The wonder of local football

7 02 2014

If you ever want to know what’s going on in north Walean football read Dave Jones’ excellent blog; North Wales Football. Dave’s blog featured an interesting post last Friday;

“TOMORROW’S FAW Trophy fifth round tie between Ruthin Town and Llanrug United will now be played at Coleg Llandrillo’s 3G pitch in Rhos-on-Sea (kick-off 1.45pm).

Two previous attempts to play the match at Llanrug fell foul of the weather, so as per competition rules home advantage switched to Ruthin for this Saturday.

However, the Ruthin pitch is also unfit, so to ensure the outstanding tie is completed, the club has been given permission by the FAW to play the game at Llandrillo.”

This story reeks of semi-pro football charm; archetypal weather ravaged pitches, ad hoc agreements to play on municipal 3G pitches, rules that state home advantage is lost after two postponements, a governing body doing the decent thing to get things sorted, although this is the exception rather than the norm.

Semi-pro football is often forced in to ad hoc measures as weather ravaged pitches are a fact of life; Carmarthen have had to play home matches in three different grounds this season (Carmarthen, Llanelli and Port Talbot) because of their wet pitch, Bangor and Airbus agreed to switch Tuesday’s Welsh Cup tie because of Airbus’ pitch problems and this season’s FA Trophy tie between FC United and Witton Albion became such a saga – two replays and three postponements – that Radclfiffe Borough’s ground was needed at one point.

It may be my jaundiced mind but ad hoc measures lend a nice feeling of comradeship to semi-pro football, for example when FC United home matches aren’t able to use Gigg Lane they sometimes use Stalybridge Celtic’s ground.

Try imagining that this kind of attitude exists in the gilded prison of elite football. Go on, try to imagine that Man City and West Brom agreed to play an FA Cup match in a leisure centre because of bleak winter weather. That situation is an impossible dream.

You just know that kind of thing would never happen in the gilded elite of world football, and it’s not just because premier league club pitches have teams of people dedicated to their upkeep. The premier league’s mindset is as far from “charming ad hoc” as it’s possible to get. The franchises and the CEO of the premier league just couldn’t lower themselves to ad hoc arrangements.

Elite football washed off the last faint traces of mucking in and making do when it disappeared up its own arse about 20 years ago, there’s something profoundly sad about that.





Football is ace Part 4

29 01 2014

25. Football fans are generally decent people part 2

Football fans are the sort of people that help people get their false teeth back, as this story proves;

Flossed and found: Football fan leaves false teeth at AFC Wimbledon match

Did you leave your false teeth at the AFC Wimbledon match this weekend?

One unfortunate football fan appears to have been separated from their dentures after the game at the Kingsmeadow stadium in Kingston on Saturday.

AFC Wimbledon tweeted this morning: “These dentures were left in the stand on Saturday. Can the power of twitter reunite a supporter with their teeth?”

Moments after it was tweeted Radio Wimbledon had already created a hashtag #BringTheChompsHome.

The Dons beat Exeter 2-1.

Call the newsdesk on 020 8744 4244 if you know to whom who they belong.

This Is Local London: Flossed and found: Football fan leaves false teeth at AFC Wimbledon match
Football fan leaves false teeth at AFC Wimbledon match
Everything went well.

All smiles for football fan ‘George’ reunited with his missing false teeth

The football fan owner of a pair of false teeth has been reunited with his missing dentures after a Twitter campaign started by AFC Wimbledon supporters.

The tweets, which included the hashtag #bringthechompshome, started after a set of false teeth were found at the Kingsmeadow stadium after the game against Exeter on Saturday.

BBC presenter Jacqui Oatley joined in retweeting the Surrey Comet saying: “Owner must have noticed by now!”

AFC Wimbledon tweeted this afternoon: “BREAKING NEWS – We have found the owner of the dentures! George and his teeth will be reunited soon. Thank you to everybody who helped #Win.”

 26. Football fans often become interesting parts of interesting stories

Look at the charming adventures of the “Atomic Boys“;

Goodbye To Atomic Boy Syd

Syd Bevers, a leader in the field of football supporters’ groups, passed away last week aged 91. Syd was the founder of, arguably, the most famous of all supporters’ groups, The Atomic Boys who followed Blackpool around the country from the late 1940s through to the 1960s. Gerry Wolstenholme

It was in the late 1940s when Syd Bevers came up with the idea for a different type of supporters group. He even came up with a topical name for his group of fans and named them The Atomic Boys. Discussing the Boys in later life he recalled the reason for choosing his group’s name, “At the time the atomic bomb was the foremost thing in world history. And, it wasn’t such an inappropriate title for the boys and myself really, for when we went along to all the various grounds, we took the place by storm.”

Syd did not stop with just a name, however, for he also decided that his team would be exotically dressed and would also have a mascot that would be noticed. He arranged for costumes to be made and, when necessary, borrowed. In addition he came up with the idea of a real live duck to play the role of mascot!

The whole concept was conceived at Elland Road, Leeds on 4 February 1946. Again Syd remembered it well and said, “It was a marathon match with Middlesborough. We had drawn the two‑legged FA Cup tie, 5-5 on aggregate and had to play a deciding game at a neutral ground and Leeds was selected. At that game I particularly noticed there was something missing in an England that was recovering from the Second World War and needed something to brighten up spirits generally. And that was colour. I don’t think you’d have known who was supporting who ‑ there was definitely a distinct lack of colour.”

Syd pondered on the matter and then decided “something wanted putting into practice” so on his return to Blackpool, after Blackpool had been defeated 1-0, he got a group of his friends and fellow supporters and told them of his plan. Reaction was very favourable and the name The Atomic Boys was devised. Initially the idea was that everyone in the group had to have a tangerine coat, white trousers and a straw hat. Syd remembered, “It was no problem to get a tangerine coat because all the waiters in town wore white coats so it was just a matter of acquiring one of those and applying a little tangerine dye!”

However, this idea was not too long-lived as Syd thought it made everyone look the same and he certainly did not want that, he wanted his group to be very different and well remembered. So he developed his idea further and came up with the plan for everyone to have different, and on occasion, exotic costumes although he himself did retain the tangerine coat as the leader of the Boys. But where were these costumes to come from initially? Syd quickly solved that problem for, being a businessman in town, he had many contacts and offers to make attires poured in and some costumes were even borrowed from Madame Tussauds waxworks where at the time Blackpool Football Club also had a connection in the Parkinson family.

The Atomic Boys quickly became a major spectacle on the football scene up and down the country and were well received at every ground they attended. Fame even spread wider than football circles for Syd did much charity work and recalled that as well as attending football matches his group was once asked to go, as celebrities, to an El Alamein ball. “We wore military costumes, it was a change and the fun was great,” he said and it was subsequently to give a new dimension to the attire worn by The Atomic Boys at football matches.

The idea of the mascot came along later and The Atomic Boys, rather bizarrely, acquired a duck as the Blackpool mascot. There were three ducks in all throughout the times of the Boys and they were called Donald, Douglas and later Puskas after the famous Hungarian footballer. Douglas was presented to Syd by film star Douglas Fairbanks junior and Syd remembered how it came into their possession. “We all went to a film premiere, Mr Drake’s Duck, and it starred Douglas Fairbanks junior. The star had heard of our exploits and, in view of the film’s title, presented us with this duck. And that is how the second duck was called Douglas.”

One amusing incident that Syd recalled regarding one of the ducks was when he and a friend decided that they would make the white duck even more appropriate to Blackpool Football Club – they would dye it a shade of tangerine! Recalling that incident, Syd said laughingly, “We thought it would be simple. We acquired some finny haddock dye from another friend, filled the bath with water, mixed the dye in and we were ready for action.” The duck was duly taken to the bathroom and put into the tangerine coloured water. “But what we did not expect was the act that followed. The duck panicked, flapped its wings all over the place and the whole of the bathroom, plus us were covered in tangerine dye. What a mess to clean up!” Thereafter, perhaps not surprisingly, the ducks remained white.

The naturally white Douglas even made it to Wembley in 1953 despite advice to the contrary from none other than Stan Matthews who felt that Syd would be in trouble for trying to take livestock into the great stadium for the clash with Bolton Wanderers. But Syd decided to risk taking Douglas inside and to achieve this end he hid him in a large carpetbag. Syd remembered, “Standing in the queue I kept opening the bag to let Douglas have some air and when he quacked I gave a loud cough. How I managed to get him inside without being detected I just don’t know.”

He did manage to get Douglas in and, despite intense security inside the stadium, he did manage to give the crowd a treat as the duck was briefly paraded along the cinder track before the game, much to the delight of the Blackpool following. But the arrival and entrance to Wembley was not the first the capital had seen of Syd Bevers and The Atomic Boys that day, they had already made their presence felt elsewhere. On arrival in London, Syd, wearing a flowing tangerine cloak and a silver headdress as tall as a cockatoo’s crest, clutched a weighty seven-pound stick of Blackpool rock as the coach he was travelling in passed through Trafalgar Square. He had specifically directed the coach to the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street.

This was in the days when the street was open to the public who could walk up and down and have photographs taken in front of the door. Syd did even better than that and he was greeted by a police constable as he approached with his cohorts, who the London press described “as gay as a pack of clowns in a harlequinade”. The familiar noise of the then ever-present wooden rattles echoed up and down Downing Street and the noise was augmented with the sound of a ship’s siren, which the Atomic Boys took everywhere with them. Thousands of Blackpool voices also chanted “2‑4‑6‑8, WHO DO WE APPRECIATE? B‑L‑A‑C‑K‑P‑O‑O‑L” and all the racket reputedly brought the comment from the police constable on duty “Now then, now then, no noise if you please.”

Syd duly approached the door of number 10 followed by crowds of onlookers who had spotted the amusingly and exotically dressed ensemble as it arrived. As Syd was about to knock on the door one of his companions, dressed in the burlesque dress of a contemporary exiled monarch, said, “This is where Syd goes out on his ear.” But he obviously did not know Syd’s capabilities, personality or persuasiveness. As the door was opened to his knock, he said, “A present for Sir Winston [Churchill]” as he showed the huge stick of rock.

Much to the surprise of his colleagues, Syd was admitted to the hallowed home and the door closed behind him. It was fully seven and a half minutes before he re‑emerged and then, once again much to the astonishment of the rest of The Atomic Boys, it was not under arrest! The Boys and the rest of the assembled crowds rushed towards him as though he was the Pied Piper and asked him what had happened. “Well”, said Syd, “I was conducted to an ante‑room and a secretary came and said ‘Sir Winston is out for an hour’.” Syd then said that seeing the rock the secretary asked what it was to which he said he had replied, “It’s Blackpool rock for Sir Winston — and look, it’s stamped Sir Winston all through.”

The secretary was apparently taken aback by the size of the stick of rock but Syd reported that he managed to say, “That’s nice. I assure you it will be given to Sir Winston when he returns and I assure you, too, that he will wish Blackpool the best of luck.” On his way out of Number 10, Syd was photographed for a national daily newspaper which later titillated readers with the comment that it was “an Eastern potentate” making his exit before sharing the joke with them by informing them that it was only a Blackpool football supporter exotically dressed!

Before departing, Syd reported to the assembled multitude that he had been pleased to hear that the Prime Minister would be wishing Blackpool the best of luck. But Syd knew that Sir Winston would not want to be biased so he added, “I suppose he had to be impartial and as he [the secretary] escorted me to the door he whispered ‘And, of course, Sir Winston will wish all the best to Bolton, too’.”

The 1953 FA Cup Final was The Atomic Boys greatest hour but they continued their wholehearted support of the Seasiders. They continued to parade about the town in their costumes before important games drumming up support and they roused the crowd on matchday. Before a game, Syd would walk out to the centre circle, allow the duck to perambulate for a few minutes before giving a mock bow and kiss to the centre spot as a show of support for the club. When visiting other towns The Atomic Boys became the centre of attraction and always created a tremendous atmosphere at the grounds.

One of the later incidents, and one that I remember as a young boy following Blackpool everywhere, was when Syd took the duck to the ill‑fated Scunthorpe United FA Cup tie in 1961 when Blackpool embarrassing lost 6‑2 to the Second Division side. Before the kick-off a Scunthorpe fan dressed as a butcher came out of the crowd with a meat cleaver and ran off with the duck threatening to chop off its head. But it was all in good humour, Syd duly retrieved the duck and there was no blood spilt ‑ except perhaps later in the Blackpool dressing room!

At everyone else’s request, Syd did make a final attempt to resurrect such enthusiastic support with a duck as mascot and that was when Alan Ball returned to manage the club. Ball thought that it would be a good idea to have a duck mascot once again but the moment had gone and although Syd duly obliged, he sadly said, “It was doomed to failure.”

Blackpool was understandably proud of The Atomic Boys in their time and Syd was the undoubted leader of the troop. He was a true gentleman and will be sadly missed by family and friends everywhere. Remember him today when you give that extra cheer for the Seasiders!





Football is ace part 3

8 01 2014

24. Football fans are generally decent people

Twitter exposes you to so much bovine stupidity that you begin to question the legitimacy of most of the people that claim to have an interest in football. To be charitable, they appear to be sheep feigning an interest in something in order to fit in. 

Certain stories force you to question your jaded point of view and the following example is one of those. On Saturday the FA Cup match between Bournemouth and Burton was called off about an hour before kick off…….

3.

This is what happened next……..

Bournemouth supporters raise funds for Burton fans to travel

Bournemouth supporters have raised almost £3,000 to help Burton fans travel to their re-arranged FA Cup tie.

On Saturday, the original game was called off just an hour before kick-off because of a waterlogged pitch.

The late postponement meant around 200 Burton fans made a fruitless 300-mile round trip to the south coast.

Bournemouth supporter and initiative organiser David Whitehead told BBC Radio Solent: “It shows there is another side to football.”

Whitehead set up the fundraising page after recalling the generosity shown by Burton supporters when Cherries fans celebrated promotion from League Two at Burton’s Pirelli Stadium in 2010.

“They were so hospitable that day that there’s been a special feeling between the clubs ever since,” he said.

At the time of writing, pledges totalling £2,930 had been made, more than three times the original target of £800.

Whitehead continued: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the response, which has come from supporters of clubs all over the country, and even some from abroad.

“We’ve now capped the fund at the cost of paying for three coaches, and asked Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe to nominate a charity to receive the remaining funds.”

Bournemouth chairman Jeff Mostyn said: “It’s just the most incredible gesture and I think it’s probably unprecedented in football for supporters to be so generous.

“On that day when we were promoted, after years of grief and struggling, for Ben [Robinson, Burton chairman] and all of his staff, the groundsmen and the stewards, to let us have the run of the ground was something that was incredible.

“Stewards by their very nature are designed to hold crowds at bay, but they were joining in the celebrations as well, and our supporters have never forgotten it.”

Here  too

Bournemouth launch Burton Albion coach fund and raise close to £3,000

BOURNEMOUTH supporters have raised more than £2,800 to fund Burton Albion supporters’ coaches for the rearranged FA Cup third round tie on January 14.

The remarkable gesture has its roots in the Cherries’ promotion from League Two in 2010, which was clinched with a 2-0 last-day win at the Pirelli Stadium.

Their fans were full of praise that day for the welcome they received both in the town and at the club and when one of them, David Whitehead, suggested a “Burton coach” fund and another, Adrian Lee, set up an online fundraising page, pledges soon started to roll in.

Burton supporters were quick to add their thanks.

“This shows the true spirit of Cup football,” said Wayne Pycroft. “Neither club will win the final but many will remember the great gesture between two clubs.”

“Hopefully, Bournemouth fans will get recognised for this great gesture by the FA with a special fans award.”

Adam Drew said: “This generous and overwhelming gesture shows the spirit of football is not dead.”





Football is ace, Part 2

22 10 2013

23. Football Clubs mean something

A week last Saturday I was waiting outside Nantporth for a lift to Carmarthen. Having time to kill I went to have a look at the wall of fans’ bricks.

Oct 12 012

I’ve seen plenty of supporters’ walls in my time and I was at the Supporters’ Association meeting where we decided to create a fans’ wall, and it was hardly the first time that I’d seen the bricks yet I’d obviously failed to connect our idea to it’s potential image in Bangor. During that morning’s time killing I began to see things more clearly.

When I gazed at the wall that morning something clicked; I finally realized that I was looking at a profound expression about the community of Bangor and something that highlights the symbiotic relationship between a football club and a community of people. You can see the ties of friendship and community in the nicknames that feature on the bricks.

Every brick is redolent of the connection between the club and the city; fans of every age and background are represented, as are generations of family members. There are even memorials to well-loved people. It is staggering to comprehend the experiences that the wall symbolises.

It’s staggering to contemplate the memories that the people featured on the wall would have. They will have seen our glorious European history featuring Napoli, Atletico and all the rest, they will have been to Wembley, they will have seen epic Welsh Cup runs, they will have seen Bangor play all over England and Wales. The people would have many a tale to tell about all the memorable matches, goals and friendships. It is quite humbling to realise that you’re a small part of such a historical procession.

When you think of some of the clubs in the Welsh system the wall makes you grateful that you’re a Bangor fan. The other clubs may have the success but they don’t have the ties to a community like Bangor has.








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