Seagulls soaring towards the Premier League

After last week’s ultimate day drama, the Daggers diary team crave some more desperation and so head down to the Amex to watch Wolves’ last stand against Brighton & Hove Albion.

For some excellent pictures of the game head on over to Danny Last’s set here.

We must have a fatalism fetish at the moment, as last weekend, we were watching Dagenham survive on the last day of the League Two season despite losing at home to York City. This weekend, to mark the end of the Championship season, we’ve ventured down to the south coast, to watch Brighton take on Wolves. For the home team, just two years after leaving the Withdean (and beating the Daggers to gain promotion to the Championship), they are a few games from promotion to the Premier League. For the visitors, the prospect of a second consecutive relegation is looming ominously on the horizon.

6014657781_730d0cdb96_bWhen Dagenham Dan mentioned the idea of attending the game, I agreed almost immediately. After all, I haven’t been to the new stadium yet, and after Dan and Graham visited in March for the game against Crystal Palace, their reports about the place were glowing to say the least. Not normally being a person to turn down the chance to go to a game, I took up the offer of a ticket as soon as they asked.

In a way, I’ve been looking forward to this more than the Daggers games of late; at least I should be able to relax and enjoy this one, safe in the knowledge that the outcome won’t affect me. This is more than can be said for Neil, though. Our driver throughout our February trips to mainland Europe for our four game weekenders, Neil’s team have plummeted at an alarming rate in the last eighteen months. Top of the premier league after three games of 2011/12, they are now third from bottom and need a win today, plus results elsewhere to go their way to stay up. Last weekends home defeat to Burnley was met with a pitch invasion at the end, and if I am being completely honest, I can understand the frustration with it all, even if I am not completely comfortable with how it is expressed. Continue reading


Three weeks ago Charlton Athletic’s season was still completely wide open.  In one of the tightest divisions we have ever seen they could still be relegated, yet were only a few wins off the Play Offs.  The Addicks fans aren’t known for their optimistic outlook on life, yet even they were finding it hard to keep their emotions in check.  There was even a swear word used on one forum, and a suggestion that Chris Powell “may” be out of his depth.  But recent form saw them rocket up the table, and coming into the final game of the season a top eight finish was almost a certainty.

8706585543_acec13d592_bThe visitors, Bristol City, on the other hand had nothing but pride to play for having already been relegated.  In a day of twists and turns to decide everyone’s final fate, this was one of the very few games where nothing rode on the result.  So it wasn’t a surprise when I rang up Active Matt and asked if any of his six season tickets were going spare.  “Take your pick from 5…everyone seems to have better things to do today”.  On a day when football options in the South East were at a premium, this would fill the gap.

It is hard not to admire what Charlton have, and continue to achieve.  I know that Palace and Millwall fans would disagree, but it is a nicer club to visit, without the need to look over your shoulder, or constantly cover the ears of any children you bring.  And this is a family club.  Season tickets for youngsters are just £49 next season – just over £2 a game.  When I rule the world of football I will set maximum prices for all clubs, ranging from free admission at all non league ground, to a maximum of £5 in the Premier League.  Children are our future (or is it garlic bread?) but so many clubs have simply priced them out of the game already, meaning at some point a whole generation will be missing from our Premier League palaces.

My first experience of football was here at the Valley, back in April 1974.  It was a very different place in those days, with the biggest terrace in English football a crumbling, weed polluted backdrop to a game being played on a pitch of sand and dust.  I remember the programme shop in the corner, the crawl space under the main stand (where my brother told me the devil lived) and the noise when Charlton took the lead thanks to Derek Hales.  And here I was, taking my seat in the East Stand just as young Derek (now a sprightly 72 years old) was being introduced to the crowd on the pitch.  Derek was a legend in these parts, scoring goals for fun and even getting himself sent off for having a fight with team-mate Mike Flanagan in a FA Cup game once.

8706582855_4a163c452b_bToday it is all so civilised.  Parking in Makro, a short walk across the Woolwich Road, a quick burger at Come Dine With Me (alas no comedy voice over from Dave Lamb) and into the ground.  Because the ground is in a valley (wonder how they got the name of the ground?), views from the stands are excellent.  Our timing was perfect, arriving just as the heavy rain begun to fall.  The away fans seemed not to have got the message sent around by a few fans that it was “fancy dress away day” and apart from a Zippy, a rubbish looking superhero and what appeared to be a cross between a Smurf and David Hasselhoff, they looked a sorry bunch, already resigned to trips to Port Vale and Crawley Town next season.  The pitch certainly seemed to have seen better days but what the heck.  It was the last day of the season and this was sure to be a dramatic final ninety minutes, albeit not in Floyd Road, South East London. Continue reading

Keep your Mayan on that

A few thousand years ago the Mayans predicted that the 21st December 2012 would mark the end of the world. Just like the prophesies of Nostradamus, some people genuinely took it seriously, hiding away in caves or playing REM records over and over. But for us Non league football fans there was a hint of the truth about their prediction.

The Saturday before Christmas is Man Day. It’s the perfect excuse to escape from the Christmas shopping, relative visiting or doing chores by having a couple of beers and watching some grass-roots football. After a few weeks of being on my best behaviour I had today all planned out. Family brunch then a visit to Dulwich Hamlet FC. And just in case there was a bit of rain on Dog Kennel Hill I had alternative plans all the way from B to Z. What could go wrong?

flooded-pitchThe Mayans were a canny bunch and never said how it would all end, and so when we woke to water seeping under the front door I momentarily forgave them and wished I’d completed the weekly Build Your Own Ark magazine from Marshall Cavendish they advertised last Christmas. Games started to fall by the wayside from my list. Maldon & Tiptree, Corinthian, Wealdstone and Mertsham had all gone by 10am. Folkstone and Ilford followed at 10.30 and then the big Medway derby between Lordswood and Rochester was cancelled. Yet Dulwich grimly hung on. Perhaps it was the thought of the £1.50 special club-branded Shepherd Neame beer due to be launched today that kept the referee on the right side. Continue reading

The richest game in football*

Blah, blah, blah…”The richest game in football”….blah, blah, blah.

We’ve all heard it. We’ve all had the “theory” pushed down our throats but it doesn’t stop the speculators keep raising the value of the npower Championship Play Off Final every year. This year, the “biggest mouth in football”, © Sam Allardyce even went as far as saying it was the “Bigger than the Champions League Final”. Yeah, whatever Sam. A global audience of 500 million will probably disagree on that point.

The game is supposedly worth £45 million to the winners for the next two seasons. If that is the case it has hardly done the winners over the past decade any good has it? With such an injection of money surely it would make them a shoe-in to keep their place in the elite? Statistics tell us otherwise.

2002 Winner – Birmingham City – 4th in Championship last season – 4 seasons in Premier League after play off final
2003 Winner – Wolverhampton Wanderers – Relegated from Premier League in 20th Place – Relegated following season
2004 Winner – Crystal Palace – 17th in Championship – Relegated following season
2005 Winner – West Ham United – 3rd in Championship & Play Off Final contender – Relegated in 2011
2006 Winner – Watford – 11th in Championship – Relegated following season
2007 Winner – Derby County – 12th in Championship – Relegated following season
2008 Winner – Hull City – 8th in Championship – Relegated after two seasons
2009 Winner – Burnley – 13th in Championship – Relegated following season
2010 Winner – Blackpool – 5th in Championship & Play Off Final contender – Relegated following season
2011 Winner – Swansea City – 11th in Premier League

So the winners of the “richest club game in the world” in 6 of the past 10 Play off finals have been relegated after just one season in the Premier League. Wolverhampton Wanderers are the only one of these who has since managed to get back into the Premier League (Blackpool could make it two if they beat West Ham) proving that money is not all that it takes to stay in the Premier League. Continue reading

A right Royal occasion

Our man in Rome, Adam Lloyd, is a die-hard Reading fan but being located in Italy means that match-days are spent glued to the Italian equivalant of Ceefax (RIP).  With promotion back to the land of milk and honey within touching distance he disconnected the phone last night and made sure he didn’t hit the page up button.

I experienced every conceivable emotion last night as my home town club secured promotion among the elite once more. For only the second time in their 141-year history Reading FC will line up in the English Premier League. Congratulations to everyone associated with the club.

Having spent the best part of 12 years working at the club as part of the PA team, I was there to experience the euphoria around the first time in history they reached the top flight of English football in 2006. At that time, they walked away with the title amassing a record breaking 106 point and scoring 99 goals. They spent two seasons at the highest level before succumbing to the cruellest of relegations on the final day by goal difference. Continue reading