Thursday, 23 June 2011

2010-11 - Did the earth move for you?

Main stand Darlington Railway Athletic, demolished during 2010-11

This post was intended to be serialised and segmented. But the person who puts this blog together is too lazy to edit the text, making it more easily digestible for you.
Last season. Hit, miss, or maybe?
(including musical accompaniment)
Well, this season will live on long in the memory ... until at least July 2011 ... as one that was ransacked by the winter climate, which threw all it could muster at the fixture list with a vengeance.
I have a vague recollection of 1978-79 being a bad winter for postponements, but it didn't seem to last as long as this truly 'orrible one did.
Snow, travel chaos, impassable roads, a gridlocked and grinding to a standstill rail network, more snow, the big freeze, thawing and floods, pitches struggling to cope with a backlog of games, Saturday afternoon's sat watching decimated fixture lists vanishing before my eyes on t'internet, knowing full well that no games had really survived, but that there are some clubs who have a very lackadaisical approach to keeping even the very basic of information updated on their websites.
Ah, winter sport, it rocks ... like a dozen Lemmy's in an amphetamine mine.

Of course, the lobby for changing British football into a summer sport reared their silly heads again as a consequence of all of the above.
Err ... no thanks, shurrup, crawl back under your stone and stay there.
When will these misguided souls realise, the frustration factor, the inconvenience, the 11th hour and 53rd minute postponements, the influenza, the discomfort, the icy blasts, the saturation and losing at least two toes per season through Hypothermia is all part of the fun?
The game itself is a peripheral distraction by contrast to the fun you can have driving back 180 miles through the night, listening to the radio telling you to 'Only go outdoors if your journey is completely necessary', on your way home from a reserves cup tie in some obscure corner of the universe, where the locals are so 'unsophisticated' they still point in wonderment at passing aircraft and don't let the protocols of the western world interfere with their local customs too much, such as harbouring that ambition to grow a full beard just like the one the Grandma has ... yes, I have been to Seahouses!

There is nothing quite so warming on an austere winter night as that inner glow provided by the knowledge that the 79th minute floodlight failure that caused the game to be abandoned means you'll be able to make this character building trip up here again next week too, for the rearranged date ... Ready Brek could never hit that spot.
Especially at that point where you hear that all too familiar juddering of a flat tyre rattling along that unlit stretch of the A1 where the road surface resembles an unkempt farm track (just north of Alnwick) and you remember in an instant, that you haven't been to the garage to buy that replacement spare tyre yet, after a similar incident on this same stretch of road not more than two weeks ago on the way home from Berwick Rangers (postponed).
Ah, this cheery anecdote reminds me of the time the storms threw a caravan out of a roadside garden and into the nearside wing of the car I was a passenger in on the storm lashed A68 en route to Scottish Cup tie at Partick Thistle ... but that was covered in the 2004-05 end of season blog report on my previous on line football travelogue A Man For All Seasons , so I know you'll all be familiar with that tale (surely you remember that!?) and recollect how Phil Stamp nearly scored for Hearts in the 93rd minute with their only tangible effort on goal in the 93rd minute of a dour 0-0 draw that we sneezed and snuffled our way through when we eventually reached Glasgow.
You surely all recall the consequences of the driver falling asleep at the wheel on the way home near Thirsk on the A1 ... I'll certainly never forget them, or the grinding sound the car made along the metal barrier on the hard shoulder, or the missing teeth.
Oddly enough I've never let Dave drive to Scotland again, I always insist on the doing the honours now.
We caught the train up to the replay!
But I digress.
We've survived until the summer of 2011, albeit by some miracle on a scary night back January 2005 and it's time to stop drifting off topic and reflect on the highs and lows of an eventful 2010-11 season.
So without further ado ...
THE66POW team of the season - Yorkshire Main.
Their four trophy haul says it all, no amount of superlative praise from this semi literate humble scribe can big Main's accomplishments up any more than the silverware on display in their compact, yet very welcoming clubhouse at their Edlington based ground, which is, I'm happy to report, a mere 15 minute drive from my homestead.
Yorkshire Main's entertainment first philosophy impressed me no end and seemed to be based loosely around the following game-plan:
If we go behind, keep attacking until we go in front. If we go in front, keep attacking and scoring, there is no such thing as too many goals.
The north/south split in the Central Midlands League next season will throw up quite a few interesting fixtures and more than a few one sided mismatches too I dare say ... I'm not a gambling man, but if I was, I'd already be backing the Edlo side to be strong contenders for the Northern title.
For the record, Kirkby Town are looking good to be in the running for the Southern section.
But what do I know, eh!?
Besides Yorkshire Main, Unity FP (formerly Hucknall Town Unity) were a joy to watch.
Hard work, togetherness, impeccable behaviour , sporting ethics par excellence, sheer class and ability in abundance out on the field of play ... there is much that many other clubs could learn from watching how Unity did things this last season.
I personally can't speak highly enough of their set up, aims and motivation and how they've conducted themselves on and off the pitch.
Special merit mentions to Alan Avery, Morris Samuels MBE and old Ritchie Whatisname ;-) at Unity.
And let's not forget Staveley MW, a bit too close to Chesterfield for my liking, but firing on all cylinders and progressing rapidly year after year.
Their Inkersall Road home is coming on a treat too.
Ignore their meteoric rise at your peril ... you have been warned.

Goal of the season - Stevie Owens for Mattersey FC v Rainworth Rangers, in the Notts FA Minor Cup Final.
An extra time match winning pearl of a goal, the like of which that should be shown time and time again on TV along with the Cruyff turn, Gordon Banks defying Pele from point blank range, Austin McCann's net buster for Hearts against Celtic in 2002-03, Archie Gemmill's dribble and strike v Holland in 1978, van Basten and Gullitt dismantling the Russians circa 1988 and *that* goal a Russian linesman gave at Wembley v West Germany, in a game that would have finished 3-2 to England otherwise (the year of which escapes me right now) ... however, the TV cameras weren't at Clipstone Welfare's Lido Ground the night Mattersey FC won the cup and as a consequence all you lovers of the beautiful game out there reading this rambling prose will just have to take my word for it (and that of a handful of other people present) that this moment was something a bit special.

Favourite ground visited - I love Wembley Stadium, I'm not always fond of some of the people that frequent it (only a small minority I hasten to add), but I've turned avoiding imbeciles into an art form these past few years and they seldom interfere with my trips to the national stadium, or anywhere else for that matter, at all these days.
Of course, the best way to visit Wembley is with the North Notts England Fans, watch this blog for future announcements about discounted travel and match tickets ... you know you want to!!!
In spite of my love of the national stadium, I still like to visit 'proper' old fashioned grounds with a bit of character too.
To that end it's a shame that Hayes & Yeading United are moving home because their ground ticked all the requisite boxes for me in big red indelible ink slashes, but it wouldn't be fair of me to ask them to stay just because I've visited once and liked it, so good luck wherever you end up H&YFC.
The padded seats at the Emirates Stadium were very nice (at a price) but if I wanted to go to a luxury theatre I'd go to the West End (as is my wont) and I prefer to watch football in slightly less plush surrounds to be honest.
Note to the Emirates Stadium manager, they have escalators at Wembley for the upper tier and free chilled water dispensers when you get up there. I had to lend Sherpa Tenzing my inhaler so he could complete the ascent to his seat in the upper west at Ashburton Grove.

Good stuff - After three years of playing in exile (at Hucknall, Ilkeston and Retford), Worksop Town return to their home-town next season as tenants to Worksop Parramore at their old ground. Worksop Parramore, formerly Sheffield Parramore and prior to that even, Parramore Sports, won promtion to the NCEL by winning the CMFL Supreme division last season.
This is great news for everybody involved. And the people I've met from Parramore are all very friendly, polite and very enthusiastic about the move.
Good luck to Worksop Parramore and the Tigers, here's hoping the ground share and both clubs respective seasons go as well as is possible.
It's a shame Retford United had to slide voluntarily into the NCEL for next season, but it was the common sense thing to do ... and fingers crossed, 2011-12 can be about the football this time around, instead of feuding, bickering and in fighting amongst the supporters.
By appointing Brett Marshall as frst team manager the Badgers have taken a big step in the right direction on the road to recovery.
Welcome back to that team up t'road from my house Brett and good luck for the season ahead.

Let down of the season - Nobody really expected the Stags to win at Wembley ... did you?
But it would've been nice if they had managed to put in something resembling a half decent performance on the day instead of going missing in action.
A few of the usually more prominent players simply failed to shine on the big stage and to be frank, only a couple of players were fit to wear the amber and blue on the day ... even then, one of them, Alan Marriott's goalkeepers kit was a different colour anyway.
It's a cruel way to lose a game, conceding the only goal of the game in the 32nd minute of extra time, but to be fair to Darlington, Mansfield didn't deserve to win.
Not even on penalties.
As for the Stags manager at the time Duncan Russell, I won't be too scathing, he was after all just a stop gap appointment after David Holdsworth left Field Mill (good riddance), but while off the field events over shadowed everything on the pitch at MTFC last season, it was fairly obvious to even the most biased Mansfield Town supporter, that a day out at Wembley was merely a distraction from some pretty grim realities and you can't paper over cracks (or chasms) of that magnitude.
Some of the football the Stags played under the temporary manager was abysmal. I'd go so far as to say that the slapstick capers on display during a 0-4 reversal at Hayes and Yeading United, must rate as the worse performance I have ever seen from a Mansfield side.
And believe me I've witnessed some shockers over the years.
New manager Paul Cox (from Eastwood Town) comes with a good pedigree in non league football and has made some interesting signings and appointments. Fingers crossed he's getting the blend right to at least challenge for a play off place in Division 5.
But it's a hell of a division to get back out of (in an upward direction anyway) once you've dropped out of the Football League and into the non league game.
Not that Football League status is the holy grail it once was any longer. The BSP/Conference/Alliance Premier is now one of the most fiercely competitive and entertaining divisions in the country.
It's certainly going to be more interesting next season than watching games on Sky TV to see which mega rich club can buy the Premier League title next season or even worse, which end of the Glaswegian spectrum representing the ugly sectarian divide in Scotland will win the duopoly that is the SPL ... Zzzzzzzzzzzz!

Friendliest club - Harworth CI, for both first team and Under 19's games.
Closely followed yet again by Staveley MW.
One of these clubs is in North Notts and I've got some good mates there, the other, as previously mentioned, is near Chesterfield, which kind of swung the result in this category, despite the welcome you're always guaranteed at the north Derbyshire club.

Under 19's - I started the 2010-11 season as Secretary for the Worksop Town Under 19's, it was fun for a while, but I sacked that role off in November, because it just wasn't working out for me personally and didn't fit around my job and other commitments.

Best programme - A tie, between Mansfield Town (a great read and would've won outright if they had dropped the lipstick dollies in Stags shirts, page 3 silliness) and the Free Lions programmes that the Football Supporters Federation and England Fans produce for all England games, home and away.
Free Lions is very informative and a Godsend to any supporter who travels to games home or away. I have every issue of Free Lions, because I managed to pick up the only one missing from my collection for 20p off ebay last week ... I was quite pleased with that bargain to say the least :-) I knew you'd all want to know that and will be just as thrilled as I am.
If you go to Wembley and can't find where they are handing out these free fanzine type programmes, head up to the Green Man pub where England Fans have a stall set up, distributing their publication and selling other merchandise.

Worst things to happen in 2010-11:
Auntie Jen's illness :-( life isn't fair, cruel shit like that never happens to bad people.
Ariane Forster sadly passed away in October.
The criminal activities of certain Hearts players have badly stained the reputation and integrity of the club ... and the custodians of HMFC don't exactly seem to be making a good job of restoring the untold damage that has been caused. It's absolutely disgraceful what's gone on and shameful if the club don't off load the perpetrators with immediate effect. Yet there are still people out there who are prepared to take the stance of apologists for the behaviour of a convicted paedophile. It beggars belief!
Adele was allowed to produce music and release records, let us face facts here and now ... she's rubbish!
Any road, I'm off for now, enjoy what's left of the summer.
It'll soon be 2011-12 :-D