Sunday 31 January 2010

Plumbing of new depths leads to discovery of new species of WAG.

Highridge United FC v Chipping Sodbury Town FC
Saturday 30th January, 2010
Surridge Gloucestershire County Football League
The Creek, Sea Mills, Bristol
Attendance: 16

What better way to work off a hangover than a leisurely riverside stroll followed the Toolstation League football? Granted, bacon sandwiches, pies, fizzy cola bottles are also good ideas but I've overlooked them in favour of the previously stated option outlined in the first sentence of this latest tedious blog. Bristol Manor Farm v Bitton in the Toolstation Premier is my choice of game today, with the Manor Farm website confirming a 3 o clock kick off at the picturesque Creek ground. In order to check the game is on I telephone the club and receive the jovial greeting "Bristol Manor Farm, a happy place" and confirmation that the game is on and that it is infact a 2pm kick off. The idea of a leisurely stroll is quickly forgotten about and becomes a torturous march with alcohol oozing out of my overweight body, finally The Creek comes into view and I'm only ten minutes late.

Now, this is where it all gets a bit weird and I still have no idea how this happened. On paying my entrance fee, strangely reduced to £2.50 from it's usual £5 I pick up a programme and realise I am infact now watching Highridge United v Chipping Sodbury Town FC in the Surridge Gloucestershire County Football League, a new low in my tinpot watching. Obviously I cant ask anyone as to why I'm not watching Bristol Manor Farm v Bitton, the fact that Ive not got anything else to do on a Saturday afternoon is embarrassing enough but to admitting to others that I'm somehow at the wrong game would be painful. Even the BMF website says that they will be playing at home to Bitton on Saturday 30th January at 3pm. Anyway....

The Creek is an all seater stadium.

A fitting reward to Terry and all his hard work. Eh....

The crowd is a bumper 16 and I don't notice any other confused looking Manor Farm fans, however there is one spectator who looks spectacularly out of place. It seems that the WAG culture extends all the way from Alderley Edge and Baden Baden, right down to level 7 of the non league pyramid and sat on her own camping chair is one very lonely tinpot WAG. Sadly the picture below doesn't do her full justice, you cant make out the bleached blonde hair, the little Chiwawa dog or the fake tan. Not for her the glamour of the Premiership, the multi millionaire lifestyle and the Hello sponsored wedding and for that I say good on you! You did look a little bored though.

Tinpot WAG. Marry me.

Um, the match. As you'd expect pretty poor but entertaining none the less, none more so when I make my way round to the dugouts side of the ground and listen into the tactical genius of the Chipping Sodbury manager - some insights into his tactical genius, are displayed below for the benefit of any aspiring managers reading:

Raise it up
Come on
Drive it on
Big efforts
11 captains
Can't hear no one (A clear double negative)
Luke, open your mouth
Watch the ball (Good idea that one gaffer)
Fucking talk!
Nice and tight

Inspirational stuff and it makes clear that the ability to talk and watch a ball is paramount to footballing success.

You've got to take your chances at this level.

By being by the dugouts I also get to hear the referee deliver a number of bollockings to the lively Highridge bench, one particular lecture culminating in a substitue being told in a broad Welsh accent to "Sit down, that is the rules have a nice day" before waddling back to the centre circle from where he has officiated most of the game.

In the end Highridge do what you have to do at this level and take their chances and record a 3-1 victory. The 16 fans make for the exit, the WAG packs up her camping chair, scoops up her chiwawa and another afternoon spent at tinpot football draws to a close.

Friday 29 January 2010

AiT on Tour: Partick Thistle v Dunfermline

Partick Thistle 2 v 0 Dunfermline Athletic
Saturday 19th September, 2009
Irn-Bru Scottish Football League Division 1
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow. 15:00
Attendance: 3,263

The Firhill Stadium

Family Fun Day - Thistle style.

20p to beat the goalie? Seems a bit harsh and hardly the best pre-match preperation.

Just what every football fan wants before the match, an obscenely loud 17 piece all women rhythmic drumming group.

Even the presence of a multi coloured toucan couldnt make this experience any more bearable.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

AiT Gold - Tinpot in Berlin

In a shameless attempt to pad this blog out a bit I'm going to throw in a link to some ramblings I did a while ago that covers a trip to Berlin to watch some 3rd and 4th division football.

The article in currently on the brilliant Abseits guide to German football and can be found in all it's ehm, glory here.

Monday 25 January 2010

Too many words about a 3rd Division Belgian football match I went too - could this be any more boring

Konnklijk Diegem Sport - Royal Union Saint Gilloise
Belgian 3B Division

Thankfully my job involves a bit of European travelling which means I can frequently indulge in some European football action with my employers picking up the tab, however my recent one night trip to Brussels looked like it was heading towards a dismal night in an Ibis with no football action. That was until 3 days before I left I found the re-arranged fixture of Konnklijk Diegem Sport v Royal Union Saint Gilloise, which caused me more excitement than it probably should have done.

My obsession with attending this match was undoubtedly to the detriment of my work, but then I work for the public sector and no one cares really. I spent plenty of time on the net trying to work out the location of the ground, how to get the train there, sending emails to the club hoping they'd help and concocting various lies to avoid the usual networking dinner that follows these type of meetings. After bringing my meeting in Brussels to an unexpectedly early conclusion that none of the attendees had anticipated I am able to get on my way to the big match and take the train to Diegem.

Now, the first rule of queuing is never switch to another queue which seems to be moving faster, this will lead to disaster. Sadly for me I disregard this rule and then found myself in a torturously slow queue, led by a group of women who spent 20 minutes trying to buy a train ticket - quite why this procedure should be so sodding difficult I have no idea, where were they going - Saturn? Arse. So I missed the first train to Diegem and had to wait around on the dreary platform of Brussels Nord for the next one, causing severe disruption to me pre match beer and food plans.

My usual strategy for finding a football ground in unfamiliar areas is to scour my mode of transport to the game for a local fan and then follow them to the ground, this worked a treat when I saw RUSG in October and hasn’t let me down previously. Until now. On disembarking the train I noticed a couple sporting RUSG scarves, much more appropriate attire for a 3rd Division Derby than my work suit, and making them the ideal to follow to the ground - even though I was armed with a map. They sat off to the ground, and I follow on maintaining a safe distance. I then decide that I know where I’m going and then head off ahead of them. I stride on ahead, I look around and they've turned around and gone the other way, I stride on and then get nervous. They're Belgian surely they know more about this part of town than me. I turn back and head back towards where I've just come from, they turn around - they know they're being followed - this isn’t going well. I stop and stare at the map, I now think I know where I’m going, they walk past me, we both know that we are going to the same place but an inbuilt fear of strangers mean we don’t communicate and help each other. I've sussed it; I now know where the ground is and walk on, walking past them and marching on apace. I ask an old lady where the ground is and through shouting, pointing and the international language of sign I'm able to deduce that the ground is in the park and set off down a dusty track safe in the knowledge the ground is at the end. The young couple take a wrong turn. Suckers! I eventually find the ground, pay my bargain 10 Euro entrance and head straight to the clubhouse for a well deserved beer. They turn up about 10 minutes later. Ha!

For some reason many Belgian bar staff can’t be trusted to handle cash directly, at various football matches and clubs I’ve been to you have to purchase tickets before partaking in a beverage. I purchase my beer tokens from a very trustworthy old couple and make my way to the bar and order a Jupiler Blue. Now, please learn from my mistakes and don’t drink this, I'm not sure what the "blue" part is but I do fear it was anti-freeze. Just say no kids. The bar area was already populated seemingly entirely by RUSG fans who had made the short trip from south Brussels to the small town of Diegem, about 8 miles outside of central Brussels.

The Gemeentelijk Sportstadion, home of Diegem is small and totally different to the grand Stade Joseph Marien that I previously seen RUSG play in. The main stand could hold around 600 people and there was a small covered section on the opposite side. Along the 2 sides were sections of small terracing, mostly with stones covering the steps and behind the goals 2 large grassed areas. The setting for the game was very picturesque and a change from the soulless out of town monotony of most UK grounds, with a church spire in the background, a small lake in the expanse of parkland surrounding the ground, flocks of birds from the nearby park swooping over the game on regular occasion, OK the jumbo jets that flew very closely overhead every 30 seconds were not so easy on the eye but made for an unusual backdrop.

By the time the match kicks off it seems the ground is populated solely by RUSG fans decked out in the club colours of yellow and blue, this includes a number of English folk, who I had previously seen at RUSG games, and the Union Bhoys gathered behind their banner. Diegem to have some fans it seems, with around 4 pensioners gathered around a flag with "M-Side Diegem" written on it. To be honest I don’t think M-Side and going to be appearing on Danny "proper nawty" Dyers Football Factories anytime soon. As the match progress however M-Side do get a bit irate at numerous offside decisions and penalty appeals going against them. Medics circle anxiously.


The game is played at a slow pace with both teams taking it in turns to defend woefully from set pieces and give the other team chances which they can’t capitalise from. The game drifts on and I indulge in one of my favourite past times in foreign countries of looking for badly translated adverts/product names etc. Sadly there isn’t a lot to go on; the best I could do being one advert that had the bemusing strap line of “Born to Party. Forced to win" and another offering "slaap and relaxcomfort".

The bad defending/bad miss routine continues and the boredom interrupted by the Diegem fans mocking the RUSGs Italian manager Roberto Landi who seemingly communicated with his players in Italian. One tactical instruction is met with cries of "mamma mia" and "hey, Lasange" from the terraces behind him.

Half time approaches and I decide to beat the rush and sample the half time sausages on offer, I go for the black sausage which tastes initially like black pudding but by the end tastes disgusting - beer is required to rinse the taste out of my mouth. I decide to avoid the Jupiler Blue and go for the Stella this time, sadly some Barmaid instigated confusion ends up with me sipping a tiny amount of beer from an elderly gentlemen’s glass. Entirely not my fault, and my attempts at apologies are met the bloke calling me a "doofa" - I'm not entirely sure what a "doofa” is but refute the allegation! The gentleman returns to his group of friends muttering to himself and I exit the bar fearful of reprisals from M-Side.

The 2nd half starts with Diegem on top, although RUSG have a chance to take the lead on the hour, however 2 minutes later Diegem took a deserved lead through Dupont who finally converts one of the many set piece based chances and heads home and the 100 or so Diegem fans get mildly excited and I decide to go to the bar, successfully avoiding being called a "doofa" again. 15 minutes later Yterbrouck scores for Diegem after some hesitant defending and apart from a red card just before the end for a Diegem player not a lot happens. RUSG trudge off to be shouted at in a language they don’t understand and M Side go home happy as their side go to the top of the league.

I head back to train station confident in my ability to find the way without the need to stalk someone this time. The night ends with the young couple and I waiting next to each other to get off the train, knowing nods are exchanged and we both make our separate ways into the Brussels night. Match highlights can be found here and render my description of the ground and match largely pointless as you can see it for yourself.

Worcester Source Three Points. Weymouth defeated

Worcester City FC v Weymouth FC
Conference South, 23 January 2010.

About this time 4 years ago 4 Bristol based Weymouth fans set off to Carshalton on their way to watch 'The Terras' on their way Conference South title. 5 years later 87 managers, 10 chairman, 976 players, 750000 of debt (and rising), 1 cock of a property developing ex Chairman, 1 attempted takeover by a Jeremy Kyle addicted bankrupt, the obligatory 'mysterious break in', a furore caused by a stabbed inflatable dolphin and we're back in that league again and struggling to stay in it.

This time there is only one of the Bristol exiles on the journey, me. With reasons given ranging in acceptance from: having had a child recently (Young Duncan), being on the other side of the world (Ed(d)) and having man flu (poor form Young Le(e)). So I make my own way to Worcester in this must win relegation six pointer.

The week had been another of the many tumultuous weeks that make up Weymouths recent history, with the fans favourite manager scandalously sacked in very questionable circumstances by the latest Chairman and his replacement having his job offer removed after his car broke down and he couldn't get to the club. Despite all this there is still something special about waking up and knowing I'll soon be watching the team I've supported for more than 20 years and seeing some non league football after 2 recent forays into the tired world of professional football.

Worcesters ground is a fantastic old non league ground, complete with plenty of history in the building and packed full of characters inside. I can only guess why qualifications you need to be a steward at Worcester, job description criteria seem to include-being obese, having a hairstyle requiring a whole tub of gel and a general appearance of being absolutely no use should something ever kick off. Which it won't, it's non league football and it's endless casts of misfits (Hello!) is what makes it all the more hilarious.

A very suspicious looking man near a time piece with no hand.

Weymouth Ultras. Good effort.

Pre match entertainment consists of watching the Weymouth subs warm up by taking pot shots at the goal. All the criteria for a comedy moment allign beautifully as a fat ginger kids eating chips decides to stand just to the left of the the goal. The laughter gods have their way and the inevitable 'football in ginger face' occurs, to much wincing and stifled laughter all round. As kick off approaches the tannoy announcer whips the home crowd up to nothing resembling fever pitch, "Are there any Worcester fans here?" he mumbles over the tannoy and receives a weiry response from the home crowd. Unpreterbed he follows this up with some cheeky banter, pearls of wisdom include " the referee is Mr Rathbone and he comes from Moscow, Russia" and "the linesman with the yellow flag is Mr Homer and he drives a Skoda". Good stuff and the fact he seems to be playing Now 27 with classic tunes from Haddaway, 2 Unlimited and Cybil meaning this afternoon is off to a fantastic start.

And it gets better, Weymouth are dominant and score after seven minutes.

Then it gets worse, as it often does as a Weymouth fan. Worcester start to control the midfield and their typical non league clogger centre halves start to look like they'd seen a football before. Just before half time they equalise and even a half time burst of The Outhere Brothers seminal 1995 classic Boom Boom Boom (Clean Version) can't brighten my mood.

The second half, mah. The usual, we lose. However the spirit of defiance amongst the fans is superb with the name of the recently departed manager Ian Hutchinson sung on repeat for the last 15 minutes, much to the ire of chief in our downfall, CEO Gary Calder, who sits impassively on the bench (!) plotting his next evil scheme. The Worcester fans look bemused at our singing as they pass us on the way out, but we are proud supporters and we want those in charge to know that their actions are wrong, that we still care about the club and we're not going to make it easy for them. Whether they'll listen, or care I very much doubt but it gives me hope that all is not lost. There is still fight in the supporters get our club back from the no goodniks who continue to exploit the club for their own gain.

So 4 hours on a train, £30 spent and a 3-1 defeat in a six pointer, was it worth it. Of course. Whether it's battling for promotion to the (overrated) promised land of the Conference or battling the avoid the drop to the (what the fuck is Zamaretto) Zamaretto league I'll be there, let's hope others aren't. Up the Terras.

PS - No fat ginger kids suffered any lasting damage in the making of this blog post.