Sunday, 27 April 2014

Bromley vs Eastleigh (08/04/14)

Match 229

Ground #: 181

Ground: Hayes Lane

Competition: Skrill South (Level 6)

Kick Off: 7:45pm

Cost: £5 (concession)

Programme: £2.50

Attendance: 1,011

Bromley 1

Swaine 45’

Eastleigh 2

Wright 17’, (pen) 58’


Fate has a weird way of working itself out. This game was meant to be played back in October when Bromley were riding high and looking like an unstoppable force in the Skrill South, it might have been a routine home win. Then however, down came the rain, in came the fixture congestion and Bromley had struggled while seeing Eastleigh rise above them in the league. This rearranged clash was now an all out title battle. Bromley having to win to keep it alive. Of course I was there.


Bromley is a district of south east London that was historically a market town until 1965 when it became part of Greater London. Bromley is first recorded in a charter of 862 as Bromleag and means 'woodland clearing where broom grows'. At this time the King of Kent, granted land to form the Manor of Bromley. It was held by the Bishops of Rochester until 1845, when Coles Child, a wealthy local merchant and philanthropist, purchased Bromley Palace and became lord of the manor. The town was an important coaching stop on the way to Hastings from London, and is referred to in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was a quiet rural village until the arrival of the railway in 1858 in Shortlands, which led to rapid growth, and outlying suburban districts were developed to accommodate those wishing to live so conveniently close to London. It still maintains the commuter feel today as the multiple routes from Bromley into London makes it an attractive place to live.


Bromley FC were founded in 1892 and played friendly games against mainly local opposition sides in its first season. Their first competitive football came in the South London League, which was won at the first attempt. However, they moved frequently between leagues in those early days with 2 seasons in the Southern League were followed by a spell in the London League, winning the Division Two title in 1897. They finally settled down in 1952 after rejoining the Isthmian League and became a yo-yo club for the next few decades with highlights of winning the League twice, tempered with 4 relegations over this period. In 1988, they finished 2nd, behind Yeovil Town (look where they are now!) but after a romping start in 1999, where Bromley took 13 points from their first 15, they then promptly only won 4 out of the next 37 and went down.


While continuing to plod along in the Isthmian 1st Division, the introduction of the Conference South in 2004, saw Bromley effectively drop another league down to Level 8 which was the lowest in their history. They sorted this out quickly however with a play-off win in 2005, followed by another one in 2007 to start 2007/08 in the Conference South. They’ve been there since, never really looking like challenging for a promotion spot, with an 11th place finish the best they have had so far, until this season.


Bromley were doing so well at the start of the season, however their complete loss of form in March, including a late late defeat at Staines Town, has seen Eastleigh now jump above them in the table. Their form since that Staines defeat hadn’t improved with a draw at Eastbourne Borough as well as a 1-0 defeat to fellow play-off rivals Havant & Waterlooville. They were now coming into this game down in 3rd, only a point behind Sutton United. If the Ravens were not going to win the league, they may as well try and guarantee home advantage in the play-offs.


A really decent crowd had packed into Hayes Lane with over 1,000 watching this clash. The ground is one of my favourites this season with it being a mish-mash of stands and terracing. Down the far side is an uncovered, large terrace that offers a fantastic view of the whole place, while a good sized seated stand is opposite this, named The John Fiorini Stand, the former match secretary who sadly died in 2001. Behind both goals are covered stands, including one that is a true classic with wooden benches. It has been home to the club since 1938 and while it looks old, it has some modern touches that make this a fantastic ground.


So Eastleigh had travelled down with a fair few, and going into this game well clear at the top, anything other than a home win would essentially ensure that Eastleigh would be playing Conference National football next season. The Spitfires do have their detractors however with many pointing to the major financial backing that the club get compared to others in the league. Bridle Insurance Limited took over the club in 2011 and part of a 5 year plan was to get Eastleigh into the Football League. Still on target, they have signed some players with major Football League experience such as Stuart Fleetwood, Ben Strevens and Ross Flitney. With this much financial power, it probably isn’t a surprise to see the club where they are. Are Eastleigh the next Rushden & Diamonds however? Only time will tell.


Bromley knew that just playing for a draw would have been no good to them and so straight from KO, went at Eastleigh. Bradley Goldberg fired a shot off the bar within the first minute as you felt Eastleigh would have to weather some sort of SE London Alamo. Credit to Eastleigh then, for not only keeping the pace of the game up, but having a good go back at Bromley. Some difficult crosses had Bromley’s goalie Joe Welch struggling but the home side could have snatched the opening goal when Brendan Kiernan fired a shot that Ross Flitney had to save well. A goal was coming though and when Ben Wright collected Craig McAllister’s flick on to loft the ball expertly over Welch, Eastleigh could start to party. Eastleigh now were also peppering Welch’s goal as the whole defence did not look comfortable to deal with the attack. Despite this, Bromley were level right on HT. A daft free kick was given away and a perfect set piece in from Joe Anderson saw captain Rob Swaine power a header home. Maybe some life in the title race yet!


Eastleigh sensed for the 2nd half that they could finish this game off and tried to blow Bromley away by bombing forward early on. After some early decent chances, Eastleigh made the breakthrough on 58 minutes. A great run into the area from Daniel Wishart had Dean Pooley everywhere and as the home defender stuck out a lazy leg, Wishart was bundled over. Clear cut penalty. Ben Wright fired home the penalty and the title looked safe again. Bromley looked stunned but Welch kept the game alive as he brilliantly kept out Jai Reason’s glancing header. Bromley though began to put the pressure on Eastleigh to try and save themselves with the ball pinging around the box quite often. However, Flitney was rarely tested and so Eastleigh had done it. All but securing their title with that win.


It was only a matter of time and promotion for Eastleigh was confirmed on Good Friday with a 2-1 win vs Basingstoke Town. Conference National football for them for the first time in their history and it will be interesting to see how they do. The past few seasons, the Conference South winners have done fairly well before sinking back towards the way the came. Can The Spitfires buck the trend? Bromley continued to plod along with very little form in the league, seeing Sutton United looking like securing the 2nd place spot. However, it came down to the final day of the season and going to Sutton’s final game, I would be on hand to see how it panned out. Get to Hayes Lane for football sometime soon though. It’s even better under the lights.

Photos from Bromley vs Eastleigh


Match Ratings:

- Match: 5/10 (tense and nervous all round)

- Value for money: 7/10 (good standard Skrill South admission)

- Ground: 8/10 (classic ground)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (packed in and both sets of fans made good noise)

- Food: 5/10 (was standard stuff from memory)

- Programme: 4/10 (slick and glossy, but lacked any real articles)

- Referee: David Rock – 7/10 (got on with, good calls)

BFC vs EFC prog

BFC vs EFC stub

Friday, 25 April 2014

Road to the London Senior Cup 2013/14 (Semi-Final)

Despite finishing exams, work ironically had now ramped right up meaning that despite the Cray Valley (PM) vs AFC Wimbledon tie being played nearly a month later than advertised, it was another tie I had to miss. The Dons had managed to cruise through the Semis with holders Bromley pulling out, meaning the Football League club had a brilliant chance to pick up their 1st London Senior Cup.

369a29d50fce5939e0943dc247e5acdf(Meet the Millers)

With Wimbledon taking a reasonable squad down to the Badgers Sports Ground, it was fully expected that the Dons would smash through the Southern Counties East League side to reach the final. As it happened, when Jim Fenlon diverted the ball into his own net to give the Millers the equaliser, it looked like Cray Valley (PM) would take another scalp in this competition. However, hearts were broken deep into extra-time as Egil Kaja Overton fired home from the edge of the area and send Wimbledon to Imber Court in May.


There, they will meet the Metropolitan Police as they dispatched of Wingate & Finchley to recreate the 2009/10 final which the Rozzers won on penalties after a bizarre sounding 4-4 draw. Like the plastic that I am, having missed the 3 previous rounds, I’ll be there on May 6th for hopefully another brilliant final. I’ll get the police puns ready now.


1ST ROUND: Thamesmead Town 2-2 Greenhouse London [Thamesmead win 6-5 on penalties] (Bayliss Avenue, Att: 22)

2ND ROUND: Tooting & Mitcham United 2-0 Thamesmead Town (Imperial Fields, Att: 64)

QUARTER-FINAL: Tooting & Mitcham United 1-1 Cray Valley (PM) [Cray Valley win 7-6 on penalties] (Imperial Fields, Att: 96)

SEMI-FINAL: Cray Valley (PM) 1-2 AFC Wimbledon [After Extra Time] (Badgers Sports Ground, Att: 202)

Friday, 18 April 2014

Bristol Rovers vs Morecambe (29/03/14)

Match 228

Ground #: 180

Ground: Memorial Stadium

Competition: English League 2

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £10 (concession)

Programme: £3

Attendance: 5,647

Bristol Rovers 1

Mohamed 90’

Morecambe 0


For reasons largely due to exams, it had been over 4 months since I had seen the Morecambe boys in one of their Southern tours. However, their trip to Bristol had been one I pencilled in from when the fixtures were released back last summer. With Rovers (emphasise the Bristolian accent) on the move soon from their hybrid football-rugby stadium, it was another good reason to go west and watch Morecambe pick up another (hopeful!) 3 points.


Despite living near it for long enough, I had never been to Bristol for football before, so. Bristol is a city in the south-west of England and is the UK’s 8th most populous city. Archaeological finds believed to be 60,000 years old, provide "evidence of human activity" in the Bristol area from the Palaeolithic era. Despite it being an area of only small Roman settlements, the town of Brycgstow ("the place at the bridge") appears to have been founded in c.1000 and by c.1020 was an important enough trading centre to possess its own mint. By the 12th century Bristol was an important port, handling much of England's trade with Ireland, including slaves and also became a centre of shipbuilding and manufacturing. By the 14th century Bristol was one of England's three largest medieval towns after London, along with York and Norwich.


By the 16th century however, Bristol traders had concentrated in developing their trade to Spain and its American colonies as illicit goods became an essential component of the city's economy. This continued later on with the slave trade and saw the city’s economy downturn through wars with France and the abolition of the slave trade in the 1800s. However, Bristol (along with most of the SW) have Isambard Kingdom Brunel to thank for the building of the Great Western Railway to help the region grow. Today, the city is still growing and developing through new regeneration projects around the old docklands and harbour areas.


Despite modern football fans thinking City are Bristol’s main club due to their high level of playing, Rovers were founded in 1883, 11 years before City. Founded as Black Arabs FC, after a few changes they became the Rovers in 1889. Starting out in the Southern League, they remained there until 1920, picking up the league title in 1905. Then joining the Football League in 1920/21 into the new Division 3, they have remained a FL ever since. Rovers best finish was achieved in 1956 and 1959 when they finished 6th in the 2nd tier, which would today achieve a play-off place crack for the top flight. It has been a recent struggle for them however, despite a brief appearance in League 1 in 2007 to 2011, the money seems to have dried up and performances have not been good. Sat in mid-table, Rovers were in relegation trouble all throughout last season until John Ward came in and picked them to safety. It hasn’t been a good few years for the football of Bristol.


The Memorial Stadium is probably one of the reasons why the money has dried up for Rovers. It’s not a terrible ground, but it does feel like a rugby ground. Built by Bristol Rugby, Rovers played at their old Eastville until 1986 when they were forced to leave it for financial difficulties. After some hiatus in Bath for 10 years, they finally return to the Mem in 1996. Firstly as tenants, but as Bristol Rugby also suffered, Rovers stepped in. The main stand in the ground (pic above) is the West Stand which has the combined executive areas and seating. Opposite this is the smaller East Stand as well as terracing, including the small area in the corner for away fans. This is uncovered so I can imagine this would be a delightful away trip in winter! The big Blackthorn Terrace is a covered standing terrace for the home “ultras” (those proper farmers!) while the South Stand behind the other goal, is a temporary stand that has now been there some time. Much more suited to some tennis event to drink Pims on, rather than have a pasty and pint to watch League 2 action.


Rovers recently got the go-ahead from the planning authorities to sell the Memorial Stadium to Sainbury’s to part-fund a new ground near the University of West England campus. This is scheduled to open for the start of 2015/16 season, which means it will probably be hosting football probably no earlier than 2017. Amazingly, the ground is to hold 21,000 when first built, however considering Rovers average attendance is around the 5-6,000 mark, this will leave a lot of spare space. But good luck to them. Another visit west will have to come in the future then!

0103281057977500(The new UWE Stadium – looking like EVERY other new stadium design)

Despite John Ward propelling the side up the league last season, he has not been able to repeat the trick this time out. Only signing free players or loans, they got off to a bad start with only 1 point from the first 9. Having never been higher in the table than 11th all season, they were coming into this game down in 20th, only 3 points away from the relegation zone. It wasn’t much better for Morecambe either. Amazingly, since that win at Mansfield in November, the Shrimps have only won 4 out of the last 20 games which had seen them tumble down the table and were right in the shit too. You felt only 1 more win would be needed, maybe have a draw on top of that due to the number of teams down there, but games such as this one were matches we really had to win.

morecambe-2013-save-wide235-1239644_1600x900(Steve Mildenhall tips a shot over the bar in Morecambe’s 2-1 win over Rovers back in December)

Rovers had made a brave call the day before the game with John Ward moving up to the Director of Football position and Darrell Clarke, the former Salisbury City boss, coming in. While he would have wanted an excellent start, the first 45 minutes of the game were frankly shocking with Rovers resorting to rugby tactics to smash Morecambe off the park. Morecambe though, still looked in control with Andy Fleming and Tony Diagne both firing wide. Rovers looked a hopeless team, but with no real punch for Morecambe upfront, this looked night and day that it would finish 0-0. In fact the entertainment was being provided by the subs warming up in front of the away fans as they were dancing and being more entertaining than the 22 on the actual pitch.


Rovers did improve for the 2nd half and actually gave it a real go. While Morecambe did eventually bring Kevin Ellison and Jack Redshaw on, the service up to them wasn’t forthcoming and so they were fairly ineffectual. With the current bottom two of Northampton and Torquay losing both of their game though, 3 points would be absolutely massive in terms of the relegation battle. Morecambe couldn’t create anything to test Mildenhall and we came into injury time. A sloppy ball in midfield allowed Alefe Santos to run at us down the right. Tony Diagne made absolutely no challenge to try and stop the ball coming in which allowed the floated cross to be perfectly met by West Country journey man Kaid Mohamed to head home. Heartbreaking.


If this was one of those games were both teams lost, you probably wouldn’t be able to argue with that. An abysmal 90 minutes that barely deserved a goal but sadly it came. Morecambe since this game lost to Mansfield at home before putting a fine performance away at Fleetwood to come back with a 2-2 draw. The relegation battle however has tightened up with only 4 points separating 7 teams. With 4 games left against Scunthorpe, Hartlepool, AFC Wimbledon and Bury, Morecambe have it in their own hands to stay up, but will need to put in far better performances than they did for this game. It hasn’t got much better for Rovers either, with them now only 2 points off the relegation zone, it really is squeaky bum time.

Photos from Bristol Rovers vs Morecambe


Match Ratings:

- Match: 2/10 (best left forgotten)

- Value for money: 7/10 (normal concession prices are good to see)

- Ground: 5/10 (not a dreadful place but can’t see me coming back)

- Atmosphere: 4/10 (both sets of fans entertained themselves)

- Food: 7/10 (very good pasty)

- Programme: 7/10 (detailed and reasonable enough)

- Referee: Simon Hooper – 4/10 (slightly better than useless)

BR vs More prog

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Staines Town vs Bromley (25/03/14)

Match 227

Ground #: 179

Ground: Wheatsheaf Park

Competition: Skrill South (Level 6)

Kick Off: 7:45pm

Cost: £6 (concession)

Programme: £2.50

Attendance: 212

Staines Town 2

Dos Santos 16’, Theophanous 89’

Bromley 1

Waldren 41’


The beauty of the clocks going forward and the advent of the Spring season is that midweek football looks extremely more appealing again. Rather than standing in a ground and just trying to keep warm, you can actually enjoy the football and the surroundings. It was also timed perfectly to see the conclusion of the interesting looking Skrill South promotion chase as candidates #1, Bromley, were at Staines.


Staines-upon-Thames (or Staines) s a town on the River Thames in the borough of Spelthorne in Surrey. There has been a crossing of the River Thames at Staines since Roman times as when the Emperor Claudius sent the Romans into Britain in AD 43, they settled in Staines the same year. Soon afterwards the first Staines Bridge was constructed to provide an important Thames crossing point on the road from Londinium. The name Staines comes from the Old English, and means "the place at the stones". Between 1642 and 1648 during the Civil War, there were skirmishes on Staines Moor and numerous troop movements over Staines Bridge. The parish remained largely agricultural until the mid-19th century when it was a regular staging post with coaching inns. More modern history includes produces linoleum and Lagonda cars, but it is now more famously known for the character Ali G and his Staines Massif. It is also rumoured that Ali G’s popularity was a major reason for the town council changing the name of the place to Staines-upon-Thames to try and reduce the association with Sacha Baron Cohen’s character.

Ali-G-fingers-590x350(Any caption here would be too easy…)

Staines Town FC were founded in 1892 and played under various names such as Staines FC, Staines Albany and Staines Lagonda until they folded in 1935. Just before WW2, however the club reformed and were founding members of the Hellenic League in 1953. After doing well in both the Spartan League and Athenian League, they joined the Isthmian League 1st Division in 1973. After a quick promotion to the Premier Division, Staines spent a good 9 years up there before being demoted in 1984 due to ground grading rulings. Despite, coming back up, the club were relegated for the first time in their history in 1993 and then became a yo-yo club for a short period while their ground at Wheatsheaf Park was being worked upon.

staines(Wheatsheaf Park’s old Main Stand – taken from the Hopping all over the World blog)

Staines came back to a refurbed Wheatsheaf in February 2003 and won promotion back to the Premier Division that season. After play-off heartbreak the season before against AFC Wimbledon, Staines secured promotion to the Conference South in 2009 beating Carshalton Athletic where they have been ever since. Despite a good start in their first season at this level, finishing 8th in 2009/10, the Massive have faded over time and finished last season down in 18th, just 3 points off a relegation spot.


Wheatsheaf Park is said to be one of the most modern in the Skrill South (although, stated by a Staines fan) and it does look fairly impressive after its refurb in 2003. The Main Stand (see above) is the stand out part of the ground with its impressive views whilst also having a bar and Directors area attached onto it. Part of the upgrade at Wheatsheaf Park included the building of the Thames Club gym so the surrounding area and car park was extremely busy long before KO. Opposite the Main Stand is a smaller, low tiered covered terrace that is split into 3. Blocked by the dugouts for a large section of the ground, it wasn’t a particularly popular place to stand with even the Staines MASSIVE choosing to situate themselves in the Main Stand. Behind both goals were uncovered terraces with a few steps. Should Staines ever go up, these would be the first sides of the ground to be developed, although with one backing onto houses, it seems unlikely they could do that much.


Having narrowly avoided relegation last season, Staines were looking fairly comfortable going into this game to not have a nervous April fighting the drop. Being in 12th position, 14 points away from the relegation zone, Staines could play out the final few games in midtable. Something they may have gone for at the start of the season. Although with the playoff pack seemingly all trying to avoid the final play-off spot, a late serge from Staines, with a game in hand could help them nab an unlikely place. Managed by former Wimbledon legend Marcus Gayle, he was trying to breed a young side in the league and while it looked beyond them this season, they could be ones to watch in the coming years. Especially as he clearly has been given time by the owners to make his mark. (A manager given time!?)


This match was due to be played in February, right in the middle of the floods that turned large parts of Britain into Atlantis and the programme was this rearranged game was the original one with an insert. The original insert showed Bromley, top of the league, with an 11 point gap. At one stage it was 15 points as they looked dead certs to win the league and be playing Skrill Premier football. However, a shocking March which saw them lose 4 in a row to Sutton United, Chelmsford City, Dover Athletic and Farnborough along with Eastleigh’s fantastic form which has seen 1 defeat in 9 saw Bromley lose the top spot in the table the weekend before. Yet, in another twist in the South title race, Eastleigh came to Staines and could only manage a 0-0 draw to give Bromley a 1 point lead at the top. Eastleigh though, still had two games in hand.

bradwhite(Happier times from Bromley with the late win at Whitehawk in December)

Despite the big difference in places between the two sides, from kick off it was clear that they were both evenly matched. Bromley obviously needing the win went for it with Staines happy to sit and soak up pressure before countering with the pacy wingers. Chasing the game too much seems to have hurt Bromley in recent matches and it did so again on 16 minutes after Sanchez Ming bombed forward down the right and his dangerous ball saw the Bromley defenders stand still to watch Jerson Dos Santos stoop a header past Joe Welch in the Bromley net. Bromley really really went for it from then as Staines seemed unable to get the ball forward that their early promise showed. The Saaf London club had a few sights on goal before equalising just before HT when Danny Waldren slid in from Ali Fuseini’s cross. A point was not good enough for Bromley and you felt the 2nd half would be a key 45 minutes in the title race.


Bromley continued where they left off by peppering the Staines goal and forced Staines goalie Jack Turner into some excellent saves. One thing however the home defence did do well for the 2nd half was keep Bromley top scorer Bradley Goldberg quiet as he could not get into the game. Staines however with 20 minutes to go brought on Bajram Pashaj to try and get something better than a point that the club were barely hanging onto. Pashaj had already made a few darting runs late on as Bromley were throwing more and more men forward to try and snatch the winner that would be so crucial. Yet, it happened. On 89 minutes Bromley launched forward only for Staines to counter. Someone needed to bring Pashaj down and take the yellow card but they just kept back-pedalling as Staines got closer to goal. When someone did try and make a tackle, it was too late. Pashaj had already fed Staines top scorer Louie Theophanous who skipped past one tackle before firing a late winner against his old club. Staines were delighted as Bromley couldn’t believe they had actually lost this. Yet another twist in the title race.


With Eastleigh winning that night 6-0 against Dorchester, they went back to the top of the league. However, both sides have not been on top form recently since this game with Bromley labouring to a 1-1 draw at Eastbourne Borough before a 1-0 defeat at Havant & Waterlooville means they are 6 points behind Eastleigh who have a game in hand. The Eastleigh boys haven’t been in great form themselves however and with the major crunch game between Bromley and Eastleigh coming up, that will probably decide if the title race is still on. Don’t forget Sutton United though as their usual end of season excellent run has seen them launch up to 2nd, only 5 points behind the leaders.


I’m still not sure how Staines won this game but it was entertaining to watch. A lovely club who gave me a more than friendly welcome are now only 4 points outside the play-offs after starting an eight game unbeaten run. Could they actually achieve it? Level 6 has given me some dreadful games and grounds in the past, but the quality really looks to have improved over the recent seasons. This was another one that wasn’t an exception. Booyakasha!

Photos from Staines Town vs Bromley


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6/10 (entertaining right till the end)

- Value for money: 8/10 (better concession value than a fair few grounds below)

- Ground: 6/10 (smart enough and does the job)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (Bromley boys back in numbers and in noise)

- Food: 3/10 (clear candidate for worst burger of the season sadly)

- Programme: 3/10 (a shell that contained an insert within an insert. At least it was right up to date)

- Referee: Andrew Laver – 5/10 (a yellow card might have calmed the game down slightly)

ST vs BFC prog

ST vs BFC stub

Friday, 4 April 2014

Poland vs Scotland (05/03/14)

Match 225

Ground #: 178

Ground: Stadion Narodowy

Competition: International Friendly

Kick Off: 8:45pm

Cost: £12

Programme: Free (VIPs/Press Only)

Attendance: 41,652

Poland 0

Scotland 1

Brown 77’


International friendlies are never ones to get the fans excited. Some of those “exciting” destinations that Scotland have been to in recent years include Koper, Cardiff, Molde and Larnaca. Racking up the points as a TA Member though means you need to do the less glamorous games to watch the sexy ones as Scotland go for Euro 2016 qualification. Therefore, Scotland’s first game of 2014, in Poland was always one I was going to attend. Szkocja w trasie!


With the game taking place at the newly built National Stadium it was off to the Polish capital. Warsaw is the largest city in Poland, lying on the Vistula River and the 9th most populous city in the EU. Warsaw is an important economic hub in Eastern Europe and is known as the “phoenix city” because it has survived so many wars throughout its history, such as the major rebuilt after WW2 when 80% of its buildings had been destroyed after the Siege of Warsaw by the Nazis.


I’m normally not one to slate places completely, but I did find Warsaw a strange place. The painstaking rebuild has been completed to a brilliant quality, but even in the Old Town you can see that it’s not truly “old” compared to say, Zagreb. The layout is also strange with a square and Communist feel that sort of sadly detracts from the place. Me and the Missus left there thinking we hadn’t actually done that much in the two nights we stayed there, but then, that wasn’t that much to do. Krakow (our 2nd stop on the Poland tour) was far more lively and I am awaiting a quick return there to catch the Wisla Krakow vs Cracovia derby.


Poland’s national side have always been noticeable on the international stage since their first international back in 1921. (A 1-0 defeat to Hungary) Plodding through friendlies easily enough, they qualified for the 1938 World Cup and gave Brazil a fantastic game in the 1st Round, losing 6-5 A.E.T. After WW2, they did qualify for the 1958 World Cup, only to pull out. However, Polish football rocketed forward with the appointment of Kazimierz Górski in 1970. Winning Olympic Gold in 1972 at Munich before the brilliant 3rd place at the 1974 World Cup. After eliminating England in qualifying, they dispatched of Argentina, Haiti and Italy in the Group Stage before the 2nd Group Phase. After wins over Sweden and Yugoslavia, only West Germany needed to be beaten to pick up a likely World Cup win (calm down Holland), a late Gerd Müller goal sent W.Germany into the final and Poland had to settle for 3rd place after beating Brazil.

WC74_21S(Jan Tomaszewski saves a Uli Hoeness penalty in that W.Germany game but 0-0 isn’t enough…)

The 1978 World Cup saw Poland disappointingly crash out in Round 2 with a group containing Argentina, Brazil and Scotland’s destroyers Peru. 1982 however got Poland back into the 3rd best side in World football at the World Cup in Spain. After that tournament however, the great players such as Zbigniew Boniek and Grzegorz Lato retired and 1986 saw an earlier exit before complete tournament wilderness until 2002. Poor performances at Japan/Korea as well as at 2006 WC and 2008 Euros as well as their own home tournament in 2012 saw them enter into the 2014 World Cup qualifiers not in the best spirits.


Despite a decent looking group containing England, Ukraine, Montenegro, Moldova and San Marino, the Poles slumped into 4th position, a massive 8 points behind 2nd place Ukraine. Their away form was what let them down with no wins apart from the guaranteed San Marino points and saw them drop far down the rankings. They have class in their side though with Bundesliga hotshots Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Błaszczykowski able to grab goals from any situation, but the rest of the squad do appear to be run of the mill players which was highlighted in the recent WC qualifiers. This friendly though had been spiced up by the recent Euro 2016 draw that tied Scotland and Poland to meet again, so this friendly took on more significance than when it had first been announced in December.


The National Stadium in Warsaw has only recently been restored to former glory after being reopened (and reconstructed) for the Euros in 2012 mentioned above. The old Stadion Dziesięciolecia on the site closed in 1983 as even then the stadium was dilapidated with no funds to fix it. Then the stadium became Jarmark Europa, the largest open air market in Europe with a major black market presence apparently as locals named the place the “Russian Market”. While the National Side played on, with major games at Silesian Stadium in Chorzów, the Euros coming into town, meant that along with the National Stadium in Kiev, Poland’s major showpiece needed upgrading too.

506b98e22016e25134a7ec14fabe73a2,641,0,0,0(The old Stadion Dziesięciolecia)

What replaced it, is possibly the best professional stadium I have ever been to. An imposing structure that you can see through the city and looks even better at night all lit up in white and red. Inside, a brilliant bowl that provides excellent views all around with concourses that just ooze space. It’s hard to describe as the ground is similar all around and some of the football purists may not like the slick look. But this is a brilliant venue, made even better for this game with the roof closed so both sets of fans could get their noise heard.


For the game, both sides were missing key players as Poland lacked the Bundesliga hotshots due to injury, while Scotland also were missing Robert Snodgrass and James McArthur who could have added another dimension to the squad. The game from the start was dirge, as international friendlies ALWAYS are this time of year. One of the extremely pleasing things to see though was the confidence Scotland had to knock it around the park, whilst not creating much, it kept the ball away from Poland and irritated the home fans. Poland missed their creativity as they looked distinctly average, although Ludovic Obraniak forced David Marshall into an excellent save to tip his long range effort over. Arkadiusz Milik also forced Marshall to react to a long range effort as this seemed to be the only route that they were going to score with. As it happened, Scotland nearly snatched an unlikely goal just before half time when Wojciech Szczesny had to cut out a cross from Alan Hutton with players lining up to score. It wasn’t great, but we weren’t behind at HT!


Scotland knocked the ball about again for the 2nd half as Darren Fletcher coming on added even more stability to the midfield. However, without something really creative, we did miss someone to push through the home defence. Poland couldn’t either however as long shots weren’t even getting on target now as Marshall had it easy. That should have changed on 58 minutes however when Kamil Glik had a free header from a free kick but powered it wide of the post. And despite 0-0 looking safe, Scotland grabbed a brilliant winner on 77 minutes. Ikechi Anya had whipped a ball in which was only cleared to the edge of the area where Scott Brown lashed a half volley into the top corner which Szczesny didn’t even move for. Poland, stunned, tried to rally, but created very little late on as Scotland’s excellent form continued to make it unbeaten in 5 games!


So another country visited with Scotland and another win! Whilst Poland will be very different for the qualifying match back in Warsaw in October, so will Scotland and I’m quietly confident we can take the 2nd qualifying spot to get to the Euros. Warsaw is a strange city, but has a fantastic National Stadium that I can only recommend visiting. I’ll have to be back, I missed the Pepsi Arena (the home of Legia Warsaw) and the purchase of their famous green shirt. It was an impressive performance from Scotland and as leaving the ground to get the bus back into the centre of Warsaw, I could hear the Tartan Army leaving with the sounds of “we’ll be coming! We’ll be coming down the road!” On this improvement of performance, we actually might. Get ready France.

Photos from Poland vs Scotland


Match Ratings:

- Match: 3/10 (international friendly, in March, this was never going to be good)

- Value for money: 8/10 (£12 is great value for internationals)

- Ground: 9/10 (a brilliant stadium, except for the lack of alcohol in the ground)

- Atmosphere: 8/10 (roof helped keep it in)

- Food: 7/10 (was decent grub and as throughout Poland, well priced)

- Programme: N/A – programmes were only available to press and VIPs and have currently gone for £50+ on eBay. I might get one, one day.

- Referee: Alain Bieri – 7/10 (little to do really, did it fine)

Poland vs Scotland stub