Posts Tagged ‘Sport’

A day in the South Elmsall sun

April 10th, 2011 No comments

For the second Saturday in a row, Andrew and I headed to a non-league fixture in Yorkshire as part of his Yorkshire Football Weekends series of articles. Following on from our trip to Bradford last week, we headed to the small town of South Elmsall found on the Leeds to Doncaster line, just to the east of Wakefield. Frickley Athletic was the destination team, and their key match against against Chasetown FC was the fayre for the afternoon.

As we alighted the train at the small, yet busy, station we started looking for somewhere to sate out thirst on what was a very balmy afternoon. It was some disappointment that we discovered that the more central of South Elmsall’s drinking establishments were all closed. Andrew had secured an interview with one of the committee members for Frickley Athletic so we headed towards the stadium a little earlier than we would have hoped. Luckily, on arrival at the ground we were greeted with the sight of the club house, complete with bar. Whilst Andrew grilled the club’s representative, I quaffed some refreshing beer and watched the racing from Aintree.

The Tech5 Stadium itself is exactly what I imagined a non-league ground to look like. A small, uneven looking pitch, surrounded by a low wall, with open grass banks at each end with a small terrace along the far side of the field and a larger terraced stand along the nearside. The ground, which a mere five years ago had been declared unfit for the Conference North, was tidy and compact and felt a lot more engaging and atmospheric than the offerings from the Horsfall Stadium the previous week.

One of the real treats that the Tech5 Stadium had to offer was the excellent pie and peas. Of the three things that Mark Ainge, a committee member for the club, had highlighted this was the one ha was most right about. The other two, the Frickley centre forward Ashley Longstaff and the goalkeeper Ben Simpson did not quite live up the billing.

The game itself was a real battle of a game. Frickley started the afternoon in the relegation zone of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League and Chasetown needed a win to keep their play-off hopes alive. There was a real tension around the ground and I have to admit that I had this down as an away victory before the kick off.

Frickley started the brighter, with the two strikers holding the ball up well as part of a 4-4-2 formation, though the midfield seemed there more for decoration that purpose as the ball regularly bypassed them whilst being sent long by the centre halves.

As the half wore on, it was clear that the physicality of the two teams was coming to the fore, with stray elbows flying all over the place. It was somewhat against the run of play when the Frickley ‘keeper lost a regulation high ball from a corner and watched as it sailed through his arms into the back of the net. However, the goal seemed to spur the home side on and they picked up the temp and the competition seemed to get even fiercer.

Frickley got their equalizer just on the stroke of half time. Chasetown failed to clear the ball from a corner and a low driven shot found its way into the back of the net. An excellent time to score.

The second half was far more open with both teams looking for the winner. Jack Watts, the home side’s foil for the bruising play of centre forward Ashley Longstaff, was proving a real handful with his clever flicks and runs. The lad has a real future in the game and perhaps will find his way to the higher echelons. He appeared to have the skills and composure to make it to the lower leagues if he wanted to. With only a handful of starts for the club, he managed to bag his first goal towards the end of the half causing a wave of relief and jubilation to sweep across the nearly 200 fans supporting the home team. It turned out to be the winning goal and the young forward is unlikely to score a more important goal this season.

Saturday Afternoons in West Yorkshire

April 4th, 2011 No comments

It has been a long time since I went to see a live football game so when Andrew at work offered me the chance to join him in on his Yorkshire Football Weekends, a plan to see a different Yorkshire club play each Saturday afternoon for the rest of the season, I jumped right on board. I really enjoy live sport in any guise and used to love my afternoons at Headingley when I was a member at Yorkshire Cricket Club.

Following a mad dash for the train due to some faulty ticket machines at Leeds station we eventually jumped on a train to Bradford where we were going to catch the bus up to Horsfall Park, the home of the once mighty Bradford Park Avenue AFC. The club now plays in the Evo-stik Northern Premier League – the 7th tier of English football’s pyramid – but once graced the higher echelons of the league structure, playing in the first and second divisions throughout the pre-war years.

We grabbed a few drinks in the local drinking establishment once we arrived at the stadium and enjoyed the second half of the Manchester United and West Ham game via Greek satellite. The remarkable finish to that game put us in just the right mood for the afternoon delights to follow.

Many people would question our choice to visit a non-league side in search of live football, but with tickets costing less than ten pounds and a really goof atmosphere where you really feel part of the club, I think that non-league is actually a really good way of getting into live football and I would recommend everybody to check out their local clubs.

The game itself was a bit of a thriller with Bradford Park Avenue finishing the first half with a four goal to one lead. The standard of football was actually really high, with some good first touches and a commitment to playing the football along the ground with short passes in the channels and some smart runs off the ball. The second half was a little more disappointing as the non-league fitness levels caught up with the players and the game started to break down and fall into long ball tennis in patches. We did see another two goals in the second half, including a free kick taken from outside the penalty area that was remarkably similar to the one Wayne Rooney had scored for Man Utd earlier int he day at Upton Park. The final score finished 5-2 to Bradford Park Avenue. You can check out a full match report at Andrew’s football website.

The afternoon was rounded off when we visited the same drinking establishment as earlier in the day only to find we had stumbled into the West Yorkshire Divisional meeting of the English Defence League. We scarpered pretty quickly!

There’s No Business Like Show Business

January 12th, 2011 2 comments

Following a lengthy debate with a good friend of mine over at Gibfootballshow about whether the automatic red card given to goalkeeper’s who foul an opposition player when acting as last man was fair it occurred to me that many people today don’t see football as being about fair and sporting play, but as a form of show business – an entertainment rather than an athletic competition.

Many people would argue that football, and sport in the wider sense, is about entertainment and I probably wouldn’t disagree. Top level sport needs public support to survive and continue to attract the very best athletes rather than watch them drift off into other careers. However, I don’t think that sport, and football in particular, should forget that whilst it has a need to be entertaining it is not in the business of show business. The rules and regulations of the games need to reflect the foundations on which sport was built – fairplay, sporting behaviour and honest competition.

I am not naive enough to think that sport is only about the ideal. Many sports created as a way of preparing for battle and honing fighting skills. Others were created as a means of control and to keep people’s minds off whatever the problem of the day was – indeed, this is still the case in less developed countries. However, the emergence of sport as being an embodiment of chivalry and honour stems from these very beginnings.

I believe that the rules of sport need to change with the times. They need to reflect the needs of participants, officials, spectators and other interested parties. They also need to change to accomodate advances in technologyand science, including medicine. However, the underlying spirit and traditions of the games need to be maintained and preserved.

This spirit is one of fairness, where any body can take part in the sport and know they have the same opportunity to succeed in any situation. Of course skill and physical ability have an impact on this. I know that technically I cannot compete with top class sportsmen and women in any field, but I know that if I were to challenge Ronnie O’Sullivan to a game of snooker, or my village team took on Manchester United at football, the only difference between us would be our relative skills and abilities.

Changing rules to differentiate between one player and another, between one group of participants and another is something that goes against this philosophy of openness and fair play.

Sporting Success

December 17th, 2010 1 comment

After the relative success of my recent post on Blackpool’s start to this season’s Premier League campaign, which got reposted on a couple of well respected football blogs, I thought I would write a second piece on the beautiful game.

This piece is focussed on one of the main reasons for Blackpool’s current success story, their manager and coach Ian Holloway. Holloway, who made 2 short of 600 league appearances as a tenacious midfield player, has had a relatively low key career to date. Many of his playing days were spent in the lower leagues with teams such as Bristol Rovers (where he had three successful stints over 18 years), Plymouth Argyle and QPR. He was known as a hard working midfielder who fitted in well in the hard working teams of the bottom couple of tiers of English professional football. His spell at QPR under manager Gerry Francis saw Holloway taste the top flight for several seasons, playing over a hundred times in a four year spell in the Premier League, scoring 4 goals.

Holloway took his first steps into management in 1996 when he rejoined Bristol Rovers as Player-Manager. Bristol were struggling in Division 2 (now League 1) and looked likely to get relegated. Holloway steered the club clear of the drop and managed to finish in a safe 17th position. With a full off-season to work with the squad, Ollie managed to guide the team to a play-off place in the 1997-1998 season. Bristol Rovers were unlucky to lose their semi-final play-off game 4-3 on aggregate to a strong Northampton Town outfit. After finishing a disappointing 13th the following season, Holloway retired as a player and took on management full time. 1999-2000 saw Bristol Rovers move back up the table to 7th place, narrowly missing a play-off spot.

In 2001 Holloway took the QPR manager’s job and was tasked with avoiding relegation. Holloway failed and tasted his only taste of relegation is his career. Holloway learned a lot from the experience and rebuilt the squad from scratch. He started to demonstrate some of the traits we see today, he began to think about how he could turn a club around in a season. Unfortunately, QPR did not bounce straight back up and spent three seasons in League 1 before winning automatic promotion back to the Championship in 2004. A couple of mid table finishes in the next two seasons started to see Holloway linked with a few higher profile jobs, especially that of Leicester City. However, Holloway blames the arrival of F1 mogul Flavio Briatore as the the main reason for the club’s dip inf form and his own apparent lack of focus. QPR narrowly avoided relagation in 2006 and Holloway spent the majority of the tail end of the season on gardening leave.

In June 2006 Holloway was appointed as boss of Plymouth Argyle, the third club he had now managed and played for in his career. Holloway spent a little over a season at Plymouth, leaving them in 2007 to become the manager of Leicester City. This decision was not met well by the Plymouth supporters after Holloway had promised them the Premier League. In an interview he would later give, Holloway looked back on this period and said:

I had a year out of football and had to think about what went wrong in my life. I was given some decent values from my mum and dad in our council house and one of them was honesty and trust and loyalty, and I forgot to do all that at Plymouth. I left them and I made the biggest mistake of my life. But I ended up here [Blackpool] and it was the best thing I have ever done. Daily Mail, 2010

Holloway’s time at Leicester was not a happy one. He had developed health problems due to the extensive commuting he was doing as a result of caring for his profoundly deaf children, he also experienced his second taste of relagation, losing to old club Plymouth Argyle 1-0 along the way. Following relegation, Holloway and Leicester parted company.

A year out of the game saw Holloway concentrate on his family and personal life. Holloway battled his sciatica and anger management issues and in May 2009 was appointed as the manager of Blackpool FC following the departure of Tony Parkes as caretaker. 15 months later, Holloway and Blackpool played in the Premier League, beating Wigan Athletic 4-0.

Enough of the history lessons. Ian Holloway has always been an eccentric figure. Seen in the media and by a number of other managers as a bit of a clown (though he was voted the 15th funniest Londoner in a Time Out poll in 2006), he has been know to give some interesting post match interviews. Whilst at Plymouth Argyle as a manager, he offered to buy every one of the travelling supporters a drink to say thanks for their support. This image has led to many doubting his ability as a manager and coach.

However, recent history has shown this is not necessarily the case. Holloway knows the game he wants to play and tries to build his teams around that game. Holloway is very much a proponent of the “we’ll score one more than you” school of football philosophy and believes that attack is the better form of defence. Holloway often deploys a minimum of three attacking players at Blackpool, often supplementing these with additional forward thinking midfield players. he is also not shy about making attacking changes late in games, even with a slender lead.

In my opinion, where Ian Holloway excels as a manager and coach is the psychological game. He is no talent scout like Arsene Wenger, or a wheeler dealer like Harry Redknapp. He is certainly no tactical wizard like Jose Mourinho or Carlo Ancelotti. What Ian Holloway is, however, is a motivator. He manages to get relatively mediocre talent and make them play with passion, intent and desire. He turns Championship players like Taylor-Fletcher, Evatt and DJ Campbell into solid Premier League players. I am not trying to have a dig at the quality of the squad, it is what it is based on budget, stature and training facilities. What I am saying is that under a different manager, even a better tactical manager, Blackpool would probably not be in the same position they find themselves in today. In terms of his ability to get the best out of players, he reminds me a lot of Alex Ferguson. I do not for a moment think that Holloway is the next Alex Ferguson, or even close to him, but they have the same ability to make people play and love playing.

The obvious example of this ability is in the pre-season signings that holloway made when Blackpool won promotion. He shunned the traditional European and South American journeymen that many promoted sides plump for and instead went for Premier League rejects such as Craig Cathcart and Marlon Harewood and players that needed and wanted to provide themselves after being jettisoned by other clubs. He demanded that the players he signed bought into his philosophy of attacking football and had a desire to play 38 games a 110% of their ability and turn up and give 100% each and every week.

This approach will probably keep Blackpool in the league and will probably see Holloway extend his current two year deal. I think Blackpool will not stay in the Premier League long term unless they can attract better quality players, the euphoria of promotion and the passion that Holloway is getting the existing squad to play with will not last forever. We have seen in the past with teams like Reading, Wigan and Hull that good first seasons count for very little in subsequent years. However, I think that in Ian Holloway, Blackpool have a coach they can stick with and build the club around.

A Dream Season So Far

December 5th, 2010 No comments

When I wrote a blog post about Blackpool winning the English Championship play-off final with the title “Blackpool for the Champions League”, I was writing somewhat tongue in cheek, I could not have imagined that they would actually go out and perform the way they have done. The English Premier League season is nearly half way through and Blackpool lie in 12th place on 19 points. Blackpool are not going to qualify for a Champions League spot from here, but it is highly likely they will avoid relegation which is a major feat in itself as they were by some margin the bookie’s favourite to go down at the start of the season (average price around 2/7). I have to admit that I was cautious at the start of the season about the team’s prospects, especially after the summer transfer activity that Ian Holloway undertook. It seemed to take an age for him to make any signings at all and with him releasing a large number of players at the start of the off-season, I was worried that he would struggle to bring in any players. Ian Holloway said at the time that we was looking for the right sort of player with the right mentality to fit into his system, a system that many thought would contribute to the team’s downfall. Ian Holloway prefers an attacking style of play, as seen in the Championship play-off, and tends to employ an “we’ll score one more that you” approach. Eventually Holloway made some signings, which included picking up strikers DJ Campbell (Leicester) and Marlon Harewood (Aston Villa) along with Elliot Grandin (free), Chris Basham (Bolton Wanderers) and Luke Varney (on loan from Derby County).

Blackpool fans are enjoying an amazing start to their first Premier League season

Even with the additions to the ranks, most pundits thought Blackpool would struggle in their first Premier League season (and first in the top flight since the 1970s). Few would have predicted the start that Blackpool got off to beating Wigan by four goals to nil. The result actually led to Blackpool sitting in top spot in the league for a couple of hours until Chelsea won their opening game of the season by a bigger goal margin. This start could not last and a couple of games later Blackpool were dumped out the League Cup and then humbled by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. However, wins against Newcastle, Liverpool, West Brom and Wolves have meant that Blackpool avoided the possibility of ending the season on the lowest ever points total and also ensured that pundits started changing their minds about them even getting relegated.

Before I get ahead of myself, I think it is important to mention that this is still going to a very tough season for Blackpool and if they do manage to avoid relegation this season, it is a real probability next year. Blackpool will always struggle to attract quality players, it is not the most attractive club in the world and it has no money so will never be able to match the wages that teams around them can offer to journeymen and promising lower league players. The stadium, Bloomfield Road, is also a massive problem due its size and the lack of expandability. With a capacity at the moment of around 12000, it is the smallest ground in the league and will never generate the kind of match day income that the club will need to survive. The Blackpool hierarchy need to sort this out and sort it out pretty fast if they have any real chance of ensuring their continued stay at English football’s top table.

Blackpool manager, Ian Holloway

Where Blackpool have a fighting chance at the moment is their manager, Ian Holloway. Seen as a bit of a joker and an average journeyman coach/manager by most, he has transformed Blackpool in his relatively short tenure as Blackpool boss. His attacking philosophy and ability to make players play at a level higher than their underlying ability may allow are the reason that Blackpool won promotion the Premier League and their performances in the league so far. Holloway has a habit of adding extra attackers during games he is already winning, and often plays with three or four attacking players in his formations. Both of these tactics were obvious in Blackpool’s now famous victory over Liverpool in October.

The other ace in Blackpool’s hand is their skipper and last season’s top goalscorer, Charlie Adam. Signed for a once club record of £500,000 from Rangers, Adam has quickly become the keystone in Blackpool’s team. His goals, set pieces and on field leadership are vital for the team and Blackpool look a far weaker team when he is missing. Whilst at Rangers, Adam was never considered a particularly good player. He had a strong left foot but was deemed surplus to requirements at Ibrox. Many fans, myself included, questioned his move to Blackpool but we have been ecstatic to have been proved wrong!

Charlie Adam

By the New Year we should know whether Blackpool are going to stay up this season. They have a testing series of fixtures over the festive period, playing Liverpool, Man City, Sunderland, Tottenham and a very tough game away at Stoke. If Blackpool can come out of that series of games with four or five points then they will be a win or two away from securing their position for the 2011-2012 season.

Come on the Tangerines!

Blackpool for the Champion’s League?

August 15th, 2010 No comments

In their first season in the top flight of English football since they were relegated from the First Division in 1971 and their first season ever in the Premier League, Blackpool got off to a dream start! Pre-season favourites for relegation, they went out at the DW Stadium and took on Wigan, winning by four goals to nil.

Blackpool after the 2009-2010 Coca-cola Championship play-off final

After qualifying for the Premier League with a victory over Cardiff City in the Coca-Cola Championship play-off final, Blackpool have been made everyone’s favourites to go down this season. I have to admit that I think the season is going to be long and hard and we will be on the receiving end of some drubbings. However, from yesterday’s performance it is clear that Blackpool are going to try and play their brand of attractive football and I am sure that there will be some surprises on the way.

Come on the ‘Pool!

Chicago Fire

July 2nd, 2010 No comments

The Fire have had a tough couple of months, failing to win in May and struggling in June as well. The team played in the Sister Cities Cup,a friendly tournament between Chicago Fire, Red Star Belgrade, Legia Warsaw and Paris St. Germain. Fire lost in the semi-final to PSG and then lost the 3rd place play-off against Legia Warsaw. Belgrade went on to win 7-6 on penalties in the final. The team also failed to win in the MLS during May and suffered a 1-0 defeat to AC Milan in a friendly.

The team broke its bad run by beating New England Revolution 1-0 on the 27th June. Chicago have only lost two of their games this season but have been guilty of drawing too many (six in total now).

Team USA didn’t take any Chicago players to South Africa for the World Cup so hopefully the team will benefit from having a full squad to choose from for the rest of July with some big games coming up, including the start of the SupaLiga.

Spending my bonus!

July 26th, 2009 5 comments

It seems that my hard work at O2 over the last year and a bit is about to pay off. I mean this in the purely literal sense as it is bonus time at work. I managed to get an excellent apraisal and I am in line to receive a pretty sizable lump sum! I have decided that this shall be put towards building a relatively starter style home entertainment system. I am new to the whole thing and I have a really small house so I have not gone for anything too flash and a couple of items are still up for discussion – namely whether I sghould get separate games console and Blu-Ray player or plump for the PS3. A lot of articles and pundits have repeatedly opted for the PS3 as the idea source for a low-end system but I still have my reservations about its ability as a console. I will be looking to upgrade they system with a larger TV (ideally full HD) when I have a bigger living room. I fancy adding a full HD projector at some point for those move and sports nights I envisage :P



The full list is as follows:

TV: Samsung LE32B450C4
AV Receiver: Onkyo TX-SR507
Sources: Samsung BD-P1600, Sky+HD, Xbox 360 Elite, Custom built Media PC
Speakers: Tannoy SFX5.1

The English Blues

March 9th, 2008 2 comments

I watched the Calcutta Cup (the annual rugby union test match between England and Scotland) and was once again embarrassed to be English. The performance put in by the lads was horrendous and offended me on more levels than I care to admit. There was no passion, no desire and most disappointingly they didn’t seem to have a clue what they were doing. I am fairly sure that my school’s First XV would have been able to put up a greater fight and probably performed better too. Scotland were outstanding, they played with heart and passion and deserved their win, more than that though, they earned their win. Having witnessed England’s performance against France the other week and having watched them grind out their victory I was astonished by the team that turned up on Saturday!

There was much discussion before the game about Danny Cipriani’s removal from the squad (Brian Ashton – the coach – dropped him after he was discovered in a nightclub late on Thursday night) but that doesn’t even begin to explain the bad performance. Wilkinson, although accurate with the boot from penalty kicks, looked like he hadn’t played No. 10 ever before! His kicking from hand was atrocious. It was a bad day weather wise, so it was no surprise that it was a scrappy game, but England had no idea what they were doing. Vainikolo carried well, but he needed the ball on the wing, not in midfield. Wigglesworth played well at the base of the ruck but was too often shoved out the way by the ‘senior’ forwards. he needs to demand more respect from the pack. He was also too often isolated by the Jonny wandering off and switching off. I have never seen Jonny play so badly. He doesn’t deserve the jersey against Ireland next week. In fact, if I had my way the entire team should be dropped with perhaps the exceptions of Wigglesworth – who played well – Paul Sackey and Lesley Vainikolo. My ratings for the players are below.

1 Andrew Sheridan 5
– scrummaged well but gave away too many penalties in open play
2 Lee Mears 4
– too often caught in open play, looked like he didn’t want to be on the field
3 Phil Vickery 7
– too quiet as Captain but played well otherwise
4 Simon Shaw 6
– usually a strong ball carrier but seemed to have left his hands at home, jumped well at lineout
5 Steve Borthwick 5
– good in the lineout and scrum, but didn’t carry the ball enough in the loose
6 Tom Croft 3
– not a good start, he is not a blindside flanker
7 Michael Lipman 7
– good in the loose, got to breakdowns quickly, one of the only decent performances from the pack
8 Nick Easter 6
– quiet game for the big number 8, still not convinced he shouldn’t be playing at blind side

9 Richard Wigglesworth 7
– a good game, needs to take charge of his pack to be at his best
10 Jonny Wilkinson 3
– an awful game, his kicking from hand was atrocious, he should be dropped
11 Lesley Vainikolo 6
– rarely touched the ball, needs to sort out his handling to keep his place
12 Toby Flood 6
– not a bad game, but doesn’t seem to have any spark or flair
13 Jamie Noon 5
– defensively strong, but offered nothing in attack
14 Paul Sackey 8
– a strong performance in both attack and defence, looks like the only sure bet for Ireland
15 Iain Balshaw 7
– turned up, which is a start, took the high balls well and did enough, will probably play against Ireland


November 9th, 2007 No comments

AMF Bowling in Leeds city centre was the venue of the first circle event in a while. Maths Chris organised it fairly last minute but it was still a pretty good turn-out. I think there were ten of us down there by the end. I didn’t bowl becasue if my ankle and Worfolk turned up a bit late but all in all it was a really good night. Si summed it uo best by reminding us all that we weren’t there for the bowling really, it was just a side show.

Thanks to Maths Chris for putting it all together and thanks to everyone who made the effort to come, reminded us that we do have a pretty decent set of friends here in sunny (or windy and rainy) Leeds.