Grange Lane – North Ferriby United

20 Jan


North Ferriby United – 2

Colwyn Bay – 3

Football Conference North – 21st December 2013

It was the game before Christmas,
And all through the house,
Not a creature was sober,
Not even a mouse

I wasn’t sure if I was going to make the trip to Humberside to watch one of the new teams in the Conference North. By some remarkably unfortunate luck, I had three Christmas Parties, that were all on consecutive days. The last one was a predictably messy affair in Prestatyn, which meant that the daft decision to be up at Guy’s Newsagents pickup in Colwyn Bay at 8:35am was drilled into me with a dreadful hangover and tiredness.

I was umming and ahhing all week whether to make the trip to North Ferriby, there was a massive risk and reward. With the exception of Stockport County, I had hit Christmas and not seen any of the new teams in the Conference North. Whilst at Christmas Colwyn Bay were progressing well, three of the new teams in the league looked like they wouldn’t be in the Conference North in the 2014/15 season: Barrow are rock bottom, and North Ferthe riby along with Hendesford Town and Telford United are riding high in the league. With only Brackley and Leamington to go in the “Teams I’ve yet to visit in the Skrill North” List I have, I felt that I had to go, plus I could imagine it’s more expensive on the train than the tenner I spent on the coach.

Nevertheless, it didn’t make the early start that much easier, plus I did feel like a lamb to the slaughter. North Ferriby were unbeaten in 10 games at home, coming off the week before of a demolition of Woking in the FA Trophy. Bay on the other hand were unbeaten in 4, but the last game against Histon wasn’t exactly the world’s most convincing performance. Admittedly the pitch was dreadful, but it was more of a battling performance. Nevertheless, North Ferriby are currently riding high in the league, and the Seagulls were firmly in mid table mediocrity, this game had the Villagers as the firm favourites.


In a rarity, I didn’t spend most of the pre-match build up in a local pub, but after one pint in The Duke of Cumberland (which produced a really nice session ale named after the football club), we headed through the lovely village to the ground, with comments usually relating to “How the heck can this place accomodate Luton, Wrexham & the like if they’re in the Premier?”.

The clubhouse was nice though. A good selection of tapped ales, and the football on. The supporters were friendly too, stating that North Ferriby generally support two teams – them and Hull City, and the gates were expecting to be slightly up due to the Tigers playing away. All in all, it was pretty jovial build up.

Another thing to point out is the food at North Ferriby was superb. A proper butcher pie with real steak pieces, and thick tasty gravy, with proper chips that tasted superb as well. All in all, we were well prepare for the not-unexpected loss.

The game kicked off and North Ferriby started brightly, looking dangerous every time they approached the goal, with Bay hitting on the counter attack that has worked so well in the run up to this game. Although Ferriby had the earlier chances, Colwyn Bay took the lead on 24 minutes when a ball found Jamie Ellison in the right hand side of the box, and he shot into the opposite corner with very few defenders back. Bay extended their lead on the half-hour mark with Sean Williams producing an audacious chip to beat the keeper from 20 yards, in a fantastic goal.


Bay got an early Christmas Present with a third from Jamie Ellison, when he broke the offside trap to score and should’ve got a first-half hat-trick, with a harder chance than the first goal was skied over the bar. In short the game should’ve been out of sight in the first half, but this is the Bay, isn’t it?

Yes, North Ferriby in the second half produced a lot more quality as they showed in the game at Llanelian Road, with probably the key decision was bringing on Anthony Wilson just before the half hour mark, and Bay’s nerves began to set in when – with half an hour to go – Russell Fry headed in from a right hand side corner at the far post. The game changed again with – on 65 minutes – Mike Lea got sent off for being the last man. It was on the edge of the box, with a free kick, which was blocked. However, Ferriby pulled within one goal with Nathan Jarman scoring an overhead kick to set up a nervy last few minutes, but with some great saves from Chris Sanna, Bay held on for 3 points.

The result moved Bay into the dizzy heights of 10th in the Conference North, a fantastic result going into the Christmas period – Ferriby remain in the playoffs with results kind of going their way.

All in all, a pretty good day out, and a great way to shift a hangover, with a football match in the shadow of the humber bridge.

Infographic – Which Team Has The Most Fanatical Fans?

11 Jan

Hey everybody! I’ve been busy recently with work and not going to that many football matches recently, so I’ve been struggling to write. However, I’ve a match from just before Christmas going onto the site soon, so in the meantime, here’s an infographic I quite liked. Click on it to get it full sized.

Speak soon!

which-football-team-has-the-most-fanatic-fans2Image Credit –


Signal Iguna Park – Borussia Dortmund

9 Dec


Borussia Dortmund – 1

Hanover 96 – 0

Bundesliga – 19th October 2013

In recent years, German football has seen a bit of a revival. I mean, they’ve always been annoyingly brilliant at international level, but after a few years in the doldrums, where the Premier League dominated, the German teams seemed to have resorted to something that the English ones seem to be against – fan power. With cheap tickets and amazing fan experiences, it is no surprise games across Germany sell out, whereas similar games in the UK have empty seats. Therefore, it was seen as a welcome slap in the face when – in the 150th year of the Football Association, the final at Wembley was played between two teams from the Bundesliga: the all powerful Bayern Munich, and the plucky fan favourite club Borussia Dortmund.

After seeing the wall of yellow that was present at Wembley, I decided to see what the fuss is about, so after obtaining tickets via a third party for a little more than I’d have liked, I headed to Dortmund to see my first ever Bundesliga game.


That day’s opponents were Hanover 96, a team that were no slouches themselves (they are knocking on the door of the Europa League spots), but even though they were present in a small part of the ground, that Saturday was very much a home tie in Dortmund.

On arrival into Dortmund the day before, I was surprised to see how much the city love their football team. Shops are everywhere with every single piece of Dortmund related memorabilia you can imagine. With very little tourism, a lot of people come to the city just to see the football – indeed it was only one of possibly two things that is mentioned in the “Things to Do in Dortmund” section. I suppose it is becoming popular now as you can now nearly afford to get a flight to the city and a ticket for the match at the same price as a Premier League match in the UK. That’s more than a little scary.

Most people walking around town did seem to wear a scarf either adorned with the crest, in the colours, or both. Being one to desperately try and fit in, I purchased my own scarf, a fairly inoffensive yellow and black number with a crest on it and the year of formation on the other end. I also bought the standard pin badge as well.

As I went about town on the day of the match, I was surprised how busy it was. As somebody who lives in Manchester, who generally tries and avoids the city centre on a Saturday afternoon, I was surprised that it seemed like almost everybody was going to the match. I think this is because Dortmund only has one side to the best of my knowledge, and unlike Manchester there is generally only one game in the city on any given day. Sure the derby is a little busier, but still it struck me how busy it was.


After navigating the Dortmund underground (and looking incredibly foolish in the process, as a couple of drunk Polish people took a shine to yours truly), I headed to walk around the stadium. It was huge and with over 3 hours to go before kick off it was rammed already. One such area that I was keen to check out was “Dortmund Live”, a fan-zone like area where you could watch highlights, drink beer and eat Bratwurst with your fellow Dortmundites, with inoffensive music playing in the background.

I’m a big fan of these “Fan Zones”, as it’s something the Americans do for their sporting events and they do it well. Unfortunately as traditionalist and alcohol adverse the UK is with sport I can never see them taking off in the UK, which is a shame as every single time I’ve been to a fan zone they have been fun. Dortmund was the best though, with the music and the table layout it felt more like a beer festival than the prelude to a Bundesliga clash. After taking a seat, I got chatting to a few locals: which at the time of writing 5 nights before the end of my holiday, was probably my favourite moment of the trip. I loved it. The locals were friendly and accommodating to my terrible grasp on the Bundesliga and my even worse grasp of German, and offered to meet me back after the match for more beers. More beers is generally pretty good so yes!

I was directed to the entrance at the south west of the stadium, and could not believe the people there. There must’ve been about a thousand or two people trying to get into that area of the ground. Stopping them was around 4 or 5 stewards, who were efficiently searching everybody for concealed weapons. I got in, but it was a little late, so when I was still outside the stadium when Dortmund’s anthem rang out (You’ll Never Walk Alone), I sprinted to my block in the hope of catching a few notes of the Dortmund faithful singing. Alas it wasn’t too be, but even though I was dying from sprinting up 8 flights of stairs which brought on a bout of dizzyness, I did manage to catch kick off.

Straight away I can see why Dortmund is popular with groundhoppers the world over. The noise from the West Stand (and yes, it is a stand, no seats can be bought there) was deafening. Leading the way was this one chap who wasn’t appearing to be watching the game, instead standing facing the crowd, with a megaphone! It was an incredible sight and the noise was electric. Unfortunately with the amount of German words I know limited to the numbers 1 to 10, yes, no, please, thank you and how to order a beer, I couldn’t make out the chants. Instead I just sang along to the familiar tunes heard all over the world in football stadia. And “Hey Baby” by DJ Otzi.


Dortmund took an early lead. This happened with a penalty converted by Marco Reus after Hiroki Sakai brought down Erik Drum in the box. With noise echoing around the arena, the home team were expected to capitalise on their early goal. However even after chances and a fair few corners, the score remained 1-0 to the home side at the break.

I went to get one of those massive German Pretzels you occasionally see knocking about in the UK, but was surprised to learn that I couldn’t pay with cash. Instead I had to buy a card and use the money on that to pay for food, drinks (yes, you could drink in the stands. In fact they had people selling beer in your seat! Marvellous!) or the odd souvenir. I got one with 5 on it, but with pretzels being 2.60, I was left with a souvenir of my visit. Ho hum, never matter.

The second half came and it was more of the same really. Hanover rarely threatened to break the defence of Dortmund but – even after 12 or 13 corners, the home side had few chances. This did lead to a few angry home fans after chance after chance was squandered, which was compounded when news of both Shalke and Bayern Munich were winning after going behind. There is nothing scarier than an angry German fan at football, let me tell you! As the match went on though there were celebrations, as it became more and more likely that Dortmund would hold on for a victory.

That they did, sending the home fans who were angry before into delirium. The home side celebrated in front of the West stand, who were obviously delighted with the result. After soaking up the atmosphere one last time, I headed back to Dortmund Live, where much beer was drank and Bratwurst was eaten in the company of new found friends until late into the evening.

A lot has been said of the experience of seeing Borussia Dortmund, as a team they are regularly mentioned on those lists of “100 teams you must see before you die”, but it’s hard to describe why. Everybody is so friendly (even though the performance against Hanover wasn’t the best), and the while you experience the noise and the atmosphere that you see on TV, it really doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact the home game seemed to be akin to an Oktoberfest, inconvenienced with a football match in the middle of it.

And that – my friends – isn’t a bad thing in the slightest.

King Baudouin Stadium – Belgium

4 Nov


Belgium – 1

Wales – 1

World Cup 2014 Qualification: Group A – 15th October 2013

So that’s the way the campaign ends, not with a bang, but with a wimper.

You see, Wales’ “golden generation” campaign didn’t progress as well as most Welsh were quietly hopeful after the European Championship campaign started. It seems to be a bit of a gallows humour amongst the Welsh faithful that we play better when the campaign is lost – something true of this one after we mathematically had nothing to play for after a defeat to Macedonia. As such we began picking up points, defeating Macedonia at home before going to the last game against Belgium.

Belgium themselves have their own golden generation, but unlike the Welsh, they have excelled themselves, qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in 12 years with relative ease. Looking through the side you can see why: Kompany, Hazard, Lukaku, Benteke on their own would get into any team anywhere in the world (with the possible exception of Lukaku at Chelsea). When you consider that Mingolet – one of Europe’s best keepers – can only make the bench, you can see why this golden generation is a lot of people’s outside shot to do well in the finals.


We arrived in Belgium the Sunday before the match for a day to look around and a few beers. This was a family affair as well as local affair – my brother made his first trip on a Wales away visit, consigning him to a lifetime of dejection. However he was due to arrive on the Monday, and the Sunday saw us find the famous Delerium bar, to have a beer or two.

Monday saw us take a quick look around the city, before heading out to view a couple of football grounds – FC Brussels and Anderlecht. The first one in particular was interesting as I always like viewing lower league football grounds in other countries, and see how they compare to Conference North standards – this would’ve been a “borderline may meet ground grading” at best.

The next day, we headed for a smaller look around the city, before I met my brother. We kind of got the other side to Wales away with him – rather than enjoy Belgian beers, they found the first Irish Bar and drank themselves silly on cheap rubbish. Each to their own but I preferred the beers I was drinking the night before – though to be honest as far as Wales away goes this was a relatively sober affair.


We arrived at the stadium and us being us we got off at the wrong stop – or rather the stop that wasn’t closest to the Welsh away end, but instead we walked through an army of Belgian fans. Like all the Belgians we spoke to on our trip, they were respectful and very friendly, I suppose the fact that the game was effectively a party made them a lot more welcoming but I am pretty sure they would be the same even if there was something to play for.

We walked through a wall of Beglian fans that descended on the stadium, everything though was happy and smiley, rather than troublesome. It was a cracking atmosphere that wasn’t dampened by the dismal weather.

After looping the stadium, we found our entrance where at that point I proceeded to lose my companions. Nevertheless, I took a seat inside the stadium.

The stadium was massive! It was probably not as big a Wembley, but because we were placed in the upper tier corner away from the pitch we could see everything. The view was fantastic but there was no way – unlike other trips – we weren’t going to outsing our Belgian rivals for the night.

The game kicked off and Wales started amazingly how they did against Scotland, by playing keep-ball for the first 3 or 4 minutes. It actually was surprisingly effective, as it took a little bit of the sting out of the game. Belgium did eventually get a few chances, but nothing concrete – Lukaku had a double chance but in a half full of less than-half chances, it was probably no suprise that the game remained 0-0 at the break.

We were treated to a Belgian rapper at half time, rap a few songs which got chants of “who are you?” from the visiting contingient – the natives seemed to enjoy it though. More abuse from the Welsh was aimed at the referee, who let some strange decisions go, including what appeared to be a stonewall penalty for Simon Church after he was seemingly bundled over in the box.


The referee didn’t get any better in the second half, particularly when Ramsay was bundled over just on the outskirts of the box. It was a clear foul and play stopped, only for the ref to not blow the whistle. Both sides were taken aback by the decision, which – when play stopped for a less inocuous tackle no more than 15 meters away, Bellamy marked his last match in a way only he knows – getting booked for gobbing off to the (admittedly terrible) official.

It got worse for Wales when an appearingly harmless throw in found it’s way to Kevin de Bruyne in the box and he scored, sending the Belgians into a frenzy. It was deserved but in the same way undeserved, as the visitors had played well keeping one of the World Cup favourites at bay for nearly 70 minutes.

After the goal Belgium pressed for a second, having a few decent but nothing clear-cut, but Wales had the chance to equalise: Wales had 3 shots in the area that brought either a diving save or a block, but it seemed like all hope for a point was lost until the 88th minute, where Arron Ramsay found himself in the box and, from an acute angle, he slotted the ball inside the goal sending the Welsh fans into a frenzy. They had a chance to win it too, but a square ball into the box was a bit behind the retiring Bellamy, and it wasn’t to be. In fairness a 2-1 win wouldn’t be quite justified, and we’d rain on the parade of our hopefuls. A 1-1 draw saw the Welsh fans go home happy.

To be honest, I doubt the Belgians cared about the result – as afterwards they were treated to a congratulatory firework display, which meant leaving the stadium was relatively quick and painless – certainly compared to Wembley or Hampden park, it’s something Europeans just seem to get.

The next day I said goodbye to our travel companions, as they were heading home. Me on the other hand was continuing my holiday, as I headed to Cologne, before seeing my first Bundesliga game in Dortmund.

Manchester Phones 4u Arena – NBA Global Games

30 Oct


Oklahoma City Thunder – 103

Philadelphia 76ers – 99

NBA Global Games -8th October 2013

What happens when a “guaranteed sellout” doesn’t sell out?

Around March & April there was much hype and excitement when Manchester announced that they were one of the places that are holding one of the rarest things – a NBA Global Game. The games – held around the world – are preseason games, and this year Manchester held one: featuring the Oklahoma City Thunder playing the Philadelphia 76ers. This was announced with much fanfare, and when tickets went on sale I snapped one up.

Unfortunately, from what I saw, not many other people did.

You see, as the game approached, there was a bit of apathy. I’m not sure why – maybe that the tickets ranged from £50 (my seat) to a couple of hundred, or maybe Manchester just didn’t care. But anyway, as time went on, offers kept appearing on Facebook for this “guaranteed sellout” like for 15% off, 2-for-1 and the like. On the day of the game, there was even the worst one for me: spend £50 at the adidas store in town and you get a ticket for free. Gutting.


But then I thought “maybe, you know, as an early adopter I’d get bumped up a tier or two?”, not so. Still in the nose bleeds, and there were a lot of empty seats below me. Ay well.

One thing I did want to check out was the “Fan Zone”. American sports are brilliant at making you feel welcome with designated areas with things going on before the game. When I went to watch the Red Bulls vs Revolution in the MLS, outside was the fan zone, with free pool, free fusbal and (unforunately not free) beer. It was great and I was given a comemorative towel to for the game as well. Bonus! The NBA one was okay, taking over a section of The Printworks for basketball competitions and introductions. Which was quite good fun, but I was hungry and thirsty, so I dived into a Weatherspoons to take advantage of their steak night.


Onto the game itself, and it did look a wee bit like a John Cena convention from the outside, as I joined the mahoosive queue to pick up tickets, onto a queue to get into the venue, followed by another queue to get merchandise. Merchandise that lacked badges, the only thing I was interested in (though I did take a good hard long look at the socks). In the end I grabbed a couple of beers and took my seat.

All in all, the seats weren’t too bad, if a little bit high. Interestingly they did that countdown thingy where they count down to the start of the game which was pretty cool. We were also entertained by cheerleaders and stunt dunkers (is that the right word?), as well as a parade of local projects made themselves known, before the teams arrived onto the court, and the game was underway.

And really – to tell you about the game I can’t. There was one bit of excitement towards the end whereby Philadelphia pulled it back and needed 2 points to draw level, but OC Thunder did pull further ahead. I dunno if it was the alcohol (which wasn’t that much) or the apathy of the crowd rubbing off on me, but I couldn’t get into the game at all. I just couldn’t remember much.


Still, there were a few celebrities there. Jack Rodwell was booed, Rio Ferdinand was booed more, Andrew Cole was quite warmly received and Fabrice Muamba got a chant. We also got introduced to John Amaechi, who was famous as being a Brit who played in the NBA. Also introduced was Dikembe Mutombo and Vlade Divac, two names I recognised from my years playing NBA Jam! Brilliant!

So all in all, Oklahoma City Thunder – as expected – won. We all went home. I’m not against basketball – when I was in the States I watched pretty much every game of the Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks finals when I was last over there and enjoyed it. I just think the apathy of Manchester didn’t make this game memorable for me.

Shame, as it made history. And whilst it’s written by the winners – it is only read by those who care.