Best Song Ever

“And we danced all night to the best song ever.
We knew every line. Now I can’t remember
How it goes but I know that I won’t forget her
‘Cause we danced all night to the best song ever.”

No, I haven’t gone all One Direction on you, my opening lines are simple an aide memoire to a top night out and a heated discussion on what the Best Song Ever in the footballing world.  For those who haven’t yet read the story behind the weekend (yes, I know we are all busy) then let me set the scene.  After an afternoon of football in New York, Rotherham, we had made our way down the A6178 to Sheffield (not Sheffield Pennsylvania, Alabama or Missouri mind).  An evening on Kelham Island beckoned with a host of football’s finest from Twitter.  Our main objective of the evening?  Well apart from trying a bucket load of local ales, it was to decide whether The Greasy Chip Butty song is the best football song ever.

You Fill Up My Senses
Well, for senses, read stomach.  Our special beer stomachs.  Kelham Island is a former industrial area that is now best known for its brilliant pubs.  First up was the Fat Cat, a tiny pub adjoining the Kelham Island Brewery which had the smallest bar I had ever seen, with 4 (FOUR!) bar staff multi-tasking to keep us in beer of the year, Pale Rider, Kelham Island Bitter and my personal favourite (read “I had at least three of them”) a Chocolate Digestive Ale.  Oh, and a pork pie…and some Jalapeno pretzel pieces.  Senses filled up.  Bubbles surely has to be up there?

Like a Gallon of Magnet
Note to Danny Last – it is MAGNET not MAGNERS.  Stop two, no more than a stumble away was the Kelham Island Tavern where we met Eddie the Shoe.  Those who travel in horse racing circles need no introduction to Eddie, who had kindly provided a tip earlier in the week that provided the financial assistance for my round of Deception.  Eddie is a big Fulham fan – at 7 foot something there is no other word for him.  An hour later we had just about consumed the gallon (8 pints for those who didn’t do O-Level Maths) and onwards we went.  You’ll Never Walk Alone?  Spine-tingling.

Like a Packet of Woodbines
Tricky one this as neither of us smoke.  But as we headed up the hill to the Shakespeare we were puffing for air like a pair of very unfit, middle age men that we were.  A couple of Aecht Schlenker Rauciber Marzen’s later, with its distinct aroma of smoked sausages and bacon, and an aftertaste of banana (tastes better than it sounds). Talk was now getting serious.  Danny’s adamant that Sussex by the Sea is a contender.  We aren’t so sure as he can’t remember anything past the third line.

Like a Good Pinch of Snuff
The younger generation today would look at you very strangely if you said “I’m going out to enjoy some snuff” but back in the day we all enjoyed a bit of ground tobacco that you shoved up your nose, didn’t we?  Gave you strange hallucinations apparently, which was similar to our next stop at DaDa’s.  It was if we had walked into a set of Ashes to Ashes albeit with beer prices from the year 2525 (80’s based music joke there).  I had some very dark, very thick and very sickly Thornbridge Wild Raven.  A continental chap suggests that Barca, Barca, Barca sung by 100,000 fans in the Camp Nou has to be on our list, but we can’t take him seriously as he is wearing a scarf inside a room that is hotter than Greece. Continue reading

On the fourth day of TBIR Christmas – The worst game seen in 2013

After notching up 90 games in 2013 we have seen a fair few crackers, a lot of average matches and then there is the pot that you want to immediately erase from your brain.  I could take the category as the worst for my teams (West Ham or Lewes) but that would be unfair – the three “losers” here are those games that the neutral would have been itching to leave from well before the hour mark.  These are not necessarily representative of the clubs themselves, just the fayre they served up on the particular day.

3rd Place – East Thurrock United 1 Lewes 0 – 23rd February 2013
I only actually saw the last half hour of this torrid affair in Essex but by all accounts I saw the best bits of the game.  I’d elected to watch Witham Town instead of Lewes, knowing full well the type of team and performance I would see.  At half-time in the Witham Town game I felt The Rooks needed my support so I drove down only to find a depressed group of fans behind the goal who had been frozen with boredom.  Neither side created a chance, it was freezing cold and by the time I arrived they had run out of any food.  Lewes had lost their previous two visits to Corringham 1-0 so it was no surprise that they obliged the Essex side once more.

2nd Place – Dartford 1 Ebbsfleet United 0 – 29th October 2013
photo (61)Having grown up equidistant between the two towns, separated by the A2 I knew of the bitter rivalry between them.  There was no love lost from Gravesend when Dartford went pop twenty years ago, having to start again in the County Leagues, meaning opportunities to play each other have been few and far between in the last two decades.  But drawn against each other in the FA Cup, there was sure to be a great atmosphere when they played at Stonebridge Road.  Nearly 3,000 fans watched a decent 1-1 draw, over three times the average attendance, and I couldn’t be happier with a draw as it meant I could go to the replay at Princes Park.  Alas, it wasn’t anything like I was expecting.  Apart from two penalties, one scored, one saved, it was a game lacking in any passion that you would associate with a) the FA Cup and b) a local derby.  Talk on the forums was of a bumper 3-4,000 crowd but just under 2,000 attended, with the atmosphere quite muted.  The home fans talked of dull and negative tactics and that the club didn’t want to move forward (since this game they have drawn one and lost twelve!).  You have to admire what has happened at Dartford in the last ten years but for this night it was a visit to forget.

1st Place – Valeciennes 0 Lille 1 – 30th November 2013
11179517845_8758808416_bThere was no debate about the worst game of the year.  Perhaps it was because we eventually arrived at the Stade du Hainaut with high expectations of a cracking atmosphere and a decent game between two local rivals. Perhaps it was the fact that we were in the holiday mood or perhaps it was the four pints of Leffe pre-match.  But this was as flat as an ironed pancake.  Many of Lille’s fans had thrown a strop and decided not to travel, pissed off that this was a Combi game.  Add in the French rule about no alcohol allowed in the stadium at all and then the incessant rain and it was a heady mixture of dullness.  The stadium is just a few years old, but it adored with headache-inducing red everywhere and has a real soul less feel once inside.  Add in some officious stewards, a freezing wind and a home side who would have struggled to score if Lille would have left the pitch and it was hands down the worst game we saw in 2013.

Ebbsfleet suffer at the hands of a wayward Cook

Few people will have been happier with the result on Saturday from the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Tie between Ebbsfleet United and Dartford than I was  (For Ebbsfleet, read Gravesend).As soon as the draw was made this tie caught my eye, but of course being on a Saturday I was loyal to my own club Lewes and enjoyed a pint of Harvey’s (just like Her Majesty did this week) on the terraces as we beat Margate.  As the news filtered through that the North Kent derby had ended all-square my Tuesday night’s entertainment was sorted.

The game had been seen by nearly 2,900 fans, more than the combined average attendance for both clubs and had provided its fair share of drama as Ebbsfleet missed an early penalty after the Dartford keeper had hauled down Cook.  Red card?  A split opinion based on which set of fans you listen to.  Instead, Alan Julian stayed on the pitch and Ben May put the ball high over the bar.  Dartford then took the lead against the run of play, and the reverse happened in the second half when Anthony Cook equalised.  All’s fair in love, war and local derbies.  72 hours later the action moved five miles down the A2 to Princes Park, a world away from Ebbsfleet’s Stonebridge Road.  Not that there is anything wrong with either ground – they are simply at the end of the non-league ground spectrum.

photo (58)I grew up equidistant between the two towns and have an affinity for both towns.  I went to school in Gravesend, played football and rugby on the pitches around the town and spent my formative and most impressionable years in the pubs and clubs of Windmill Hill.  Come summertime and we headed to play cricket in and around Dartford, often ending our nights, bat in hand, box in pants at Zens, also know as the kidney donor factory. When I wasn’t a young tear-away at Upton Park or Priestfield then I would head up to Watling Street to watch Dartford.  As a teenager, the old Dartford ground was the best place in the world.  You could hide under the main stand, as long as you avoided the legendary Monkey Alan who lived in the catacombs of the ground, browse for hours in the programme shop or simply watch the tear-ups on the terraces which were relatively frequent.  On occasions even the players got involved, hoping over the barrier and joining in the fun.

Those halcyon days vanished for the Darts when they were made homeless from Watling Street in a tale of tears, tantrums and treachery.  They became nomads, rising through the leagues as they called Cray Wanderers, Erith & Belvedere, Thurrock and finally Stonebridge Road home.  Slowly but surely they worked their back up the leagues.  As success arrived on the pitch then the local council started to take the club more seriously, finally agreeing to the funding of a new ground barely a mile from Watling Street.  In November 2006 they were finally given the keys to Princes Park, the greenish, most ecological football stadium in Europe.  Dartford fans would be able to stand under a roof made of sustainable material which rainwater being recycled and being held up by an 18 feet wooden man.

photo (59)Back down the A2 time seems to have stood still at Stonebridge Road.  The name may have changed to a more “European” Ebbsfleet, but it’s still Gravesend and Northfleet to me.  The rickety old main stand where when the ball lands on it you get showered with “stuff”.  The toilets, where if you position yourself correctly you can still watch the game “hands free” and the slowest refreshment bar in the world, where Cynical Dave once bought a frozen chicken pie and was then questioned when he returned it if he wanted it heated.  Do the Ebbsfleet fans crave grass rather than moss growing on the roof of the stands? Do they want a wooden man rather than scaffolding holding up their roof?  Do they want a stadium surrounded by trees or one by industry?  Progress is great but sometimes the comforts of familiarity are all football fans crave.

I had the day off.  Not through any other reason than I needed to use up my annual leave so I was going to make a day of it.  Where better to start than an afternoon at Crayford Dogs.  The place was packed, with free admission tempting the full spectrum of North Kent’s population.  Nothing better than a bit of dog racing, even if it’s the same 6 dogs running in each race, simply changing the lane jackets.  Six winners put a spring in my step and some cash in my pocket.  Next stop the Magic of the FA Cup.

Dartford 1 Ebbsfleet United 0 – Princes Park – Tuesday 29th October 2013
If you were writing a book on the 180 minutes (plus injury time) these two teams played out this week, it would have to be titled “Three Kicks”.   It would also be a pretty long, dull book. The reason why Dartford won this tie and Ebbsfleet lost in its simplest terms boiled down to the ability to take a penalty.  In the two games Ebbsfleet were awarded two and missed both, whilst Dartford scored the one they were awarded.  Ebbsfleet fans will argue, and quite justifiably, that the Dartford keeper should’ve been sent off in the first game (and thus subsequently banned for the replay if the result would have stayed the same) and they can feel aggrieved that in this game he was the difference between a place in the 1st Round of the FA Cup and a short disconsolate walk back down the A2.

photo (61)The Ebbsfleet fans were in fine voice as they walked to the ground. It is amazing how adaptable football chants are these days.  One terrace favourite still advocates the use of firearms to commit Grievous Bodily Harm and was sung with lust by the group as they marched along the suburban streets of Dartford.  No one liked them, they told everyone who was listening as they made room on the pavement for an old lady coming the other way and despite them telling everyone that “Dartford was shit” they spoke about the post match plan after the game to go to Breathe, Dartford’s “premier” night club.  Inside the ground the away fans took up a position at one end, singing a chorus about Dartford having a “shit ground and no fans”.  Just as a reminder, the Darts do average over 300 more fans than The Fleet.  In all seriousness, the Ebbsfleet fans created an atmosphere that is probably rarely seen from away fans in these parts and certainly got behind their team from the first minute.

I was joined by the edge of the pitch by a Dartford-supporting groundhopper.  He was a tad deaf, meaning he shouted at me despite our proximity.  He had given up watching Dartford, he told me, because all they did was play “long ball rubbish”.  “We only score from set pieces” he told me, bemoaning the lack of creativity in the team.  “Watch our number 7, Hayes.  He’s a bottler” he shouted, loud enough for the player himself to hear and immediately go to jelly.  Sure enough, every time there was a 50/50 ball, Hayes would jump out of the way.  “Watch the full back Burns.  Great at getting forward, but takes ages to track back”.  Sure enough, with Burns out of position, Ebbsfleet created the first good chance of the game which the Dartford keeper had to tip over.  Impressed with this perceptive view of the game I asked him for his final score prediction.  “Oh we will win, probably from a set-piece”.

The first half was goal less and with the Dartford fans positioned next to the Ebbsfleet ones there was a fair amount of “banter” between the two sets.  But then at half time the Dartford fans went and took up position at the other end and all of a sudden that extra special cup atmosphere disappeared.

Ten minutes into the second period and Lee Noble was brought down in the Ebbsfleet box by Osborn.  A clear penalty despite some limp protests.  However, Bradbrook stepped up and made no mistake.  Ebbsfleet responded and pressed forward, their fans raising the volume to a new level.  The away side soon had a chance to draw level when Rance was brought down in the box.  May shook his head, passing responsibility to Cook but his effort was saved by the Dartford keeper.  The ball fell loose and a powerful Ebbsfleet strike was blocked by the chest of Dartford’s captain Bradbrook.  “Handball” went the collective shout from players and fans alike, although the fact Bradbrook ended the night in hospital with suspected fractured ribs from the block is probably enough proof for most the referee got it right!

photo (60)Despite all of their efforts Ebbsfleet simply couldn’t find a way through the Dartford defence.  Six minutes of injury time were added and despite the most ludicrous booking for time-wasting I have seen in a long time from the Dartford keeper (he really should have been sent off for two yellows for the same offence in less than a minute) the game ended 1-0.  Dartford’s prize was an away trip to Salisbury City in the next round – hardly one to set the pulses racing but there is always the hope of a better tie in the next round.

Fans of both sides made their way out of the ground and into the night without any animosity.  There hasn’t been many opportunities to play each other in recent years, and many fans (and players) will not remember the days in the 1970’s and 80’s when things were a bit more volatile.  In fact most of the post-match chat was of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and even VCD Athletic.  Old rivalries never die but they certainly mellow over the years.

Remember the Spartans

BlythSpartansThe name Blyth Spartans may not mean much to the younger football fan, but the Northern Premier League side are one of the most successful Non-League clubs in the history of the FA Cup.  Whilst Lewes can look back on a few forays into the First Round proper, including the memorable trip back in November 2001 to play Stoke City, Blyth Spartans have reached the first round 32 times in their 114 year history which is an amazing achievement and going onto the 3rd round on four occasions, the most recent being in 2009 when they lost 1-0 to Blackburn Rovers.

But it is the amazing exploits of the 1977/78 FA Cup campaign that made them a household name up and down the country.  In that season they entered the competition in the 1st qualifying round in mid-September, dispatching Shildon in a local derby 3-0.  Another local tie in the next round saw them up against Crook Town who took Spartans to a replay.  The next two round draws saw them get further local ties against Consett and Bishop Auckland, both defeated to put them into the hat for the First Round Proper.

Once again lady luck was at the FA when the draw was made and part-timers Burscough were drawn out at home, with a single goal enough to take them into Round Two where they met Chesterfield.  Whilst they had ridden their luck to get to this stage, there was no fluke about the win versus the Division Two side at Croft Park.  With the draw for the Third Round made on the Monday following the Second Round, the squad met at the ground and huddled round the radio hoping to get a plum draw.  At first there was delight that they were drawn at home, but soon that turned to disappointment when the ball of Enfield was drawn.  Whilst the game would prove to be a real test for Blyth Spartans as Enfield were one of the best Non-League sides in the country, they knew they had missed out on a money-spinning game.

But a single goal from Alan Shoulder was enough to take them into Round Four where they would meet Stoke City.  Now the footballing nation was sitting up and taking notice of the part-timers from the North East.  Unfortunately bad weather meant the game against the Potters at the old Victoria Ground was cancelled twice.  To add more spice to the game, the draw for the Fifth Round saw the winner of this game paired against Newcastle United or Wrexham.  To Spartans the dream of an away tie against many of the players heroes at St James’ Park was a huge incentive to try and beat Stoke City.

Fans who couldn’t get down to the Midlands for the finally re-arranged midweek game missed out on seeing one of the biggest FA Cup shocks in the competition’s history. Stoke were a recent top-flight side, had won the League Cup just a few years earlier and had Howard Kendall, Terry Conroy, Alec Lindsay, Viv Busby and a young Garth Crooks up front.  Blyth took an early lead but two Stoke City goals seemed to have won the tie for the Potters.  But the Spartans came back at them with an equaliser and then in the final seconds a free kick was turned in by Terry Johnson to take the Non-League club into the fifth round – only the second Non-League club to ever reach this stage of the FA Cup.

Once again, the dream of a tie against Newcastle United turned into a nightmare as they were stuffed 4-1 by Wrexham.  But once again the Spartans didn’t know the meaning of the word defeat and led in the game as it entered the final minute.  With the BBC Match of the Day cameras recording the game for the Saturday night footballing nation, the impossible seemed as if it was about to be the reality.  Alas, with the final throw of the dice, Wrexham equalised from a corner.  However, Blyth would get their day out at St James’ Park after all as Newcastle United offered up their ground for the replay.  The winners would be hosting the mighty Arsenal.

So on Monday 27th February, some five and a half months since they kicked off their campaign against Shildon, Blyth Spartans kicked off against Wrexham in front of a sell-out 42,000 attendance.  Though Blyth didn’t play badly, Wrexham were 2-0 up in the 20th minute. No one gave up, though, not on the terraces, nor on the pitch; with eight minutes left Terry Johnson blasted in a volley. But despite some close calls, the equaliser would not come.  The dream was over.

The £7-a-week part-time players each received £350 worth of bedroom furniture from a local business. Two of them earned dream moves down the road to Newcastle: centre-back Steve Carney and more famously Alan Shoulder, who adapted to life away from the Northern League well, scoring regularly for The Toon and Carlislie United.

Since Blyth’s exploits, Telford United, Kidderminster Harriers, Crawley Town and last season, Luton Town have all reached the Fifth Round whilst still playing in the Non-Leagues.  But none of those have played as many games in one campaign.  The story of Blyth Spartans is one that gives hundreds of clubs up and down the country hope every single September when the road to Wembley opens.

I don’t care about the truth, I want some happiness

Take one look at the teams who enter the early rounds of the FA Cup and you cannot fail to be overwhelmed by a sense of a purer age of football.  Teams like Ramsbottom United, Blaby Whetstone, Bristol Manor Farm and Jarrow Roofing will be hoping by 5pm today that they are in the hat for the next round, with a cheque for £4,500 in their back pockets. Their road to Wembley will undoubtably be over long before fans of the professional clubs have even realised this year’s competition has started. Less than 2% of the teams who start in the Extra Preliminary round in early August will kick off in the Final Qualifying Rounds in October.  But that doesn’t stop us Non-League fans dreaming that this year will be our year where we reach the stage when the League teams come into the competition.

A Kev Brook special

A Kev Brook special

One hundred years ago the FA Cup was just as special as it is today, although in those days it was simply “The Cup” with no added sponsorship tag or TV company intervention.  The cup started in early September 1913 and went through seven rounds of qualifying before twelve Non-League teams took their place in the first round proper in January 1914.  Those names back in the day hardly rolled off the tongue, but today they are actually playing at the highest level.  Premier League sides West Ham United, Southampton and Crystal Palace.  SkyBet Championship sides Reading, Millwall and Brighton & Hove Albion.  One day, when the DeLorean’s final go into production we can travel forward to 2113 when Lewes put out a weakened team in the FA Cup because of the forthcoming Champions League tie with Spain champions Carabanchel.

But back to today.  The Lewes unbeaten bandwagon was rolling into Buckinghamshire for the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round to take on Chalfont St Peter FC, giant killers of the Met Police in the previous round.  The village, once home to Margaret Rutherford and Private James “We’re doomed” Frazer (from Dad’s Army), doesn’t appear on many tourist or footballing maps.  The Greyhound Inn, was once a local hanging court, and that spooked Terry, so we headed for the White Hart, armed with free beer vouchers that had been downloaded on the inter-web.  Who said football fans were fickle?  Alas, a few of the fans were still stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 as we headed into Mill Meadow.

Last season the Saints caused a few waves in the FA Cup by beating Carshalton Athletic before losing in a replay to Bishop Stortford.  However, the current trend was not the friend for the home side coming into the game.  One draw and five league defeats in the last six for the Saints coupled with a league place just above the relegation zone put the odds firmly in favour of the Rooks with their unbeaten start to the season.  However, the last week had been costly for Lewes with two of the Crabb brothers leaving the pitch against Wealdstone on Monday on stretchers and both likely to be out for a while. Continue reading

Jacks of all trade

Today is the start of our FA Cup campaign.  From the moment the draw was made back in July, we have been looking forward to starting our long journey to HA9.  For all Non-League sides, the Road to Wembley will ultimately end in disappointment, but there are financial degrees of disappointment.  Last season our campaign started on a high in the scorching sunshine at Redhill but ended two weeks later with a feeble capitulation at Hendon.  Whilst the Wembley Arch was tantalisingly close for us to see, it would be another 12 months before we could dream the dream again.

9741081789_d3e184a2a0_bEvery year one or two Non-League clubs go further than their wildest dreams.  Our colleagues from East Thurrock United and Met Police have reached the 1st round in recent years, and last season Hastings United traveled to Middlesbrough in the third round with the hopes of all grassroots teams with them.  Every year we hope it will be our team.  That is the beauty of these rounds of the FA Cup.  No egos, no attitudes, no moving games for TV, no guts, no glory.  Every team has a story to tell about past glories, unique tales and legendary fans.

At 3pm today we will at Piddinghoe Avenue, home of Peacehaven and Telscombe FC, just a few miles down the road and over the South Downs from Lewes.  This is what the FA Cup is all about.  The conditions, the slope of the pitch and the motivation of the players – that’s what makes the FA Cup qualifying rounds so special.  Hundreds will be crammed into the small ground, probably getting soaking wet, watching every kick as eleven of the players will end the tie battered, bruised but one step further to being household names for a weekend.

My conversations with colleagues this week have been full of hope and promise.  Few knew where Peacehaven was, even fewer that they had a football team.  Of course I educated them on how the town was formed back in 1916 and named through a competition in the Daily Express, which was one by a Mrs Ethel Radford from Leicestershire and the fact the town sits on the Greenwich Meridian.  “The place where Tiffany’s ashes were scattered in Eastenders? And where Jimmy rides off the cliff at the end of Quadrophenia?” they asked.  “Absolutely.” Everyone deep down knows about Peacehaven. Continue reading

Seeing double in the land of the Silver King

The beauty of the FA Cup is that it can throw up some great days out.  With the first three rounds all being drawn at the start of the competition, you can start working out the permutations of where you may be watching a game in weeks to come.  This season Lewes would enter the competition away to Worthing United, Ashford United or Peacehaven and Telscombe, the last of which would be a big local derby for one of the Ryman League’s newest sides.  But before then I had a free northern weekend pass to take in a game in the Preliminary Round of the world’s oldest domestic cup competition. A swift look at the fixtures threw up a few options, but one, or should I say two, stood out.  Add in the Hors D’oeuvre of a trip to Elland Road for the lunchtime game between Leeds United and Queens Park Rangers and it promised to be a day up there with my wedding and birth of my first-born.

So after the final whistle blew at Elland Road I was back in the car, did a right out of Elland Road and headed straight down the A653, under the M1, waving at Dewsbury as I passed and finally taking a left into Owl Lane.  I was heading to a point that was almost equidistant between the East and West coasts of England.  A town that could call Gail Platt, Black Lace and David Peace (author of Damned United) home;  a town that had not one but two breweries in and a town that had two non league teams playing at home in the FA Cup on the same day.  Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Ossett.

9636509089_65c5a31426_bWhat do you mean, where?  Ossett, a market town within the boundaries of the City of Wakefield.  West Yorkshire, or simply “Up north” to many who live down that there London.  The two breweries?  The Ossett Brewery, producer of such delights as Silver King, Big Red and Excelsior is the more traditional beer producer, whilst the new upstart Bob’s Brewery has a stable of beers including Sherunkel, Bidazzler, Slayah and of course Erjob (“Made for sipping with Cheddar Ploughmans Lunch, a smoked mackerel fillet or an England Test victory”).  And the football teams?  Well, welcome to the biggest rivalry in the Northern Premier League Division One North.

There are plenty of cities around Britain that have dual club rivalries.  London, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Dundee.  But what about the towns?  Few have two teams in so the situation in non-league terms in Ossett is quite unique.  Two clubs separated by 478 yards across the town centre.  It seems amazing that with Emley and Wakefield also within a few minutes drive, the clubs could continue to survive.  But survive they do, and for only the third time this season (probably), both Ossett teams would be kicking off at the same time (obviously, the other two are where they play each other!).  Initially, it was a case of trying to decide which one to choose for my Road to Wembley.  Local football guru and of course, my publisher (I still love saying that), David Hartrick then made a bold suggestion.  “A half in each?”.  You had me at “. Continue reading