Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015: A year in the life of a misanthropic cynic.

Ian 'Lemmy' Kilmister R.I.P

2015: A year in the life of a misanthropic cynic.
Life is a roller-coaster just gotta ride it. Na,na,na, na. Na, na, na, na. Na, na, na, na. Na, na, na, na.
In total I attended 187 football matches in 2015, I didn't blog about a lot of them, but every game I've watched this season has been covered on THE66POW, after a fashion.
My negligence wasn't down to the fact that I'm a lazy and unmotivated slob (although I most definitely am one at times), it was because I was otherwise preoccupied doing 'stuff at a football club', or driving round for hours on end... and I spent way too much time focussing my energies elsewhere, in the wrong sort of places, for far too long. 
But hey, we all live and learn. I hope.
Incidentally, focussing can be spelt with one s in it or two, it is a matter of personal preference, but spelled should never be spelled spelt. 
Hold on tight, I am doing my best to offer you some grammatical enlightenment here.
Matters arising in 2015.
Only 12 year old girls suffering with their first real tummy ache and underwear problems resort to settling their differences on social media, but sometimes it is very amusing to watch old people trying to use all of this new fangled technology stuff and making a complete arse of themselves, while failing to grasp even the basic concept and protocols of etiquette and banter.
The same could be said of bloggers, particularly those of an opinionated bent, who cover 'the beautiful game'.
Shooting from the lip in the aftermath of a game, venting your spleen and getting hundreds upon hundreds of of online views before having had the time to think: "Whoops! That was a bit clumsy/harsh", can't half arouse a whole lot of angst among any number of overly sensitive folk.
If I'm ever in any doubt, I save my posts on draft for 24 hours (or longer) before seeing if I still feel vexed in the cold light of the next day (or the one after that), it saves having to amend, moderate, or tone anything down.
I can't remember the last time I ever did such a thing mind you.
But you have got to call things as you see them, always... and if that upsets anyone, as long as it is because the truth hurts, rather than because they've been on the end of a vindictive and unwarranted character assassination, I have no problem with that whatsoever.
This blog isn't about creating controversy, but I'd be untrue to myself if I didn't at least try to report on the full facts, as I see them and merely presented a diluted version of events instead.
I've had a few digs aimed at me via social media recently, but not by anybody who would say the same kind of crap to me face to face, so hey ho!
I grew up as part of a generation where 'sticks and stones' rules applied, I'm from a time not so long ago (relatively speaking) when stepping out into the car park to resolve differences was all the rage.
As a consequence online knee jerk over reaction, cyber sulking and keyboard warrior fantasy battles aren't my thing.
That sort of stuff's all a bit snide, sneaky and cowardly if you ask me.
Put up or shut up!
Need I say more?

My involvement in football 2015-16:
I 'retired' from working at Staveley Miners Welfare during the close season, because my duties there were clashing head on with my real job and everyone needs a livelihood when all is said and done. 
Having said (and I shook hands on it too) that if I started the 2015-16 season at Staveley, I would also finish it there too (and I am a man of my word), the exact timing of my exit had to be a major consideration in any decision.
But, I did wait until a friend of mine was able to resume her duties at the club, after taking time out to deal with a personal matter. 
I really wanted (and probably needed) to get out much sooner; at half time, during an away game at Tadcaster Albion on Tuesday 21st April to be precise, when my positions(s) at the club became untenable in my eyes, but it isn't in my nature to leave a mate in the lurch.
It was good at Staveley for a time, the 12 game unbeaten run (including 11 consecutive wins) and some decent away days on the booze were fun, but 'nowt lasts forever.
I now 'do my bit' for the Mansfield Town website and programme, with my main focus being on the Under 18 side who play on Saturday lunchtimes.
Which either frees me up to get to the Stags first team games on a Saturday afternoon, or gives me enough time to go off gallivanting elsewhere, anywhere in fact, within a couple of hours drive of wherever that day's Football League Youth Alliance fixture is being played.
And I'm sure that most people who feel inclined to have a look at this sort of blog from time to time, will realise that I'm the kind of guy who doesn't actually need any excuse to attend more than one game, on almost every Saturday during the season.
The club didn't have an assistant press officer when I first stood in to do these duties with the development side, but even now that they have employed one, everyone is more than happy to leave me alone to get on with whatever it is I do... it's a win, win situation for all concerned.
A soppy old love song. MWAH!
And it doesn't encroach on the time I need to devote to my full time paid employment for 'a world class company' elsewhere, in any way, shape or form whatsoever.
When I left Staveley, I decided that I'd done enough jobs at football clubs for one lifetime.
I've been involved at various levels of the game, on and off, since 1983 for what it's worth, when I was still 19. I don't have letters after my name and I'm nowt special, but I've done alright for both myself and several clubs I have covered a variety or roles for, over many years.
But Mansfield Town FC is very special to me, and I didn't hesitate to answer the polite hint to give them 'a bit of a hand' positively, when the call came.
In fact the timing couldn't have been any better for me.
Previously I used to do stuff for the Stags matchday programme back in the 1990's anyway, for both Jack Retter and Mick Saxby, so it is familiar territory to me. 
It's good to be back, especially as I'm working alongside some long term good friends, who take the word 'reliable' up to a whole new level.
My back is covered at all times... and they know that theirs are too. 
It wasn't always that way elsewhere.
Around the turn of the year, I told the Staveley chairman that there is only one guarantee in non league football and that is: one day you will move on and regardless of how good a job you have done for any club, or how amicable things were when you parted company with them, eventually, usually sooner rather than later, a whole load of acrimony will start creeping in and you'll be right in the line of fire to cop for it all. 
He said that wouldn't be the case there. 
Hmm, the jury have gone out to deliberate over that one.
The 2015-16 season has been massively enjoyable, with more to come and at this moment in time, I wouldn't want things any other way. 
My colours are nailed to my own mast... and that of Mansfield Town.
Some people seem to think otherwise, but that just shows how little they really know about me.
I'm very loyal to my real friends who are scattered around the game, in pretty much the same way as they are towards me.
We all know that we're always available for one another, if we ever need anything.
As I might have mentioned previously, loyalty is a two way street, that is how football really works, though there are far too many people within the game who don't understand this simple and easy to apply ethos.
Treat people as you would like to be treated yourself and you won't go far wrong, or make many enemies, apart from among the ranks of bitter bastards, who aren't worth bothering about anyway.
Around the world in 365 days:
Staveley's was really good last season and Mansfield Town's is excellent this season.
They're obviously the best ones, by a mile... but that stands to reason ;-)
AFC Mansfield, Bridlington Town, Cleethorpes Town, Heanor Town, Handsworth Parramore, Ollerton Town, Rainworth MW, Rossington Main, Staveley MW and Worksop Town produce programmes that are worth buying this season, with plenty of reading material in them.
Newark Town and Swallownest Miners Welfare Under 19s have some decent articles in their matchday publications too.
Obviously I can only go on what I've actually seen this season, so if I have omitted to mention your tome, I either haven't been to see you play yet, I didn't get hold of a copy when I came to your ground, some clubs only produce the kind of journal that satisfies league rule book criteria but 'nowt else, I mislaid it on my way home (one of the perils of sleeping on trains), or I just thought that your programme was shit and/or too expensive for what it was; but I'm feeling far too benevolent to name and shame you.
The last time I checked, nearly all of the blogs in the sidebar on the right hand side of this page were still active and the vast majority of them are worthy of your attention.
In the main, I tend to check out the ones that are put together by people I know in person (which is actually quite a lot of the authors/scribes/writers, or whatever handle they choose to use), or those who mainly feature games within what I would consider to be my local(ish) geographical radius, though there are a few exceptions to those loosely applied rules.
Some bloggers are currently having a hiatus, or have already been on one, but I have left them on my index because the stuff they have already posted in still essential reading in my humble opinion.
You have to go with the flow with this stuff and if it stops being fun, or becomes a chore, or you just don't feel the inclination to keep your football travels diary up to date any more, then it is best to take time out and not force it.
But when you close the door behind you, don't throw away the key. 
I'm glad I didn't! A bit of cathartic whinging now and again is good for the soul.
As is a change of scenery now and then and some time out.
The blogs that I read most often, as links,
in alphabetical order:
100 Grounds Club
Damage in the box
Football wherever it may be
Lost Boyos
On the road 2015-16
Pie and mushy peas
Stag of Herts
The Groundhopper
The itinerant football watcher
The Wycombe Wanderer
Viking Hopper - En groundhoppers bekjennelser
We all stand together
Welfare Waffle
Where's the tea hut
Non football blogs:
Back in the fire
I'm bound to have missed one or two people and their labours of love out, but if I did and there is a link to your blog on my static index, give over moaning, you get more than enough free publicity already.

John Bradbury R.I.P

THE66POW: the next phase 2016
If the long term weather forecasts are correct (I have to use the most accurate data possible, because I work outdoors, with some fairly high voltage equipment, "Water and electricity don't mix my lad!"), then there is probably only going to be a limited amount of football played in the near future.
A week is a long time in football, but a week without it is quite unthinkable.
There are regular haunts and a rota of people who I like to stay in touch with on my travels, but I am feeling the urge to push out further afield and visit some previously uncharted territory once the weather picks up.
I've been taken aback with how steeply (and rapidly) the viewing stats for the blog have soared this season. I can't put my finger on why that is, because to be honest, a lot of it is barely relevant to a people outwith my usual geographical sweep and circle of friends, associates, colleagues and the omnipresent clutch of adversaries. 
But I must be doing something right, I suppose. 
Thanks for taking the time to peruse this chain of thought, self indulgent 'rabbiting on', it is comforting to know that I am not alone in needing this hobby/addiction to fill in the blanks in my otherwise unfulfilled existence. 
Get help while you still can, it is already too late for some of us.
Targeted terrain:
I've decided against travelling overseas this year and won't be going anywhere near the Euro 2016 tournament in France.
These big events attract too many of the wrong sort of England fans.
I don't just mean the drunks, hell bent on creating havoc, but the naive ones... who don't understand the rules of engagement or have the required level of suss to extricate themselves from becoming involved in an atmosphere of rapidly changing unpleasant situations, that can seemingly flare up out of nothing... are to be avoided too.
For sure there will be some time served wise old heads around, but although day trippers and first timers are common place at Wembley internationals and they help to generate an atmosphere at those games, the same sort of people just get under your feet when you really need to have your wits about you on a tour abroad.
Off the beaten track, some of the places in France where England have played previously, can get really grim, especially at nighttime and in spite of the apparent 'gentrification' of the national teams followers of late, we are still regarded overseas as a desirable scalp to take, quite literally in some places.
The 'lads holiday crowd' who'll doubtless tag along, with Euro 2016 being staged so close to home, are akin to the loons who spoil Christmas drinking in pubs, by trying to consume as much beer as possible once a year, while the regular clientele tip toe around all of the carnage and broken glass.
It's not for me.
I'm older (yet still no wiser these days), but I'm not that bloody daft.
How will England fair?
I reckon they'll get through the group stage and won't actually embarrass themselves beyond that, though it needs to be said, I do have a lot of faith in Roy Hodgson.
The England team isn't anywhere near the finished article, but they're not alone in that. 
There are obviously stronger teams in the tournament, but the draw and seeding suggests that Hodgson's side could reach the semi finals this time, then it's dare to dream time.
Having gone on record as saying the national team won't win another major tournament in my life time (I wasn't being unpatriotic or disloyal, just realistic), but one day, fingers crossed, I hope that I can say, that I was wrong.
But I'm digressing. Again.
I'm checking out guest houses in the West of Scotland and East Anglia, with a provisional list of around a dozen grounds on my radar, that I've never visited before.
Sadly, I've already done all of the grounds on this years organised Scottish Lowland League Ground hop event, because last years trip was one of the highlights of the whole year.
I often deny categorically that I'm a ground hopper (is it one word or two? Or should it be hyphenated maybe?), but I have come to accept that there are many, many far worse things I could be.
Whoop! Whoop! 
He's nearly finished I hear you cry.
Just the one honourable mention before I go.
THE66POW player of the year:
Keiran Wells, Handsworth Parramore.
I'm not convinced that is the correct spelling of his Christian name... and I'm quite sure he won't be either.
This lad would run through a brick wall to get to the ball and with age on his side his best years are still ahead of him.
His enthusiasm is infectious.
Wellsy is a nutcase, but I mean that in the nicest possible way.
Keep sticking 'em in pal and clattering past (or going through) anybody that gets in your way.
It would be nice to name-check and give big kudos to a lot of great people, who I have shared my year in football with, but there are far too many of them. 
I dare say you're all modest enough to know who you are, without me having to sing your praises though.
I salute you all!