A love of Tembling Madness

downloadI’m showing my age by sharing a joke from my adolescent years that is tenuously connected to this year’s annual Northern Capricorn adventure.

“What’s the difference between Joan Collins and a KitKat?”

Answers on a postcard to the usual address and if you don’t know who Joan is, have a look in your Dad’s shed in his collection of video tapes in those fake book covers for The Bitch or The Stud. If you need to Google what a video is then give up now. As a hint, KitKat has either two or four fingers of chocolate-covered wafer.

After the excitement of Hucknall Town, Sheffield, Farsley and Jarrow Roofing Borough in recent years, Northern Steve and I had gone all upmarket for our trip this year, dipping our toe into the Football League with a visit to York City. It’s been over 20 years since I’d last visited Bootham Crescent, in which time the Minstermen had been taken over by a mad American chap who seemed to think he’d bought an American football team and tried to rename them York City Soccer Club, almost gone to the wall, been relegated from the Football League, almost gone bankrupt again, renamed their ground after a chocolate bar, played at Wembley and lost, played at Wembley and won the FA Trophy, bounced back in the words of Alan Partridge and finally regained their place in the Football League.

Memories of York City? Has to be Keith Houchen’s goal in the mid-Eighties to beat Arsenal in the FA Cup. Back then Arsenal were a poor side, frightened by the looming presence of the opposition’s goal and constantly moaning that their artistic flare was being stifled by brutish tactics from the opposition. So nothing’s really changed.

16302323235_8ed47d705a_kThese days York is a trendy weekend break city for tourists (shameless plug for our new non-football website). Quaint lanes lined with Ye Olde Worlde-type shops rub shoulders with some superb pubs, whilst the traditional industries of the city, railways and chocolate, are honoured with respectful museums. The city is watched over by the Minster, making sure all those boys and girls on their nights out behave themselves.

Our annual January trips follow a similar pattern. We deposit the Current Mrs Fuller and Sister of CMF at a ‘classy’ bar in the city centre (by SoCMF standards, classy means they wash the unused cherries they put in drinks before re-using them), pop along to the nearest Step 7 or below football match, return to hotel where the girls will have tried, but miserably failed to do the whole minibar (it’s always the rum that does them in). A slap up meal somewhere before we end up in a nightclub that plays Now That’s What I Call a Music 13 on a loop whilst Cyndi Lauper impersonators mime out of time on a vomit streaked dance floor. Harsh? That’s what an afternoon in South Shields can do to a rational man.

16301470792_14048c50ce_hBut York was going to be different. We, well CMF and SoCMF had family in York. Aunt, an Uncle and cousins who love nothing better than trying to take the piss out if our southern ways, accents and mannerisms whilst looking jealously at how we could use a knife and fork. Of course they’d be joining us in our Saturday night out – who in their right mind could refuse that opportunity although they were less than eager to join Steve and I at Bootham Crescent. Dave (Uncle) even went as far as saying he was going to see Grimsby Town v Barnet. As if anyone would believe that?

This was also likely to be my last trip to Bootham Crescent as the wheels now appeared to be back on the new stadium bandwagon after 10 years of delays. The new stadium at Monks Cross would be a similar design to Princes Park in Dartford but with a 12 foot Viking instead of the Wooden Man I assume. Planning permission for an 8,000 capacity ground was submitted late in 2014. Whether the notorious Jorvik Reds would be welcome is another question after a spat with the club a few years ago.

16300532721_765221ee86_kYork has a fair few decent pubs including a Ossett Brewery outpost and possibly the best named pub in England, The House of Trembling Madness and England’s most haunted pub, the Golden Fleece where ghostly apparitions still happen on a nightly basis, especially after ten pints of old Wallop. With a few hearty lunchtime Yorkshire ales inside us, we headed along to Bootham Crescent, ready to watch some Viking fire. And drink beef-flavored hot drinks.

York City 0 Stevenage 2 – Bootham Crescent – Saturday 17th January 2015
16302340645_9aeb09bc97_kUnless they were completely blinded by the low winter sun, there could be few York fans who wont begrudge the visitors all three points.  As a few Stevenage fans started a conga at the far end, the York fans put their heads down and walked out into the night, shaking their heads about another performance where they simply weren’t at the races.  Two superb shots, one that found the cross-bar and was then followed in, and another that flew into the top corner saw Stevenage’s fine recent run continue as the home team fell a few steps further down the ladder towards the Conference Premier.  York’s manager, Russ Wilcox summed up the mood in his post match interview:-

“Not good enough, that’s the bottom line really. I feel for the supporters. The last two home performances have been outstanding, but today we just didn’t perform.  The lack of quality today was eye-catching – we just looked lost and it was a really bad day”

Despite being fairly well matched in terms of possession and early chances, Stevenage just seemed to want to win more than the home side.  I’d taken the opportunity to grab a Bovril when the crowds “oooh’d” in the 39th minute as Charlie Lee’s superb volley hit the bar.  Adam Marriott looked to be in an offside position when he headed the rebound home, but there was no doubt in the officials mind.

16116492777_75638e0d6a_oThe York fans tried to raise a pulse from the team with the beat of their drums early in the second half.  Three quick corners produced some scary moments in the Stevenage box but then Stevenage re-asserted themselves in the game and wrapped up the points when Tom Pett, playing for Wealdstone in the Ryman Premier League this time last season, struck a peach of a shot into the top corner in the 64th minute to wrap up the three points with the only attacking chance from York coming in the 85th minute when Morris’s shot was somehow kept out by the keeper and a post.

Whilst none of the York fans will want to return to the bizarre days of Soccer City or the dark days of Conference football, they probably do want to be playing League Two football as and when they move to their new stadium. For now there was the bitterness of defeat but as the fans filed into the fantastic pubs in the city centre, the beer would soon soothe all of those pains.  It is only a game after all.

The fat lady loses her voice at the right moment

The final day of a league season brings a mix of emotions. There could be the heady excitement of promotion or even a league title, or a comfortable mid-table finish. There might be the chance to relax on the final day, having escaped from a tense season, or the disappointment of a season that hasn’t quite finished in the way that supporters would have liked.  Dagger’s Diary’s Brian Parish tells us of the story at Victoria Road, where relegation back to the non leagues was very much on the agenda.

Of course, you could be in our position, of going into the final day with the chance of being relegated. Last weekends defeat at Aldershot has prolonged the agony, and also meant that, combined with other results, that two teams will lose their league status on the final day. With nothing yet decided, the last week has not been great, and although work has been there to take the mind off of the impeding agony of the last day, the nerves have been slowing building.

After the game 270413 pt2 - CopySimply put, Aldershot’s win, coupled with other results meant that, as we head towards 3pm on the last day of the campaign, there are still seven teams that could fill the two relegation places. While our visitors today, York City, are still in with a chance of going down (along with Torquay and Plymouth), it’s generally reckoned that any two from four will be the most likely to go.

Aldershot start the day in last place, and with forty eight points, need to win at Rotherham to have a chance of staying up. Wimbledon, just above them with fifty, are at home to Fleetwood, whose chances of the play offs disappeared last week. Then we get to Barnet. Having won their last game at Underhill (saving a last minute penalty, which darkened the mood on our coach ride home from Aldershot last weekend just that little bit more), they travel to Wycombe. Continue reading

Daggers put some perspective back into football

The Daggers Diary team head north to renew their encounters with York City on a day when the fortunes of smaller clubs are put in perspective.

This week has seen the BBC release the results of their survey of clubs in the Premier and Football Leagues, as well as the Conference and Scottish leagues, about the cost of going to a game. It made interesting reading, as we were allowed to compare the cost of season tickets throughout ten leagues in England, Wales and Scotland. If the cost of a pie or a cup of tea is important (and when isn’t it?), then we could find that out as well. Interestingly (and perhaps surprisingly) the most expensive programme is in the Championship at Leeds United, while the most expensive cup (or polystyrene) cup of tea can be found in Manchester.

Not only did we get loads of data about cost, but there were several other articles, all relating to the results. One of them included the MD of the Daggers, Steve Thompson. For those that have been attending Victoria Road for a while, Steve is a familiar figure. Often at home games, he will be seen strolling round the ground, extolling people to make noise as he makes his way along the sieve.

Tommo was featured in an article about how the Daggers survive on a budget. While a fair bit of this was already known, it was nonetheless interesting to read about how the club is basically run by five people, two of which are students from Bournemouth University on work placements. Continue reading

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

And now, the end is near…..

“….and so I face the final curtain”….not my words but those of Frank Sinatra, Ol’ Blues Eyes.  And what could be more apt for a final day game in the Blue Square Premier League than a trip back to one of my favourites, Lewes for their last game at this level.  Since seeing them beat Grays on the 22nd November (see When Two Blogs Collide) the team have played twenty five league games, winning three times and losing the remaining twenty two games.  Nine points out of seventy five is not really play off material so it comes as no surprise to anyone, including the Lewes fans that the team confirmed their relegation some weeks ago back to the Blue Square South.  Hopes were never very high for this season after the farcical events of last summer after promotion had been confirmed, and hadn’t been helped by the management of ex-Brighton & Hove Albion commercial manager (i.e no football management experience) Kevin Keehan being in charge of team affairs for most of the campaign.

Last April things were so different in this lovely little town in East Sussex.  The club has risen from Rymans League Three to the Blue Square Premier in just seven seasons, an amazing effort and I doubt that any visiting fan can ever have a bad word to say about visiting the Dripping Pan.  Then the owners of the club made some bizarre decisions and have reaped the rewards of their bad harvest this season.  Administration has been avoided, which appeared to be the only option a few months ago for the club.  So there are some positives for next season andI have vowed to adopt them as my second team from August and get to as many away games as I can in the Blue Square South to keep up our commitment at TBIR to cover non-league as much as European football.

But for this last horaahI was obviously going to be attending with Mr. Last.  The man who has taken his blog (EFW) to new levels of reporting by securing endorsement this season from the creator of Steptoe & Son (Alan Simpson), two Ashes winners (Jimmy Anderson and Jack Russell) and a comedy genius (Frank Sidebottom).  This would obviously involve a number of Harvey’s being sampled – when in Rome, etc so the train was the carriage of choice for this one.

York were the visitors for the last day, and after a bit of squeekybum time in the past few weeks they secured Conference football with a 2-1 away win at Weymouth on Friday night.  I had seen York on four occasions already this season and their performances had varied from solid (Histon), attacking (Burton Albion), defensive (Salisbury City) and woeful (Eastbourne Borough).  Of course there was always the passionate support to look forward to.  The York fans have supported their club through thick and thin over the past few seasons and are one of the only clubs to have a recognised “Ultra” following.  Some of their fans can be a bit exuberant to say the least (see February 2009’s post on “I do like to be beside the seaside”) but at least they care and show a bit of passion.  They have exceeded a number of expectations though this season.  The form of centre-forward Brodie has been nothing short of sensational at times, and with 18 goals this season he has been their shining light.  His goals also secured a first trip to the New Wembley Stadium for the club as they are due to play Stevenage Borough in the FA Trophy final in a few weeks.

With all four relegation places confirmed these two had nothing to play for.  I had some money on an outside bet for Oxford United to reach the play offs which required a Torquay defeat at home to Burton Albion and a Kidderminster draw or defeat at home plus the assumption that Oxford would beat already relegated Northwich Victoria themselves. So I would have one eye on the Blackberry and one eye on the fantastic bar at the Dripping Pan.

The sun was shining as CMF taxi’s pulled up in Brighton andafter an hour on the beach with the Little Fullers I was off up the road to meet Mr Last at the European Football Weekends HQ – aka The Lord Nelson, officially the darkest pub in the world.  Obviously a couple of Harvey’s were in order and after a discussion on the latest non-league gossip we were off to Lewes on the train.

Lewes 1 York City 1 – The Dripping Pan – Sunday 26th April 2009 4pm

The teams emerge to an almost San Siro welcome

The teams emerge to an almost San Siro welcome

The weather was so good in East Sussex that it seemed a shame to play a football match.  One good thing to come out of the relegation of the club is that next season they do not have to abide by the ridiculous rule that means that no alcohol is allowed to be served during the game from the bar behindthe goal will not be enforced.  The amount of revenue the club will see next season should make up for the lower number of away supporters.  This season the biggest attendances have been when the big clubs have come to visit.  York brought a couple of coaches with them and filled the small away terrace at the far end, enjoying the BBQ in full force.  Danny took the opportunity to induct a couple more people into the EFW fanclub, snapping Richard Brodie and Martin Foyle from York City into the gallery.

To tell you the truth the game was poor.  York City played witha number of squad players starting, with Foyle looking at likely candidates for their big Wembley appearance.  He had kept top scorer Brodie on the bench, and even Lewes chose to rest their teenage sensation David Wheeler for the first half.  I cannot remember one single chance in the first half, although you would have never guessed by the noise the few hundred Lewes fans made.  Scored kept filtering through from around the country.  Firstly Torquay scored against Burton, and then news came through that the divisions form team Northwich Victoria had taken the lead at the Kassam against Oxford United.

Half time came and another Harvey’s disappeared and it was touch and go whether we went back out onto the terrace.  But we did and both teams decided to take it a bit more seriously and on came Brodie and Wheeler.  York City eventually took the lead with ten minutes to play as Brodie headed a free kick across the goal for York captain Mark Greaves to turn the ball in, and the hopes of all home fans that there would be anything apart from another defeat.

But the team obviously wanted to give the fans something of a summer send off and from a Foreman free kick, Cullip knocked the ball on and top scorer Joe Keehan was on handto bundle the ball home with just two minutes left on the clock.  So a predictable result in the end, which is more than can be said from elsewhere in the Conference as Kidderminster Harriers, Stevenage Borough and Burton Albion all lost.  Now that could (and should) have meant that Cambridge United and Oxford United winning their home games to secure automatic promotion (Cambridge) anda play off place (Oxford United).  But with matters in their own hands they could not deliver and so Burton Albion won automatic promotion, and Oxford United fell short of the end of season shakedown.  And Lewes?  Well they will be looking forward to renewing acquaintances with Havant and Waterlooville, Bromley and Welling United next season.  Of course this will mean a few new grounds for the travelling Rooks including Dover Athletic.  One thing is for sure, this will not be the last time I visit the Dripping Pan….

The teams emerge to an almost San Siro welcome

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

Did you know that the sunniest place in Britain is Eastbourne?  Neither did I until I tried to look for an angle for my first visit to the town in nearly two decades?  Well according to the expert that is Wikipedia this is true.  It is more famous for being the south’s “God’s Waiting Room”, where people over the age of 70 come to potter, queue up in banks all day and generally moan about the “youngters today”.  It is also the nearest town to Beachy Head, the point on the south coast where people decide they have had enough of Brown’s vison of economic utopia and jump off the edge of a huge cliff.

But did you know it is also home to one of the first and most successful Community Interest Clubs  in England?  Well there you go – Eastbourne Borough (not to be confused with Eastbourne Town or Eastbourne United who play in the lower leagues of Sussex non-League football are currently enjoying their first season at the highest level of the Non-League pyramid after their promotion from the Blue Square South division last season.  They were promoted after a play off with local rivals Lewes but are fairing significantly better than their neighbours from down the A27 .

In the first half of the season the club had produced some consistent form, sitting exactly 10 points below the play offs and 10 points above the relegation zone.  It is a very commendable achievement considering the limited resources the club has when compared to the likes of York City, Mansfield Town and Ebbsfleet United who were some places below the club coming into the January game with York City.  In the current world of the football merry-go-round it is amazing that the Eastbourne manager Garry Wilson was due to celebrate ten years in the role in a few weeks time.  During that decade Wilson had taken the team from the Sussex County Leagues to the highest level of Non-league football, just one step off the Football League on a limited budget which has seen the club keep on an even keel whilst others around them had continue to boom and bust (who could ever forget the implosion of the Hornchurh club just a few years ago when they signed professionals such as ex-Chelsea keeper Dimitri Kharin on a four figure weekly wage whilst they were still in the Rymans League!).

The club had been eliminated from all cup competitions by early January and so the plan was to concentrate on the Blue Square Premier League.  Whilst the club never stated publically their aim, they will have been very pleased to have reached this stage of the season with so many points in the bank and so far off the relegation zone.  With their neighbours Lewes finding life without most of their best players, who left in the summer, Northwich who were locked out of their stadium for financial issues and Grays who were trying to sell everything associated with the club, Eastbourne can look forward to at least another season in the Blue Square Premier next season.

Their opposition for this almost end of season fixture already was York City, my second favourite team so far this season who I had seen at Salisbury City, Histon and Burton Albion.  You know what to expect from York.  They play a distinctive style which they try to neutralise any attacking play from the home team whilst relying on the pace of their young front two on the counter attack.  I managed to get a Saturday pass for this one, taking the Little Fullers to swimming before heading off down the A22 for the game.

The day before the match heavy rain had put the game into doubt.  The small 5,000 seater stadium on the outskirts of Eastbourne had been developed along the lines of so many other lower team grounds, starting off as a small club house alongside a pitch when they were known as Langney SportsFC until 2001.  They changed their name in 2001 to identify more with the town where they were based as they entered the higher stages of the pryamid and work was carried out to improve the ground with the construction of a new small main stand and an upgrade of the floodlights.

After a spot of fish and chips on the beach Lolly and I headed to the ground, which sits in the smart residential area of Langney, around 3.5 miles north east of the seafront.  We managed to blag a street parking space, all of a 2 minute walk away which was disappointing considering my previous records of watching York at Burton and Histon.  The ground has two sports bars which were full to the brim when we arrived, with fans from both teams enjoying the warmth of the interior as well as a few pints to prepare them for the cold outside.

York had brought a few fans, including what appeared to be a group of a dozen or so young “boys” who obviously wanted to see how quick they could be ejected or arrested.  They started by unfurling a few banners in the run up to kick off, and then proceeded to act as if they had downed a case of Strongbow each instead of the Tizer they were actually drinking.  Not to be outdone, Eastbourne had a chap dressed as Captain America…I did ask him why – his response was “Superman outfit is in the wash today”…Logical.

Eastbourne Borough 2 York City 1 – Priory Lane – Saturday 24th January 2009 3pm

The York fans get a bit too excited with their goal

The York fans get a bit too excited with their goal

Eastbourne’s form coming into this game was impressive.  On curent form based on the previous six league games they were 4th out of the 24 teams in the league with four wins and two defeats.  They had also scored 11 in their previous game here versus Crowborough in the Sussex County Cup and so fancied their chances against a York team who liked a draw.  It wasn’t long before the home team took the lead as with just fifteen minutes on the clock as Ashley Barnes latched onto the end of a great through ball and poked the ball past keeper Ingham.  This sent the York fans into a state of delerium as they proceeded to take their shoes off and start throwing them in the air in some kind of bizarre ritual.  The stewards did not know what to make of the behaviour and were unsure whether to intervene or not.

Not that the bizarre was limited to off the pitch.  With two of the tallest teams in the conference playing out some nice football, the game was being officiated by one of the smallest referees I have seen – a Mr McLaughlin.  No surprise with such a high disadvantage he felt overwhelmed by the players and so the yellow cards stayed firmly in his top pocket.  The conditions made it tricky for both sides but Eastbourne especially tried to play some football on the ground.

Eastbourne went in 1-0 up at the break and Lolly and I sought some sanctuary from the cold in the club house.  Lolly is now a seasoned West Ham fan, and at the age of 8 is enjoying her first season as a West Ham season ticket holder.  This does mean that she compares every football match and stadium to Upton Park and so is confused by practices at this level such as the fans “swapping ends” at half time.  However, she does enjoy the closeness of games like this and was fascinated that the “York Bad Boys” were able to continue to behave in the way they did.  Even Danny Last, he of European Football Weekends fame sent me a text to ask how the “York Ultras” were, and Lolly kept saying “There’ll be thrown out in a minute”….

Lolly sometimes asks those awkward questions that you dread.  At half time she got me with a beauty.  Answers on a postcard please…

“A forward has a shot on goal that is so bad it is heading for a throw in.  However, the ball hits the referee and goes into the net.  Who is the goal awarded to?”

1. The forward;
2. The referee:
3. Neither – a drop ball is awarded from where the shot was taken:

Anyway, Eastbourne started the 2nd hlaf in much the same way and scored a second from a corner when Ben Austin’s shot was pushed into the net by Ingham.  Whilst York protested that the ball hadn’t gone in, our roving reporter (well me actually) can prove it did cross the line – see the pictures below for proof.  Eastbourne’s comfort zone lasted just eight minutes before Christian Smith netted from close range which sent our York “bad boys” into a frenzy behind the goal and in the excitement (goals are not that common for them obviously this season) they decided to celebrate on the pitch.  Queue a mass steward invasion and Lolly once again won a £1 bet as she said that by the end of the game at least 3 would have been ejected.

Not much more happened in the final few minutes.  With the sun firmly setting over the stand the temperature dropped quickly so with just a couple of minutes left we headed back to the car to collect the other Fullers from the beach and away we went, back to the smog of the big city.  Eastbourne was a nice distraction from the Premier League and whilst it is hard to image a ground like Priory Lane hosting league teams every other week it is concievable that next season Luton Town and Bournemouth will be visiting the Golden Coast.

About Priory Lane
Although the ground is one of the more basic in the Blue Square Premier it has many decent facilities that make a trip here one of the best of the season, especially if the whether is good. On one side is the smart looking yet small Main Stand. This covered, all seated stand, has a capacity of 542 seats. There are no supporting pillars, resulting in good views of the playing action as the first row of seats is set around 3 foot above the pitch. However, the stand runs for about half the length of the pitch and strangely has been built mostly to one side of the half way line. Opposite is a a small covered terrace, called the Peter Fountain Stand, that extends again for around half the length of the pitch. In one corner this meets the River End Terrace, which is covered. The opposite end, the Mick Green Stand, is a small covered area which is divided into two. The team entrance from the dressing rooms to the ground runs out from this end and above this stand is one of the two club houses which has windows for any people who dont feel like braving the elements on the terraces below.

Thanks to Duncan Adams ‘s site http://www.conferencegrounds.co.uk for some of the above information.

How to get to Priory Lane
The ground is located on the edge of a smart residential area in the Langney area of Eastbourne, some 3 miles from the seafront, pier and town centre. The following directions are provided by Duncan Adams:-

“From the direction of Brighton on the A27 take the A22 towards Stone Cross and Westham. At the next roundabout take the first exit again towards Stone Cross and Westham. Continue towards Stone Cross village until you will come to a crossroads, with a church on your left and the Red Lion pub on the. Turn right just past the pub onto the B2104 Friday Street. At the end of Friday Street, turn left at the double mini-roundabout into Hide Hollow (B2191). After passing Eastbourne Crematorium on your right, turn right at the roundabout into Priory Road. The entrance to the ground is about 200 yards down the road on the left. There is a good sized car par at the ground which holds 400 cars, which is free.”

If you are coming by train then a taxi is needed and will cost around a fiver. There is a bus service (6a) that runs from the station to the ground every 30 minutes and costs £2.70 return.

How to get a ticket for Priory Lane
With an average attendance of just over 1,500 and a capacity of over 5,000 sell outs haven’t exactly been common in Eastbourne. The biggest game of the season tends to be the local derby with Lewes at Christmas and this only attracts around 2,200. Entry is £12.50 for Adults and £4 for Children. If you can bag yourself a spare seat in the stand then this is free.