Tuesday, September 27, 2016

CSKA Moscow U19

CSKA Moscow U19 3 Tottenham Hotspur U19 2 - UEFA Youth League

Moscow's population is over 11.5 million. Most of the people are ethnically Russian, Belarusian, or Ukrainian, though other ethnicities are represented. The main religion of Moscow is Orthodox Christianity. Moscow citizens are called Muscovites. Moscow is home to the Moscow Kremlin, the seat of government of Russia, and a popular tourist attraction. This walled fortification preserves cultural and historical monuments important to Russia. The crown jewels of the Russian tsars are kept here, and the Russian president has his official residence here. Visitors from the US, UK, and other countries must first obtain a travel visa before they will be permitted to enter Russia. A valid passport and other documents are required for obtaining a visa.

Having enjoyed the match at Dynamo Moscow the previous evening, the much travelled Adam Carne and I were keen to maximise our Moscow football experience by attending the UEFA Youth League match between the U19 sides of CSKA and Spurs. We were aware that the venue of the match was Stadion Oktyabr' but still managed to struggle to find it. The three locals that we stopped to ask were unanimous as to the direction of the ground, which did not accord with our instinct. It transpired that they were helpfully directing us to the CSKA Arena, the venue for that evening’s Champions League match. We eventually decided that a taxi was the best option and an added bonus was that the driver could almost understand us and knew where the ground was.

Despite the earlier confusion, we arrived at the stadium an hour before the scheduled 2pm kick off and were the first spectators to arrive. We took some photographs and then adjourned to the adjacent hotel for some liquid refreshment. 

TV Cameras were already set up to facilitate the live broadcast of the match. Admission to the match was free and a match ticket was issued. It was only possible to view the match from one side once inside the ground, this being the side opposite the team benches.

An uncovered seated stand was adequate for the number of people in attendance. This was segregated in order that the Spurs and CSKA fans were kept apart. Sadly there was an incident when a group of around a dozen CSKA ‘fans’ rushed the Spurs section and stole a flag belonging to the Russian Spurs fans. This heroically ‘brave’ act is not without precedence as a Manchester City flag at a similar fixture was also taken. On this occasion Alexey Pivarenko lost his flag and will be particularly upset with the behaviour of his countrymen.

The match was played on an artificial surface on a pitch adjacent to the main arena. A closely contested encounter saw the hosts win by the odd goal in five. This was my second new ground within 24 hours and a third was to be added later in the evening with a visit to the CSKA Arena. More on that to follow.

Attendance: 250
Admission: Free
Programme: None


Monday, September 26, 2016

Dynamo Moscow FC

Dynamo Moscow 1 FK Sibir Novosibirsk 0 - Russian League Division 1

Moscow is situated on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District of European Russia. It is the world's most populated inland city. The city is well known for its architecture, particularly its historic buildings such as Saint Basil's Cathedral with its brightly coloured domes. With over 40 percent of its territory covered by greenery, it is one of the greenest capitals and major cities in Europe and the world, having the largest forest in an urban area within its borders. Moscow is the seat of power of the Government of Russia, being the site of the Moscow Kremlin, a medieval city-fortress that is today the residence of the President of Russia. The Moscow Kremlin and Red Square are also one of several World Heritage Sites in the city. Both chambers of the Russian parliament (the State Duma and the Federation Council) also sit in the city. The city is served by a transit network, which includes four international airports, nine railway terminals, numerous trams, a monorail system and one of the deepest underground rapid transit systems in the world, the Moscow Metro, the fourth-largest in the world and largest outside of Asia in terms of passenger numbers, and the busiest in Europe. It is recognised as one of the city's landmarks due to the rich architecture of its 200 stations. 

Dynamo Moscow has its roots in the club Morozovtsi Orekhovo-Zuevo Moskva founded as a factory team in 1887. The team was renamed OKS Moskva in 1906 and won a series of Moscow league championships from 1910 to 1914. After the Russian Revolution, the club eventually found itself under the authority of the Interior Ministry and its head Felix Dzerzhinsky, chief of the Cheka, the Soviet Union's secret police. The club was renamed Dynamo Moscow in 1923. Dynamo won the first two Soviet Championships in 1936 and 1937, a Soviet Cup in 1937, and another pair of national titles in 1940 and 1945. They were also the first Soviet club to tour the West when it played a series of friendlies in the United Kingdom in 1945. Dynamo's greatest achievement in Europe was in the 1971–72 European Cup Winners' Cup, where they reached the Final at Camp Nou in Barcelona, losing 3–2 to Rangers. This was the first time a Russian side had reached a final in a European competition.

Arena Khimki is a football stadium in Khimki. The stadium holds 18,636 spectators and was opened in 2008 to become the home stadium of FC Khimki. Since 2009 Dynamo Moscow have also been playing at the Arena Khimki as their home, Dynamo Stadium, has been undergoing reconstruction. When FC Khimki were relegated from the Russian Premier League, they left for Rodina Stadium and CSKA moved to the Arena Khimki from the Luzhniki. The Arena Khimki is the only stadium in Russia using SGL technology. Besides Russian Premier League matches, the Arena Khimki has hosted Champions League Matches, Europa League Matches, Russian Cup final in 2009 and matches involving Russia U21. 

My journey from London Heathrow to Moscow was made via Brussels. I reached my hotel at Paveletskaya by train direct from Domoedovo Airport. From this location it is relatively easy to get to the Arena Khimki, although it helps to research the logistics in advance. For this purpose I am grateful to our Russian Spurs friend Alexey Pivovarenko for confirming that you catch the metro (Green Line) to Rechney Vokzal Station (end of the line) and then catch bus 345 to the stadium. The metro part of the journey was straightforward but finding the correct bus stop in the Moscow rush hour proved to be a bit more of a challenge. Once on the bus I was able to establish a dialogue with the driver, who confirmed my destination. The bus stops immediately outside the ground.

I was able to take a few daylight photographs and purchase match programmes. The much travelled Adam Carne along with William Evans were joining me at this match and had arranged via ‘Bankie’, an extremely influential Dynamo fan, to go behind the goal with the Ultras. I opted to do likewise for 200 rubles (the same price as the match programme). This proved to be a good decision as this group of fans demonstrated a tremendous passion for their club and sang for the entirety of the match.

In truth, the match was not of the highest quality and I do not recall the visitors having a proper attempt at goal. Dynamo, at the time of this match, was romping away with the league and this victory further enhanced that position. The attendance was poorer than usual but was not helped by Dynamo’s Ice Hockey team having a fixture the same evening and there are clearly split loyalties. It should also be noted that the opposition support numbered three less than that of Tottenham Hotspur at this match – you can do the maths!

After the match our host arranged transport back to town and joined us for a good evening where we visited a number of establishments serving a variety of craft beers. There appears to be a beer revolution taking place in Moscow with tremendous variety of choice. This Pieman was also pleased to sample a lamb pancake dish, a local speciality for the region.  I should also mention the cabbage flavoured vodka which was surprisingly pleasant. The purpose of my visit was primarily to watch Spurs play at CSKA the following evening (more of that to follow), but I was actually looking forward to visiting Dynamo more, probably due to it not being on my radar initially – perfect timing!

Attendance: 2655
Admission: 200 Rubles
Programme: 200 Rubles (48 pages includes a poster)


Saturday, September 03, 2016

Harland and Wolff Welders FC

Harland & Wolff Welders 1 Warrenpoint Town 2 - Northern Ireland Championship

Harland & Wolff was formed in 1861 by Edward James Harland and Hamburg-born Gustav Wilhelm Wolff. In 1858 Harland, then general manager, bought the small shipyard on Queen's Island from his employer Robert Hickson. After buying Hickson's shipyard, Harland made his assistant Wolff a partner in the company. Belfast's skyline is still dominated today by Harland & Wolff's famous twin gantry cranes, Samson and Goliath, built in 1974 and 1969 respectively. In the First World War, Harland and Wolff built monitors and cruisers, including the 15-inch gun armed "large light cruiser" HMS Glorious. In 1918, the company opened a new shipyard on the eastern side of the Musgrave Channel, which was named the East Yard. This yard specialised in mass-produced ships of standard design developed in the First World War. 

Harland and Wolff Welders FC was formed in 1965 after a collection in the Welding Department of H & W's Musgrave Yard, it was agreed to enter a team into the Saturday Morning League. The first fixture in the league was against Primrose Star on Saturday 25th September 1965. Progression was fairly swift and by 1967 the club had secured a first trophy by winning the league title. A permanent home for the club became reality when they moved to Tillysburn Park in 1983 and the cub has continued to progress since then winning the Intermediate Cup in 2003 and 2007, and the Smirnoff Cup on three occasions (1998, 2001 and 2002).  Championship league and cup doubles back to back in 2009 and 2010 were followed by promotion to the Championship for the 2010/11 season. The club's colours are yellow and black to display the link with Harland & Wolff shipyard and its iconic cranes. 

A morning flight from London Gatwick to Belfast International enabled this Pieman to reach the city centre by 11:30. To reach the centre it is convenient to use the express bus service direct from the airport (£10:50 return). As you exit the bus station via the shopping centre, immediately opposite is The Crown. This iconic public house exudes history and retains its private Victorian booths. It was here that I enjoyed a pint of Belfast Ale (4.5%) from the Whitewater Brewery. This aromatic russet ale is brewed with the addition of wheat and roasted barley. Rich fruitiness and a gentle hop flavour lead to its smooth succulent finish. 

From the centre, Tillysburn Park can be reached easily by bus with services 3A and 28 stopping just a few yards along from the entrance to the ground. Once inside the ground, immediately to the left is the club building which houses the changing rooms, board room and refreshment facilities (snack bar and small seated bar area). Along one side of the pitch, straddling the half way line, is a covered seated stand. On the opposite side are the dugouts and a pair of old wooden covered areas. These structures appear to be relics of the club's past but were clearly functional on this rainy day. 

This Pieman spent the first half of the match in the stand. The Welders supporters are a friendly and welcoming bunch and particularly so when offering sweets, fruit and tea. The view from the stand is good and also allows sight of planes taking off from the nearby George Best City Airport.

Visitors Warrenpoint Town were relegated from Northern Ireland's top flight last season. Leading 1-0 at the break, they doubled their lead ten minutes after the interval. The home side pulled a goal back later in the half but were denied a point from this match when they missed a penalty in the closing minutes. 

The 17:03 3A bus service was running a tad early but enabled this scribe to be back in the city centre by 17:15. The flight to Gatwick by contrast was slightly delayed but this did not impact too much on my onward journey via London.

HW Welders: Johnston, Armstrong, McMillan, McMurray, Middleton, Nixon, Deans, K. Devine, McKee, Harris, McLellan subs Davidson (not used), Boylan (replaced McKee 73), Dickson (replaced Devine 59), Spence (replaced McMillan 68), Bowers (not used)
Warrenpoint Town: Parr, King, Traynor, McMenamin, Murray, Moan, Lynch, Dane, Bagnall, Boyle, McGovern subs McVeigh (not used), McKenna (replaced McGovern 74), Bain (not used), Maguire (not used), Croskery (replaced Murray 90)

Attendance: ?
Admission: £7:00
Programme: None issued
Tea: £1:00


Saturday, June 04, 2016

Cobh Ramblers FC

Cobh Ramblers 2 Cabinteely 0 - League of Ireland, Division One

Cobh was originally called "Cove" ("The Cove of Cork"). It was renamed "Queenstown" in 1850 to commemorate a visit by Queen Victoria. This remained the town's name until the late 1920s, when it was renamed Cobh by the new authorities of the Irish Free State. Tourism is a large employer in Cobh. Large cruise liners visit Cobh each year, mainly during the summer months, although many of the tourists are transported out of Cobh by bus to other tourist destinations. In all, almost 100,000 cruise liner passengers and crew arrive in the town each year when their ships berth right in the centre of the town at Ireland's only dedicated cruise terminal. Tourist attractions are focused on the maritime and emigration legacy of the town and include the Queenstown Story at the Cobh Heritage Centre, Titanic Experience, Titanic Trail walking tour, Cobh Museum, Cobh Road Train, Spike Island tours and St Colman's Cathedral. The town has remained largely unchanged since RMS Titanic departed from Cork Harbour in 1912, with the streetscape and piers still much the same. Facing the town are Spike Island and Haulbowline Island. The latter is the headquarters of the Irish Naval Service, formerly a British naval base.

Cobh Ramblers Football Club was founded in 1922 and elected to the League of Ireland in 1985, after many successful years as a Munster Senior League side. The club was originally a field hockey club but until the British withdrawal from Ireland many club members played football with the soldiers who were stationed at Cobh, leading to the Ramblers' eventual re-formation as a football club. Home matches are played at St. Colman's Park. The club's colours are claret and blue. Cobh Ramblers most noted past player is former Irish international and Manchester United star Roy Keane, while Irish international Stephen Ireland is a product of the Youth System. Westlife singer Nicky Byrne, also a talented footballer who was on the books at Leeds United, had a spell with the club too.

It is very easy to reach Cobh from the centre of Cork as there is a regular train service from Kent Station. There is also an interchange facility with a couple of local bus routes serving the station, including the airport service, but don’t expect the bus and trains to connect, my experience was quite the opposite.

The journey takes around 25 minutes and provides passengers with a fine view as the train curves around the bay. On reaching Cobh you are faced with a very steep climb to reach the district where the football ground is located. The most direct route is via a series of steps, but there are road routes that also climb and are not quite as steep (though you may be forgiven for not thinking so).

Once again an early opportunity was taken to access the ground and take some photographs. The club has played in the top flight of Irish football and the facilities reflect this. There is a covered seated stand running the full length of the pitch and another behind one of the goals. On the other side of the pitch where the dugouts are situated is an open terrace offering a good view. The remaining end of the ground contains the club offices, changing rooms and refreshment facilities including a function area with licenced bars.

Having had a wander around Cobh, which is a very pleasant place to visit, it was time for a meal in one of the many eating establishments. This Pieman enjoyed his fish and chips with mushy peas. A slight detour to the previous route to the ground avoided the steps but still involved a very steep climb. With just over an hour before kick-off there was nobody outside the ground which was a complete contrast to the previous evening at Cork and there were very few people inside the ground. The main bar was being used for a birthday party but an adjacent area was opened and a pint of Beamish was subsequently enjoyed.

Fourth placed Cobh Ramblers were hosting bottom of the table Cabinteely (only 8 teams in this division). Despite being played in front of a sparse crowd, both teams put on a good display. The home side secured victory with two first half goals, a penalty breaking the deadlock. Cabinteely, managed by former Spurs man Eddie Gormley, played better than their league position suggests. The 19:15 kick-off facilitated catching the 21:30 service back to Cork, although missing my bus back to the hotel by minutes. I had expected this to be the outcome as timekeeping and connections are not at the fore in the region.

Attendance: ?
Admission: €10:00
Programme: €2 (16 pages)
Tea: €1:00

Friday, June 03, 2016

Cork City FC

Cork City 1 Dundalk 0 - League of Ireland, Premier Division

Cork is a city in Ireland, located in the South-West Region, in the province of Munster. It is the second largest city in the state. The city is built on the River Lee, which splits into two channels at the western end of the city; the city centre is divided by these channels. They converge at the eastern end where the quays and docks along the riverbanks lead outwards towards Lough Mahon and Cork Harbour, one of the world's largest natural harbours. The city's charter was granted by Prince John, as Lord of Ireland, in 1185. The city was once fully walled, and some wall sections and gates remain today. Since the nineteenth century, Cork had been a strongly Irish nationalist city, with widespread support for Irish Home Rule and the Irish Parliamentary Party, but from 1910 stood firmly behind William O'Brien's dissident All-for-Ireland Party. O'Brien published a third local newspaper, the Cork Free Press. In the War of Independence, the centre of Cork was burnt down by the British Black and Tans and the city saw fierce fighting between Irish guerrillas and UK forces. During the Irish Civil War, Cork was for a time held by anti-Treaty forces, until it was retaken by the pro-Treaty National Army in an attack from the sea.

The current Cork City Football Club are not the first to use the name Cork City. During the 1920s teams referred to as Cork City competed in both the Munster Senior League and the Munster Senior Cup. A team named Cork City finished as Munster Senior Cup runners up in 1924–25. Another Cork City FC also played in the League of Ireland between 1938 and 1940. Following the bankruptcy of Cork United in 1982, senior football returned to the city with the formation of a new Cork City FC in 1984. Founded by officials from several Cork clubs (including Cork United and Avondale United), the new club was elected to the League of Ireland. The club play home games at Turner's Cross.

This was not my first experience of Cork as I had visited the city in 1989 to watch Tottenham Hotspur play a friendly match at Musgrave Park (a rugby ground) I remember on that occasion having a look inside Turner's Cross when I passed by on the way to the match. I don't recall too much detail from that occasion but clearly a lot of work has taken place on the ground in the interim period.

The stadium is now an all seated venue with a capacity of 7,485. I had arrived in Cork early on the morning of the match and took the opportunity to visit the stadium at lunchtime. I was able to gain access and take some photographs. The ground staff were busy preparing the pitch for the match and it was in superb condition. Three days beforehand the Republic of Ireland had hosted Belarus in a warm up match to the forthcoming European Championships at Turner's Cross but the playing surface showed no sign of this.

Before the match, this Pieman enjoyed the hospitality in a couple of the local bars and the Cork brewed Beamish was in fine form. The match had been selected for live TV screening and pitted current champions Dundalk (top of the league) against second placed Cork City with the gap being four points. Accordingly, an interesting match was anticipated and the local interest was such that a highest crowd of the season was not in doubt.

The match was a fine advertisement for Irish league football and although only my third experience of this league, was easily the best that I had witnessed. The large crowd was treated to an intense contest as both sides were committed to an absorbing game. The goal that settled the match was scored by Stephen Dooley. The same player also managed to blaze a penalty over the bar in the second half. Despite trailing for much of the match and being reduced to ten men when Chris Shield received a red card, Dundalk still posed a threat and it was only on hearing the final whistle that Cork City could relax.

The match ticket enabled entry to all areas of the ground and an early decision to sit at the back of the main stand paid dividends in avoiding the June sunshine. Spectators elsewhere had to shield their eyes. Turner's Cross is probably around a fifteen minute walk from the City Centre, but is also served by buses and there is also an hourly direct service to the airport (last bus 22:12).

Attendance: 5453
Admission: €15
Programme:  €4 (60 pages)


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sheerwater FC

Sheerwater 4 Frimley Green 0 - Combined Counties League, Division One

Sheerwater is a residential neighbourhood or small suburb of the Borough of Woking in Surrey. Its border is defined to the north by a gently winding part of the Basingstoke Canal and to the south by the South Western Main Line. Sheerwater was also spelt Sherewater until the early 20th century. It was since the Norman Conquest a high sandy heath and notable pond (small lake) of Pyrford. Sherewater Pond, on the borders of Pyrford and of Chertsey parishes, was an extensive mere on the high Bagshot Sand, drained and planted at the time of its enclosure, 29 September 1815. Sheerwater was designed as a new neighbourhood by the London County Council and approved by the local Urban District Council allowing nearly 1,300 homes to be built in the early 1950s and over 5,000 people to settle in the Borough. Notable former Sheerwater residents and pupils are Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler who together with other pupils of the then Sheerwater Comprehensive School formed The Jam.

Sheerwater Football Club was founded in 1958, by John French, and they began life as members of the Woking & District League. After achieving Intermediate status, they joined the Surrey Intermediate League (Western) in 1967. The club was a founding member of the Home Counties League in 1978, which was renamed a year later to the Combined Counties League. Sheerwater play their home games at Sheerwater Recreation Ground. The Jam played some of their early gigs at the clubhouse, before releasing their breakthrough song "In The City".

The bank holiday weekend offered an opportunity to visit a new venue. Sheerwater had been on my radar for a number of years but progress in getting there had always stalled. In the past this had been due to Sheerwater occasionally playing matches on a pitch outside the main arena. If I’m going to take the trouble to visit, I want the match to be at the main ground.

Some quick research helped me to ascertain that the cheapest travel option for me was to buy a day return from Hackney Downs. So via Liverpool Street, Bank and Waterloo, I was sped to Surrey. During my formative years, my aunt lived at Sheerwater and those occasional visits well over forty years ago were now being retraced as I left West Byfleet Station. The walk to the ground through the estate was very familiar. I stuck to following the roads through the estate but was later to realise that hugging the canal towpath brings you to the ground.

The main arena at the Recreation Ground is an athletics stadium and home to Woking AC. Due to the layout of this venue; it is not always possible to get an unrestricted view of proceedings. During the first half of the match I walked the full circuit of the stadium and there were a number of points where I had sped along so as not to dwell in an area where the view was obscured. That said, the primary function is clearly athletics and it would be harsh to criticise too much.

There are two seated stands along one side of the pitch. The covered stand containing three rows of seating backs onto the clubhouse facility block. This building contains changing rooms and the refreshment/hospitality room. The uncovered stand from where I watched the second half of the match, affords the best unhindered view. This stand is not as long as the covered stand but contains seven rows of seats.

Sheerwater were looking to win their third successive match having beaten today’s visitors Frimley Green in their last outing. In fact, a win for the home side would take them ahead of their opponents on goal difference, with one match each left to play after this. The first half was a fairly tame affair but Sheerwater certainly stepped up a gear in the second period and were worthy of their 4-0 victory. A very pleasant stroll along the canal towpath enabled me to reach the station in plenty of time for the 17:27 fast service to Waterloo.

Admission: £4:00
Programme: £1:00 (36 pages)
Tea: £1:00