Wednesday, 30 July 2008

To Boldmerely Go - Boldmere St. Michaels 1 Walsall 2 - Pre-season Friendly - The Trevor Brown Memorial Ground - 30/07/08

I exchanged the missing Tesco Bag For Life for a similar one from Morrisons for this sojourn to the leafy suburbs of Sutton Coldfield, I'm not sure if this makes me any less sad, maybe a slightly posher version of sad? I reckon I added to my sadness quotient by dropping a copy of a history of Britain's railways into the bag before setting off though. Well I needed something to read on the tram and the train, what could be better? I made up for it with a superb pint of Bathams on the way into Birmingham though, The Lord Clifden is rapidly becoming my favourite pub, it's sun-trap of a beer garden is an oasis in this industrial part of Brum near The Jewellery Quarter. It's even got some Banksy Artwork, how cool is that?

Boldmere's ground is named after an ex-chairman, it was once just plain old Church Road, the road on which it sits and the church that the St. Michaels name comes from, I'm a bit perturbed about the lack of an apostrophe of course. Shame they never managed a sponsorship deal with M&S as well. I'm waffling now.

True to form this season I assumed that the game would kick-off at 7:45, and so timed my arrival to perfection knowing that there is a distinct lack of watering holes on that stretch of The Chester Road, and so it came to pass that the game actually kicked off at 7:30 and I missed the first few minutes!

So yet again I am finding myself sidling up to someone to ask what the score is, only to be met with a surly "F*ck knows, I've been on me mobile." Suitably chastened I slunk off to the far end of the pitch and just assumed it was 0-0, which if the rest of the first half was to go by was a reasonable assumption anyway.

There was a very intriguing game of bowls going on next door (see right for an action shot), the bloke in the blue seemed to be winning.

Boldmere's ground can definitely be described as "tidy", they play in the Midland Alliance, a league where I've probably been to 90% of the grounds, this one is just so much nicer than most of them, it puts many a Southern League ground to shame. It does have a pronounced slope from the stand side to the carpark side but it's not alone in that. The one stand isn't particularly remarkable but it is functionable.
I've seen people decry the lack of character at grounds because the stands are "identikit", well yes they might be but if you are a small club but with ambitions then a stand you can easily move or extend is surely practicle, and Boldmere's is just that, I know from my last visit that it has already been extended and could easily have more bits added without looking daft.

After an unremarkable first half (0-0 I still assume) I retire to the rather decent clubhouse for an unremarkable but cheapish pint of Worthingtons. I reckon Boldmere do quite well out of their Social Club, this was a Wednesday night and it was pretty full with most not being amongst those watching the match.

Suitably refreshed and with a very nice cheeseburger (£1.80) keeping the hunger pains at bay I settled down to wonder if I was in for my first 0-0 for two years.

Luckily, no, within a few minutes of the restart (which I predictably missed by the way), Boldmere's impressive Wellor outmuscled the Walsall left-back and finished superbly into the bottom corner, a rare moment of quality.

This finally woke Walsall up and they almost immediately equalised, Deeney (I think) poaching one after the keeper had spilled a cross-shot. Walsall then won it with another goall which I completely missed due to being distracted by a rather fine pair of breasts, sorry, did I say breasts? I meant squirrels or, err, something.

They were nice though.

This game was part of Boldmere's 125th anniversary celelbrations, there you go, a team that is older than most teams in the Premiership and I bet there's hardly a Chelsea fan who will have ever heard of them! They have bought out a book to celebrate this milestone and of course I had to buy it! I'm a sucker for this sort of stuff.

Hot or Not? - Boldmere WAG's

Attendance - Approx 160
Programme - Yes
Beer - Mediocre at the ground but the Bathams was lovely in The Lord Clifden
Public Transport - Train to Chester Road, 66, 111 and 118 buses do run past Church Road but I walked (just under a mile)

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Bentley Rythm Ace - Bentley Youth 4 West Midlands Fire 1 - Pre-season friendly - Bentley Road South - 23/07/08

I think I've finally arrived! For a few years now I've been wandering around various football grounds but I've never really considered myself as a bona fide Groundhopper. But this afternoon, after I had cut the grass and fed the cats, I was about to go and catch my bus when I remembered that I needed my waterproof (you never know!), my camera and a copy of The Guardian in case of boredom. How to carry all this...hmmm... and then my eyes lit up on a Tesco Bag for Life in the corner. So that's definitely it, I now carry a Tesco Bag for Life, my name is Dave Cooper and I am a groundhopper!

With the wife and kid up in Scotland this week i had a day to myself, after the guilt trip grass cutting I decide that a trip out to Bilston would be a fine way to treat myself. (Oh yes, I know how to live!) First up a pint of Holdens Special in The Trumpet, a fine little pub which does nightly jazz if that's your thing. They had bingo on this dinner time, I didn't win.
Over the road is the Greyhound and Punchbowl, this has had decent beer on in on other visits but not today, finally onto The Olde White Rose which has been my favourite pub ever in the past but it has gone downhill a bit, the beer was good though and it was nice to sit outside and read the paper on such a warm afternoon.

I turned up a couple of minutes before the scheduled kick-off time of 7pm only to find the game in full swing.

This is quite normal in pre-season, referees will often kick off as soon as both teams are happy to do so. I am aware of groundhoppers who would immediately walk out at this point and not count the game as a "tick". They are probably the same type of hopper who don't count 0-0 draws or who have to touch each corner flag or something, don't get me wrong, I am not disparaging this fine hobby but for me a game is a game whether I have watched 90 minutes or not.

Bentley scored as soon as I got to the roped off pitch, which was in excellent condition. At half-time I found out that the groundsman here has won Staffordshire Groundsman of the year in two out of the last three seasons. I wandered up to a bloke who had a notebook, "He'll know if that was the first goal." I thought, and indeed he did, and indeed it was, and indeed said bloke turned out to be fellow hopper and poster on Tony Kempsters fine non-league forum, Yorkie Exile. His ground (and indeed team) total puts me to shame but we all have to start somewhere and he was a delight to chat to.

Bentley continued to play some nice football throughout the game, they currently play in the West Midland League Division Two, on this showing, and comparing them with what I saw last season, they have a chance of promotion. I have no idea what league the West Midlands Fire Service play in, they used to be a Midland Combination team who played at The Glades in Solihull but I can find no trace of them on the web just now. By just after half-time it was 3-0 to Bentley but this really wasn't a fair reflection of an evenly matched game, the firemen had hit the woodwork (well, strictly speaking, the metalwork) three times. They did eventually grab a well deserved consolation and it all ended 4-1, keeps my seasons average up nicely anyway!

I've just realised, I've missed a glorious opportunity to utilise some great puns, not to mention the chance to use phrases based around firemen's poles and hoses! Good job I'm not that puerile eh!

Attendance - 15 (headcount - a proper headcount this time!)
Admission - Free
Programme - Nope
Public Transport - No. 333 bus from Darlaston.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Hairy Asian Nurses - Walsall 2 Aston Villa 3 - Pre-season friendly - The Bescot - 22/07/08

I'm a bit disappointed with the number of hits on this blog, I mean I know it's a big load of rubbish but my ego insists on more readers, therefore I am going for both the trainspotters and the pr0n surfers in this post.

MILF Loving Lesbians

So it was off to The Bescot for tonights friendly between two giants of West Midlands football, or more accurately two reserve teams, but hey, I got in on a freebie (with a thrown-in press pass) so who's complaining. And it was a lovely balmy evening.
There was an extra little edge to proceedings with the news that custard-bottomed, wantaway Gareth Barry was starting for Villa, it is fair to say that following his ill-advised interview with that bastion of truth The News of the World where he categorically stated that he wanted to go to Liverpool that Barry is not flavour of the month among the Villa faithful, his refusal to hand in a transfer request so he can trouser a loyalty fee hasn't exactly helped. He applauded the fans as he ran on and was roundly booed, but as the game wore on the boos got less and when he was subbed on the hour there was applause mixed in with the vitriol. Perhaps some fans realise that he is still a very good player and will be missed when he inevitably moves on, and he has given ten years service to the cause.

Virgin Cross Country

Spot the old picture!!

Marlon Harewood had the first clear chance for Villa, in fact he had the first two decent chances, but he comically cocked them both up, firstly, when clear through and one-on-one with the excellent Clayton Ince he somehow tangled his feet around the ball, then a few minutes later he burst free again and proceeded to shoot across goal and give away a throw-in. Hardly the stuff of legends! He did attempt an acrobatic overhead kick son after and the ball fell nicely for young centre-half Nathan Baker just two yards out but he blasted over the bar. It was that sort of first half for Villa really.
This was compounded when a poor mix-up between Parrish in the Villa goal and two of his defenders allowed Nicholl to roll the ball into an empty net to give Walsall a 1-0 half-time lead.

Bukakke Cream-pie

Villa began to try to exert themselves in the second-half and got their reward after Delfouneso was fouled on the edge of the area and Shaun Maloney curled an exquisite free-kick over the wall and past the grasp of Ince for the equaliser.

However this just seemed to annoy Walsall and they proceeded to have their best spell of the game, some lovely passing ripping apart the rather makeshift Villa defence culminating in a lovely volleyed goal by 50 year old Patrick Suffo from a volleyed pull back by Carl Deeney. Walsall could have added to their tally during this period and it was rather uncomfortable watching for Martin O'Neill who was sat in the posh seats in front of the Directors Boxes, unless he adds to his squad quickly then this lot are his back-up, and for long periods they did not look good.

Horny Housewife Deltic Diesels

Villa finally woke up in the last fifteen minutes, helped a lot, in my opinion, by the diminutive but extremely skillful Barry Bannan, he hardly misplaced a pass and was the catalyst that allowed Villa to move forward down both flanks. The second equaliser came from a long shot by Delfouneso that was fumbled by the Walsall replacement keeper, Maloney was on hand to pick up the pieces.
A couple of minutes later and Villa had their winner, good movement down the left and a nice cross allowed Wayne Routledge to half-volley home into the roof of the net.
The Villa fans behind the goal were by this time amusing themselves by chanting for O'Neill to sign Clayton Ince who had endeared himself to them by not only having a great game but also bearing the brunt of the usual insults aimed at keepers extremely well.

311 bus back to Wednesbury, 79 bus back home and I'm sipping wine and watching Apocalypse Now, not a bad day in all!

Attendance: 5,013 (Headcount)
Programme: Didn't bother but it was £2
Admission: Free!! (Cheers Dave)

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Everything Is Average Nowadays - Tamworth 2 FC Halifax Town 0 - Pre-season Friendly - The Lamb - 19/07/08

I rarely do Tamworth pre-season friendlies, there's no real point to them, they are just glorified training sessions really and they expect us to pay (sometimes full price) for the priviledge, but as this was going to be the first ever game for the newly formed FC Halifax Town who are hoping to rise from the ashes of the poorly run and now extinct Halifax Town, it just appealed somehow.

Right, a quick rant to get things off my chest. Firstly, what a disappointingly tedious and inevitable name is FC Halifax, what is it with new clubs and the need to stick FC or AFC in front of the name? They could have named it anything but depressingly have opted for just sticking FC in front, bah!
Secondly, and I am not having a go at the Halifax fans here, why have this brand new club been allowed to enter so high up the pyramid, Unibond One? So now we have a club with a big ground and a ready-made fanbase who will, in all probability, be back up in the Blue Square league in a couple of years. It does seem a bit unfair on all those clubs who have to start back at step seven or eight or ambitious clubs who are trying to climb the pyramid but have been leap-frogged by Halifax. It seems to be accepted that new clubs formed from bankrupt old ones just drop two or three divisions when, as new clubs, they should start from scratch surely?
That said, the fans I met were a great bunch, I hope it all goes well for them and all that.

I never hold much hopes for excitement pre-season friendlies, and I wasn't to be disappointed by this one, the whole day was just so average! The pint I had in The Albert was okay, nothing great (Marston's something or other, it was so bland I've forgotten it's name!), the Church End beer in The White Lion was the most average drop from this normally fine brewery that I've ever had, and even the normally excellent Hobgoblin in the same establishment was in a particularly poor state (end of barrel?).

The clubhouse had Greene King IPA as the guest beer, it was as average as Greene King IPA always is, England were being incredibly average in the cricket on the telly, it was all so bloody average!

I've even decided to post a couple of very average pictures as you can see, neither of them was actually taken at the game (I've stolen them off Flickr, they were taken by a Morecambe fan a couple of seasons ago!) as in my soporific state of ennui I forgot to get my camera out of the bag.

There was a brief flicker of interest as the teams ran out, but this was due to my delight at seeing that the fourth official was a twelve year old ginger! His paper round was being finished off by Tamworth substitute Dean Lea who is definitely no older than thirteen surely.

The game was okay, Tamworth were the better team as they should be and it's refreshing to see that we looked to play the ball on the ground most of the time. Rumour has it that Gary Mills has been told to play this way as the club has been inundated with lawsuits from Black Country ambulance chasing solicitors "Injuries Am We" suing for the spate of cricked necks we suffered last season.
Actually, given that the average size of the Tamworth squad, even with Craig McAughtrie, is well under 5'10", playing hoof it football would be pointless. To play good, passing football you need a good playmaker and Tamworth look to have found one in ex-Coventry yoof Lee Hildreth. This is the first time I have seen him and he looks too good for this level, let's hope no one notices for this season at least.
Tamworth took an early lead as Nick Wright latched onto a through ball, rounded the keeper and then did everything he could not to score before finally rolling the ball just over the line despite a desperate attempted clearance. Not too much else happened in the first half although one wayward Tamworth shot did send someones chips flying. Well, it'll help with his dieting.

Second-half? Much of the same, a few shots, some decent passing and then, pretty much out of the blue, a scorching low drive from about 25 yards out by Hildreth that gave the Halifax keeper no chance. Yeah, it was okay really.
Tamworth are having a decent pre-season, three wins out of three so far including a 1-0 win in Londonderry against Institute. Apparently a good time was had by all the fans who made that trip but what goes on tour stays on tour!

Halifax will take heart at a decent first game, they will probably win Unibond One, they bought about 100 fans with them which is more than most Conference North teams manage.

One more average pint on the way home and that was it, it's nice to catch up after the barren month of June but I doubt I'll bother with any of the other friendlies, I'll be back when we take on Stalybridge in the league in August.

Oh, one more thing, obviously the panto work for squeaky-voiced d-lister Joe Pasquale has dried up because he is now the tannoy announcer at Tamworth Station.

Attendance - 618

Programme - 8 pages 50p

Beer - average, all of it.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

'S' Express - Archdales '73 5 Bolehall Swifts 3 - Pre Season Friendly - Claines Lane - 05/07/08

This is definitely the earliest I have ever started a season.
And my camera has finally given up the ghost after five years of abuse so I can't even add any meaningful pictures.

While I'm in the mood to complain, I want to know why Archdales '73 are being deprived of their 'S' on the Midland Combination website. Look, go to 'club information > ground info > division one and there it is, "Archdale", no 'S'! I am disgusted, how can the official (only?) Midland Combination website deprive a club of it's 'S'?

I've created a petition, it just needs government approval, if I don't get it I know they are out to get me....and Archdales. Approval.

Anyway, onto the ground. Easy enough to find as it's just off the A38 between Droitwich and Worcester, if I had realised this sooner I wouldn't have driven because I could have got a train to Worcester, drank some rather lovely real ale at The Green Dragon and then caught a bus. Oh well, you live and learn, and there's always trips to Worcester City, Worcester City Academy and Perrywoods to go.

The clubhouse at Claines Lane perches well above the pitch and has a grass bank in front for the kids high on fizzy pop to throw themselves down, you get a lovely view of the Malvern Hills from up there as well. The settees in the clubhouse were particularly comfortable, getting one down the grass bank and across the field to my car would, however, have been problematic.

The pitch is fenced off with hard standing aroud some of it, there is a very basic bit of cover on one side flanked by the dug-outs, you pass a rather nice rusty roller on the way to it which was chained to the fence by a very high-tech looking padlock, roller thefts must be rife round Worcester way.

The game? Well it was a pre-season friendly. I've learned not to expect a huge amount from pre-season friendlies so this was a pleasant surprise. Bolehall took to the field in red shirts rather than their usual yellow and green, and they all looked very young. The reason for this became apparent after 30 minutes of the game when this whole team of trialists were substituted for the "proper" Bolehall team. The fact that it was 1-1 when this occurred and Archdales ended up winning 5-3 I'm sure has no bearing on the forthcoming season!

I think the scoring went:
1-0 to Archdales - low shot badly messed up by the Bolehall keeper.
1-1 - Can't remember!
2-1 Archdales - Excellent through ball, well finished.
3-1 - another through ball, nice lob over the onrushing keeper.
3-2 - free-kick from the edge of the box.
3-3 - another set-piece, free-kick from the left, decent header.
4-3 Archdales - Dunno, was playing football with Cameron
5-3 - ? was sheltering under a tre from the intermittent rain!

Archdales website
Bolehall website

I just know this season as a Tamworth fan will be another rollercoaster of emotions (almost certainly with more downs than ups) so I will enjoy these little interludes before the heartache begins.

Admission - None
Programme - None
Clubhouse settees - Rather cosy
Number of 'S's in Archdales '73 - ONE, get it right Mid Comb.
Attendance - Ooh, about 14 not including dog walkers and those connected to either club (headcount obviously!)