Football back for the Daggers


Last season exceeded most of the expectations of the Victoria Road faithful. Pre season favourites for the drop, home form played a big part in that apparent change of fortune, and as the campaign progressed to the half way point, we found ourselves in a comfortable mid table position. After three years of trying to avoid relegation, this was a very welcome change.

The second half of the season bought a complete reversal of home fortune. After beating Wimbledon on January 1st, it would be another two and a half months before we registered another three points at home. As the hangovers subsided that wet New Year’s Day, little did we realise that we had just witnessed our penultimate home win of the season.

It was fortunate then that our away form, disappointing up until December, came to our rescue. Just one defeat was sustained on the road after January 1st, and so when all the points were added up on the final day of the season, the daggers had finished a very creditable ninth place, and Wayne Burnett had been nominated for the League Two manager of the year award.

IMAG1312Despite the very good league season we had enjoyed, I felt nothing of the kind. In fact, apathy would be a very good way to describe the feelings I had as the season lurched to its conclusion. Home games now became something to endure, rather than enjoy. I can take the team losing, but if there appears to be a lack of effort or they just don’t appear to be bothered, then I get annoyed. The home game against Portsmouth on April 12 was awful. Cheered on by an away support that nearly matched the number of home fans in attendance, the visitors cantered to a comfortable 4-1 win.

That was bad enough, but the last home game topped the lot. Ok, we didn’t have much to play for, while Northampton Town needed the points to stay up. But the capitulation on the day (we lost 0-3 and it should have been more) meant that, as he team came round for their lap of honour at the end of the game, around 80% of the crowd had gone home. I had to think twice about staying but I did, because no matter what had happened that day, the campaign overall had been a success. Continue reading

From here to paternity


9250911652_f89153a9e9_b“Welcome to Lewes”, sparkles the sign in the early evening sunshine as you enter the Dripping Pan these days.  An iconic image of fans-favourite Nathan Crabb, arms outstretched, tempting you to hug the very fabric of this historic ground.  It has been a long three months since we waved goodbye to the first team squad after a last-minute defeat to Bury Town and we held onto our Ryman Premier League place by our fingertips.

A week is a long time in football; a close season is a millennium.  Since that fine April afternoon we have a new manager, new assistant manager, new coach, new physio, new kit-man and a new squad.  As is the like in non-league football, players come and go every season but under our new manager, Garry Wilson, we have assembled what many believe to be is a “cracking little squad”.  It has always been the dream of the club to have a squad of local players and for the first time in living memory, we have just that, with every player currently living in Sussex.  All the signs are pointing towards a season of optimism, rather than pessimism.

Well, that is if we actually have a season at all.  Tonight’s friendly against Ryman South neighbours Eastbourne Town could be one of a long string of non-competitive games The Rooks play over the next few months.  Whilst the Premier League fans have been planning their away trips for nearly four weeks, and the Conference boys have already sorted arrangements for Christmas, us poor relations in the Ryman League could be waiting for a long time yet.  Officially, fixtures are set, but events on the other side of the Dartford Tunnel could put them all on hold.

You must have been living in a non-league-free cave for the past few months to have not heard about the “Thurrock issue”.  In a nutshell, the situation is as follows:-

“Man plays for Sunday League side, gets sent off and fined £16.  He goes off to Play-Off Final to watch Huddersfield Town, gets knicked and subsequently set to prison.  On his release he travels south and plays for Thurrock against Lewes, before moving onto Tilbury.”  However, what he didn’t know was that his Sunday League side had folded and not paid his £16 fine.  Nine months after that game against Lewes, the FA decide to punish Thurrock for playing him by deducting them 3 points.  Unfortunately, those 3 points mean that Thurrock are relegated at the expense of Carshalton Athletic.  They appeal (quite rightly) but both the Ryman League and the FA deem they are guilty.  So Thurrock are now taking the case to the highest level in the UK which is an FA chaired arbitration panel.  There had been rumours that sporting court in Europe, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.  Which may mean the season may not start in three weeks time.

Clubs have already formalised their budgets, reliant on the income that competitive fixtures from mid August will bring.  So if this case does go ahead, how many clubs simply will not be able to financially cope?  The whole saga was/is an avoidable mess.

photo (1)But back to tonight when the sun is shining, the pitch looks in perfect nick and everyone in the crowd, including Dave, has forgotten where their cynical streak is.  This game will complete a trio of home games against the sides from Eastbourne in the past twelve months.  A win against Borough in last season’s pre-season was tempered by a disastrous defeat to Sussex County League Two side United in the Sussex Senior Cup. So who knows what would happen in the next 90 minutes.  To add a further element of intrigue to proceedings, the new management team of Wilson and Bloor would be making their home debut against the club they left back in May.

First up was a programme editors meeting with Bazza Collins.  Apparently it was the norm for such high powered editorial meetings to take place in J.D Wetherspoon establishments, or so Barry, the experienced periodical editor led me to believe.  Then it was the train down to Lewes, high fiving jealous commuters all the way along the carriage before meeting up with all those long-lost friends.  “How have you been?”, “What have you been up to?”, “What’s news?”.  Conversations that you have on auto-pilot, readying yourself for that first tackle, the first corner, and the first Rooks goal. Continue reading

Popping my Cherry…again


9283753010_e72eb97b42_bHow much is too much to watch a football game?  I know people who have paid hundreds of pounds to watch Cup Finals and World Cup matches, but would you pay four times the average ticket price just to watch a friendly?  This was certainly the question being asked on the South Coast a few weeks ago when AFC Bournemouth shocked the footballing world by announcing they had secured a friendly against the mighty Real Madrid.  Shock soon turned to disbelief when it was announced tickets would cost £60 for General Admission.  £60 to watch a friendly???  Even Chelsea wouldn’t have the cheek to charge this!

But it seems the Cherries had done their Economics homework in terms of supply and demand as this week the final tickets went on sale and were snapped up within hours.  Every one of the 10,783 tickets had been sold.  Instead of running out against Woking next weekend, Eddie Howe’s first XI will be lining up against Ronaldo and Kaka at Dean Court whilst the Directors will be counting their £600-odd thousand pounds of takings.  Who has egg on their face now?

But first up they had a small matter of a visit from West Ham.  I’m sure if tickets for this game were £60 each then it too would have been a sell out, but a £10 price tag obviously put your discerning Hammers fan off who only buy high price tag items now such as Andy Carroll and the Olympic Stadium.  But I wasn’t complaining.  After all I was getting a chance to take the Fuller family to the English sea-side as well as see the game.

Football fever has gripped Bournemouth ever since they won promotion back in April.  In one short season they would be going from taking a few dozen to Hartlepool United and Tranmere Rovers, to welcoming the likes of FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic, Reading and Leeds United.  And of course there would be the return of Bournemouth’s favourite loveable East End rogue, ‘Appy ‘Arry as he brings his QPR team down the A27, stopping off no doubt for tea and biscuits at one of his Sandbanks residences. Continue reading