Stat’s prove Beckham has more than just Golden Balls

As I am in Paris today, a topical article about the City’s most famous temporary resident at the moment. Roy Larking takes a look at the boys-own career of one of England’s finest ever modern day players.

David Beckham. Not many names in the world of football evoke more mixed emotions, whether it’s love or hate, than the new main man of the moment in France’s Ligue 1. Beckham first signed with Manchester United as a 17 year old, where he played from 1993 to 2003 and registered 61 goals in 265 appearances.

After wearing out his welcome with the Manchester club, Beckham’s next move would spark controversy. With word spreading that Becks would be sold to Barcelona in 2003, Beckham shocked the football world when he signed a four year contract for €35 million with then reigning Spanish Champions Real Madrid. Beckham scored 13 goals in 116 appearances with the team in Madrid before he was on the move again.

Perhaps the most daring decision of his career, Beckham skipped out of Europe all together when he took his talents to North America. As the most recognized face in football, Beckham signed a 5-year base contract worth $32.5 million and joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Major Soccer League. During his stay in the MLS (98 Apps and 16 Gls) Beckham spent part of his Galaxy career on loan to Milan – a move that did not sit well with many fans in Los Angeles.

Beckham’s career has gone full circle now as he returned to Europe and signed on with the Paris St-Germain club where he played six matches in 2013. Always full of surprises, Beckham announced he would donate his entire salary during his time in Paris to a local children’s charity. While it’s a generous gesture, as the David Beckham Info-Graphic shows, the Beckham family won’t be starving anytime soon.

David Beckham Infographic

Ready as they will ever be?

So after months of suspense as to who will be lining up in July to represent Team Great Britain in the Olympic Football tournament, the main focus of the “big reveal” a few weeks ago wasn’t on who had been included, rather who wasn’t. After Team GB Media Manager Andy Hunt read out the names of those selected on last Monday at Wembley Stadium, the floor was opened up to questions. Unsurprisingly, the first few were all about the exclusion of David Beckham, rather than any other subject. Betting companies like bwin had stopped taking bets on the inclusion of Golden Balls.

Team GB manager Stuart Pearce defended his decision immediately by saying it was down to “footballing reasons”. And so it should be – he should have picked a squad that is the best in his opinion based on the players at his disposal. He didn’t exactly cover himself in glory with a follow up answer as to why there was a complete absence of Scottish and Irish players:-

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David, David, where for art thou David

“Just when Beckham is supposed to return is unknown, even to Galaxy officials”

The farce that has surrounded the whole David Beckham potential move back to England has mostly passed the residents of LA by.  You see David is no longer front page news out here.  Despite his boyish good looks, and model wife (Not my words you have to understand) the paparazzi no longer stalk his and Posh’s every move, rummage through their bins or pay blondes to try and seduce him (allegedly).  After all Los Angeles is home to real stars, with real personalities and real scandal.

But people forget that the Galaxy are more than just one player.  In fact they are one of the most successful MLS clubs in terms of honours won.  And it is worth noting that they won these honours prior to Sir David arriving in 2007 as the MLS’s most expensive player ever.  They have won the MLS title twice, been runners-up four times and won the Western Conference title on seven occasions.  In 2000 they won the North American equivalent of the Champions League, the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Continue reading

Falling out of love with you…

According to Elvis Presley “wise men said, only fools rush in”…well as a fan of West Ham United I can certainly say that I have fallen well and truly out of love with the whole Premier League circus.

After just two months of watching our “saviours” I have seen them belittle the club, undermine the manager, wash our dirty laundry in public and then produce a number of wild statements about the future of the club, the stadium and the players without once displaying any substance behind anything.

At the first game under the new regime we had “the world’s biggest bubble machine” and a banner strategically placed in the Chicken run directly opposite the directors box welcoming the “Two David’s”.  Yet I am still to find a fan who actually welcomes their presence after just a short period of time.

“You just watch” said a Blue Nose friend of mine “They will do four things in the next six months.  One – they will complain about the state of the club they have bought.  Two – they will complain about the ground, and how they need to move.  Three – they will claim they are going to sign the best players in the world, then deliver hopeless centre forwards no one has heard of or wants.  And four – David Sullivan will appear at every opportunity in a claret jacket”

And how right he has been.  We’ve seen a range of headlines, all apparently, “exclusives” from Sullivan, and all with his lovely Claret jacket on.

  • “It makes no commercial sense to buy this club”
  • “We have £110million in debt”

West Ham owner David Sullivan says the wealth of Chelsea and Manchester City is bad for football and a salary cap is needed to avoid financial meltdown and then in the transfer window, he said he was prepared to offer an unnamed player £100,000 per week (rumoured to be Ruud Van Nistelrooy), but ultimately the club ended up signing Benni McCarthy from Blackburn (who has so far played about 7 minutes), and taking Mido (rumoured to be only on £1,000 per week – but I can only assume that we are also picking up his ample food bill judging by his expanding girth) and Brazilian striker Ilan on loan (the player no one had heard of).

According to initial reports Sullivan and Gold had paid £50m for a 50% share of the club.  Due diligence suggested that there was £38m debt, but a week later Sullivan told every man and his dog that actually CB Holdings had not opened any bank statements for a while as the debt to the banks was £50m alone plus there was another £40m owed to other clubs (but declined to say for what players as we have hardly bought anyone in the last couple of years).  So that still leaves £20m unaccounted for right?  Sure but Sullivan and Gold had paid £50m so some of that went to reduce the debt…er no because last week they announced they were seeking £20m of city investment to help the financial situation.  Deputy Chairman Karren Brady launched one of her famous quotes at this point:-

“Although this fundraising is initially aimed at professional investors, I would love to be able to bring in our loyal and fantastic fan base as investors further down the line so that they can share in the club’s great future, on and off the pitch,” she said.  Thanks Karren, we all have a spare £1m behind the sofa.  And then David Gold publically stated that we would “lend” Portsmouth £10million to “help them through their financial crisis”.  I.e, if you do not go under then we will not lose 4 points that we won off you this year and thus plunge us into the relegation zone.  But surely this is classed as investing in another club which is against the whole “ownership” thing?

But this was nothing compared to Brady’s statement in the Sun a few weeks later:-

“Maybe our way is a short-cut to a new West Ham headquarters but to disqualify the stadium’s only viable future that I know of is to make a bonfire of the dreams of thousands and thousands of people in our under-privileged area. I love the idea of calling the club West Ham Olympic

Empty seats at Upton Park

The Olympic Stadium.  You could write a whole chapter on this one.  I found it very worrying that one of the first statements the new owners put out was the potential in the Olympic stadium as a home for the club.  Why?  What is wrong with Upton Park?  Transport links work, although they could be easily improved if someone convinced National Express to open the train platform at Upton Park instead of having trains run straight through.  Sure we need a new East stand and may be 40,000 would be nice instead of 35,000.  Having seen the piss-poor away support from the likes of Wigan, Blackburn, Birmingham City and Fulham (difficult 11 mile journey across London that one) and the high matchday ticket prices, we have seldom sold out at the 35,000 level.  So what is the point of moving to a 50,000+ stadium?  Is this some mad plan to hijack the 2018 World Cup bid?  IT WONT HAPPEN – GET OVER IT!

Interestingly enough, below is a quote from Sullivan in the Birmingham Evening Post from 2008:-

Birmingham needs a City of Birmingham Stadium. Villa Park (current capacity 44,000) is not good enough or big enough for the World Cup or the Commonwealth Games.  We (Birmingham City) want to be central to the scheme, we are happy for it to go ahead and happy to be an anchor tenant.”

If we do get the 2018 World Cup, hands up who thinks Villa Park WONT be on the list?  So just you Mr Sullivan then.

So there we have it.  All of the four prophecies have come true less than a month into the relationship.  In that time we have played two home games.  Has anything changed?  Well we have installed a new giant bubbles machine to greet the teams; we have seen “Thanks David and David” banners planted in the crowd and we have seen the generous sale of our home and away shirts for just £9.99 (so a new sponsor will be announced soon then).  We have also seen an online petition to bring back the Hammerettes, probably staffed by models at Sullivan’s daily “paper”.

But other things haven’t changed.  Asked whether our season tickets (the second most expensive in England and dearer than anything on offer at Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich) would be reduced next season, we got some bollocks about cash flow and players.  Trying to contact the club on such issues as asking what the club are doing about persistent standing in the area where I sit (I pay to sit not to stand.  If they want to introduce standing then fine – give people the choice where to sit) has fallen on deaf ears for weeks.  Of course this is in breach of the Stadiums act, brought in after the Taylor Report, the same report and act that makes it illegal to drink in your seat, yet they will be quick to act on that one.

Hull players wonder who will be next to leave early

Results on the pitch have started to improve.  Is this due to our new owners?  Er no – I think you will find that the return of Carlton Cole and Franco has had a lot to do with the TWO wins this year, so don’t get carried away by their PR machine rolling out the crap that their speech about cutting salaries at the end of the season was “motivational”!

This week we have seen more PR stunts.  Despite offering kids tickets for a £1 for the re-arranged Wolves game, sales were so poor that the club were forced into new tactic .  “Simply spent £50 in our club shops this weekend and get a free ticket for the Wolves game”. Another cheap trick that alienates the season ticket holders even more.  And as if we hadn’t hear enough of their spin, Joint Chairman David Gold announced his desire to “Bring home Becks“…yes, West Ham would be interested in signing the 34 year old, not as a valuable asset to the squad but as a “sensational ambassador to the club”.  So let’s get this straight….all of the players are going to have to take a pay cut, we have shed “non-essential” staff yet we can still potentially afford to bring in one of the world’s most expensive players.  As with the £100k a week player story earlier this year I expect to see Lee Sharpe instead of Becks take to the field in August as our new “great signing”.

So am I likely to pay £750+ next year for a seat that I cannot sit in at a club that is determined to plead the moral high ground yet continue to wash our dirty linen in public?  Well so far this season I have seen games at 29 other grounds.  29 Other grounds where my SEAT has cost significantly less and where the atmosphere in the most part is much better (such as the 331 fans at Bishop’s Stortford versus Lewes last Saturday).  I think not….What was it the Villa fans used to sing?  “There’s a circus in the town, in the town.”

What did the noughties do for you?

So ten years into the third millennium and football just keeps on changing.  The last decade has seen the game become a huge global game where the amount of money in the Premier League itself is more than most countries GDP.  Below are some of our regular contributors, and readers highlights of the last decade and our video of where we’ve been, but first 10 facts from 10 years ago:-

1. The World’s most expensive player 10 years ago was Christian Vieri who moved from Lazio to Inter in 1999 for £32m.  In the last decade the most expensive fee has risen by 150% to £80m for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.  Apart from the summer of madness at Real Madrid transfers have been relatively flat during the decade after the Vieri deal with that amount only being topped on four occasions

2. In the 1999/2000 Premier League, nine of the bottom 10 teams now ALL play outside the Premier League (Watford, Sheffield Wednesday, Wimbledon, Bradford City, Derby County, Southampton, Coventry City, Middlesborough and Newcastle United).  In the top half Leeds United and Leicester City were there meaning that 55% of the league are now playing their football outside the Premier League.

3. In 2005 Deloitte prepared their first ever “Rich List” of Football.  Topping the list was Real Madrid with an income of €258m.  Four years later their income is €366m.  Only one club in the top ten have seen their income fall in that period and that is AC Milan.

4. The average Premier League attendance has risen by 14,000 over the last decade (22%).  Part of this is due to the increase in capacity from some of the bigger clubs (Manchester United and Arsenal notably) but also down to the replacement of some of the smaller clubs from ten years ago by better supported teams such as Stoke City and Birmingham City.  In the Championship attendances are up by 25% although the vast majority of this can be attributed to Newcastle United’s presence this season in the second tier.  In League One Leeds United have turned the averages on their head too, up by 33% but in the lowest league crowds are down marginally by 1%.

5. On the 26th December 1999 Chelsea became the first ever English team to field a starting XI containing not one single English player.  Three of those players are today managers within the English League (Zola, Poyet and Di Matteo).

6. Only Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson were in their current roles anywhere in the English leagues 10 years ago.  John Coleman was in charge at Accrington Stanley but they were at the time in the lower reaches of the Northern Leagues.  52 managers changed jobs out of the 92 clubs in 1999/2000, with all but 2 clubs in the Championship (then Division One) changing their manager resulting in an average tenure in the job of 1.68 years.  However, this season has seen this average tenure fall even lower to 1.57 years.

7. England’s last squad for 1999 was selected by Kevin Keegan in mid November for the two play off games versus Scotland.  Five members of the squad are still playing Premier League football (Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville, Emile Heskey and Michael Owen).  The squad also included such well known players as Steve Froggatt of Coventry City and Steve Guppy of Leicester City.  Only one of the squad is currently managing in England today, and that is Paul Ince at MK Dons, although Tony Adams, Gareth Southgate, Dennis Wise and Alan Shearer have had a stab at managing.

8. In European football, Deportivo La Coruna won the La Liga title, the last time it went to a “small club”.  A total of 10 clubs (out of a league of 20 teams) qualified for Europe at the end of the season in Spain through some way or another.  The big shock was that Sevilla and Atletico Madrid were relegated.  In Italy Lazio won the league, holding off the traditional big three.  The top 6 ten years ago is the same as it is today, although 50% (9 clubs) are no longer in the top division.  In Germany the league was won on the last day by Bayern Munich after Bayer Leverkusen lost away at Unterhacing when a draw would have given them the title.

9. It’s not the first time this year that one of the big four has failed to get out of the Champions League.  Ten years ago Arsenal had to make do with the UEFA Cup after their experiment of playing their Champions League home games at Wembley backfired.  They did reach the final before losing on penalties to Galatasaray in a stormy final in Copenhagen.  Their form was impressive to say the least as they scored six in each round against Werder Bremen, Nantes and Deportivo La Coruna before easily beating Lens in the semi-finals.  In the Champions League the Spanish domination continued as Real Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona all made it to the semi-finals.

10. Sky TV had the monopoly on live games in the Premier League and they showed a massive total of 50 games at a cost of £270m per season.  This season the Premier League will share nearly £600m.  Ten years ago the 92 clubs generated just over a billion pounds of income.  This season that figure will be eclipsed by the top 6 in the Premier League (Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City and Aston Villa) by MARCH 2010!  In 2009, 20 Premier League clubs spent £70m on agents fees – more than the total income for over 50 of the 92 football league clubs PUT TOGETHER!

Our 10 Years of highlights from football outside England

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Ryan Storrie – Ex-Lewes FC winger and TBIR Player of the year 2009:
“Has to be Chelsea winning the league for the first time in 50 years in 2004-05.  Although beating Liverpool 2-1 at home to clinch 4th place the year before Abramovich came was a close second:)”

Georgous Greek George, pedigree dog supplier to the footballing stars:-
“There were two highlights for me.  Firstly being in February 2008 when we went to the new Wembley for the first time and overcame all the odds by beating money-bags Chelsea in the Carling Cup Final.  Oh how I still laugh today when I see Petr Cech coming out for a cross in any game!  Secondly, as I love them so much it would have to be watching Arsenal’s defeat to Barcelona in Gay Paris in the 2006 Champions League Final.  I have worn out the DVD at the moment of Lehmann’s dismissal due to overuse. Oh how the Seine was fuller that night with all the tears from the Gunners.”

Ross Neumann, our correspondent from the Scottish office:-
“Paris, 2007, James McFadden, 1-0.  Perfect day at work follows winding up our French guys.”

Steve Goff, West Ham, Luton Town and England hardcore fan:-
Single moment has to be Bobby Zamora’s winner in the 2005 Play Off Final in Cardiff that brought an end to our temporary tour of the lesser known Championship.  In terms of a match it has to be 12 months later when we returned to the Millennium Stadium for the FA Cup Final versus Liverpool – best game I have been to – FACT!!

Gary McDowell, Owl supporting, sausage loving, software development manager:-
“Becks v Greece in 2001 at Old Trafford is a good shout. Only player on the pitch trying to drag his team into it. Literally carried 10 other useless gits and then held his nerve for a brilliant free-kick. Probably at his best as a player in this period.

There hasn’t been many highlights at Hillsborough in the past 10 years, but any step-over from Chris Waddle that you see on DVD is up there. This counts because the players he did it to during the nineties are still fooled into the noughties.”

James Boyes, Lewes FC Webmaster and official photographer:-
“As a United fan: winning the league 2003, after overhauling Arsenal, when Ruud was scoring for fun; ending talk about the Arsenal “invincibles”; and the 2008 Moscow Champions League Final (I’ve strangely forgotten this year’s).

As a Brighton fan: back to back promotions; Cardiff play-off Final and Falmer finally getting the go-ahead.

As a Lewes fan: Conference promo in 2008; Siggy scoring against Thurrock in injury time 2008 and 6-2 against Dover four days ago.

As an England fan: Germany 1 England 5 (even though I was Best Man at my mates wedding and missed it) and Beck’s free kick v Greece.

Controversial moment: Henry handball, not necessarily for what it meant at the time, but more for what it might bringto the game in the future.”

Mahbub Hussain, another Hammers fan working in SE1:-
“It’s Neville to Campbell, Campbell to Rio, Rio to Scholsey, Scholes’y Gerrard.  Gerrard to Beckham, Beckham to Heskey, Heskey to Owen – 1-1 as Ant and Dec once sang.  That game in Munich in September 2001…5-1, 5-1, 5-1.”

Phil Sheppard – Our man in the New Forest:
“Rotherham 0 – Forest Green Rovers 3 – F.A.Cup 1st Round Replay – 21 November 2007. Best ever performance I’ve seen from a FGR team. Wasn’t even that keen on going as I thought we’d blown it in the first game at home.  The bonus was we were away at Swindon Town in the next round and that was just as good a game but we lost 3-2 after leading 2-1. Forest Green 3 Derby County 4 in January 2008 is also up there with them but Rotherham sneaks it as we won.

Football Jo, our resident Sexpert on all things foreign and naughty:
The party in the Lisbon square – after England had lost to Portugal in Euro 2004.  The three of us walked through a crowd of thousands of home fans and they parted and gave us a round of applause.”

Lee Deacon – aka “Deaks” our expert on all things at the Dripping Pan:
“The collapse of Setanta Sports must be up there as a general sign of the self importance of the Premier League.  Give me non-league anyday!”

Danny Last – owner of European Football Weekends and organiser of the hugely successful Ocktobeerfest:-
“Standing on the terrace at Priory Lane, Eastbourne on New Years Day in 2007 for the derby versus Lewes.  I was positioned in exactly the right place to enjoy Andy “Jukebox” Drury’s superb individual effort that put The Rooks 2-0 up.  I subsequently found myself doing star jumps around said terrace.  In that one second half moment I rediscovered my zest for football, fell in love with all things non-league and found a new soul mate – Lewes FC!  I haven’t looked back since.”

Adam Lloyd – owner of and Reading’s one man internal PR machine:-
“Seeing my home town team Reading finally make the promised land of the Premier League by sweeping all before them in 2006 by gaining 106 points in our Championship winning season.  And then of course the whole 1st season roller coaster ride where we beat all the odds and finished 8th.”

Luge Pravda – exiled Manchester United fan living in New York:-
“There were some massive highs following United in the last decade but for me the defining moment was THAT free kick at Old Trafford in late 2001 against Greece that took us to Japan.”

Lolly Leaf – TBIR’s resident photographer and on course for being a member of the 92 club by the time she is a teenager:-
“Leading out the teams at the City Ground in March 2009 as a mascot when England under 21’s played France.  Sure it was for France but it still counts as an international!…Apart from that?  West Ham 2 Manchester United 1 in December 2007 maybe?”

CMF – patient, loving wife and general underestimated football expert:-
“Like Football Jo I would go back to Euro 2004 in Portugal.  Fantastic sunny day in the old Expo site and Fans village.  Huge meat fuelled lunch compliments of Carlsberg which we blagged thanks to Andy Daykin at Sheffield United before we headed up to La Luz for the England versus France game.  We got there and it was chaos, and we were forced to walk along the hard shoulder of the motorway before we could get in.  The game was brilliant until the 85th minute – thanks David James (again!).”

Northern Steve, Lincoln’s one and only Tifosi:-
The sacking of the Wally with the Brolly, Steve McClown – a man responsible for taking our national game back two years.

Nick the Dentist, The St Ives Tricky Tree:-
“There haven’t been many highlights for Forest and I was shocked to see that Johnny Metgod’s piledriver against the Hammers was nearly 25 years ago!  So I will have to say the bizarre implosion of Zinadine Zidane in his final game of football in the 2006 World Cup Final.”

Judi Polansky, exiled Luton Town fan in Texas:-
“As a Luton fan exiled to Texas there were, understandably, not too many high points in the past decade!!!! However, the JPT final has to be the one for me. I do work for an airline so was able to make a quick trip over for the match and it will probably be the highlight of my 30+ years of LTFC supporting, even exceeding the 88 league cup final which I attended with my Arsenal supporting husband (I still cling to that one!!). Even though 2009 was a terrible year for us, this game was amazing.”

Dagenham Dan, Dagenham & Redbridge’s number 1 fan shares his story his story in more detail here:-
“Most will probably dig through the noughties and find a classic premiership moment of Arsenals unbeaten season or David Beckham World Cup penalty in the Sapporo Dome. Myself, my moment of the noughties fell over a season rather than a defining day. 42 games, 24 teams all about one team…Dagenham & Redbridge 2006-2007.

And finally my own personal Highlight? – Well I have two.  First must be sitting high up in the stands in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff looking at the scoreboard after 30 minutes which said Liverpool 0 West Ham 2, and subsequently how close we came to winning the best ever FA Cup final.  Secondly it has to be my daughter, Lolly’s love of the game.  All football loving men want to have a boy so they can live out their dreams, but I have two daughters who love the game.

Our 10 Years Highlights Video from football in England

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Northern Jess is back…

She’s back.  Fresh from her still at the Edinburgh Festival Northern Jess has once again tried to understand the irrational world of football….

Beards are bad. No ifs and buts, they make even the most genetically perfect man look like a hobo. Take any man as an example and try to prove me wrong. Golden Balls himself has recently been spotted sporting a hairy face.  Surely one of footballs most attractive men can do no wrong but even on David Beckham it’s not a nice extra. Somehow I don’t think Victoria will be allowing the new growth to stay around for too long.

beardWhen I talk of beards, I mean at least 2 inches of growth. Stubble is a whole different ball game and entirely acceptable.  Step up Michael Owen and his perfect example of facial accessorising.  If you want to reminisce about some of the most famous beards of past and present The Daily Mail has collated their best and worst beards in the history of football.

This story is old, but it’s amusing non-the less. Some of you may, or may not, have seen it surface in February of this year.  A transsexual living in Warrington complained to her local paper about an NHS advert that told women to avoid excessive drinking, as it would lead to them looking like a man. But no-one was really that bothered about Lucy Smith’s complaint, people were much more interested in her face and the likeness it had to footballer John Terry.

After realising that she could get herself some publicity (and probably a few pennies for a new pair of stilettos) Lucy decided to discuss her “Terry’s Twin” status.  Lucy, who openly admits she has no interest in football, told the News of the World that she loves “looking like a millionaire”.  Just a pity she doesn’t look a million dollars.  See for yourself here.

14coleAnd whilst we are on the subject of Chelsea players, lets have a look at the most polar opposed couple in England – Ashley and Cheryl Cole.  Google ‘Ashley Cole hate’ and you get some interesting YouTube videos along with headlines of him being voted Britain’s most hated celebrity, that’s not to mention all the groups voicing their dislike on Facebook.  Speak to football fans across the country and you will hear a fairly similar response, he is one of the least popular players around – in fact he became the first player to be roundly booed by his own fans last year when England played Kazakhstan (see I do know a thing or two about the game!)

But through the cloud of hate that has hovered over him a Geordie Queen has emerged. Ashley’s wife Cheryl, girl band extraordinaire and glamorous X Factor judge, has risen from a background that involves council estates and drug addicts to become a huge success. Last week her first solo single, Fight for This Love, debuted at No 1 in the charts. It is the fastest selling single of 2009 so far. 26 year old Cheryl has gone from strength to strength as the boos for her husband continue to come. She has grown from a gobby lass, who shot to fame on Pop Stars: The Rivals, into a classy and groomed member of one of Britain’s most successful girl bands.  Cheryl seems endearing, a likeable honest and open Geordie. Stories of her alcoholic brother along with other less than perfect family members are often found in the tabloids but she hasn’t been held back by her complicated home life.

The 2003 incident in which she was convicted of actual bodily harm on a toilet attendant and sentenced to 120 hours community service seems to be a distant memory.  She isn’t the best singer and occasionally wears questionable outfits but as the old cliché goes, women want to be her and men want to be with her. She has created a perfect package and is adored by millions.  Cheryl is pretty and vulnerable, but not a push over. She is seen as a good role model for young children. The same could definitely not be said for Ashley.

Ashley’s football career has been riddled with stories of bad behaviour. He turned his back on Arsenal, his boyhood club, after they dared to offer him only £55,000 a week, this apparent greed alienated many fans. His secret talks with arch-rival club Chelsea only heightened their anger especially as he proceeded to lie about it, resulting in a fine.  After his move to Chelsea he added further fuel to the Ashley bonfire by writing a book in which he insulted the club and a lot of the players.  Football fans have felt animosity towards Ashley since his transfer days but it was only when he was alleged to have cheated on his wife that others began to view him in a negative light. Girl’s Aloud supporters are very loyal to Cheryl and Ashley’s infidelity immediately lost him any few fans he may have had.

While some may be quick to label her as foolish for taking back her cheating husband others praise her for taking control of her husband and working hard to get the life she wants.  Cheryl recently gave a much-publicised interview in which she admitted she trusts her dogs more than her husband. She told The Sunday Times: “I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t trust anybody in life except my mother and my dogs. I’m scared to let people know how much they mean to me, and it’s scary that you can love a small hairy thing so much.”  Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in February 2009 for Comic Relief only added to Cheryl’s respectable image. Especially as returning from the trip she was faced with discussing Ashley’s arrest for being drunk and disorderly.  The shy little girl from South Shields has also been voted in the Top 10 Sexiest Women in the world by FHM magazine, Britain’s Best Dressed Woman by Tatler and Heat magazines “Most fanciable female” in the past 12 months…And Ashley has won, errr, a FA Cup winners medal.

_images_cheryl-tweedy-cole-elle-01Ashley told The News of The World he accepted his bad reception. He said: “I will be retired in five or six years and then the people who hate me can move on to someone else.”  And maybe even Cheryl is embarrassed about the reception her husband receives as rumour has it she won’t be attending the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as she’ll be much too busy with her solo career and work on The X Factor.  Although some argue that Ashley is the best left-back that England have his talent is hugely over-shadowed by his behaviour. It’s easy to dislike someone who gets bad press over his social life, and is a good footballer but he seems to never come up smelling of roses.  Cheryl on the other hand not only smells of flowers but is fast becoming the quintessential English Rose, even with her barbed wire tattoo around her thigh!”

Photos used from

The Road to Wembley with thunder and lightning….

The Ball is Round

The Ball is Round

A weeks ago the road to Wembley started for this season.  Just 76 days after Chelsea lifted the trophy at Wembley Stadium, this seasons competition kicked off with Flackwell Heath of the Futbol Hellenic Premier Division beating Welwyn Garden City 4-0.  The Heathens, as they are known were the first club in the draw for the Preliminary Round, along with such teams as Bemerton Heath Harlequins, Chessington & Hook United (winning the battle of the Theme Parks with Chertsey Town), West Allotment Celtic and AFC Wulfrunians.  Some of the unlucky losing teams included Cadbury Athletic, Pilkingston XXX (no relation to Castlemaine XXXX) and ruining their dream of a local day out, Wembley.  At this stage of the competition, the games are regionalised and so the draw often throws up some local interest such as the games between Kidlington (home of Richard Branson) and Abingdon Town (home of Bernie Eccleston) or South Shields versus Newcastle Benfield.

The second round, officially called the Preliminary Round was drawn on Monday 17th August, and games were to be played across the whole of the Bank Holiday weekend, meaning a groundhoppers paradise.  Every year I say I would do the Road to Wembley, following a team until they got knocked out, and then their victors until the final.  It never happens though.  Last season I started in the final qualifying round with Grays, but a draw against Carlisle United away put pay to that project!  This season I missed the Extra Qualifying round, but drew a winning team out of the hat to follow…so step forward Brimsdown Rovers.  Whilst they may sound like a team more likely to be playing Melchester Rovers under the leadership of Roy Race, they have actually been around for over 60 years and currently play in Spartan South Midlands League.

Now I am confused.  I have looked into their formation, and their website says:-

“The Club was formed just after World War II in 1947 by a number of Geordies following a merger with a club called Durham Rovers.

The Club’s colours have always been the famous black and white stripes of Newcastle United, whilst in the early days their change of strip saw the red and white stripes of Sunderland in use, to keep everyone happy! As with Newcastle United, its mascot has also always been a magpie.

Playing on the local playing fields, the Club entered the Enfield Football Alliance and in the first season were joint winners of Divsion One, were runners-up in the Premier Division for the next two seasons as well as winning the League Cup in 1948/49.”

So the above suggests that they were originally played in the North East, yet now someone moved to Enfield?

Well what is clear is that they play, as the crow flies, just 10 miles from Wembley Stadium in a smart little 3,000 capacity stadium.  Whilst they have held their own at this level for many a season, there is always a dream that this year will be the year in the cup.  Their best every performance was in 1992 when they reached the Third Qualifying Round, losing in a replay to Chesham Town.

Dan had been keen on the idea of a Friday night game, with his girlfriend doing damage to his credit card in New York he was footloose and fancy free, although he rarely needs an excuse for a game.  Lolly was also allowed to come, having helped out with the concrete smashing on the old drive during the day (some children want sweets or toys as a treat, Lolly wants to go to football – what a difficult child!).  a short hop, skip and a jump around the North Circular to EN3 saw us at the once home of David Beckham (he played here when he was in his early teens) as cup fever swept North London.  OK – the 70-odd other fans seemed pretty excited, even if most were related to the players in some way.  The game had been moved to the Friday night to on Police advice as both Enfield Town and Enfield 1893 were due to play on the Saturday (OK – not strictly true but Enfield Town actually share Brimsdown’s ground!) which suited us fine.  What didn’t suit us fine was the localised thunderstorm that only seemed to be affecting EN3.  Thanks to my brand new SatNav, which for some reason likes to occasionally try and direct you across a railway line using a foot bridge, or to turn right across a dual carriageway with a central reservation we got there eventually, but the weather was a tad of a concern.

The ground had a clubshop attached so we sought cover from the rain in the bar.  We were allowed in the members bit of the bar, whilst the normal general public had to make do with Racey’s cafe bar next door, which was packed with families enjoying a night out, Enfield style.  We left it until 5 minutes before kick off to make a run for it, paying out £5 to have a slice of FA Cup history (free for Lolly as the bloke gave us a tale about lifting children over turnstiles at White Hart Lane after the War).  Dan was gutted to find that all of the programmes had sold out – could this mean a record crowd?

Brimsdown Rovers 2 Fleckwell Heath 4 – Goldsdown Road – Friday 28th August 2009

The teams emerge to a fanfare

The teams emerge to a fanfare

The teams were just emerging from the “tunnel” in the corner of the pitch, with the home team accompanied by 11 mascots a la Champions League style.  A line up in front of the main stand and then we were off.  We started to walk around the pitch to the other side, to take up residence behind the dugouts for amusement purposes.  Behind the one “open” end stood a lonely character, with wild unkept hair…could this be?  Yes it was the non-league groundhopping legend, Wolfie.  This guy spends every waking minute going from ground to ground in the UK at all levels but can only count his visit if he touches the ball.  Having the whole end to himself surely meant he would be able to tick this one off quickly?  Well in the 2nd minute the ball bounced over the advertising hording and he set off.  Only Dan was nearer, and Dan knew nothing of the legend so returned the ball to the keeper, much to the Wolf’s annoyance! (he only had to wait a few more minutes before he got his touch, the notebook came out and he was a happy, yet still deranged man)

The pitch was in a right old state.  The ground was so dry and the white lines had been washed away by the storm, meaning it was almost impossible to see where the penalty area started, or when a ball went out to touch.  Being so close to the action we could see how the tactics were being relayed by the respective benches.  “Brimmo, level pegging”, “Eyes wide open” and “use the empty space” were some of the confusing few instructions in the first few minutes.

The game was a classic.  Six goals, some pretty fierce tackling, some appalling refereeing, some excellent sledging of the linesman and the obligatory substitutes needing to have a piss against the side of the pitch lead to a great evening’s entertainment.  Fleckwell were the better team, and it was surprising that they were twice pegged back after taking the head, especially the 2nd Brimsdown equalizer that was a clearance that cannoned off a home player on the edge of the box then took a wicked spin on its first bounce that completely foxed the keeper.  But two late goals by Flackwell Heath saw them score four for the second round in the row and process into the hat for the 1st round of qualifying.  The referee seemed to be issuing cards for fun and nobody, including the official match reporter could work out who had actually been cautioned.  His linesman got a ticking off for not bothering to wait for a player to leave the field before sending on a substitute, but not as nearly enough when he allowed Brimsdown’s first goal to stand where at least two players were clearly offside, and a handball occurred in front of his nose.

But football the world over doesn’t change.  We had a few chav’s in the stand behind the goal, we had would-be footballer’s wives with a glow of orange from their fake tan only normally seen in a Tango add, and the customary slag-tag tattoos. We had passion, we had substitute numbers carried around in a Tesco’s bag f9r life and for some reason we had orange balls! Yes the “snow balls” were for some reason used, and Lolly liked the look of them.  Acting as ball boy behind the shed we were standing in on one occasion she came back empty handed, only to tell us that she had “hidden” the ball for later.  I pointed out that that would be theft and sent her away with a flee in her ear – cheek of the young generation these days (good idea though!).

So 762 teams enter the cup ever year, but will there be a better game than this?  Almost certainly, but for £5 on a Friday night you will be hard pressed to find one that is as value for money.  Dan and Brian had been at the laugh a minute West Ham versus Millwall game on Tuesday night, where a 3-1 win for the Hammers had apparently got in the way of a perfectly good fight (“I paid £40 for my ticket and my evening was ruined watching 22 blokes play a football match in the middle of the fight” one fan was reported saying) and it was good for them to get back to some normality.  Lolly got to experience real grassroots football and was able to add some new words into her list of  “Don’t say to Mummy that word”, and I was able to think that I could manage a football team at this level – after all some of my inspirational and motivational team meetings would confuse and baffle the best of footballers – thus making me qualified?  Bromley, onwards!!!

About Goldsdown Road
As you would imagine at this level the ground is basic.  The playing area is massive, with a couple of metres between the touchline and the fences.  There are three small stands, one with seats that runs almost from penalty area to penalty area with four rows, and two small covered terraces behind one goal and then behind the dugouts.  The club has a bar and a cafe by the one set of turnstiles.  There is certainly room to expand should the need arise.

How to get to Goldsdown Road
The ground is at the end of a residential street (Goldsdown Road) in the heart of EN3, north London.  From the north circular (A406) head north along the Meridian Way at Angel Road.  When you eventually get to the big roundabout with Lee Valley Road go straight over.  Follow this road until you get to a roundabout with a McDonalds on your left hand side.  Turn left and over the level crossing (Brimsdown railway station and then take the 2nd right into Goldsdown Road.

From the M25 leave at junction 25 and head south on the A10.  When you get to the junction with the A110 turn left and follow this until you reach the roundabout with the A1055 Mollison Avenue, then turn left and follow directions above.

Brimsdown railway station is a 5 minute walk from the ground and is served on a regular basis by trains from Liverpool Street, with a journey time of 20 minutes.

How to get a ticket for Goldsdown Road
It’s all pay on the door as you would image and just £5 for Adults and £1 if they do decide to charge you for children.