All is wet on New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day was supposed to be a day of celebration.  Since the fixtures were released back in July we had been looking forward at welcoming Maidstone United at The Dripping Pan today.  With an expected four figure crowd, a special bumper edition matchday programme written and enough organic burgers to feed at least a dozen people we were ready to put on a show.  On Saturday our pitch team battled against the elements to get our game versus East Thurrock United on and we all did a collective sigh of relief when the final whistle blew and over 650 fans applauded the efforts of those who had not only performed but had got the game on.

photoAlas, the forecast for the days before the New Year was poor, and so it was.  We put “Pitch Watch” in place via Twitter, with images of the ground posted regularly to give us all hope.  Alas, the torrential rain on New Year’s Eve meant that the standing water on the pitch wasn’t to the referees liking and with a very heavy heart our game was cancelled.  The cost to us?  Thousands of pounds.  Instead of welcoming a crowd of 1,200, we will be lucky to get 400 when the game is squeezed into a midweek slot in February.  Gate receipts will be down by £8,000.  Programme sales down.  Catering down. Bar takings down.  Yet our costs don’t change.  Players still need to be paid this week, utilities have to be paid, printers still want their invoices paying.

We weren’t alone.  In fact every game in the Isthmian Premier fell by the wayside, and only one game in the Conference South made it to 3pm.  But with a “free game pass” I had little options as to where to go.

I was literally driving around Essex and Cambridgeshire looking for a game to go to as my options reduced.  I had one last chance.  Dagenham & Redbridge.  Despite the appalling weather, it looked like the game at Victoria Road, or the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium to give it its catchy shorter name was on, so headed down the A13 to meet up with the Daggers Diary team for the first game of what promises to be a great year of football. Continue reading

The principles of cause and effect

“Ladies love me, girls adore me.  I mean even the ones who never saw me
Like the way that I rhyme at a show.  The reason why, man, I don’t know.
So let’s go, ’cause…..”

This was going to be the best day ever.  Well, certainly since I last got the opportunity to go to two  new grounds in one day that is for sure.  Such avenues of pleasure are rarely open these days in England and normally we have to head on over to visit Uncle Kenny in Düsseldorf to take in such treats.  But here I was soaking up the rays at our third game of the day, Yep.  Three had become two due to that old fellow call Casuality.  Not one, nor two but three.  As Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock once said, “It Takes Two…plus one”

Let’s remind to 11am.  Our first venue?  Why Tolworth of course.  I mean, where else would anyone want to me on a Saturday morning.  Tolworth, the land of dreams.  Known as Talerode (toll road) in the Doomsday Book, it was here that David Bowie back in 1973 smudged his face makeup and ended up looking like ” a spider from Mars”, giving birth to his whole Ziggy Stardust phase.  Its most famous resident though is Alan Wheatley, the first ever person killed by a Dalek on TV.  Alan is available for birthday’s. weddings and corporate events where he re-enacts his demise to popular songs of the time.

9327436675_9320f39f71_bHowever, I had no time for cultural recreation.  I had a deadline to meet.  11am, to be precise when the annual Geoff Harvey Memorial Trophy was due to kick off, featuring the number one sporting team in Tolworth, Corinthian-Casuals, taking on local rivals Kingstonian.  Where do you start with the Pink and Chocolates?  Well, how about back in 1939 when a merger between Corinthian FC and Casuals FC.  The former started life in 1882, with a mission to be able to challenge the supremacy of the Scotland National Team.  I’m sure that today they would probably achieve their aim.

Corinthian rightly deserve their place in the history of football, being mentioned with honours in David Hartrick’s excellent book 50 Teams That Mattered.  Few teams from the amateur period can match their influence.  Real Madrid, so taken with their ethics (and tasty scones they took on tour to Spain), adopted the white shirts they still wear today.  A team in Brazil went one further, adopting their name and still proudly using that name today.  They even beat Manchester United once 11-3, but didn’t brag about it in the Sunday tabloids.  Instead they all went home on the Omnibus and had a nice cup of tea. Continue reading

Dons outthink free falling Daggers

Fresh from the beaches of Catalunya, Brian Parish was ready for the Daggers final push to save their Football League status – well for a week at least before he went back out to Spain.

After the glamour and excitement of our European trip a couple of weeks ago, for Dagenham Dan and I, it was back to familiar ground last weekend, for our home game against Bradford. Results after the crushing 0-5 defeat at home to Cheltenham had improved; a goalless draw at Plymouth was followed by an unexpected (but more than welcome) win up at Morecambe. In ten years of visiting Morecambe, I have never seen us win there, as our only victories in that time have come on the two occasions that I haven’t been able to attend. Perhaps I should leave well alone.

Last weekend saw the visit of one of the biggest clubs in the division, Bradford City. Their plummet down through the divisions has been well documented, but in an encounter that sort of threatened to get going but never really did, the one moment of quality settled it. Matt Saunders, a recent free agent signing, scored with a beautiful free kick, to earn us the points, despite the dangerous wing play of the Bradford number 32, Kyle Reid. To sum up our season though, Saunders was injured taking the free kick, and so sat out our midweek trip to Swindon.

With results improving, there was the hope of getting something from the trip to Wiltshire, but instead all we got was another thumping (0-4), and we lost our main striker to a straight red card, which will mean a ban of three games. All in all, those that travelled have probably had better nights out. And to have to pay £25 for the privilege as well, meant that the night out was probably in the region of around £60. Not good.

At least our next couple of away games are a bit closer. In ten days time we travel on the Northern line of the London Underground to High Barnet, for what is becoming an eagerly contested fixture. Today though, we venture to south west London, for a district line derby visit to AFC Wimbledon.

Given that the club was only formed ten years ago from the ashes of the original Wimbledon FC that was shamefully allowed to decamp seventy miles up the road to Milton Keynes, what they have achieved is to be truly admired. I’m not sure if even the most die-hard fan could have predicted the meteoric rise of the club, but here they are, and they are more than coping with the demands of the football league. Their win at our place in August was their first away victory since promotion last May, and so we know that this is going to be a tough day out. However, recent form (3 wins in 22 league games) is not so good, so this is a game that we may, just may be able to take something from. Continue reading

Daggers done by Dons Double

Brian Parish pops down to watch League new boys AFC Wimbledon take on the Daggers.

After our opening day win up at Macclesfield, we have our first home game of the season, and it’s against the winners of last season’s Conference play off final, AFC Wimbledon.

Much will have already been written about the rise and rise of the club. Formed in 2002, it’s been almost a continual upward curve for the club formed from the ashes of the original, which as I am sure that all of you are aware, were allowed to move to Milton Keynes, to form the MK Dons. For a club that has been in existence for nine years to make it all the way from the Combined Counties League to the Football League is pretty remarkable, and it’s a testament to all the players that will have pulled on the blue shirt since 2002, as well as the managers that the club has got this far in such a short space of time. Continue reading

Prayers are answered if you ask nicely..

Nigel Henderson recants the moment that AFC Wimbledon completed their remarkable rise up the non league ladder.

On Saturday evening, about 20 minutes before the world was due to end according to a well-publicised American preacher, I lifted my eyes up to the greying sky above the City of Manchester Stadium and asked the Man Upstairs for one last favour.

As Danny Kedwell, the AFC Wimbledon captain, lined up the final of his team’s five penalties – one that would, should he score, clinch a “return” to the Football League for a club at least moulded in the Dons’ image, I realised that I wanted this more than anything. More than world peace, more than a successful and contented professional life, more even than dinner with Jennifer Aniston and whatever might follow over coffee at her Hollywood mansion – and even if it did mean eternal damnation.

Coming to a League Two ground near you soon

Kedwell did the job – as you knew the 25-goal striker just might – smashing the ball to the right of Mark Tyler, the Luton goalkeeper – and set off on a sprint of delight in front of the seating where the bulk of his team’s fans were massed. If the promised Rapture was not about to arrive for the world’s faithful, it had certainly arrived for the Wimbledon one.

It was a pinch-yourself moment. I turned to my friend Kev, and we hugged in disbelieving joy. Kev is a Derby County fan but had been at my side at Wembley in 1988 when the “original” Wimbledon had beaten extraordinary odds and a Double-chasing Liverpool team to add an FA Cup victory to their meteoric rise from non-League in 1977 to the top flight. He had also been present at Bottom Meadow, when AFC Wimbledon had played their first competitive game against Sandhurst Town in the lowest league of senior football. Continue reading