Ade-ous Essex


Hands up who got any sleep last night? New season eve is the up there with the night before EFW Oktoberfest to me in terms of excitement.  I simply cannot sleep, thinking about whether this will be THE season when we actually win more games than we lose, go on a decent cup run, or win Golden Goal more than once in a season.   For us Non League fans this is also an opportunity to see most of our players for the first time and actually see them for who they really are, rather than just A. Trialist.  It is, of course, the only day of the season where we start joint top (and joint bottom), and are still in all of the cups.  It all goes downhill from here.

9477993203_53fdd185f9_bThis is my fifth season as a Lewes fan.  In that time we have been relegated twice, avoided relegation on the last day of the season twice and missed out on the play-offs on goal difference once.  It hasn’t been the best of times to be a Rooks fan on the pitch, even though off the pitch it has been a marriage made in heaven.  This season we are very quietly optimistic.  A new management team, a virtually completely new squad and even a new programme editorial team (well, Barry Collins and me).  Of course, at 4:47pm today all that optimism may have dried up after our game at AFC Hornchurch.

We tend to remember opening games more than most others in the season.  I remember one of my first ever West Ham opening season games back in 1978 when they raced to a 4-0 lead against Notts County within 30 minutes.  Of course I assumed they would go on to score 12, but they only managed one more.  Remember Micky Quinn’s hatrick at Highbury back in 1993?  Beckham’s goal versus Wimbledon in 1996? Hansen’s comments about “winning nothing with kids”? Greg Cane’s nightmare 20 minutes for Lowestoft v Lewes in 2011 when he scored an own goal from the half way line and was then sent off for arguing with the referee? Great memories.

So what could we expect from this season’s curtain raiser? I’ve never seen Lewes win at AFC Hornchurch so the omens were not good.  Granted I had only seem them play there once but stats don’t lie.  The Urchins are one of my tips to be in the top five at the end of the season.  Despite relegation at the end of last season I get the feeling that it was a mere blip in their long-term plan.  Want to know who else I think will be up there?  Go on then, just for you I will share my insight:- Continue reading

What’s in a name?


Football clubs aren’t often the most imaginative organisations when it comes to nicknames. Some clubs see it as an opportunity to leave an indelible mark on the world, thinking up names so obscure that nobody but a small band of followers actually understands why. But on the whole, nicknames are a bridge too far for the PR agents and the marketing executives. So for every “The Nuts & Bolts” there will be three or for “Reds”, each “Monkey Hanger” is bettered by a dozen “United’s” and of course for every “Shrimper” there is half a dozen “Rovers”.

20130706-211325.jpgAnd that is the story of today, the hottest day of the year. In the deepest, darkest part of South East Essex is a place called Foulness Island. Not high up on the list of “Best Places in Europe to Visit 2013″ according to Trip Advisor, but actually one of the most important areas of land for finding Brent geese no less. This flat, virtually uninhabited areas of Essex doesn’t see many visitors, as the roads and rails from the west stop at Southend-on-Sea, Britain’s 101st biggest settlement and home to the world’s longest pier. To the local’s it is simply Las Vegas on Sea. Home to Lee Evans, Phil Jupitas and James Bourne (what do you mean who? Do you not know anything about rock music???), it is also the Friday and Saturday night traditional entertainment spectacle of “Cruising”.

Having spent a year working in Essex, and actually occasionally going out with a genuine Essex girl (born in Essex, owned a white handbag, had a tattoo before they were trendy) I remember this ritual. “Where shall we go tonight? ” I would ask. “Cinema, Opera, Ballet?” I would offer as options. “Let’s do daarn Saafend and cruise” would come the response. Driving up and down the Essex Riviera with music pumping out of the car was the nocturnal pleasure of choice. I think I only kept going out with her because it was a cheap date… 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

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

White shoes, white ball…let’s all have a disco!


There are alot of stereotypes about Essex.  Ford Capri’s, dumb blondes, the birthplace of the Chav, Southend and day tripping Eastenders are all some of the cautionary tale subjects in the past year, but one bright spot in the past year has been form of Essex Eagles.  Last season the team won the Friends Provident Trophy, beating arch rivals Kent, their first trophy in a number of years.  However, the biggest story was in the Twenty20 where the club were almost unbeatable at Chelmsford.  The star in those games was Graham Napier who rose to prominence as an all-rounder par excellence.  Not only did he return figures of 4 for 10 in 4 overs from their Quarter Final versus Northants but more importantly he scored an amazing 152 not out in the game versus Sussex Sharks.  That evening in late June 2008 will be long remembered by all of those few thousand who were in the ground that night.

Napier came to the crease with the score 13-1 in the second over, and proceeded to dominate the strike, breaking records left right and centre.  Not only was his final 152 not out the highest Twenty20 score ever in the UK (only 2nd ever century for Essex in this competition), but the 242-3 was Essex’s highest ever total in the competition (actually 48 more runs than their second biggest score).  Napier and James Foster put on the one and only hundred partnership in Essex’s history (119 as a 3rd wicket partnership) and Napier  scored his final total from just 58 balls and included 10 fours and an amazing 16 sixes (meaning he hit 136 in boundaries from twenty six balls!!!) which equalled the most ever sixes in an innings in a English game…

Essex went on to reach the Finals day for the first time and came up against Kent again although this time the Spitfires came out on top, neutralising the Napier effect by hitting him for 33 off 3 overs and only allowing him to score 3 runs.  Napier’s success had led him to the English World Cup squad, much to the Eagles loss this season although they had recorded wins against the odds versus Kent, Surrey and Sussex prior to this.

Chelmsford is actually easier for me to reach than all other grounds bar the Oval.  It is actually quicker as well – a simple 35 minute drive round the M25 and up the A12.  Whilst the Oval and Lords are nearer, public transport is a hassle and takes the journey times on a bad day to well over an hour.  After parking in one of the side streets I headed into the ground, which was at almost capacity as the first ball was bowled.  The thing that struck me was the mismatch of styles around the ground.  A couple of small double decker stands, a couple of single covered ones (why do you need a cover?  If it rains there wont be any play!), marquee type executive boxes on the pitch side and a strange paddock area in front of the main stand where children played whilst the game went on.  I had my money firmly on a home win, and after seeing some disappointing batting displays I was hoping that the ghost of Napier would rub off on some of his team mates present.

So far this season I had seen eight innings of Twenty20 with an average score of 127.  Overall in the competition this season the average score had been a tad higher at 131 – compare this to the highest average of 2006 when the score was 166!

Essex Eagles 126-7 lost to Sussex Sharks 130-2 by 8 wickets – The County Ground, Chelmsford – Wednesday 3rd June

Lighting the way for the Sharks

Lighting the way for the Sharks

Firstly, please excuse the quality of today’s photos.  I unfortunately left the trusted Fuller camera in the house and so had to fall back on the Blackberry’s camera phone which hasn’t done a bad job actually.

So four Twenty20′s down and an average batting innings of 127 hasn’t really filled me with excitement for the World Twenty20.  Essex Eagles were last year’s big hitters and I expected to see some fireworks in this one, especially as Alaistar Cook started off with a few glorious strikes in the first two overs.  In fact with the score at 30-0 off 3 overs it looked very promising for the Eagles.  But that really was the high point in a disappointing innings as they scored a further 96 runs off 17 overs after Cook departed, bowled by Chad Keegan for 18.  Sussex could certainly be pleased with their contribution both in terms of fielding (restricting the Eagles to just 9 boundaries) and some outstanding bowling by Dwayne Smith whose 3 for 19 was a fabulous return from his four overs.

The ground was pretty full and I had to make do with a “restricted” view from the back of the stands.  What surprised me was the number of groups of blokes standing around the concourse area drinking and having no intention of watching any of the game.  Whilst a few will be on corporate jollies, others will have paid £20+ for the privilage of entry and will have seen nothing of the game.  Yes I appreciate that it wasn’t actually that good a game, but surely they could have at least supported their team?

And support Essex needed.  Hamilton-Brown and Goodwin took to the attack from the first ball, signalling their intent with an attacking opening stand of 74 before Hardinges took two relatively quick wickets.  But with Goodwin scoring the tenth highest Twenty20 score against Essex in 64 not out (including 6 x 4′s and 2 x 6′s) and Yardy anchoring the other end with a steady 19 they easily reached the modest target with ten balls to spare.

The win saw Sussex top the Southern League, albeit having played two more games than anyone else, and Essex slip to second, level on points with Kent with only two guaranteed to go through.  How they wish they had a Napier of June 2008 in their team.  With the floodlights twinkling away in the Essex night sky the crowds headed off to Sam’s, the original home of white shoes and dancing around the handbags to ease away the pain of a home defeat.

 

About the Ford County Ground
The 6,500 capacity County Ground has been the headquarters of Essex since 1967. The ground is notoriously windy but with great drainage following improvements in 1982. It is a compact ground for a county HQ, but nevertheless much use has been made of the space available. The ground has one double-decker seating area, marquees, executive suites and mostly single-tier seating. Its pavilion, built in the 1970s, has recently been extended and contains all sorts of memorabilia.. It is also one of the only four current grounds with permanent floodlights which were installed in 2002. Graham Gooch has scored most of his 40,000 plus first-class runs here and Essex have had their most successful seasons here, too. Surrey will remember one match for a different reason, though: in 1983, they recorded their lowest innings of 14. The crowd are close to the boundary rope in most places and can make for an intimidating atmosphere akin to Upton Park!  A new development of flats to the south of the ground offer some fantastic (and free) views.

Thanks to Cric.info for some of the above info

How to get to the Ford County Ground
If you are coming by car then follow the A12 from the M25 junction 28 eastwards for around 9 miles until you get to junction 15 signposted A414 Chelmsford.  Follow this along the dual carriageway then over two roundabouts.  At the third (follow brown signs for cricket) turn left and the ground is a mile down the road on your left.  There is plenty of car parks in the town centre or street parking for night games or Sundays.  The nearest railway station is Chelmsford which is a 10 minute walk away. 

How to get a ticket for the Ford County Ground
As with most cricket, ticket availability depends on the type of game.  For the one day games against the likes of Surrey, Middlesex and Kent then advance booking is recommended as they can sell out.  General ground admission is £20 with an extra £7 for a reserved seat.  For county games the price is £16.  They can be bought online at http://www.essexcricket.org.uk/tickets.html or by phone on 01245 252420.