEFA club competition, in the shape of the Cup Winners’ Cup and 1967 saw the FA Cup lifted for a once again. The 1970’s featured a UEFA Cup win in 1972, with Spurs becoming the first British club to win two different major European trophies. A pair of League Cups (1971 & ’73) also arrived during the decade, though a low note came with relegation in 1977, promotion was again quickly attained the next season.

The 1980’s proved a highly successful period for the club, with two more FA Cups (’81 & ’82) joining the trophy cabinet, alongside the Charity Shield and the UEFA Cup in 1984. The 1990’s saw the club become founder members of the Premiership, but also less silverware. An 8th FA Cup win in 1991, along with the 1999 League Cup was all that came to fruition during this time, the ’99 League Cup being their last trophy win until the 2008 competition.

The latter success did however mean that Spurs became only the second club, along with Manchester United, to win a major trophy over each of the last six decades but is their last silverware so far, though Spurs did record a Premier League-best 3rd place last season.

Filling up before kick-off...

Filling up before kick-off…

...in more ways than one

…in more ways than one

The sides came out to the strains of Obi-Wan (oh, look McGregor gets another shout) and Anakin’s final battle in the Revenge of the Sith Star Wars film and they were soon underway and Spurs quickly took on the role of the aggressor, with City taking on the “You underestimate my power” over-confidence that the soon-to-be-Vader played host to. It was little surprise, therefore, when the hosts took the lead; Aleksandar Kolarov putting Danny Rose’s cross into his own net, via the underside of the cross-bar.

Spurs were all-over the visitors and the optimism that filled the away support’s ranks at kick-off quickly changed to one of apprehension, especially when it came to anything to do with Kolarov or indeed Claudio Bravo, who is the proverbial rabbit-in-the-headlights when he has the ball at his feet under any pressure. He was helpless when Christian Eriksen bent a free-kick inches wide of his right-hand post, following a rash Nicolas Otamendi challenge, but Dele Alli soon added the second, as he broke the offside trap and slotted unerringly past Bravo, following good work by the outstanding Heung-Min Son.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

City did have the odd chance during the first period, usually coming in the guise of Sergio Aguero, though they never truly threatened Hugo Lloris. Half-time and a very convincing 2-0 lead to Spurs and by now the atmosphere in the fans had changed from one of apprehension to quiet acceptance and resignation of how this one was going to end. There was still a bit of optimism and why not, look at the team and the manager, but this never looked like being anything other than a first defeat of the season for City from here.

The second half was soon kicking-off and, to be honest, there was still a good pact to the game, as to be expected in the PL, but little in terms of pure goalmouth action. The best chances came with Aguero striking the post via Lloris’ unorthodox save, where he almost let the ball escape his grasp and cross the line, before Spurs had the chance to well and truly take the points, as Dele Alli was taken out in the box, but Erik Lamela’s spot-kick was well stopped by the Chilean Bravo.

Bravo's pen save...far away

Bravo’s pen save…far away

Close quarters

Close quarters

Match Action

Match Action

With Rose getting more and more grief as the game went on for his OTT theatrics, including a miraculous recovery from one challenge, thus City also began to take the game to the hosts for the first time, the only issue being there was only around 10 minutes remaining in the game. Kelechi Iheanacho’s weak effort was comfortably saved by Lloris, before Spurs’ French glove-man brilliantly tipped over Aguero’s dipping efforts, whilst back-peddling while off-balance. Great save! This pretty much ended the game, as Tottenham held out fairly easily for a fine win and to cue the sounds of “Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur” to fill the Lane again.

Heading back out the ground, we swiftly made our way back towards Seven Sisters and once again jumped immediately onto a train heading back to Victoria. Upon our arrival back at the station, Ashley had decided that he needed some food and this turned into a bit of wild goose chase, involving seeing a number of supercars lining the streets and the house where Mozart created his first symphony, or so the plaque claims. Anyway, we eventually found ourselves back at Victoria and the station’s Burger King outlet, before heading back for our coach at 6.30. OH AND HERE THE FUN BEGINS!

On the way out

On the way out

Mozart. Culture.

Mozart. Culture.

So, we arrived back at the coach station for 6pm, only to see the word “Delayed” plastered upon the screens above our gate. Not to worry, particularly, as the coach prior to ours arrived with a 15 minute delay and was soon on its way. So, we waited. And waited. And waited. Oh, and waited. Now, I like to think I’m…fairly patient, but once it approaches an hour with next to no information, I begin to get a bit pissed off. Then I get sarcastic with comments and generally, I guess, be a bit of a dick. But, its deserved when this happens, so MegaBus, I want our £25 taxi reimbursed. That obese cartoon conductor with his thumb up and smiley-face was rubbing it in even more and….

OK, I’ve had half-an-hour off, so can complete now after getting that rant out of my system! Anyway, that’s about it. It was great to tick White Hart Lane off before the end of the historic ground’s life and everything about the day up until about 6.02pm was great. Cheers to Ashley for sorting out the tickets and there may be another trip in the future, so long as no-one links my blog to my appearance and robs my ticket for a fan. Fingers crossed…

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RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 4 (thanks to Megabus. Never again to London!)

Manchopper in….Failsworth (AVRO FC)

avro fcstockport georgians

Result: AVRO 3-2 Stockport Georgians (Manchester League Premier Division)

Venue: The Lancaster Club (Tuesday 3rd May 2016, 7pm)

Att: 22 (hc)

Despite being a regular contributor on the Manchester League’s weekly podcast, I’d sort of neglected the league’s games and had hardly watched one all season. But, this was to be somewhat changed with a midweek visit to the Lancaster Club in Failsworth and AVRO FC.

After another bus filled journey with little of note except that some of the driving around the streets of the Manchester outskirts was questionable to say the least, I was dropped off outside the Lamb Inn pub on Manchester Road, the main road which the ground sits just off of. I had also spotted another pub pretty much next door, but as this one was closed and therefore not a likely place to find a non-fatal drink, I headed for the Robbie’s Lamb for the pre-game beverage.

Yet again, my beer choosing was off, as my option was again no longer available. I’ve honestly lost count of how many times this has now happened to me this season! Rather fortunately, though, Beck’s was served in a bottle instead and so I plumped for that to keep me company for the next half-hour. After slowly nursing this over the period and trying to help out fans with info for Saturday’s game at Accrington (despite not knowing much myself), I found the clock approaching 6.30 and so headed over to the Lancaster Club for the game.

Lamb Inn

Lamb Inn

Arriving at The Lancaster Club

Arriving at The Lancaster Club

After a 5 minute walk, I arrived at the road leading down to the ground itself, confirmed by a sign with, unsurprisingly, a picture of a Lancaster Bomber on it. (By this point, I must apologize for just how boring this has been so far, even more so than normal!) The pitch(es) sat at the end of this and beyond the car-park adjoining the club itself and despite the 7pm kick-off time noted on the website, it looked as though a game was getting underway at 6.30 instead. Turned out this was an u-17’s contest, but this provided some great entertainment with AVRO & Elton Vale playing out a 5-3 win for the visitors.

I was joined by the “agent” Mr B for this game which is always great, especially when he tells of his plans to run off to Narnia with corner flags and to collect them by ripping them off their poles then pleading ignorance. (Legal note: This is said in jest. Honest.) Anyway, after the AVRO players had carried the goalposts over to the back pitch and they were set up we were all ready to go. As are we for the…

(Brief) History Lesson:

An AVRO FC have played at the Lancaster Club since just after the Second World War, having been founded by employees of the aviation company’s factory in Chadderton. The club is the former Failsworth Hall, which was purchased by the company’s founder A.V. Roe in 1938 and has been used as a sports venue since 1950.

The current club was formed, joined the Manchester League and won the Division 1 Championship in 1989 but lasted just three seasons in the Premier Division before being relegated in 1992 and departing the league in 1995, before embarking on what appears to be a three year sabbatical before re-joining the league in 1998. They again won Division 2 in 2004 but were again relegated after three seasons.

After just one season, though, AVRO returned to the Manchester League’s top-flight as Division 1 runners-up and have since won the Premier Division on two successive occasions, in 2010 & 2011. Last season, AVRO recorded a third place finish in the top Division.

Setting up

Setting up

Handshakes

Handshakes

We got underway with the sunlight opposite proving something of an obstacle that we were unused to. Of course, I always cover all eventualities and had shades and gloves just in case and unbelievably it was only the former that was required. Things are hotting up just as the season ends. Sod’s law.

Anyway, on the field it was a pretty tight affair during the early stages, until the AVRO ‘keeper had a rush of blood, came charging out of his area, missed the ball and allowed the Stockport #10 the easiest of tasks to roll the ball into the empty net. 0-1 to the visitors, who were still not completely safe from relegation despite winning the league the previous season!

From then on, though, it was all AVRO as they began to put all the pressure on the visitors defence, but could only really muster a couple of shots from range which were easily saved. Apart from that, the game was mostly a midfield contest and there was little of note. Half-Time arrived with the score at one-nil.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

After engaging in some necessary pitch encroachment to get around from the back of the pitch from the steep ravine side, where the pitch drops away from the plateau it sits on, we were ready to get going with the sun now being a little less troublesome for both spectators and players alike as it set behind the houses beyond Failsworth’s answer to the Grand Canyon.

Soon enough, the home side grabbed a deserved equaliser when a poor pass allowed AVRO o steal possession and play in the forward who slotted home comfortably. 1-1 and all to play for, apart from the fact the home ‘keeper decided he wanted to repeat his trick from earlier in the game, straight from kick off and again gifted Georgians’ #10 an open net that he couldn’t miss from. 1-2.

But, again, it seemed that Georgians were happy to sit on their lead, but they never looked comfortable in doing so. It looked inevitable to both me and Mr B that the equaliser would arrive and it duly did, a header from a right wing delivery being nodded home from close range. From here, to be honest, it looked like there would only be one winner, with the AVRO gloveman confining himself to his area after berating himself after his second erring.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Starjump

Starjump

Indeed, the winner did arrive and it was for the home side. Again, Georgians conceded possession poorly in the midfield and AVRO worked the ball through to their skipper who slotted home with confidence to secure his side the three points, which they held onto easily enough. 3-2 and that was full-time.

So for me and B, it was time to head off home to our shared township and after swaying the “agent’s” decision to join me in the lovely surroundings of the Mancunian bus services over the Metro, we were soon headed back towards the city centre and the connection onwards home. That was, until we reached Stretford and things became much more exciting. The race was on, almost like a Top Gear race, but with buses and not super cars. Ok, nothing like it then…

So, it was on! Mr B on the 256 vs me on the 23 plus a 5 minute delay. After the nerves and the sweat I arrived home (I presume) victorious! The re-match will happen sometime during season two*. But as for the evening, it was ok, decent game, good to see Mr B once more and now it’s onwards to Saturday and the small matter of a possible promotion…

*probably won’t happen.

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RATINGS:

Game: 6- Decent enough game, but not as exciting as you’d imagine a 3-2 to be. But maybe I’m having football burnout.

Ground: 4- Barred off pitch (apart from behind the goals). All grass surround.

Fans: 5- Yeah.

Programme: N/A

Food: N/A

Value For Money: 9- Free game, only paid £5.20 travel plus £2.60 “extras”. Not a bad exchange then.

 

Manchopper in….West Ham

500px-West_Ham_United_FC.svg200px-Wolverhampton_Wanderers.svg

Result: West Ham United 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers (FA Cup Third Round)

Venue: The Boleyn Ground (Saturday 9th January 2016, 3pm)

Att: 31,457

A delay in getting this one out there due to unforeseen ‘being half dead-ness’, but all is well now, so here we go. Our story begins ten days earlier….

After pre-planning this game almost as soon as it was drawn out of the hat and acting upon prior ideas of heading down to West Ham for the third round if they got a home tie. They did as Wolves were picked as the visitors and come the morning of the 9th January, I was sitting in a rather empty Virgin Pendolino carriage destined for London Euston. I was pretty sure I should have had a table both there and back too, but none was forthcoming and I can’t complain as my memory isn’t playing ball on this one. Ah well, at least I had a seat.

Before long the Virgin was rolling out of Manchester Piccadilly on its way to its Northern-only stops of Stockport, Macclesfield and Stoke. This made for a good smooth journey, because as soon as Stoke passed to the rear it was plain sailing through to London, where we arrived pretty much right on time. Sadly, I’d undersold myself time-wise on this journey, but I had given myself time for at least one pre-match beverage near the ground, so after a five minute walk over to Euston Square underground station I should have been in possession of a Travelcard quickly. But, oh no…

The ticket machine here did not want to relinquish its tickets and thus I had to chase down the guy on duty there to help me operate the damn thing. As it only took coins, I had to pay by card and only would it accept it, it transpired, once you had removed your hand from the card, not withstanding the fact you had to put your PIN in the thing anyway to purchase it. So, after such a trivial thing had cost me 10 minutes, I was now even more pushed for time. Luckily, some boisterous Wolves fans helped me to figure the right train and I was soon on the way on the Hammersmith & City line over towards East Ham station, where I’d been tipped to use over the ground-neighbouring Upton Park, due to station usage on the day being manic (I was later to get an insight just how true this was!).

After a further 35 minute trip over towards the ground, I eventually disembarked at East Ham after most of the train had got off at the prior stop to ensure I knew where exactly I was headed after the game, so I didn’t do my usual party trick and get lost as my return train from Euston was at 6.20, so not too much time to manoeuvre. Upon exiting the station, what struck me was the, ethnic, feel to the area. It was something akin to a smaller Levenshulme (for those local to me), but it was less so the closer you got to the Boleyn, which popped into view after I’d walked back on myself slightly. After joining the crowds making their way down the main road, the castle-turret façade of the ground loomed into view. After doing a quick couple of exterior shots and buying one of West Ham’s vintage-themed programmes for £3.50(they’re based on prior issues against clubs they are facing), I headed for the Boleyn which had been championed prior.

Match Traffic

Upton Park

The Boleyn

The Boleyn

I entered the Boleyn, saw it was packed and quickly exited through the far end, having been buffeted and deafened in equal measure by those already in residence. It was all in good spirits, though and looks a brilliant place to be in pre-match. Obviously, it won’t be an experience to be had for too much longer. On this I have to say that the pre-match crowds make it quite clear why the ground move needs to happen and quick. It’s just not suitable any more, with pedestrians in the open roads etc. As for me, with the Boleyn a no go, it was off to the ground and, more specifically, the East Stand Upper where I’d find my seat.

Upon arriving at the turnstile, the security guy was doing two bags and another wasn’t doing much. I awaited them finishing up with the bags and waited with mine ready to be searched. And I waited. And I waited. Then I went in. Good job I didn’t have any “items” in there eh? Ticket scanned, I was into the concourse and I headed straight for the refreshment bar where I picked up a steak pie for the fairly priced £3.50, before I headed up into the stand itself and soaked in the atmosphere of a pre-game Boleyn.

The Boleyn looms

The Boleyn looms

Heading to the East Stand

Heading to the East Stand

The Boleyn itself is certainly a ground with a certain charm to it. It’s new(er) build stands all fit well together (though it probably looks better from my viewpoint in the ’60’s-era stand). The Main Stand towers above the rest of the ground, with the twin “Sir Trevor Brooking” and “Sir Bobby Moore” stands sitting behind both goals respectively. The smaller East Stand sits backing onto residential areas thus, I suspect, stopping it being built upon any further, sort of akin to Manchester United’s railway restricted South Stand. The pitch, of course, looked in pristine condition due to it’s army of 370* groundsmen. As for the history of West Ham United? Well look no further….   (*number may be inflated.)

History Lesson:

The club was founded in 1895 as Thames Ironworks’ factory side, before becoming West Ham United in 1900. After initially competing in the London League (won in 1897), they turned pro in 1888 and competed in the Southern League, being promoted from Division 2 at the first attempt. After moving to the Boleyn in 1904 and joining the Western League, the club won this league in 1907 and then joined the Football League Division 2 in 1919 and were subsequently promoted to Division 1 in 1924. The previous season saw the Hammers compete in the first FA Cup final to be played at Wembley Stadium.

After relegation in 1932, 1940 saw West Ham win the inaugural Football League War Cup, before winning the 1964 FA Cup and the 1965 European Cup Winners Cup. The England 1966 World Cup Winning squad had a large influence from the club, with the likes of captain Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst coming from the club to play vital roles in the success. The “Champions” statue commemorating the trio stands across from the Boleyn pub, along with Everton’s Ray Wilson.

"The Champions"

“The Champions”

1975 saw a second Cup success, but the club lost out in the Cup Winners’ Cup Final in 1976 and were relegated back to Division 2 in 1978, though a third FA Cup arrived in 1980. This is notable as the Hammers became the last side since that tie to win the trophy from outside the top division.

Promoted back into Division 1 in 1981, their next top-flight tenure lasted until 1989, when relegation followed once more, but they bounced back two years later. However, their stint lasted a further season before the drop arrived again, but 1993 saw West Ham promoted to the Premiership for the first time. The last silverware for the club came in 1999, in the shape of the Intertoto Cup, the best cup ever competed for. This last statement may be opinion…

WHU

WHU

Relegation in 2003 ended a decade-long stint and after coming close at the end of their first season, losing in the play-off final, the Hammers were promoted again in 2005 via the same method. After losing the 2006 Cup final to Liverpool on penalties, the club avoided relegation the next season after the shenanigans of the Carlos Tevez & Javier Mascherano signings. Tevez, of course, scored on the final day at Old Trafford to keep the Hammers up, before moving to the side he’d just beaten.

2011 saw the Irons relegated once more, but their stay in the second tier was only another brief one as they beat Blackpool in the following year’s play-off final. 2013 saw the club secure a 99-year lease on the Olympic Stadium, which is to be used from the start of the 2016-’17 season, with the club departing the Boleyn at the end of this current season. Last time out, the Hammers recorded a 12th place finish, with Slaven Bilic taking charge for this year onwards.

Handshakes

Handshakes

After the bubble machines were powered up and the Hammers fans broke into their famed song,  the game got underway and….well….the teams really shouldn’t have bothered with the first half. It was dire, with only Carl Jenkinson’s rasping drive being tipped over by Carl Ikeme being the notable action. As such, I shall explain the pie to you. It was a pukka pie and it had pastry on the outer part and steak filling it. It came in a foil tin and even came in cellophane wrapping! I know, I know, take a breath. Oh, 0-0 at half-time by the way.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

The second half began and proceeded as the first, with very little happening on the pitch, especially from those in gold, though the Wolves fans kept up a great atmosphere all game and it was a shame they had very little to cheer. After a worrying moment saw Bjorn Sigurdarson (the man who’d replaced AFC Bournemouth-bound Benik Afobe in the Wolves line-up) go down with an innocuous looking injury.

My picture taking had appeared to have gained the interest of the lady sitting next to me who enquired if I was Wolves fan. I assured her and any others who may have been thinking the same that I indeed wasn’t and that I was a home-inclined neutral, here for the ground. “Not missing much then!” was the reply to this and it was hard to argue really. As the clock ticked down and time edged away, it looked as though my 0-0 run was ending.

A close call

A close call

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

After “Mr Moon” had done his usual trick and entered and left the stadium within five minutes, prompting the Wolves fans to chant “Who the fuckin’ hell are you?!”, with West Ham pushing on hard with the likes of Andy Carroll and especially Dimitri Payet providing a real threat to the visitors defence. Payet showed touches of his class, including one flick in front of me which provided real excitement, but it was Carroll who’d have a big hand in the goal, eventually controlling the ball and feeding Nikica Jelavic to half-volley across Ikeme and send the home fans mad. I’d say it was harsh on Wolves, but they were so negative I can’t bring myself to!

Jelavic is mobbed after his winner

Jelavic is mobbed after his winner

On the way out

On the way out

The six minutes of injury time came and went without any real alarm, though sub Adam Le Fondre came fairly close to levelling, but it wasn’t to be and the Hammers avoided an upset to progress into the fourth round of the cup. I headed up towards Upton Park station to see what the situation was and it turned out the fans were being funnelled down a small service street, right to the far end, then back on themselves on the other side of the barrier to the station. It looked like utter madness and none that I was getting involved with. I had to get a quick jog on to get to East Ham again but I got there easily, despite heading to the wrong platform initially. Dear me.

So, slightly wet thanks to the captial’s drizzly late Saturday evening weather, I boarded the tube and grabbed one of the remaining seats on the packed train back towards the city centre. Half of the train I was on disembarked at West Ham station having already been warned that there was a large crowd there from the previous train. It appears that West Ham became the centre of the world that Saturday evening!

Eventually, I arrived back into Euston Square (about 14 stops from East Ham) and the short walk back over to a largely police protected Euston was undertaken, with me taking my seat on my train back to Manchester about 15 minutes prior to departure. For what turned out to be a fully dry trip, the day couldn’t have gone much better, though I could have done without the jog through the drizzle! My programme provided a good companion for the first hour of the trip back and definitely helped pass the time, as the United-Sheffield United game wasn’t helping much!

After arriving back into a very wet, miserable north, I finally got back into Manchester 5 minutes earlier than scheduled, meaning that I was easily in time for a connector over to Oxford Road and a train an hour earlier than I was expecting to catch and as such my trip to the Boleyn Ground was done. It’s nice and sad in equal measure to think that its one done that will soon be off the map, especially one that’s played host to some of the biggest names the footballing world (and especially this country) has ever seen. But, it’s forwards for West Ham and the Olympic Stadium is calling…

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RATINGS:

Game: 4- Poor game, but at least the quality is good.

Ground: 8- One I like, maybe its the rose tinted glasses though?

Fans: 8- I found them very friendly and showed good support in the second half.

Food: 6- Pie was standard issue.

Programme: 7- Good read, nice retro look too.

Value For Money: 10- Cheaper ticket for a ground soon to be gone means it had to be 10!

 

 

 

Manchopper in….Stamford

Result: Stamford 2-2 Trafford (Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division)

Venue: The Vic Couzens Stadium (Saturday 16th November 2013-3pm)

Att: 271

Another day, another ground. On this bright, fresh Saturday it was a trip to the Lincolnshire/Rutland border to the historic town of Stamford. As usual when an away trip features Trafford, I boarded the team bus for the 2 and a half hour drive south-east. It was unfortunate that this trip clashed with West Didsbury’s trip to AFC Blackpool, but due to this being the last season Stamford will play at this old ground, it had to be done now, otherwise it would be lost in the annals of history. So, after the aforementioned trip was completed, I set off into Stamford Town Centre. After a quick pit-stop in the St.Mary’s Vault’s pub, which has a separate games room upstairs.

A stop in the Sam Smith’s brewery pub which was being visited by an American couple, showcasing Stamford’s historical attractiveness to tourists, both international and domestic, before on the way to the ground an unscheduled stop at The Golden Fleece was made. Here, I met a trio of Stamford fans, who remarked how similar the two clubs are in size and ambition, and how they would happily take 20th place, as I am sure would be a view shared by their opponents today. The Three Stamfordteers made their way towards their spiritual home past a needle structure in front of the pub. We followed soon after.

Interesting advertising!

Outside the Golden Fleece

The needle

On arrival at the ground after a 5-10 minute walk, including playfully trying to get in as u-16’s, ( based on the ages and appearances we have this was highly unlikely!!), I paid the £10 entrance fee, before I was delivered some shocking news. They had run out of programmes!!! A crowd of around 270 had taken all the programmes. This is a very rare occurrence so high up the pyramid. Happily for myself, I later acquired one from long-term Trafford fan Gaz. Cheers.

Stamford’s Vic Couzen’s Stadium (Kettering Rd) is a small, somewhat crumbling ground which is why the club are moving imminently. It has two small stands, one on either side of the ground. One is all terraced, two rows deep, whilst the other near-sided ‘Main Stand’ is seated, with ‘SAFC’ emblazoned on the front. The two ends behind each goal are open, the left-hand goal is accompanied by a very small terrace behind it. It has a  capacity of 2,000, with 250 of these seated in the main stand.

History Lesson:

Stamford A.F.C. have been in existence since 1896, and are nicknamed ‘The Daniels’. Many of you will already be aware why, but for the benefit of those who aren’t, it is after England’s fattest ever man, Daniel Lambert, who died in the town, and is buried in St.Martin’s churchyard, close to the ground. Back to the club, and after spending their first season in the East Midlands League, and winning their first silverware, a pair of Hinchingbrooke Cup wins in 1906-’07 and ’07-’08, they dropped out of league football for a number of years, until 1909, when they joined the Northamptonshire League, winning the title in 1911-’12. In 1933, the league was renamed the United Counties League. They left this league in 1939, joining the Peterborough & District league for a season. After a break in football due to WWII, they rejoined the UCL in 1946, winning the UCL Knockout Cup in 1951-’52. The same season, the Daniels also lifted the Lincolnshire Senior B Cup, winning the latter cup again two years later. In 1955, the club once again departed the league, this time joining the Central Alliance, before moving on again soon after to the Midland League.

In 1972, the club once again rejoined the UCL, and became champions in 1975-’76, as well as lifting the UCL League Cup and Knockout Cup and reaching the FA Vase Final, losing 1-0 to Billericay Town, the most Irish-sounding non-Irish team ever to have existed, after extra time. The league was won again in 1977-’78, going on to win a hat-trick of titles by taking the next two seasons as well, a Lincs Senior Cup (A) was lifted in 1978-’79, and the club picked up a further two Knockout Cups, in ’79-’80 and ’81-’82, (82-83 saw another Lincs Senior Cup (A) win). As well as winning the cup in the former season, the club lifted FA silverware at the second attempt in 1979-80, defeating Guisborough Town 2-0 in the final, but lost 4 years later to Stansted, this time a 3-2 reverse. A further Knockout Cup success followed in 1985-’86.

GroundHouse

After winning a UCL league title double in ’96-’97 and ’97-’98, along with a Hinchingbrooke Cup win, a further Lincs Senior Cup (A) win and the strangely named Benevolent Cup win in the latter season, Stamford joined the Midland section of the Southern League, which was renamed the Eastern Division, rather than Midland, at the end of their first season. In ’03-’04, the club finished in P7, and achieved promotion thanks to league restructuring, but were relegated after one season. In ’05-’06, they reached the play-offs, going on to defeat Wivenhoe Town 2-1 in the final to bounce straight back up. Their second experience of Premier Division football was a much more successful experience, as Stamford finished 8th, and lifted the Lincolnshire Senior Shield, beating Brigg Town at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank. The following season, the club was switched to the Northern Premier League Premier Division, but were relegated after losing their manager, Graham Drury, and half the squad to Corby Town in mid-season.

The club narrowly missed out on the play-offs despite a 20-game league undefeated streak, a club record, but did defeat Boston United 4-1 inn the Lincs Senior Shield to soften the blow. In ’09-’10, Stamford reached the NPL President’s Cup final, but lost out to Belper Town, 3-1, at Quorn, where, incidentally, Trafford had won the same competition with a 2-0 victory over Quorn the previous season. 2010-’11 saw a disappointing league performance, but another Lincs Senior Shield was lifted, with Stamford again defeating Boston United, this time via a penalty shoot-out. 2011-’12 saw an improvement in the league, with the club just missing out on the play-offs with a 7th place finish, before Graham Drury’s return in May 2012, replacing Tommy Bookbanks.

The club created a small piece of interesting history, by becoming the first sports club in the world to promote their twitter ‘handle’ on their shirt. During this season, it was announced by new chairman Chris Rivett that the club will move to a new stadium on the town’s Ryhall Road. Drury left mid-season for Boston United,  with ex-pro player Wayne Hatswell given his first managerial job. This gamble paid off handsomely as Hatswell guided the club to 4th, and the lay-offs, culminating in a 2-1 win over Chasetown at home in front of 864 fans. Hatswell left to become a coach at newly promoted league club Newport County, with his assistant David Staff taking the reins.

Onto today’s game, and in all honesty it looked like two struggling sides, battling away for the points in a somewhat turgid contest, lacking in spark, other than Trafford’s captain, Shelton Payne, who netted two goals, and the man whose first goal his two strikes sandwiched, Ryan Robbins. Robbins first was converted from close range following Steve Mason’s slip. Payne’s first was a sweet strike from the edge of the area from Tom Schofield’s daisy cutting corner, and a free-kick delivered via the underside of the bar, past the rooted goalkeeper. Brett Mbalanda spurned a great chance to give the visitors a two-goal advantage, but struck the bar when he ought to have hit the target, the ball going over following the contact with the woodwork.

No Match Action

Match Action

Half-time came and went, with a quick visit to Stamford’s small but smart clubhouse, and a meeting with Stamford’s own non-league dog, before after an action lacking second-half ended in controversy, when in the 92nd minute of 93, Kieran O’Hara, Trafford’s young on-loan Manchester United goalkeeper, had a bit of a rush of blood and connected with Robbins. Despite winning the ball, the assistant on the near side signalled for a penalty, which the referee duly awarded, much to O’Hara’s dismay. I think it was given for intent which could be interpreted as correct, but it was very harsh to call it as a penalty. Robbins converted the resulting penalty impressively. It was an unstoppable shot, even if O’Hara had guessed correctly. 2-2 and full-time. O’Hara’s frustrations boiled over at the whistle, as he vented his anger at the officials, before being guided away towards the tunnel, not without a kick of the hoardings on the way off.

Stand action

After the game,  I received a call from Mike saying he was intending to go back into Stamford, and did I want to join him. I agreed, and after the short walk back we met a Welshman in the pub called The Millstone, before a second visit to the ‘Golden Fleece’ was undertaken, where we unwittingly rendezvoused with our new friends from the town. Cappy managed to namedrop my blog into the conversation, so guys if you are reading this, you know who you are, even if I don’t because I don’t think we ever found out your names! But it was great to meet such friendly and knowledgeable fans, who respectfully admit their club has limitations. A good day, in a ground soon to be consigned to  the history books. Sad, but things move on…

 

My Stamford M.o.M.- Ryan Robbins

My Trafford M.o.M.- Shelton Payne

RATINGS:

Game: 5/10- Poor on the whole.

Ground: 6- Nice and quaint, but outdated, The club will benefit from their imminent move.

Fans: 9- Know their stuff, but the younger lads who sang Trafford’s a s**thole lose a mark 😉

Programme: 8- Quite enjoyed the programme. Informative, and some interesting original articles in their too, including Douglas Bader!

Food: N/A: Line was too long and never moved from when I saw it! Think some were still waiting as the pen went in!

Value For Money: 7- As I say, standard amount for admittance, and a good programme for £2

Referee: 6- Felt he missed a fair bit, but did well to defuse the flair-ups that occurred.

TEAMS:

STAMFORD: 1.Alex Lynch, 2.Shawn Richards, 3.Richard Wesley, 4.Ryan Walker, 5.Richard Jones(c), 6.Jon Challinor, 7.Dan Lawlor, 8.Alvin Jarvis, 9.David Moyo, 10.Jordan Smith, 11.Ryan Robbins(2),(1pen). SUBS 12.Liam Richardson(p), 14.Ash Robinson(p), 15.Jack Ashton, 16.David Staff, 17.Andrew Stevens.

TRAFFORD: 1.Kieran O’Hara, 2.Chris Palmer, 3.Luke Heron, 4.Steve Mason, 5.Nia Bayunu, 6.Rory Fallon, 7.Shelton Payne(c)(2), 8.Tom Schofield, 9.Michael Oates, 10.Brett Mbalanda, 11.Paul Ashton SUBS: 12.Jake Parker, 14.Ali Nsangou(p), 15.Clevon Beadle, 16.Omar McKenzie, 17.Callum Jones.