Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Juventus FC

Juventus 2 Tottenham Hotspur 2 - UEFA Champions League, Round of 16, 1st Leg

Turin is a city and an important business and cultural centre in northern Italy. It is the capital city of the Metropolitan City of Turin (an administrative division of Italy) and of the Piedmont region, and was the first capital city of Italy from 1861 to 1865. The city is located mainly on the western bank of the Po River, in front of Susa Valley, and is surrounded by the western Alpine arch and Superga Hill. In the 1st century BC, the Romans created a military camp (Castra Taurinorum), later dedicated to Augustus (Augusta Taurinorum). The typical Roman street grid can still be seen in the modern city, especially in the neighbourhood known as the Quadrilatero Romano (Roman Quadrilateral). Via Garibaldi traces the exact path of the Roman city's decumanus, which began at the Porta Decumani, later incorporated into the Castello or Palazzo Madama. The Porta Palatina, on the north side of the current city centre, is still preserved in a park near the Cathedral. Remains of the Roman-period theatre are preserved in the area of the Manica Nuova. Turin was not captured by the Allies until the end of Spring Offensive of 1945. By the time the vanguard of the armoured reconnaissance units of Brazilian Expeditionary Force reached the city, it was already freed by the Italian Partisans that had begun revolting against the Germans on 25 April 1945. Days later, troops from the US Army's 1st Armoured and 92nd Infantry Divisions came to substitute the Brazilians.

The football club was founded as Sport-Club Juventus in late 1897 by pupils from the Massimo D'Azeglio Lyceum school in Turin, but was renamed as Football Club Juventus two years later. The club joined the Italian Football Championship during 1900. In 1904, the businessman Ajmone-Marsan revived the finances of the football club Juventus, making it also possible to transfer the training field from piazza d'armi to the more appropriate Velodrome Umberto I. During this period, the team wore a pink and black kit. Juventus first won the league championship in 1905 while playing at their Velodrome Umberto I ground. By this time the club colours had changed to black and white stripes, inspired by Notts County. Under the management of Giovanni Trapattoni, the club won thirteen trophies in the ten years before 1986, including six league titles and five international titles, and became the first to win all three competitions organised by the Union of European Football Associations - the European Champions' Cup, Cup Winners' Cup and UEFA Cup. With successive triumphs in the 1984 European Super Cup and 1985 Intercontinental Cup, the club became the first and thus far only in the world to complete a clean sweep of all confederation trophies; an achievement that they revalidated with the title won in the 1999 UEFA Intertoto Cup after another successful era led by Marcello Lippi, becoming in addition the only professional Italian club to have won every ongoing honour available to the first team and organised by a national or international football association.

Juventus Stadium (commercially known as the Allianz Stadium) was built on the site of Juventus' and Torino's former home, the Stadio delle Alpi, and is one of only three club-owned football stadiums in Serie A, alongside Sassuolo's Mapei Stadium and Udinese's Stadio Friuli. It was opened at the start of the 2011–12 season and has a capacity of just over 41,000 spectators.

My outward journey the day before the match was from London Heathrow via Frankfurt. Connections were good and I arrived at my lodgings shortly before 3pm. I had stayed in Turin previously en route to Milan. On that occasion I had visited and enjoyed the beer at Birrificio Torino. It would have been a crime not to repeat the experience. Quality ales brewed on the premises enhanced a good evening in good company.

On the afternoon of the match I walked to the stadium, stopping off for refreshment at a couple of bars on the way. Arriving at the stadium a good two hours before kick-off, there was already a lot of activity with supporters arriving early. The majority of the Spurs fans would arrive later in a bus convoy from the city centre. On entering the stadium, it was a disappointment to see very limited refreshment and toilet facilities for the visiting supporters. For a relatively new build this is unnecessary but often typical on the continent. The view from the seating in the upper tier was good, as should be expected.

Tottenham Hotspur produced a brilliant comeback to draw after a disastrous start to the match.
Mauricio Pochettino's side was 2-0 down inside 10 minutes after Gonzalo Higuain followed up a volley with a penalty, awarded for a foul on Federico Bernardeschi. Harry Kane started the fightback after rounding Gianluigi Buffon following Dele Alli's threaded pass and Higuain then missed a penalty for the hosts with the last kick of the first half. Spurs dominated possession against the Italian champions and got their reward when Christian Eriksen's low free-kick evaded Buffon to level this first leg tie

After the match, the visiting fans were kept in the stadium for around 45 minutes before boarding buses back to the centre. Rather parched at this point, it was good to consume some more quality ale at a branch of Birrificio La Piazza, conveniently located a few minutes' walk from my hotel. It is good to see and experience that Italy has continued to improve in respect of beer.

I opted to catch the train back to Turin Airport. Strangely, the terminus for this line is situated outside of the centre. With plenty of time to spare I walked to Dora station, spending some time at a nearby bar enjoying a custard croissant with cappuccino and chatting to locals about the match. My journey back to Heathrow was via Munich and I was also delighted with a lift home from the airport courtesy of Tom Cleave.

Attendance: 41,232
Admission: € 45
Programme: Not issued

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Aveley FC

Aveley 1 AFC Sudbury 1 - Isthmian League, Division One North

Aveley is a small town within the Thurrock unitary authority in Essex, England, and forms one of its traditional Church of England parishes. It is a suburb of London located 16.3 miles east of Charing Cross in London and within the eastern bounds of the M25 motorway. Aveley is roughly bounded to the north and west by the London Borough of Havering, to the south by the A13 road and to the east by the M25 motorway. The nearest places are Purfleet, South Ockendon, Wennington and West Thurrock. The name Aveley has various spellings – Alvithelea, Alvileia and Alvilea. The name means Aelfgyth's wood clearing. The parish church of St Michael is a Grade 1 listed building dating from the 12th century. It contains a 14th-century memorial brass to Radulphus de Knevynton, which is echoed in the arms of the Thurrock unitary authority. The church was declared unsafe in the 19th century, with the recommendation that it should be pulled down. However, this was averted by its parishioners, who raised £1,000 to save it. John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, lived in the town and Alice Diehl the novelist and concert pianist, was born in Aveley.

Aveley Football Club was established in 1927 and played in local leagues until World War II. In 1946 they joined the Thurrock Combination League, and went on to win the Essex Junior Cup in 1948 and 1949. In 1949 the club joined Division Two of the London League. They finished fourth in their first season, and were promoted to Division One. Despite finishing ninth in 1952–53, they were promoted. After finishing seventh, then third in their first two seasons in the Premier Division, they won the division in 1954–55.  In 1957 the club switched to the Delphian League, finishing as runners-up in their first season. When the league folded in 1963 they joined Division Two of the Athenian League. After finishing second in 1968–69, the club was promoted to Division One. They won the Division One title in 1970–71, earning promotion to the Premier Division. In 1973 Aveley joined Division Two of the Isthmian League, which became Division One in 1977. In 1985–86 they finished bottom of the division, and were relegated to Division Two North. After finishing second in 1989–90, a season in which they also became the first club from the bottom division to win the League Cup, the club was promoted back to Division One. Although they finished fourth in their first season back in Division One, the club finished bottom of the division the following season, but were not relegated. However, in 1992–93 they finished bottom again and were relegated to Division Two. In 1994–95 the club was relegated to Division Three, where they remained until 2002, when league reorganisation saw them placed in Division One North.

I was fortunate to be offered a lift to this match. Despite the obvious conflict with shopping traffic heading for Lakeside, the M25 behaved itself. Public transport options include bus route 372 from Rainham Station. I had visited Aveley’s previous ground on a couple of occasions. The first was for an Isthmian League match against an emerging Stevenage Borough in 1991. It is fair to say that Parkside is very different to Mill Field.

Credit is most certainly due to whoever is responsible for the design of the new place, which is not typical of new builds in that the venue has some character. The main clubhouse building is very impressive and has a unique shape to it. The main stand is part of this structure. Also contained at ground level is fine bar/function room. This building also house the changing facilities and upstairs are corporate facilities including the boardroom.

On the opposite side of the pitch is another covered seated stand affording a decent view (I watched the first half from here). At each end of the stadium are two covered terraced areas, situated to each side of the goals (I watched the second half from one of these).  Accordingly, Parkside boasts six separate covered spectator viewing areas, impressive for this level.

This match saw two clubs desperate to revive their seasons, both in the wrong half of the table following less than impressive starts. The home side took the lead with a downward header in the first period and when awarded a penalty late in the match, it was expected that they would collect the three points on offer. However, the missed spot kick revitalised the visitors from Suffolk (down to ten men by this stage) and a late equaliser saw them snatch a point.

I was really impressed with the new set up at Aveley. The club appears to be reaching out to the local community (a children’s birthday party/football fun event was taking place around the match – even supplying the ballboys!). I would certainly recommend Parkside as a place to visit.

Attendance: 271
Admission: £10:00
Programme: £2:00
Tea: £1:00

Friday, November 24, 2017

Bangor City FC

Bangor City 5 Bala Town 0 - Welsh Premier League

Bangor is a city in North Wales, and one of the smallest cities in the United Kingdom. It is the oldest city in Wales. The origins of the city date back to the founding of a monastic establishment on the site of Bangor Cathedral by the Celtic saint Deiniol in the early 6th century AD. Bangor itself is an old Welsh word for a wattled enclosure, such as the one that originally surrounded the cathedral site. The present cathedral is a somewhat more recent building and has been extensively modified throughout the centuries. Bangor lies on the coast of North Wales near the Menai Strait, which separates the island of Anglesey from Gwynedd unitary authority, the town of Menai Bridge lying just over the strait. Garth Pier is the second longest pier in Wales, and the ninth longest in the British Isles, at 1,500 feet in length. It was opened in 1893 and was a promenade pier, for the amusement of holidaymakers who could stroll among the pinnacle-roofed kiosks. Bangor Mountain casts a shadow across the High Street, Glan Adda and Hirael areas, so that from November to March some parts of the High Street in particular receive no direct sunlight.

Bangor City FC is one of Wales' older football clubs, and has an illustrious history of competition in European football, the English pyramid system and now the Welsh Premier League. The club has been a founder member of the North Wales Coast League in 1893, the Welsh National League in 1921, the North Wales Combination in 1930, the Welsh League (North) in 1935, the Northern Premier League in 1968, the Alliance Premier League (now Football Conference) in 1979, and in 1992 the League of Wales. On 12 May 1984 Bangor became the first Welsh club to play at Wembley since Cardiff City in 1927, when reaching the FA Trophy final against Northwich Victoria. The match finished 1–1, with local boy Paul Whelan scoring for Bangor. The replay was played in Stoke City’s Victoria Ground, and despite a goal from another Bangor lad (Phil Lunn), Bangor lost 2–1 conceding in the last minute.

An early departure from London Euston was disrupted by a number of delays, ranging from an earlier train failure and late arrival of driver, a member of train crew being delayed further along the line, a late running Virgin Voyager train and the inability of Virgin and Arriva Trains Wales to communicate. The latter issue enabled me to watch my connecting train pull out of Chester at the same time as my arrival. This meant having an additional hour in Chester, where the City Arms, opposite the station, provided a pleasant interlude.

On arrival at Bangor there was still plenty of daylight and an opportunity was taken to venture out to the ground. This Pieman was permitted entry to the ground by very friendly and welcoming staff, so the hoped for daylight photographs were secured. Walking back towards town, I suddenly encountered a massive shower of hailstones and within minutes the entire area was blanketed in white. A beautiful sight, but now very slippery under foot.

The Nantporth Stadium is a relatively new home for Bangor City, having relocated from Farra Road in 2012. There is a covered seated main stand. Although the wings of this structure are unusually open to the elements. On the opposite side there are two smaller seated stands, both of which are on the left-hand side when viewed from the main stand. There is hardstanding around the entire perimeter of the pitch, with two rows of shallow terracing at each end. The ground is situated adjacent to the Menai Strait and Anglesey is visible from the main stand.

This match saw fourth placed Bangor City host fifth placed Bala Town. A win for the visitors would have put them a solitary point behind the home side. A keenly contested, sometimes feisty, affair unfolded. The home side scored twice in the first period and could have scored more. Bala Town looked better in the second half and were unlucky not to score themselves. However, three further strikes, two of which were spectacular, sealed a comprehensive victory for the home side.

As a result of this win, Bangor City went top of the table. Bala Town will have been frustrated by the fine display of Matthew Hall, in goal for the home side. This match was a fine advertisement for the Welsh Premier League.

Attendance: 372
Admission: £9:00
Programme: £2:00
Tea: £1:00

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Borussia Dortmund U19

Borussia Dortmund U19 1 v Tottenham Hotspur U19 3 - UEFA Youth League, Group Stage

Dortmund is a city located in the east of the Ruhr area, one of the largest urban areas in Europe, comprising eleven independent cities and four districts with some 5.3 million inhabitants. Dortmund comprises 62 neighbourhoods which in turn are grouped into twelve boroughs (called Stadtbezirke), often named after the most important neighbourhood. Three boroughs cover the area of the inner city (Innenstadt-West, Innenstadt-Nord, Innenstadt-Ost) and the remaining nine boroughs make up the surrounding area (Eving, Scharnhorst, Brackel, Aplerbeck, Hörde, Hombruch, Lütgendortmund, Huckarde, Mengede). Each Stadtbezirk is assigned a Roman numeral and has a local governing body of nineteen members with limited authority. Most of the boroughs were originally independent municipalities but were gradually annexed from 1905 to 1975.

Borussia Dortmund's training ground and Academy base Hohenbuschei is located in Brackel, Inside the complex, there are exercise training facilities for physical fitness and rehabilitation robotics areas, physiotherapy and massage rooms, and remedial and hydrotherapy pools. There are also sauna rooms, steam rooms and weight rooms, classrooms, conference halls, offices for the BVB front office, a restaurant, and a TV studio to interview the players and coaching staff for. There are five grass pitches, two of which have under-soil heating, one artificial grass field, two small grass pitches and a multi-functional sports arena. The site covers a total area of 190,000 sq ft.

Having stayed in Dortmund twice previously, I was keen to explore a different location and opted to base myself in Düsseldorf. On arrival at my hotel I was presented with a travel pass covering the full duration of my stay (spread over three days), offering free public transport throughout the region (including Dortmund). Whilst exploring Düsseldorf, I was able to sample the superb altbier, distinctive to this region. Altbier gets its its name from it being top-fermented, an older method than the bottom fermentation of other lagered beers. Those enjoyed were Kürzer, Schlüssel, Uerige, Frankenheim, Schlôsser and Schumacher.

This UEFA Youth League Group Stage match presented an opportunity to watch two matches between the same clubs on the same day. Over the last couple of seasons this has become the norm when travelling abroad for Champions League matches. The timing of this match meant having the best part of five hours before the latter match.

There are public transport options available to reach this venue. However, the bus service from one of the Brackel stations would have been at half-hour intervals. On a drizzly day, sharing a taxi for the twenty-minute journey proved to be a good choice. 

On arrival, a 4 Euro admission fee was charged (first time I have paid to get in to one of these matches). Having walked the perimeter of the ground to maximise photographic opportunities, it was time to sit in the covered stand which affords a fine view of proceedings.

We witnessed a fine performance from the young Spurs side, dominating their hosts for the entirety of the match. Samuel Shashoua put Spurs ahead after eight minutes and ten minutes later Jaden Brown increased the lead. A goal against the run of play, following a goalkeeping error just after the half hour gave Dortmund a chance but this was a mere blip, as just before the break, Kazaiah Sterling’s fine strike restored the two goal lead. Spurs were even afforded the luxury of a missed penalty in this period. This was the result at the end of the match following a steady second period in which Dortmund did little to trouble the visitors.

Attendance: ?
Admission: 4 Euros
Programme: None

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sittingbourne FC

Sittingbourne 1 Haringey Borough 1 - FA Trophy, 2nd Qualifying Round

Sittingbourne is an industrial town situated in the Swale district of Kent in southeast England, 17 miles from Canterbury and 45 miles from London. The town sits beside the Roman Watling Street and next to the Swale, a strip of sea separating mainland Kent from the Isle of Sheppey. The local clay was suitable for making bricks, and North Kent is geologically rich in chalk, which is not found in many other places in Europe in such abundance. This led to the development associated industries: water transport, paper, and cement, all of which continue today in the area. The area around Sittingbourne was subject to constant air raids by Zeppelins and aeroplanes during the First World War. The Germans used the town as a reference point for bearings on the way to London. The first visit by a German aeroplane happened on Christmas Day 1914. Guns at Sheerness fired at the lone invader but still one shell dropped into a field at Iwade. The next event was to occur on 16 January 1915 when another solitary pilot from a German aerodrome in Belgium bombed Sittingbourne. This aircraft, a Taube, was pursued by two local airmen, but managed to escape after dropping a couple of bombs.

Sittingbourne FC traces its lineage to 1886. The club moved to a field behind the Bull pub in 1892, where they were to remain for nearly 100 years. Senior status was acquired in 1893, and the following year the club joined the first incarnation of the Kent League, before withdrawing to enter the South Eastern League in 1905. Sittingbourne were Kent League champions in 1975–76, 1983–84 and 1990–91, the third title win earning them a place back in the Southern League. In 1992–93, by now playing at the new Central Park ground, they won promotion to the Southern League Premier Division, however a financial crisis led to relegation two years later. Although the team bounced back, winning the Southern Division title at the first attempt, they were relegated again in 1998 as the club hovered on the brink of being wound up completely. A move out of Central Park and a drastic reduction in the playing budget saw the Brickies through their troubles, but they flirted with relegation back to the Kent League for a number of years, only finishing in the top half of the table on one occasion in the next eight seasons. In 2006 a re-organisation of the English football league system saw Sittingbourne moved into the Isthmian League, starting in Division One South. The 2009–10 season ended with Sittingbourne winning the Kent Senior Cup for the first time in 52 years. In 2013 the club moved to their new venue - Woodstock Park.

I had visited Central Park in 1993 for a friendly v Tottenham Hotspur. However, I never got to attend a match at Bourne Park, the subsequent venue. Therefore, I was keen to get along to Woodstock Park for this match. The high-speed service from St Pancras conveniently stops at Stratford and from there it takes less than an hour to reach Sittingbourne.

The walk from the railway station to the ground takes around 45 minutes. However, pedestrians should be aware that there is a short stretch without streetlights and footpaths – a challenge. In town an opportunity was taken to visit The Golden Hope (JD Wetherspoon), an interesting establishment t also reflects the buildings former life as a courthouse, with the prison cells converted into private dining areas with distinctive booth seating.

On arriving at the ground and following a very friendly welcome, I took the opportunity to wander around the ground and get some photographs in the decent daylight. It is not possible to walk the entirety of the ground, as the far side where the dugouts are situated has no walkway. There are two covered seated stands and a two covered standing areas. There is also a raised bank between the clubhouse building and the pitch that also offers a good view.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

The match was preceded by a superbly observed remembrance tribute on Armistice Day. A full version of the last post and a two-minute silence in the presence of local veterans was very moving. Both teams are doing well in the respective Isthmian League Divisions (North and South) and those I spoke to predicted a close match. Valery Pajetet in goal for the visitors made a couple of fine saves in the first period but could do nothing to prevent Kane Rowland from prodding home a rebound to put the hosts ahead. The visitors equalised with the last attack of the half, a free kick to the edge of the six-yard box comfortably headed home by Ralston Gabriel.

The second period, although not providing further goals, was entertaining as both sides pushed for a winner. A draw was certainly a fair result with a replay at Coles Park having to determine which club progresses to the next round of the FA Trophy. The walk back to the station was in the dark and it was good to negotiate the rural part swiftly and get on to a footpath. It was good to return to Sittingbourne after so many years.

Attendance: 135
Admission: £9:00
Programme: £2:00
Tea: £1:20

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Brightlingsea Regent FC

Brightlingsea Regent 3 Harlow Town 1 - Isthmian League, Premier Division

Brightlingsea is a coastal town and an electoral ward in the Tendring district of Essex. It is situated between Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea, at the mouth of the River Colne, on Brightlingsea Creek. Its traditional industries included fishery and shipbuilding. With the decline of these industries, the town is largely a dormitory town for Colchester. In the centre of the town is Jacob's Hall, reputedly the oldest timber-framed building in England, which was built during the fourteenth century. The Western Promenade has lines of beach huts, a skate park, swimming pool, boating lake and a paddling pool. It is a popular destination for tourists and Londoners. The Colne Yacht Club has recently renovated Bateman’s Tower, a local landmark by the sea, with help from a Lottery Fund grant. The Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea railway opened in 1866 and was a branch line that operated rail services from the nearby town of Wivenhoe into the town centre of Brightlingsea. The service unfortunately fell victim to the Beeching cuts in the 1960s, and was eventually axed in 1964 supposedly prompted by the high maintenance costs of the swing bridge over Alresford Creek, which was necessary to allow boat traffic to the many sand and gravel pits in the area. Brightlingsea railway station was located on the southern side of Lower Park Road where the town's community centre now sits. It stayed in place for four years after the railway's closure until it was destroyed by fire in 1968.

Brightlingsea United was founded in 1928 by a merger of Brightlingsea Athletic (originally established as Wesley Guild in 1908, before being reformed in 1921) and Brightlingsea Town (established as Brightlingsea Juniors in 1919). The new club played in Division One the Essex & Suffolk Border League, and in 1929 moved to the North Road ground. In 1972 the club joined the Essex Senior League. They won the title in 1988–89 and 1989–90, before joining the Division One of the Eastern Counties League in 1990. They finished as runners-up in their first season, and were promoted to the Premier Division. However, they returned to Division One after finishing bottom of the Premier Division in 1992–93. The club resigned from the league shortly before the start of the 2002–03 season after the manager and most of the players left, complaining about a lack of proper changing facilities. The first team replaced their reserves in Division Two of the Essex & Suffolk Border League and were relegated to Division Three at the end of the season. When Division Three was disbanded in 2005, the club was moved back to Division Two. That year the club merged with youth club Regent Park Rangers to form Brightlingsea Regent. The newly merged club won Division Two at the first attempt, and was promoted again the following season after finishing second. In 2010–11 the club won the Premier Division and was promoted to Division One of the Eastern Counties League. The 2012–13 season saw the club finish third in Division One, earning promotion to the Premier Division. The following season Brightlingsea finished second in the Premier Division, earning promotion to Division One North of the Isthmian League. The 2016–17 season saw them finish the season as Division One North champions, earning promotion to the Premier Division.

This was not my first visit to North Road as I had previously attended a match in the FA Trophy between the same two sides a year previously. On that occasion the match was abandoned due to a floodlight failure. The match had limped to half time with limited lighting but despite the best efforts to fix the problem the referee was forced to call a halt to proceedings just after the break.

The journey to Brighlingsea via the M25 and A12 was good and with time to spare, the Cherry Tree public house presented a refreshment opportunity. There is real ale available and I opted for Timothy Taylor Landlord. From the pub it was only a five-minute stroll to the ground.

North Road has been a senior venue for some time but in recent years a number changes have been made in order to bring it up to the required standard for this level of football. There are two covered seated stands on either side of the pitch. In addition there are two covered standing areas, one along the side of the pitch where the dugouts are positioned and one behind a goal. The main clubhouse building houses the changing rooms, social area including the boardroom, licensed bar and tea bar.

Struggling Harlow Town looked anything but in the opening period of the match. It was no surprise when Junior Dadson put the visitors ahead and this lead should have been extended when the same player was presented with another good opportunity. The home side rallied and went in at the break with a 2-1 lead. Brightlingsea grew in confidence and went further ahead with a fine strike from a free kick just after the interval.

This was followed by the bizarre substitution of the goalkeeper by the Harlow Town management. I was informed that this was because he had rolled the ball out contrary to instruction. A complete waste of a substitution by a manager whose tactics in recent seasons do little to attract higher attendances at Barrows Farm. Anyway, it was good to complete a full 90 minutes at North Road.

Attendance: 181
Admission: £10:00
Programme: £2:00
Tea: £1:00


Other visits to this venue

12 November 2016 - Brightlingsea Regent 0 Harlow Town 0 - FA Trophy, 2nd Qualifying Round - Attendance: tbc (match abandoned due to floodlight failure)