One foot on Wembley way


Abi Davies reports on the first leg of the nPower Championship play offs and potentially the first foot on the road to Wembley.

After play-off heartache at this stage of last season, Billy Davies Nottingham Forest went into Thursday’s semi-final first leg hoping for better fortune, as they faced a Swansea side who are bidding for promotion to the promised land after a 28 year absence. Forest had lost four of their previous six play off games, winning just one.

Having scored 10 goals in their last four games whilst conceding just one, Swansea are showing that they are real contenders for promotion, posing a bigger threat in front of goal as well as looking solid at the back.

Swansea had kept back to back clean sheets ahead of their tie at The City Ground however they knew they would face a tough challenge trying to add to this as Billy Davies’ side had been in rich vein of form in front of goal scoring 14 goals in their previous four games.

Brendan Rodgers kept faith with the eleven that claimed an emphatic 4-0 victory over Sheffield United last Saturday, as Ashley Williams lined up to make his 150th start for The Swans. Continue reading

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Lolly leads Les Bleus


Three weeks ago Lolly’s life was made all the better by the arrival of a plain white envelope in the post. The letter was her immediate invitation to quodos at school, especially amongst the nine year old boys as it invited her to be a mascot at the forthcoming England versus France Under 21’s international game. It would also mean a return to CMF’s spiritual football home at the City Ground in Nottingham where she spent so long in her holidays as a trainee WAG.

It would mean a half day off school, but I used my trump card with the school and agreed to come in to talk about writing books as my penance for such a heinous crime of taking my daughters out of school. It also promised to be a good game, with the England team under Stuart Pearce coming off the back of an impressive five nil win in a very snowy Sandefjord on Friday against Norway, and in their final preparations for the European finals in the summer in Sweden.

Pearce’s squad had been reduced by injury to just 17 heads but it had some real promise and quality about it. Joe Hart, widely tipped as England’s next number one was the main goalkeeper in the squad, and other regular Premier League players included Tom Huddlestone, James Milner and Lolly’s favourite Mark Noble.

This was not going to be the first time she had been a mascot. Back in 2004 when she was just 4 years old she was the lead mascot for London Irish versus NEC Harlequins at Twickenham,, walking out onto the pitch with a 6 foot 8 inch Ryan Strudwick in front of 55,000. She took it all calmly in her step, proving her temperament for the big occasion and so we had no doubts that she would cope with this with ease. The only downside was the unwillingness for any of the other Fuller family to make the trip, digging out any excuse rather than coming to see their own flesh and blood in one of the biggest days of her life so far.

For once the school were very happy for me to take the children out of class.  However as part of the deal I had to come in and talk about writing about football, and answer some of the children’s questions.  So for an hour I answered every question possible – some predictable “What is your favourite ground?”, “What is the best thing about writing?”, some taxing – “Tell me how you get you inspiration?”, “How do you use similies?” and the downright silly “Who is your favourite Millwall player?”, “Do you like Spurs?” and “Have you met Wayne Rooney?”.  Overall it was a great experience and I think Lolly got lots of new admirers after that.

So we headed up north, arriving at the ground in good time and dropped off Lolly into the hands of the FA as a small bundle of excitement whilst we drove to meet CMF’s family to hear all about their crazy life where the action never stops….

England Under 21’s 0 France Under 21’s  2- The City Ground, Nottingham – Tuesday 31st March 2009
lolly3 So after dinner with the in-laws, and me keeping my sanity for a record 90 minutes, we headed back to the City Ground.  There seemed to be a decent crowd, helped by some good value ticket prices (£10 Adults and £5 for Children).  The England team were sporting the new “Tailored for football” kit which basically looks like a tennis outfit but retailing for nearly £90 all in (£15 for a pair of plain white socks!) and looked thin on the ground as the squad had been robbed by the senior team of a couple of players, and injuries had further reduced the squad. 

Lolly appeared in the tunnel about ten minutes before kick off for a “warm up” but when it was time to lead the teams out confusion reigned as the lead boy got shy and run away so she was promoted to 2nd place and accompanied the French goalkeeper Johan Carrasso, sharing some french small talk as they lined up for anthems.  We couldn’t get a good enough view for photos but thought the FA would arrange some (unfortunately not – we had to get them from the French FA site…and another point they weren’t given the opportunity for autographs either – nice…)

France were mighty impressive.  There is no doubt that the French FA have really got their house in order and are developing some impressive young talent.  If it wasn’t for Joe Hart in the England goal it would have been five or six before half time, managing a number of excellent saves before Gabriel Obertan fired home from the edge of the penalty area in the 26th minute.  Ten minutes later a fantastic break from end to end saw Moussa Sissoko run clean through the English defence before chipping over Hart.  Two nil with an hour to go but it was game over.

England huffed and puffed but created very little.  Stephen Derbyshire played almost a lone role up front and whilst he ran his little socks off caused passing problems to the French defence.  Noble probably grabbed the man of the match award with a mature display in midfield, adding weight to a call to the full squad (because we do not have enough combatitive forward running central midfielders!).

Lolly raved on about her experience all the way home.  She had managed to chat for a minute with Mark Noble.  She told him she was a West Ham fan and he asked who her favourite player was…”Carlton Cole, Robert Green, James Collins, Jack Collison, Freddie Sears and Scott Parker”…Well done Lolly – nothing like really bringing someone down to earth!

 

About The City Ground
T
he 30,000 capacity City Ground hasn’t really changed for a number of years. The ground from a distance looks quite picturesque sitting on the banks of the River Trent. Both ends have been re-developed during the 1990’s, much improving the overall appearance. At one end, the Bridgford Stand houses away fans in the lower tier; it is odd because one third of this stand was built lower then the rest, due to a local Council planning requirement to allow sunlight through to the houses in nearby Colwick Road. Opposite, the Trent End, is the most recent addition to the ground. It is a large two tiered stand that looks quite smart. One unusual feature of the stand, is that running across the middle are a number of rows of seating enclosed within a covered shaded glass area. On one side there is a similarly impressive two tiered stand, with executive boxes in between, which was built in 1980. Once called the Executive Stand, it was recently renamed the Brian Clough Stand in honour of their greatest manager. Facing this is a smaller and much older Main Stand that now looks quite tired in the company of its shiny new neighbours. Whilst plans are floated regularly about relocation, the simple truth is that the club does not have the finance or league position to justify this.

Thanks to Duncan Adams excellent site http://www.footballgroundguide.co.uk for the bulk of the information above.

How to get to the City Ground
The ground is walkable from Nottingham railway station in about 20 minutes. As you come out of the main entrance, turn left and then left again. Follow the road down ajacent to the railway line to the dual carriageway and then turn right to walk along the canal. The ground is about 3/4’s of a mile down the dual carriageway on the left, just over Trent Bridge and past Meadow Lane, home of Notts County FC.

If you are driving then take junction 24 off the M1 and then follow the A453 towards Nottingham before taking the A52 to Grantham. When you reach the A6011 junction follow this to the ground. Alternatively take junction 21a and follow the A46 towards Newark, taking the A606 into the West Bridgeford area. There are a number of car parks in the area on a matchday.

How to get a ticket for the City Ground
Tickets for most games do not sell out in advance, especially in recent seasons when Forest’s highest profile games have been against Derby County.  Tickets range in price from £20 in the Lower Trent to £30 in the Upper Brian Clough Stand.  The club often runs special promotions based on the opposition.  To book tickets you can call  0871 226 1980  or by visiting the ticket office here.