Saturday, 30 May 2009

Season 08/09 - Teams witnessed

A brief overview of all the teams I saw this season (regardless of whether I was supporting them or not) and how they did of the course of the season.

Accrington Stanley –> Who are they? Exactly. Sorry. Despite having hardly any fans and no money, Accrington still managed to finish in a respectable 16th position in League 2. It looked to be a spring board into next season, however news came out yesterday that a winding-up order has been taken out against them and so it remains to be seen whether they will even start next season at all. Worrying times for them at the moment.

Argentina –> Diego Maradona looked to be finding the managerial life simple with wins against Scotland, France and a qualification match against Venezuela and it seemed Argentina would cruise into the 2010 World Cup. Then they travelled to Bolivia, the 3000ft match caused serious trouble as they lost 6-1, a massive shock and hammering. It also left them 4th in the South America (only top 4 qualify automatically), 2 points off Uruguay. Their next match against Columbia (the team in 6th) on the 6th June will be vital for Maradona and Argentina.

Barnsley –> After their 0-0 draw against Southampton in September I said that I would be surprised if both of those teams were not relegated at the end of the season. More on Southampton when I come to them, but Barnsley did manage to prove me wrong by securing survival on the last day with a win over Plymouth and they even finished 20th in the process. They will be favourites for relegation again next season but will battle strongly to try and keep their Championship status secure.

Barnstaple Town –> In the end for Barnstaple it was quite comfortable to secure survival in the Western Premier League. They finished 18th (out of 22 – bottom 2 go down) after a great run of form towards the end of the season. Barnstaple will hopefully be a ground I manage to visit quite early on in the season as it is quite nearby.

Bideford AFC –> They finished 6th in the Western Premier, which I feel is quite a decent finish for them. They also reached the Q-F of the FA Vase before losing 4-0 away at Lowestoft Town.

Carlisle United –> An interesting close season for Carlisle as they announced that Greg Abbot would continue to be manager and so he will hope to try and bring some of his own players in to avoid a struggle like this season. With some big teams still or being relegated into this Division, I can’t see anyway Carlisle finishing in a play-off spot or above next season, although a comfortable midtable finish looks likely. They will have to replace Danny Graham who today announced that he will not be signing the contract Carlisle offered to him.


Celtic –> After three league titles in a row, a 0-0 draw against Hearts, combined with Rangers 3-0 win over Dundee United meant that their Glasgow rivals took the title. Manager Gordon Strachan then resigned in the week and with Burnley manager Owen Coyle set to reject them for a crack at the Premiership, a new boss is needed first before the rebuilt begins. Who knows what the Celtic line-up will look like on the opening day of the 2009/2010 season. They do have bogging away shorts this season though.

Chippenham Town –> Flirted with the play-offs for quite some time before a point deduction cost them and ended up finishing 8th in the Southern Premier League. Could have a decent crack at promotion next season if they keep the basis of their current team together,

Exeter City –> I don’t know how, but Exeter City will be playing League 1 football next season. The two times I saw them this season, they had been outplayed for large sections of the match and managed to fluke their way to 6 points. I do feel that Exeter will come straight back down again, but St James Park will be a place that no team will fancy going to next season so they might just do it. (Doubtful though). Will hope to get a blog report from there at some point in the season, hopefully when Carlisle United go down to the real St James Park.

Hamburg SV –> They looked very, very strong and looked at one point that a treble was on the cards. However, one team put a stop to all of that – Werder Bremen. Bremen beat them in the DFB Pokel Semi-final on penalties, then knocked them out of the UEFA Cup semi-finals on away goals and even had the cheek to beat them in the league. In the end Hamburg only scrapped into the final Europa League spot with the 90th minute goal on the last day.

Hamilton Academicals –> The Accies adapted brilliantly to their first season in the SPL and in the end finished in a (in my opinion) rather harsh 9th. Their best players could be on their way in the summer, so will need to replace them wisely or a struggle could be on as St Johnstone don’t really look that bad a team coming up from Division 1.

Hearts –> Well, as previously discussed in my last post at the end of the 07/08 season I feared for Hearts, a terrible team, no manager and a crazy owner. This season has been exceptional if you compare it to the dross I watched 12 months earlier. 3rd place in the league, Europa League play-off round (cheers Rangers, *washes mouth out with soap*) and a great, great manager. The fears are back though (I am a very pessimistic person), with our defence ripped out, our most creative player gone, these are big gaps to fill for next season. There is also the shadow of Romanov hanging over us and I feel that we would need to be bought out before those fears go away again. Cannot wait for the summer as we are linked with various players such as Maurice Ross, Paul Hartley, Roy Carroll and Miku. (A Salamancia striker – holds a Hungarian passport so could be true…..)

Lancaster City –> Finished 7th in the Unibond Div 1 North, their old manager was actually sacked the week after the 5-3 loss to Salford City and so with a new manager, a promotion tilt (they have the look of a club that deserve to be higher) could be on the cards next season. With next year set to be my last year at Lancaster, it would be rude not to repay them a visit.

Manchester City –> Finished 10th in the Premiership, but the big news over the summer will be, who will their starting XI be next season? With billions to spend, Mark Hughes is basically playing a real life version of Football Manager so expect some crazy spending and City still winning nothing and coming midtable.

Millwall –> Reaching the play-offs can be seen as a great achievement for a team that weren’t expected to be around that area at the beginning of the season. Yet a win over Leeds in the Semi-Final put them through at Wembley to play Scunthorpe and despite going 2-1 up (the equalizer being a wonder goal) they still managed to lose 3-2. I doubt another promotion push will be sustained next season but as my predictions are normally so laughably wrong, they will probably go up automatically.


Morecambe –> Finished 11th and had an outside shot at the play-offs which would have been a play-off place if they actually had any sort of form in the first few months of the season. This, despite having a squad not as good as the 07/08 squad, shows good work done again by the boys at Christie Park. This coming season is also set to be the last season at Christie Park so get down there!

Motherwell –> Its hard to congratulate success at Motherwell when they have such a whiney, dislikeable tosser as a manager in the form of Mark McGhee. They finished 7th and so were the best of the bottom 6, yet due to “fair play rules” they have been laughably given a Europa League spot where they WILL go out the first round they are in. If you look on Wikipedia at the Europa League 2009/10 page, there is a great table to show what Round, teams come in. Motherwell enter at the First Qualifying Round where 95% of the teams will beat them easily. Still, why don’t Scotland give another spot to the Cup final losers? Oh. They have. :|

Rochdale –> Another decent season from the boys at Spotland, although some may feel that an automatic promotion place was lost rather than a play-off place gained. An interesting close season on the horizon as they currently have 0 goalkeepers so look out for that one.

Salford City –> Where do I start with Salford!? Their win at Lancaster in March put them on 12 points. Relegation looked likely, suddenly they picked up win after win and found themselves only 2 points behind Rossendale United on the last day. A win for Salford at Garforth Town (5-2) and Rossendale’s 0-3 home defeat to Mossley kept them up. Amazing and what an escape. Ironically though, Rossendale were reprieved and so Salford wouldn’t have been relegated anyway. Nevermind.

Scotland –> After that 1-0 defeat to Argentina, Scotland next played the runaway leaders in Group 9, Holland. We lost. Iceland were beaten (only just) to keep our slim hopes in qualifying for 2010 alive, although with Holland basically there already it would seem a play-off would be in order if we came 2nd in the group. Its a big big game against Norway on the 12th August. We will be helped by the fact Barry “straight-ball” Ferguson won’t be playing.

Southampton –> Oh dear. Those two words sum up Southampton’s season quite well as relegation to League 1 was confirmed, the club are currently in administration and will start next season in League 1 on –10 points. Although Saints legend “Le Tiss” appears to be part of a consortium buying the club, Southampton’s short-term future looks to be not so rosy, especially as it looks like another season will await in League 1 after this season. Also not helped by the fact their nearest rivals Portsmouth have just been bought up by some rich Arab. Never rains but it pours eh.

Tiverton Town –> Finished a disappointing 12th in the Southern Premier League. A better season, or at least a start will be needed next season at Ladysmead.

My final blog post will be detailing the grounds I wish to see in 09/10 (I’ll get to hardly any of them most likely) and then I sit back and watch Hearts sign more unknowns and Manchester City buy every football in the World. In the meantime, have some pictures of games I was at this season. (I didn’t take any of these)

Scotland v Argentina International Friendly 2J3NkroNvRgl



Carlisle United v Millwall NdEbwHhOL77m

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Season 08/09 review

Well, that went fast! The season that started out in the sunshine at the REAL St James Park ended in the sunshine on the pitch at Brunton Park. The next couple of blog posts will detail the season and plan out (roughly) where I hope to go for 09/10. Although its doubtful that my plan will stick over the course of the season and I am at the mercy of the beast known as the fixture list. I personally cannot wait to see what games are when so I can pick my fixtures but that is for another day.


Games Attended: 14

Goals: 37 (2.64 per game)

Most Goals: 8 (Lancaster C vs Salford C)

Least Goals: 0 (Southampton vs Barnsley)

New Grounds: 10 (St James Park – Exeter City, St Mary’s – Southampton, Hampden Park – Scotland, Fir Park – Motherwell, New Douglas Park – Hamilton Academicals, Giant Axe – Lancaster City, The Sports Ground – Bideford AFC, Ladysmead – Tiverton Town, City of Manchester Stadium – Manchester City, Brunton Park – Carlisle United)

Best and Worst

Best Game: Lancaster City 3-5 Salford City -- An 8 goal thriller, played on a mud pitch in the pouring rain with two teams who cannot defend so just attack and Salford’s Steve Foster scoring all 5 for Salford. Also, I only paid £5 to get in and see it.

Worst Game: Motherwell 1-0 Hearts -- Dire does not describe how bad this midweek fixture was. An early Chris Porter goal separated two awful sides on the night and then nothing for another 80 odd minutes. Some people paid £25 to watch that. Unlucky.

Best Team: A few candidates here, in relation to their level I though Chippenham Town were decent and had pace which would cause any teams problems. Exeter City will need home advantage next season to survive in League 1 and the two times I saw them here they looked decent at times (and were also very lucky)

Worst Team: Lancaster City looked laughable at times trying to defend while Barnstaple Town going forward looked dreadful. Maybe if they combined the two together…..

Best Ground: (Professional): Man City – The City of Manchester Stadium looks great, has a modern feel but still has character unlike other new build stadiums in the North, mentioning no Bolton’s, sorry teams.

Best Ground: (Non League): Tiverton Town – I love Ladysmead and hope to revisit there next season.

Worst Ground: Motherwell – A laughably bad ground with 4 stands that look nothing like each other or go together in a s**thole of a town.

Most Picturesque Setting: Tough one to answer but would probably go with Tiverton again.

Biggest Dump: Motherwell – I only drove through it to park for the match, it was dark and still looked terrible.

Best Programme: Bideford AFC – A great great effort which was full colour, good information and only £1.

Worst Programme: None – no programme was terrible this year and as a “paper chasing nerd” I only go to games that issue them anyway.

Best Food: Morecambe – the pies are class.

Funniest Moment: Salford City fans singing “can we play you every week” to Lancaster as they have previously beaten them in the FA Cup earlier in the season. (They had only won 1 league match at this point)

Best Punch Up: Tiverton vs Chippenham – for reasons beyond me, a Chippenham winger runs up to a Tiverton player after being awarded a free kick and elbows him in the face. Cheerio.

Hardest Place to Find: When driving to grounds I always seem to get lost (except going to Hamilton) so getting lost trying to find Hampden Park tops this list.

Friendliest club: Probably Tiverton again, friendly staff and fans.

Most Miserable club: Bideford AFC – quite easily the worst fans of the season. Moaning about anything and everything, despite a decent showing in the league this season. Hopefully won’t be going back to The Sports Ground in a hurry.

Best Song: “We only win away” – Salford City, “We’re from the capital! You’re from a s**tehole!” – Hearts sung at everyone bar Hibs in the SPL

Coldest Ground: Lancaster City was perishing when I went, in March.

Best Goal: Steve Foster’s 5th at Lancaster. Turned on the edge of the area and curled a great shot into the top corner.


My 07/08 season ended 80 minutes into Hearts vs Kilmarnock in the pouring rain. Killie had just gone 2-0 up at Tynecastle and I had serious concerns about relegation this season. Cue Csaba Laszlo who has been exceptional in his first season getting an average team at times into 3rd place in the SPL – the worries are out next season too however as we have already lost Robbie Neilson (to Leicester), Karipidis (to Omonia Nicosia) and Bruno Aguiar (to who knows) so hopefully replacements can be found that can propel the club to bigger and better things as currently, the top 2 in the SPL have pretty average squads at best and I would bet on Rangers exiting the Champions League bottom of whatever type of group they get. So it will be an extremely interesting summer to see who joins Ian Black in becoming a new Hearts player.

As for other clubs, this season was great for me, getting to 10 new grounds. Only 14 games due to time and money but will hopefully improve on that next year and with next year set to be my last at University, nearby clubs are top of the agenda to visit. (except Blackpool, they can get stuffed I am paying £28 to sit in a half finish stadium in Blackpool)

My next post will detail all the clubs I saw this season and how they got on in the end.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Roses 2009

Maybe my first non-football (well at least a football specific) post. Here at Lancaster University, there is a little bit of a rivalry between York University. It stems back to the 15th Century civil war, The War of Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and the Houses of York. The first competition happened in 1965 with it being in York and York coming out the victors. It alternates every year with “away” victories obviously rarer but a great achievement. Last year, the tournament was held here, at Lancaster, where York managed a late Lancs fight off to win 124-122, damn.

I had planned to write this last night and talk about how close this years event would be with the early events resulting in a tie, however as I currently write this, this years Roses, held in York is currently 62.5-14.5 to York. Oh dear. I had actually wanted to go to an event (two, for example are held at Lancaster) but due to time commitments (i.e these bloody exams) that couldn’t happen. Rest assured that I will write a blog report for next years roses back in Lancaster and can only hope the red rose can battle back tomorrow and Sunday to claim an unlikely win.

(Or we’ll just say that Lancaster actually won the war in the 15th Century, so there.)


Sunday, 3 May 2009

Carlisle United vs Millwall (02/05/09)

Match 47

Ground #: 22

Ground: Brunton Park

Competition: English League One

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £14

Programme: £3

Attendance: 9,470

Carlisle United 2

Kavanagh 7’, Thirlwell 50’

Millwall 0


With the joyful time of “exam season” now on the near horizon, it was time to finish my season (unless a game pops up which is very doubtful) and also time to get in another ground to cap the 2008/2009 season off. With my missus born and bred in Carlisle and a last day game vs Millwall, Brunton Park was to be the ground I finished my season off on. The previous week, Carlisle could have eased their relegation fears as they took on Cheltenham Town who were League Two bound away at Whaddon Road. They could only muster a 1-1 draw, despite being 1 up and only finished the game with 9 men and nearly lost it late on. It therefore seemed Carlisle would be playing League Two football next season as they started the day in 21st position on 47 points, two points behind Brighton, a win was a must.

For this must win game they welcomed play-off challengers Millwall, a team that many fans fear and as soon as we arrived at Carlisle station a big police presence awaited us all to greet the Millwall fans on arrival. Millwall, this season had improved greatly under boss Kenny Jackett and currently went into this game in 4th and a playoff place confirmed. Carlisle on the otherhand had fallen from a last gasp playoff defeat last season to Leeds to this final day must win game. In the programme, a director opened with the line, “On behalf of everyone at the football club I would apologise for the poor season we have just completed.” It had been a poor season.


Brunton Park is an old school ground with some modern elements that make it a decent day out in the Football League, despite it being so far North for most fans to get to. We stood in the Warwick Road end, which is a strange stand, due to the layout which I havent seen before at a ground but it had a good view of the pitch behind the goal, shame I decided to stand behind a pillar for the game then. To my right was the most modern stand (I presume), the East Stand (or to please their sponsors, The Cumberland Building Society Stand) which was a normal, large all seater stand which the hardy bunch of Millwall fans were placed in at the corner. Behind the other goal was a stand, a little like Morecambe’s Car Wash stand with no cover and terracing only which I was told is not normally open but was open today for kids. Then down the other side of the pitch was another strange stand, but a stand I liked as it had both terracing and seating, something I hadnt seen since Germany. Also cobbled into this stand was the directors area and boxes. The atmosphere needed to be great to cheer Carlisle on in their must win game and it was great and also credit to the stadium DJ who played some great tunes before the game such as Madness and “Welcome to the Jungle”.

When the game kicked off, I had to admit, amongst the 8900 or so Carlisle fans I must have been one of the few who did not believe they could do it as I just felt Millwall would be too strong or Brighton and Northampton could get the point(s) they needed to stay up. However with an increasing attachment to Carlisle as a place (hopefully my missus won’t read that!) I secretly wanted them to stay up and it became clear early on that either Millwall were not up for this game or they could not care less as several times, Carlisle players skipped past half-hearted challenges or none at all from the team in orange. Carlisle needed an early goal and they got it when the ball was cut back to Graham Kavanagh (who along with Ian Harte I had looked forward seeing) was told to shoot by the Carlisle fans, he did and his shot rocketed into the top corner with Millwall goalie David Forde given no chance. The dream was on! Carlisle though had lost 6 points in two months by conceding late goals and so it was felt by all the Carlisle needed to get a 2nd. They had their chances in the 1st half with Dobie and Anyinsah going close. The 1st half came to a close and currently Carlisle were safe and Brighton the team dropping to League 2. A long 45 minutes to go though.


The 2nd half started with Millwall bringing on Jason Price who looked tall and was causing the Carlisle defence problems, however Carlisle broke and when the ball fell to Paul Thirlwell who hit it on the volley I first thought, “why has he wasted that!?” The ball flew straight in, 2-0. Carlisle fans could now really start to believe, especially as news broke through that Leeds had taken the lead against Northampton. The 2nd goal though seemed to wake Millwall up, only 50 minutes into the match who then started to get more of the ball and pushed Carlisle back as they began to get nervous. Millwall created many chances, Gary Alexander first hit the bar with a header with a well worked move and then Jason Price also had a great chance before Graham Kavanagh nearly sliced the ball into his own net after clearing a low cross. The 2nd half was one of the most tense games I can remember with the time ticking slowly down as Carlisle just needed to hang on. Millwall’s best chance came on the 88th minute when a low cross found Nadjim Abdou who just needed to pass the ball in, however he passed the ball wide and it was clear that Millwall were not going to score. 5 minutes of injury time were called which by this time loads of chavs had decided to stand on the line at the edge of the pitch ready for a pitch invasion, they ignored the announcer's pleas to keep off the pitch and when Carlisle won a corner late on, they charged onto the pitch early. When the final whistle was blown, Carlisle had done it! Cue a proper pitch invasion and a mass police presence around Millwall to stop any real nawtyness going on. Me and the girlfriend wandered down onto the Brunton Park pitch to take a couple of pictures which was nice.


So Carlisle had stayed up! At the expense of Northampton Town who will be playing in League Two next season, also a small well done to Exeter City who were promoted to League One today, despite the two times I had seen them this season they hadn’t been very good but all the best to them. (A blog report from St James Park will come this summer) Millwall I dont think cared particularly much as they now have the play-offs to look forward/dread to. They play their old chums Leeds in the semi-final (unlucky the police on duty for that game!) while the other semi-final will be between MK Dons and Scunthorpe. The overall day out had been tense but a good ground and two great goals and a good old fashion pitch invasion had lead to a good day. I’m sure I’ll be back to watch Carlisle at some point again, although hopefully it won’t be a relegation decider anytime soon.

It also was my last game for 2008/2009, a season for me which started in the sun watching Exeter beat Accrington Stanley had finished on the Brunton Park pitch with 2009/2010 to look forward to, although the small matter of Hearts trying to secure a Europa League spot and exams will keep me busy until the next season. I will write some season overview sometime next week and a final round-up of what happened to all the teams I had witnessed this season when their seasons end. Hopefully 2009/2010 will see me get to more great games and more great grounds. Well done Carlisle!

Photos from Carlisle Utd vs Millwall


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (the game itself was average, but it was so tense and two great goals)

- Value for money: 6/10 (£14 in League 1 is about the same price)

- Ground: 7/10 (decent ground which has character and many stories)

- Atmosphere: 8/10 (Carlisle fans got right behind their team, Millwall took 500 which was decent enough for a game that didnt matter for them)

- Food: 7/10 (Scotch Pie = win)

- Programme: 6/10 (decent enough effort)

- Referee: Neil Swarbrick – 5/10 (a lot of pulling back of players went unnoticed)

Carlisle vs Mill prog

carlisle vs mill ticket