Posted by sean on May 18, 2012 at 7:45 pm in Football, Fun At Home, Other Sport with No Comments

Thrown Away
I watched a programme on hoarders recently. The man on the programme had filled his house with rubbish and made tunnels out of piles of newspapers. He only ever ate boiled eggs and sponge cake. I was worried I was keeping to much junk in my flat and would turn into him. As a result, I have been throwing a lot of things away. I think the bin men must be pissed off. Old coffee machines, juicers, a PC and a massive speaker have all been put in the bin. I’m too lazy to take it to the tip, but spent hours disassembling the PC and putting it into five different bags. That is the only way the bin men would take it. Some of the stuff I threw away could have been sold on eBay. Again, I’m too lazy to organise that.

Flaming Galah
The Olympic Torch is coming to Bath. Some people I know are excited by this and tell me it is a once in a lifetime experience to witness. It has pissed me off as I won’t be able to get home on time. Somebody is running up Newbridge Hill with the torch and nobody is allowed to cross the road. I wonder what happens if it rains. Does the torch go out? What if somebody puts it out with a fire extinguisher? I may be forced to watch it while I wait until I’m allowed home.

Quality Food
I’ve been eating a lot of Wagon Wheels lately. I know they have been around for years – probably since the invention of the wheel – but rediscovering a taste from times gone by is good. They are certainly by favourite type of biscuit. Or are they a cake? The ones with jam inside are better still. The other snack I have been enjoying is Frazzles – the indisputable king of the crisps. Apparently, they are suitable for vegetarians, which surprised me. They taste so much of bacon, it’s as if somebody scraped a pig with a cheese grater, cooked the strips of pork and stuck them in a plastic bag.

Manchester Is Blue
The football season has been shit. Bath City got relegated and Leeds United didn’t do much better. I was however given some joy by Manchester City. I’m not a supporter of the club, but like me, they hate Manchester United, so as a result, I like them. It’s a nice warm feeling how football supporters are united by hate. I must admit, when Manchester City played their rivals, I did let out a very loud cheer of delight when they scored the winning goal. I yelled again last Sunday when they won the league, which meant Manchester United didn’t, My neighbours must think I’m a glory-supporting Manchester City fan. Either that or they don’t know about football and think they’re living next door to a madman. I think one of them is a football fan as he shouts every time Tottenham are playing. Maybe he isn’t a Spurs fan. Maybe he’s just mad and likes to make loud, random noises.

Posted by sean on May 10, 2012 at 9:56 pm in Football, Ventures Outside Of Bath with No Comments

Hereford United 3-2 Torquay United
League Two
Saturday 5th May 2012 – 15:00

Despite Bath City finishing their league season last week, I promised all you lucky people another blog, and boy have you got one. At the weekend, the “giants” Hereford played host to the titans of Torquay. I had to make use of planes, trains and automobiles to get to Herefordshire (OK, four trains and two taxis – no planes), but I am proud to bring to you my first ever blog on a Football League game. Make sure you’re sat down, as the ‘Excite-o-meter’ is about to go into overdrive.

When you think of Hereford, you think of cider. Well, I do. Cider which is pretty decent, but nothing on the stuff from Somerset. When you think of Hereford United Football Club, many think of FA Cup upsets. Most people would think of the time in the 1970’s, when as a Southern League outfit, they beat topflight Newcastle United. Again, I think differently. Hereford United are the “giants” Bath City (famously) knocked out of the FA Cup in 1993 (it was live on Sky, don’t you know).

Since then, Hereford have gained promotion to the Football League, reaching the dizzy heights of League One in 2008. They beat my other team, Leeds United a couple of times along the way, but we won’t talk about that. Since then, for whatever reason, Hereford have not been doing so well and have battled against relegation all season.

Cue a last day of the season clash against Torquay United, who themselves could be promoted to League One with a win over Hereford, should moneybags Crawley Town lose to Accrington Stanley. Then again, Hereford could stay up if they win and Barnet lose to Burton Albion. The permutations were endless, and Jeff Stelling was no doubt having kittens on Soccer Saturday.

Random photo of a wall light

The day started with a taxi journey to Bath Spa train station. I arrived very early and predictably, the train was very late – and very full. Cue mayhem – people fighting to get onto the train, people fighting to get off and getting trapped in the train doors. Then there was the gladiatorial battle for a reserved seat. If anyone wants to see normally perfectly civilised human beings turn into animals, take a trip aboard a busy train.

After making the train trip to Newport, getting delayed and catching a later train, we eventually arrived in Hereford. There, along with about 20-or-so of Torquay United’s toughest hooligans, we were greeted by Hereford’s local constabulary. After wishing us luck (I say “us”, I’m not even a Torquay fan), we were asked to behave ourselves and not to relegate the home side.

Does "rank" mean something different in Hereford?

We then made our way to the ground. We got as far as Morrison’s supermarket – 30 seconds from the train station – when I realised we were lost. I began to wish I had listened to the friendly policeman who had offered directions. I decided to follow a group of Torquay fans, who appeared to know where they were going. Making conversation, I informed them that I was a Bath City supporter and reminisced about past encounters between our clubs – the 2007 FA Cup tie and the 2008 FA Trophy match. I reminded the Torquay fan his side won both games. He apologised.

Green army!

The ground was in fact easy to find. It was a simple case of follow the police officers who lined the streets. Edgar Street impressed me. A friendly club, which treated both home and away supporters like human beings – something which many clubs I have visited this season have failed to do. Both sets of fans were invited to use the clubs many bars and socialise pre-match. There was no trouble whatsoever.

Extremely hungry after our travels, we looked for food. Besides an impressive selection of crisps, there was nothing on offer in any of the three bars. There was however a rather enticing-looking burger van. Burgers were ordered, sadly without chips as the deep fat fryer had broken. A sad day.

No chips. I predict a riot.

Burgers eaten and cider drank (sadly, Magners), we walked though the turnstiles and found our seats. We could have gone in the terraces, but chose to end the season as prawn sandwich eaters.

As the stands and terraces began to fill, supporters were reminded that it was a criminal offence to encroach onto the pitch. A pointless announcement. If Hereford were to save themselves from relegation or Torquay win promotion, that pitch would be full of football fans quicker you could say “Proud members of the Blue Square Bet Premier”.

Best not bring a bottle

The atmosphere and tension began to build. A set of fans behind the goal in a home terrace let off a couple of flares. I was impressed. I don’t think the stewards were overjoyed at the firework display though. As is the technological age we live in, some fan videoed the blatant act of hooliganism and uploaded it to YouTube.

Warm up shot

The players walked out onto the pitch to the club’s very own song Hereford United – We Love You. Cue thousands fans cheering and applauding – probably in appreciation of the excellent music which pisses all over You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Hereford began the game nervously. The thought of a trip to Braintree Town on a cold Tuesday night a real possibility should they lose the game. The fans were quiet. You could tell they were nervous. They did erupt to abuse the linesman who, to be fair to the home fans, was absolutely rubbish.

A load of old bull

Despite looking edgy and generally under pressure from Torquay, Hereford took the lead early into the game. The home fans went absolutely crazy. More flares were lit, a few supporters fell onto the pitch only to be greeted by the club’s mascot, who was equally elated.

The jubilant home supporters behind the goal started singing “We’ll do what we want, we’ll do what we want” Presumably in response to the spoil-sport stewards trying to ruin their flare-lighting and pitch invading fun. Booo!

Traditional floodlights. I like.

The manic scenes still turned very sombre when word got around that Barnet were beating Burton Albion. This meant, as things stood, Hereford would be relegated. I am sure the news of the goal had caused Jeff Stelling to jump around the Soccer Saturday studio like a man with a family of scorpions in his boxer shorts.

Forza Hereford Ultras!

Torquay, who still appeared to be the better side, pushed for an equaliser which would get their promotion charge back on track. They played some fancy football, but cheated a fair bit too; Eunan O’Kane throwing himself to a ground and rolling around the floor a bit like this. This enraged the already angry home supporters, although not as much as when Torquay’s Rene Howe became obstructed by a Hereford defender and did his very best impression of a man getting hit in the face by a baseball bat.

A huge cheer erupted moments later, but I did not know why. My heart sank, thinking I had somehow missed a wonderful long-range goal, or even more disappointing, a dog invading the pitch. It was neither of those things. The scoreboard had an update from the Barnet game and brought good news – Burton Albion had equalised against Barnet. Better still, Jeff Stelling had been admitted to hospital following over excitement and scorpion stings on his genitals.

Match shot

Hereford’s afternoon got even better when they were awarded a penalty, which was well converted. A third goal was scored shortly after, the best of the game, to put Hereford 3-0 up and dreaming of survival and trips to Fleetwood Town next season.

The second half kicked off and Torquay made two changes. One of which was to bring on Ryan Jarvis, who I thought was excellent and changed the game – so much so, he scored in under 20 seconds. 3-1 then became 3-2. The comeback was on, although the Torquay United coach drivers had clearly seen enough – a tannoy announcement informed all away fans that the drivers had returned to their vehicles.

The second goal was greeted by the Torquay supporters ‘doing the poznan’. Some kind of celebration presumably created by Manchester City which involves hugging each other, turning your back to goal and jumping up and down a lot. The home fans responded with “What the fucking hell is that?” before throwing another flare.

Sadly, the 14-12 ‘goalfest’ scoreline I was hoping for did not happen. There would be no more goals and the score would finish 3-2 to Hereford. Excellent. Boom boom, we’re staying up etc… However it wasn’t great. Barnet had taken the lead at Burton Albion, saving themselves and relegating Hereford. Home fans sung how they would be Hereford until they died (or have to go to Ebbsfleet United), while the disappointed away supporters left hoping the play offs would bring them success – and that their coach drivers hadn’t gone back to Devon.

So a sad day really. Sad for Hereford fans that they went down. Sad for all football fans that Torquay didn’t go up, as it meant Crawley Town got promoted instead.

"We're relegated. Lets blame the mascot"

Good luck to Hereford next season. It is a shame I won’t be making the trip with Bath City. Good luck to Torquay in the play offs too, although I will also be keeping an eye on their opponents Cheltenham Town, who have one of my favourite ex-Bath City players ever – Sido Jombati.

And as far as my blog goes, that is about it. Until next season anyway. See you for the pre-friendlies in July, which will feature Western League grounds, trialists nobody has heard of, false hope and the annual visit of a Bristol Rovers XI to Twerton Park – always an exciting affair.

Lets pretend we're staying up

Posted by sean on May 2, 2012 at 10:17 pm in Bath City, Ventures Outside Of Bath with No Comments

* until next season, or maybe even next weekend if I go to Hereford/Torquay.

Alfreton Town 2-1 Bath City
Conference National
Saturday 28th April 2012 – 13:00

So that’s that over with. After 92 games of Conference National football; 8,280 minutes against (usually) decent opposition; 107 goals scored, 157 conceded; Bath City’s two year stay in the top tier of non-league football is over; ending pretty much as we started it – a disappointing 2-1 away defeat to a team with a ground more suited to the division below. Back in August 2010 it was Hayes and Yeading United who beat us. Last weekend, the victors were Alfreton Town.

Everyone is more than aware of the contrast between our first season in the Blue Square Bet Premier and our second. During the first season miracles were performed by players and management alike. This season, Bath City found their level – second from bottom in a very competitive league, involving clubs with fan bases larger than many League One teams, with owners richer than some in the Premier League. On hindsight, barring a second miracle, relegation was inevitable, although still very much disappointing.

Despite being some 160-miles from Bath, compared to a lot of our away games, Alfreton is one of the more “local” trips. However, we had to leave Twerton Park at the very unwelcome time of 7.30am for a 1pm kick off. Why? Thanks to the satellite TV station, Premier Sports, wishing to broadcast another game in the same division and those loveable guys at the Football Conference insisting every club kicks off at the same time on the final day. So Premier Sports, who have given Bath City Football Club a grand total of £0.00 this season, moved our game to 1pm. Bastards.

Man, those turnstiles have style!

The final trip of the season on the supporters coach, also known as First Pink Bus, was an eventful one. By that I mean not a lot happened. The 50/50 draw was held. I didn’t win. I haven’t won it all year. Sums up our season. Excitement broke out when a puddle of liquid was spotted on the coach floor. Either one of the many elderly travellers had lost control of their bladder, or a Thermos flask had exploded. I was told it was the latter. As my shoes were within the puddle of fluid, I really hope it was the latter.

The coach dropped us in Alfreton town centre, where we were greeted by three chickens walking down the street and across the road. That’s right, chickens walking across the road. There’s a joke there somewhere, but I’m not funny enough to work it out.

The town is a 15 minute walk from the football ground and I was feeling a little lazy, but the attraction of a Weatherspoons was too much to take – a pub renowned for selling Thatcher’s Gold cider, instead of Magners and Strongbox. Sadly, there was no Thatcher’s. Stowford Press was however sufficient and was enjoyed with a cheese and tomato toastie, with chips. I know how to dine.

The ground, like Twerton Park, is traditional. There is no segregation, you can switch ends at half time, and if you’re tight-fisted, you can even watch the match for free on an embankment outside the ground. I paid the more than reasonable £13 at the turnstile.

The cheapskate stand

Just like the good old days of Southern League (and what we will be doing next season), we stood behind the goal which we were attacking. Presumably unaware of this tradition, we were surrounded by home supporters, one of whom asked their partner “Are we sure we’re in the Alfreton side?” as a travelling army of 20(ish) vocal fans sung “Come on City!”

All respect for Alfreton’s non-league traditions was soon lost after they scored. The awful sound, which has become all too familiar in this league, was boomed across the terraces – the sound of The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger, as was played six pissing times at Grimsby where we lost 6-0.

I’m not really sure how the goal occurred. If you’re expecting a match report on this blog, you should know better by now. I know 1-0 soon became 2-0 after Gethin Jones generously gifted an Alfreton forward the ball for their second goal.

Alfreton's furry mascot and a man dressed up as a bear

Bath City were awarded a penalty shortly afterwards. Scott Murray, making his final appearance for the club and indeed in football, wrestled the ball from regular spot-kick taker (and my player of the year), Marc Canham. Something I was not too happy about. Canham has a 100% success rate from the penalty spot this season and while Muray has had an exciting career, the vast majority of it has been at Bristol City. Why should Bath City risk a result because he wants to go out on a high? Luckily, Murray scored. The keeper did dive the right way, but there was too much power in the shot. Had it been saved, I would have been angry. Very angry.

Bath City fans, delighted that they had actually seen a goal – somewhat of a rarity this season – broke out in song “We’re going to win 3-2”, before the ever-pessimistic, yet legendary supporter, Mike York, told his brother, Brain,”I bet we don’t” A few kicks were thrown – between the players, not Mike and Brian – and the classic anti-P.C. chant of “You dirty northern bastards” was sung by the travelling faithful. Sung, while surrounded by hundreds of home fans. A home supporter did ask them to refrain from swearing as there were children present – a fair, but pointless request, as there was more chance of Bath City winning promotion to League Two next season than the fans laying off the naughty words.

Hardcore support

At the end of the first half, we switched ends, walking the length of the ground to stand behind the opposite goal. A warning message was read out on the tannoy to all those in the stadium “Please do not encroach onto the pitch” the club clearly shitting themselves at the prospect of Alfreton fans celebrating surviving relation and Bath City supporters celebrating going down, by all running onto the pitch and causing mayhem. No sooner had the request been made, a large group of City fans began singing “On the pitch, on the pitch, on the pitch!”. There was no pitch invasion that day, but the threat of one certainly scared the stewards.

City were excellent in the second half and did everything but score. The best chance came late in the second half when Alex Russell only had to tap the ball into the net, but failed miserably. Russell has scored some fantastic and memorable goals for us, but it is clear that he is one of these players who only scores wonder-strikes.

As the remaining minutes were slugged out and Bath City’s time in the Conference drew to a close, Mike York eagerly informed all supporters than Alfreton Town would be turning fulltime next season. Something which is yet to be confirmed. He added that they will also win the league. Something which will never happen. Good old Mike, we’ll miss him in the summer months.

Final ever match shot from the Blue Square Bet Pre... whatever that stupid league is called

After City totally dominated the entire second half, Alfreton nearly scored a third goal. They didn’t score. We only lost 2-1, however it would have been very fitting of our season if, deep into injury time, we had let in a third. In fact the City players probably should have let one in, just for a laugh.

The referee blew for full time on the game, the season and our time in the horribly named Blue Square Bet Premier. Next season it’s the equally annoyingly titled Blue Square Bet South. Hopefully with a few more wins to enjoy. It’s been a fun couple of seasons in the big boys league. I’ll probably write a deep and meaningful season review in the upcoming weeks. I’m also hoping to catch a couple more non-City games this season, so Sean’s Stories shouldn’t be put back onto the bookshelf (or into the bin) quite yet.

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