The Football Neutral: Match Sixty One – Forest Green Rovers vs Macclesfield Town

2016-01-30 14.34.24So this is season three of my adventures, don’t forget you can pick up the ebook of last season on Kindle for less than £3. Do it and support this blog! I’d be very grateful! Loads of games from Dortmund to Clapton. You can also get the first season at Amazon too!

I’ve got a list of clubs that I want to visit more than others, and I’m gradually ticking them off.  Some are really obvious: giants like Dortmund and Ajax, others are down to my own daft little reasons like Clapton, Orient and Hastings.  Last time out, I was desperate to go to Huddersfield because I’d managed them for a season on Football Manager.  It’s not always down to geographical proximity to where I’m working.

Last Saturday is a case in point.  I’ve been desperate to go to see Forest Green Rovers for a while now – as for why, I’ll explain in a minute – and a gig in Cardiff in the evening was just about reason enough to take a massive detour to The New Lawn on my way to work.

But why Forest Green?  There’s a load of reasons, most of which were kicked off towards the end of last season when I witnessed them beating Chester up at the Deva Stadium on a sunny bank holiday Monday.

1: The tales of Rovers being an environmentally friendly club are well documented, and one Chester fan found the prospect of trying to save the Earth incredibly offensive.  He repeatedly called their players “tree huggers” as if he went home and operated a Victorian smokestack every night out of principle.  He would have called them murderers with less enthusiasm and bile.  So obviously, I wanted to learn more.  Any team that can anger an idiot that much is appealing to me.

2: They’ve got a great kit.  Like, really awesome.  I remember being little and the first two teams who had kits that I really remembered were Dundee United (who played in the first game I ever watched on TV) and Anderlecht (who I saw in a magazine).  Tangerine and vivid purple looked pretty cool, and kicked off my long love of slightly weird-hued shirts.  Rovers play in green and black hoops, but it’s a very special green.  It’s the brightest green in the world, like a cross between a highlighter pen and the aliens on The Simpsons.

3: They’re based in a village.  In fact, a place smaller than a village (Wikipedia calls it a “hamlet”, which if I remember correctly is a place with less than 1000 inhabitants) which luckily happens to be called Forest Green. The nearest place with a decent amount of people in is the town of Nailsworth, with a population of 6600 people. This is why I remember Rushden and Diamonds so fondly, and why I am so desperate to visit Hoffenheim in Germany.  Being from a huge city is SO last season.

4: The whole stadium is vegan.  I keep trying to convince my wife that we could be vegan for the undoubted health benefits, but she likes to remind me that we both really like meat and are incredibly weak when it comes to bacon.  In all seriousness, I am aware of the health and environmental reasons of giving up all meat and dairy products and I’d like to give it a shot in the future.  It’ll be tricky, but I gave up booze and worse back in the day, maybe I can do the same with some other stuff in the future.  I’ll be honest, I was curious to see how fans reacted to this within the ground on a match day. Do people get enraged looking for a hot dog?

2016-01-30 14.34.40I was joined on my trip to Chester last season by my mate Darren – formerly known as wrestler Mad Man Manson – and his wife Sammy.  Darren also came to Berlin with me this season, and has since gone back there to watch Hertha again, in a snow-ravaged game that I jealously watched on television.  He’s a bloody good egg and loves his football.  Sammy isn’t into it so much but is smashing company and indulges us just being nerds.

We would meet up before the game, with Darren and Sammy living much closer to rural Gloucestershire than I did.  For me it would be a three hour drive down the M54, M6 and M5, but knowing that Forest Green were top of the Conference and going well meant that we could well expect a half decent game to reward us for our travels.  Opponents Macclesfield have been in the Conference now since 2012, having previously had a 15 year stint in the league.  I can remember them getting promoted, reading about their rise in the pages of 90 Minutes magazine; first in 1995 when they won the Conference but weren’t allowed to go up because their stadium wasn’t up to scratch.  They were finally promoted in 1997, around the time that 90 Minutes actually folded and I had to find something else to read every week.

My drive down was pretty uneventful, apart from driving past a sign for Cirencester  and having a memory come flooding back to me.  A few years back, I did a gig at the Royal Agricultural College there.  It was me, doing half an hour of comedy; and legendary cabaret performer Mister Methane, a man who can fart on command and do all kinds of wacky stuff that you would imagine relates to having such a skill.

The crowd were typical agriculture students: As in they were all rich kids and nearly everyone was wearing at least one gilet. Towards the front of the stage they were pretty decent, laughing at a lot of stuff and playing along nicely. But one lad wandered forwards and repeatedly screamed the word “wanker” at me.  At one point he got quite close, so I pulled him towards me and told him, firmly, to get away from the stage or we would have a problem.  He traipsed towards the back of the room.

I carried on, but then had one of those weird slow-motion moments where time stood almost still because I was aware of something that was about to hit me.  A pint glass (and an actual glass one, not plastic) hit me in the shoulder.  It had been lobbed by my mate from earlier, who stood at the back loudly proclaiming it was him.  For the first time in my career, I walked off stage before my time was up, and had a bit of a pop at the poor students who had organised the gig.  It wasn’t their fault of course, but there was no security and the lad who chucked the glass was still in the room, with nobody deciding to chuck him out.

I calmed down a bit, watched Mister Methane and got paid.  Then as I was leaving (and I weirdly remember that I was driving a Mini Cooper S that my Dad had as a courtesy car, but with no need for it), the lad who threw the glass was outside.  I remember thinking “well, if he apologises now I’ll let it go.”  He saw me, stood up and said in one of the poshest voices that I’ve ever heard that “for a comedian, you’ve got no sense of fucking humour”.  I remember thinking he was rubbish at swearing, doing what all rich people do and adding a twee cockney twang to his cursing that made him sound like even more of a tool.

I don’t remember throwing the punch at him, but his friends told me that he deserved it.  He said his piece to me, I may well have told him to go away (in slightly more ribald terms) and he squared up to me.  So I punched him in the face, apparently.  The red mist descended so quickly that I only remember sitting on a wall next to his friends and thinking about how much my fist hurt.  He was fine, if dazed (I’m still mildly impressed little me could take a burly rugby playing farmer down with one punch, but he was very drunk) and he then chose to apologise to me, bowing to my boxing skills.  I drove home terrified that I’d never work for that promoter again, so I fired off a text apologising for what I’d done, both the fighting and walking off stage.

The next day I was sat watching Leicester with my Dad (this was back before I had a gig every Saturday) and the promoter rang me.  You can tell I was worried, because this is the first and last time I have ever taken a phone call during a football match.  He apologised, offered to have the shirt I was wearing dry-cleaned (I never bothered with that) and said he’d never run the gig there again.  He was good to his word, he never did.

2016-01-30 14.55.47I tell you what, you’ll struggle to find prettier surroundings on your way to many stadiums in the top five divisions in England.  Once you get near Nailsworth it’s all forests and hills and old stone buildings.  It’s a little bit like you’re playing Skyrim and they just put an A-road through it.  Darren messaged to say he’d been delayed, so I slowed down a little.  Mindful that I would get no meat products at the game (and yes, that includes Bovril) I panicked and realised I needed to get some kind of beefy taste hit.  So I sat for a good few minutes in a petrol station eating a bag of beef McCoys and questioning the decisions I make in life.

There’s not much parking at The New Lawn.  I don’t know if this is a consequence of the teams recent good form, or because you can’t really get to the ground without driving there, or just because they’re so green that they don’t want you to drive there.  I don’t think, however, that public transport is that widely available, unless you count hijacking a cow and riding it side-saddle through Gloucestershire to the ground.  The main car park was full, so I stuck my car in a nearby school for £4.

I wonder how many different businesses I’ve parked in over the years.  For ages at Leicester me and my Dad would park in a disused factory where presumably the only income they made was on a match day.  I’ve since parked in countless schools, community centres, dodgy pubs (that’s the norm in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester) and factories.  One of my favourites is in Luton, where you can park out the back of an electrical store that still sells BBC Micros.

From the school I parked in, I thought I was looking at another school until I realised that it was The New Lawn.  The trouble with new structures at Conference level is that they don’t tend to be the most imposing or interesting, but of course the story behind this place is less to do with aesthetics and more to do with how it’s powered and looked after.

For example, much of the power required by the stadium is provided by solar energy, the pitch is organic (and prize winning) and mowing is done by a solar-powered robot.  Really.  That last bit is 100% true.  I hope that there’s a picture of the mower on the wall of the clubhouse alongside all of the other staff.  Or that there is a robot tea lady and steam-powered kit-man.

After the short walk up to the ground I queued for a couple of minutes at the small, efficient ticket office.  I decided to stand (as I usually prefer to do) behind the goal with the home fans.  Three sides of the ground are terraced.  Both ends – one for home, the other for away fans – plus one whole side (which is sparsely populated and uncovered), then the rather snazzy main stand has a load of seats in.  For this match, that stand was pretty full.

Once inside, I obviously had to get food.  Normally I would get a burger or a hot dog, but that wouldn’t be happening here.  As you’re queuing up, there are even signs explaining why they don’t sell meat or dairy products in the stadium.  I have to say, having given  it a read it makes some very good points.  And it wasn’t like there was loads less choice than most other teams: You could have a veggie burger, a quorn pie or chips with various things over them.  I went with the veggie burger… and it was amazing.  Seriously.  Genuinely wonderful.  It even had salad on it!  That did mean that I had to pick gherkins out of it, but it was easily the best burger I’ve eaten in the UK, even if there was no meat in it.

I ate some vegan chocolate too, made with rice milk.  That was pretty snazzy as well, although I’m a fan of non-dairy milks: I make protein smoothies with almond milk and I really like horchata (made with rice milk) from my favourite Mexican restaurant in London.

Wow. I just re-read that last bit and I sound like the worst hipster in the world.  I am so, so sorry.

Having taken my place on the terrace, I was joined my Darren and Sammy just as the game kicked off.  One of the last songs that they played over the PA before kick-off was – and I swear I am not making this up – “Bohemian Like You” by The Dandy Warhols, featuring the line:

So if you dig on vegan food  / come over to my work / I’ll have them cook you something that you’ll really love

Utter insanity.

2016-01-30 14.55.56The game was affected by the conditions.  It might have been sunny, but the wind was swirling around and the pitch had taken a lot of rain in recent weeks.  It was cutting up a little after the warm-up, so neither side was going to be able to play the most free-flowing football.  Rovers were shooting towards our end and had a talented bunch of players though, with Elliott Frear full of tricks, Charlie Clough a mountain at the back and the wonderfully named Keanu Marsh-Brown up front.  Just think: We are just waiting for an explosion of Keanus onto the footballing world. Hollywood has a lot to answer for.

The first half was punctuated with the odd chance, but nothing too brilliant.  The best moment came when the tannoy announcer asked if there was a driver of a black BMW X5 who needed to return to his vehicle.  Why?  He’d left it running.  Of all the places to do that… and of all the vehicles.  Nobody likes a BMW driver.  They’re alongside Audi and Volvo drivers as the most tedious on the motorway.

We went into half time all square and with neither team really on top.  Darren bought some chips and we kicked back off, noting that there is something about the environmental nature of the ground that means you won’t litter like you carelessly do at every other stadium.  I still had my rubbish in my pockets.  He didn’t think it would get to him.

It wasn’t until the 69th minute that there was a breakthrough, and it came from the away side.  A back-pass to Rovers keeper Steve Arnold was woefully underhit, catching on the sluggish turf, and Macclesfield’s Jack Sampson stabbed the ball home.  Even Sammy – admitting herself that she’s no football fan – knew that it was a terrible error on behalf of the Forest Green defence.

Luckily, eight minutes later Rovers were level and the home fans were in fine voice.  Left back James Jennings got onto the end of a Frear free kick way up at the other end in front of the 80-something Macclesfield fans.  It had been coming in a way, even if the conditions meant that clear-cut chances were few and far between.

I didn’t think that we would find a winner, but no fans decided to leave early as we went into injury time.  And it’s a good job everyone stuck around as three minutes into injury time Clough prodded home from close range to send a small Gloucestershire hamlet into raptures.  All of his team-mates piled on top of him like it was a school cup final, and once the game was re-started the final whistle blew.

As we left, Darren realised that he, like me, was carrying his litter out of the stadium.  Somehow, subliminally, the club had made us care just a little bit more about our surroundings.  Fair play to them.

I did have to stop on my way to Cardiff to eat some meat though.  I’m a monster.

Summary:

Forest Green Rovers 2 (Jennings 77, Clough 90) vs Macclesfield Town 1 (Sampson 69)

Attendance: 1,617

Cost: Ticket £15, Parking £4, Veggie Burger and Vegan Chocolate £4.20

Fun Factor: 7/10

Advertisements

The Football Neutral: Match Fifty Three – Wrexham vs Eastleigh

2015-09-26 14.50.03

So this is season three of my adventures, don’t forget you can pick up the ebook of last season on Kindle for less than £3. Do it and support this blog! I’d be very grateful! Loads of games from Dortmund to Clapton. You can also get the first season at Amazon too!

My last trip to a match was to Berlin, a mighty 893 miles (by road) from my house.  That’s over 14 hours of driving, if I chose to head there that way (I didn’t, obviously).  That is the very furthest away from my house that my adventures have taken me, so far at least.

Last weekend I went to the Racecourse Ground which is all of seven miles from my house. I could, as I am currently undergoing training for the London marathon, comfortably run there in about 45 minutes.  Instead I drove there in 15, but it certainly feels weird to be watching a team so close to my house.  Even more so that I haven’t been there so far in the previous two seasons of doing this (or in my three years of living in North Wales).

I’ve been to Chester, Tranmere, Colwyn Bay, Telford and Connah’s Quay since I started, and they’re all pretty close to home but nowhere near as close as Wrexham.  I get my car serviced there.  Me and the wife sometimes go shopping there, and we drive past the stadium and I get all giddy.  It’s a crime that it’s taken me so long to get down there.  The guy who owns the pub down the road from us – where we even had our wedding reception – is always talking to me about Wrexham and telling me to get down there.  Well, I’ve finally done it.  And after seeing two 2-0 victories for my adopted sides in my first couple of games of the season, I felt confident I could help my most local of sides pick up another win.

Speaking of driving past the ground, the main reason to get excited is that there is a speed camera that forces you to slow down and peek inside the stadium, getting a good look at the now disused Kop end. In its heyday it was one of the largest standing ends in British football, but the 5,000 capacity end now remains empty.  On match days it is covered in supporter flags, but every time I drive by it I see the slightly uneven concrete and red painted crash barriers and wish I could have experienced it a few years ago.

Because I was only down the road, I had a weirdly lazy morning before the game.  It was a far cry from getting up at 4am to get a 6am flight to Berlin.  I lounged about the house, had breakfast and had a natter with my wife.  Very dignified.  I set off for the game at 2pm, arrived at 2.15pm and found myself trying desperately to get a parking space at the ground.  You pay £2 and you can park in the adjacent university, but it seemed that everyone had the same idea as me.

Whilst the Racecourse is right next to the station, pretty much – not really a surprise as the ground is one of the oldest in the UK from back when stadiums were in town centres – the nature of North Wales is that you need to drive most places.  When my friends in London complain about having to wait an extra ten minutes for a bus or a train, I like to remind them that we have one bus a day in the village where I live.  Driving is a must up here, so it’s no wonder the car park was heaving.

It’s one of those hard to navigate ones as well, with two separate entrances and about seventeen different car parking areas.  The fact that loads of other sports are played on the University campus also meant that we were competing for parking spaces with people playing hockey and other sports.  I eventually found a very narrow spot and got into a Mexican stand-off with another driver over it.  He reversed towards me aggressively to stake his claim.  I did what any British man would do: I indicated and waited.  I won out in the end.  A parking space isn’t worth losing your no-claims bonus over.

2015-09-26 14.39.10For £15 I sat in the Glyndŵr University Stand, formally known as the Tech End. It used to house the away supporters but they now have a section up in the Yale stand.  That area is now officially called the “Cash4Gold Stand”, something I will never ever type again.  Of all the corporate sponsorship I have ever seen, that is the most abhorrent.  At least with the university they are a big part of the financial security and infrastructure of the club.  They’re not getting you to shove your Gran’s necklaces in an envelope for a tenner.

It’s sad to see Wrexham outside of the leage structure these days, in the fifth tier Conference Premier.  When I was a kid, they were responsible for one of my most vivid football memories.  I did a paper round on Sunday mornings, and I remember how I would read the back pages of the papers as I walked around, half awake.  I’d always get back in time to eat breakfast and watch Trans World Sport and Sharky and George, mind you.  One Sunday the papers all carried the same story and iconic image of Mickey Thomas celebrating after the Red Dragons knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup.  Thomas’ goal was a bit special, that’s for sure, but very few people outside of Wrexham seem to remember that the winner in that game was scored by Steve Watkin.  That result was stunning at the time, with Wrexham in the old Division Four, having finished in 92nd place in the league the previous season.  Luckily thanks to the departure of Aldershot from the league there was no relegation to the conference level.  Arsenal at that point were the reigning league champions.  It was an utterly stunning result, especially in a time where big clubs didn’t treat cup games as an excuse to put out their reserves like they do now.

This game was the start point of a big sporting week in North Wales.  In the evening the Welsh rugby team would take on England in the World Cup, and the following Saturday Wrexham will travel to their most fierce rivals: Chester.

That game will kick off early, and away fans will only be allowed into the stadium if they travel through approved methods.  It is a raucous, sometimes violent rivalry that very few people from outside of the area can understand.  It’s one I struggle with a bit as I’m not from the area originally, but also because I’m half Welsh.  I like both the Welsh and English national teams – although if I had to choose, I’d go for Wales because my Dad is Welsh and my wife is Welsh and I live in Wales.

Chester and Wrexham are less than half an hour away from each other.  That would be a fine base for a rivalry, but when you add in an international border to the mix then it makes it all the more feisty.  When I went to Chester last year I noticed that there was a lot of anti-Welsh sentiment, in the same vein in Wrexham there is anti-English vibe.  Neither time did it make me feel uncomfortable or out of place, nor did it slide into casual racism.  But you get the impression that the word “England” to a Wrexham fan conjures up that little city across the border, and vice versa with Wales to a Chester fan.  It’s a strange dynamic when you grew up a fair way away, but I’m certainly starting to get it now.

Once in the stadium I got my first hot dog of the season.  A keen reader of this blog might say “but Jim, you ate a bratwurst in Germany”.  That is not a hot dog.  It’s a totally different type of sausage.  That’s a sentence that I never thought I’d type.  Wrexham serve the best hot dogs – Rollover – and I grabbed a Yorkie and a Diet Coke as well.  There were two concessions stands in our end, but only one had hot food despite it being fairly busy.  The sunshine had brought people out, and I won’t lie to you:  In North Wales, sunshine in September is definitely not the norm.

Seats are unreserved, and when I took mine I noted that the Mold Road stand – the newest at the stadium  – is oddly futuristic.  It looks a little bit like a UFO has got very lost and decided to do a bit of ground-hopping.  It made me like the Racecourse even more; even though I’m not a fan of more modern grounds, the mixture of something that modern with the huge disused Kop and the more regular (yet still mildly old) other stands makes it an interesting place to cast your eye around.  It’s certainly not boring, that’s for sure.

2015-09-26 14.49.46As the teams finished warming up, I noticed that there are two separate tannoy announcers.  One read the line-ups out in Welsh, before the other did the same in English.  Quite a lot of the inane PA chatter was in English, but all the important announcements were in Welsh first.  I didn’t hear anyone speaking Welsh inside the ground, but that’s not the point.  Wrexham fans – much like my wife – are proud of being Welsh and proud of their language.  Many people (like myself) who grew up in England won’t be aware that Welsh is still a mandatory subject in all schools in Wales.  It may not be widely used these days, but it’s fantastic to try and preserve a language even in a setting like a football match.

The Eastleigh fans seemed in decent spirits despite a difficult week.  They were only promoted to this level two seasons ago, and last season reached the end of season playoffs.  I counted 37 of them (they would later be announced officially as numbering 50) and they unfurled a banner thanking their now ex-manager Richard Hill for his hard work.  He had resigned this week with them having a stuttering start to the season, but he was clearly held in high regard after guiding them to the Conference South title and a fantastic fourth place last season.

As we kicked off, our end was pretty busy.  To my left was a bunch of youths, none older than 14.  To my right, three older men who were very enthusiastic.  And in front of me, five lads of university age.  All of them had the local accent, which I now know is from North Wales but isn’t the Welsh accent that you expect if you’ve only ever watched Gavin and Stacey.  Just don’t for the love of god call anyone from North Wales a Scouser.  They’re not.  It’s like me with my accent, East Midlands is a hard one to define but you know it when you hear it.

The first Wrexham chance fell to Wes York, a diminutive wide player on the right hand side who one of the chaps on my right seemed to have a burning hatred for.  As he spooned a decent effort wide, this bloke went on a thirty second rant about him, crucially not swearing once as he noticed that kids were behind him.  He used the words “sugar” and “flip” a lot though, in the most aggressive way that I think I have ever heard them used.

Rob Evans then had a good effort that was well saved by Eastleigh keeper Lewis Noice, before I was briefly distracted by one of the kids to my left.  He proudly produced a vape device to show to his friends, making me laugh to myself as I reasoned he wasn’t even old enough to have smoked in the first place.  At least he’s cutting out the addiction and lung disease from smoking and going straight for the vaguely futuristic alternative that most people use to quit with.  I feel at this point I should say something like “the state of youths today”.

In the twentieth minute, we were dealt a shock. Jai Reason hit a shot at goal for Eastleigh from outside the area that took a massive deflection and nestled in the net.  This followed good work from Lee Cook and a distinct lack of closing down from the Wrexham defence.  The away fans were delighted, nearly all of them removing their shirts and jumping about.  I imagine – seeing them from where I did – that I can pick out the one bloke who suggested taking their shirts off.  In amongst all of the regular football fan bodies was one bloke who was quite insanely ripped and who I should probably give a job as a pro wrestler.  He looked like the sort of man who understands interval training and macros.  The rest of their fans presumably think macros are places where you can buy your shopping in bulk.

With the away fans shirtless, the usual “you fat bastard” songs followed, with most fans settling on the much more subtle “have you ever seen a salad?”  It’s a shame there isn’t a follow on song that includes the words “of course he has, you get one free with a kebab”.

Wrexham reacted to the goal by having the lion’s share of possession but no real end product for it.  There seemed to be an over-reliance on crossing with no target man in the middle, whilst Eastleigh seemed a real threat on the counter attack.  Whilst Wrexham toiled in front of goal, Eastleigh would go 2-0 up in the 40th minute through Andy Drury, and what a strike it was.

It was great work from Cook once again down the right hand side, and he held off two men before passing the ball into the path of Drury.  From 30 yards out, he looked up and hit a wonderful half-lob over Cameron Belford into the top corner.  It was a mix of brilliant awareness and ridiculously accurate finishing.  If you want to get a sense of how deft a touch it was to loop the ball in, everyone in the stadium knows that he pressed R1 as he hit it.

Yes, that’s a FIFA 16 reference for you all.  Although it’s so hard now you’ll never score a goal that good.

Belford would have to punch a corner away in a panicky fashion before the first half came to a close, with the entire stadium a little stunned.  The Eastleigh fas were still all half-dressed and bounding about, and the Wrexham fans were astonished at their lack of effectiveness despite all the play they had, and that quite amazing goal from Drury to leave them reeling.  The only thing that cheered the stadium up was learning that Chester were doing even worse, 3-0 down at Bromley.

2015-09-26 14.49.55In the second half the youths to my left did not return, which I found myself oddly relieved by.  Despite having a 12 year old and being a former teacher, I find kids quite baffling.  Their desire to echo the dress sense of the older lads in front of me was quite funny, especially knowing that at that age they still can’t quite do it right and they have to ask their mums for Ellesse track suit tops for their birthday or Christmas.

Wrexham boss Gary Mills had to make some changes at half time, and he brought on Javan Vidal for Rob Evans and club captain Lee Fowler for Adam Smith.  The latter really made a difference, adding urgency and organisation to the team as they started the half with a desire to get something out of the game.  Wes York and Dan Harding got into a scuffle that the referee had to break up as Wrexham tried to dictate the pace of the game.

Connor Jennings flashed a header wide from a Wrexham corner, before another goal in the 54th minute, this time giving hope to the home fans.  Jennings sprung the offside trap to put York through who finished with aplomb.  Jennings then managed to miss when clean through before Dominic Vose hit the post from a fair way out.  Vose is very impressive, still only 21 and with a fantastic future ahead of him.  Once given a trial by Manchester United and Arsenal, he is fantastically skilful but also incredibly hard working.  He’ll go far.

With the clock ticking on, Wrexham pushed forwards and the atmosphere really picked up inside the ground.  A throw-in on the right hand side led to a hanging cross into the box that was hammered home via a towering header from full-back Sean Newton.  Once the cross was in the air you just knew he was getting on the end of it, running from the edge of the box and flattening anyone who got in his way.  He celebrated wildly in front of us, and the thought in everyone’s minds now was is there enough time for a winner?  The whole place was jumping.

Well, one thought in my mind was why isn’t there a uniform font for the backs of shirts in the Conference?  Stuff like that really annoys me.  At least it isn’t as bad as the German league where teams like Augsburg pretty much have Comic Sans on the backs of their shirts.  That is a bloody atrocity.

The game was all Wrexham now, but in the 87th minute Eastleigh had a rare chance to attack via a free kick on the right hand side.  The ball eventually came to Joe Partington who crossed from the byline onto the head of midfielder Ben Strevens who put Eastleigh back in front.  Their fans got undressed again in celebration, and our end was stunned.

York could have tied it up for Wrexham again, sliding in but not managing to get on a dangerous ball across the six yard box, before Jamal Fyfield was sent off for a second bookable offense for the home side.  Eastleigh held on and got their interim manager Chris Todd his first win in charge, whilst the Wrexham fans -who were loud and proud and excellent throughout – had to go home and hope that Wales would beat England in the rugby that night.

So it turned out that in the end, it wasn’t that bad a day after all.

Summary:

Wrexham 2 (York 54, Newton 75) vs Eastleigh 3 (Reason 20, Drury 40, Strevens 87)

Attendance: 4,708

Cost: Ticket £15, Parking £2, Hot Dog £3.20, Diet Coke £1.80, Yorkie £1.50

Fun Factor: 8/10

The Football Neutral: Match Forty Six – Chester vs Forest Green Rovers

2015-04-06 14.22.54

The only way to read this post in FULL along with 23 others from 2014/15 is to buy my season review eBook in the Kindle store. It’s less than £3 and over 300 pages of my daft adventures. Pick it up, enjoy it and you’ll be supporting my travels next season. Feel free to tell anyone you might know about it too! Thank you so much!

…Firstly, Chester are no longer Chester City.  That club was dissolved in 2010, and Chester is a five year old fan-owned club that has risen through the non-league ranks pretty sharpish.  Then there’s the trivia question that everyone knows about: The pitch at the Deva Stadium is in Wales, but the car park and some of the offices are in England.  I think that fact is a bit more mind blowing when you’re not like me, crossing the border about a dozen times a week.  Heck, I have to cross the border to go to my nearest decent sized supermarket.

I’ve seen signs for the Deva a few times as I’ve driven into Chester city centre, but never ventured down the road that it’s on.  It’s on an industrial estate, but at the far end so there’s green in the distance to one side and factory units to the other.  There’s also ample parking, which is just a couple of quid.  If you’re clever you can easily park for nothing on the surrounding streets though.  Knowing that they’re fan owned I felt much more community spirited in giving them a few extra quid for their coffers.

There’s a decent little club shop too, which in a weekend where I was spending time with so many wrestlers had an amusing item in there in abundance: The foam finger.  You know the ones I mean, in the 1980s they were yellow with “Hulkamania” on them.  You now only see them at wrestling events where there are a lot of kids… and at Chester matches, where a few youngsters had them.  The Chester kit is pretty nice, by the way.  Nothing compared to the glorious Forest Green home kit though, a vision in green and black hoops.  What a shirt.  I want one now.

As I wandered around the stadium a very polite chap selling fanzines asked me if I wanted one.  I politely declined (I knew I only had enough money for my ticket and some food on me), then went on my way.  When he saw me again a few minutes later he went to ask again, recognised my face and apologised for bothering me again.  What a splendid chap…

The only way to read this post from last season in full (along with 23 others and a load of extra stuff) is to get my eBook for less than £3. Click here to get it. I’d be really grateful!

 

The Football Neutral: Match Thirty One – AFC Telford United vs Dover Athletic

2014-09-06 14.40.48

The only way to read this post in FULL along with 23 others from 2014/15 is to buy my season review eBook in the Kindle store. It’s less than £3 and over 300 pages of my daft adventures. Pick it up, enjoy it and you’ll be supporting my travels next season. Feel free to tell anyone you might know about it too! Thank you so much!

…Upon arriving in Telford I paid to park at a nearby college (£3) and then walked the short distance to the New Buck’s Head Stadium.  It’s not, incidentally, in Telford – instead it’s in nearby Wellington. As I queued to stand on the David Hutchinson Stand I was behind two guys in their late forties.  One turned to the other and said “eeh, is that a new top?”.  I don’t think any of my mates have ever noticed what I’m wearing, unless it was to tell me that I looked like a prick.

The concourse area is adorned with excellent graffiti on most of the walls, presumably commissioned by the club themselves.  With the stadium being fairly new (opened in 2003), it adds a bit of character to the place.  In general, it’s a decent little ground that doesn’t feel like a new build arena like so many places do.  The slightly curved stand roofs and the three sides of terracing make it feel a little bit different.  I would certainly have liked to have seen the old place as well though, I’m a sucker for an old stadium. So few of them are left now.

I bought myself a burger, forgoing the chips that everyone else seemed to be eating based on my long standing theory that chips from within football stadiums are never very nice.  They were certainly getting through them, as I queued I watched a girl behind the counter empty two bags of frozen chips into the deep fat fryer that we could all see (and hear) bubbling away.  I should have bought the chips.  I should have realised that gravy OR curry sauce were FREE. But no, I got a burger.  I think I did, anyway.

Imagine a standard sized floury bun.  That isn’t the issue.  Then imagine the smallest burger that you can put in there, like someone has flattened a meatball with a spoon and cooked it.  That’s what I got.  The bread to meat ratio should be 50:50. This was 90:10.  I have never eaten such a tiny burger.  And all the time whilst I’m trying to enjoy it, people are walking past me with massive portions of chips covered in gravy.  Next time I buy food in a stadium I am going to watch what everyone else buys first, that’s for sure….

The only way to read this post from last season in full (along with 23 others and a load of extra stuff) is to get my eBook for less than £3. Click here to get it. I’d be really grateful!