Non League Club

The old Deres

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on November 18, 2012

The FA Vase game between Erith & Belvedere and Frimley Green was never on my agenda for this afternoon.  After all, I had had my fill for the weekend with Lewes v Harrow Borough yesterday.  Yes, they were only playing 4.26 miles away from TBIR Towers.  Yes, I had finished all my chores before 1pm and yes, CMF had to go food shopping. But I couldn’t find that one compelling event that would sell it to CMF.  And then I somehow navigated onto their home page “Just to have a look”.  Even she was struck by their home scores this season:-

4-2, 3-2, 1-2, 4-4, 8-5, 3-2, 3-2, 5-3 and 3-0

Fifty six goals in just nine games.  The Deres were having a storming season in the Kent Premier League. After coming close to promotion to the Ryman League last season, finishing second to Herne Bay, they had continued their fine form, especially at Park View Road.  However, they weren’t having it all their own way.  Traditional rivals, Erith Town, were breathing down their neck, with games in hand, A third of the way through the season and there was already a ten point gap between the two Erith’s and Rochester United in third.

Today’s visitors were Frimley Green, whose record in the Cherry Red Combined Counties League One was equally impressive.  Played 11, won 10, drawn 1.  This was undoubtably the game of the day and so I was soon pulling on the cycling shorts and hopping on my bike, waving the Fuller girls goodbye.

The club have been long-term live-in lovers with Welling United, after their old ground in Belvedere burnt down and then became a B & Q.  When the insurance cheque came through they invested it wisely in a new stand and their own clubhouse at Park View Road, so that they could generate their own revenue source.  This also meant the club would not need to worry about the ridiculous details of ground grading as and when they progressed up the league.

With the Ryman League due to expand their membership at the end of this season, the club were mildly excited about the future.  Everything seemed set up for the step up.  So, could this be their last season in the FA Vase?  Another reason why I had to go to the game (did I really need anymore?).

Erith & Belvedere 5 Frimley Green 1 – Park View Road – Sunday 18th November 2012
The one hundred or so people in attendance for this game weren’t disappointed.  Another six goal game at Park View Road for Erith & Belvedere, a place in the third round proper and a cheque for £1,200, all in a couple of hours work.

It only took the home side nine minutes to take the lead when George Benner headed home a free-kick from close range.  The rest of the half was full of niggles and missed chances, especially for the home side who should have been out of sight long before the break.  They can perhaps count themselves lucky that they finished the half with eleven on the field after keeper Chalmers-Stevens looked to have brought down a Frimley Green player outside of his area but both the referee and linesman didn’t see the incident.

With the temperature falling fast in the second half I took up a position at the top of the terrace and watched as Benner, scored a second from close range before Frimley pulled one back on the hour mark.  It was a game where the next goal would be vital.  Fortunately for the Deres it went to them as Andy Constable firstly volleyed and then headed home to give them a three goal cushion before Lewis Wood rounded off the scoring with just two minutes left.

The final score was probably a bit harsh on the visitors who played their part in an entertaining cup game.  As I hopped on my bike I tried to position this game against my next football match on Tuesday night in Denmark when I visit FC Nordsjælland for their final home Champions League game.  Twenty years ago the Danes were playing at the equivalent level of Erith & Belvedere, rubbing their hands with delight at £1,200 in prize money.  On Tuesday, the Danes will be counting their prize money from the Champions League in terms of millions. Hope is not a strategy but it keeps dreams alive.

More than a feelin’

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on September 2, 2012

I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away

As all of you music aficionados know, that is the opening verse from the UK number 22 smash hit from US rockers Boston. The music summed up my start to the day perfectly as I peered out of the window of Northern HQ. Drizzle had taken hold of the day, the same drizzle that had descended on Worksop last night and would hang around until we would pass Peterborough on the way home, when the sun would immediately come out.

Today was all about Boston. Not Red Sox wearing, Cheers Bar frequenting, Bullish MIT Boston but Stumpy, Flat, Obese Boston. South-East Lincolnshire’s finest with the highest obesity rate in England rather than the highest IQ rate in the US, Massachusetts. Who needs Michael Jordan when you can have Jason Lee anyway? Lee, one of the nicest men in football, and a good friend of this very website is currently doing a great job as manager of the Pilgrims of Boston United.

But today wasn’t just about the Pilgrims. Oh no, we were also going Poaching. Boston is home to not just one, but two football teams and both were at home this afternoon. It would be rude to choose one over the other and so I intended to get a slice of both United and Ton flavours of Boston football.

“But how Stuart? I hear you cry “Time travel is impossible and there is only one of you”. I know and without any H.G Wells or Doc Brown time travel apparatus I was going to simply go into Tapas mode – a taster at both just for you, dear readers.

First up would be a trip back to York Road to see Boston United play Workington in the Blue Square Bet North. Our last visit had come during their five-year period in the Football League when they demolished Shrewsbury Town 6-0 (and missed a penalty).Some people still have a grudge about The Pilgrims, thanks to a certain Steve Evans, currently at Rotherham United. Evans was in charge of the club when they rose through the leagues and were promoted from the Conference National ten years ago. Except they didn’t do it “cleanly”, with Evans amongst others being found guilty of making illegal payments to players in their promotion season.

Unfortunately, our toothless footballing authorities decided to punish the clubs who suffered rather than the guilty parties. Evans was banned from football (although was still able to return to be in charge of Boston after his ban), and the club docked four points but not retrospectively applied to the period where they gained the advantage which meant that Dagenham & Redbridge who finished runners-up to Boston got no redemption.

But time moves on. After the Evans era the club became more likeable and their subsequent financial problems were systematic with football in general. However, they are “bouncing back” as Mr Partridge would say. After falling all the way down to the Northern Premier League they came within a game of promotion back to the Blue Square Bet Premier last season under Jason Lee, losing in the semi-final play off to Guiseley. But this season hopes were high for a season of success.

In their way today would be Workington, making the short journey of just 229 miles (each way) from Cumbria. Regionalisation at this level really needs some thought as it is ridiculous to think that spending 9 hours in a coach to play one game is sensible. They, like Boston, had played in the Football League although their tenure was a little longer, coming into the league in 1951, replacing New Brighton and leaving after failing to gain re-election in 1977. That vote by the Football League chairman, whilst never proved, was believed to be a protest at the distance most teams faced in getting to Cumbria.

Like Corrigan to Shilton, KP to Walkers, MySpace to Facebook and Margaret Michaels to Victoria Principal, Boston Town are the perennial bridesmaids to United’s blushing bride. They exist on the outskirts of the town, comfortable in their surroundings and trying to attract a different type of audience.

This part of England is famed for a number of things, but one unique aspect is the number of EU-Immigrants. The agricultural nature of the region means that manual labourers are in constant demand so there is a huge influx of migrants from the rest of Europe. Consequently the club has tried to appeal to local communities of Lithuanians, Latvians, Poles, Portuguese and Romanians even going as far as having different language versions of their website.

So after a half of football at United, I would head up the Tattershall Road to take in the second half of the FA Vase (sponsored by Carlsberg don’t forget) where Boston Town would be taking on Loughborough University. The Poachers (they are experts in cooking eggs so I believe) were formed in 1964 by a few ex-Boston United officials who had left after expressing concerns about the financial state of the club (30 years before their time as well!). Their high point came in 1976 when they reached the 1st round of the FA Cup, losing to Barnsley. Today they are at home in the United Counties League, with an eye on reaching the Evostik League one day.

Alas I would be making my journey on my own. Northern Steve was on party preparation duty for SCMF (Sister of Current Mrs Fuller) who was celebrating her 40th later in the evening. What better present than my return, bearing fables of a far exotic land?

Boston United 1 Workington 3 – York Street – Saturday 1st September 2012

Just you and me, we were go walking together,
Watching the sunrise over the trees

I got to Boston after an hour’s drive South-East from Lincoln, admiring the flat landscape. After parking close to York Road I took my place opposite the Fantasy Island stand. I assumed this was in honour of the 80’s trio Tight Fit and their smash follow-up to the number one single The Lion Sleeps Tonight but it wasn’t. It wasn’t even a shrine to the 70’s US TV series of the same name, featuring Tattoo. Oh no, this was part of a sponsorship deal with East Lincolnshire’s Premier amusement park, based in the exotic paradise of Skegness. However, it is neither on an island nor is it in any way part of anyone sane’s fantasies.

Boston had started the season with two wins out of two, including a 6-0 demolition of Histon.  Unfortunately, two consecutive defeat had sent some locals into despondency, judging by the few hundred who turned up for this game (the official attendance suggested just under 1,000 but there seemed less than that).  It didn’t get any better for them after 90 minutes against the Cumbrians who came away with all three points.

Firstly I have to give top marks to Boston for the finest portion of curry and chips I have ever had.  Not a dish you will see on many take away menus down south, let alone in a football ground, it went down a real treat and set me up for a mouthwatering game.  The home side certainly started the brighter, but as more often is the case, fell behind against the run of play when Da Costa was adjudged to have been fouled in the area and Gareth Arnison slotted the penalty home.

However, the home side continued to pass the ball around nicely, using the width of the pitch, and stretching the visitors.  It was amazing it took them until the 38th minute for the equaliser to come.  Jones played in Weir-Daley and his shot flashed across the goal and past the Workington keeper.

Half time saw my cue to leave for pastures new, but it appears despite dominating play in the second half, Boston didn’t take their chances, whilst Workington did.  You can read the report here.

Boston Town 4 Loughborough University 3 – Tattershall Road – Saturday 1st September 2012
If I was a betting man (yes, yes so you say), I would have lost my shirt, house and probably a few of my organs by lumping heavily on Loughborough Dynamo after an hour of this game.  But the reason why we all love football is that literally anything can happen.  As we saw earlier today, even West Ham can play entertaining football with “Big Sam” in charge, and even more unbelievably a team completely outplayed and 3-1 down with just twenty-five minutes to go can go onto win a game.  But that was exactly what happened in this humdinger of a FA Vase tie at Tattershall Road.

I arrived just as the teams returned to the field.  Apparently, in true Paul Hardcastle style, the average age of the opposition was 19 (well, they are all students) and they had coasted to a 2-0 half time lead.  “Bloody students…when you want them to be hungover from last night they bloody turn up looking like whippets” a local told me when I asked what the score was.  It didn’t look good for Town (although ironically, their young female Physio did look good) until they got a slice of luck when the referee gave them a fortuitous penalty which Josh Ford converted to reduce the deficit to 2-1.

But the visitors, who were younger, fitter, more organised and tactically more astute, retook the two goal lead when an excellent move across the pitch saw a low cross smashed home by their winger.  3-1 and surely game over?

But no, whilst the Loughborough players got out their “Sports Psychology “books and started saying things like “focus”, “0-0” and “shoes” (I made the last one up), they should have listened to David Pleat.  The ex-Spurs Manager who loved a slow drive around the backstreets of London (allegedly) always says “You are never more vulnerable than when you have scored a goal” and how true he was today as Boston went up the other end and Matt Barber scored.  Pleat for England! (He also said that 3-0 is the most dangerous score in football so he isn’t always right!).

Even at 3-2 you would have still fancied the away team but all of a sudden they looked like they had been asked to go to two lectures in a week. Matt Barber surged through the centre-backs and his shot slipped under the keepers body. It got worse.

Just 10 seconds were left on the referees watch when Barber played in Josh Ford, the defender slipped and he stroked the ball home to put the home side in the lead for the first time in the tie.

Loughborough were gutted, but paid the penalty for naivety.  Boston had stolen victory from the jaws of defeat and as well as pocketing the cheque for £500 for winning the tie, and could look forward to a tasty clash in the next round away to Maine Road whilst the students would have to make do with Pot Noodle’s for a bit longer until their grant cheques came through.

Postscript: It is now well over 24 hours after the 1st round ties and still the FA Website is not showing any results or replay fixtures.  Their contempt for football at this level is staggering….

Beef in brief

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on September 2, 2012

I always try to find a mildly amusing title for my blog posts that is in some way related to the place I am going. For reasons that will become apparent when you read on, I wanted to know what the advertising slogan for OXO was. So I typed it into Google and had to wipe my eyes when I saw the fourth answer (as I write this it has actually now risen to the most popular result thanks to my work):-

“Center Parcs & Anal Sex”

I assumed I had ventured down a road I should not be looking at, especially on my work laptop but it was on, a very well-known “clean” site. I have no idea how the monster of search throws up the answer (the magic of Google’s dark art) but I am assuming it wasn’t the marketing slogan Professor Liebig thought of back in 1859 when he made the extract of beef that was to make the goodness of meat affordable to the poor (his words not mine). With Center Parcs not established until 1968 in Europe I think we can deduce that there is no link between OXO or Center Parcs so we can move on and the link between the two shall forever be a mystery.

So, Worksop. Yes, indeed. When I told people I was going to Worksop, the stock (see what I did there? OXO, stock? I’ll get my coat) answer was “You’ve been to Worksop before, right? as if there was some dark secret about the town. Actually I had been to Worksop before, and I could in some ways understand the nature of the question.

Let me take you back to March 1992 when we were all a big younger, freer and singler. A few friends of mine had plan was to drive up to watch Leeds United v West Ham at Elland Road but being young and naive we thought it would be a good idea to have. House party, which soon became a street party. I can still remember dancing with some foxy blonde at 4am to Rick Astley, thinking that sleep was over rated. Of course we slept through the warm, and then woke up to carnage. This wasn’t a five-minute clean up job, and so our 9am departure turned into a 12pm. Three hours to drive 210 miles to Leeds? No problem.

At 2.30pm we’d reached junction 30 on the M1, our dream in tatters. So we admitted defeat and headed for nearest point of civilisation which happened to be Worksop. What followed was an afternoon of drinking in the town centre. All the pubs seemed identical, with the same looking people, same beers, same fruit machines and same music playing. If Groundhog Day had been released a year earlier I would have assumed we had wandered into our own Bill Murray-hell.

Come 5pm and everyone disappeared. We headed down a deserted High Street, concerned we had missed the for minute warning. After a further drink we moved on, only this time the town centre was packaged with the same people as earlier, only this time in their Saturday night best. And then every pub we went into was the same, albeit with the women dolled up.

So back to the future, and a return to the global home of OXO. Now here is another relevant bit of trivia for you. In 1908 when the Olympics were first held in London, OXO were the “official beefy drink” provider, with every runner being given a cup of the drink when they finished a race.

It may surprise you to learn I was here for a bit of football (really? Thats a surprise). The US film, and hit TV series Friday Night Lights was inspired by Friday night games here in Nottinghamshire, where passions run deep. I had made the journey across from our Northern HQ for the start of the 2012/13 FA Vase sponsored by Carlsberg with Worksop Parramore hosting Glasshoughton Welfare at the Windsor Food Service Stadium. Cup clashes do not come bigger than this in North-West Nottinghamshire.

Worksop Parramore were originally formed as the works team of the iron foundry F Parramore & Sons back in 1936 based in Sheffield. They played in the local South Yorkshire leagues until they joined the Central Midlands League, moving into Don Valley Stadium. Two years ago their manager, Peter Whitehead misheard a request from the chairman to “buy a round for the team” as “buy a ground for the team” and came back from his day out with the squad in Worksop with the keys to Worksop Town’s old ground in Sandy Lane. He wasn’t happy, nor were the squad who had to pay for their own blue WKD all day.

They changed their name, nevertheless and have not looked back, rising up to the Northern Counties Premier League. This was a club on the up and ready for a charge on Wembley. Standing in their way was fellow Premier League side Glasshoughton Welfare, who famously fielded Bruce Grobbelaar in a game, years before the “Wembley experiment” that went so horribly wrong in midweek.

I met up with Worksop’s very own premier football correspondent for some pre-match liquidation. South America has Tim Vickery; if a story breaks in Spain then the media call up Dr Sid Lowe and for all the Polish news we have Ryan Hubbard and Polish Scout on the batphone. In North-West Nottinghamshire there is only one man to turn to, and that man is Beat The First Man. This is a man who knows the politics of the whole Worksop Parramore v Worksop Town debate, the inner workings of Retford United and of course the hold-codes at every fruit machine in all working men’s clubs this side of the M1. His website is a thing of joy, beauty and amazement on all things that make the beautiful game beautiful (i.e no pictures of Rooney, Lumpard or Cole)

Our meeting spot was the best pub in Worksop, naturally. The Mallard is not named after a duck, or located anywhere near a pond but after a steam train. In fact it didn’t used to be a pub at all – it used to be the station waiting room. And as it is a real ale pub it has a perfect audience – train spotters meet CAMRA fanatics. All it needed was a couple of ground hoppers and it would have the full set of sad individuals.

So after a pint of Rat, we headed off to try to find Worksop’s pint of glamour, Sarah Jane Honeywell. Having had to sit through hours (days) of children’s TV in my time I’d put her in my top 10 along with the original cast of Hi-5 and Phillipa Forrester. Whilst we didn’t find the lovely Sarah, we did narrowly avoid the “stag do” who were due to arrive in he pub. Stag do in Worksop..hmmm. Isn’t the stag do supposed to herald the “end of single life” and give a lifetime of memories for those long winter married nights.

We arrived at the Windsor Foodstuff Stadium just as the teams make their entrance. Of course this being step 9 in the English Football Pyramid, where average attendances are often less than my waist size, and in a competition sponsored by one of the world’s biggest brewers, you would expect we could enjoy a shandy or two watching the game. Alas, no. This is England. The thought of 35 or so fans enjoying a beer whilst watching the game can see you prosecuted as a criminal.

Worksop Parramore 1 Glasshoughton Welfare 2 – The Windsor Foodstuff Stadium – Friday 31st August 2012
On a night where all the drama was taking place in the medical rooms up and down the Premier League, the FA Vase (sponsored by Carlsberg) delivered its first real shock as Glasshoughton pulled off a smash and grab victory at Sandy Lane.

League form saw the hosts come into this game as odds on favourites. If I was a betting man (and I could have technically bet on this game as Lewes FC do not take part in the competition) then I would have staked the Little Fuller’s pocket money on a home win. Worksop have started the league campaign with 6 wins out of 7, winning all three home games so far. But their recent results have exposed a soft underbelly when it comes to defending. It seems they follow the Harry Redknapp school of tactics, simply concentrating on scoring one more than the opposition irrespective of how many they get as the 5-4, 4-3 and 5-3 score lines suggest. But the visitors were hardly in form, having only picked up four points so far this season which makes the win even more impressive.

The Windsor Foodstuff Stadium is a non league ground of beauty. I am reliably told it has one of the finest playing surfaces seen this side of the Watford Gap and one where Ronnie O’Sullivan often practices on before heading up to Sheffield each April. The club house is newly refurbished, and offers a warm and dry safe haven, even on an August night (it is irrespective what month you now say it is in England as they are all characterised by rain). A nice pint of Stones Cold would have made a perfect accompaniment to the second half but, according to the FA, it may have turned me into a crazed football hooligan.

The game was played out in constant drizzle when helped both teams play he ball on the floor. The first half saw little goal mouth action but the second was a belter with the visitors taking a two goal lead thanks to two well worked goals, the second a smart finish from an almost impossible angle, which sent the away fan into raptures. Worksop then proceeded to get angry with the cross bar, hitting it twice before they managed to pull one back when a home player bundled the ball home from close range.

A late surge from the home side came to nothing and the final moment of the game saw the referee red card Workshop’s final substitute for a “lunge” before bringing their Wembley dreams to an end for another season. For Glasshoughton the road would take them to Manchester and a visit to Maine Road in the next round.

I wandered back to the car, taking in the beefy air, having enjoyed my return to Worksop a lot more than I did nearly 20 years ago. The drive home took me passed the OXO “tower” where I stopped and paid homage to Professor Liebig with a salute. Men like him have helped put the Great into Britain and his contribution to civilised life today can never be underestimated.

Right – SatNav set to Boston then.