Hasta la victoria siempre

A few weeks ago I made a throw-away statement about not going to football every Saturday to CMF.  “Just once, wouldn’t it be nice to spend a normal Saturday together as a family?” She asked me.  I did point out that we were only 6 weeks into the new season but then she came back with some statement about watching football every week in Sweden and pre-season friendlies.  I mean, who counts them?  Well, apparently she did.

9857510505_d62482081b_bOf course I blame Danny Last.  If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be leaving TBIR Towers at 3.45am tomorrow, heading to Heathrow for a flight to Madrid where Mr Last would be waiting to whisk me to the Bernabau for Gareth Bale’s home debut.  AND that meant I could go to a game today.  But I hadn’t figured on the mighty Rooks still being unbeaten after 10 games.  I simply had to go to Wingate & Finchley.  I put my case forward, adding in that neither James Boyes (photos) nor Tom Harper (words) would be present to record the game for prosperity.  There was a chink in her armour.  But in order to satisfy a peace accord that Kofi Annan would have been proud of, I had to fit a new oven.

A few weeks ago when I was flush with the annual bonus I bought a new oven.  All mods and cons, bells and whistles.  It has been sitting in a box in the garage ever since.  To tell you the truth anything that requires electrical work scares me after an incident a few years ago (read about it here).  Reading instructions on the t’internet it suggested I would need to hard wire the damn thing into the wall, on a separate circuit with a 13amp fuse.  What’s wrong with simply plugging it into a socket?  So the deal was – if I could install the oven by 12.30pm I would be free to make my way around the A406 to the Harry Abrahams Stadium.

9857440785_bcf1360990_bIt took me 15 minutes to realise the old oven was screwed in place – this was after I had declared it was stuck in place with Superglue. I didn’t realise but CMF did.  A great start.  But then miracle of miracles, the old one slid out, revealing a plug and a socket.  Could it really be this simple?  Apparently so.  Within ten minutes it was replaced, although I stayed in the kitchen for an additional hour, occasionally swearing as if in frustration to make it sound as if I was working hard.  Just a small white lie surely? Continue reading

Away Win-gate

Richard Nixon’s lasting legacy was the suffix “gate” being added to any event or scandal

After two defeats on the road to teams at the top end of the table, Lewes desperately needed to get back to winning ways as they travelled up to North London for the re-arranged fixture against Wingate and Finchley.  In the past few days we had seen two clubs with completely differing financial outlooks trying to encourage more local involvement in the fortunes of their clubs with mixed results. Wingate and Finchley is another that faces a bi-weekly battle to win the hearts of the floating fans in an area that is dominated by Tottenham Hotspur.  The club have the lowest average attendance in the Ryman Premier League at just 142 but if only the locals decided to come down to the Harry Abrahams Stadium they would be smitten by a great ground and some fantastic hospitality.

8449259164_fe799f26f9_bIn truth, the latter is all a club at this level can do.  Marketing budgets do not stretch to billboard on the North Circular or even adverts in the local press for clubs like Wingate and Finchley.  They rely on volunteers to keep the club running and on an upward trajectory.  Despite the FA’s PR machine trumpeting the investment they make in “grass-roots” football, the cash seems to miss out on this level of football.  As I have mentioned before in my Blue Print for Non League football, I would like to see professional clubs like Spurs give a helping hand to their local sides.  An ad in their programme, or on their website giving some information about forthcoming games could have a massive effect.  If 20,000 read a programme, then just 1% of those who attend a game would more than double the average attendance at Wingate and Finchley.

The bad weather over the last few weeks had meant this would be the first of two midweek games Lewes would have to play in North London.  This of course causes some players (and ultimately the club) an issue.  Players have to work and a 7:45pm kick off means that the team have to depart Lewes around 3pm, which means time off work.  Some employers are not as flexible as others and so there is no guarantee that clubs can pick from their strongest side.  And we needed that for this game against a team who had picked up some impressive results in recent weeks.  Wins against Margate and Wealdstone had been against the odds, whilst the Rooks were yet to win a game this year. Continue reading

In praise of Harry Beck

Every day millions of Londoners see the imagination, creativity and genius of Harry Beck, yet few know who he is. Harry Beck created one of the most iconic images of London back in 1931 when, as an engineering draftsman in the signalling office at London Underground, he mapped out the expanding train network under the city. The first proper London Underground Map was born. Today, when you travel north on the Northern Line to Finchley Central you will see a plaque to Harry at the station closest to his heart (and house).

The relevance of this was for once I was travelling to a game by tube. In fact I was travelling on the very same Northern Line to the very same Finchley Central station where Beck had travelled from everyday and where he got his inspiration. Whilst Finchley cannot boast a football team of its own since 1991, they form half of the team today known as Wingate & Finchley who are enjoying life in their first season in the Ryman Premier League. And that was where I was heading for a rare Tuesday night game. Work commitments mean that midweek games are a rarity these days for me but having never visited the Harry Abrahams Stadium this was too good an opportunity to miss.

On Saturday Lewes had finally got the win that their recent play had deserved. An air of frustration lifted across the ground and all of a sudden thoughts once again turned to the play off possibilities. A win in this game in hand would take the Rooks back within a couple of points of the hallowed play off positions. But it would be a tough game. Wingate & Finchley have enjoyed life in the last couple of years winning the Ryman League Cup, London Senior Cup and then the Ryman League South play offs to reach the Premier League. Impressive stuff. Continue reading

The funniest joke in the world

Wingate & Finchley, Finchley & Wingate.  This was a new one for Lewes.  There are some very knowledgeable people around the club these days, including my fellow board member Terry Parris.  Terry holds the distinction of being a player at the club (just 600+ appearances), Manager, Director and for a period, Chairman.  There are few nicer chaps around and even he could not think of when/or even if we had played the combined powers of N2.

Promoted last season from the Ryman League One South after a play off win against Brentwood Town, they started the season like a train but have had mixed results in the past few months pushing them into the quagmire of mid-table.  It is fair to say this was a big step for the club and they appeared to be just keeping their heads above water.  But I have reasons to laugh and cry at the word Finchley.

I am a little too young to have really appreciated Monty Python in its prime.  I remember going bright red as a thirteen year old in the company of my parents watching the “Every sperm is sacred” scene from the Meaning of Life but then laughing like a loon at the funniest sketch ever made in the same film when Mr Creosote was offered a “Waffer-thin mint” with disastrous effects.

One running theme through a number of the shows and films was the idea of the “Funniest Joke in the World”.  The concept was that this joke was soooo funny that anyone who heard it dropped down dead.  The sketch continued to run for many years and the only part you ever heard was the world “Finchley”.  That to me was the sum total of my dealings with Finchley until the 7th March 1990.  After that date I can never utter the word Finchley without a cringe of embarrassment running down my spine.

At the time I was young and naive.  I was working for a major high street bank and had just started going out with a girl who lived with her parents in Barnet.  The family was ruled with an iron fist by the matriarch and despite being nearly 21 at the time, myself and her eldest daughter, had to abide by a strict code of conduct that saw us placed three stories apart in their house when I stayed over.  There was to be no consideration of nights away anywhere, and even the slightest glimpse of a holiday brochure set her off on one of her lectures.

On Valentines Day that year West Ham United had travelled up to Oldham Athletic to play in the League Cup semi-final.  The six nil defeat was a headline writers dream and essentially made the return leg meaningless.  But I bought tickets for my then beloved Jo (previously to meeting CMF I went out with four Jo’s in a row which made it easier when they “overlapped”) and myself in a game that was to be her first ever football match.  Quite how it went from me explaining exactly what the “back door” was in footballing parlance to us being engaged an hour after full time I will never know.  But I do remember at one point, delirious with the win (West Ham battered Oldham but could only pull back three of the six goals) and pissed, incredibly pissed, kneeling down in the footwell of her pink Fiat Panda (classy girl) and proposing at the traffic lights at the junction of the High Road and Sumners Lane in Finchley – just a hundred yards or so from Wingate & Finchley’s current ground.

What was I thinking about?  They say to see what your wife will look like when she gets old, just look at her Mum.  Did I not see that?  Did that not fill me with dread? The fact that I was on severe “rations” may have been influencing my thinking but this was sheer desperation (although in fairness the internet hadn’t been invented yet by Mr Berners-Lee).

The end result?  An engagement ring that cost a month’s salary, no increase in any carnal knowledge and the end to any football matches on a Saturday whilst we “planned the big day”.  Win/win situation eh?

A year later, still with little progress in *that* area and faced with a life being dominated by my mother-in-law I called it all off and ran away for a year to Greece, where I incidentally met The Current Mrs Fuller who was only too happy to allow me a season ticket in more ways than one.  The rest, as they say is history.

So I cannot hear the word “Finchley” without a thought as to what may have been.  Based on my dealings with the club’s Commercial Director, Mike Bayly, I am sure they are a top bunch of people, but for one afternoon I really hope that Lewes could help me get over the nightmare of Finchley High Road by stuffing the visitors.

With the sun winning its fight with autumn and giving us another chance to wear our shirtsleeves the teams took the field.  Lewes welcomed new loan signing in the middle of the park, Alex Stavrinou from Ebbsfleet United  in the hope that the problem are from the past few weeks would be solved.  Only ninety minutes would tell.

Lewes 0 Wingate & Finchley 0 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 19th November 2011
Whilst the nil nil draw was two points dropped for the Rooks, this was one of the best games I had seen this season.  Lewes have struggled this season to put together ninety minutes of good football at home this season, normally putting in a good half here and there but disappointing in the next period.  But today they gave their all for ninety minutes, perhaps inspired by the visitors who came with a real attacking intent.

The first half was a real treat for the near six hundred fans in the Pan. Wingate & Finchley came within a lick of paint of taking the lead early on when a Leon Smith shot from distance hit the post with one of those satisfying PING’s that reverberated around the ground (one for those amazing chaps over at 500 Reasons to love football surely?).  Lewes tried to get Nanetti into the game but he was very well marshalled by the very impressive Kieron Street for the visitors.

It looked like the deadlock had been broken though in the eleventh minute when Ian Draycott headed home.  However, the linesman had deemed that somewhere there was a offside.  With the ball being headed back across the area it was hard to see where the offender was, and at half time Steve King asked the linesman if he was “old enough to do the job”.

The second half saw more of the same with both keepers kept busy.  The best chance came in the 80th minute when The Ball is Round’s own Nic Ciardini smashed a shot from the edge of the box against the bar that had the whole of the Jungle “Oooing” in unison.

Sometimes you have to be happy with your lot and sometimes you have to make a change.  Today was certainly the former thank goodness unlike the events of twenty years ago.

More pictures from the game can be found here.