The forgotten little brothers


Ferdinand, Wilkins, Rooney, Terry.  Legends in their own way I am sure you will agree.  But what if I was to tell you I was talking about Anton, Graham, John and Paul?  The siblings of Rio, Ray, Wayne and John?  Not quite in the legends bracket are they?  The same can be said for some clubs as well.  Whilst some towns and cities can boast two (or more) clubs playing at a professional level, other places in England have a definite big brother v little brother arrangement.

Norwich City v Norwich United
Last season was a good year for the two teams from Norwich.  Whilst City triumphantly returned to the land of milk and honey, beating Middlesbrough in the Play-off final at Wembley, United stormed to the Eastern Counties League Premier Division Title, finishing 26 points above 2nd place Godmanchester Rovers.  However, for a number of reasons the club declined promotion to the Ryman League.  United were originally formed as Poringland back in 1903, playing at the superbly named “The Gothic”.  They were renamed in 1987 and moved to their current home, Plantation Park back in 1990.  With United’s best run in the FA Cup coming last season when they made it to the Second Qualifying Round it may be some time before they meet in a competitive match.

Cambridge City v Cambridge United
Just a couple of seasons ago the two teams from Cambridge were separated by just one division as United were playing in the Conference Premier and City in the Conference South.  Today they are separated again by three divisions as United have returned to the Football League whilst City suffered enforced relegation in 2008 when their Milton Road ground failed a FA Inspection.  Worse was to come for City as they became embroiled in a legal battle over the ownership of the ground, which has now been demolished, forcing City to first groundshare with Newmarket Town, then Histon and now as of this season with St Ives Town. There will be playing in the Southern Premier League this season.

Oxford City v Oxford United
In recent times Lewes have actually played both City and United in competitive games, although few Rooks fans will want to remember our visits to the City of Spires as we lost in the Conference Premier back in 2009, then crashed out of the FA Trophy in November 2014 to Oxford City now playing in the Conference South as of this season after being shunted across from the North Division.  Last season City’s experiment of importing La Liga cast offs almost paid off as they finished just outside the playoffs, although the locals didn’t appear to warm to the experiment with crowds at Marsh Lane rarely broke the few hundred mark.  City were once managed by Bobby Moore, with Harry Redknapp as his assistant.

Lincoln City v Lincoln United
Whilst both Lincoln City and United play Non-League football, they are light years apart in terms of facilities.  Conference National City have the 10,000 capacity Sincil Bank with four almost new stands, perhaps a permenant sign of the excessive spending that caused their downfall out of the Football League, twice.  As each season passes, climbing out of the Conference becomes a harder and harder job, with last season’s 15th place finish a hard pill to swallow for many fans.  Travel West from Sincil Bank for a couple of miles and you will reach the leafy tranquillity of Ashby Avenue (or the more impressive Sunhat Villas & Resorts Stadium), home of The Amateurs, Lincoln United.  Currently played three levels below City in the Northern Premier League Division One South, their local derbies are against the likes of Goole AFC and Rainworth Miners Welfare in front of a hundred or so fans.

Ipswich Town v Ipswich Wanderers
In May 2013 Ipswich finally got their hands on a trophy in front of an excited crowd at Portman Road.  Ipswich Wanderers that it, not Town.  Wanderers won the Suffolk Senior Cup in that year on penalties in front of a crowd of 1,000.  Whilst The Tractor boys have been stuck in the Championship ploughed field for a decade, The Wanderers are on the up.  They were promoted back to the Eastern Counties League Premier Division in 2014 and finished last season in 9th place.  Their chairman is a familiar name to some – Terry Fenwick – the man who decided not to tackle Diego Maradona when he scored “that” goal in the 1986 World Cup Quarter-Final.  If only he did perhaps he could have now been chairman of Ipswich Town.

There are others of course.  Swindon Town may consider their local rivals to be Oxford United or Bristol City but Swindon Supermarine, the original works team from the Supermarine airplane company, will have a different opinion.  Southend United fans may think that their local rivals are Colchester United but what about Essex Senior League Southend Manor?  There was a story a few years ago about a disillusioned Newcastle United fan deciding to turn his back on St James’ Park and support Newcastle Town.  The only problem with this one is that the teams play 191 miles apart – Newcastle Town are based in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Daggers start to look over their shoulder


All of the cheer seems to be fast disappearing down the A13 for Dagenham and Redbridge at the moment as the Daggers Diary team explain after Saturday’s result.

Two weeks ago, Easter arrived with all the seasonal feel of Winter. Not only did some of us get four days off (if we were lucky), a mountain of chocolate to scoff over the course of the weekend, but also two games to (hopefully) enjoy as well. For the Daggers, that meant a trip to North London for our last visit to Underhill to play Barnet, before an Easter Monday home game against an improving Bristol Rovers.

Victoria RoadIn the run up to Easter, the club went nuts with the loan signings, making five in the last few desperate hours before the time for last minute reinforcements run out. Not only was there another goalkeeper signed, but a couple of wingers, a left back and another centre back, which meant that when the team took to the field in Barnet, there was two debutants, plus another on the bench.

Obviously the new players needed time to get used to the rest of the team, but given that it was a local derby, the all round “meh” factor was almost overwhelming, as the teams played out a tepid 0-0 draw, only enlivened by a late sending off. In truth, not even that distracted from what had been a dull game. As we stood on the terraces, with clumps of snow still visible along the sides of the pitch, at least the team had managed to look relatively organized, which was about the only positive from our trip to the end of the Northern Line. Continue reading

Pleased to see U’s


Brian Parish brings us the latest from Dagenham & Redbridge as they took on Oxford United on Tuesday night.

The last few games have provided a reminder if any were needed, that this is not going to be the easy ride that some may have hoped for. After the draw at home to Torquay at the end of August, we lost our next game at Hereford, and then continued our poor record against Rotherham (in the league at least) by losing last weekend up at the Don Valley. In between, we managed to maintain our unbeaten JPT record against Leyton Orient, when following a 1-1 star after 90 minutes we won on penalties, by 14-13. Goalscoring is proving to be a bit of a problem (though not in penalty shoot outs, it seems), with just five goals scored in the opening seven games. Defensively we aren’t too bad, but it’s up front that we have a bit of a problem. Continue reading

My first game – Tom Dickinson


Oxford United 0-0 Bolton Wanderers
Manor Ground, Oxford

19th November 1996

Football first entered my radar during Euro ’96.

There was something so special about that tournament. Three Lions on a shirt! For the first time I could see what every other boy loved about football. Shearer and Sheringham destroying the Dutch, Seaman’s heroics from the penalty spot, Gazza missing the ball by a gnat’s eyelash against the Germans.

Despite the tournament ending in heartbreak for England, I made a conscious decision to become a football fanatic. The main problem was that I didn’t have a club to support. With my parents not really following any particular team I turned to my Bolton born-and-bred Godfather Chris for advice.

“There’s only one team to follow young Tom,” Chris wisely said to the young me in his softly reassuring Lancashire accent, “and that’s Bolton Wanderers.”

I nodded in enthusiastic agreement. Wow! Bolton Wanderers. They sounded so exotic. I made an oath that day to follow Bolton through thick and thin, but in retrospect perhaps I should have made a couple of checks first. Like the fact that Bolton is over 200 miles away from my home in Hertfordshire. Or that the team had just finished bottom of the Premiership with a record low points total.

Chris took me to see Bolton away at Oxford for my first ever match. This was the day I inexplicably fell truly and utterly head over heels in love with football.

Oxford United 0-0 Bolton Wanderers. It was a school night in November. The Manor Ground. A creaky, dilapidated old terraced barnyard. Doesn’t exist anymore, it got demolished. There’s a hospital there now I think.

I was only 10. What can I remember? Think. Think. Nothing. Think harder! I can’t remember what happened last week, let alone what happened 15 years ago.

I remember… the cold. It was cold. On my feet especially. Why the feet? I was wearing two pairs of socks as well.

I remember it wasn’t what I had expected a football match to be like. The ground was smaller, much smaller. It was less glamorous. It was gloomy. It was grey and ugly.

I remember… Scott Sellars running up to take a corner, catching my eye, and winking at me. It was cool at the time. Seems a bit creepy now thinking back about it.

I remember… the swearing. Lots of swearing. Mainly at the ref, poor bloke. He wasn’t that bad.

I remember the chants. “We’re the one and only Wanderers!” We weren’t of course. There was Wolves. And one more, Wycombe was it? I even knew that and I was only 10. “Super, Super John! Super, Super John! Super, Super John! Super John McGinlay!” That was a good one. He was pretty super.

I remember the frustration towards the manager Colin Todd. Why was he taking Johansen off? He’s been our best player! I could be a better manager than him. And I was only 10.

I remember longing for a goal. Please. Just one! 0-0 was the scoreline I dreaded. It’s worse than a defeat in some ways. My prayers weren’t answered. I didn’t get a goal.

I remember having a pie. It was nicely steaming in my hands, heating my frosty fingers and promising to warm my stomach. But it was cold on the inside. Not cooked enough. That pissed me off. I remember that clearly. Poor me. I was only 10.

No goals. Freezing cold night. Crap pie. Crap ground. Crap match.

Tom Dickinson

Twitter.com/92pies

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No York my old Dutch


One year ago to the day we traversed London in the name of T’entertainment on a day since know as the Perfect Storm.  So successful was that day that we have renamed the day New Balls Day – the moment when one sport finishes for the season and another really begins – well certainly in viewing terms.

The agenda was similar.  1pm start at Lords for a Clydesdale Bank game then up the Jubilee line to Wembley for the richest game in Non-League football – the Blue Square Premier Play Off final.  The only change this year was that we wouldn’t be heading back to the o2 Arena as we did last year – Michael Buble is not really my cup of tea.

Our home for the afternoon

What makes the day better is that we get to experience the media facilities at both the home of cricket and the home of football.  Thanks to our friends at the MCC and The Football Conference we were in for a great day of sport.  I was meeting Danny Last, our Brighton correspondent and official TAT librarian of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, although of course TFL had decided to muck our plans up as much as possible by suspending the Jubilee line to Wembley – it’s OK chaps the 35,000 fans going to the play off game will just in a cab or something! Continue reading