Saturday, November 03, 2018

Stafford Rangers FC

Stafford Rangers 1 Gainsborough Trinity 1 - Northern Premier League, Premier Division

Stafford is the county town of Staffordshire, in the West Midlands. It lies approximately 16 miles North of Wolverhampton and 18 miles south of Stoke-on-Trent. Stafford means 'ford' by a 'staithe' (landing place). The original settlement was on dry sand and gravel peninsula that provided a strategic crossing point in the marshy valley of the River Sow, a tributary of the River Trent. There is still a large area of marshland northwest of the town, which has always been subject to flooding. The Normans built Stafford Castle in about 1090. It was first made of wood, and later rebuilt of stone. It has been rebuilt twice since, and the ruins of the 19th century gothic revival castle on the earthworks incorporate much of the original stonework. The oldest building now in Stafford is St Chad's Church, dating back into the 12th century. The town was represented in Parliament by the famous playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan in the 18th century.

Despite extensive research, no one has been able to prove conclusively when Stafford Rangers FC was actually formed, as early minute books were destroyed during the First World War. Rangers' formation year is recognised as 1876 because of articles in the local Advertiser newspaper, but an alternative theory on Rangers' formation date, printed in the Sentinel newspaper during 1891, suggests that the club was founded by a Bible class in 1877.

With The Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur fixture being scheduled for a “very considerate” 19:45 Saturday evening kick-off, this presented an opportunity to take in a non-league match in the vicinity. There are four trains per hour between Stafford and Wolverhampton, with a journey time of around 15 minutes and this fitted nicely with my plans. Marston Road is also a venue that I have wanted to visit for many years.

To reach the ground, walking from Stafford railway station takes around twenty minutes and takes you past the imposing HM Prison walls. Before heading to the ground, I also took the opportunity to have a look around the town centre. A number of olde worlde and quirky buildings help to add to the interest. It is good to see a town centre that has retained character and heritage.

On arrival at the ground I was greeted by a couple of stewards who informed me that the Gainsborough Trinity team coach was soon to arrive. The visiting supporters transport was soon to follow, having mistakenly arrived at Stafford Town FC before arriving at the correct destination. It was good to be able to enjoy the hospitality in the social club before the match. Bombardier on hand pump was a bonus, as was a brief tour of the club facilities. This also included an area dedicated to the Royal Staffordshire Regiment (particularly poignant at this time of year).

It was good to spend some time with the travelling Gainsborough Trinity supporters in the social club and both they and the home fans I spoke with were extremely friendly and welcoming. I was very impressed with the stadium. Lots of “old school” terracing around much of the ground. This was complimented by a fine seated stand along one side of the pitch. The terrace on the other side is covered and provides excellent shelter. In addition to the remembrance commemoration taking place before the match, we were able to pay tribute to Jon Downing (club president and former chairman), an extremely influential and popular man in the recent history of Stafford Rangers. Jon had passed away a few days earlier on 30 October.

As for the match, the home side (16th in the table) were taking on their visitors from Lincolnshire (8th place). Gainsborough Trinity were experiencing a bit of a goal drought leading up to this match and it was Rangers (or Boro as they are known!) that were worthy of their one goal lead at the break. The second period saw a much-improved performance from the visitors who got stronger as the half progressed. Their equaliser was good reward for this and a point each was probably about right.

Attendance: 457
Admission: £10:00
Programme: £2:00 (40 pages)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Chippenham Town FC

Chippenham Town 2 East Thurrock United 0 - National League, South

Chippenham is a large historic market town in northwest Wiltshire, England. It lies 20 miles east of Bristol, 86 miles west of London. The town was established on a crossing of the River Avon and some form of settlement is believed to have existed there since before Roman times. The town continued to grow when Great Western Railway arrived in 1841; it is now a major commuter town. The original Buttercross, a stone structure, was erected in c. 1570 and stood at the centre of the Shambles, at the current location of Barclays Bank. It was used for the sale of meat and dairy products. In 1747 a bribery and corruption scandal (involving two members of parliament for Chippenham) led to the downfall of Sir Robert Walpole's government. In 1889, Mr E C Lounges bought the Buttercross for £6 and re-erected it as a gazebo in the kitchen garden of the Castle Combe Manor House, where it subsequently fell into disrepair. The Buttercross was re-erected in 1995 by the Chippenham Civic Society, funded by many local people and organisations. It currently stands as the centre-piece of the pedestrianised area of the town centre, where a market is held each Friday and Saturday.

Chippenham Town FC was established in 1873. The club joined the new Wiltshire League in 1901, and finished joint top of the table with Warminster Town, but lost the championship play-off replay 1–0, following a 1–1 draw in the first match. They joined Division Two of the Western League in 1904, but also continued to play in the Wiltshire League. The 1904–05 season saw them finish bottom of the Western League and second in the Wiltshire League. At the end of the 1905–06 season the club withdrew from the Western League, and went on to win the Wiltshire League in 1907–08 and 1908–09, before finishing as runners-up in 1909–10. They were runners-up again in 1912–13, 1921–22 and 1922–23, before winning the league in 1928–29. The 1951–52 season saw the club win the Western League for the first time, and they also reached the first round of the FA Cup for the first time, losing 3–0 at Leyton. In 1968 the club joined the Premier Division of the Hellenic League, where they played until re-joining the Western League in 1973. When the league gained a second division in 1976, the club was relegated to the new Division One. They were Division One champions in 1980–81, earning promotion to the Premier Division. In 1999–2000 the club reached the final of the FA Vase, eventually losing 1–0 to Deal Town at Wembley Stadium. In 2009–10 the club finished third in the Southern League, Premier Division and after beating Hednesford Town 2–0 in the play-off semi-finals, lost the final 2–1 to Nuneaton Town. In 2016–17 they won the Premier Division with a league record 103 points, earning promotion to the National League South.

The journey to Chippenham was made by catching the 11:30 train from London Paddington. On arrival, this Pieman was delighted to find, within a short walk from the station, the Prince of Wales micropub. This small, but very welcoming establishment, had only opened a few weeks earlier. My visit was therefore timed to perfection. There was a good choice from the four hand pumps and my pre-match pint was Elmers (3.8%), an English Ale from the Flying Monk brewery, based nearby at Hullavington near Malmesbury. A lovely ale brewed with Maris Otter malt, hopped with East Kent Goldings and Nelson Sauvignon.

It takes less than ten minutes to walk to Hardenhuish Park from the station. On arrival the first part of the ground I saw was the back of the main stand. Immediately I could see that this structure is steeped in history. The club will soon celebrate 100 years of playing at this venue. Clearly the main stand has been added to over the years with additional seating added to either side. At the rear of the stand is the clubhouse with licensed bar. It is worth popping in here to view the extensive display of memorabilia that details the history of the club.

Both ends of the ground are terraced, with one end being covered. The side of the ground behind the dugouts is also covered and although flat hardstanding, affords a good view of proceedings. This was the area from which I watched the match. On a bitterly cold windy afternoon, this was a strategic decision. Steak & Ale Pie with Chips and a large cup of tea also assisted in thwarting the chill.

This match saw a mid-table home side host struggling East Thurrock United. From the opening exchanges it looked that Chippenham Town would have little difficulty beating their Essex visitors. However, despite plenty of pressure the scores were level at the break. Playing down the slope in the second period, this was to change as two well-taken goals by Nick McCootie enabled Chippenham to establish a lead. A missed penalty for the home side meant they were unable to add to their tally, but the points were already secured in this one-sided match.

With over an hour after the match before the return train to London Paddington, I felt obliged to visit the Prince of Wales micropub again (we should support local businesses). On this occasion my choice was Junctus (4.5%), a pale ale from the Vibrant Forest brewery at Lymington. Again, I was delighted with the quality of my choice – the end to a fine afternoon in Wiltshire.

Attendance: 502
Admission: £12:00
Programme: £2:50 (60 pages)
Tea: £1:00 (small) £1:50 (large)
Steak & Ale Pie and Chips: £3:50

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


PSV U19 2 Tottenham Hotspur U19 2 - UEFA Youth League, Group Stage

Eindhoven is a municipality and a city located in the province of Noord-Brabant in the south of the Netherlands, originally at the confluence of the Dommel and Gender brooks. The Gender was dammed off in the post-war years, but the Dommel still runs through the city. In 1232, when Duke Hendrik I of Brabant granted city rights to Endhoven, then a small town right on the confluence of the Dommel and Gender streams. The city's name translates literally as "End Yards", reflecting its position at the southern end of Woensel. At the time of granting of its charter, Eindhoven had approximately 170 houses enclosed by a rampart. Just outside of the city walls stood a small castle. The city was also granted the right to organize a weekly market and the farmers in nearby villages were obliged to come to Eindhoven to sell their produce. Another factor in its establishment was its location on the trade route from Holland to Liège. The industrial revolution of the Nineteenth Century provided a major growth impulse. Canals, roads and railroads were constructed. Eindhoven was connected to the major Zuid-Willemsvaart canal through the Eindhovens Kanaal branch in 1843 and was connected by rail to Tilburg, Venlo and Belgium between 1866 and 1870. Industrial activities initially centred around tobacco and textile and boomed with the rise of lighting and electronics giant Philips, which was founded as a light bulb manufacturing company in Eindhoven in 1891.

Sportcomplex de Herdgang is a football training facility in Eindhoven. It serves as the training ground and youth academy of PSV Eindhoven and also accommodates its amateur teams. De Herdgang was built in 1952. The word ‘herdgang’ originates from triangular squares that marked the end of dirt roads. These spots were used as locations where herds of sheep could graze, with ‘herd’ referring to a herd of animals and ‘gang’ being Dutch for ‘way’ or ‘process’. In April 2002, PSV started work on a renovation of the training facilities: a new indoor training hall, a fitness centre, offices and a canteen were added. The construction works were completed in April 2003. Several months later, the youth facilities were also renewed; an idea spearheaded by Guus Hiddink. The facility is located outside of the Eindhoven urban area in woodland surroundings.

From the railway station it takes around half an hour to walk to Sportcomplex de Herdgang. The best directional advice I can offer is to continue past the Philips Stadion in a straight line, keeping the railway on your right, until the route takes you through a wooded area. Shortly afterwards the PSV complex is signposted on the right.

Clearly some decent consideration took place when the club designed and built these facilities. The rural woodland location is a fine setting for training I would think and is certainly so for watching football matches. There is considerable building work taking place at the moment, which will extend the main stand at both ends.

The tidy covered main stand is part of the main administration block including the changing rooms and an impressive restaurant and bar. There are three uncovered stands, two of which are opposite the main stand, either side of the halfway line. The other is behind one of the goals. For this match and presumably others in this competition, UEFA ruled that these stands could not be used. For Dutch second tier matches these stands are open to spectators.

Busy journalists
Much like the main Champions League match that was to follow, Tottenham Hotspur dominated proceedings, but were still unable to beat their hosts. PSV led 2-0 at the break when for the majority of the time; Brandon Austin in the Spurs goal was untroubled.

Despite missing a penalty, Spurs pulled a goal back courtesy of a wonder strike from Paris Maghoma. Another goal for the visitors from Jaden Brown in the dying moments of the match, meant they had now drawn all three of their group matches so far.

Attendance: ?
Admission: Free
Programme: None
Team Sheet : Free

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Wormley Rovers FC

Wormley Rovers 2 White Ensign 3 - Eastern Counties League, Division One (South)

Wormley is a village in Hertfordshire. It is within the Borough of Broxbourne. The village is part of the census ward of Wormley and Turnford. The name is thought to derive from the Old English "snake-infested leah"; the last element could mean "clearing", or perhaps "woodland pasture". Wormley was one of the manors which were granted by Harold Godwinson to the canons of Waltham Holy Cross. It was entered in the Domesday Book of 1085 as Wermelai, with a total of 28 households. Wormley remained under the control of the monastery until its dissolution in 1540 when it was granted to Sir Edward North. The manor house, called Wormleybury, on the south side of Church Lane, was totally rebuilt in 1734 and remodelled in 1767 and 1782 by Robert Mylne for Sir Abraham Hume. It has a stone portico and steps, with an octagonal bell turret. There is interior decoration of 1779 by Robert Adam. It is a Grade I Listed building. There are two Coal-tax posts in Wormley and both are in unusual locations. One is in the middle of Wormley Wood and the other on the north side of a country lane at a point where it is hard to imagine any significant trade traffic passing by. They were erected following the London Coal and Wine Duties Continuance Act 1861, and thanks to them, many of the bridges across the River Thames were paid for.

Wormley FC was originally formed in 1921 playing home matches on land donated by Joseph Rochford & Sons, at that time a big name in horticulture as well as being an employer of a large percentage of the local population. The Club was reformed in 1947 after the 2nd World War, moving to its present ground at Wormley Sports Club, in Church Lane in 1954. During the late 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s the Club was a major force in Junior Football, frequently embarrassing more senior opposition during that period. The late 1960’s, and early 70’s saw a decline in fortune, however, this was redressed and by 1975 the Club had progressed to join the Herts Senior County League. Since stepping up to the Herts Senior County League, the Club formed a successful Youth Section in 1975, with a number of players going on to play in professional ranks. David Bentley, who played for Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur, began his football career with Wormley Youth before being discovered by Arsenal. In line with League requirements, a fixed post and rail was installed in 1990, floodlights were added in 1994, and the brick built dugouts in 1996

Wormley Rovers FC is probably the closest senior football club to where this Pieman resides. I would estimate that it would take around a twenty-minute brisk walk door to door. However, on this occasion I was given a lift, which facilitated a visit to The Woodman public house at Wormley West end. The pub is now The Woodman and Olive and doubles as a Greek restaurant (looks very nice). There was no real ale available but I can recommend the cappuccino.

On arrival at Wormley Sports Ground, I was immediately surprised at how big the complex is. There are a number of outside pitches and a nine-hole golf course. The main area is shared between the enclosed football pitch and cricket. On this particular day, work was taking place to get the cricket pitch ready for next summer.

The impressive main clubhouse building contains a function room with licensed bar and also a separate café area. The changing facilities are located in a separate building towards the cricket pitch. Both structures appear to be relatively new builds, reflecting the progress the club has made over the years. The pitch is fully railed off with concrete hardstanding around the parts that do not overlap the cricket field. The only covered accommodation for spectators is a small terraced area on the same side of the pitch as the dugouts.

This match saw White Ensign (I saw their first home match at this level earlier this season), who had started very well against a home side looking to climb the table following their first win in the previous match. Playing with the wind in the first period, Wormley, despite having to make a couple of early substitutions, took the match to the visitors and were well worth their two goal lead. In truth it should have been a greater lead and credit to the White Ensign keeper for preventing that. A goal just before the break reduces the arrears and this will have given White Ensign confidence.

Two further strikes in the second period completed the turnaround and although they did not play particularly well, this proved enough for White Ensign to take the points. A result that was tough on the home side considering their efforts. It was good to catch up with Burnley fan Mike Benyon at this match. He and I were both disappointed in the lack of substance to the match programme, which is only available on line. I appreciate that clubs are no longer obliged to produce hard copy, but this effort did not detail the officials, contain league tables or offer much at all, save listing the respective squads. That said, I really enjoyed spending a couple of hours in the sunshine at this lovely venue. After the match I participated in a quiz just down the road in Wormley and although it is not all about winning, my daughter’s team managed to do so, having played our joker in the Harry Potter round!

Attendance: ?
Admission: £5:00
Programme: on-line version (limited content)
Tea: 90p

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

FC Internazionale Milano U19

FC Internazionale Milano U19 1 Tottenham Hotspur U19 1 - UEFA Youth League, Group Stage

Milan is the capital of the region of Lombady and of the province of Milan. The city was founded under the name of Medhlan, by the Insubres, Celtic people. It was later captured by the Romans in 222 BC, and the city became very successful under the Roman Empire. Later Milan was ruled by the Visconti, the Sforza, the Spanish in the 16th century and the Austrians in the 18th century. In 1796, Milan was conquered by Napoleon I and he made it the capital of his Kingdom of Italy in 1805. The city has been recognised as the world’s fashion capital and the world's design capital, thanks to several international events and fairs, including Milan Fashion Week and the Milan Furniture Fair, which are currently among the world's biggest in terms of revenue, visitors and growth. Milan hosted the Universal Exposition in 1906 and 2015. The city hosts numerous cultural institutions, academies and universities, with 11% of the national total enrolled students.

The Campo Comunale Ernesto Breda a multi-use stadium in Sesto San Giovanni. It is mainly used for football matches and is the home ground of AC Pro Sesto. The stadium has a spectator capacity of 4,500. The local railway stations are in the northernmost regions of the Milan Metro system.

The repetitive nature of the Champions League, has the ability to limit the options for visiting new grounds. The visit to Stadio Giuseppe Meazza for the evening match was my 4th excursion to that venue. A wonderful stadium we are informed, but not necessarily the best experience for visiting supporters. The UEFA Youth League, which runs parallel with the main tournament, does offer new grounds to those interested and it was good that the TV scheduling for both matches allowed plenty of time in between, in order to comfortably get from one to the other.

It was relatively easy to get to this stadium by public transport and less than a ten minute stroll from the nearest metro station meant I was in the ground with around 45 minutes before the scheduled 14:00 kick-off. The ground is compact and tidy with seated stands on both sides of the pitch and behind one of the goals. Only the main stand is covered and it was this structure that accommodated all of the spectators at this match.

The remaining end of the ground is just a flat grassed area with a few trees providing the backdrop. Refreshment facilities were situated at one end of the main stand and this Pieman enjoyed a salami roll washed down with a cold, if somewhat unspectacular, beer. Team sheets were distributed freely to those assembled (not always so straightforward at these matches).

This match saw an exceptionally fussy referee almost spoil a really good day for the young Spurs side. I believe that being on live television for the man from Finland, helped him crave the spotlight. Having gone 1-0 down on the counter-attack through Facundo Colidio during the first half, Spurs fought back to level, before the man who won the spot-kick, striker Troy Parrott, was sent off for a second yellow card following a challenge on goalkeeper Vladan Dekic. It was Jack Roles that scored the penalty for the visitors on a balmy Milan afternoon.

They came from afar
After the match I had time to go back to my hotel before the onward journey to the main match. A designated metro station, conveniently situated near to the section for away supporters now serves the main stadium. Air conditioned trains on the new line were also a bonus on this warm day.

Attendance: ?
Admission: 5 Euros
Programme: None

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Walsham Le Willows FC

Walsham-le-Willows 2 FC Clacton 2 - Eastern Counties League, Premier Division

Walsham-le-Willows is a village in Suffolk, England, located around 2½ miles south-east of Stanton, and lies in the Mid Suffolk council district. Queen Elizabeth I had granted Walsham-le-Willows to Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, in 1559. Because the village is documented unusually fully in surviving records of the time, the Cambridge historian John Hatcher chose to use it as the setting for his semi-fictionalised account of the effects of the mid-14th century plague epidemic in England, The Black Death: A Personal History (2008). The first regular daily bus service from Walsham to Bury St. Edmunds was started in February 1924. The make of bus was Tilling Stevens and it was operated by the Eastern Counties Roadcar Co. In 1931 the company was renamed Eastern Counties Omnibus Co. The bus was first manned by two local men – Fred Ellis was the driver and Neil Debenham was the conductor. This duo worked together for several years. In later years the service was extended to run to Stowmarket.

Walsham-le-Willows FC was founded around 1890, and played at the Sumner Road sports ground where there was a pavilion with a thatched roof. During World War II, the ground was ploughed up to grow food and was not returned to sports use until 1951. The club was a founder member of the St. Edmundsbury Football League in 1907 and won the Suffolk Junior Cup in 1988, 1989 and 1990. After winning several league titles, the club switched to the Suffolk and Ipswich League in 1989. It won the Senior Division in 2001–02 and again in 2002–03. In the following season, the club finished second, but earned promotion to Division One of the Eastern Counties League. The club finished fourth in their first season in the division, narrowly missing out on promotion. They also reached the final of the Suffolk Senior Cup, losing 2–1 to Needham Market. The following season, they reached the final again, this time beating Capel Plough 4–3 after extra time. In 2006–07 the club won Division One, and was promoted to the Premier Division.

I was fortunate to be offered a lift to this match, the journey via the M11, A11 and A14 took around an hour and a half. I assume there to be public transport options, as I saw a bus heading for Bury t Edmunds when in the main street of the village. However, as is often the case in these rural areas, it is possible that the regularity of the service is sparse.

On arrival I was able to take a few early photographs whilst there were just few people about. The club officials I spoke to were very accommodating and willing to chat, which set the scene for the day. I then went back to the main street for lunch at Moriarty's, a relatively recently refurbished building now operating as a café. First impressions were that this was an up market establishment enjoying good trade. My choice of jacket potato with cheese, beans and salad, washed down with a pot of English breakfast tea was inspired. I now know why this establishment is popular and deserves the reviews I have read.

The ancient pavilion provides a superb backdrop
Back at the ground, around an hour before kick-off, there was an opportunity to take some more pictures., before being invited into the boardroom for a cup of tea. A lovely gesture that also gave me the opportunity to view a collection of photographs charting the progression of the development of the ground and the additional facilities across the road. The invitation was repeated at half time where once again refreshment was enjoyed. The football club, along with various other sporting arms (not least cricket), form the wider community sports association for the village. The football club is clearly thriving at the current level and the efforts of the off the field team should not be underestimated.

The main clubhouse buildings are used all year round with cricket and football dovetailing successfully. These facilities are situated behind one of the goals, immediately as you enter the ground. There is a covered seated stand along the side of the pitch that backs on to the car park. A very impressive aspect of this stand is that the earmarked area for wheelchair users has a lower perimeter fence in front of it. Often clubs do not appreciate that wheelchair users need to be able to see over fences – well done Walsham! Behind the other goal is a covered standing area, which would provide decent shelter on a rainy day. One other structure worthy of mention is the ancient pavilion, which is situated at the far side of the cricket area adjacent to the football pitch; just looking at it takes you back in time.

Visitors, FC Clacton had a fine band of enthusiastic supporters with them. When chatting before the match, I was informed that they were not expecting their side to get anything from this match. Despite what the team sheet posted by the main stand might have indicated, FC Clacton only had one substitute. The home side was also having a great start to their season. The Clacton fans would have been further dejected when their substitute was forced into action early in the match. However, those fears proved unnecessary as they visitors came from behind in the first half and actually led briefly in the second period before settling for a well-earned draw. A similar duration for the journey home meant that this Pieman was able to reflect on a fine trip to a wonderfully friendly club.

Attendance: ?
Admission: £7:00
Programme: £1:00 (32 pages)
Tea: £1:00