Archive | November, 2011

Millwall FC

21 Nov

20 November 2011

The Championship

Millwall FC 01  v  Bristol City 02 (att c.10252)

The New Den, Bermondsey

Team Talk. It seems like I’m never getting to blog a Saturday at the moment. Today’s trip is a Sunday lunchtime jaunt down to Millwall.

Millwall are the closest professional club to Central London and, along with Charlton and Palace are, I suppose, the ‘big’ clubs in South London. Without a doubt, the club is synonymous with South London despite being named after and founded after an area on the Isle of Dogs, north of the Thames.

Originally a factory team with a rich Scottish heritage (hence the blue and white colours), Millwall Rovers played their first game in 1885 in a field behind the warehouses and factories of the old docklands.

Over the next 25 years, Millwall used three other sports grounds in the Cubitt Town/Millwall Dock area before finally moving to south to New Cross/Bermondsey.

Humble beginnings (c) Millwall History Files

With the change of home, came a change of names as The Dockers of Millwall Athletic (having already ditched the Rovers moniker) became the The Lions of Millwall F.C. Their new ground, The Den, would be home for the next 83 years before the wholesale redevelopment of the area led to the club moving to a site a few hundred metres along Cold Blow Lane. Named in honour of the old ground, The New Den has been Millwall’s base since 1993.

In Memoriam

Plenty’s been written about Millwall’s more recent history but I suggest you check out the wonderful Millwall History Files website if you fancy a delve into their last 40 years or so. I’m most interested in possibly the greatest gift Millwall has given the football, no not Eamon Dunphy, but the Southern Football League.

Millwall Athletic were instrumental in founding Southern League – now established as one of the main pillars of the non-league pyramid – and went on to win it in its inaugural season and again the following year. The Southern League continues to grow in dominance and from a small London based league (that also lists Fulham and Tottenham as former winners) to the current incarnation, stretching the breadth of the country to Cornwall. It’s all thanks to the founding fathers in the Millwall docks.

Millwall’s more recent past is slightly more dubious, riddled with tales and allegations of hooliganism and racism. I had always suspected that, like the BBC’s slanderous depiction of Peckham in Only Fools and Horses (actually filmed in Acton and Walthamstow), Millwall’s reputation has been equally tarnished by a media hell-bent on finding a South London scapegoat for all of its ills. The 80s were dark, miserable days for English football and Millwall was undoubtedly embroiled in that, but they weren’t alone. Sadly, it’s a tag that’s stuck with the club and which, I suspect, is keeping a good few people away from the ground.

Make no mistake, I wasn’t expecting to encounter many angels down at The New Den but I wasn’t expecting the Mos Eisley Cantina either.

Today’s opponents, Bristol City come under the leadership of relatively new boss Derek McInnes. Both sides are sitting in the bottom 6 just a few points from the foot of the table. That said, they’re also just a handful of points from the playoffs, such is the wonderful merry-go-round of the Championship.

Park the bus.The New Den is a simple 5 minute train ride from London Bridge (alighting at South Bermondsey). However on this day, Southern Trains had seen fit to cancel the trains and supporters were reliant on replacement buses.

Millwall's rail replacement service in operation. If only.

South Bermondsey station isn’t one to be missed though. A particular highlight is the sheltered seating which on matchdays turns into a police holding area for those who decide to get a wee bit Danny Dyer in front of the Old Bill. Despite an elaborate maze of segregated walkways that keep The Lions away from their prey (see what I’ve done there), the two sets of supporters are allowed to mix freely on the platform. Sensible stuff.

Homefield advantage. The New Den is a ground I remember fondly from my childhood. For you see, Millwall once had a ground sharing partner. From 1997 for ten glorious years, The New Den was converted into the Dragon’s Lair, home of Harchester United, Sky One’s pioneering Dream Team. So whilst Wise, Harris and Cahill plied their trade for Millwall one week, great names of European football like Karl Fletcher, Paul Linger and Luis Amor Rodriguez took to the field the next.

In the absence of a Harchester United game in the near future, I was ready to sit amongst my Transpontine brethren and support the Millwall cause.

The New Den’s location isn’t quite as picturesque as some. Four identical stands loom up out of a south London industrial quarter. Behind a waste incinerator and alongside grizzled railway arches doubling up as mechanics and workshops, I can think of few less attractive settings in the Country, only Sittingbourne comes instantly to mind. But even Sittingbourne isn’t guarded by a terrifying milita of bears.

In the future, this is how all wars will be fought

Once you’ve made it past the bears and you’re in the shadow of the stadium, it feels all very familiar. Merchandising was disappointingly average and not at all tacky. Actually, most of it was of a much higher quality than that found at a number of league grounds. Sadly, no real novelty goods on show.  I was slightly shocked at the lack of unofficial merch vendors. From my scan, I only found one trader although most of his stock was anti West Ham and not pro South London. I can’t help but feel like he’s missing an opportunity.

I'll take a scarf, a novelty foam hand and a horse please

The whole place feels as mass-produced as the clocks in the shops and wasn’t at all like the Millwall I was expecting (somewhere between Ibrox and Basra). Instead it felt very 1990s but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s sanitised, it’s most definitely not, but it’s a lot more Men Behaving Badly than Football Factory.

Sunday lunch. South London style.

After our jaunt round the local perimeter, we headed through the turnstiles and into our seats. I’m quite convinced that this compact little ground has one of the best atmospheres in London. The New Den is designed not so much to enhance the supporter experience, but more so to allow the support to get closer to the action. Even from our first half lofty position in the top deck of the Cold Blow Lane Stand, we still had an excellent view and didn’t feel at all detached from the action. The lower tier, whilst close to the action and some of the local characters, has a very shallow rake and makes for some less then perfect viewing angles.

The atmosphere is really something else. Patience is clearly something the good people of SE16 were born without. “Wake up, you C*nts!” That was the second minute after a perfectly timed interception. The support is not so much angry as livid. Expectations are clearly high, relegation is not an option. “Kenny Jackett, change it up you fucking c*nt”, that was 10 minutes in. It continued for the entire game from every single quarter of the support with the final insult coming a few minutes before the end when a bunch of under-10s caught a stray matchball and didn’t immediately return it for the throw-in, provoking volleys of “Give him the fucking ball back” (mostly from the disappointed parents) who no doubt blamed the loss on the kids. Rightly so too. Every second counts…

Prawn sandwiches. There are a couple of options outside the stadium, an arry of takeaways line the surrounding roads, one offering “Spageti Boglnese”. Needless to say, we didn’t order anything. Once in sight of the ground, there are plenty of traditional burger caravans but the most popular option seemed to be the Millwall Café, a large en bloc facility by the main club shop. The queues were moving swiftly but I couldn’t be bothered with the wait, although the battered sausage looked pretty damn good.

The Caff

As we wondered round, we encountered ‘Arry’s Bar, a private members establishment in the West Stand for season ticket holders. More akin to dodgy night club than the executive suites at the Emirates (or the Champion Hill bar), it’s safe to say that we didn’t feel like we’d missed out by not getting in.

If your name's not 'arry, you're not coming in

There are a series of snack bars and stalls inside the ground under the stands. These were not cheap. Drawn away from the expensive Carlsberg which I knew would be abhorrent, I thought I’d chance a cider. Big mistake. A 500ml bottle of unbranded £3.80 cider at 1pm was not my smartest moment and as every drop of moisture was seemingly extracted from my body by this pint of dry acid, I decided that Bovril would have been a much cleverer move.

…and the game. Whilst entertaining, the game was rarely captivating. Bristol took an early lead through Nicky Maynard and looked in control throughout. I suspect they won’t be in the bottom half come the end of the year. They played with a controlled aggression that Millwall really struggled to break down. Millwall’s creativity vanished as soon as Brian Howard was substituted. Darius Henderson looked to make an impact but struggled and too was replaced by former Lincoln and Rangers man, Dany N’Guessan, Millwall code name: Danny Doughnut.

Liam Feeney stood out as the most talented man on the pitch but was tightly guarded all game much to his frustration. The equaliser was a well worked effort and marked Jay Simpson’s only contribution and he nearly missed that too. Maynard picked up his (and Bristol’s) second goal just 5 minutes later and despite a handful of half-chances, Millwall couldn’t really muster another comeback. I think they’re in for a long hard season.

Man of the match. This weekend was family weekend at Millwall. Instead of taking a child along with me, I took a man with child-like exuberance for the beautiful game, Mr Rogue Cannons of the famed Ode to the Wee Red Book blog. Family fun was all over the place at The New Den. Of particular interest was Zampa the Lion. Not Zappa the Lion as I had casually read. Whilst a moustachioed guitar-wielding mascot would have made my day, if not my year, Zampa was an adequate replacement. No Sammy the Tammy, but good value nonetheless and certainly better than the programme write-up which listed special family activities as hip hop classes (BOOM! Straight Outta London), face painting and entertainment from Zampa, with the insinuation that most of the time, poor Zampa does very little entertaining.

Zampa’s highlight was supposed to come when he took on Bristol mascot, Scrumpy, in a relay race. Sadly, Scrumpy bottled it and Zampa had to make do with a penalty shootout against some kids to the soothing sound of Walking in Memphis. Not ideal for a Lion physically and mentally prepared for a sprint. Never one to shirk in the face of adversity, Zampa was determined to pick up a clean sheet by making a couple of spectacular saves. Disappointingly, someone had a word and he started letting them slip past him.

Everyone cheered as Zampa’s antics kept the surly crowd from revolt…well everyone except an angry little boy sitting in front of us who proceeded to boo Zampa, boo the penalty takers and boo the junior team who ran round the pitch before the second half: “BOOO! BOOO! Especially YOU number 9! Booo!” Tough words from the kid who also proceeded to give David James in the Bristol goal an earful throughout the second half. Joint MOTM honours for Zampa and the angry little boy.

Zampa. Take a bow!

Post-match rubdown. Look, I know non league football is somewhat of an acquired taste. I know it’s not everyone’s bag and I know that some people are genuinely interested in bigger, arguably higher quality games. If you fall into that category, Millwall would be a fine team to go and visit. Much like their neighbours and rivals Charlton, there’s a real sense of community but I’d say it’s far more introspective in Millwall. The old notion of ‘no-one likes us, we don’t care’ has never rung more true. As a kid who always cheered for the bad guy in panto/films/Button Moon, I like that attitude a lot.

If you’re in the New Cross-Peckham-Camberwell borders, I’d still recommend a trip to Dulwich Hamlet on a Saturday afternoon, but if like this weekend, you can do both, then leave your preconceptions at home and take a trip to the New Den. You won’t be disappointed but it’s not for the faint hearted.

Advertisements

Thackley FC

11 Nov

04 November 2011

Northern Counties East Premier Division (step 5)

Thackley FC 00  v Scarborough Athletic 05 (att 208)

Dennyfield, Thackley, West Yorkshire

 

Team Talk. A weekend away visiting the folks in Bradford, West Yorkshire and a great chance to visit one of the many local non league teams that I failed to visit in my years growing up here. As a youngster I was too preoccupied with the exploits of Bradford City to give other local teams the time of day. Like excessive nosehair, the love of non league football seems to be something that comes to most of us later in life. Today I am looking to put this injustice right with a visit to Northern Counties East Premier Division (step 5) side Thackley FC – with my 19 year old non-league virgin brother in tow.

Thackley AFC was founded in 1930 by the younger members of Thackley Wesleyan Methodist Church. This was back in the days when Thackley would have been regarded as a stand alone village, before it was swallowed by Bradford. A founding member of the Northern Counties East Football League in 1982, one of Thackley’s most notable footballing achievements is winning the Bradford and District FA Senior Cup on 13 occasions. This is a competition record.

Thackley can count human bean pole and Bradford City legend Ian ‘Stix’ Ormondroyd amongst their former players. Standing at 6 ft 7 inches – my abiding memory of watching Ormondroyd from the stands at Valley Parade as a nipper was his introduction as a super sub. This was always in the 80th minute and always seemed to be with the sole intention of confusing the hell out of tired opposition defenders with his gangly appearance and his never say die attitude. It was Ormondroyd’s willingness to always have a go (despite obvious lack of any real technique – see classic local news footage below of Stix destroying Cardiff) that makes him one of my all time favorite players to have worn the claret and amber of Bradford City. He is also probably the reason for my continuing enthusiasm for the big man up front (ideally accompanied by a very small strike partner). In recent years, players such as Tooting and Mitchum striker Fola Onibuje and former Dulwich Hamlet forward Scott Edgar have paid their own tributes to Ormondroyd on the pitches of south east London. On the issue of tall players, the stat-tastic and always entertaining Best Eleven did a piece on the world’s tallest footballers last year that is worth checking out.

Ian 'Stix' Ormondroyd

Thackley’s opponents today, Scarborough Athletic, were formed in 2007 by the fan-led Seadogs Trust after Scarborough FC went into liquidation. At present the team ground share with current NCEL Premier Division table toppers Bridlington Town.  Despite having to do the 34 mile round trip between Brid and Scarborough around Flamborough Head to get to home games, the team were promoted from NCEL Division One in 2009. Interest in the club has been high and they are starting to get what can only be described as a bit of a cult following. Part of the reason for this has to be the appointment as manager this season of porno-tashed Chuckle brother a-like Rudy Funk and the signing in recent weeks of another Bradford legend – Dean Windass. It is hard to pick just one favourite Windass moment, but the image of his stunned face following a wonder strike against Liverpool at Anfield in 2000 always sticks in the mind.

They've got the funk.... Rudi Funk

Both Thackley and Scarborough have had strong starts to the season. A quick look at the NCEL Premier Division before the game showed that there was only two points between Thackley in 7th and Scarborough in 4th in what is a really tight league this year.  If results went their way Scarborough could be top of the league by the end of the day – so all to play for.

Park the bus. Thackley play at Dennyfield, which is the reason for their nickname the Dennyboys. Talking about the public transport options here seems like a bit of a waste of time as only dossers, children and the old get the bus in Yorkshire. So I will say only this… there is ample parking.

Home Advantage. Access to Dennyfield is maybe a mile or so from central Thackley – up a narrow country lane where the urban fringe soon gives way to dense woodland. Just before you start to think that you have made a wrong turn that could lead to some awful Evil Dead style consequences there is a clearing in the woodland that leads to the big car park for the main ground. The ground sits nicely on the border between the woodland and farmers fields. Readers of this blog will know that the Pigeon Stands love a ground in the middle of nowhere.

The clubhouse is located in the car park, outside the main ground. It is an understated single storey building that resembles a campsite toilet block from the outside – but is far nicer inside.

Club house

Inside the ground all the buildings run along the west side of the pitch. The main turnstile (£5 in plus £1 for a programme) in the south west corner leads straight into a small concreted area with a few tables and chairs close to the real toilet block and  the burger bar. Further down on the west side is the main seated stand (the only covered area at the ground). The rest of the ground is open, allowing views out to the farmers fields.

South west corner

West stand

Inside west stand

East and south sides

Prawn Sandwiches. Despite the external appearance, the clubhouse is really nice. Very welcoming and mercifully warm. There are two big TVs at either end of the bar showing the football scores (none of the horse racing, Dickinson’s deal, or Morse crap that we have seen elsewhere) and the chat in the bar was lively. The biggest news from the bar being the tale of a game at Eccleshill the week before. A goalkeeper was so annoyed at having a goal awarded against him and getting a yellow card for his reaction that he took the ball and locked himself in the changing rooms – leading to the game being called off. I never got around to asking if they had a spare ball that could have been used to finish the game and should imagine that there was bit of Chinese whispers going on – best not to ask and just enjoy the story I reckon.

The burger bar in the ground wins the award for having the cheapest food I have ever seen at a non league football ground. Now I cannot speak for the quality of the food, but pie and peas for £1.70 seems like a bargain to me.

Burger bar venue

Pie and peas. Ow much!!!

and the game. Massive supporter turnout for Scarborough this afternoon – I would say around three quarters of the 208 fans in attendance were Seadogs. Part of the reason for this may have been that Bradford were at home but there is also no doubt that Scarborough have quite a following.

Thackley just never really got going here. Scarborough played a high tempo game with heavy pressing in the midfield that Thackley could not cope with. Even when Thackley got the ball they never really looked like scoring. After three early goals from the Seadogs it looked like Thackley would be on the wrong end of a stuffing. What the home team threatened to start playing towards the end of the first half they conceded another to make it 4-0 at half time.

The second half continued in a similar way to the first and my only criticism of an excellent Scarborough side is that they only managed to score only one more goal in the second half – they should have had another two or three really. A full match report is here

Dean Windass didn’t start the game and was introduced with 20 mins to go. By this time the game had more of an exhibition match feel to it with Thackley all but dead and buried and utterly clueless. Overall Windass was a willing runner and clearly still has the touch. But the counter attacking game that Scarborough were playing by this point didn’t play to his strengths. Windass’s impact was limited to some first rate banter with the linesman who blew him offside quite a few times and at one stage yelled “yer offside again Deano.. come on sort it out”.

We left the game with the chants of “Deano” ringing in our ears. To be fair the adoration would have been better directed at the rest of the Scarborough team. They were excellent, particularly flying wing man Billy Laws (a proper old school footballers name if ever I heard one).

Dean Windass in training

Man of the Match. My 19 year old brother had a great time at the game and may well now come with me to future games in this neck of the woods. This got me thinking about the youngsters who week in and week out shun league football to visit places like Thackley instead. Hats off to any brave kid who has to tell their school classmates that they support Thackley rather than Bradford or Leeds.

Post-match rub-down. Not a bad little club at all. The few Thackley fans in attendance were very welcoming and the setting of the ground certainly gives you a different experience. I bet it’s bloody freezing in the depths of winter though.

Colliers Wood United

6 Nov

04 November 2011

Combined Counties Premier Division

Colliers Wood United 04  v  Guildford City 02 (att c 110)

Wibbandune Sports Ground, Colliers Wood

Team Talk. Combined Counties action under the Friday night lights of the Wibbandune Sports Ground on Guy Fawkes weekend. Nothing could be sweeter. I’m here thanks to Colliers Wood United’s decision to move their game with league leaders Guildford to boost attendances. Well, it worked for the SPL, why not the Combined Counties?

Colliers Woods United, or their earliest incarnation, Vandyke FC, were founded in 1874 by a group of tap-dancing, crime-solving doctors with a penchant for non-league football, chimney sweeping and mockney accents… that might not be strictly true.

Having ploughed away in the old local league structure, The Wood moved to the Surrey Intermediate League before moving briefly to the Surrey Seniors Division 1 in 1969 where they won the inaugural league title.

Despite their relatively lofty position in step 5, the Surrey Seniors title remains the Wood’s only league triumph having won promotion from the Combined Counties Division One in 2003 as runners-up.

The Wood have had some minor cup triumphs over the years, winning the 1992 Surrey FA Cup with a resounding 4-0 win over Woking and Horsell.

Like a lot of clubs further down the pyramid, there’s a lot of mucking-in to be done at Colliers Wood. Management duo, Mark Douglas and Tony Hurrell, also act as Club secretary and treasurer respectively. I’m sure managers of some of the more affluent clubs would love to do it, here it’s nothing to do with cooking the books to bring in players, it’s purely a sign of how much people are willing to put in to keep the club going. Admirable stuff.

From the Bridge

Can't see The Wood for the trees

The visitors today are the highly impressive Guildford City. The Guild are top of the Combined Counties Premier as they were this time last year and if results are anything to go by, they continue to look a cut above the rest. Last year, Chertsey Town, the only team who could stick near Guildford, were promoted owing to problems with City’s Guildford Spectrum Sports Ground. This year, they are hopeful that they can overcome this adversity and go marching into Step 4.

Park the bus. Colliers Wood’s Wibbandune Sports Ground is located on the Kingston bypass. Not the most glorious location for a sporting arena but convenient for those travelling by car in South West London. Travelling on public transport from South East London is decidedly less enjoyable. A train ride from Waterloo will get you to New Malden in 22 minutes, from there it’s 15 minutes on the 265 bus. Alternatively, you can get the 265 from Barnes but that may take some time. We’ve previously talked about football dogging but this is more your conventional dogging hotspot. Naturally, I’m grateful that South West London’s deviant population had, for this night anyway, decided to give the Wibbandune car park a miss.

Homefield advantage. Usually, this is where we stick a load of pictures of the ground. Unfortunately, due to a technical error (I forgot to charge the camera), there are minimal visuals to be seen here so you’ll have to make do with my slightly sketchy descriptions.

The Wibbandune is tidy wee ground that has been home to Colliers Wood for some 20 years. Previously, a cricket oval, there is definite evidence of the ground’s past. The Square is still identifiable, being the only flat bit of grass on the pitch and there is a graveyard of old crease rollers, but it’s the clubhouse – still referred to as The Pavilion – that is most definitely more suited to cricket than football.

Chalkbaord

Always a big fan of a chalkboard

The Pavilion features two covered terraces and appears to have been built by Barratt Homes with two seating areas (featuring a wrought-iron garden fence) either side of the clubhouse entrance. There was also another seating area, behind to dugout, although this looked somewhat underutilised:

Now here at the Pigeon Stands, we love a good discussion about seats and this season we’ve had some great finds. This one however, has to go down as the worst. I had to check it out and I can confirm that I had no sight of the pitch, let alone 22 guys chasing a ball and swearing at each other.

Luckily, it wasn’t all silly seating. The annex to The Pavilion, one of these pigeon stands on wheels, had been pimped up with some school gym benches and a (potentially illegally liberated) park bench. Whilst this stand was clearly where all the action (and more importantly, the ground-hopping massive)was, my eye was drawn to something even more suburban.

Pimped up Pigeon Stand

Having recently visited Raynes Park Vale, I was aware that this part of London liked a barbecue at the football, so imagine my surprise and delight to find a fully fledged, permanent brick BBQ pit overlooking the pitch. With the acrid smell of gunpower in the air (from both fireworks and my ancient substitute camera) I briefly thought there may be a possibility of a cheeky undercooked burger at half time. Sadly not.

Apart from The Pavilion, code name: My Nan’s House, the ground is relatively sparse with a seated stand opposite the clubhouse/pavilion and both ends are uncovered.


Prawn sandwiches. The clubhouse itself is very much your stock standard bar-cum-tea room. There was a more than ample trophy cabinet although it was disappointing to see it draped first in a Chelsea flag and then a Millwall scarf. There was also a secondary cabinet with a nice range of pennants from visiting sides.

A traditional range of Carling and Strongbow was available on tap but I was all about a mug of tea. In step 5 I’ve become accustomed to proper mugs, I wasn’t let down. I’d also go as far as saying it was one of the better brews I’ve had at the football. Food was plentiful; a pyramid of ham and cheese rolls, worthy of the non-league system itself, was a more than welcome sight and the £2.60 for a cuppa and roll was even more welcome.

Bliss

The boardroom took on the form of a slightly squashed conservatory. Whilst the sandwiches and cakes looked of a fine quality, I can’t imagine a full meeting of home and visiting boards would be very comfortable. Yet another advantage of having some of the Wood’s execs in the dressing room during half time.

…and the game. Well well. I don’t think too many expected this. Colliers Wood won, and won well. Guildford, a side considered by many to be playing in a division lower than they should be really didn’t look like it. Without question they marshalled themselves better but the Wood front-six were totally dominant.

The Guild took the lead as Joel Hughes scored from an uncontested header as Colliers Wood struggled with the concept of man marking. Guildford hit the post a few minutes later and generally looked to have the beating of Wood’s pedestrian defence. Wood came close, force a great save from Antony Hall who undid the majority of his good work a few minutes later when Elvis Defreitas back-pass slipped comically under Hall and trickled into the net with little time left in the first half to recover.

Less then a minute after the restart the Wood were ahead thanks to an incisive breakaway from Ryan Hughes who crossed for Nathan Turner to finish neatly and put the Wood in the lead. The 3rd followed shortly after, once again Hall  tried to clear his lines only to have the ball slip under his foot for “Super” Mario Embalo to tap in for a well deserved – if not well worked – goal.

Guilford’s misery was complete when Embalo, noticeably the best player on the field was put clean though only to be bundled over by the unlucky Hall. The resulting penalty was despatched by Joe Mead with ease. City, who didn’t really look fired up, came back into the game with 10 minutes to go from yet another shambolic bit of marking. This time, sub Ben Camara was the benefactor of Wood’s poor marking.


In the end, Colliers Wood deserved their win although without the keeper’s errors, I got the feeling Guildford would probably have gone on and won the game. Still it keeps things lively at the top and by all accounts Colliers Wood were unfortunate not to have won their last few games. Perhaps their luck has finally changed.

Man of the match. I guess it should be men of the match. Mark Douglas and Tony Hurrell do a phenomenal job at the Wood and should be commended for their efforts. The administration of step 5 clubs is a tightrope few chose to walk and those who do perform admirably well. More impressive is Douglas and Hurrell actually find time to play decent football too.  To hear more from Douglas, listen to this podcast from the always excellent Two Footed Tackle.

However, it’s Hurrell who I am most interested by. The guy is a proper non-league legend. A former printer who fought for the unions in the Wapping Dispute, Tony was more of a cricketer than a footballer in his youth, never really gracing the upper echelons of the non-league game. Colliers Wood is his Manor and has been for years. He’s painted the lines, cut the grass, made the tea, washed the windows, sat in dugout, sat behind the dugout. You name it, Hurrell has done it and he now shares management responsibilities with Douglas.

What I particularly liked was his touchline manner, chatting to subs and fans alike, he was keen to analyse every facet of his team’s performance. From his vantage point ON the pitch, he was definitely best placed.

I’m sure the guy loves his footy but over and above that, he loves Colliers Wood United. He’s the ultimate one-club man, but in many ways (and I mean this with absolutely no negative connotations), they’re a one-man club. Celtic can keep their “We Are All Neil Lennon” falsities. At Colliers Wood United, they are all Tony Hurrell.

Post-match rubdown. Wood aren’t the most naturally gifted bunch of players I’ve seen but they’re not a bunch of hackers either, they play to their strengths and took full advantage of the opportunities presented to them. They are a progressive bunch on either side of the touchline and I took a real shine to their positive attitude. It’s something a lot of teams in both step 4 and 5 could learn from.

The decision to play on a Friday night was great and the majority of the hundred-strong crowd will have had a fine time. Personally/depressingly, I can think of few more enjoyable Friday nights I could have had. Although, I could probably think of some warmer ones.

The lack of accessibility is probably one of the biggest obstacles in Colliers Wood’s quest for higher attendances but a trip to Colliers Wood is really worth the effort of getting there.