And now, the end is near…

“Ring a ding ding ding
I’m going down
I’m coming around
All thoughts of sleep desert me
There is no time
Thirty minutes brings me round to her number nine”

The Stone Roses – Going Down

It could have so easily been My Way by Frank Sinatra, with the opening lines above but that was just too predictable.  But next weekend Durham City could become the first team in the 9 levels of the Non-league (and league come to think of it) pyramid to be relegated.  We have covered their plight in November (See Bull Durham) and how the FA effectively signed their relegation warrant back in the late summer, but the team and supporters have kept on trying their best week in week out.

The club announced today that they would not be appealing against a six point penalty given to them back in October after they fielded a suspended player under another name (out of desperation for their on field predicament I hasten to add) which means the club are now on minus 6 points.  So far this season they have lost all 26 league games to date, scoring on average one goal per game and conceding four and a half.

Thanks to the demise of Kings Lynn in December, results next week mean that if Durham City lose (and current form suggests they might) and Frickley gain a point then Durham will be relegated from the Unibond Premier League.

We salute fans for their spirit, and urge you all to follow them on Twitter, dropping them a line just to say keep on going.

Thanks to the blog The66pow for the picture.

Bloody English weather….

This morning was supposed to be all about Maidstone United…They were playing Histon in the FA Trophy in potentially their biggest game in their history…but the rain started falling and at 2pm the game was off.  With no time to implement plan B I had to endure a shopping trip and Radio 5Live as one of the most predictable results of the season filtered through my head (Birmingham City 1 West Ham United 0, scorer Lee Bowyer @ 40-1). Very disappointing indeed as I had travelled back from my Christmas party and awards ceremony in Copenhagen still wearing by black tie for the occasion.

So not wanting to leave you all hanging, and still finishing off a couple of other blog posts I thought I would do a quick update on a couple of our featured teams this season from the blog..

HB Køge
Our friends from the south of Copenhagen’s season didn’t improve much from when we was there two months ago (see here for our trip).  After their home defeat to the mighty FC Copenhagen in October they drew two and lost four games, leaving them in bottom place with 8 points at the Christmas break.  However, their defensive issues have been sorted and each game as been close with all four defeats being by a single goal.  But there is a bit of good news on the horizon.  Due to a fortunate draw they do have a chance of glory still in the Ekstra Danish Cup.  A couple of wins against lower league teams have put them into the quarter-finals where they will be playing OB in April.  With Brondby and FCK out, they are only two wins off a spot in the Europa League.

Odense BK
Our other featured Danish team continues to impress though.  As well as making it through to the quarter finals of the cup they went into the long winter break still top of the league, leading FCK by a single point.  With Roy Carroll still inspiring them in goal and Peter Utaka heading the scoring charts in the league, Fionia Park is not a place many teams want to visit.  We did, back in October and we loved it!
Since then the club have won four and drawn two goals, but did lose their last game before the break to FCK.  Interesting times in the second half of the season we think.

Bohemian FC
When we were in Dublin for their game against Drogheda United, Bo’s trailed Shamrock Rovers by a couple of points having just lost to them.  After the game lady luck played her hand, and whilst Shamrock faltered, Bo’s form was top draw, winning four and drawing one game to take the title by four points.
Our friends from Drogheda also found some form in the end and stayed up as Bray were relegated.

Durham City
Played 17 lost 17 was the story last month for Durham City in the Northern (Unibond) First Division.  It is now played 20 lost 20 and the team followed up their 11-0 defeat to the now (defunct) Kings Lynn, with a 7-0, a 7-1 and a 4-0 defeat.  However, they did run Frickley Athletic close with a 3-2 two weeks ago.  The players continue to play with spirit and professionalism that is earning them praise from all querters.

Brimsdown Rovers
Despite exiting the FA Cup in the qualifying stages, the team from north London continues its journey to Wembley on another front as they are now in the last 32 of the FA Vase where they will host Daventry Town in January.

And finally, we covered some of the bigger teams in our domestic leagues.  West Ham United is a constant source of jokes and we are almost certain to go into Christmas in the relegation zone and with Dean Ashton, our great white hope having announced his retirement from the game.  Lewes FC go from strength to strength on and off the pitch.  Another fine performance away in the FA Trophy to Hampton & Richmond sees them in the draw (albeit with a replay) for the 2nd round and one defeat in seven has seen the team start to climb the table with the tax man once again satisfied with the financial situation.  Luton Town continue to flounder after the sacking of Big Mick Harford back in September and despite still being in the FA Cup, they are outside the playoff zone in the Blue Square Premier and out of the FA Trophy.

So there we have it – a quick fill in post thanks to the weather!

Bull Durham

The English league pyramid goes something like this….1. Premier League (20 clubs), 2. Championship (24 teams), 3. Division One (24 teams), 4. Division Two (24 teams) – your standard 92 clubs.  Below this is:-

5. Blue Square Premier League – 24 teams
6. Blue Square North and South – 44 teams (22 in each)
7. Isthmian Premier League – feeds into Blue Square South -22 teams
7. Southern (Zamaretto League) – feeds into Blue Square North or South depending on location – 22 teams
7. Unibond Northern Premier – feeds into Blue Square North – 21 teams

So in the top 7 levels of English football we have 225 clubs.  We are now three full months into the season and there isn’t one team who have a 100% record….or is there?Well actually there is.  Although it is not a 100% record that they will have wanted – step forward Unibond Premier League Team Durham City.  Last season the club won the Unibond First Division and were thus promoted to the Premier league, a promotion that followed swiftly on the back of the Division Two championship in 2008.  So all is well in the state of Durham is it not?  Not really because after 17 league games the club have lost every single one.

imagesOn Saturday 7th November they played away at Kings Lynn and lost 11-0.  This came on the back of defeats against Marine, Bradford Park Avenue, Kendal Town, North Ferriby United and Burscough where they had conceded more than 7.  In fact their goals against ratio of 88 from their 17 games is also currently leading the way in the goals against charts.  So what exactly has gone wrong for a club who appeared to be on a meteoric rise up the table?

The original club actually played in the Football League in the years between 1921 and 1928.  They actually ceased to exist ten years later but were reformed in 1950 and entered the Northern League structure a few years later where they have remained ever since.  The momentum the team built up over the past few seasons was carried into the pre-season where they beat the teams they were expected to beat and competed admirably against the likes of Gateshead and Sunderland.  So things were looking up for the club, and with a prize at the end of the season a shot at promotion to the Blue Square North optimism was high.

And then came the double whammy.  The club’s major financial benefactor and sponsor decided to withdraw their funding.  Whilst there may have been other reasons behind this, it appeared that the simple reason was that Durham city could go no higher in the pyramid.  The reason for this was that the Conference (the governing body for the Blue Square leagues) would not allow clubs with artificial pitches to play in their leagues.  Their logic was based on the FA’s decision to bar any clubs from the FA Cup who had artificial pitches (yet they still allowed them in the FA Trophy?).  So should Durham finish in the top five at the end of the season they would not be invited to take part in the play offs or allowed to move up should they gain promotion.  Farcical but not surprising based on some of our governing body’s previous decisions.

The players were told of the situation in August that there was simply no money in the kitty to pay them the wages they had been used to in the surge up the leagues.  A few agreed to stay, but after a few weeks only one, Marc Riches remained (it should be noted that Marc still plays with pride for the team) and the club were forced to essentially recruit a whole new squad at hours notice to fulfil the fixtures.  Unsurprisingly the squad was made up of trialists, youth academy players rejected by other clubs and players who agreed to play for nothing.  The average age of the team that played in the game away at Stocksbridge in August was less than 20 years old.  Despite all that had been thrown at them the core of fans supported the club irrespective of the quality of players, happy in most instances that they still had a club unlike nearby Newcastle Blue Star who simply ceased to exist after a similar episode.  Of course a few fans deserted the team but on the whole like a marriage the core were in it for “sickness and in health”.

The Durham City chairman, Stewart Dawson, believes there is a future for the club, albeit preparing for relegation this season.  Whilst a number of the results have seemed like men versus boys, the players are completely committed and the club has actually turned down offers from more experienced players, preferring to try and mould a team that could compete at a lower level next season.  The decision of the FA (who have so far refused to comment on their “artificial pitch” rule) has essentially affected not just the team, but the local community.  Pride, Passion, Belief my arse.