Inspiral Carpets 2007 UK Tour Review

Haven’t posted on here for a while… i don’t know life gets in the way, not being inspired enough to say anything that matters i suppose… but these last few weeks have been weird for us all…. Lockdown, the sadness brought to so many families by Covid-19 and a huge change in our day to day activities.

One thing that has brightened up evenings during the last week fews have been the great Twitter listening parties, originated and inspired by The Charlatans (one of my favourite bands) singer Tim Burgess, ShiiineOn Indie Music fans of so many great bands and my favourite band of all time, Inspiral Carpets.

For the last few weeks, we have convened each Thursday night on twitter for #InspiralThursday – as we listened back to their first 4 albums Life, The Beast Inside, Revenge of the Goldfish and tonight Devil Hopping, which covered a period in my life 1990 – 1994 where anything felt possible and music was the soundtrack to everything – so many great bands, tunes, memories.

It has been wonderful to listen to the albums playback along with loads of other Inspirals fans, the band themselves (wonderful to see Tom Hingley back in his true home) . I spent god knows how many hours, days, years listening to these records (and still do) and it has been lovely to see just how many people they meant something to as well and share memories, tales of great songs and gigs and stories of losing our hair…

It made me think back tonight, to all those hours spent following the Inspirals all over the UK, whole tours in fact at times, Travelodges, cheap trains and flights to listen to this wonderful music in the company of others who shared the same passion.

So i dug out this tour diary i wrote back in 2007 for one of the Inspirals tour after they had reformed back in 2003…  up and down the UK for a week or so, having fun, enjoying life and making memories.

Thought i’d share that piece again (that was originally published i think very kindly by the band back in 2007). Hopefully Inspirals fans reading it (if anyone does!) will remember the gigs they were at on this tour, or if not this tour another one..

Inspiral Carpets first album Life is 30 years old today and still sounds as wonderful as ever.  Thanks to the band and the fans for allowing me and many others to be part of something rather special…

 

 Inspiral Carpets – UK Tour Diary March 2007…

Inspiral-Carpets-Original-Tour-Poster-Manchester-Very
It all started a few months before the tour began, as the dates began to filter through.
Could it be done, (in 2003 i did 8 of the 10 dates, 2006 it was more like for a couple of weekend jaunts for the memorable gigs back where it all began in Oldham, followed by the Cool as Fuck jaunt around Northern Britain)  but this time i wanted to try and do the lot, follow the band who were the first and best ever live act i ever saw , for
the whole of their March 2007 ‘Keep The Circle Around’ UK Tour.

Looking at the list, it became clear it was do-able, theusual things would be involved –  skiving off work early, incurring my bosses wrath (” the Inspiral who??”) , cheap flights (
that Easy Jet orange, queuing like cattle thing never gets any easier.
..A-D remind me of Argos), Megabus, petrol station food, unable to concentrate at work (nothing new there then)  due to sleep deprivation etc etc.  So it was decided, the 2nd – 10th March 2007 would see me take in Birmingham, Glasgow, Lincoln, Norwich, Brighton, Leeds, Manchester and London – Cool as Fuck as far as i was
concerned…

Funny how now the Inspirals are only finally beginning to get the credit they deserved first time round, classic single after classic single and four albums that still stand the test
of time today (though it appears the band may beg to differ over the Beast Inside – for what its worth my favourite Inspirals album, probably because its so different). Bands seem to be willing to admit these days, that the Inspirals were an influence, when we all knew how special they were all along…

So rant over, Friday the 2nd March, bags packed ready to go, running the clock down at work, the 4 o clock departure greeted cheerily with the boss, its off to Birmingham with a friend, driving up the M40, in the pouring rain…the glamour of touring eh, venue easy enough to find, id beento the Bar Academy next door before to see Puressence (officially theworst view in the world in a venue), NCP fleece us for £6 odd for3 hours parking and i step outside into the rain to see the Inspiral Carpets in red letters above the venue door….step inside and the smell of rancid old mops / vomit / shit hits you straight away, christ knows what they clear the floor with in Birmingham. Venue aint bad, 650 capacity, sold out first night, crowd steadily building,as the support band from Stoke, the Rebounds play an energetic set,not really my bag but kicks the tour off all the same. Then it beginsto build up to the Inspirals, crew doing there checks, tuning up,tunes building up (the pre gig tape wasnt a patch on 2003 though, when it was classic Manchester themed – there is only so much Razorlight, Babyshambles you can listen to in a week before it feels like torture!!) . Band come on about 8.30, early show, Craig counts in Generations and away we go a week of classic tunes, garage filled at times, melodic at others, happy at times, sad at others…maybe that’s why i like this band so much, all these tunes get inside you in a way…..

The opening five songs, are just classics, quite possibly the best way an Inspirals show could open – Generations, Joe, Move, Directing Traffic and This is How It Feels…. the opening drum beat of Joe gets the crowd really going, band all energy, Martyn throwing shapes on the monitors, Tom cranking the crowd up….Move then for me, is the greatest Inspirals song there is, that bit toward the middle is just classic Inspirals,
organ / bass / drums just build and build and then Graham just nails that guitar line (listen to it again see what i mean)…fucking beautiful…next up Directing Traffic, must be 20 years old and still sounds as fresh as a daisy, drums kick in and away we go again, Birmingham absolutely bouncing…then its This Is How It Feels, lesser bands couldn’t afford to throw away such a song so early in the set but for the first night of eight, its all hands clapping in the air in time to a song everyone just everyone knows….a special moment in Birmingham but one that would be bettered further along the
tour…

Two Worlds Collide is next up and we continue on the classic streak, this song was never appreciated for how good it was when it was released, a song with a big heart, another one that has everyone singing along…. The night continues in the same vain, great song after great song, i’ll mention the rest of the set during the course of this ditty, so i dont bore you all to death, trying to think of new things to say about songs for every gig, other stand outs in Brum though, are Cobra, two minutes of fast, forgotten by all but those who remember, garage rock from Devil Hopping…raises the game in the mosh pit a few more notches…and of course for me Sleep Well Tonight, still for me the ultimate lost Inspirals great track, beautiful melody, keyboards that just wash right over you and a heartfelt (or it sounds that way lyric), perfectly placed in the middle of the set before they crank up through the gears again….Plane Crash (live edit – there’s a future b side for you lads, when you record that 5th album?)  ends it all but Glasgow deserves the mention for that… The band return to a great reception for a 2 song encore of Sackville and Saturn Five lifts the first of 8 roofs off before its back into a cold and increasingly wet Birmingham night
, a car park stairwell that smells of piss and a drive back down the M1 to the first Travelodge of the tour…first Gingsters Cornish Pasty of the trip, washed down with a bit of Travelodge tea before its shut eye for the night and the short trip to Luton Airport for the flight to Glasgow
….

Easyjet flight on time shocker…but yes for the first time in my life they get me from A to B and back to A on time..wonders will never cease…early check in thank god allowed in the one decent hotel of the tour in Glasgow and never has a shower felt so good…(well there was one once but that’s another story…) Down to Celtic Park in the afternoon, to take in Celtic /Dunfermline in the SPL, its pre Milan, so Celtic with a 19 point lead have their minds else where and the crowd do too (atmosphere is flat compared to my previous visits there with Liverpool) but its an ok game all the same, 2-1 to the champions , then its back to the hotel and round the corner to the gig…..the ABC is a beautiful venue, nice to see an indie venue that has had a lick of paint in the last five years, has toilets that don’t leak and great sound…the crowd are absolutely fucking mental…like Newcastle on the last tour..only far more of them.. Everyone appears to be drunk, happy drunk i mind add, no bother at all, everyone bouncing in unison to every song, lads and lasses knowing every word to songs like Weakness, Sleep Well Tonight, Come Back Tomorrow (makes me feel slightly less sad!)…set list remains the same as Birmingham but the vibe hits a new high, the band seem to buzz off it as one, Glasgow remains one of the gig cities of Britain, simply because the people don’t seem to care about whats cool and whats not…good songs, great bands get proper respect and responses, and that’s exactly what happened to the Inspirals…one of their best ever gigs….

Up early the next day, bus back to Airport , flight on time again…(surely he’s lying – i hear you say..) car picked up from Luton Airport and off up to Lincoln (where the f**k is Lincoln?) 125 miles of rain later i find out, on a Sunday its in the middle of nowhere, especially on a wet Sunday in March….nothing going on and it becomes a case of where is dry for a few hours…the pub and then luckily the cinema, Hot Fuzz i can well recommend….then its straight across the road to the venue, the Engine Shed…i have noticed it creep onto bands ads in the NME recently as a touring haunt and on first impressions its a nice place, big room, good sound, not sure the microwave lighting was to everyone’s taste but a good venue…the band came on mega late not sure why (lads?),
had to listen to Razorlight three times on the warm up tape..so a good performance was needed and it came, lot of Nottingham / Midlands / Lincoln City boys in the crowd and it made for a great atmosphere, loads of singing along, dancing, jumping around. Same set as the previous two nights, Weakness is such a good song live, blisters along and Uniform (again this song sounds re – energised 13 years on) been high spots. For the encore, we get Commercial Rain added to the setlist and it remains there for the rest of the tour, complete with additional guitar work from Chameleons guitarist and long time Inspirals friend Dave Fielding, now resident in Lincoln itself….Saturn Five ends it all again and its the M1, a dry ham sandwich from Peterborough services, Ribena and back in London…

Back at work Monday morning, ears still ringing, work colleagues enquiring as to progress (attitudes vary between he is mad and well he is mad but happy)…straight out the door at 5 o clock and train from Liverpool Street to Norwich…commuter ville, the bird across from me had great legs though…and check in to Travelodge again….feels like home, they all look the same, same stains on the sheets most of them as well….Gig is at the Waterfront, which i think is by some water, it was dark,old fashioned venue, chocka block, big posts down centre of the room, so got myself by the stage and waited for the crowd to kick off at Generations…(no), at Joe (no) and so on, a very polite crowd, great applause for the songs, singing along but not the slightest wiggle of an ass anywhere….i don’t count i grandad / bez dance anyway….Then it all started to go comedy, when some wag / lad / knob in the crowd, well a lad who was about 9 foot shouts out ‘ dont play any new ones’. After that for whatever reason, it just went up and up,band cracking gags, mosh pit going, birds coming on stage for Commercial Rain, go go dancing or whatever it was…Tom falling over the monitors and cracking his skull on the floor (didn’t miss a word of the song even on the floor – true professional!) and turned into in its own unique way one of the best gigs on the tour….

A few hours sleep, trains never get anymore comfortable to fall asleep on do they? and back to the office…cant hear anything which is quite handy, when you work with some of the people i work with, night off tonight, so what do i do, go to a gig, The Rifles at the Astoria, a great album, i stood upstairs to avoid the 15 yr old moshpit throwing their first pints on the stage…good show and a nice diversion from the main event….

Back home for a change of clothes and off down to Brighton, the Concorde 2 is a funny
venue, like some old tea shop or something on the prom, complete with the new chicanes on the approach road for Brightons strong boy racer crew by the looks of it to enjoy. Caught the end of the second support, Actress Hands, sounded ok, to the lad who gave me the CD by the Lanes (1st support act) i am listening to it now, some good tunes… Inspirals were mega tonight, in the hottest venue of the tour, crowd not bad either, i am glad they finally played Sackville in the encore as it was the only title the lad behind me (he was legless to be fair) seemed to know…. after the show met the band at the aftershow for the first time in 17 years and a lot of gigs following them, which was great. Always feel a bit of a knob at these things but its great to see a band who will say hello to their fans and have a drink and play some tunes….

In at 3am, shower, decide against shaving again, too much effort, hair going even more mullet like, the lack of proper food and sleep for a week cold kicking in, its the train up to Leeds with the other half, staying with family tonight, not much time to spare before getting in to see Rick Witter and his Dukes…having seen them a few times before, looking forward to the album which i think is available from their website from next month. Stood in front of a stage with no barrier (is it me or has the Leeds Uni student union completely changed from last time i went there to see a gig? – answers on a postcard please). Right in front of Grahams guitar monitor, so got the guitar nice and clear, bass going through my gut and not a lot of keyboard….great gig though,crowd were really on one, all the classics I Want You, Dragging Me Down, Tom had them well regimented, ears bleeding my the end of it, lots of smiles, a bit of cocked up Cobra and the first time i have ever heard Joe without hearing any keyboard at all….another entry for the top 3 gigs on the tour…but two nights to go…

Mullet removed on a quick dash over to Liverpool and home…then back over to Manchester, great curry and off to the Academy (the same smelly, dirty, hot, impossible to get the bar but good venue it always is). Maybe i stood in the wrong place crowd wise, but not enough people buzzing off it, compared to the 2003 tour..though the right hand side of the room seemed to be going mental…home town gigs are always weird ones though.  Set list sadly shorn of Sleep Well Tonight (curfew strictly imposed there i guess) but again classic after classic, She Comes In the Fall, crowd eating out of the palm of the bands hands). Still no Mark E Smith on stage in Manchester for I Want You, next time maybe lads… just wonderful to hear the words though, Inspiral Carpets, Manchester , 2007, don’t suppose many of us thought it would happen a few years ago…

So onto the final leg, back to where i call home these days…London…Megabus what a great invention (£1 for a coach trip Manchester to London – it costs four times that to go one stop on the tube these days… Shepherds Bush Empire for gig 8 of 8….venue with a good crowd in, an old fashioned theatre style room and my favourite venue in the old smoke…….spent the first 9 songs trying to breathe sandwiched on the barrier and enjoying one particular elbow in the face a lot…but a great gig, crowd for a London crowd really up for it, no fashionistas or any of the bollocks all too prevalent down here at gigs…just people bang up for a good time…set list by now known off by heart (lovely to hear Sleep Well Tonight one last time), dancing to Commercial Rain one last time, lifting my hands in the air to Sackville one last time and singing every last word to Saturn Five one last time….and then its all over….8 nights, 9 days, 1 great tour…..lads i look forward to next time, be it the UK, Europe or somewhere more exotic…thanks also to the guys in the crew who i met over the week for their help.

Its hard to put it into words really what the Inspiral Carpets music means…i suppose though, if you have not got bored and have read this far, if you have been to 1 ,2,, 8 gigs on this tour, or simply listen to Inspirals tunes from afar because you
still enjoy them, you will understand what i mean when i say the Inspiral Carpets are still as Cool as F*** and that’s all you need to understand really…

Moo!….

 

Western League Groundhop Weekend – October 2018

Over the years, i have been to quite a lot of the organised groundhops taking place in different league’s throughout the country and whilst in my own opinion there are pro’s and con’s to these organised events, it is still a great way to take in a few grounds in one part of the country often quite far away from your home base without masses of repeat travelling and the associated costs etc. And the Western League hop over the last couple of years has led us to numerous great grounds and games.

Friday, saw us journey down the M4, to the first game at the home of Brislington FC, who were entertaining Odd Down (Bath) whose ground we visited on last season’s hop. The ground was excellent for Step 5 (if only every ground at this level had so much cover from the elements!). A neat main stand on one side, cover on all 4 sides of the ground and a club that had clearly prepared very well. Lots of volunteers and helpers,  a great selection of food pre-match at excellent prices (mine was the jacket potato and beans if you are interested!). Tea / Coffee and even free biscuits, everything had been thought out well, the bar was busy and hopefully the club made a few quid on the night.

IMG_20181005_193500

The game itself was excellent, with the away side taking an early lead through George Lloyd and from there on the game ebbed and flowed with Brislington turning things around to take a 2-1 advantage in the second half, before two further late goals both from Lloyd completed an excellent hat trick and gave Odd Down a 3-2 win. Young, 17 year old keeper Aaron Sainsbury on work experience from Bristol City also had an excellent game for the visitors. A crowd of 262 were more than happy with their evening’s entertainment and the weekend had got off to a good start.

Saturday, unfortunately saw us wake up to steady rain, never great at the start of a long day with numerous games and being full of cold already it didn’t bode well. However the opening game of the morning at Longwell Green Sports was excellent in the First Division of the Western League. Pre-game table toppers Welton Rovers were the visitors and they were given a real run for their money by the home side, who despite the steady rain gave a really committed performance and held a 2-1 lead into the second half,  the second Longwell Green goal was a proper old school centre-half header from Courtney Charles, unstoppable power from a corner, one of those goals you don’t see enough of anymore!  However the visitors began to dominate in the second half and in the end took the 3 points, with a 3-2 victory, thanks to 2 fine headers themselves in the second half from centre forward Aaron Seviour. Despite the rain, an excellent game and advert for the league, just a shame we didn’t have a ground with 4 sides of cover like the previous evening, always the way though weather wise on hops! A well organised club again, with a few bar areas and lounges which provided welcome respite from the rain at half time, along with the bacon rolls and tea.

IMG_20181006_112008

We then rolled on to nearer the coast for the Clevedon Town versus Buckland Athletic, Premier League clash, although Clevedon’s ground is a long way out of the town itself in a rural location, which sadly can’t help them attract locals at times. Again though an excellent set up from the club, plenty of parking, programmes for sale behind the turnstiles and as the wind began to get up, the joy of a long elevated covered terrace running down the entire length of the far side of the ground protecting us from the elements, which attracted a sizable proportion of the 213 crowd.  The hard working blokes in the tea bar were kept busy pre-game with the 2.15pm kick off bringing lots of appetites in the crowd it appeared. Burgers, Chips, Hot Dogs and more seemed to be doing a roaring trade, followed by a fabulous selection of home made cakes in the club shop. Don’t go on a groundhop, if you are following a strict diet or are easily tempted!

IMG_20181006_145208

On the field, Clevedon made all the early running and took a deserved lead through Alex Camm and as a neutral you expected them to go on and take the game by the scruff of the neck, however it didn’t happen as Buckland (who had travelled from Devon) found a way back into the game and got a foothold when they equalised shortly before half time. The second half had seen a stronger wind pick up blowing down the pitch and the visitors took full advantage as they began to take control. Sub Ryan Bush pushed them 2-1 in front with a fine finish and then they sealed the points with an excellent strike (albeit i think aided by a deflection) from James Richards to make it 3-1. Another good game and a third away win of the weekend!

Back towards Bristol itself and a fixture at the well appointed Moorhouse Lane home of Hallen FC, as they took on another of last season’s hop hosts Shepton Mallet in a 5pm fixture. The game if i am honest took a while to get going, as both evenly matched sides seemed to cancel each other out for much of a first half which held the attention rather than captivated it. Although the fact that the combination of a heavy cold and the early morning rain and dampness seemed to have rendered me frozen internally might have slightly hindered my enthusiasm which was a shame! Shepton Mallet took the lead late in the first half through Ashley Willmott after the ball spent an eternity pin-balling around the Hallen goalmouth.  The teams remained fairly evenly balanced but the second goal for Shepton Mallet was decisive, with Pollard’s shot taking a deflection to loop into the top corner. After that Hallen had an up hill struggle and never seemed to fully believe themselves that they were going to get back into things and the visitors sealed an excellent 3 points, after a testing start to the season results wise, with a third goal from Morgan.

IMG_20181006_184224

Hallen were another very well organised club, with the chicken curry, rice and naan looking popular at £3 and a host of volunteers running the BBQ, merch stall and the very well stocked (and warm – thank god!) tea bar.

So, the games we planned to do were done and we will no doubt return to this part of the world for a trip to those we haven’t done yet later this season, Boxing Day always seems to produce opportunities for a double in the Western League, so hopefully Cribbs, Bristol Telephones and Bridgwater Town will see us visit later in the season.

I will openly admit, i find 4 game days on Groundhops hard work these days, especially on damp days and with a long journey the following day to the Liverpool (my turn with the season ticket ) v Man City game via coach / train.

IMG_20181006_160829

All in all though, an excellent four games, well organised clubs, hard working committee members and volunteers, great food (it makes a change on groundhops not just to have the ubiquitous non league burger on the menu!) and some great football on the pitch. The Western League from my visits over the years seems a  very well organised league, good clubs, varied and interesting grounds across it’s 2 divisions and i hope it is not too long until I get chance to visit the area again. Well done to all involved pulling this together.

IMG_20181005_192306

IMG_20181006_104615

IMG_20181006_170116IMG_20181006_142458aa (2)

 

Redbridge 1 v Woodford Town 3 – Essex Senior League – Fri 28 September 2018

Another Friday, another opportunity to attend an Essex Senior League game, at Oakside Stadium, tucked in behind Barkingside tube station to watch Redbridge take on near neighbours Woodford Town.

I hadn’t visited Oakside for several years, in fact i think the last time was a 2-1 win for London APSA over then resident home side Barkingside, so it must have been quite a while ago, with APSA no longer in the Essex Senior League and Barkingside playing at pastures new. The stadium however is still one of my favourites in this league, easy enough to get to and the raised terracing behind the goal nearest the turnstiles and on one side of the pitch provides a decent view.

IMG_20180928_204837

The crowd was swelled by a large contingent of Swedish supporters who were taking in the Millwall game the following day and Redbridge must have enjoyed taking a few quid more than normal at the bar, as these lads were certainly ‘enjoying’ their evening out. The atmosphere was also boosted by the unique Woodford Town noisy band who sang,  bang drums and played some weird and wonderful instruments throughout the evening from the far side.

And they had plenty to make a noise about, as Woodford Town were excellent in the first half, Redbridge couldn’t handle their pace and movement at all during the opening to the game and it was no surprise when the visitors took the lead with Samir Ali finding the target in the 9th minute from close range and this was followed a few minutes later by a second goal from Machingaidze as Redbridge again struggled to find any answer to the wave after wave of Woodford attacks.

IMG_20180928_204840

 

It could and should have been more by half time and you did wonder if Woodford might regret not putting the game to bed sooner but although Redbridge did come back into things slightly, the result was never really in any doubt and Woodford made it 3-0 when Temi Babalola was played through and slotted past the keeper. Redbridge didn’t help themselves when skipper Murphy was ordered off after an uncompromising challenge and they went down to nine men after an injury after they had used all their subs. But credit to the home side for not giving up and their efforts were rewarded with the best goal of the night late on when  Bryan Kyungu fired into the top corner from distance.

Overall though a comfortable win for Woodford who i must say were very impressive to watch in the first half and another side who could shock a few more teams as the season goes on. Redbridge after some good recent away performances will be very disappointed, as on the evening their display just wasn’t good enough to warrant any points.

IMG_20180928_204845

So another enjoyable Essex Senior League, Friday night excursion, hopefully there will be plenty more between now and the end of the season, as it is always a good night to watch football.

IMG_20180928_204207

Edgware Town 1 v London Colney 0 – Spartan South Midlands Football League Premier Division – Tuesday 25 September 2018.

A few options tonight but decided to stay very local and pay another visit to Silver Jubilee Park but this time rather than Hendon, it was to watch Edgware Town for the first time this season.

Not a cold night but definitely one that reminds you to take a coat and that the frozen toes and feet days and nights of watching football are ahead of us of all.

IMG_20180925_195414

Both Edgware and London Colney came into this one placed in mid-table, with neither side having yet put together a consistent run of form, and with both having an identical goal difference of Goals For : 6 Goals Against : 5, it gave the impression it would be a tight game with goals at a premium.

It wasn’t for the want of trying by the visitors early on though, as they had the better of the initial proceedings and will be disappointed not to have taken the lead with several decent chances created. However Edgware gradually worked themselves back into things and had several moments of promise in and around the box without finding the finish they required. This all changed however just before half time when centre forward Machado found the net with a composed finish after creating space for himself in the box. It was the home side’s first goal in four & a half games and was celebrated accordingly.

IMG_20180925_203150

The second half was more interesting, as the game opened up and Edgware commanded more possession but couldn’t find the second goal which would have eased them home, too often the final pass was perhaps just lacking and when chances did come they weren’t taken. lots of balls disappearing over the wall behind the goal and into the car park. Colney had their moments too but again failed to find the target and both sides looked like they could do with that ever needed gift at any level of football, the guaranteed 20 – 30 goal a season striker.

IMG_20180925_203132

A reasonable enough game on a chilly night, without ever really warming you up completely but Edgware will be delighted no doubt with a solid three points, a clean sheet and an end to their long run without a goal, giving them a base to push on from. London Colney, also look too organised a side to struggle this season but again will hope they find goals easier to come by as the campaign progresses. It seemed a very small crowd at Edgware last night as well, the smallest i can remember seeing them play in front of, on my occasional visits over the last few seasons, let’s hope the victory last night entices a few more along for their home fixture this Saturday 29th September against Crawley Green, 3pm KO at Silver Jubilee Park.

IMG_20180925_195331

Barkingside 0 v Clapton 3 – Essex Senior League – Fri 21 September 2018

Another visit to Cricklefield stadium, this time to see Barkingside take on Clapton who had made the short journey across East London.

Tube problems made it a slightly longer journey than i was planning but i still managed to just get into the ground a minute or so prior to kick off, with the admission a very reasonable £5 including a smart colour programme. It is just a shame even with clubs making every effort to engage with local supporters, crowds are still so low. Clubs at this level, in a city of this size deserve more support but for whatever reason in a city of nearly 10 million people, non league football still in many places struggles for an audience.

IMG_20180921_200928

I was expecting a small travelling Clapton support tonight, given that most of their Ultras support has seemingly upped sticks to form their own Community team playing out of Wadham Lodge’s outer pitches, however on the evidence of tonight there is still a sizeable band of Clapton Ultras following the original Clapton FC and they sang and banged their drum in support of the team throughout the game tonight.

Barkingside began this evening’s game towards the foot of the table, without a league win and seemingly struggling for goals and with only the league to play for now after several cup exits in recent weeks. Clapton themselves, had started more successfully and sat in the top half of the table without having put together a consistent run of results yet.

IMG_20180921_205954

The early stages of this game, did see Barkingside start with enterprise and create several half chances, without ever really finding the right final ball or a composed finish and you always feared for them that if Clapton got their noses in front, confidence would ebb away from the home side. The goal Clapton were looking for came on the half hour when a free kick on the right hand was crossed deep to the far post where Jay Morris was left totally unmarked to guide a header home from close range.

Barkingside needed a positive start to the second half, if they were to get back into the game, but unfortunately they started poorly and by the 49th minute, the game was beyond them thanks to two quick fire goals from Clapton’s Read, the first in the 47th minute saw him finish at the far post after Barkingside again failed to deal with a set piece and this was followed a couple of minutes later when he drilled home a low shot after again finding space beyond the full back.

IMG_20180921_200849

After that you never really sensed there was any way back for a Barkingside team struggling for goals and low on confidence and their frustrations were encapsulated by the sending off of Mark Frostick in the 64th minute, for two quick yellow cards in succession.

Clapton could have added to their tally but in the end were comfortable 3-0 winners and push further up the table into 5th position, Barkingside continue to struggle and at the moment look like a side without a real goal threat which i am sure is something they will be looking to rectify.

IMG_20180921_210006

All in all, never really competitive enough for the game to have a real edge but not that Clapton will be complaining as they gathered a comfortable three points. Barkingside will be hoping for something to spark soon to avoid getting caught up in a relegation battle.

Sad to see the home side with such a long history, struggling away from their natural home but hopefully things will turn soon for them.  They are also celebrating their 120th anniversary this season http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/barkingsidefc/news/help-celebrate-our-120th-anniversary-2341873.html  and won’t want this special season to continue in this manner for too long.

IMG_20180921_194733

St Panteleimon 4 v Long Buckby 1 – FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round -Sat 15 September 2018

The FA Vase is still my favourite national competition, giving the opportunity for clubs mainly at Step 5/6 a chance to compete for a trip to Wembley next May. It still has that proper feel of a proper non-league competition with a real prize (although the double finals day with the FA Trophy has taken a bit of the gloss off it in my opinion).

At the moment for various reasons, mainly financial, i am having to stay closer to home with regards to choice of games / grounds to visit. Having visited nearly every Step 5/6 ground within god knows how many miles of London, it does throw up the issue of trying to find something a bit different.

IMG_20180915_150429

I scanned the Vase fixtures the other day and amongst a few possibles, one name intrigued me St Panteleimon FC, i will be totally honest it wasn’t a name i had come across before and i had to do a little digging. I discovered they hail from the Harrow area of North West London and were established in 2015 by the Greek Orthodox community in the Harrow area to provide a football team to represent them.

I have watched quite a bit of Middlesex County League football over the years mainly the Premier division at Step 7 and hadn’t come across St Panteleimon at any of these games, mainly because after 2 seasons in the Cypriot KOPA League in London, they only entered the FA non-league pyramid at Step 8 in 2017/18 and won the Middlesex County League Division 1 at the first attempt. This season they are playing at Step 7 in the Middlesex County League Premier Division and it seems have aspirations to continue to climb the pyramid.

IMG_20180915_150407

They are playing in the FA Vase this season, thanks to the facilities provided by a groundshare with North Greenford United and beat the higher ranked Holmer Green in the 1st qualifying round, to set up another home tie today with Long Buckby, who had travelled from Northamptonshire. Long Buckby the last time i saw them a few years ago were at Step 5 but have struggled recently and arrived in London, one off the bottom of the United Counties League Division 1 (Step 6). I guess on paper however, they were still favourites against opponents playing County League football.

However, within 5 minutes of the kick off it became very clear to everyone watching that it was going to be a difficult afternoon for the visitors. St Panteleimon were very impressive going forward early on, moving the ball well, looking a very well drilled side and having a midfield and forward line who were keen to impose themselves on the opposition. After a couple of near misses , it was no surprise when the home side went in front after a cool finish from number 15* and the lead was doubled in the 24th minute when number 11 showed great composure to find the room to drill home a left foot shot. The visitors were struggling to cope with pace and directness of the St Panteleimon forwards and to be honest at that stage you really did fear for them.

IMG_20180915_162559

However Long Buckby did begin to piece together a few attacks and trouble the home defence and from a knock down, the visitors captain number 5 managed to poke the ball home and bring them back into the game. The respite was brief though as the home side continued to dominate and went further in front after a perfect through ball left 11 through on goal again and he coolly finished past the advancing keeper.

Long Buckby looked a dispirited side at times and argued amongst themselves but to be fair to them i doubt they have come up against a side who pressed and harassed and looked for a mistake quite like  St Panteleimon this season, they were relentless and it continued into the second half, where it is no exaggeration to say the home side could and probably should have scored 8 or 9, they really were that dominant going forward, only some poor finishing and players taking shots on when team mates were better placed stopped them. In the end they had to make do with just one more goal, as 11 again finished after a ball over the top on 82 minutes to make it 4-1.

IMG_20180915_162551-PANO

So, in evaluation, St Panteleimon were as complete a Step 7 as i have seen play at this level in a long time, some of the football they played was a delight to watch and their pressing and hunting for the ball was reminiscent of a team or two much higher up the football pyramid. Long Buckby never gave up but they were up against opponents who on the day were far too good for them and it showed.

It will be very interesting to watch St Panteleimon as this competition progresses, i have watched a lot of FA Vase football over the years and this was as good an attacking display as i have seen from a Step 7 side. Teams higher up won’t know too much about them in future rounds and one or two more could come a cropper if they aren’t careful. On the flip side their defence wasn’t overly tested today and it will be interesting to see how they fare against a more purposeful attacking side.

IMG_20180915_150410

 

Long Buckby will go back to league football now and hope to improve their league position, i believe they were missing a cup-tied forward on loan from Rugby Town today who may add more of an attacking threat, as they just seemed a bit off the pace today all over the pitch.

One thing is for certain though, i definitely know who St Panteleimon are now, an excellent afternoon’s entertainment. I look forward to taking in another game involving them if the opportunity arises.IMG_20180915_150407-PANO

 

Couple of side notes! (i don’t normally do this!)

1 * no teamsheet i could see today, so apologies for no players / scorers names in the report.

2. For any future Saturday / Sunday afternoon home games in the FA Vase , it would be great if St Panteleimon could persuade NGU to open the tea-bar and provide some hot food for supporters to purchase!

IMG_20180915_145458

Hendon 2 Harrow Borough 4 – Southern League Premier South – Mon 27 August 2018 KO 3pm

Bank Holiday Monday football at Silver Jubilee Park, saw the visit of near neighbours Harrow Borough, for a game which based on early season form, Hendon probably started the slight favourites. Alas it was not to be….

With Marvin Morgan and Ricardo German again leading the line together, hopes were high that Hendon could continue their good early season form, however for one reason or another they never seemed to click and for much of the game looked disjointed, finding themselves over run in midfield at times, which put pressure on a defence which sadly creaked throughout the game.

IMG_20180827_165553

After early half chances at both ends, Harrow began to take control, looking brighter and quicker to the ball and it was no surprise when they scored the opening goal, with O’ Connor’s shot taking a deflection to take it past the stranded Hendon goalkeeper Boness and into the net.

Hendon didn’t heed this warning though as to Harrow’s intents and the visitors went close on several more occasions before the second goal arrived, with the Hendon goalkeeper sadly at fault as the ball when Keita’s cross shot squirmed through his grasp and into the net.

IMG_20180827_150338

It has to be said 2-0 at half time in no way flattered Harrow who had dominated proceedings in the first period but there was hope that the half time break and some reorganisation would help Hendon get a foothold back in the game. However, the second half couldn’t have started any worse for the home side, as Harrow went further in front in the 48th minute, with yet another deflected shot from Cole, finding its way past Boness and into the corner of the net.

Just before the hour mark, Harrow should have been reduced to ten men, when a challenge from O’Connor which was very late and high and left Cole Brown unable to continue after lengthy treatment, was somehow only punished with a yellow card by the referee, despite the close proximity of both himself and a linesman to the incident.

IMG_20180827_150304

The game became more tetchy after this and Morgan let his frustrations get the better of him, as he was late on a Harrow player with a challenge that probably also deserved a red card but with the referee having set the bar for dismissal quite high following the O’Connor challenge, again it was only a yellow. Morgan was substituted moments later to probably save him from the inevitable.

Hendon found a glimmer of hope in the 79th minute when a clear push in the box on a Hendon forward saw the Greens given a penalty kick which top scorer German dispatched. Harrow had begun to sit back and it invited more pressure from Hendon, as defender Demuria was sent further forward to bolster the forward line and they went far more direct. However, as Hendon threw men forward, they were exposed to the counter attack and from one of these Harrow added a 4th goal as Rush tucked home the goal that finished off any lingering Hendon hopes of getting back into the game. German did pull another goal back almost immediately but in all honesty the game had got away from Hendon a long time before and Harrow were in the end very good value for their 4-2 victory.

IMG_20180827_165558

So, after the bright start to the season for Hendon, the first real set back has arrived and it will be interesting to see how Jimmy Gray’s side reacts. During the game, frustrations became visible between players once the home side fell behind and the positive spirits of the opening games seemed to dissolve.

Hopefully, this result can be put behind Hendon quickly as a one-off, when for whatever reason, tired legs following the long trip to Taunton 48 hours previously or just a general off day for too many players, the Greens did not gel at all. There is a lot of individual talent within the side but on Monday sadly too many players were off the pace. Now it’s a trip to Swindon Supermarine on Saturday where hopefully things will come together again. As for Harrow, they will be pleased with the three points which push them up into mid table but they will be also looking for defensive improvements, as to date they have conceded 14 goals, which is the most in the division.

For both sides, their opening season in the Southern League Premier South will no doubt continue to be a learning curve, with ups and downs along the way.

IMG_20180827_142248

Isolation and how it affects what is currently going on in my mind.

It’s hard to talk about how you feel at times.. I suppose it is ultimately why i started doing this blog and talking about what i do, who i am and all the other boring sh*t that no one else should have to care about but that makes me who i am..

Over the last few months, since the extremely toxic work environment i was now working in pushed me close to who knows what and i made the decision to leave after 15 years service (the last 12 months of which were terrible) to try and get my mind back, my emotions are constantly flitting around.

I have spoken before about how i have tried to give my life some structure on a daily basis.

  • searching for suitable new positions
  • volunteering for a homeless charity
  • trying to learn new skills and improve my existing ones, marketing wise to hopefully help me on a return to a suitable position
  • writing to new and old network contacts to see if they will speak to me or consider me for any suitable positions or projects
  • trying to do things i enjoy, watching football, reading, listening to music etc

And you know what most of the time, i think  i am getting better, i still have a value and some worth and one day an employer will value the 20 years of experience i have within the football / sports industry and that i am someone who just wants to be of value and help people and make a difference.

But then i have moments, like the last 48 hours when it all caves in around me, it’s hard to describe what mental illness / depression feels like but it’s overwhelming when it grabs me again.

The last 48 hours i have been totally by myself, i went out for a pint of milk last night and for a five minute walk today to the book shop to see if there were any new titles i could ask the library to find for me.

I haven’t spoken to anyone. And the thoughts start to build up again

  • Would anyone honestly miss me if i wasn’t around?
  • Will anyone even have the decency to respond to job applications, networking letters / emails i have sent out? I sent out another 15 speculative applications and CV’s etc last Thursday to various organisations (in an industry where i have spent 20 years working at a senior level). One responded immediately and professionally the following morning thanking me for writing but advertising they had nothing suitable (which is a professional response and my mind moves on). The rest, not a peep again, similar to most applications, networking moves i have made over the last few months. Being totally ignored is not a pleasant feeling. It doesn’t take much effort even to politely say ‘no thank you’ to someone, no matter what their request.
  • What is the point of ‘all of this’?
  • Why is the world or at least the news i seem to read everyday, full of so much bad news, bitching, self-interest and money mad people.

And no matter how hard i try to rationalise things and tell myself the thoughts about are stupid and that people do care, things will get better, the rest of my life isn’t going to be like this.

It scares me…

I am obviously too sensitive for my own good at times but what good comes from all this nastiness in the world both on a macro and micro scale, trolling on social media  etc and where do i fit into it all?

Hopefully things will get better, to be honest i just wanted to get how my head felt for the last 48 hours down on paper, as it’s the closest thing to a voice i have at the moment.

These feelings of isolation, lack of value, self-worth, who the hell i actually am etc , i hope will pass again and i will step back into work, day to day contact with people, laughter, friendships, challenges, goals, achievements but at the moment i have none of it and it saddens me.

Roll on tomorrow…. and probably another blog about something nicer, like watching a football match or reading a book and spot of volunteering tomorrow night, trying to help people i know really need help. I just felt i had to get this out of my mind and into words.

 

Ilford 3 v West Essex 2 – Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy (Essex Senior League) – Wed 22 August 2018

Cricklefield Stadium in Ilford, is one of those grounds you either love or hate, the Athletics track around the pitch edge often makes a lot of groundhoppers dislike a place immediately but my visits here over the years have always been interesting, whoever i have seen play at home there and over the years as well as Ilford, i have also taken in games hosted by Barkingside and Waltham Forest.

I must admit though, i enjoy visiting the ground, it has a bit of character for an athletics type stadium, huge amounts of banked old fashioned terracing and a decent view and the welcome last night was a nice one as well, as Steve the club secretary said hello and thanked me for coming along, whilst i pondered my tea bar selection.

IMG_20180822_194542

The stadium is hidden away behind between the redeveloped Isaac Newton academy and a stone’s throw from Seven Kings station, giving easy access from central London. £6 on the gate and an extra quid for an excellent programme. There seems to be a lot of debate re programmes at the minute but for me they will always be a part of the matchday experience and i love it when you come across a programme which has had real effort made with it and last night’s was definitely one of these. A cracking design, fabulous old school style cover and team layouts and everything you need including a proper welcome, league tables, recent results and some terrible jokes! A fantastic effort for a quid and an example to many other clubs in the Essex Senior League.

The game kicked off in pleasant late summer conditions again, on a pitch that is the one downfall of the stadium. It never seems to improve, come rain or shine and i felt sorry for some of the players last night , as Ilford especially tried to play some flowing passing football on a pitch that does very little to help them do so.

IMG_20180822_194609

 

In spite of the surface though, last night was as good a game as i can remember seeing at Ilford, the first half was probably just about edged by Ilford in terms of possession and chances created as they took the game to West Essex from the off but the visitors were dangerous on the break as well and took their chances well. Ilford took the lead midway through the first period, with Callum Maltese coolly tucking the ball home after a nice through ball but not long afterwards the visitors were level as Emmanuel Obeng-Kouassi finished from a ball over the top that left the Ilford keeper exposed as it dropped behind the Ilford defence.  Not long after that Maltese put the hosts ahead again after good work from Mitchell Victorin, who showed great composure on the difficult surface all night. The scores were level again at half time though, as West Essex made it 2-2 just before the break with a fine header from Joe Lefley from a corner which flew into the roof of the net.

The second half was finely balanced as both teams had opportunities to win the game but the home side claimed victory as Maltese completed a deserved hat trick, with a free kick from over near the touch line, which the West Essex keeper and defence left each other to deal with and which bounced on the six yard line and into the net.

IMG_20180822_204620

All in all, a great night’s entertainment on a bobbly surface, with a real effort to try and play football, Ilford look to have a young squad this season but have some real quality in the likes of Callum Maltese, tireless right winger Ellis Lentell and central midfielder Mitchell Victorin and whilst the physicality of some of the league’s more direct teams will probably cause them an issue or two, it was great to see a team really try to play football.

IMG_20180822_213753

My only gripe on the evening was nothing to do with either team but more the ongoing issue that non-league clubs (especially in and around London) need more support from the governing body in promoting games and encouraging attendance. It is sad to see such a small crowd (probably 40 odd spectators on a rough count last night) in such a large stadium, for what was a great game of football.  Sure, there are now so many distractions for people’s leisure time attention but we should treasure what we have in this country, a non -league pyramid that is as broad as it is wide but club’s need more support. London has a population of nearly 9 million people but non-league clubs throughout the capital all seem to struggle for attendances, perhaps it is the transient nature of the capital’s population who don’t always identify so much with the area they live in, as people in town’s and cities outside London do but surely the FA should look at some level of support to try and drive attendance and interest from locals who might not even know they have a club and assistance in centrally finding sponsors for competitions at a lower level etc. I guess there is no solid solution but given the product on offer, it would be great if those in charge of the game did offer more support the game at this level (although to be fair the re-distribution of prize money in the FA Cup, so losing teams in the Extra-Preliminary and Preliminary rounds do get financial reward from this season is a start).  Not getting political at all, but football in this country seems to see the rich seem to get richer, whilst the other clubs struggle along…

Climbing down from my soapbox for a moment , all in all an enjoyable evening at a very friendly club and i wish them all the best for the rest of the season and will hopefully see another game or two at some stage.

IMG_20180822_192743

Cray Wanderers 2 v Whitstable Town 0 – Bostik League Division One South East – Sunday 19 August 2018.

At least a couple of times a season over recent seasons , Cray Wanderers have had to move games to a Sunday afternoon, due to their continued long term groundshare at Bromley FC’s Hayes Lane ground and generally if i am able to, i will pop along, as Hayes Lane is always a great old ground to visit, plenty of old school terracing  and bench seating (though some of it behind the far goal has disappeared since i was last year in the spring! – a new stand in the pipeline for Bromley it would seem).

All these new divisional names at Step 3 and 4 are taking some getting used to this season but this fixture was in the Bostik League Division One South East, as Cray entertained Whitstable Town who had made the journey up from the coast, backed by a decent number of supporters, who as is always the case when i have seen Whitstable over the years, provided some good vocal backing!

IMG_20180819_143858

Cray just missed out in last season’s play offs, a bitter pill to swallow given the number of goals they scored and their style of play but have had to re-group and on this showing are still going to be a very competitive side in this new division.

Cray created several chances in the first half and with more composure in front of goal definitely should have got their noses in front, with some slick passing and two wingers in Junior Dadson (who i seem to remember seeing play for Halifax Town on loan from Blackburn Rovers many moons ago) and Aaron Rhule who got into good positions throughout the first period. Rhule especially, has great technique and pace to burn,  one of those increasingly and sadly rare old fashioned wingers who just seemed at will to be able to go past the full-back like he wasn’t there but he was frustratingly let down by his final touch or finish on a few occasions, which was a shame given the quality of his approach play.

IMG_20180819_145744

Whitstable themselves though, were threatening on the counter-attack and Ricky Freeman drew a great save from Cray goalkeeper Nick Blue, as he hit a dipping half volley on the turn.

After the break, the early stages were fairly quiet but eventually Cray got the goal they deserved in the 68th minute when a low shot was parried by the goalkeeper and Junior Dadson made no mistake with the follow up, as he side footed the ball home into the bottom corner.

IMG_20180819_165110 (1)

Whilst at 1-0, the game was still open but Whitstable although threatening from set plays, didn’t really look like they would draw level and with a couple of minutes remaining, Aaron Rhule moved onto a pass from centre-forward Power and slotted the ball home to make it 2-0. A goal his endeavours more than deserved and one that produced a final scoreline that probably reflected the overall balance of play.

An enjoyable enough afternoon, in a game played yet again in bright sunshine in front of a decent crowd of 316, including numerous groundhoppers taking in a Sunday game like me and lots of Cray’s youth teams and parents.

IMG_20180819_151328

Hopefully, Cray will get to the promised land of their own stadium back in their own heartlands soon, the battle goes on to get their Flamingo Park development underway and i know they have the support of all of those in London with the non-league game at heart. For now though as the wait continues , i will certainly have no complaints about enjoying one or two more pleasant Sunday afternoon visits to Hayes Lane.

IMG_20180819_162033

IMG_20180819_145021