About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Frauleins beat men to Euro glory

video
Stamford Bridge provided the location for a fitting end to my football season at the Women's UEFA Champions League Final. Having enjoyed the corresponding fixture two years ago at Craven Cottage, the fact that admission was doubled to £10 was not a problem as I went to see if Olympique Lyonnais could win a third successive final against Vfl Wolfsburg,
However the evening was a pretty anodyne experience compared to that at homely Fulham, an impression which was formed as soon as I was greeted by a phalanx of five bouncers and signs informing me of football prices at the local Wetherspoons. 
A crowd approaching 20,000 gathered at the Bridge to watch a tense affair with the French meriting their favourites tag throughout, the winger of two years ago Louisa Necib controlling the game from the middle of the pitch. They were unable to break down the German defence though, Wolfsburg maintaining a breakaway threat throughout and once they had weathered an early second half storm, Martina Muller took advantage of a generous penalty award to score what proved to be the winning goal from the penalty spot.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Weary Wigan surrender to fate

L for Latics
A wet Tuesday evening in North London was the backdrop to what finished as a comfortable win for Arsenal but what, up to the hour  mark was a keenly contested game.
Playing for an essential three points to keep up hopes of winning the soul destroying race for Champions League Football, Arsenal started brightly when Lukas Podolski opened the scoring with a header. With the Gunners well in control a jaded Wigan looked to have run out of gas after their awesome FA Cup win last Saturday.
Having been applauded onto the pitch by all corners of the stadium the small knot of Latics fans, penned appropriately in a small L shaped section of the normal away end, comfortably made themselves heard, and as complacency crept into the Arsenal ranks, Athletic began to get into the game.
Failing to score a second that would have killed off the game, Arsenal began to sit deeper and become preoccupied with referee Mike Dean's decisions. An athletic toe poke by Laurent Koscielny saved the blushes of Wojciech Szczesny when he came out late to challenge Arouna Kone and it was no surprise when Shaun Maloney levelled the score with a delightful free kick just ahead of half time.
At half time a pitchside interview with ex Gunner Brian Talbot introduced some perspective to the argument about squad rotation as his remarkable feat of being on the pitch for every second of Arsenal's 70 matches in the marathon 1979-80 season was recalled.
After the break Wigan continued to show the spirit and invention required to win the match and with Arsenal also needing to win an open game ensued. It was clear that the next goal was going to be crucial and the tide turned in Arsenal's favour when Szczesny pulled off a decent save from Kone. The sorcery of Santi Cazorla then paid divdends as the Spaniard set up three goals in nine minutes for Theo Walcott, Podolski and Aaron Ramsey the latter seeing the Welshman cap another solid game with a deft finish.
At the final whistle Wigan dejectedly plodded over to thank their supporters. Although many sounded the death knell for the club following their failure to once again save themselves at the last from relegation its timely to note that it was Paul Jewell who led them to promotion into the Premier League. There are plenty of managers of Jewell's ilk around for manager Dave Whelan to appoint should Roberto Martinez leave, and with the club's financial structure still in place there is no reason to doubt that they will be challenging for a return to the top flight next season. Arsenal in the meantime made preparations for a lap of appreciation although I opted to trudge off to the tube in the pouring rain, a prospect preferable to saluting the possibility of  the pseudo achievement of another Champions League qualifying place.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Freedom Football

Left it late for my annual visit to Craven Cottage this season but I was rewarded with an enjoyable day at the match which in the style at Fulham is how football ought to be. With opponents Reading already relegated this freed up the mind to focus purely on the game and forget what might be happening elsewhere. Indeed the end of season mania was firmly left in the pub pre match as we voyeuristically watched the final day of the Football League in the aptly named Temperance a hostelry just busy enough to enjoy a pre match pint with the buzz of football talk.
A brisk walk in the sunshine through Bishop's Park took me to the away end and a fixture I had regularly watched in the late 80s/early 90s in an altogether more sedate atmosphere. These games were played in Division Three before crowds around the 4,000 mark and were low scoring affairs, the faded glory of the Cottagers summed up by the minor celebrities such as the Oxo Dad and Duffy from Casualty brought onto the pitch to perform the half time draw, and the bitter men who stood in the paddock of the Stevenage Road stand next to the Cottage shaking their fists at the steepling open terrace of the away end.
Although the roof to cover the still temporary feeling seats on the terrace unfortunately obscures the view, at least it creates an atmosphere with the away fans buffered by the unique neutral zone. Freed from the worry of their fate, the Reading fans were determined to enjoy their day out by the Thames, creating a raucous atmosphere to which their team responded with their biggest win of the season. All this was in spite of the unnecessary attentions of the inappropriately named WISE stewards who seemed to spend most of the game trying to confiscate Mr Blobby.
Reading started the game in fine form, deservedly taking the lead from a Hal Robson-Kanu penalty. As the half drew on Fulham came in to the game but found their path to goal blocked by the outstanding Alex McCarthy who looks as though he may one day justify the chants of England's number 1. However a change following the opening goal to boost the home teams attack with the addition of Hugo Rodallega seem to have the reverse effect by the way the impressive David Ruiz was moved into a more withdrawn role.
Reading justified their half time lead by pioneering a second half goal fest which on the one hand reinforced the best league in the world tag with the concomitant excitement but on the other the number of unforced defensive errors suggested that this was a game more of Championship quality.
Despite striker Pawel Pogrebnyak appearing to play with the hand brake on, his team mates needed no stimulus, scoring three goals marked by the quality of the finish. Taking advantage of a deep lying one paced centre back pairing of Hangeland and Senderos, Robson-Kanu and Le Fondre maintained the Royals lead before Karacan sealed the points with a shot drilled in along the ground from the edge of the penalty area.
The goals only served to exhort the already buoyant away support to new heights of glee at this unexpected turn of events regularly pointing out the incredible nature of the win. Fulham did belatedly wake up to the fact that they are not quite safe from relegation with Ruiz spearheading their comeback by scoring two goals, but on the rare occasions that McCarthy was unable to stop any further scoring attempts the woodwork came to Reading's rescue.
Thus with both teams going for it in the style of promotion/relegation death match, both sets of fans were treated an extraordinarily open second half which went some way to justifying the ticket price. Looking ahead Fulham need to address their decline if they are to maintain their Premier League status next season, whilst its clear that Reading have the makings of a team which can hold steady in the Championship. So it will be the signings made in the summer which will be crucial in inspiring each club to better themselves next season. 
A relaxing afternoon ended with a stroll back to the Temperance where we were briefly joined by Reading legend Adie Williams. It somehow summed up the day that he was able to freely chat with fans despite the Premier League hype, and proves yet again that a trip to Craven Cottage is the best value day out at the match in London.