Business 101


Relegation is confirmed

Lewes’s relegation was confirmed after the 2-1 home defeat to Bishop Stortford on Monday.  Nobody at the club ranted and raved about poor decisions, bad luck or conspiracies.  Dignity was the order of the day at the Dripping Pan with preparations for the final game away to Boreham Wood.  The club wanted to end the season with a win, not just for the fans but also to try and finish third from bottom. Continue reading

Hell fire


A week is a long time in football, but 5 days is even less.  That is the time lapsed between the 600 or so Lewes fans leaving the Dripping Pan on Monday after the defeat to Welling United, and the same group arriving back for the visit of Eastleigh.

There are must win games, and there are real must win games.  This was one of the latter. It will have almost certainly escaped your notice (unless you are a die hard Lewes fan) that things on the pitch for the Rooks have not gone well since the end of November.  The euphoria of the new management team of Tim O’Shea and Neil Smith has slowly ebbed away and a spate of injuries, suspensions, departures and in one case, retirements have caused headaches on the pitch.  That is when the team has been able to actually get onto a pitch to play, with the Winter weather wiping out 4 weeks worth of fixtures. Continue reading

Co-incidence or what?


It’s old hat now talking about the fact I used to be a West Ham season ticket holder, and how I fell out of love with the club due to the change in owners, and the direction they were taking the club.  No?  Well refresh your mind here.  And it is no secret that I have decided to share my overflowing cup of football affection with Lewes FC..no?  Well just read back over the past few weeks and you will see why. Continue reading

Has anyone seen Grays?


Last weekend was a busy one for the FA. Not only did we have the whole Lord Treason affair but in one of the backrooms at Wembley Stadium sat a man who decided the fate of literally hundreds of non-league clubs as he worked out the league allocations for the coming season.

Last season saw three high profile clubs go to the wall mid-season in Chester City, Farsley Celtic and Kings Lynn. Add to this a number of clubs who had breached league rules and some relegation/promotion enforced geographical anomalies and you can see what a difficult job was on the cards. So what was decided?
Last weekend was a busy one for the FA. Not only did we have the whole Lord Treason affair but in one of the backrooms at Wembley Stadium sat a man who decided the fate of literally hundreds of non-league clubs as he worked out the league allocations for the coming season. Continue reading

It’s in our hands….


A modern footballers essential kit

A week ago they were down and out but what a difference seven days can make in football.  Before last Saturday’s game at Worcester, Lewes hadn’t won away for near fifteen months, and trialled Worcester City in 19th (and safety) in the Blue Square South by five points.  Another defeat last Saturday would have left them 8 points behind their nearest rivals with just four games to go.  But instead a win at St Georges Lane, followed up with a home draw to St Albans City had the talk of safety the topic of the day in the “Jungle” at The Dripping Pan today.

Fast forward 90 minutes and Lewes had overhauled the points difference with a magnificent 5-0 win, their biggest home win for many a month.  And with Chelmsford City beating Worcester, Lewes’s fate is now totally in their hands.  And I had been there to witness it….just.

Ibbo in charge

Two hours prior to kick off I was sitting in Bluewater cinema watching Nanny McPhee with seven girls under the age of ten.  An hour before I was stuck in a traffic jam on the M23 and when Joe Keehan slotted in his thirteenth of the season from the penalty spot in the ninth minute I was still in West Sussex.  But I carried on, which is just what Lewes under the inspirational leadership of Steve “Ibbo” Ibbitson have done since Christmas.  This is a man who reluctantly took the job towards the end of last season when the club were down and out in the Blue Square Premier league, and has carried on with his duties FREE OF CHARGE for the whole of this season.  Yes, here is a man who genuinely loves his club so much that he works for nothing.  And in the past few weeks some of his decisions have been inspirational.

Lewes 5 Dorchester Town 0 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 17th April
Fortunately Keehan’s penalty was the only bit of action we missed, and we were safely on the Jungle with a beer in hand when Keehan headed home his and Lewes’s second just before the break.  There are few better places to watch football in England on a sunny day than Lewes’s Dripping Pan, and with some wonderful football and a couple of pints of local Harvey’s the afternoon was complete.

Number 5 for Lewes

Two became three in 53rd minute when Gradwell scored from close range and five minutes later Breach’s towering header from a corner made it four.  The Lewes Lunatic Fringe went understandably wild at this point as news also filtered through that Chelmsford had taken the lead against Worcester. A final solo effort from Sigere recorded Lewes’s biggest score since a 5-0 win at Bognor Regis in August 2008.  All of this meant that a win against Bath City on Tuesday would keep Lewes in the Blue Square South for another season.  A draw and it may come down to goal difference, but a defeat would mean a few squeaky bottoms next week as Lewes headed off to the sleepy suburbs of Hampton for the final game and an end of season Beach Party.  Let’s just hope that it’s not just the tide that ends up going out.

More photos from the game can be found here.

Saucy


Ask the average man (or woman) in the street anywhere in the UK apart from in a WR postcode what is the name of the Lea & Perrin spicy sauce you can chuck on your food and I bet 90% will answer “Worcester Sauce”.  Well saying such a thing in or around the cathedral city of Worcester could get you put inside (not literally of course…you need to do something much more serious in Brown’s Britain for that privilege, such as putting rubbish in the wrong bin).  For the answer is WorcesterSHIRE sauce.

First made in Broad Street, Worcester by two chemists (John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins) back in 1837, and is still being produced by HJ Heinz in the city.  So what has that got to do with football?  Well nothing really – it’s just that I like it on my food and I thought I would share it with you.

English beer

Is there anywhere more English though than Worcester?  Home of Edward Elgar and also St Georges Lane where it is rumoured the last remaining dragon lived and was hunted down by our patron saint. It has a rugby team, a county cricket team, a racecourse and of course the football team.  Just down the road was where Cromwell’s New Model Army (who a few centuries later released the album Impurity) beat King Charles (pretending to be a dog) to win the Civil War (so called as they didn’t actually fight each other they just traded mild insults). During World War II Churchill was based just up the road, as it was decided that the city was far enough away from a potential German invasion and as they cannot pronounce their “W’s” properly and undercover attempts to locate him would have been rumbled – “Vere is Vorcester?”.  And that is why the whole TBIR team had made their way across country on a glorious April Saturday wearing our red and black roses.

Playing away? Miss Worcester models the new kit

So Worcester City – what a mixed situation they find themselves in.  Six weeks ago the club looked doomed.  Three nil down with fifteen minutes to go away at relegation rivals Lewes they stared demotion to the Southern League in the face and with uncertainty over the future of the ground things looked bleak.  Then fifteen minutes of magic started a chain of events.  Three goals in that period not only gave them a point, but in the context saved them three, and since then two further wins and two draws had put some breathing space between themselves and the final relegation spot, still occupied by Lewes.  Last weekend the whole situation was turned on its head again with Lewes winning and Worcester losing, meaning that this game was a real six pointer.  Add to this the off the field news  for the relocation of the team from their St Georges Lane ground that has seen so many sights in its 108 year history but is now showing its age.

St Georges Lane

The finest moment at the ground, and in fact in the club’s history must have been events on the  15th January 1959 when the then Birmingham League team beat Liverpool (then in the 2nd division) 2-1 in the FA Cup 3rd round.  Drawn at home in round four they lost 2-0 to Sheffield United in front of a record 17,000 crowd. How can you top such an event?  Well you can’t and the club has been dining out on the fact that they have beaten a five times European Cup winning team since.  I once met a Worcester City fan who tried to explain to me that the club were in fact the World Club Champions.  After all they had beaten Liverpool, and Liverpool had beaten Manchester United, and Manchester United had beaten Real Madrid who in turn won the first ever Intercontinental Cup which then became the FIFA Club Championship.

TBIR

After a long stint in the Southern League, including a season under the stewardship of Ronnie Radford, he of THAT Hereford United goal in 1971 they were one of the original clubs to form the Alliance Premier League (today the Blue Square Premier) where they stayed until the mid-eighties.  Two seasons ago they moved from the Blue Square North to South to balance up the numbers and have struggled this season at the bottom of the league with crowds falling about 10% from last season.  Inconsistency has been the only constant this season.  Some great wins against the likes of Dover (home and away), Woking and Dorchester have been balanced by defeats to already relegated Weston-super-Mare and Weymouth.

The Lewes Lunatic Fringe (and Northern Steve)

The TBIR team met up with Cynical Dave and Big Deaks who can boast an almost 100% attendance record this season.  Dave certainly has been there through thick and thin and wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of away games at Aveley, Canvey Island or Hornchurch on a wet Tuesday night (although Hastings United and Margate on a sunny day in August is a different story) if relegation did come to Lewes.  Unfortunately Danny had decided that this game wasn’t big enough for him so had headed over to Madrid for the small matter of Real v Barcelona.  Me myself had turned my back on the Circus again, choosing this relegation battle rather than the one at Upton Park.

Welcome to the heart of England

This was the longest away trip of the season and through the bizarre workings of the non league authorities Worcester is actually some 30 miles north of Gloucester who play in the Blue Square North.  We sent off at 10am and shortly received a mercy call from the Lewes Lunatic Fringe who were stuck at Reading so we diverted there scooped them up after negotiating some of the worst signage known to man in the one way system and made our merry way up to Worcester.

After passing Sixways, home of Worcester Warriors sitting in the middle of erm…nothing…we headed on down to the ground and got a spot right outside the entrance, and opposite the Cavalier pub.  Let me describe the setting for you.  Benches beside a canal, sun shining, big tattooed bloke sitting outside with a huge pitbull, three yoofs listening to tinny music on their mobile phones – can a pub scene be any more English than this?  We passed on the Cavalier and instead went round the corner to the Swan for a pint of London Pride and Marston – “the beer of England” the glass told us.  All we needed was a man in a bowler hat with a copy of the Times to walk past to complete the scene.  Instead we saw/heard a Polish/Slovakian/Serbian couple, complete with 18 children wander past throwing their crisp packets on the floor – Can it get any more English than that!

And the winner is....

It was game time, and after hearing some revelations about the Lewes goalkeeper’s latest girlfriend (I cannot reveal it here – suffice to say that it is a close female relative of someone who epitomizes the current English cultural scene) we paid our entrance fee and were in.  Immediately we were thrust a voting slip for Worcester City’s player of the year – all of us except Lolly, who sporting her Lewes shirt was immediately excluded.  As a protest to such apartheid Dave, Deaks and myself cast votes for Julian Dicks!

Another record was set prior to kick off as we counted no less than 11 different team/country shirts in the bar.  Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea, Derby County, Birmingham City, Aston Villa, Wolves, Barcelona, England and El Salvador (OK so the last one was mine but it still counts) – hardly a show of solidarity for the home side!

Worcester City 1 Lewes 2 – St Georges Lane – Saturday 10th April 2010

Keehan heads wide

488…488…Four hundred and eighty eight days have passed since Lewes last won on the road in the League.  Tuesday 8th December 2008 was the date.  The place, Salisbury City but all of that has now been consigned to the bin as the Rooks won their most important game of the season.  It was tense, it was nervous and it gave everyone a headache but after 97 minutes when the referee eventually blew his whistle, the 23 Lewes fans could rejoice in the knowledge that for the first time in weeks the club’s fate was in their own hands.  With two games in hand and just two points now separating the teams the “great escape” could be possible.

Gradwell makes it 1-0

The match started relatively slowly, with the Worcester fans standing on the terraces urging their team on, but it was Lewes who made the early running.  The first real chance fell to Joe Keehan who headed a glorious chance wide in the 15th minute, and then David Wheeler smashed his header against the bar with Worcester’s keeper completely beaten.  Lewes didn’t have to wait too long for their reward though as in the 22nd minute a long Rikki Banks punt upfield was flicked on and Rob Gradwell outpaced the defence and slotted the ball passed the on coming keeper.

That's number 2

The rest of the half saw Lewes confidently playing the ball around and pushing forward, content in taking a half time lead.  The Worcester fans had seen enough and started filtering past us on their way to the bar.  One stopped and asked “Are you called Lewes or Looes?” .  A smart retort of “Are you called Worcester or Whorsester?” moved him onwards as he had lost his bet with his mates about the pronunciation and was seen shortly after buying a round of Aftershock in the bar. But then one of those rare moments at football stunned everyone.  Another long punt upfield.  Keeper and Defender both go for the same ball and both miss it and Steve Brinkhurst simply tapped the ball into an empty net.  One for the Danny Dyer/Ricky Tomlinson/Nick Hancock etc Xmas DVD I am sure.

Hands of my idea sky

As with tradition in the non leagues we swapped ends at half time, wandering around the ground.  It has certainly seen better days and if you ever wanted to make a film about football in the 1960’s or 1970’s then St Georges Lane is the place to come.  You can understand why the club are so desperate to move to a new ground.  The terrace behind the goal where we were now standing was a classic example.  Unusually set high above the goal, but close enough to reach into the net – it would have been a crime not to set up our own “Backofthenetcam” – a great idea but in practice almost completely redundant as all the action was at the far end as Worcester battered Lewes from the first whistle.  They hit the bar within the first 60 seconds of the half and if it wouldn’t have been for a brilliant Rikki Banks re-action save midway through the half the end result would have been different.  As it was Matt Birley’s headed goal in the 76th minute was their only reward.

The lonliness of a Lewes fan

With 4 minutes of injury time being played Lewes took the age old tactic of taking the ball into the corners.  Nothing wrong with that – or was there?  Every time they did it the referee shouted “get out of the corners”.  Now I know that some people are football purists but this is taking it to the extreme.  Sorry ref but you do not decide how the game is played.

So three valuable points from a highly entertaining away day.  We resisted the urge of a quick pint in the Cavalier as the man with the dog had been joined by a bigger man with a bigger dog and instead got back on the road down south.  Days like these are few and far between but that is what makes England great.

For more pictures from our day out in Worcester, click here.

About St Georges Lane
On entering into St Georges Lane you are transported back to the early 1970’s.  One main stand with a small terrace in front of it, a large bank of terracing on the far side, part of which has a roof and terraces behind the goals.  Basic it is and certainly not build for comfort but the proposed move to the new ground will change all that.  However in the meantime expect to get cold and wet if you come here in the winter, although on a sunny day it makes for pleasant viewing, especially in the unusual terrace behind the goal which is at cross bar height meaning you can look down on the action.

The bar seems to run almost the whole length of the main stand and is a great place for a pre, during and post match drink.

How to get to St Georges Lane
Leave the M5 at Junction 6 (Worcester North) and follow the signs towards Worcester along the A449. Follow the dual carriageway till you come to a roundabout. Take the 2nd turning towards Worcester. Stay on this road (Ombersley Road) for about a mile until you reach a T-junction and traffic lights. Take a right turn at the T-junction, St. Georges Lane North is the third turning on the left between a tool hire shop and the In-Toto kitchen showrooms.

As you travel up St. Georges Lane you will see the floodlight pylons of the ground, follow the road until you reach the front of the ground, very prominent. Car parking is roadside only, it is best to carry on past the front of the ground over the canal bridge and up Merrimans Hill road and park on the side of this road.

From Worcester Foregate Street Station. Exit via the long flight of steps and turn right onto Foregate Street. Proceed along this road past the Shirehall, Alice Ottley School and Royal Grammar School until you reach St George’s Lane you will see the floodlight pylons of the ground, follow the road until you reach the front of the ground, very prominent. Total distance is about one mile.

From Worcester Shrub Hill Station.  Its probably best to get a Taxi from here but if you want to walk leave the station and proceed ahead over the brow of the hil towards Pizza Hut. Cross the footbridge and walk along the canal tow path (you can only go one direction). Continue in this direction along the tow path until you reach the Cavalier Pub, turn left and you will see the Entrance to the ground in front of you.  Total distance is about two miles.

How to get a ticket for St Georges Lane
Admission prices to Worcester City for season 2009/10 will be:

Ground: Adult  £11, Concessions £7, Children (under 16) £3, Stand transfer £1.  The club has some special deals running for certain games such as children going in free with any adult.

Bash the Bishop – not today thank you vicar


Question: What do you get for £400 at West Ham United, £250 at Reading, £120 at Lincoln City and £50 in the non-leagues?

Answer: To have the privilege to run out onto the pitch as a mascot (children only before anyone gets too excited!)

And what do you get for that?  Well in the case of Lincoln City, just about everything actually..For your £250 at Reading you have to supply your own kit, West Ham you get a copy of Match of the Day on DVD but what about your £50 at the non-league level?  Well read on to find out…

Welcome to Woodside

So this weekend we headed back up the M11 for the battle between two of the worst teams in the Blue Square South based on current form.  Bishops Stortford, with just one win from their last six and Lewes, with three draws and three defeats from theirs was hardly impressive form, but for one day the football was taking a back seat.  You see since coming to Woodside Park back in September we have had a soft spot for the club thanks to their general outlook on the football world, and we noticed a bargain when we saw one.

And so when the whole TBIR family drove into the car park at the ground at 2pm, it was not just to watch the game but to “be a part of it” as Carlsberg would say.  For not only was this very blog sponsoring the Match Ball, but the littlest Fuller’s were both mascots.  And as an added twist, Lewes official photographer, match reporter and general man in the know, James Boyes, was unable attend so he asked me to pen the details and snap a few snaps.  One hat tick, two hats hmm, three hats you what?  But four hats.  Well with a head as big as old big head himself I decided to give it a go.

I will not reveal how much of our hard earnt beer money had to change hands but when I was told by John Turner, the club’s commercial maestro and officially in the “Footballest nicest man” gallery about the deal he could do me, I almost bit his hand off.  Christmas presents sorted all round.  It wasn’t about the fame and fortune that goes with sponsorship at this level (after all look what happened to Bob Evans Taxi services Ltd when they sponsored Dorchester recently!) but it is about putting something back.  John himself welcomed us in, sorted kits out, signed programmes and a tunnel pass before explaining he doesn’t do this to make a profit, but to “see the happy faces of families”.  FIFA 5 stars to you John.

With the EFW team rolling into town as well with the Lewes Lunatic Fringe it was sure to be an interesting afternoon.   The girls were excited.  In Lolly’ s case it was same old, same old as this would be her third run out in the middle.  Nothing like the big stage as she had previously led out London Irish at Twickenham (aged just 3) and last year England Under 21’s versus France.  However, this was all new for Littlest Fuller and her nervous excitement was probably due to the fact she was going to her first ever concert at the O2 for the X-Factor Live at 7pm (oh how I was looking forward to that one).  It was also a rare afternoon out for CMF as she is normally on child care duties, but today was enjoying the facilities to the full with an offer from me to act as chauffeur for the day.

So after the girls were kitted up and taken to be amused on the pitch by a couple of the Bishops Stortford girls team we were able to enjoy a well earned beer for being “The Best Parents in the World”, apparently.  Now there are a few things you never see at football.  I have never seen a badger, or a Reliant Robin, or even a photo of Jimmy Saville.  But I had also never seen a vicar, complete with his dog-collar on.  And outside of football I had never seen a vicar carrying a drum, nor a drummer selling raffle tickets.  But here, in the bar was a drum carrying, raffle ticket selling vicar.  One for the trivia album!  The buzzer sounded and it was time to see the girls big moment.  “Just wander onto the pitch if you want to take pictures – the referee wont mind” added John as they walked out…so we did.

Stortford had just about accumulated enough points to avoid the drop from the Blue Square South.  Essentially, Weymouth were down already, and then it was two from three involving Weston-super-Mare, Worcester City and Lewes.  So this game could either keep Lewes’s season alive for a few more weeks, or put the home team 15 points clear of the drop zone.  Since our last visit top scorer Charlie Sheringham had driven up the M11 (and along the A14 for a mile) to Histon, leaving the blues without a striker, and it is no co-incidence that since his departure goals had virtually dried up.

Bishops Stortford 0 Lewes 0 – Woodside Park – Saturday 20th March 2010
Last week we wrote about our trip to Odense in Denmark under the heading “Never go back”, and that is exactly how Stortford returnee Duane Jackman must have felt as he hobbled off in his first game back at the club after fifteen minutes following a clash with Rikki Banks in the Lewes goal.  One became two when they lost a second player a few minutes later.  Two substitutions in the first twenty minutes?  It had to be Lewes’s day surely.  After failing to win a league game away from home for well over a year could this be their day?  The team came into the game seven points from safety but with two games in hand and an all important six pointer away at Worcester in a few weeks time, and they certainly tried to play like they meant to win.

The Lewes Lunatic fringe stared in disbelief when Walder’s shot skimmed the crossbar and the giant Nick Morgan in the Stortford goal had to make a good save from Jack Walder soon after.  The girls busied themselves in the first half by taking pictures and mocking a young Spurs shirt wearing lad who thought it was like something out of The Firm or Football Factory to run across the terrace we were on shouting “You can’t score”, “You are going down” and “You’re not going to score in a minute”…Tell us somethng we don’t know!

After a brief half time cup of tea in the boardroom, adorned with the glories of yesteryear, and of course the smiling mug of Jeff Stelling on the wall telling us about the latest scores from the rest of the country it was back out into the action.  Danny and Deaks, both sporting fetching TBIR badges for the day had brought their cakes with them and taunted the rest of the away following with “We’ve got cakes, we’ve got cakes, you ain’t”.

So what can I remember about the second half? Well it rained, alot.  Neither team created a chance until the 75th minute when Stortford’s Reece Prestedge should have scored when set up by a great run down the wing from Pavett but he headed wide and we spotted the Stortford Manager Mark Simpson sporting a West Ham tracksuit top whilst parading around in the technical area with the initials “MD” on, which is a tad strange.  Simpson certainly didn’t like the major incident in the second half, going ballistic at the linesman when the referee sent off Ali Abdullahi near the end, not realising that he had been booked already.  It was the first time I had heard a manager apologise for his words in a long time.

So with time ticking down the final chance to wrap up all three points fell to captain Anthony Barness when his shot from distance through a crowd of players failed to take the necessary deflection and Nick Morgan smothered it well with a host of Lewes players waiting for a mistake.  Nil Nil it ended and it hadn’t been a classic on the field, but off it it was a great afternoon out for the girls.

After a few handshakes in the boardroom and a quick pork pie we were off down the M11 for a night with the X-Factor finalists.  Whatever you do Lewes, “Don’t stop believin'”…

If you are desperate for some more, have a read of the EFW day here.

Video thanks to Ben Dellows from Bishops Stortford FC

For details on Woodside Park and directions click here