Saturday, November 07, 2015

Tottenham Hotspur FC

Tottenham Hotspur U18 2 West Ham United U18 1 - U18 Premier League

There has been a settlement at Tottenham for over a thousand years. It grew up along the old Roman road, Ermine Street (some of which is part of the present A10 road), and between High Cross and Tottenham Hale, the present Monument Way. When the Domesday Book was compiled in 1086, about 70 families lived within the area of the manor, mostly labourers working for the Lord of the Manor. A humorous poem entitled the Tournament of Tottenham, written around 1400, describes a mock-battle between peasants vying for the reeve's daughter. The River Lea was the eastern boundary between the Municipal Boroughs of Tottenham and Walthamstow. It is the ancient boundary between Middlesex and Essex and also formed the western boundary of the Viking controlled Danelaw. Today it is the boundary between the London Boroughs of Haringey and Waltham Forest. A major tributary of the Lea, the River Moselle, also crosses the borough from west to east, and often caused serious flooding until it was mostly covered in the 19th century. Tottenham cake is a sponge cake baked in large metal trays, covered either in pink icing or jam (and occasionally decorated with shredded desiccated coconut). Tottenham Cake "was originally sold by the baker Henry Chalkley, who was a Quaker, at the price of one old penny, with smaller mis-shaped pieces sold for half an old penny." The pink colouring was derived from mulberries found growing at the Tottenham Friends burial ground.

The football club was formed in 1882, as Hotspur FC and played in the Southern League from 1896 until 1908, when they were elected into the Football League Second Division. Before this promotion Tottenham had won the FA Cup in 1901, making them the only non-League club to (or likely to) do so since the formation of the Football League. Since then, Tottenham have won the FA Cup a further seven times, the Football League twice, the Football League Cup four times, the UEFA Cup twice and also the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. The Cup Winners' Cup victory in 1963 made Tottenham the first English team to win a UEFA competition. In 1960–61 they became the first team to complete The Double in the 20th century.

Hotspur Way in Enfield, Tottenham Hotspur’s new state of the art training complex was opened in late 2012, and is widely recognised as one of the best training facilities of its type in Europe. Built on 77 acres, the new Training Centre has been designed with environmental protection and sustainability in mind. The focus has been on enhancing and reinstating key features of the local environment including restoring historic hedgerows and field boundaries as well as significant additional planting, an organic kitchen garden and orchard. The Club has planted over 150 new and semi-mature trees and thousands of new plants, hedges and flowers across the site in order to establish and enhance the ecological habitat. An attenuation pond has been installed to establish a wetland and intermittent wetland habitat with natural plant and wildlife, which is also designed to control the flow of water off site through the historic restored sleuss gate.

With the first team not playing until Sunday, this Pieman decided it was time to make a first visit to Hotspur Way. My journey was very straightforward I caught the train from Cheshunt to Turkey Street (5 minutes). On leaving the station I followed Turkey Street up to the A10 and used the underpass, continuing along Turkey Street to the junction with Bulls Cross Road. Turning right at the historic Middleton House it took less than a further ten minutes to reach the Hotspur Way facility, which is situated behind Middleton House.

It was already raining quite heavily so the opportunity to shelter in the Reception area of the main building was not to be declined. I was very impressed with the site and the efforts the club have made to make the environment pleasing on the eye. My brief introduction to the surrounds left a lasting positive impression and the knowledge that the club is sharing the facilities with the local community through numerous initiatives is to be commended. Refreshments were available from a decent looking retro van with hot and cold drinks also obtainable from vending machines in the main block.

The main pitch is conveniently the nearest to the building and many of the gathered spectators left it until just before kick-off to brave the elements. It rained constantly throughout the match and despite attempts to keep dry it was always going to be an uphill task, at times the precipitation was horizontal which meant those with umbrellas and the rest of us were being attacked from the side! The playing surface was superb and held up well throughout a keenly contested derby. West Ham with the wind supporting their first half efforts took the lead through Akinola but were pegged back before the break when Dinzeyi levelled with a great header.

It was very wet throughout the match

The second period saw a tremendous tussle and Spurs clinched the points when Brown notched the winner. The visitors will be disappointed not to get anything from this match and frustration towards the end saw Dobson (who?) dismissed for something said. After the final whistle Sylvestre was rewarded with the same punishment for a similar offence. At this point I was able to hotfoot it back to Turkey Street station in less than 20 minutes to easily catch the 13:17 service to Cheshunt. A very enjoyable adventure if a tad wetter than preferred!

Admission: Free
Programme: No (team sheets distributed)
Refreshments: Catering van and vending machines

Subsequent visit to Hotspur Way
21 November 2015 - Tottenham Hotspur U18 2 Southampton U18 1 - U18 Premier League

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Shirebrook Town FC

Shirebrook Town 4 Lincoln Moorlands Railway 1 - Northern Counties East League, Division One

Shirebrook is a town in the Bolsover district of north-east Derbyshire on the border with Nottinghamshire. Shirebrook once had three railway stations. The last remaining station was on the Midland Railway (later part of the LMS) route from Nottingham to Worksop via Mansfield, and was originally known as Shirebrook West, despite being on the eastern edge of the town. The route lost its passenger services in October 1964, leaving Mansfield as one of the largest towns in the UK without a station, but the line remained opened as a goods route. On the site of the goods yard a diesel locomotive fuelling depot was opened in the mid 1960s. The station was re-opened in 1998 for the new Robin Hood Line services from Nottingham to Worksop. A wagon repair and manufacturing business have a rail link with the main line. Notable former residents of Shirebrook include Sir John Hurt, who lived in Shirebrook until aged five when his father was the vicar of Holy Trinity Parish Church, Hollywood actor Jason Statham and Ray Wilson, a member of the England 1966 World Cup-winning football team.

The football club was founded in 1985 as Shirebrook Colliery, and joined the Central Midlands League. In 1985–86 they won the Senior Division, and were promoted to Division One. In their first season in Division One, they finished second and were promoted to the Premier Division. In 1993 the club changed its name to Shirebrook Town. They won the Supreme Division of the Central Midlands League in 2000–01, but were not promoted due to ground grading issues. The following season they won the league again, and this time were promoted to the First Division of the Northern Counties East League. After finishing as runners-up in their first season, they were not promoted again due to ground issues. However, the following season (2003–04) they won Division One, and were promoted to the Premier Division, where they remained until 2010. The club was relegated back to Division One at the end of the 2009–10 season. 

A Tuesday evening jaunt to Langwith Road saw a late afternoon arrival at the ground. Being allowed a short opportunity to access the ground at the time was a bonus and facilitated some daylight photographs. This in turn allowed plenty of time to explore the town consisting of old buildings reflecting an earlier mining history mixed with newly built dwellings more akin with current society. I was also able to spend some time at The Gate where real ale from the Nottingham based Castle Rock Brewery is available and was enjoyed.

The railway station is very close to Langwith Road and for a midweek fixture, without too many delays, the 21:41 service to Nottingham or even better, the 21:47 service to Worksop, are conveniently timed. There is a social club outside the ground, which I assume is open at times other than when there is a football match being staged.

There are two covered seated stands along one side of the ground. Along the opposite side is a building which houses the hospitality area for directors and visiting officials and a general refreshment area where this Pieman enjoyed a delicious chip cob. The remainder of this side contains a shallow covered standing area, half of which was out of action for this match, although it was hard to see why. At one end of the ground there is just flat hard standing with similar at the other end which also incorporates the changing facilities (opened by Ray Wilson in 2004) and toilet block.

I will admit to being a bit confused at first as to the identity of the teams. The corner flags were orange and so I decided that the team wearing that colour was Shirebrook Town. Accordingly, I was a little surprised to see what I thought was bottom placed Lincoln Moorlands Railway, race into a two goal lead. It was some time later that I realised the match was going to form and it was in fact the away team that were attired in Orange. Shirebrook Town are having a decent season and had won their previous match 4-1.

At half time the home side had established a 3-1 lead and a further goal ensured a repeat of the previous result. The admission price of £4:00 represents extremely good value for senior football and the catering on offer at the ground, along with the friendly welcome received, added up to a decent evening out.

Attendance: 79
Admission: £4:00
Programme: £1:00 (16 pages)
Tea: 50p
Chip Cob: £1:25

Thursday, October 01, 2015

AS Monaco FC

AS Monaco 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1 - UEFA Europa League, Group Stage

The Principality of Monaco is a sovereign city-state and microstate, located on the French Riviera in Western Europe. France borders the country on three sides while the other side borders the Mediterranean Sea. Monaco is governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II as head of state. Although Prince Albert II is a constitutional monarch, he wields immense political power. The House of Grimaldi have ruled Monaco, with brief interruptions, since 1297. The official language is French, but Monégasque, Italian, and English are widely spoken and understood. The state has no income tax, low business taxes, and is well known for being a tax haven. Monaco is not formally a part of the European Union, but it participates in certain EU policies, including customs and border controls. Since 1929, the Monaco Grand Prix has been held annually in the streets of Monaco. It is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world. The erection of the Circuit de Monaco takes six weeks to complete and the removal after the race takes another three weeks. The circuit is incredibly narrow and tight and its tunnel, tight corners and many elevation changes make it perhaps the most demanding Formula One track.

Association Sportive de Monaco Football Club was founded in 1924 and plays in Ligue 1, the top tier of French football. The club's traditional colours are red and white, and the club is known as Les Rouges et Blancs. The team plays its home matches at the Stade Louis II in Fontvieille. Monaco played at the original Stade Louis II since its construction in 1939. In 1985, the stadium was replaced with the current iteration, built on a nearby site consisting of land reclaimed from the Mediterranean, which has become a recurring feature of the stadium's seaside surroundings. The stadium is named after the former Prince of Monaco Louis II and houses a total of 18,500 supporters. In December 2011, 66.67% of the club was sold to the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev while the club were bottom of Ligue 2.

An early evening flight from Heathrow was delayed due to congestion. The eventual arrival at Nice still enabled me to buy a ticket and catch the last direct coach service to Monaco. Although not as cheap as the train, the driver was asking passengers where they wanted to be dropped off. Accordingly my hotel was in sight when I disembarked!

The following morning after breakfast, I took a stroll over to the stadium. Although it was not possible to gain access to the ground, I was able to take some photographs of the outside. Not long afterwards, match programmes were available from the Ticket Office. These secured and safely deposited back at the hotel, I was then able to explore further.

Having visited the harbours and viewed some rather expensive boats, I took the opportunity to visit Brasserie de Monaco. This versatile establishment brews beer on the premises. For journalistic research purposes, this Pieman was obliged to sample all three of the brews available. Specifically these were Blanche (4.8%), Blonde (5.2%) and my favourite Ambre (5.7%). Refreshed, it was soon time to collect my match ticket and head off to the match.

I had seen the Stade Louis II on television a number of times and have to say that in "real life" it did not appear as impressive as it did on the small screen. The all seated stadium is covered, with exception of the majority of the area given to the away support.  It rained constantly throughout the match and the majority of the English fans managed to get under cover in the corner of the section. The match was a fairly tame affair with Spurs failing to add to a first half lead and succumbing to a late leveller for the French side.

The following morning it was not possible to catch the train to Nice as had been my intention. Apparently there had been "rocks on the line". It had been raining heavily all night and the adverse weather conditions were making it very difficult to move about. In the end Nice was reached by bus (a slow one) and all were glad to get there. The opportunity to explore Nice was lost to the torrential rain. Instead I opted for a leisurely lunch and sat through the previous evening's Europa League extravaganza between Rubin Kazan and Bordeaux (0-0) It was ironic to hear that the weather at home and been very good whereas the South of France was less so. This Pieman was glad to get back to a dry England!

Attendance: 7,216
Admission: 22 Euros
Programme: Free (8 pages)

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Bray Wanderers FC

Bray Wanderers 0 Cork City 0 - League of Ireland, Premier Division

Bray is a town in north County Wicklow, Ireland. It is a busy urban centre and seaside resort, with a population of 31,872 making it the ninth largest urban area in Ireland at the 2011 census. It is situated about 12 miles south of Dublin on the east coast. The town straddles the Dublin-Wicklow border, with a portion of the northern suburbs situated in County Dublin. Bray's scenic location and proximity to Dublin make it a popular destination for tourists and day-trippers from the capital. Bray is home to Ireland's only film studios, Ardmore Studios, hosting Irish and international productions for film, television and advertising. Some light industry is located in the town, with business and retail parks concentrated largely on its southern periphery. Bray town centre has a range of shops serving the consumer needs of the surrounding area. Commuter links between Bray and Dublin are provided by rail, Dublin Bus and the M11 and M50 motorways. The River Dargle which enters the sea at the north end of Bray rises from a source near Kippure, in the Wicklow Mountains. Bray Head is situated at the southern end of the famous Victorian promenade with paths leading to the summit and along the sea cliffs. The rocks of Bray Head are a mixture of greywackes and quartzite. The large concrete cross at the summit provides a notable landmark on the east coast and is a major attraction for locals and visitors. 

In 1922, some members of St Kevin's Gaelic football club in Bray left the club as a result of a dispute and formed a soccer club called Bray Wanderers. They won the Miller Cup, which at the time was one of the most prestigious junior cups in the country, in 1927–28. In 1950–51 Wanderers won the FAI Junior Cup, defeating Drogheda United 2–1. Wanderers also reached the Leinster Junior Final that season, but were defeated by Rathfarnham in the final. Wanderers won the Junior Cup again in 1953–54. The following season Wanderers left the AUL and joined the Leinster Senior league. Bray Wanderers were elected to the League of Ireland when it was expanded to two Divisions for the 1985–86 season. They played their first game as a League of Ireland club on 8 September 1985 in a FAI League Cup match against Dundalk with Jim Mahon having the honour of notching the Seagulls' first goal at senior level. The Wanderers' secured promotion to the Premier Division by winning the League of Ireland First Division Championship that year. They were relegated back down to the First Division in the 1987–88 season. Wanderers did not regain Premier Division status until the 1990–91 season but had their first major success during their spell in the First Division. They won the FAI Cup in 1990 beating St. Francis 3–0 in the first Lansdowne Road final with John Ryan becoming only the second player to score a hat-trick in a FAI Cup final. They made history by becoming the first ever First Division side to win the trophy. Due to this success, Wanderers competed in European competition for the first time in their history in the 1990–91 season. They were defeated, however, by Trabzonspor in the European Cup Winners' Cup preliminary round.

On arrival at Dublin Airport, a 24 hour Tourist Leap Card (Dublin’s equivalent of Oyster) was purchased for €10. This covers all travel On buses, trains and trams within the wider Dublin area. The X747 express bus from the airport costs €6 each way and this also covered the DART train to /from Bray. There is a 72 hour version costing less than €20. All in all extremely good value. After some obligatory Guinness in town, it was time to head out to Bray.

From Connolly Station, the DART service follows the coast south towards County Wicklow, the journey to Bray taking around 40 minutes. The Carlisle Grounds is situated immediately behind the railway station. However, before venturing over to this venue, an opportunity was taken to visit The Porterhouse Inn. At this fine establishment this Pieman enjoyed Porterhouse Red (4.4%) – possibly the best ale I have tasted in Ireland.

The Carlisle Grounds boasts only one covered area for spectators. This seated main stand runs almost the full length of the pitch. There is also a large uncovered seated area running the full length of the pitch on the opposite side. A flat standing area is situated behind the goal at the Quinsboro Road end of the ground. This is also where the turnstiles are located along with the club shop, catering facilities and toilets. The opposite end of the ground is not available to spectators. The changing rooms are located at this end adjacent to a grassed area and some cars were parked immediately behind this space.

A delicious snack of chips in curry sauce was enjoyed prior to the match. The sauce was quirky in that it contained large chunks of pepper and other ingredients – very nice indeed! The travelling support from Cork was in good voice during the first period of the match willing their side on. I believe it fair to say that the standard in this league is not particularly high compared to senior non-league football in England. However, there was plenty of effort and commitment shown by both teams. In the end, for the second successive Saturday, this Pieman witnessed a goal free encounter. That said there was a good friendly atmosphere in the ground as indeed there was throughout Bray and Dublin.

Programme: €3
Tea: €2
Chips in Curry Sauce: €4

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Bayern Munich FC

Bayern Munich 3 AC Milan 0 - Audi Cup (Pre-Season tournament)

Munich is the capital and largest city of the German state of Bavaria, on the banks of River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps. Munich is the third largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg. The name of the city is derived from the Old/Middle High German term Munichen, meaning "by the monks". It derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who ran a monastery at the place that was later to become the Old Town of Munich; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat of arms. In 1175, Munich was officially granted city status and received fortification. The city was heavily damaged by allied bombing during World War II and was hit by 71 air raids over a period of five years. Munich is famous for its breweries and the Weissbier (or Weizenbier, wheat beer) is a speciality from Bavaria. Helles with its translucent gold colour is the most popular Munich beer today, although it's not old (only introduced in 1895) and is the result of a change in beer tastes. Helles has largely replaced the Munich Dark Beer (Dunkles), which gets its dark colour from burnt malt. It was the typical beer in Munich in the 19th century, but today it is more of a speciality. Starkbier is the strongest Munich beer, containing 6–9 percent alcohol. It is dark amber in colour and has a heavy malty taste. It is available and popular during the Lenten Starkbierzeit (strong beer season), which begins on or before St. Joseph's Day (19 March). The beer served at Oktoberfest is a special type of Märzen beer with a higher alcohol content than regular Helles. 

FC Bayern was founded in 1900 winning its first national championship in 1932. They won the European Cup three times in a row from (1974–76) and have reached ten European Cup/UEFA Champions League finals, most recently winning their fifth title in 2013 as part of a continental treble. Bayern has also won one UEFA Cup, one European Cup Winners' Cup, one UEFA Super Cup, one FIFA Club World Cup and two Intercontinental Cups, making it one of the most successful European clubs internationally. Since the formation of the Bundesliga, Bayern has been the dominant club in German football with 25 titles and has won 7 of the last 11 titles. After much discussion, the city of Munich, the state of Bavaria, FC Bayern, and TSV 1860 jointly decided at the end of 2000 to build a new stadium. While Bayern had wanted a purpose-built football stadium for several years, the awarding of the 2006 FIFA World Cup to Germany stimulated the discussion as the Olympiastadion no longer met the FIFA criteria to host a World Cup game. Located on the northern outskirts of Munich, the Allianz Arena has been in use since the beginning of the 2005–06 season. Its initial capacity was 66,000 fully covered seats, but this was increased 71,000 in 2012 and again to 75,000 after receiving approval by the city council in January 2015. The most prominent feature of the stadium is the translucent outer layer, which can be illuminated in different colours for impressive effects. Usually, red lighting is used for Bayern home games, blue for TSV 1860 München games and white for German national team home games.

On arrival at Munich Airport, a three day tourist ticket for two people (can cover up to five) was purchased for less than £40:00. This covered the train to and from the airport/city centre. It also covered us for all other train, metro, tram and bus journeys within the extended Munich region. This proved to be extremely good value and was also used to get us to and from the stadium on both match days. To reach the Allianz Arena from the centre of Munich, Line U6 (blue) from Marienplatz is direct. On alighting at Fröttmanning it is less than a 10 minute walk to the stadium.

Throughout the three days spent in Munich it was extremely hot. Accordingly, large glasses of cold beer became a requirement and were most welcome. The Audi Cup is a biennial two-day pre-season tournament that features four teams. The first Audi Cup in 2009 was organised and promoted by car manufacturer Audi AG to celebrate their 100th year of trading. Bayern Munich and AC Milan have taken part in all tournaments to date. This year Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur made up the quartet of participants.

Bayern Munich defeated AC Milan 3-0 to reach the final of the Audi Cup. The highlight for me being the third goal, Robert Lewandowski's volley, having been set up by Thomas Muller. Real Madrid defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the earlier match.

The following day saw Tottenham Hotspur ease to victory over AC Milan. The highlight being Nacer Chadli's first half strike, curled into the net. The final was won by the host club, defeating their Spanish rivals by the only goal of the game, scored at the death by Lewandowski.

I was impressed with the speed with which we were able to access the station after the second match on both days of the tournament. Bayern Munich featured in the second match on both occasions and the majority of the 70,000 crowd were leaving the stadium at the same time. To be able to continuously walk from the ground on to the platform and on to a train was not something I had anticipated.

Attendance: 70,000
Admission: 35 Euros (40 Euros day two)
Programme: Free (Different edition issue each day)


Other matches attended at Allianz Arena

4 August 2015 – Real Madrid 2 Tottenham Hotspur 0 – Audi Cup
5 August 2015 – Tottenham Hotspur 2 AC Milan 0 - Audi Cup
5 August 2015 – Bayern Munich 1 Real Madrid 0 - Audi Cup

Friday, May 29, 2015

Camelon Juniors FC

Camelon Juniors 5 Bo'ness United 2 - Fife & Lothians Cup Semi-Final

Camelon is a large village within the Falkirk council area, Scotland. It is in the Forth Valley, 1.3 miles west of Falkirk, 1.3 miles south of Larbert and 2.6 miles east of Bonnybridge. The main road through Camelon is the A803 road which links the village to Falkirk. Camelon was the site of a flight of locks, which joined the Union Canal with the Forth and Clyde Canal; this was replaced in 2002 with the Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift. Camelon is the site of a series of Roman fortifications on the Antonine Wall. Mariners Day is an annual children fayre held on the second Saturday in June. It includes a parade, crowning ceremony of the Queen along with fun and games for the children of the area. Camelon has good access for a village of its size with Camelon railway station lying on the Cumbernauld Line and the Edinburgh to Dunblane line. Next to the station there are amenities including the Mariner Leisure Centre.

Outside of the three 'senior' leagues in the non-league grade in Scotland, are the 'junior' leagues. Although called junior, this refers to the level of football played, not the age of the participants. The junior leagues are organised by the Scottish Junior Football Association and are regionalised into three areas, North, East and West. There is a Scottish Junior Cup, which all members of the association participate in, having done so since the Nineteenth Century. Camelon Juniors FC is a Scottish Junior football club based in Camelon. The club, founded in 1920, currently play in the Scottish Junior Football Association's East Region Super League after winning the Lothians League Division 1 in 2005–06. Prior to this match, this Pieman had never seen a Scottish non-league match let alone a match within the 'Juniors' structure.

This Pieman had already booked an excursion to Glasgow in order to attend the Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park and was delighted to find that Camelon Juniors was scheduled to host Bo'ness United in the semi-final of the Fife & Lothians Cup on the Friday evening. The journey from Glasgow Queen Street to Camelon takes around 40 minutes. Whilst awaiting for the last train before peak services commenced, an opportunity was taken to visit The Vale public house opposite the station. At this establishment I enjoyed a pint of  Drop (a pale, hoppy session ale 4.2%) from the local Jaw Brew brewery.

On reaching Camelon and in search of solid refreshment, it was good to be able to enjoy the buffet at a local Chinese restaurant. Many of the local shops were displaying Falkirk flags and scarves in support of the local team’s participation in the Scottish Cup Final the following day. Carmuirs Park is relatively close to the railway station, taking around ten minutes to walk.

We were the first spectators to arrive at the ground and having paid admission and purchased raffle tickets, there was a good opportunity to wander around taking photographs. There is covered terracing on both sides of the pitch and further terracing behind one of the goals. The other end of the ground backs on to houses. In the garden of one house, an occupant has built his own covered grandstand from where he can watch the matches.

Grandstand in the Garden
This match started with visitors Bo'ness United (second from top of the East Region Super League) forcing the play. When they took the lead they could easily have already been a couple of goals ahead. Therefore, it was a surprise, shortly before the break, that Camelon (closer to the bottom of the same league), levelled the score with a scrambled goal.

This uplift in fortunes galvanised the home side and some fine attacking play and determined tackling contributed to an entertaining second period where Bo'ness were blown away. The final result of 5-2 is a testament to the fine standard of football in this match and if typical is a tribute to the Scottish Junior scene. As the match had commenced at 19:15 it was just possible to catch the 21:17 service back to Glasgow.

Attendance: 571
Admission: £5:00
Programme: Not issued
Tea: £1:00