Thursday, December 13, 2018

FC Barcelona U19

FC Barcelona U19 0 Tottenham Hotspur U19 2 - UEFA Youth League, Group Stage

Barcelona is located on the north-east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea, on a plain approximately 3 miles wide limited by the mountain range of Collserola, the Llobregat river to the south-west and the Besòs river to the north. According to the Köppen climate classification, Barcelona has a maritime Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and warm to hot summers, while the rainiest seasons are autumn and spring. The Port of Barcelona has a 2000-year-old history and a great contemporary commercial importance. It is Europe's ninth largest container port. Barcelona is served by Barcelona-El Prat Airport, located around 11 miles from the centre. It is the second-largest airport in Spain, and the largest on the Mediterranean coast. Barcelona is a major hub for RENFE, the Spanish state railway network. The city's main Inter-city rail station is Barcelona Sants railway station, whilst Estació de França terminus serves a secondary role handling suburban, regional and medium distance services.

On 22 October 1899, Hans Gamper placed an advertisement in Los Deportes declaring his wish to form a football club; a positive response resulted in a meeting at the Gimnasio Solé on 29 November. Eleven players attended – Walter Wild (the first director of the club), Lluís d'Ossó, Bartomeu Terradas, Otto Kunzle, Otto Maier, Enric Ducal, Pere Cabot, Carles Pujol, Josep Llobet, John Parsons, and William Parsons – and Foot-Ball Club Barcelona was born. FC Barcelona is one of three founding members of the Primera División that have never been relegated from the top division since its inception in 1929, along with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid. In 2009, Barcelona became the first Spanish club to win the continental treble consisting of La Liga, Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Champions League, and also became the first Spanish football club to win six out of six competitions in a single year, by also winning the Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

The 15,276-seat Mini Estadi is situated across from Camp Nou, the home stadium of FC Barcelona. The stadium is currently home to FC Barcelona B (reserve team), as well as FC Barcelona's women's team. It has also been home to the Barcelona Dragons, a NFL Europe American football team, until they were disbanded in 2003. It occasionally hosts the national team of Andorra. Queen performed at the stadium during their Magic Tour on 1 August 1986. David Bowie performed, on two consecutive nights, at the stadium during his Glass Spider Tour on 7–8 July 1987. Elton John performed at the stadium during his One Tour on 21 July 1992. My visit was timely as it is expected that the Mini Estadi will be demolished following the conclusion of the 2018–19 season, when the Estadi Johan Cruyff is finally opened. This is an impressive two-tiered venue with decent view from all angles. Only one side of the ground is covered.

Having witnessed all five preceding matches for Tottenham Hotspur in the Group Stage of the UEFA Youth League, I was determined to get along to the Mini Estadi for this final encounter. We became aware that Internazionale had defeated PSV, which meant that Spurs had to win this match in order to qualify from the group along with their hosts.

I had been impressed with the quality of performances from the U19 team this season and like the first team, they are an accomplished side, balanced with ability, tactical nous and dogged determination. This particular match epitomised that spirit. From the outset it was clear that they were not going to allow their hosts to intimidate them and with the exception perhaps of a ten-minute spell during the second half, Spurs were in complete control of proceedings.

Gary Mabbutt, the much travelled Adam Carne and Ledley King pose for the Catalan media
Troy Parrott's strike after 17 minutes and substitute Rodel Richards' goal with his first touch having come off the bench in the final minute are the recorded statistics. However, it should be stated that this was an immense performance and every player deserves credit for making a decent home side look rather ordinary.

The watching Ledley King and Gary Mabbutt will have been impressed with the performance as were the decent gathering of Spurs supporters attending this match as an appetiser before an emotionally charged encounter over the road later in the evening.

Attendance: 870
Admission: Free
Programme: None
Team Sheet : Free

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Leicester Nirvana FC

Leicester Nirvana 5 Oadby Town 2 - United Counties League, Premier Division

It is believed that the Romans arrived in the Leicester area around AD 47, during their conquest of southern Britain. The Corieltauvian settlement lay near a bridge on the Fosse Way, a Roman road between the legionary camps at Isca (Exeter) and Lindum (Lincoln). It remains unclear whether the Romans fortified and garrisoned the location, but it slowly developed from around the year 50 onwards as the tribal capital of the Corieltauvians under the name Ratae Corieltauvorum. In the 2nd century, it received a forum and bathhouse. In 2013, the discovery of a Roman cemetery found just outside the old city walls and dating back to AD 300 was announced. The remains of the baths of Roman Leicester can be seen at the Jewry Wall; recovered artefacts are displayed at the adjacent museum. Henry Walker was a successful pork butcher who moved from Mansfield to Leicester in the 1880s to take over an established business in High Street. The first Walker's crisp production line was in the empty upper storey of Walker's Oxford Street factory in Leicester. In the early days the potatoes were sliced by hand and cooked in an ordinary fish and chip fryer.

Thurnby Rangers were established as a Sunday league team and played at Dakyn Road in Leicester. They won the Charnwood Sunday League Premier Division in 1988–89 and went on to win the title in each of the next three seasons. In 2008 Thurnby Rangers and Leicester Nirvana merged to form Thurnby Nirvana, retaining Rangers' place in the Premier Division of the Leicestershire Senior League, although Leicester Nirvana continued as a youth club. In 2009–10 they finished third in the Premier Division and were promoted to the East Midlands Counties League. The club won the League Cup in 2010–11 and the league title in 2013–14, earning promotion to the Premier Division of the United Counties League. They were runners-up in the Premier Division the following season. At the end of the season the club were renamed Leicester Nirvana. They were Premier Division runners-up again in 2015–16, missing out on the title on goal difference.

With the Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur fixture rescheduled for a 19:45 kick off, this Pieman was presented with an opportunity to visit another ground within the city. I had seen Leicester Nirvana previously in an away fixture at Peterborough Northern Star a few years ago. It was good to get to see a home match at Hamilton Park.

To reach the ground by public transport it is very straightforward. Arriva buses operate routes 58 and 58a (five services per hour for each) from Humberstone Gate in the city centre. The two routes run in a loop and it is worth bearing in mind that the 58a service is quicker before the match and the 58 service is quicker after the match. The bus stops are just a couple of hundred yards from the ground.

Hamilton Park is a tidy venue. There is a small covered seated stand along one side of the pitch and next to this is a covered flat concrete based structure, both areas providing shelter from adverse weather which was certainly needed on this particular afternoon. The fine clubhouse building is on a raised level behind one of the goals. Apart from the changing rooms, this block also contains a refreshment area. There is also a slight overhang from this building providing a little more cover. With the exception of the dugouts, situated on the opposite side of the pitch, there are no other facilities.

This match saw 9th placed Leicester Nirvana host 4th place Oadby Town. The match was effectively a local derby with Oadby being located just outside Leicester. In tremendously blustery conditions, the home side were playing with a tailwind and really took the game to the visitors. Two early goals set the scene and by half time the score was 5-0.

Playing with the wind in their favour in the second period, Oadby pulled a couple of goals back and with a little more good fortune, could have made the match closer. However, when considering all factors, Leicester Nirvana displayed enough quality over the 90 minutes to deserve their victory. The half dozen Tottenham Hotspur supporters attending this match appreciated the warm welcome from the host club and the Spurs fan on the Oadby Town bench. Special mention to Robert Davies, one of the Spurs fans in the crowd, who probably touched the ball more than the home goalkeeper.

Attendance: 72
Admission: £5:00
Programme: £1:00 (28 pages)
Tea: £1:00

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Park View FC

Park View 0 Winslow United 5 - Spartan South Midlands League, Division One

Park View Football Club is based in Tottenham. Currently members of the Spartan South Midlands League Division One, the club plays home matches at the White Hart Lane Community Sports Centre. In 2007 the club joined Division One Central & East of the Middlesex County League, going on to win the division at the first attempt, but then left the league and entered Division One of the London Commercial League in 2012, and were runners-up in 2013–14. The club then switched to the Amateur Football Combination, entering Intermediate Division One North. After winning the division at the first attempt, the club was promoted to Senior Division Two North and went on to win a second successive title, earning promotion to Senior Division One. They subsequently won the Division One title in 2016–17 and then entered the English football league system, joining Division Two of the Spartan South Midlands League. The club was Division Two champions in their first season in the league, earning promotion to Division One. Park View FC draws many of its players from the Ghanaian community in London.

The White Hart Lane Community Sports Centre boasts a capacity of 5000 with the main grandstand having seating for 1000. The venue has hosted both codes of rugby and athletics. This venue is only a few hundred yards along the road from Coles Park, the home of Haringey Borough FC.

As with all stadiums with an athletics track, you are never certain of the spectator facilities. I entered the stadium through the main Sports centre reception area and was directed to the impressive covered grandstand. Admission is priced at £5:00 and includes a basic twelve-page programme.

The view from the stand is excellent and it is easy to imagine the place buzzing for a high profile athletics event. Much of the remainder of the stadium is given over to concrete terracing and one could be forgiven for imagining that you were at an old East European football ground from the soviet era.

The changing rooms are housed in a separate building located behind one of the goals. Teams playing on the outside pitches also use these facilities. At one end of this block is a smart looking café, which appears to be privately run, serving hot and cold drinks, snacks and possibly more substantial meals.

This match saw 6th placed Park View host 4th placed Winslow United. These league positions would indicate that a close encounter was to follow. However, for a number of reasons, the opposite outcome unfolded. The away team was immediately on the front foot and early in the match had established a two-goal lead.

The second period saw a frustrated home side have two players sent off and concede a further three goals to give the final score a very one-sided look. For me a lack of discipline by some of the Park View players, a couple of unfortunate goal keeping errors and some very inconsistent refereeing were contributory factors.

Attendance: 25
Admission: £5:00
Programme: with admission (12 pages)

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