On the fourth day of TBIR Christmas – The worst games of 2014

We all pay our money in the hope of seeing a cracker.  The beauty of football is that it can deliver five goal thrillers, end to end action and a few 22 man punch ups.  It can also deliver dull, turgid and frankly mind-numbing action.  Alas, it is more often the case that it is the latter rather than the former we witness.  Picking the three worst games wasn’t too difficult.  One was so bad that two of a group of ten of us actually fell asleep in the game, although the copious amounts of free German beer may just have helped.

3rd Place – Barnet 1 Alfreton Town 0
With 90% of football in England washed out, an opportunity presented itself to visit a new ground – The Hive, home of Barnet (the Bees – clever that!).  An easy journey all the way on the Jubilee line, passing the ground as we went.  Barnet, managed by the volatile Edgar Davids were in relatively good form, the visitors less so.  At £10 this would have been way too much for what was on offer, but nearly double it and it was possibly going to be the worst value game of the year, even 4 days in January it was that obvious.  The afternoon’s gloom was lit up by two things.  First was the winning strike from Dani Lopez and the second was watching the rare occasions when two tube trains crossed as they passed the ground.

2nd Place – VfB Lubeck 1 Goslarar SC 0
Even the joys of an EFW can sometimes be outweighed by a turgid game.  This one was so bad that not even cheap beer could keep Danny Last and I in the ground until the final whistle as we bunked off with twenty minutes to go, missing the one and only piece of action of course.  Nothing against Lubeck, and their fans who were magnificent, it was just that this game needed to be forgotten as quickly as possible so that we could get on with the rest of our weekend.

1st Place – Schalke 0 West Ham United 0
14816418855_8121f663ff_kA proper Jolly Boys Outing with ten of us heading for the bright lines of Gelsenkirchen as West Ham played in the inaugural Schalke Cup also featuring Newcastle United, Malaga and of course Schalke 04.  We arrived, having already drained Stansted Airport out of most of its alcohol and sat through the second half of a dreadful Newcastle performance against Malaga.  Of course, West Ham under Allardyce’s new regime of “attacking” football would put it right.  And if they didn’t then the magnificent surroundings of the Veltins Arena and its free bar (complete with a not-so free barmaid according to one of our party) would.  Alas, it was the most forgettable, negative, dire performance many of us could remember (and some of us remember a long way back) as both teams seem to have agreed to play for penalties from the first whistle.  Our party started falling like flies, whether it was to sleep or table football rather than watching the game.  Never again.

Tomorrow – The best Footballing Day out of 2014 – which games couldn’t we remember, which matches provided 90 minutes of pain in an otherwise great day out.

Hive Talkin’

At least this week we weren’t waiting around for games to be called off.  After the rain started falling on Tuesday night it simply didn’t stop.  Some clubs had made their decisions yesterday that there would be no football, and by 10am 90% of the games in the Ryman Premier League were lost once again to the weather.  The situation is now getting beyond a joke, yet the League administrators are conspicuous by their continued silence.  “Problem? There isn’t a problem here” they will be saying as fixtures start to pile up and clubs are forced into financial dire straits by the lack of home gate revenues.

By 11am only two Non League games within the M25 had survived – one at Thamesmead Town where I had been a frequent visitors in recent months on scouting missions and one in unchartered territory at Barnet FC.  No brainer where I would be heading then.  It almost seemed to calm to be true as I checked the Barnet website and Twitter feed – “pitch in immaculate condition” was the main message which did seem to defy the odds considering the chaos and mayhem playing out in front on my eyes on the iPad.

I have always had a soft spot for the Bees and for one magical season back in 1991 I went to most games in the first Football League season at Underhill.  I was romantically involved with a young lady who lived in Barnet, and to escape Saturday afternoon’s shopping in Brent Cross with her and her mother, I became a Barnet fan, managing to convert her father after their amazing Football League debut against Crewe Alexandra where they lost 7-4.  The club was welcoming and rough around the edges, without any airs and graces.  You had the feeling that the club, owned at the time by self-confessed ticket tout Stan Flashman and managed by the original wheeler-dealer Barry Fry, didn’t give a toss for the officialdom of the Football League.  The Non-League spirit lived on at Underhill for many years despite changes in ownership, management and league status.

But somehow in recent times it all changed.  Perhaps it was simply that football itself changed and the Bees realised if you can’t beat them then you need to join them, or that people with different agendas got involved in the club.  The long-term legal wranglings over the suitability of Underhill as a League ground were always the main topic of discussion when I met Barnet fans, rather than their league status.  They still remain the only club that has been promoted twice from the Conference and relegated twice back down from where they came. Continue reading

Christmas cheer all around at Underhill

League Two in the past few months seems to have gone through a bit of an image change. We’ve had Luis Boa Morte sign for Chesterfield, a former double winner with Arsenal. James Beattie, once a £6 million player who counts Everton and Rangers among his former clubs, is now at Accrington Stanley.

Three weeks ago, we had the pleasure of seeing the former Rangers midfielder Barry Ferguson control the midfield when Fleetwood came to town. It’s scary to think that it could have been Joey Barton, who decided to swap the north-west for the south of France and Olympique Marseille. Their central midfield could have been even better if the two had been in the same team.

Ferguson though was excellent on the day. Ok, so no-one on the day impressed with their “Movember” efforts, but facial hair aside, he was clearly a step above everyone else on the pitch that day. Continue reading

Barnet Fayre a bit better than the Daggers

Seven days ago, I think it is fair to say that many Daggers fans had written off their chances of staying in the Football League. If they were to give ourselves a chance, then a win last Saturday against Macclesfield was imperative. And lo and behold they did.  So with a midweek trip to Barnet to look forward to Brian Parish and Dagenham Dan hot-footed it up the Northern Line.

So while Dagenham Dan and I were taking in a weekend of Spanish football in Madrid, we were praying from afar that we might be able to get a positive result that would give us a bit of hope. As football fans, we are all liable to be a bit on the fickle side now and again; last weeks hero is this weeks donkey and all that. But a 2-0 win on Saturday, secured thanks to two Medy Elito goals means that, until tonight’s conclusion at least, we might just have our Dagenham back.

Victory though, came at a cost, with Luke Howell (only just back from a six month lay off) succumbing to another injury; despite initial messages to Spain saying that he had been carried off, it now sounds like that he might not be missing for that long. This is most definitely good news, as Howell had been sorely missed in the middle of the park, and although we were beaten by Northampton, he had looked as good as ever, and been a steadying influence.

With another two loan signings made prior to Saturday’s game, (both are from Crawley, with John Akinde returning to the club after a year, and Charlie Wassmer coming in), not only are we going for the title of most corners won in League 2, but quite possibly the most loan signings made in a single season. It’s a good job that numbers are not allocated to only one player throughout the season, because otherwise we could be pushing the high forties by now. Continue reading