The waiting goes on.

The wait for the new season drags but the excitement bubbles away with new ferocity with the publishing of Non-League and FA Cup/Trophy and Vase fixtures. Plans can be made, lists reviewed and dreams could be fulfilled.

In the meantime I visited Wigtown, it is billed as ‘Scotland’s National Book Town’ but a search of the many second hand bookshops was fruitless in finding a good football book. My final stop was the Community Shop and there on a table as I walked in was a book of poetry about Scottish football for £3. The book was ‘Mind The Time’ – An Anthology of Poetry to Support Football Memories Scotland. It was produced with Nutmeg -The Scottish Football Periodical in 2017.20190715_174707The first Football Memories group met in Stenhousemuir in 2004 to engage with those suffering memory loss through discussing their memories regarding football. The projects success has not only been huge in Scotland but has raced over the southern border and become established in England too.

The poetry looks good for a future read but I thought I would share one poem now on the close season.

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‘nutmeg’ also looks a real interesting source of football info for the future.

Michael Morpurgo on Football.

I recently was lucky to find a copy of ‘Billy The Kid’  by Michael Morpurgo on a bookstall in Derby Market that was signed by Michael Foreman the illustrator. This added to my recent reading of ‘The Fox and the Ghost King’ also by the same author and illustrator.

‘Billy the Kid’ first published by Pavilion Books Ltd 2000 is set in West London and is about a boy whose love for football and Chelsea takes him all the way to achieve his goal and play for them. Tragically the war interrupts his career and devastates his family and his heroics mean that an injury means he cannot attain the levels on the field he once achieved. His fall into despair and loneliness is finally countered by his love for Chelsea and he returns to the area where he was born. Luck turns his way and he is able to join the Chelsea Pensioners and again receive the adulation of the team and fans of his favourite club. A really good human story that gives you a warm feeling inside.

The 2016 book ‘The Fox and the Ghost King’ published by Harper Collins Children’s Books tells of how a family of Foxes living in Leicester hear strange voices coming from the ground of a central car park. Their digging exploits lead people to uncover Richard the Third’s grave and release his ghost who grants  the Foxes a wish. as all foxes in Leicester are Leicester City supporters they ask if they can win the premiership. He keeps his word and the rest is history. A really good feeling book even for every fan from other clubs.

Having read both of the books I still do not know which football club Michael Morpurgo supports but I do know he supports football in general and the human spirit.

An Unsuitable Game for Ladies: A Century of Women’s Football

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To mark the England teams participation at the eighth FIFA Women’s World Cup in France there is a small exhibition at The British Library in the Sir John Riblat: Treasures Gallery called ‘An Unsuitable Game for Ladies: A century of Women’s Football’

Only a small area but it shows that women’s football started in London over 120 years ago but has struggled to survive having been at one time banned despite it being popular. Following the FA’s 1921 ban they took it back under their control in 1993 and are now seriously promoting the game at all levels.

The Exhibition is on until the first of September and is free to enter. Well worth a look if you are visiting the library or have some time when in the Euston/St Pancras/Kings Cross area.

The Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB

 

On a football theme outside the Library in the square is a statue that was funded by Vernons-Littlewoods-Zetters Pools. It is called ‘Newton’ and is a statue after William Blakes Painting in the Tate Gallery who refer to the picture online as  :Blake was critical of Newton’s reductive, scientific approach and so shows him merely following the rules of his compass, blind to the colourful rocks behind him.

The statue could be interpreted in a football sense (Ala the pools) depicting the mood of many football managers when success is not coming their way.

Diego Maradona

The Curzon Sheffield was an appropriate place to watch the film ‘Diego Maradona’ with it being opposite the Cutlers Hotel Sheffield the birthplace of the oldest football team in the world.

‘Diego Maradona’ is a film directed by Asif Kapadia, who also directed Oscar-winner ‘Amy’ and Bafta-winning ‘Senna’.

The film has been possible due to the use of over 500 hours of previously unseen footage about his life but majorly centring  on Maradona’s time at Napoli. This was after a career in Argentina and a time at Barcelona.

My view of Diego Maradona has always been coloured by the Xenophobia surrounding him whipped up by some elements of the press due to ‘The hand of God’ incident’ and the preceding Falklands War: Xenophobia is the fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange – taken from Wikipedia.

Maradona was a genius, cheat, god, fallen idol, drug addict, driven and committed, a family man and a man who refused to recognise the birth of a son (he finally did meet and endorse him in 2016). There are many more adjectives to describe him but his personal coach who kept him trained (achieving unbelievable athleticism even with a non conforming life style) describes him as being two people, the boyish lovely Diego and the driven Maradona who had to portray a strong outer shell to the world and not let them get to him.

I have changed my view of him as a footballer and believe he was the most talented player ever. How did he put up with and ride such aggressive tackles and then turn, swerve, run and still have the vision to make the telling pass or shot on goal that led to Argentina winning the World Cup and previously unsuccessful Napoli becoming the greatest team in the world.

The films director can be proud of what he has achieved joining endless clips into a seamless technically brilliant film which is not compromised by the sub tittles in any way. Some footage is switched to black and white and the music is both haunting and uplifting. The outstanding feature of the film is how it captures all of the emotions of the time, situation and outcomes.

 

 

Postscript:  Taken from the ‘Mirror’ on line  https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/peter-shilton-swerves-new-maradona-16508773

By Tom Bryant Head Of Showbiz 19:07, 12 JUN 2019

‘Footie legend Peter Shilton gave the premiere of a new documentary about Diego Maradona a straight red card. The goalie, who the cheating Argentinian scored his infamous Hand of God goal against at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, boycotted the event along with other former England stars from the campaign

The 69-year-old has previously slammed Maradona for his failure to apologise for his appalling sportsmanship and posted of the premiere: “I declined the invitation along with several England ex-players.” He later told the Mirror: “I’ve got more important things to do… like playing darts “.

 

Back Lanes and Muddy Pitches

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‘Back Lanes and Muddy Pitches’ by Robert Rowell:  Published by Zymurgy Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne 2004

This is a fascinating and funny insight into Robert Rowell’s footballing and general life. Like many he dreams of becoming a famous footballer and like most he doesn’t achieve it in the professional game but has outstanding ability at the level he plays. That level is in the street, the park, school playing fields, Sunday League and he has an international career due to jobs in Italy and France.

There is a poignant passage when he realises that there is a better player at school. He manages to survive the harshness of Sheffield Sunday League football which he loves and can play a blinder after the blinder of the night before. He is fated in Italy but it all turns to dust.

Robert luckily has a relative who becomes a professional and international footballer and he is able to reach heady heights through him.

To say a lot more would be to spoil the book for someone else. This £2.49 copy from  an Oxfam Book Shop was a joy and I would recommend it to anyone. It is easy to read but not to put down.

Thank you Robert it certainly made me feel a footballing star.

 

My 2018/19 Season

It started back on the 11th August with an FA Cup Extra Preliminary round game at Staveley Miners Welfare a ground I had passed many times but never visited. It was worth the wait and was the first of 28 games.

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Some of the highlights were at the iconic West Aukland v Bishop Aukland local derby, I loved the ground and atmosphere at Boston (although I understand they are looking at a new ground) and saw an FA Vase game between Worksop Town and Grimsby Borough and commented at the time they would both do well in their season, both won their Leagues.

Christmas was enhanced by a cracking Peak District derby between Buxton and Matlock and into the New Year I visited Penistone Church my most welcoming club house of the campaign, hot pork pie chips and mushy peas will draw me back again. They were unlucky not to get promotion fading away at the final hurdles.

Bramhall Lane was my first visit to a ladies game for the FA Women’s Continental League Cup which has wetted my appetite to see a general league game next season.

The wall art in Sunderland is a football curio not to be missed as were the statues in Liverpool.

The jubilation of the Retford FC team and fans on their promotion day contrasted to my emotional visit to Vauxhall Motors at Ellesmere Port.

There seemed to be a genuine warmth at Shirebrook seeing their youthful team survive relegation and they now try to get interested locals to take up some of the administrative jobs to enable them to continue and prosper.

But this was not a good year for tradition as I saw Notts County’s last home Football League game and they now face a hard struggle to get back from the National League. The oldest professional League Team in the world have lost their identity. Elsewhere Berwick Rangers were relegated from the Scottish League system and there are no longer any English teams playing across the border at that standard. Colwyn Bay have opted to drop out of the English Pyramid system and play in the second tier of Welsh football to reduce costs but could push on to gain European football in the future, will others follow? Bolton Wanderers like Notts County one of the founder members of the Football League were relegated from the Championship, entered administration and look likely to start next season with a points deduction.

The flip side to this was the return of Aston Villa (the initiators of the Football League)  to the Premiership via the play offs after an amazing ten match winning streak in the final 12 games of the season. The game that the Villa management believe was their best and most crucial of the season was one of only two I watched. The match was the away win at Rotherham where in the first half they missed a penalty had Tyrone Mings sent off and were one nil down at half time through the resulting penalty. They then managed to turn the game round to be winning 2-1 by the 51st minute after a wonderful goal by Jack Grealish.

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The play off final was the first non-terrestrial television game I have watched on TV having boycotted Sky due to its owners reporting of the Hillsborough tragedy. Now they no longer own the company I have been set free.

But we now look forward to a new season with the restoration of more promotion from feeder leagues as the latest pyramid tweaks has been bedded in. There are still some leagues where there are not the full complement of teams competing and this must be a major problem to put right. Another upheaval is on the way with a new Step 4 League run by the Northern Premier League in the 2020/21 season. It was disappointing that the Northern League did not get the FA support to run this new league as it would have been good to see more diversity and localism within the administration of the pyramid at this level. Of the games I have watched in the Northern League you feel that both divisions are a step above where they sit in the pyramid and this is borne out by the numbers within their ranks who have won the FA Vase in recent years.

There will be one very new addition to the pyramid system in 2019/20 and that will be Jersey Bulls who have been accepted by the Combined Counties League. This was after Jersey had their application to FIFA turned down in February for themselves and their Island league joining world football as a separate country. Good luck to them and hopefully they will have the same success as Guernsey.

Finally a great thank you to all of the officials and helpers who ensure that we are able to watch an amazing depth of football in the UK. These are heroes trying to and succeeding in generating income to keep local football going through many ideas and methods as well as giving up hours and hours of their time.

 

 

 

Shirebrook Town F.C. win 2018/19 Season Chip League

Shirebrook Town F.C. won the 2018/19 payonthegate Chip League with the highest score of 85 against 26 other teams.

I wrote at the time of tasting, ‘These were the best chips of the season so far and were provide by a lady from the host club, Shirebrook Town, who is at the ground every week. They were tasty, thick, hot, not spoilt by an oily taste, a score of 85. I was offered American Red salt on the chips which I tried separately and was pleased I didn’t ruin the chips with this spicy condiment.’

This was at a Bolsover home game as they have this season shared the ground with Shirebrook their hosts. The Chips are supplied by the Shirebrook team and I again ate them (this time with gravy on – although I tried some without to check the taste) at the end of the season at a Shirebrook home game and they were still the best. Amazing work by the lady who runs the food hut and to all the others around the grounds who help add a worthwhile extra to the football experience and garner a little extra income for the clubs.

The pictures show the food Kiosk at Boston United, the most professional I visited, the best chips at Shirebrook and the amazing ‘Only Foods and Sauces’at Crook Town on a cold Friday night.

 

 

Payonthegate 2018/19 Chip League
Teams Points
FC Bolsover / Shirebrook 85
Notts County 80
Buxton 78
Penistone Church 75
Sheffield United 74
Boston United FC 73
Worksop Town FC 70
Crook Town 68
Lincoln Uniteed 68
Staveley Miners Welfare 67
West Aukland Town FC 65
Alfreton Town FC 63
Salford City 57
Dronfield Town FC 56
Forest Green Rovers FC 56
AFC Mansfield 45
Retford United 43
Aston Villa Football Club 0
Carlisle United 0
Chesterfield Football Club 0
Maltby 0
Parkgate 0
Retford FC 0
Rotherham United 0
Stocksbridge Park Steels 0
Sunderland 0
Vauxhall Motors 0

A special mention has to go to one of the readers of ‘payonthegate’ who sent us this picture from a French League Two game between Nice and Montpellier. They seem to do chips big in France

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Football’s uniting friendship

Liverpool’s footballing exploits are strong but just off the City Centre is another piece of footballing folk lore at  ‘The Bombed Out Church’, St Luke’s. A memorial to the devastation of the bombings in the Second World War which is now used as a space for gatherings as a venue of all sorts it also now the home of the statue ‘Truce’ by Andy Edwards.

 

Talking to the security guard at the church, a function was just about to take place, he let us take photos  and explained that a quarter sized version of the statue sits at The FA’s St George’s Park National Football Centre, Burton-upon-Trent and the original life size version is in the Belgian town of Mesen, also known by its French name Messines, the closest to where the Christmas Truce of 1914 is believed to have started. The Security Guard said that there had also been talk of one being made and sited in Germany.

Whether a football game actually took place can not be totally corroborated although diary entries of German soldiers state it did. There may also have been more than one game along the whole length of the front. What is definite is that a truce lasting roughly a week did take place in 1914 and songs, gifts and hand shakes were exchanged. The statue brilliantly portrays the friendship of mankind towards one another and that humanity triumphs in the darkest of times. Unfortunately the guns resumed and continued for nearly 4 years with the loss of so many.

Thank you Andy for a truly inspiring piece of art.

Down but not quite out.

The Meadow Lane ground is on the banks of the river Trent which divides it from Nottingham Forest’s City ground.

The weather for Notts County’s last home game of a disappointing season was more like autumn than the end of April with rain, a temperature of just 7 degrees and swirling wind making it a grey day. The talk in the stands among the 8598 fans was gloomy with some clinging on to a hope that Bolton’s potential non completion of fixtures could mean only one team ends up being relegated.

This is a very good ground and the prospect of them playing in the National League next season against Chesterfield, Torquay, Barnet, Stockport, Hartlepool and Halifax could result in a record attendance aggregate for that league.

Notts County Football Club, nicknamed The Magpies, were formed in 1862 and were one of the twelve clubs that started  the Football League in 1888. It is a long time since their only major trophy, victory in the 1894 FA Cup Final. However they have been continuous in the League ever since and are the oldest professional team an honour that will pass to Stoke City should Notts County go down. One unusual fact is that it was their black and white vertical striped kit that was adopted by Juventus who still play in the strip today.

Grimsby Town is a long standing club too being started in 1878 as Grimsby Pelham and changing their name a year later. They were founder members of the Football Leagues second division in 1892 and have been champions of lower divisions 6 times in their history. Their nickname is the Mariners and play all of their games away from Grimsby as their ground is in Cleethorpes. This fact will hopefully change one day as they try to get numerous plans off the ground. The goalposts keep changing though and their 120 year stay in Cleethorpes looks set to continue for some while. They tasted demotion to the National League and had to stay at that level for 6 years before returning in 2016.

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Notts County 2 Grimsby Town 1

It was a tense start to the game as neither side dominated.

But a gloom soon fell over the home fans as they heard of Yeovil’s away goal at Northampton which was soon doubled, Notts County were looking down and out. The team could not have heard this news and came on strongly before half time.

With it all in County’s own hands they started the second half well and on 48 minutes found a chink in the solid Grimsby defence when a cross from Rose was deflected to Craig Mackail-Smith, who touched it into the net at the far post.

This was well deserved as the veteran had been running and challenging for any ball and was inspiring the crowd and his team mates.

 

County were two up on 67 minutes when the ball looped into the net following a free kick and no one was quite sure whether it was on own goal by Harry Clifton or a  Pierce Bird flicked header.

There was more joy as Northampton equalised sending Yeovil bottom and relegated but Macclesfield had scored away from home.

In the 6 minutes added time Grimsby scored a consolation goal through Alex Whitmore and the referee blew the final whistle soon after leaving Notts County the task of having to win their last game away to Swindon and hope Macclesfield lose at home to Cambridge United.

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The supporters club at the end of the ground perhaps foretells the fate of the team when the last game is played. The notes in the program by Chairman Alan Hardy thanked everyone for their help during his tenure but explained that he was stepping down and new owners were ready to take over. A fan next to me told me the new owners were a South African group who were waiting to finalise the price dependent on which league the club finds itself in.

 

These were great chips served from a mobile van inside the van and if they would have been hot their score of 80 would have been higher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shirebrooks end of season.

 

A return visit to Shirebrook but this time to see the incumbent team and not Bolsover their tenants as I did before. It was also Shirebrooks last game of the season with Bolsover at home this weekend in their last game. As you arrive at the ground the field in front, that is the car park, is fenced off for the whippet racing that has been the highlight of the Easter weekend and most probably had more spectators than the 107 at the match.

Shirebrook had over Easter gained the one point they needed not be relegated with Bolsover and the team were lazily kicking the ball about in the warm up while their opponents Campion were being drilled and went back into the changing room 15 minutes before the off while Shirebrook ambled off in dribs and drabs right up to 5 minutes before kick off. It was evident that this is a youthful Shirebrook team with a smattering of experience while Campion looked the part of Champions elect sitting on top of the table.

After such a glorious Easter the evening temperature was falling as a watery sun dipped down into a greying horizon. The pitch slopes greatly from end to end and is now patchy after a hard season of two teams playing their full fixtures on it.

Campion are a Bradford team from the Manningham area who started in 1963 in Sunday football and switched to Saturday district football in 1976. They have made steady progress through district football and developed the ground facilities including a club house and floodlights in 2016 when they entered the Toolstation Northern Counties East League.

There have been Shirebrook teams for over 100 years but the current club dates back to 1985 when it was formed as Shirebrook Colliery changing its name to Town in 1991 when the colliery closed. It has played in the Northern Counties East Leagues for nearly 20 years but recently has found it hard to progress further with a limited amount of resources.

Shirebrook Town FC 1 Campion FC 1

Campion started strongly but Shirebrook matched them and were very quick on the break. The first half ended even with neither team having a clear cut chance. Just before the break Shirebrooks player of the season goalkeeper Levi Owen went off with what looked like an ankle injury and was replaced by another youngster.

Within two minutes of the restart Campion were ahead after a mix up in the Shirebrook defence left the goalkeeper no other choice but to run out of his area to compete for a ball with his head. A miscued header and what looked like some shirt tugging left Auden Day free to run on to the ball and stroke it into the net for Campion to lead. I expected the flood gates to open but Shirebrook showed a lot of resolve and again matched their opponents. As Campion pressed more and more out of the blue Robbie Savage  from 35/40 yards out volleyed a pass into the top left hand corner of the goal past the goalkeepers outstretched hand, a goal of the season strike.

Campion seemed most likely to score again but resolute defence particularly from the Shirebrook number 5 Carter Widdowson, my man of the match, meant it ended all square. A great result for the Shirebrook youngsters but a lost 2 points for the visitors who now face a last game away to second place Grimsby Borough in a winner takes all match.

It was worrying to read later on the Shirebrook Town twitter feed ‘The club would like to thank everyone involved for getting us over the line and hopefully we will be playing NCEL football next season.’

 

 

The chips here are currently leading the chip league and this serving with thick hot gravy did not disappoint. Thank you ladies for such a treat.

 

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