Thursday, 16 June 2016

2015-16 and all that

My season:
It's about me (not you).  
An unashamed attempt at giving self indulgence a really bad name.
Remember kids, their is no ceiling to the heights that you can scale, when you rise, soar even, above any crap, lies and hatred that might be aimed your way, by people who you have no time, respect or regard for; whilst giving their vitriolic words and astringent actions precisely the correct amount of due attention that they actually warrant, i.e. none whatsoever!
On a person level, the 2015-16 season, without any shadow of doubt, coincided with one of the most enjoyable and rewarding years that I have ever experienced.
It seems to have just flown by and I'm already chomping at the bit for the next chapter to unfold.
And that is due, in the main, to the calibre of people that I shared both my life and the football season with.
I'm immensely proud of having done my bit (plus extras) with the Mansfield Town U18 team (and the first team match day programme and website) this season... and it was a massive bonus that they also won the Football League Youth Alliance (North East) championship, at the first time of asking, into the bargain too.
Obviously, development is the key for football in this particular age group and it should never be just about winning, but although at some levels of the game, that ethos is the be all and end all of everything that is held dear, this is a Football League club, where the lads are on the verge of first team selection, straight into the professional game, at any time, possibly at very short notice, so learning how win games and avoid defeat, is a very important part of the same learning curve too, because results do matter in the real mans game.
Striking the correct balance is the key.
And to that end, every single box has well and truly been ticked.
The self discipline, well mannered personalities and good habits of the youngsters at the Stags academy are all already in place and it pleases me no end that the Stags manager, Adam Murray, believes in the club's development infrastructure enough to have taken several players under his first team wing this season.
The professionalism and laid back, easy to get on with approach of the people I work alongside regularly, means that my role(s) is (are) always a pleasure and never a chore.
And the parents, relatives and friends of the players, along with the regular clique of supporters who turn out to support the youngsters, who I have spent a great deal of time with this season, have proved to be great company; which makes for a lot of fun. both on and off the pitch... and we've share some great experiences together. And one or two pretty crappy ones too, granted, but I won't dwell on Hartlepool United away or the cold and windy morning in the pissing rain at Arnold Town, against Notts County.
It's character building stuff sometimes, innit?
For sure, there is definitely a time for both work and play, but the right ingredients and mix, make for a very tasty, desirable and culturally appropriate dish... and my appetite is insatiable.
The 2015-16 term was like taking a lung full of fresh air.
It's been a joy to work in such an ego free environment, where people share responsibilities, trust each others judgement and are all made to feel that they are an important part of an extended team, in which each and every 'player' knows their role inside out.
There are no big heads, or individuals screwing their colleagues over for a better place in the lighting; we just all turn up to work with a smile on our faces and get on with the job in hand.
It's actually a privilege to be involved.
My diminishing enthusiasm for the game at the outset of the season, along with the accompanying deeply disenchanted mindset, was probably communicating itself loud and clear from within the grim tone of the contents of this blog, but a change is actually much, much better than a rest and my spark has been reignited.
I'm very grateful to those people who've known me a long time, who are aware of what I bring to the table, for having faith in me, to be the right sort of person to be involved in such a great set up.
Their judgement was as spot on as it was wise... of course!
And I, for my part, proved them right and didn't disappoint.
The transition was immediate and seamless too.
The very thought!
But jesting aside, the invitation to join in was very timely and meant more to me than I could ever say.
While the meeting of ideas and social interaction that now extends well beyond getting together once (sometimes twice) a week, with like minded people, is like nothing I have ever known within a football context before.
Besides my MTFC U18 duties, next season, will also encompass continuing to work on an ongoing media project with my long term good friends at AFC Mansfield and doing a bit of media stuff for Birmingham City Ladies (as and when work commitments allow), while that John Mills bloke at Maltby Main knows he only needs to pick up the phone if he needs a hand every now and then.
This all fits in nicely and very easily around my family time and proper job out there in that crazy, messed up place called 'the real world'.
You have got to be careful when the boundaries and timescales start to overlap, but that isn't a problem these days.
Time management is my forte, just as long as my good nature doesn't allow anybody to take advantage. There are a lot of piss takers in local football... but you can spot them a mile away and take steps in the opposite direction, big brisk strides even, to avoid their ilk.
I did have a lot of very time consuming problems at work, that needed my full attention when I left my last football job(s), regardless of what several people at my former club were told, by their resident hate cleric.
But, all of my employment issues are now resolved, after a fashion... and with my life back on track to that end, so to speak, it's all systems go and full steam ahead again.
I'm still standing, yeah, yeah, yeah.
To be perfectly honest, I've well and truly landed on my feet whilst struggling to comprehend, what I was buggering about at before linking up with the Stags.
I guess you have to go see life on the other side, before you can fully appreciate what it's like to be involved at such a well run club, sans all of politics, bitterness and scheming.
The development team infrastructure is expanding still further at Mansfield Town this coming season, meaning that there are some really exciting times ahead.
Bring it on!
EURO 2016:
Once upon a time, the enemy within were referred to as 'traitors' and 'fifth columnists', now we just call them as 'Twitter busy twats'. The haters, critics and the 'enemy within' who must get a hard on at the thought of England failing, will be out in force again, just like they are at each and every tournament.
A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.
But that will never stop those with the most minuscule amount of nous from shouting the loudest.
I hardly need to elaborate really, do I?
THE66POW Non League Awards 2015-16
Intro: mostly, but not all, about the NCEL
Though it was fairly obvious who the top four teams in the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division would be this season, even before it kicked off, including which side were probably favourites for the title, the league still provided a lot of great entertainment in 2015-16.
Cleethorpes Town must be kicking themselves over their delayed start to the season, which hampered their promotion aspirations in the final analysis, but Tadcaster Albion maintained their focus throughout some very testing times, when they were flooded out of their ground for a time and had to cope with the trauma of the immensely popular 23 year old Sonny Lang passing away; but they galvanised and deservedly clinched the title and only promotion spot.
But 'Clee' Town did win the NCEL League Cup, beating 'Taddy' at Garforth Town's ground in the final, just twelve months after they had been runners up in the previous years final.
Handsworth Parramore pushed Tadcaster all the way however... and enjoyed a terrific season where they went close on several fronts, while their development teams probably kept several shops in Sheffield that stock silver polish in business.
Worksop Town tailed off for a while and dropped off the pace, at a critical time, before putting a (too) late spurt on. Having steadied Worksop Town's fall from grace, which was more of a monumental plummet than a mere drop, I reckon my pal Mark Shaw will soon have the Tigers roaring again.
The 66 Parables of Wim 
In my completely unbiased opinion, the three aforementioned clubs who didn't win promotion, will be among the front runners again in 2016-17 and I would be very surprised if Maltby Main don't build on the quiet revolution that they've undergone in recent times too.
Hemsworth MW will be an unknown quantity to a lot of NCEL Premier Division sides and shouldn't be underestimated; while AFC Mansfield have been making some pretty shrewd additions to their squad of late and may well surprise a few people this coming season. Bottesford Town should hold their own, if they show the kind of togetherness and resilience that saw them through the play offs.
From what I've seen, Ian Richards has got Penistone Church playing the right way, hopefully I'll get the opportunity to check them out more often next season. AFC Emley are probably and justifiably the favourites to clinch promotion from the NCEL's first division next season, but Penistone and Hallam won't be far off, while I'd tip Leon Sewell's Westella & Willerby to be a dark horse, coming up on the rails. I like Sewell's approach and the way his team have been developing and a realistic and sustainable pace for several seasons now.
Nothing at Retford United ever surprises me any more, but offloading a management team who have done so much behind the scenes, whilst putting out a side week after week, against all the odds, for the duration of last season beggars belief.
Good luck to Chris and Wayne... you both deserved better.
Liversedge and Rossington Main both spent far too much of last season toward the wrong end of the NCEL Premier and First Division, but I reckon that I've seen enough to suggest that won't be the case next term. In fact 'Sedge could be one of the sides who could surprise a few people, I hope so, they're a welcoming and friendly lot there.
Predictions wise... err, I've covered all bases, next season, both divisions in the NCEL are going to be fiercely competitive and I for one am looking forward to watching it all pan out immensely.
Ooh look! It's Andy Saunders.
Anyway, finally getting to the point, those awards:
Player of the season:
Keiran Wells - Handsworth Parramore
Young player of the season (shared):
Billy Wright - Handsworth Parramore
Vaughan Redford - Liversedge
Goal of the season:
Lee Hill - for Maltby Main v Tadcaster Albion - Wed 20.4.19 NCEL Premier Division
Best team performance of the season:
Penistone Church away at Rossington Main - Sat 6.2.16 NCEL Division 1
Best game(s) of the season:
Wed 12 Aug - Worksop Town 2 v Clipstone 3 - NCEL Premier Division
Wed 28 Oct - Pontefract Collieries 2 v Retford United 5 - NCEL Premier Division
Sat 31 Oct - Handsworth Parramore 5 v Shildon 4 (AET) - FA Vase First Round
Tues 29 Dec - Radford 4 v Radcliffe Olympic 4 - EMCL
Worst game of the season (by a mile):
Shirebrook Town 0 v AFC Mansfield 0 - NCEL Division 1
Manager(s) of the season (shared):
Karl Rose - Frickley Athletic
Spencer Fearn - Maltby Main
Frickley Athletic and Maltby Main; two unfashionable clubs, some might say: punching well above their weight.
But they are both top 7 teams in their respective leagues on merit and to that end Karl Rose and Spencer Fearn, along with the people behind them at Westfield Lane and Muglet Lane have done a quite remarkable job.
But to me both clubs, their grounds and the people associated with them, epitomise to the core, everything that is right about a genuinely close knit locally representative football club.
You can't replicate this kind of backs to the wall gritty togetherness, or claim to have this magic ingredient at any given club, until you've been there, done that and got the t-shirt (probably from the clearance sale rail in Georgio de Matalan), then you've either got it or you ain't!
And it's not something you can, or ever should try to (re)create from scratch.
I'm quite chuffed that I'm welcomed with open arms and warmth, whenever I visit either South Elmsall or Maltby; two places where outsiders are treated with an healthy dose of mistrust and suspicion, 'sugar coated' with an air of malevolence and potential hostility.
Maybe it's because I'm not a pretentious serial boaster, unlike far too many people in non league football, who seem to be just that... or maybe I'm just a bit of rough myself and I swear too fucking much as well.
Elsewhere, obviously, Micky Godber and Mark Ward deserve a lot of credit, for grasping the nettle and steering Handsworth Parramore through a transitional switch after Peter Duffield had left the club.
Again, the Ambers are another club whose friendliness and hospitable welcome is always gratefully appreciated by yours truly... and to that end, the stalwarts at Clipstone FC and Rainworth Miners Welfare, deserve a special mention too.
1972 and already an anorak
Outside the Queens house with my Gran
Honourable mention:
Leigh Herrick, Bottesford Town goalkeeper, saying farewell to his playing career, by saving the penalty kick that ultimately won his side promotion, in the NCEL Division 1 play off final shoot out.
Herrick's been the butt of a few jokes on this blog at his expense (all tongue in cheek and 'nowt nasty you understand), but he had the last laugh.
It was a really dramatic exit, a true grand finale and a great way for Leigh to bow out, I'm made up for him.
THE66POW the future:
If you're not careful, you can spend way too much time maintaining a blog.
Though the same could be said of any hobby.
But this one kind of runs in parallel to various other stuff I'm doing elsewhere, which wasn't always the case when I had to neglect your favourite self indulgent bullshit blog with added football content, to concentrate on admin and paperwork elsewhere.
I don't envisage going to as many games next season as I did this one, but I'm definitely going to tick off quite a few grounds that I have never been to before, so this blog will 'most likely' carry on in some shape or form into 2016/17... and maybe even beyond.
Quarry Lane End, MTFC, pre-modernisation
Other blogs are available:
My favourite blogs this season, would have to be some the local ones: Sticky Palm's 'The Groundhopper', 'Malc & Kev's adventures in outer space (AKA: Notts, Derbyshire and Leicestershire)' and Martin Roberts 'We All Stand Together' are the ones I look at most often, along with my pal Shaun E Smith's '100 Hundreds Grounds Club'.
Steven Hall does a great job with his 'Welfare Waffle' site which concentrates on all aspects of his beloved Staveley Miners Welfare FC and he is one of the nicest people I've ever worked with in football.
Made in Brum/Blues Collective, The Accidental Groundhopper, Steve B Groundhopper, Pie & Mushy Peas, Fly South By South, Anders the big barmy Norwegian invades England, The Wycombe Wanderer, Damage in the Box and anything Peter Miles contributes writing/photos to are all worthy of your time and attention and Lost Boyos makes me smile.
Apologies if I have missed anyone out, but click on any of the titles in the right hand side bar and you'll probably link up to a blog that is much better than this one.
Last season's final total of games that I went to (206) was ridiculous, but I had a lot of ground (and grounds) to cover and people to catch up with... there was a method in my madness. Mission accomplished to that end. 
It's not about number crunching and though there will always be an element of networking involved, it's predominantly about enjoyment and if that ever wasn't the case, I wouldn't do it. 
Football is a great passion of mine, but my music collection is my real jewel in my obsession, if I ever had to give up one of these pastimes it wouldn't be my record collection. 
Not that I would pay much heed to anyone silly enough to present me with such an ultimatum.
But my family are my favourite thing in the whole world and will always be my main priority and greatest pleasure in life. 
Next time around (AKA 2016-17), I am planning to get to all of Mansfield Town U18's games in the Football League Youth Alliance (North East), so a lot of my Saturday afternoon jaunts will be dictated by the logistics of wherever they're playing earlier in the day. 
But, as long as I am continuing to have fun, that is a small concession to make and in any case, the league does cover quite a large geographical area, which will provide me with a springboard to leap into the great unknown, here, there and everywhere.
Besides which, the 'Stags Youth' home games are played only a few miles away from a couple of really good A roads with decent transport links and I'll have at least a whole hour, usually two, to reach a second game, which, being based in the north Midlands opens up a myriad of options.
I fully intend to attend far more football league games this season, which wasn't always logistically practical last term, but in the words of the great philosopher Baldrick: this time round "I have a cunning plan".
My 'wandering about aimlessly' habit, will also be guiding me towards the FAWSL, Northern Premier League, West Yorkshire League, the Humber League, the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League, the Northern League, Campion FC in the NCEL and the few clubs in the EMCL that I have never visited previously; while I still fully intend to carry on visiting my favourite local (ish) non league clubs, development sides and women's teams too.
Come to think of it, 206 games might not be quite enough start to cover all of that lot, but Que Sera, whatever will be, will be (preferably the Doris Day version).
I never set myself targets, as regards the number of games I will attend, but it'll probably be somewhere between 75 and 1000 during the 2016-17 season ;-) 
Right I'll shurrup (for now)... fondest regards to everyone I have just shared a very enjoyable season with, there were far too many of you to mention individually, but you'll all know who you are.
I did warn everybody at the outset that this blog post was: "about me (not you). An unashamed attempt at giving self indulgence a really bad name" and I've certainly kept my word to that end. 
Thanks for persevering with it all... if indeed anybody actually did.