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“From back home I’ll be thinking about them 
When I am far away
From back home, I’ll be really behind them 
In every game they play
I’ll share every goal they are scoring
Out there
I will still hear them roaring 
And they’ll give all they’ve got to give 
For the folks away from home 

I’ll be watching and waiting
And cheering every move
Though I think we’re the greatest
That’s what they’ve got to prove
Once more they will meet with the best
Like before they’ll be put to the test
Oh they’ll give all they’ve got to give
For the folks away from home

I’ll see as they’re watching and praying
That they put their hearts in their playing
They’ll fight until the whistle goes
For the folks away from home”

Churchill-poster-282x400January hasn’t been the easiest month to be a Rooks fan.  A stonking away win at Grays Athletic (not that I can claim all the credit with my comprehensive scouting report mind) and the rousing home win in the Sussex Senior Cup quarter-finals versus Eastbourne Borough tempered with three defeats on the road where the team have hardly mustered a shot on target, let alone at goal. Despite the indifferent form that has yet to see the Rooks rise up the table, you have to go back to mid-September to find the last team to leave The Dripping Pan with all three points, and even them it was the league leaders Maidstone United.

For the first time in 2015 I was back in the country when Lewes were playing. My work travel schedule had so far meant I’d been in four different countries whilst Lewes had been playing recently. Following the action via Twitter is hard, especially in those nervous last few minutes. In the game versus Eastbourne Borough I was presenting at a conference in Sydney. My woops when Barry tweeted “FT: 2-1…” certainly woke up a few people at the back of the room, whilst when we conceded the opening goal on Monday at Kingstonian I’m not sure the Emirates lounge in Kula Lumpur totally appreciated my “For fuck sake” outburst. Technology gets better every day, so it can’t be long before Barry will streaming games through tiny cameras in his glasses across the world, saving me the pain of Twitter freeze.

But now I was Back Home (for those who don’t recognise the slightly amended version of the 1970 England World Cup Squad song), for a week at least, meaning all would be well with the world, Lewes would turn on the style and three points would be guaranteed. What could make the day better? How about some cheap beer left over from the previous night’s Beer Festival? Oh, go on then. Surely that would be the compelling event that would see East Thurrock bring their biggest away following ever?

IMG_3174A week ago I was sitting in a bar in Williamstown, just outside Melbourne (Victoria not Derbyshire), with a fellow Lewes Owner, sitting a Fat Yak in temperatures of 37 degrees. Heck, I even had my shorts on. Seven days later I was shivering on the pitch, reading out the teams. But who needs sunshine, well proportioned bar staff and killer spiders (I saw my first one later that afternoon) when you could have a pint of Harvey’s Scottish Ale, a Golden Goal ticket from Ethel and the roar of The Jungle? That was rhetorical question by the way.

In our award-winning* series of articles of Economic Theory explained by football, we looked the theory of value which surmised that the more football we watch, the less interest we have in each game. Having seen just three games in 30 days in 2015, my interest levels were at an all-time high. I’d take a scrappy 1-0 win today and it would be the best game ever.

Lewes 3 East Thurrock United 2 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 31st January 2015
First the positives.  We won, and up until the 94th minute, we won comfortably.  Two first half Sam Cole goals capped one of the best Lewes performances we had seen for many-a-month.  Despite the heavy, muddy pitch, you also have to doff your cap to our groundsmen Jack and Joe who had worked wonders to give us a game despite the conditions.

16413741852_73be8c88a5_hOn the negative side – East Thurrock.  Light yellow numbers on white shirts, in the dim Non League floodlights?  Really?  Nobody in the ground could see the number of the player who scored either of their goals, so when one of their officials decided to criticise us for a) announcing the wrong scorer and then b) not announcing their second scorer is a bit rich.  In the first half another of their officials had accused Lewes of cheating to take a two nil lead.  Firstly, Elliott Romain took a dive, apparently, when he was clean through on goal and had pushed the ball around the keeper.  The referee saw it as a penalty, although how he didn’t send off David Hughes was a mystery as Romain was in front of the defender before he was impeded (see Boysie’s picture and make your own mind up on both counts). Sam Cole stroked the penalty home then added a second when the ball fell at his feet three yards out after a free-kick from the right (awarded after Muggeridge dived according to same official – it was an eventful 5 minutes waiting for my food I can tell you).

IMG_3169Let’s take a minute to talk about Non-League food.  Not only did we have the beauty of the Beer Festival brews (Aspire and Scottish Ale ticked every box) but also the food on offer.  We don’t just do chips you know. We do “Poutine”…and they were absolute awesome (and so was the bagel).  Add in a superb first half performance and it was up there with my wedding day.

Lewes started the second half liked they meant business, scoring a third when Griffiths headed home, then Fraser hit the post.  Our lucky Talisman Patrick Marber thought we may need four to be safe and he was nearly right as East Thurrock came back into the game.  Higgins (although we couldn’t see that at the time) scored twice, the last one in the 94th minute to give the final score a rather flattering look.

I couldn’t have asked for a better homecoming.  Football, beer and food.  Three of the four ingredients to a great day.  I will keep tight-lipped on the fourth just in case the Current Mrs Fuller has other ideas.

 

 

A strange case of Mimi Labonq


786There isn’t a lot to say about a trip to East Thurrock United that hasn’t been said before.  Predominantly by me, naturally, on my three previous visits to this little slice of rural England-cum-Oil refineries.  I’ve mentioned before it can claim Denise Van Outen and Dougie Poynter as its famous daughter and son, but have I ever mentioned it was also the home village of Sue Hodge, better know as Mimi Labonq from the classic 80#s comedy show ‘Allo ‘Allo.  Sue was a regular at Rookery Hill, cheering the lads on as they rose through the divisions I’d expect, signing autographs like the one to the right for anyone who wanted it (an autograph that is and perhaps some witty Anglophile banter). Oh, and every time we have come here, we have lost.  One bloody nil.  So excuse me if even a chance of seeing the 1985 Mimi in all of her finest didn’t excite me.

But tonight Matthew, it was all about the action on the pitch and not off it.  A strong Parliament of 40 Rooks had descended on deepest, darkest Essex for the midweek encounter with the Rocks to see if this great start to the season could continue.  My mate Ben told me that the last time Spurs had won away on the opening day of the season they qualified for the Champions League.  The last time the Rooks had gone 3 games unbeaten at the start of a season they won the league.  Like all football fans, we clutch at straws even after three games in a season. Continue reading

The silent H


Looking around for a game to go to on Saturday morning I took inspiration from my daughter, who was happily playing with her Moshi Monsters (21st century version of Weebles  in my view) singing to herself about her Heart Skipping a Beat.

8501817584_2f35b1ab3f_b“Where should I go today, Bella?”

“I know, let’s all go to Witam!”

I had no idea where she was talking about, unless she was referring to Witton, which of course we all known is just a part of Northwich and home to Witton Albion.  So I asked her why she had suggested such a strange thing.

“Oh my Goodness, me and you – the Army of Two – let’s go to Witham! I know you are Busy, and you know I am a bit of a Troublemaker but Please Don’t Let Me Go to Ikea with Mum.  I’m wearing my Heart on My Sleeve and I want to go with you”

At this point my eldest daughter came in the room and gave her little sister a round of applause.  It appeared that they had a childish competition to see who could get the most song titles from one artist in one sentence.  I mean, what a ridiculous game.  Who on earth would play a game like that, especially in a national newspaper report (let’s move on quickly).  I Still had no idea who she was trying to refer to.

“Dad, you are so square.  She is talking about Olly Murs” Continue reading

Wish you were here?


And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.

photoFor us Non League fans, our season can often be over before the Christmas decorations go up. Unfortunately, the various footballing authorities front-load the season with cup fixtures meaning that by the end of November the leagues look imbalanced with some clubs playing 30% more league games than others.

Down at the Pan our final cup flame was extinguished this week when Sussex League side Eastbourne United beat the Rooks 2-1. Make no mistake – the club wants to win every game and this was a blow – with the likes of Crawley Town and Brighton really taking the competition seriously, the Sussex Senior Cup is the best route to a trophy.

Front loading is also the term clubs use for setting playing budgets higher at the start of the season then reducing them over the season as the club is eliminated from cup competitions. But to some outsiders, the natural and planned reduction of the weekly budget is seen as a sign of panic.

Lewes set their budget in this way, allowing manager Simon Wormull to “overspend” in the early part of the season, on the clear understanding that by Christmas it will be brought back in line. Of course there was always the hope that a decent cup run would deliver some good prize money which in turn may go into the budget. In fact some clubs will forecast a level of cup prize money in their budget setting, which is always dangerous. So this week, with the road to the Amex (the venue for the Sussex Senior Cup) was firmly closed for another season and accordingly manager Simon Wormull made cuts to his squad accordingly. Continue reading

Revenge is a dish I’d rather not have to eat


The term “after the Lord Mayor’s show” could not be more apt this weekend as Lewes play their first home game in a month. On Tuesday night I followed proceedings in the Ryman League Cup semi-final, using the Twitter equivalent of the refresh button on Ceefax. The most important game in almost a year for the club ultimately ended in close defeat to Essex upstarts East Thurrock United. If Ernie, the fixture computer was alive today, he would have raised a wry smile as the Rocks hopped on their fun bus and headed south to the Rooks. A chance for some immediate revenge perhaps?

In early December East Thurrock United sat in the relegation zone whilst Lewes were in the play off places. A week is a long time in football, let alone 11 1/2 of them and coming into this game twelve points separated the sides, with the Essex team having four games in hand. In terms of current form the stats could not be more contrasting. In the League East Thurrock had taken 13 points from a possible 18; Lewes just 2. Why had there been such a reversal of fortune? That would be the power of the FA Cup.

As of the 31st January East Thurrock had played 14 games in the FA competitions. They reached the first round of the FA Cup, drawing Macclesfield Town at home which was televised. The prize money alone for that FA cup run was £27,500. Add in the gate share in the seven games they played, plus the TV money and you will get a figure close to £50,000. Add to that the £14,000 from prize money in the FA Trophy and you will get a figure that is probably 75% of their annual playing budget. And with that cash the club has been able to strengthen their squad accordingly.

Lewes, on the other hand, were knocked out at Chertsey Town in the FA Cup in the first qualifying round and would have got less than £1,000 as a share of the gate, and around the same after being knocked out of the Trophy at the first stage to Harlow Town. Success or failure can rest on a kind draw in the non leagues. Continue reading

Derby Day part 4 – A double helping of Essex United


What a day this promised to be.  Three (well two and a half) fiercely contested local derbies, either side of the River Thames, which thanks to some fortuitous scheduling, that I could go to, as well as still putting in some “Fuller Festive Family Fun”.  Christmas is all about spending time with your loved ones, catching up on the events of the year and generally being around those nearest and dearest to you.  But when the words “Let’s go to the sales” are mentioned, all love goes out the window and football becomes a viable option.  Hence, when the three Fuller girls all expressed a wish to go shopping, I played the football get out of jail free card and planned my day of hot and spicy local derbies.

First up was a trip under the Thames to Essex for the “Battle of the M25 junction 28” as they call it in these parts. Billericay Town sat proudly on top of the table before a ball was kicked.  Despite their nearest rivals all winning yesterday, their amble goal difference of plus 27 saw them safely sit in first place.  Visitors AFC Hornchurch lay in fourth with a game in hand and just four points below.  So a win for either side today could be pivotal in the final shake up. Continue reading

Rooks pay the penalty….again


Can you think of anywhere better to spend a Tuesday night than in Thurrock? We are not talking about Lakeside, Thurrock here, with its huge cathedral worshipping the credit card gods, nor the Thameside Thurrock with its container ships bringing exotic cargos from all over the world. Oh no, we are talking about East Thurrock, or to be more precise, Corringham. During the second world war this was a very important place as it was home to the Kynoch munitions factory. For those train enthusiasts amongst you, you will also know it was once the location of the Corringham Light Railway that opened 1901, running from the village down to the Thames, a distance of nearly 3 miles. It closed in 1952 and with it one of the links with the outside world.

But the small settlement of just 9,000 has given us more of a famous sight. DVO for those in the know, or for those not, Denise van Outen. Originally she didn’t have a “van” in her name, but in honour of the noble tradition of the men of Essex, she adopted that when she started to make her name in the limelight. Whilst few will remember that she originally hit our screens in 1996 as a weather and travel reporter on The Big Breakfast, even fewer will know that as a 17 year old she had a relationship with Gary Glitter! Every year the locals celebrate the work of DVO and what she has done for Corringham by going out on a Friday night, dying their hair blonde and “oranging up”.. Continue reading