Impishly Good Friday

Today’s attendance is……9,011. Thank you for your attendance”

You’d be forgiven for thinking I was spending my Good Friday watch a game in English Football League One, or even in the lower reaches of the Championship. I wasn’t. I was watching a club that is in all but status a Football League club, but officially is classed as a Non-League side, or grassroots as our beloved Football Association often class all teams playing below the Football League. Only in Germany would you find crowds like this in the fifth tier of their game.

Prior to the visit of Torquay United, league leaders Lincoln City were three wins and a draw from a return to the Football League after a six-year hiatus. This season has almost been a perfect debut for the Cowley brothers. Four years ago to the day they were in charge at Concord Rangers when the mighty Rooks rolled into town and in the sunshine with all three points in a 3-2 win. Now they stand on the verge of taking the Imps back into the Football League in a season that has seen them make global headlines for their FA Cup exploits, yet ask them about the regrets and they will wince when they mention missing out on a trip to Wembley in the FA Trophy final after an extra-time defeat to York City in the semi-final second leg. They’ve set a high bar since arriving in Lincoln last summer and the team have responded.

What’s been impressive is how the whole city has got behind them. Attendance numbers at Sincil Bank started around the 3,000 mark as the fans were slow to return after so many false dawns in recent years. Even when they hit the top spot and started to progress in the FA Cup in mid-November, the crowds were only just topping 3,500, which in itself was higher than more than ten Football League sides. A week after the visit of Wrexham in front of 3,300 fans they faced League One Oldham Athletic in the Second Round of the FA Cup. Over 7,000 fans saw the 3-2 win and the vast majority returned two weeks later for the top of the table clash with Tranmere Rovers.

Since then the locals seem to have been hooked. Of course there has been a band wagon and people have jumped on it after the FA Cup wins against Ipswich Town, Brighton & Hove Albion and Burnley, but the difference here is the crowds have stuck with The Imps post-cup exit. Any Non-League club that’s successful will see the fair weather fans come out for the big games, claiming they’ve been fans for life but a few weeks later they are nowhere to be seen when a midweek league game takes place. Sutton United also hit the FA Cup headlines, for the right and most definitely wrong reasons this season. Eight days after 5,013 saw them take on Arsenal, 1,441 saw the home game with Boreham Wood. In fact their biggest attendance since the Arsenal game when Lincoln City arrived bring hundreds of fans to boost the attendance to over 2,200.

The club will argue there’s been a positive effect of the cup run – the average attendance at Gander Green Lane has gone up from around 1,400 at the start of the season to around 1,800 now. Gaining news fans in an area that is within the Crystal Palace catchment area is tough – Lincoln City’s big advantage is that traditionally their biggest rival for the locals football-watching attentions is Nottingham Forest, 30 minutes away on the train. Their continued demise on and off the pitch has certainly worked in the Imps’ favour.

The Football League and its member clubs continue to fail to recognise the Conference Premier as an equal. They’ve denied a third promotion place for decades, ruled that no clubs using a 3G can be promoted (despite the fact over a quarter of a Scottish Premier & Football League sides use them) and even decided to allow Premier (and subsequently Championship) B-teams to enter their Members Cup rather than opening it up to teams at the top of the Conference.

The Football League are scared of progress – why else wouldn’t they want sides such as Lincoln City or Tranmere Rovers, themselves getting average home attendances of 6,000 plus? An additional spot would generate greater competition and bring the potential of new teams joining the league. Forest Green Rovers, financially and ecologically sustainable, have been knocking on the door for years and a third spot would have seen them promoted some time ago. It’s hardly as if when new teams join the Football League they all struggle is it? Fleetwood Town, promoted less than five years ago could be a Championship side next season, joining Burton Albion. AFC Wimbledon seem to be doing well in mid-table in League One too.

On the other side of the coin you have the Football League sides struggling. The two teams currently occupying the relegation spots in League Two have both been beset by ownership issues which has in turn led to financial problems off the field and poor form on it. Just above them sit Morecambe (granted a former Conference side), another club that has an owner who appears to have disappeared off the face of the earth, taking the cheque book with him, leaving the players, management and suppliers high and dry.

I can’t see one compelling reason why at least there should not be three-up, three-down between the Football League and the Conference. In fact I’d go a bit further and restructure the leagues completely, having a 20 team Premier and Championship league, then three regionally based leagues of 20, meaning the top 8 of the Conference would join the league – less travel, less long midweek trips, more local games, more new grounds for fans to visit.

So back to Good Friday. It had indeed been a good Friday before we arrived at a heaving Sincil Bank as my horse had come in at 33/1 at Lingfield Park. Of course that meant the beers and pies would be on me but that’s a small price to pay for such luck. There’s fewer better sights approaching a football ground than the walk up Sincil Bank itself, with the modern Co-Operative Stand trying to nudge the Cathedral out of shot in the distance. I came here at the start of last season when Torquay United were the visitors on that occasion. No more than a couple of thousand had been here and what was noticeable back then were the lack of fans in Lincoln shirts, with kids running around sporting Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona and even a LA Galaxy shirts. Today I felt out-of-place without a Lincoln City shirt on. The transformation was amazing.

Northern Steve had procured the last seats in the house a few hours earlier. So last-minute that the seats didn’t actually exist – I believe we were supposed to bring our own emergency chairs. The seats were in the front row behind the goal, but were taken by wheelchair users and their carers. Fortunately the stewards re-housed us in the overflown section, next to the away fans. Everyone we met (and Steve knows a few in these parts) greeted us with a “UTI!”. At first I tried to explain that the coins in my pocket were chaffing, hence my strange gait rather than it being some Urinary Tract Infection but in these parts it means Up The Imps. Comfortably seated with any pain, let the game commence.

Lincoln City 2 Torquay United 1 – Sincil Bank – Friday 14th April 2017
The mark of a good team is knowing that they’ve never been beaten. When Torquay took the lead thanks to Ruairi Keating (nephew of Ronan no less) close range effort with just ten minutes to play you got a sense that The Gulls could upset the odds and put a dent in Lincoln’s promotion push. They’d kept the Imps at bay for most of the game with keeper Brendan Moore being tested only on occasion as Lincoln seemed to feel the long-ball game would have more success against a side fighting for their lives at the bottom.

The style of Lincoln play had surprised me.  I’d seen them fleetingly this season, and had seen the Cowley’s teams play not only at Concord Rangers but also at Braintree Town.  They are set up with two big, but mobile centre-backs, pacy full-backs and workmen-like midfielders and of course the away fans pantomime villain Rhead up front.  But they also had been successful playing the ball to feet this season.  Torquay were more than a match for most of the opening half, with Paul Farman in the Lincoln goal the busier of the two.

In the final minute of the first half Moore pulled off a great save down at his post which better keepers would have never got to.  But overall, the visitors could be pleased with a good half of football.  Other scores from around the division were kind to both teams, with Torquay’s need more pressing than the Imps you would say, having suffered so badly with events off the pitch in the last few years.  Seeing the Lincoln City re-birth in the past couple of seasons both on and off the pitch should give Gulls fans some hope, although in the darkest days you really don’t want to open the curtains and see who else is having a good time.

The goal was the tipping point to try something different. The ball stayed on the ground and they stretched Torquay, forcing them into conceding free-kick after free-kick on the edge of the box.  With three minutes to go Harry Anderson was the quickest to react to Marriott’s shot that had been well saved by Moore and the Imps were back in the game.  They could sense victory and threw everyone forward.  As the clock ticked over the 90th minute mark, another foul was awarded just outside the box.  With the Torquay wall being assembled, Rhead stood in front of the keeper, moving step by step with him, telling him where the ball was going to go in the football equivalent of sledging.  He stepped back and Sam Habergham’s free-kick was as good as you would see anywhere in World Football.  The Torquay players sank to their knees – they knew they were beaten.

Momentum is hard to create but once a team has it, they are hard to stop.  The fans went off into the rainy Lincolnshire afternoon knowing that just two more wins stood between them and a return to the Football League.  For Torquay it would be a nervous few weeks hoping others would slip up in their fight against relegation to Conference South, where their local derby next season could be with Truro City.

Devon knows why we can’t win away

After his exploits in Barcelona it was back to the grind of nPower League Two last night for Brian Parish as Dagenham & Redbridge made the long trip down to Devon.

If a week is reckoned to be a long time in politics, then two and a half weeks supporting a football team can be almost a lifetime. Seventeen days ago, we gained a very creditable 0-0 draw with Millwall in the FA Cup, which stretched our unbeaten run to seven games. Hopes were high then for our home game against Hereford. However, that turned out to be a total non-event, and resulted in a 0-1 defeat.

The replay at Millwall ended in a one-sided scoreline, with us suffering a 0-5 defeat, before another “six-pointer” at Crewe on the weekend.

As Dagenham Dan and I made our way out towards Espanyol v Granada on Saturday, the text messages that came through initially bought us good news as Brian Woodall put us in front. The subsequent messages weren’t so happy making though, as first Crewe equalised, and then in the last twenty minutes, they scored three further goals to win the game by the comfortable margin of 4-1. The second was the turning point, with an Ogogo back pass taking a bobble and eluding the swinging foot of goalkeeper Chris Lewington.

Most of us have seen our teams go through a dodgy patch having seemingly turned the corner, but the last week and a half has not been the best, and it has just felt like the good work put in over the Christmas games has all been undone again.

Injuries have played their part again. Kevin Maher, injured in his first training session with the club, had started to get the midfield going again, but following his injury at Southend just after New Year, we’ve gone backwards again. It’s not just down to the loss of Maher, but having to constantly change the team isn’t good, as the points had been coming when the team had been settled and barely altered.

Tonight sees the team make their third away trip in a week, this time down to the West Country to play Torquay. Two years ago, the original game had to be called off due to a frozen pitch, and those that did make the long journey for the re-arranged fixture were treated to a tepid encounter that ended 0-0. Tonight’s game was rescheduled after we reached the third round of the FA Cup, and although the coach is only about half full, those who are making the trip seem to be enjoying it. Continue reading

Stalemate against the Gulls

The Daggers Diary team bring us an update from the game last weekend against Torquay United.

Today marks the third home game of the campaign, and it’s against the side that lost to Stevenage in last season’s League Two play off final, Torquay United.

Torquay are starting their third year back in the Football League, having spent two years in the Conference. Beaten in the 2008 play off semi finals by Exeter City, they secured their promotion twelve months later via the same play off route, this time against Cambridge United at Wembley. In their first season outside the League, they did manage to reach Wembley, but in the FA Trophy final; the game was just a week after the play off semi defeat, and they lost at the national stadium as well, by1-0 to Ebbsfleet. Continue reading

My first game – Pavl Williams

Bolton Wanderers vs Torquay United
Sherpa Van Trophy Final
Wembley Stadium
28th May 1989

The Wembley crowd – the old, the proper, the terraced and packed with hooligans – Wembley crowd roared again as the ball was hoofed first into and then, with equal vigour, out of the penalty box.

Pressed up against the fences, sat on his young father’s shoulders, with hands over his ears and intermittently teary eyes wide, a three-year old child was absorbed and abhorred by the excitement all around him.

This was my introduction to football. Continue reading

Big ball, little ball and the Perfect Storm

So where is the home of English Sport? Is it Wembley? Twickenham? Some might say Wimbledon, whereas more traditionalists who like their sport laid back may say Lords. Everyone will have a view but to me it is Wembley Stadium. However, I was prepared to give another venue a go and a rare opportunity arose to see a game at two “homes” of English sport in one afternoon. And withsuch a momentous occasion it would be rude to travel alone – step forward Mr Last who had obviously also won a heat of Husband of the Year and been given a multi-coloured pass for the day.

CMFhad been away with her chums for a week in Menorca andI had done a sterling job on children duty, packing inappropriate food in their lunch boxes (what is wrong with Chicken Tikka Masala sandwiches), making sure they told their teachers they stayed up to midnight (it was 9 o’clock but they don’t need to know that) andgenerally doing all the things kids like to do but never get away with it. A cheeky bunch of flowers on her arrival at Gatwick went down very well and so I slipped in the comment about being out all day and why not take the kids to Chessington. And the response? “Absolutely no problem – would you like me to make some sandwiches for you? You have been such an angel you deserve it” What was she planning? We will see.

So the plan was to meet Mr Last, hot foot it up to Lords for the first innings of Middlesex versus Somerset in the “Friends Provident not quite as exciting as Twenty20 Trophy” and then onto Wemberlee for the Blue Square Conference Play Off Final – a titanic fight for a place in the Football League between the Yellows of Cambridge United, and er the Yellows of Torquay United. After Burton Albion stumbled, fell, got up, got hit by a train, crawled along andfinally spluttered over the finishing line in first place, the secondpromotion spot had been eagerly fought with all four teams in the play off spots separated by just five points at the end of the regular season.

The second pomotion place was introduced in 2003 as an end of season play off. Since its inception the teams who have ended up being promoted in this way have actually faired better in the Football League than the Conference winners. In 2003 Doncaster Rovers beat Dagenham & Redbridge on the golden goal and have since hit the heady heights of the top half of the Championship. The following year Shrewsbury Town won back their League place andwill hope for similar luck next weekend when they face Gillingham for a place in League One. In 2005 Carlisle United beat Stevenage Borough andhave since climbed the League One table after promotion in 2007. May 2006 winners were Hereford United who were also promoted to League One, although they fell back down last month. Morecambe beat Exeter City 2-1 in 2007 and actually remain the only club to have won the play offs and not been promoted as the beaten finalists the Grecians came back last year and beat Cambridge United andfollowed this up with promotion this year on the last day of the season. In the same period all bar one of the Conference winners have failed to progress at all (Yeovil Town being the exception who almost made the Championship last season) whilst Chester City have again returned to the non-leagues after relegation for the third time from Division Two.

So omens are good for the winners although on the negative side every final had been decided by one goal or penalties meaning a tight and nervous ninety (or longer!) minutes. Last season Cambridge United and Exeter City played out a tense game in front of 42,500 at Wembley witha single Rob Edwards goal in the first half enough to decide the game for the team from Devon. This time around we expected much more of an open game as only three points separated the teams after 46 games. Cambridge had the meanest defence in the league, conceding 41 goals whilst Torquayhad one of the best attacking records with 72 goals. I had my hat on Torquay, only for the simple reason of being Luge, my man in New York’s, eyes and ears at the stadium – it is not many people who can claim to know a Torquay fan (and seeing Helen Chamberlain on the TV doesn’t count!).

So is this such a big game for the winners? The health of the relative leagues is often overlooked in the media’s bias to the Premier League. Average attendances in Division Two were just over the 4,000 mark last season, boosted by cheap ticketing at places like Bradford who had an average attendance of nearly 13,000 (higher than every team bar three in League One and three teams in the Championship) and Luton who not only had a decent home average but consistently took over 1,500 to away games. In fact there were twelve teams in League Two whose average attendance was less than the top two in the Conference (Oxford United and Cambridge United).

The standard of the teams was not really different either with over a dozen teams in the Conference full time andthus offering facilities on a par with their league counterparts. Stadiums and facilities – check. Oxford’s Kassam, Wrexham’sRacecourse Ground, Mansfield’s Field Mill and Burton’s Pirelli Stadium are head and shoulders above the grounds owned by Accrington Stanley, Macclesfield Town, Barnet or Dagenham and Redbridge.

But before we could sample the media facilities for the first time at Wembley (thank you Keirina from the Football Conference for sorting that out for us) it was a brief trip to the “Home of cricket”, Lords for a quick innings of their tenants versus Somerset. A common schoolboy error is the assumption that Middlesex CCC actually own Lords. They don’t – it is owned by the Marylebone Cricket Club aka the MCCwho rent the ground out. In theory as the ancient county of Middlesexdoesn’t exist apart from being a postal address they could put the ground up for auction to the likes of Kent or Surrey (don’t get me started on the whole Surrey and Oval thing – it’s in London for christ sake!) and banish Middlesex. However that is unlikely to happen anytime soon as the relationship between the two is very good. Middlesexby the nature of having such a marvellous ground are seen as the grown up team in English cricket, always playing by the rules and never really taking that teenage risk. Until last season that is.

At the start of the 2008 Twenty20 season, now disgraced multi billionaire Sir Allen Stanford announced he would be creating a world series of Twenty20 cricket culminating in a Champions Cup where the English Twenty20 winners would play their counterparts from the West Indies in a huge winner takes all game. His long term plan was to create a “Champions League” of Twenty20 cricket with the winners from the respective tournaments around the world all competing for a huge cash pot in his native West Indies. However, he was beaten to the line on the latter as the World Series of Twenty20 was announced for December with the winners and runners up of our domestic tournament going to India to play.

So withan added bonus the English season took shape with defending Champions Kent, again setting the benchmark. On the finals day down at the Rose Bowl they brushed aside the Essex Eagles and met the MiddlesexCrusaders in the final who had demolished the Durham Dynamos. With their distinctive pink shirts lighting up the Hampshire sky, Middlesex held their nerve in a gripping final to win by 3 runs and thus claim entry into the two money spinning tournaments. Kent on the other handwere left with nothing. Because their team included two players who had played in the (then) rebel Indian Premier League they were not invited to take part in th e World Series.

Middlesex never got the chance to pit their wits against the world’s best. Security concerns after the terror attacks in Mumbai meant the tournament was cancelled, and in the Stanford Champions Trophy a village green pitch hardly helped the team as they lost to Trinidad and Tobago.

So hope springed eternal that this season would be as good. They desperately needed a boost as they had dropped to the lower leagues of both the four day game and the one day variety, The Friends Provident Trophy was an early attempt at gaining some form to take into the league matches. So far Middlesex had had a mixed bag with three wins and three defeats from their six games. Visitors Somerset on the other handled the league with four wins from their five games so far and knew that a win would guarantee them a spot in the quarter finals.

Rain, rain, rain….what a way to start the day. I had arranged to meet Mr Last at Lords at 11am but it looked like we would not be seeing any play. The very kindly MCC Media manager had managed to sort me out a media pass for one of the best looking media facilities on the planet – “The Spaceship” which sits above the stands at Lords. As if by magic the rain stopped, the clouds parted and the bar opened meaning that we were going to get a few hours play as well as a couple of cheeky pints in.

Middlesex CCC 341-7 lost to Somerset CCC 293-5 on D/L method- Friends Provident Trophy – Lords – Sunday 17th May 2009

Fourteen year waiting list to sit here!

Fourteen year waiting list to sit here!

Lords really is the Home of Cricket. They have spent millions on the ground in recent years and not a penny has been spent out of place. It is truly a magnificent venue. This year they have installed the next generation of floodlights. Whilst they may look like they have been transported from Eastern Europe or Russia, they are extendable and can grow in a way that any teenage boy would know when he opens the Kays catalogue at the swimsuit page. The media centre sits at the east endof the ground with a perfect view of proceedings and withthe sun shining we looked forward to a couple of hours worth of cricket. Andwhat a place to watch a game from. The facilities there are as modern inside as the booking looks, with lots of curves and glass. I managed to blag Danny a pass as well so before play started we were tucking into the complementary refreshments in the company of very few other media chaps.

The crowd was very thin on the ground, with no more than a thousand brave souls in the stands. The pavillion had a few MCC members in as well. Now what I cannot understand is how there is a 14 year waiting list to be a member here when only a dozen or so actually bother to turn up.

Middlesex, sporting their fetching navy and pink kit had won the toss and decided to take advantage of the fast outfield. They started slowly and it took an early wicket when Godleman was run out for them to start accelerating as the controversialHughes (He is seen to be getting a competitive advantage for the Ashes by batting in the county game before he joins up with the tourists in July) and Owais Shah raising the run rate to over 5.5 an over with some aggressive batting andeasily passing the 100 partnership with a majestic four over mid off (eventually the two scored 119 and82 respectively in the huge 341 for 7 total). We left Lords with a smile on our faces anda spring in our step with Middlesex well on the way to a huge total as we made our way to Wemberlee.

A brisk walk, a nine minute train journey (stuff the tube, Marylebone to Wembley Stadium is by far the best way to travel to the ground) and we were inside the bosom of our newest national treasure munching down on pastrami rolls within half an hour.

Cambridge United 0 Torquay United 2 – Blue Square Play Off Final – Wembley Stadium – Sunday 17th May 2009

Promoted at last!

Promoted at last!

With only the lower and middle tiers open I thought the atmosphere would be muted but I was wrong. Cambridge fans dominated the stadium but the noise was equally as loud from the west country contingent. Our seats were in the media section which you would think would offer protection from the elements. Oh no. The rain continued to fall amongst the sunny spells and the wind simply blew it onto our laptops and TV screens. Good planning on that one!

Five minutes in and the Cambridge fans were bouncing on their feet, drowning out any sound from the Gulls fans at the other end. The first contentious issue was in the 7thminute when mask wearing Tim Sills appeared to lead with a forearm on Wayne Hatswell that had the Cambridge manager Brabin off the bench fuming, yet the referee saw nothing in the incident. Not so Wayne Carlisle though as the Gulls midfielder was booked a minute later for a clumsy foul on a Cambridge player.

The row between Sills and Hatswellcontinued with both of them picking up yellow cards in the first twenty minutes for less than friendly challenges on each other. In fact that was really the story of the first thirty minutes, petty challenges and a few openings for either side. Cambridge had a small shout for a penalty in the 23rd minute when a cross appeared to strike a Torquay arm but the referee was having none of it. Cambridge continued to look dangerous on the break and took a fine save from Poke in the Torquay goal to deny them an opening goal when he turned Robbie Willmott’s shot over in the 32nd minute.

All that counted for nothing two minutes later as Torquay long haired lover and captain Chris Hargreaves ran onto a knock down and powered a shot into the back of the Cambridge net to open the scoring. The goal brought Torquay out of their shell and some fantastic one touch passing in the 40th minute carved apart the Cambridge defence andalmost led to a second bar a last ditch tackle from Bolland with the keeper stranded.

A few months ago (April 1st actually) the Conference issued a press release saying that FIFA had sanctioned the use of squared, painted blue, in each corner instead of the traditional quarter circles in respect of the sponsors Blue Square. As this story was actually released after midday on the 1st April I can now officially confirm that the joke is on them for the rest of the year….Anyway back to the second half…

The pace after the break sped up and both teams abandoned any defensive strategies and broke on the break whenever they could. Hargreaves teed up Nicholson from twenty yards and he narrowly shot wide and seconds later a deflected Sills cross nearly doubled Torquay’s lead. Cambridge came right back at them and a Dan Gleeson effort nearly beat the Toquay keeper Poke at his near post.

This was turning out to be a cracker of a game, andneither team (or their respective fans) deserved to lose. It is hard to see the winner failing to buck the trend of success in the league based on the showing here at Wembley. apologies regular readers for the lack of action points but if I listed them all you would be reading for days such was the cut and thrust nature of the game. However, on sixty nine minutes Cambridge were reduced to ten men which was hard for their fans to swallow (get it?) when Bollandwas shown a second yellow for a silly push on Torquay’s diminutive Danny Stevens when he was basically running into the corner and no danger. The resulting free kick again tested the Cambridge defence to the limit.

Seventy four minutes gone and it was two nil as a Torquay counter attack down the right saw a perfect cross floated in and Sills rose unchallenged to effectively end the Cambridge battle. Torquaythrew on Lee Hodges with five minutes to go – not to be confused by the other Lee Hodges who had started his career at West Ham, playing in the same legendary youthteam as Ferdinand, Lampard and Stevenage’s Lee Boylan who was also  a tricky winger and showed alot of promise in his younger years.

And so the Blue Square Conference season came to a close with Torquay United joining Burton Albion in the Football League. For me I had come to enjoy the intimacy of the league, far more enjoyable than the professional game in so many ways. It had also been a fantastic day so far, but I was not finished. I was off to the O2 Arena for the Blue Man Group Show and another freebie.  The best laid plans and all that….We had agreed to meet at 7pm, the show started at 6.30pm and we were in the 2nd row.  Not too embarrassing taking our seats half way though!

Lords, Wembley and the O2 all in one day, all free andall with the blessing of CMF – The Perfect Storm!

About Lords
Lord’s Cricket Ground is the home of English (and some say world) circket and is located in St John’s Wood, London. Named after its founder, Thomas Lord, it is owned by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and is the home of MiddlesexCounty Cricket Club, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the European Cricket Council (ECC); and until August 2005, the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Lord’s today is not on its original site, being the third of three grounds that Lord established between 1787 and 1814. His first ground, now referred to as Lord’s Old Ground, was where Dorset Square now stands. His second ground, Lord’s Middle Ground, was used from 1811 to 1813 before being abandoned due to the construction through its outfield of the Regent’s Canal. The present Lord’s ground is about 250 yards north-west of the Middle Ground. Lord’s is home to the oldest sporting museum in the world.

Much of Lord’s Cricket Ground was rebuilt in the late 20thcentury. In 1987 the new Mound Stand, designed by Sir Michael Hopkins, was opened followed by the Grandstand (by Nicholas Grimshaw) in 1994. Most notably, the Media Centre (by Future Systems) was added in 1998-9 which won The Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize for 1999.

The ground can currently hold up to 32,000 spectators. However, a major redevelopment has been proposed, which would increase capacity by another 10,000 as well as adding apartments andan ice rink. Over one hundred Test matches have been played at Lord’s, the first in 1884 when England defeated Australia by an innings and5 runs. Australia’s first win was in 1888 by 61 runs. Lord’s is also one of the planned venues for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The archery competition will take place in front of the Pavilion, with the archers positioned in front of the Allen Stand andthe targets placed in front of the Grand Stand.

How to get to Lords
The ground is located at the start of the Finchley Road which runs from Baker Street. The nearest tube station is St John’s Wood which is a 3 minute walk away to the east and is on the Jubilee Line. Buses 13, 82 and 113 run from Baker Street and it is only a 10 minute walk from there or Marylebone which is the nearest rail station.

Getting a ticket for Lords
Quite a difficult one to answer as it depends on the game. For general Middlesex county and Sunday League games you can pitch up and buy a ticket on the gate for £16. For Twenty20 games it is £20 and for internationals, well you should have applied months ago! Tickets for test matches against the likes of the Australians go on sale 6 months before the games andcost upwards of £70 per day. There are tickets to be had from touts aroundthe groundbut be warned the gate staff may not let you in – “it’s simply not cricket!”. More details can be found here.