The Art of Football

20190217_100935

On my recent visit to Sunderland I enquired about seeing the iconic Painting of Sunderland V Aston Villa that hangs in their reception and is recognised as the oldest painting of an Association Football match anywhere in the world. The painting by Thomas Maria Madawaska Hemy was painted after the end of the 1912/13 season when Sunderland won the Division 1 title and Aston Villa beat them in the FA Cup final at Crystal Palace in front of 120000 fans. This followed a 20 year period when the two teams dominated the First Division Championship, Villa winning it 4 times and Sunderland 3.

The painting is of an exciting 4-4 draw at Newcastle Road on 2nd January 1895 with a sprinkling of snow on the ground. It appears to depict a corner with all players in the painting except for the opposing goalkeeper.

Unfortunately I was unable to see the painting as I was informed that I would have to pay extra and return on a tour day.

My disappointment lasted a day as while leaving Sunderland I saw the above painting on the side of the Blue House pub. The painting is of Horatio (Raich) Carter who was regarded as the finest inside forward of his time. The painting is by local Sunderland artist Frank Styles and was completed in 2015.

A brilliant piece of local folk art.

Village Voice by Ian Cusak

Village Voice – The Story of Percy Main Amateurs 2009/2010 Season written by Ian Cusak and published by Ian Cusak Publishing 2010.

20190307_112808.jpg

What a find, this book was £1 on a book table at Stocksbridge Park Steels and is the best read of the year so far.

Ian Cusak a long time Newcastle United fan and a part time follower of the local Non-League scene finds that his disillusionment  with the big time leads him to Percy Main Amateurs. The book tells of Percy Mains season 2009/2010 and his election onto the committee and his involvement in time, energy and emotion. It also gives an insight into how the club survives and the characters who make up the team, management, committee and fans (all of which are known by name). The book was written to chronicle the event and to raise funds for the club. My secondhand purchase won’t help this but it has meant that I will visit them in the future. The club comes across as very friendly and welcoming of ground hoppers.

During the season in question Percy Main attempt to gain promotion from Division 1 of the Northern Alliance a league that is based mainly in the North East but due to historical reasons has teams from as far away as Berwick and Carlisle. I will not give away what the outcome is and spoil it for other readers.

If you see this book buy it and enjoy the pleasure of football at this level and wander why the powers that be do not filter down more money to keep this life blood of the game in better health.

 

Red Haze beats Maltby

Having had the warmest February on record it was back to normality at Maltby Main with storm Freya threatening and the winds beginning to gather strength and the temperature dropping to usual levels. Maltby were all prepared to take on Penistone Church FC the current leaders of the Northern Counties East League – Premier Division, although Penistone had faltered at home in midweek and the chasing pack were gaining.

Today, March 2nd, is the anniversary of the late great William McGregor’s letter to other senior English teams proposing a League structure. That letter in 1888 and its acceptance spawned many competitive leagues and was more than a small part in us all watching such games today.

Maltby Main FC 0 Penistone Church 1

The match pitted the leagues highest scorers (Penistone) against the meanest defence (Maltby) and early play indicated that this was to be a tight game. However on just five minutes Jordon Turner, Maltby’s number 11, elbowed an opponent in the face and received a straight red and also appeared to attempt a kick on another Penistone player as he walked off. The resulting scuffle was no more than attempts to get him off the field quickly and the game resumed. Maltby playing uphill on a very even dry pitch matched Penistone with the disadvantage of being one man down. Both goalkeepers were called to make good saves to turn shots over their bars and it stayed at nil nil at Half Time.

Penistone put on the pressure from the start of the new half and a free kick into the box was headed goal wards for their number 5, Thomas Cadzow, to head home. With the score 1-0 on 50 minutes the floodgate should have opened but Maltby showed their composure and started to get on top. A series of Maltby substitutions added fresh legs and they were denied by Chris Snaith in the Penistone goal. Penistone seemed to lose momentum up front and started to play out the game holding onto their advantage. They ended the game more willing to run out time by the opposing sides corner flag than attempt to play an attacking move that may have given possession away.

The One nil score to Penistone kept them top of the league but the fact that they did not take further advantage of their extra man suggests that their tenure at the top may not be long. Maltby again showed their defensive qualities and could be partially happy with the result.

20190302_144700

No chips here and a poor refreshment offering. I settled for a coffee at £1.

Conversations are easy to have at Non-League games and today was no exception. A Penistone fan took me under his wing and explained about their rise from the Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior League to where they are now. This has been due to a visionary committee and a Management team of brothers Ian and Duncan Richards both in education like the Cowley brothers currently leading Lincoln City’s assault on gaining promotion from league Two. Whatever happens to the team this year you would expect them to move on to a higher level. However their local commitment to the team and their jobs might just keep them pushing the Penistone dream.

Manchester City Fly High

What a glorious February day to see my first ever women’s football match, the final of The FA Women’s Continental League Cup at Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United.

The sun was out, the sky was blue and there was no wind as I entered the ground. There seemed little activity at the one kiosk open in my section of the family stand and I realised why when I went up the steps to my seat. Only one side of the ground was open to fans with a smattering of officials and family members on the far side near where the teams come out and the dugouts are. The crowd was only 2424 and with concession prices at only one pound the full takings could not have been great. However there were a lot of families and and younger people than at men’s football and this must surely be a base from which to start. There were more females than males but it was not by much.

The early start of 12.15 may have made it difficult for the fans from Manchester and London to get to Sheffield and it was the Arsenal fans who seemed to have the loudest voice and used the cardboard clackers on the seats the most.

These are two of the top teams in the country and have the backing and sponsorship of their Premier League partners. Arsenal are sponsored by Emirate Airlines and Manchester City by Etihad Airways.

Each team probed in the first half and Arsenal had the upper hand with every attack prompted by the solid back four. City’s best chance came right on the stroke of half time when they tried to convert a loose ball after a headed clearance from a corner. The half ended all square but the second belonged to Manchester City. They started to overwhelm the Arsenal mid field forcing them into numerous poor passes and Arsenals forwards never got into the game. On 58 mins City hit the post and seemed to have more time on the ball and would let the ball run to create space. Arsenals forwards and mid fields inability to get into the game put more and more pressure on Arsenals back four and goalkeeper and again City hit the woodwork just before full time.

Extra time proved no different and if it was not for Leah Williamson, Louise Quinn in the centre of Arsenals defence along with goalkeeper Sari Van Veenendaal  Manchester City would have wrapped up the game earlier. In fact these three were my outstanding players of the match.

So to penalties which Manchester City won 4-2 after both goalkeepers saved shots.

An enjoyable match that was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation from all supporters.

There were no chips available when I bought the Balti Pie which was hot on both accounts and very good. Chips eventually were ready and they were very very good. Hot tasty and fried, not oven chips, they scored an outstanding 74, but at £3 a tray with the coffee and pie at £5.50 it seemed like daylight robbery compared to the many non-league games I have attended this season.

Every Night is Football Night

With television now dictating the fixture list to fit in with their viewing schedules regular football on everyday of the week has become a reality. For the good of the game, only history will tell and the Friday night league game last week was Sunderland AFC v Accrington Stanley FC.

This Division One game finds Sunderland in the third tier of football and despite this a crowd of 28937 still turned up to see them try to keep in touch with the league leaders to maintain a chance of automatic promotion.

Sunderland have a proud tradition having been formed in 1879 and in their first 40 years won six First Division Championships and an FA Cup. Their last major trophy was an FA Cup win in 1973

Accrington Stanley were formed in 1968 after the original Accrington Stanley had been disolved. That club had been in existence since 1891 and at the time another team called Accrington FC which had been formed in 1876 were still in existence having been original founders of the football League in 1888. However at the end of the 1892/93 season they resigned from the league having been relegated after finishing second from bottom.

Since their new start Accrington have managed to to move up 4 tiers in the league pyramid and under the ownership  of Andy Holt since 2015 have cemented a good base in developing the team, club ground and infrastructure. Andy’s outspoken thoughts about all aspects of the game have given him some notoriety. He has also renamed the ground The Wham Stadium. This is not a homage to the pop group but the fact that he owns local Lancashire company What More UK Limited who sell many plastic items under the brand name ‘wham’. They are the UK’s largest supplier and brand leader of plastic housewares all made in Lancashire.

 

 

The Stadium of Light is one of the most impressive modern football stadiums and shone out on this dry, mild, 11 degrees, February evening. The pitch was a bit patchy with a few bald areas. A small contingent of away fans were seated high up but managed to make themselves heard. This was the first ever league game between the two teams  as the reverse fixture had been abandoned earlier in the season.

Sunderland AFC 2 Accrington Stanley FC 2

Both teams started brightly and Paul Smyth playing on the right gave the Sunderland defence a hard time resulting with him being tripped in the box on 28 minutes. Billy Kee duly dispatched the penalty into the top right of the goal with some venom.

Paul Smyth switched to play down the centre and continued to pose the greatest threat of both teams right up to half time. The Sunderland players seemed to be unable to effect a probing forward pass and at half time the home crowd were restless with some booing as the teams left the pitch.

The pitch was watered at half time and the pattern of play continued with Accrington looking the most effective and after 5 Sunderland passes had gone astray the crowd let their team know their thoughts. On seven minutes the live wire Paul Smyth, on loan since January from QPR ran between defenders and headed home from a beautiful cross from the right by Sean McConville. Smyth’s somersault celebration was as spectacular as his header.

Sunderland immediately rallied and within a few minutes had scored after George Honeywell tapped in a cross reulting from a goalmouth melee. It was all Sunderland now and seven minutes later on 62 minutes Aiden Mc Geady made it level.

The crowd now resembled Sunderland’s famous roar but Accrington seemed to be able to put bodies in the way of numerous chances. It was frantic to the end and the right result on the night.

Yet again no chips although there were numerous food Kiosks and bars. The smell of chips wafting from the supporter in front of me turned out to be from outside the ground.20190215_191809.jpgGreat atmosphere, facilities and two teams giving the spectators plenty of excitement, if not the right result for the home fans.

Pontefract on a high at Stocksbridge

Near the top of a hill overlooking Stocksbridge I parked and crossed the road to the home of Stocksbridge Park Steels, Bracken Moor Sports and Social Club.

 

The tail end of storm Erik rushed me towards  the local stone club house and entry to the ground. Built into the side of the hill this picturesque ground is shared with the local cricket club with movable fencing the cricket side of the pitch to enable ground grading. The views from the stand and clubhouse are magnificent of the local moors.

The club claims to be the highest placed Non-League team in South Yorkshire but their poor form of late and the good form of rivals may bring that to an end this season.

Both teams were formed by mergers of other local clubs Pontefract in 1958 and Stockbridge in 1986 although other local football clubs had been in existence for a lot longer. Stockbridge as a community club have been successful in running many teams in Senior and Girls & Boys Junior football.

The large stand has great views with large wooden seats that are cast offs from an upgrade at Hillsborough. The pitch was flat but you could see from the sidelines that it was muddy after the recent heavy rain.

20190209_145826_resized

 

Stocksbridge Park Steels FC 0 Pontefract Collieries FC 5

 

Pontefract gained the first advantage by playing with the strong wind in the first half and their more competitive attitude meant they were well on top and it was no surprise that with only ten minutes gone Eli Hey nodded home the parried save of the goalkeeper after a free kick.   They were unlucky not to  score again on 17 minutes when they hit the post but only minutes later a cross from the left was met again by Eli Hey and it was two nil. Nicholas Guest had time to draw the goalkeeper to make it 0-3 at half time.

The clubhouse bars upstairs were plush , warm and busy. It seemed that most of the fans in the stand were from Pontefract but here were the Stocksbridge fans watching the match in the comfort of the bar with their pint. There was even a more luxurious lounge bar.

Pontefract in the second half were again first to the ball and more committed in their tackles and play, their fourth came after some good play on the right by number 17 and a pinpoint pass to Vaughn Radford to give him plenty of time to place the ball beyond the keeper. It was all over and a bit of a rout when on 88 minutes Eli Hey controlled the ball with a reverse pass into the path of number 2, Jack Greenhough, who was steaming through and slammed the ball home.

Once again, No Chips but four types of pie with Mushy peas, including a vegetarian option. The area where the food was served was spacious, clean, airy with a view of the pitch. The food was hot, tasty and served by a happy team. great atmosphere.

 

‘Those Feet’

‘Those Feet’ written by David Winner and published by Bloomsbury Press in 2005 and this paperback edition in 2006.

This book was written by David Winner who in 2001 wrote Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football ,a book about the Dutch mastery of football at the time with their ‘Total Football’. The book was acclaimed as a must read to understand how dutch history, life, people and society in general had all come together to create a style that swept all before it.

Those Feet looks at the English game from its Victorian outset, values and how they set a pattern for footballers, fans, clubs and officials that still influence English football in total.

The swash buckling centre forward epitomised in Roy of the Rovers, the never give up military attitude, the we know better than anyone else and our slow take up of new designs and tactics seem to show why we have only been successful at one World Cup. Since the book was published the game has changed with the spread of non UK players and the introduction of the worlds greatest managers with methods, tactics and strategies at the cutting edge of the sport. This has helped the national team to develop a more youthful outlook that gives great hope for the future. We are also now, due to the success of our Olympians, ready to accept and pioneer new techniques, equipment, clothing and diet to get those small incremental gains that make you world leaders.

The most outstandingly interesting paragraphs in the book are about how Sir Stanley Mathews adopted the new style football boots that were lighter and more flexible and gave him an edge. He saw the development of the new boot in South America and Europe and persuaded the Coop to make and sell the boot. This gives me even more respect for this footballing genius but his new boot was treated as a gimmick rather than the revolution it was.

The detail of the book is really good and gives as it intends an understanding of how the English game developed its own style and in a way held it back form being more competitive on an international stage. Many would say that was great in that it created a fast, competitive, end to end style that we have all enjoyed and loved. At what cost, the forever under achievers of a game that we helped to invent and fashion into today’s   global super sport.

A good Read

20190206_121203.jpg

Hugh McIlvanney

The death of Hugh McIlvanney this week saw the passing of a colusus, one of, if not, the greatest sports writers of all time. His knowledge, attention to detail, use of words and amazing descriptive ability could have made paint drying seem like an interesting spectator sport.

Perhaps his greatest work was writing about boxing but for me it was about the greats of football, the matches, the culture and the World Cup. For me the football articles inspired me to read more of the depth of the beautiful game.

I also remember his series ‘The Football Men’s on BBC about the great managers that came out of the heavy industrial areas around Glasgow, Sir Matt Busby, Jock Stein and Bill Shankly. The dark moody scenes set the background of the industrial landscape with his warm voice and Scottish accent vividly describing these giants background and achievements. If he had remade the film a few years later he would have included his friend Sir Alex Ferguson. Sir Alex said ” Getting to know Hugh over the years was one of life’s great pleasures” in an interview with Johnathan Northcroft  for The Sunday Times.

The Arena productions can still be seen on YouTube.

Hugh, thank you for the inspiration.

The picture taken from the back of Hugh ‘McIlvanney on Football’ book. I look forward to reading it again.

West Yorkshire on top

As I was travelling to see Parkgate FC v Campion AFC in the Toolstation Northern Counties League Division One I passed Rotherham United’s New York Stadium. Rotherham were playing Leeds United, top v bottom of the Championship and a South v West Yorkshire battle. Campion too were top of the table with Parkgate in 9th and again a South v West confrontation.

Having never been to this part of Rotherham I used Google Maps which is usually so reliable but this time it took me to a housing estate and told me twice I had arrived although all that faced me were houses with a glimpse of floodlights behind. Back to using ones own instincts I eventually found a lane to Roundwood  Sports Complex, Green Lane, Rawmarsh, which was next to Rotherham United’s training ground.

I joined the 85 others at this very tidy ground with a covered seated stand behind one goal and some covered standing area on one side. The pitch had a good grass surface and sloped away from the covered end with a very neat hedge down one side. A typical grey January day with clouds racing by threatened rain which came in the second half.

Parkgate was formed in 1969 from the Wire Department  of British Steel Corporation which is very visible from the ground but is now owned by Liberty Steel Group. The steel works could be heard during the game with clangs and bangs at regular intervals. They joined the Northern Counties East League in 1982 and were in the Premier division for 10 years until last years relegation. They have developed a strong youth set up which they hope will sustain them in the future.

Campion is a community club based in Manningham, Bradford, and play at the Manningham Mills Sports Club, opened in 2006, which they share with a local cricket club. They were formed in 1962 and started playing Saturday football in 1976, stopping all Sunday football in 1982. They stayed a local West Yorkshire team until recently joining the North East Counties.

Parkgate FC 2 Campion AFC 4

dsc00102

Parkgate started the game strongly attacking down hill and forcing corners but it was the away team that took the lead on 12 minutes when Leon Hules-Brooke was free on the left side of the box and whipped the ball into the net across the diving keeper. Within two minutes it was 2 nil with No 9 Marcus Day placing the ball just inside the near post after three attempted clearances by the Parkgate defence.

Parkgate now seemed to come alive and after near misses and clipping the post  Bruno Holden found some space in the penalty box and riffled home a shot to make it 2-1 and with half time approaching an expected close second half.  Immediately though at the other end Marcus Day ran through to restore Campion’s two goal lead and give them a 3-1 cushion at half time.

Both teams  looked for the next goal but it was Omar Habeeb a substitute for Campion who on 86 minutes put the game to bed with a low shot past Chris Butt. Parkgate did make it 4-2 in the dying minute when the left back Freddie Russell overlapped on the left for a well taken goal. With Leeds getting an 86th minute winner against Rotherham it was the two West Yorkshire teams that came out the winners and maintained their positions at the top of their leagues.

 

20190126_144751_resized

There were no chips at Parkgate so a sausage roll and a coffee for £2 had to suffice. The two friendly ladies manning the kiosk also went round the ground selling raffle tickets. Every little helps.

 

 

 

Choirboys Beat the Elements

The wind was strong and swirling round on the tops at Penistone as I entered the Memorial Ground home of Penistone Church FC.

Having recently read ‘Thank God for Football’ I had pencilled in a game here to my schedule to visit a team that very obviously grew up out of a church team.  Penistone Church FC were a merger between Penistone Choirboys and Penistone Juniors in 1906. They played very much in local league football and didn’t reach the Northern Counties East League until 2013. They have been pushing up this league in recent seasons and are currently second to Yorkshire Amateurs.

Their opponents, Garforth Town AFC started in 1964, are another source of football teams, an ex pub team (Miners Arms). They originally started playing Sundays but switched to Saturdays and had to change their name to Garforth Miners in 1976 to be able to progress in the league system as pub named teams were not allowed. They were elected to the Northern Counties League in 1982 and another league re-organisation in 1985 saw them change to their current name. A few up and down years see them now placed comfortably in the Northern Counties Premier League.

Everyone in the 183 crowd had headed for the clubhouse to get out of the cold wind and use the friendly, warm and well presented facilities. A hot drink was welcomed along with the good chips and the amazing hot pork pie, a reason to visit here again especially at a price of only £3.50. The chips scored a 75 as they were hot, plentiful and  tasty. If anything they could have been cooked a little longer.

Penistone Church 3 Garforth Town 1

The pitch in good condition and was mainly flat with a slight slope away from the clubhouse. Pennistone chose to kick up the slope with the wind.

With the crowd hunkering down against the wind under the stand Penistone started the stronger of the teams. Their ground play was beating the conditions but it was Garforth who took the lead after 27 minutes. A punt towards the goal by Alex Lowe swirled high in the wind and sailed over the Penistone keeper.

Garforth’s lead only lasted 10 minutes when Sam Scrivens pounced onto a loose ball to jink into the box and hit a low shot into the corner of the net. Penistones goal tally was doubled within a few minutes when Jordan Coduri had two shots on goal with the second going across the keeper to give them a half time lead.

20190112_161249 The second half saw Garforth take control and they were awarded a penalty on 53 minutes with a Penistone player handling in the box. Chris Snaith in goal for Penistone was too good for the penalty and saved well to his right.

This seemed to change the game and Penistone finished stronger and it was no surprise that Scrivens scored his second on 80 minutes to give Penistone a win and put them only one point behind Yorkshire Amateurs at the top of the table.