With Gillingham already promoted to League One, and Bradford City and Northampton having secured a playoff spot - the top end of League Two is only interesting for the fight for either automatic promotion vs playoffs for Port Vale, Rotherham, Cheltenham and Burton. It’s at the other end that things are spicy - with my beloved Torquay needing a point against Brizzle (Bristol, Rovers version) to secure membership of the 92 for another season. But I digress …
A great friend of mine is a lifelong supporter of Shrewsbury.
For the longest time he lived in Telford and his quality of life was terrific, the Shropshire countryside is amongst the most beautiful England has to offer and when you think of England’s green and pleasant lands, you could see it in a postcard of Shropshire. There’s Ironbridge too, and if you don’t fancy marveling at that feat of human endeavor, well there’s the Merrythought Teddy Bear Factory - makers of Teddy Bears taken to bed by English kids since the early 1930’s. Fantastic pubs too, since Shropshire has a fine tradition of brewing - I fondly remember The Three Tuns in Bishop’s Castle, a balmy Sunday afternoon, freshly cut grass, bees buzzing by. With all this to enjoy 24/7 and with a beautiful young family and a great job, loving friends, why would mild mannered Chris want to kill anybody ?
On the 29th of April 2003, the 3-2 defeat at home to Carlisle confirmed what many had been expecting. The Shrews were down, and out of the Football League - no longer members of the top 92. Chris’s mood had grown progressively darker since the 5th April when they earned a point at home to Swansea with a dire 0-0 draw. Even the presence of Phil Jagielka’s older brother Stephen for The Shrews couldn’t brighten the last 8 games of the season. Chris - like all supporters in this position understands that it is unlikely that you’ll survive, momentum is against you. Of course, at the same time, you hope you’ll nick something from this game. Then you go 1-0 down and it’s here we go again. The dark cloud was over Gay Meadow. Though Shrewsbury hadn’t won a game since the 1st of March, league survival must have seemed possible - there were 16 games left to play. Shrewsbury had a terrific cup season, they drew Everton at home in the FA Cup third round, won that game and then got Chelsea at home in the fourth. The Chelsea team sheet 26th January 2003 : Cudicini, Melchiott, Gallas, Terry, Babayaro, Zenden, Lampard, Petit, Le Saux, Gudjohnsen, Zola. Joe Cole subbed Celestine Babayaro early in the second half, and it was Mike Riley who reffed the game - must have all seemed totally big time. Even when Gianfranco Zola put the first of his brace past Ian Dunbavin the occasion must have been quite something, with the bit of extra cash from a great cup run, we’ll be looking good. It ended 4-0 and that was that for the Cup.
The Shrews still had the matter of the LDV Vans Trophy - The Football League Trophy - Wednesday 29th January 2003, was the Northern Semi-Final against Crewe, which The Shrews won 4-2, so on to the two legged Northern Final, first leg at Carlisle. Adam Rundle’s first leg goal was enough to give The Cumbrians the 1-0 Victory at Brunton Park. Shrews boss Kevin Ratcliffe was able to use the loss as a motivation - The Shrews won their next league game 3-1 at home against Rochdale. That was the 1st of March and their last points earned from a win in the 2002-2003 season.
Chris explained that there was nothing like being relegated out of the league, if somebody had said something - especially on the walk away from the ground, he’d have hit them.
Sick of the game, sick of the club, sick of the empty promise, I hope you never have to go through it, mate - he said.
Though it’s been a while since Torquay and Plymouth have been in the same division, it was always Torquay United and Exeter City that were the Devon rivals. And while you never really wish ill on a fellow supporter, who ever they support, there is the banter and the chanting, the mocking hand gestures and the who-are-you’s. The other team to go down to the conference with Shrewsbury in 2002-2003 was The Grecians, how poetic. And while I still look for the Carlisle results every week after many a freezing Saturday afternoon at Brunton Park when I lived on the Warwick Road just 10 minutes walk from the ground, it was Carlisle’s late season form that sent Exeter down.
Torquay had spent the 2002-2003 season flirting with a play-off position, our end of season form insufficient to get us into the top 6. The will-they-won’t-they of the top quarter of the table, mere points separating fortunes - sometimes not even - goal difference could decide whether you have a shot at a Wembley Play-Off Final to whether you start the summer break early in mid-table obscurity. In the Premiership the thinnest sliver of goal difference could be what gives you a crack at the Europa League where Fulham were so exciting this last season or even The Champions League, albeit via a qualifier. Of course, there’s the money - from TV and from gates, but playing in Europe enables the retention and the recruitment of players, typically keen to match themselves against the best there is. It may well be - and usually is - that final third of the season battles and outcomes are decided by games between teams fighting relegation and those pushing for Europe. That the team below you (and you ALWAYS do the math) still has to play the team who - in second place - is still pushing for the trophy. Will a team that has yet to play one of your opponents in the relegation battle put out a weaker team since they have nothing to play for in the League but are still in Europe ?
Is it financially better to go up to League One via a Wembley final and a round of playoffs, or is that too risky - are all bets off in the round of playoffs - you might not make as much money for the inevitable rebuilding that will be necessary if you move up a division, but automatic promotion at least has a guarantee attached.
The bitterest taste is certainly of relegation, and while you have to endure your mates telling you that football in Histon, Hayes, Tamworth, Barrow, Altrincham, Stroud or Salisbury won’t be so bad, there are moments that are close. Torquay were relegated to the Blue Square Premier League, and sure enough had to endure their football in the old conference towns. But once you’re over the disgrace of relegation, and the fixture list comes out it all starts to change, the old unrealistic optimism returns, and if the manager picks up a couple of experienced lads - well, this season down in the basement might not be so bad. 2007-2008 was Torquay’s first season and after a pretty good start we bottled a couple of games, but mercifully ended a long campaign in the play-offs. Who was our play-off semi-final opponent ?
Exeter suffered the heartbreak in 2006-2007 of getting to the play-off final only to be beaten by Morecambe, and it all must have felt like deja vu when after the first leg of the 2007-2008 semis they trailed Torquay 2-1 at home. Exeter had to make the short trip up to Plainmoor knowing they had to win, and big. The Plainmoor faithful felt the job was all done when Tim Sills nicked the ball to Chris Zebroski on the edge of the 18 yard box directly in front of goal. 11 season Gulls veteran Kevin Hill was at full stretch in front of the Plainmoor Grandstand, Zebroski slipped the ball to his left under pressure and Hilly hit it first time into the back of the net. 3-1 up on aggregate now, Gulls fans understandably went bananas, the Popside erupted. Ah, the poetry, beat The Grecians away and then seal the deal with a first time hit from a player who’s played all his career in professional football at the club - ELEVEN SEASONS ! Equalling the club’s appearance record. Who are you ? Who are you ? Who are you ? The bitterest taste is not necessarily relegation, it is knowing that your team took their foot off the gas, thought they had the job done, started smoking cigars and then gave up 4 goals in 20 minutes all in the rain.
Watch it through your fingers if you dare http://youtu.be/OszH6h0QXBA
It was Exeter that went on to beat Cambridge in the Wembley final ending a four season stint in the conference, three years longer than Shrewsbury who returned to the fold of the 92 via the play-off final at the Brittania Stadium, since the new Wembley was unbuilt. Shrew’s goalie Scott Howie will live on the experience for the rest of his career, as the game went to penalties on May 16 2004 and he saved 3 consecutively.
Of course, in the ‘who-are-you ?’ stakes, Torquay were only in the Blue Square for 2 seasons, so we’ll hold that over The Greeks for a bit yet. Hopefully - with at least a point aganst Bristol Rovers normal service will be resumed against our local rivals next season, since they were unlucky to just miss-out on a play-off spot. Though I dislike St James Park (not the real one) I will be happy for our lads to play there next season, since it means we’ll have survived.
I’m sure Chris is happy that with Portsmouth, Hartlepool and Bury already down, Shrewsbury at least have another season in League One to look forward too.
Come on you yellows.
Then finally the game that would decide it all was upon us, and one by one I had players dropping out on me, first Whitman is i
David Copeland-Smith has impressed all season, but his performance in the decider was outstanding. But it was old carthorse Dayle that smashed a low ball into the box from a kick-in that Yossi flicked into the net and the fightback was on. 5 minutes later and Yossi shot low and hard to the ‘keepers right. But it wasn’t to be, Tecate ran down the clock and Loko didn’t get much of a look in the final minutes.
Arguably, Loko’s greatest chance in the early stages of the second half was created by ‘keeper Marc B - hitting a back pass perfectly into the path of speeding Jeff M - the referee blew for an infringement of the no-goal-kick-over-the-halfway-line rule, not realizing (until all Loko players informed him) that an kick in open play positions the goalie just like any field player.
Ah well. A brilliant season Loko !
I’ve edited and re-purposed this a little bit, but I though it was fun and still relevant - footie and rock, if you know what I mean. It was the recent (and fabulous) fund raising single for the Hillsborough 96 that made me go back and think about it.
Oswestry native Ian Hunter was standing over David Bowie having rejected ‘Suffragette City’ as Bowie’s piece for Mott the Hoople. Bowie apparently knocked out ‘All the Young Dudes’ in response, and Mott were rescued, having been on the verge of splitting up since they couldn’t sell any records in spite of being the West Midlands workhorses of glam.
It was the early 1970’s and ‘Dudes’ set them on a path that had them touring all over the world, and having found their style their songs inevitably recorded the experiences of being a rock star on the road with plenty of attention but no money especially when they hit the United States. On stage next to the famously curly haired and sunglassed Hunter, was lead guitarist and Mott founder Mick Ralphs. Ralphs and the Mott the Hoople tour manager were die-hard Hereford United fans, and as Hunter articulates in his infamous ‘Diary of a Rock’n’Roll Star the mood on the 1972 tour of the US was entirely determined by how well Hereford were doing. It was a down and up season for Edgar Street Lilywhites, they got stuffed 4-1 by Aston Villa in the League Cup - first game of the season - but ended up getting promoted to the old Third Division second to Southport. Ralphs left Mott to form Bad Company with Paul Rodgers - the voice on Free’s ‘Alright Now’ is a Middlesbrough supporter. When they formed Bad Company, Hereford had never met Middlesbough in a competitive match, though they probably didn’t speak to each other on Saturday January 29th 1977. Middlesbrough put Hereford out of the Fourth Round of the FA Cup that day 4-0.
The Midlands teams are well represented in Pop and Rock circles, Justice Collectives Robbie Williams is a well documented supporter of the potteries Port Vale, his financial involvement ensured the survival of Vale Park in Burslem. Robbie’s double A side track ‘It’s Only Us’ (the flip of ‘She’s The One’ his second UK number 1) was included on FIFA 2000 apparently on condition that Port Vale were featured in the game.
Like Mott the Hoople, Free, Bad Company and Robbie Williams - it’s difficult to imagine the gods of rock being anxious as to the outcome of games, frantic as to who their team will draw in the third round of the cup, or even that they’d be interested in footie at all. Robert Plant will have been happy that the 1979 Knebworth shows of Led Zeppelin finished before the footie season started, their run was done by August 11th 1979 - Plant could sneak into Molinuex with his mates to watch a boring 1-0 win for Wolves over local rival Derby in the League Cup a few days later on the 14th. Do you think he was worried about Midlands Cup bragging rights as they belted out ‘Whole Lotta Love’ or ‘Stairway to Heaven’ ?
‘Oi, Bonham - I bloody hope we don’t get The Baggies or The Villa in the second round.’ Bonham was a close friend of Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi - a known Villa fan.
All you need to know about Dido
There are the well known supporters in Rock too, Dido loves Arsenal, the Oasis Gallaghers are Citeh fans, Lily Allen shouts for Fulham, Gorillaz and Blur frontman Damon Albarn fittingly supports Chelsea. The Arctic Monkeys are Sheffield United fans and Mick Hucknall has had dinner with Sir Alex, trained with Eric Cantona and if you cut him in half it would say ‘Come On United’ like Blackpool Rock.
But why does Welsh lad Kelly Jones support Leeds United ? Hand me down jerseys in the early seventies, and peer pressure from his older brothers, apparently. Stereophonics frontman was interviewed by The Observer in 2002 and so much is revealed about the love / hate relationship with your team - http://observer.guardian.co.uk/osm/story/0„641776,00.html
The two sides of Kelly Jones
Leeds inevitably has other fans in the rock community, Scary Mel B follow Dirty Leeds - and so rather unsurprisingly do The Kaiser Chiefs. The band took their name from the the South African club Kaizer Chiefs because Leeds favorite Lucas Radebe used to play for them.
It is The Baggies who have the most impressive roster of fans from Rock, however. Who would have thought Eric Clapton to be a West Brom fan ? He was born in Surrey a good few hundred miles from Birmingham. Nonetheless, on September 27 1978 Clapton sponsored the match between WBA and Galatasaray of Turkey. After the game he handed out gold copies of his album ‘Slowhand’ to each player. It was Clapton who made former WBA Captain John Wile’s testimonial year by adding the receipts from a concert to Wile’s testimonial match gate.
Cyrille’s favorite gold album
Most of the original Judas Priest line up are West Brom fans as are Andy Cox and David Steele from Fine Young Cannibals and their original line up of The Beat colleagues Rankin’ Roger and Dave Wakeling. The Two Tone era was populated with footie fans, The Specials and The Selecter were predominantly Coventry City fans just like their latter-day political brothers The Enemy.
Electric Light Orchestra founding member and drummer Bev Bevan also supports The Baggies. Though there was much documented friction between Bevan and frontman Jeff Lynne - and Bevan left ELO a number of times - it can’t have helped that Lynne supported Midland rivals Birmingham City, and it must have stuck in his craw that ELO’s biggest hit ‘Mr Blue Sky’ was interminably played at St Andrew’s before practically every game - Lynne was a close mate of Blues legend Trevor Francis. Still, Bev had a terrific career - The Move, ELO, Black Sabbath and most recently drummer on Paul Weller’s Wake Up The Nation.
For the longest time Weller had Damon Minchella on bass, though Minchella played for OCS - Minchella was born in Liverpool and is a die hard Evertonian and played in goal at Dave Watson’s testimonial. Minchella left Ocean Colour Scene after an apparent punch up with drummer Oscar Harrison. The reason for the fight is not documented, but Harrison - like Weller regular and OCS guitarist Steve Cradock - supports Aston Villa. As Hunter had said in his diary, the mood can be determined by the fortunes of a football team, and the Scenesters were on tour in Ireland at the time of the kerfuffle.
Everton’s most famous fan is probably Paul McCartney, however. While George was famously agnostic on the Liverpool football teams (‘there are three teams in the city, I support the other one’) and Ringo supported Arsenal (!), John shouted for Liverpool it seems. It was obviously nothing to do with Yoko then, the whole break up business.
""We are, step-by-step, breaking in new players into that team and I think you see players that grow into that team like a Graham Zusi. At the same time, we have to take care of qualifying and see some new players come in and make a stamp on the game and developing through it." - Jurgen Klinsmann
After Team USA defeated Guatemala |3-1| Tuesday night, narrowly qualifying for the Final Round of World Cup Qualifying, Klinsmann stated that this is “a normal path that you go through”. He rightfully also acknowledged that the next round will be even more difficult but that they are up for the challenge.
- Will the team find their identity?
- Are they the team that beat Mexico or lost to Brazil?
- Is there more to the team or just Dempsey, Howard and Bradley?
2013 will provide all of the answers…an exciting year awaits Team USA.
Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
There is much to admire in the career of the journeyman footballer, as I have noted here before and elsewhere. A love for the game in all it’s manifestations and the career-long competition for a place on the team sheet, and a love for the fans. A respect for the fans of teams past and for playing colleagues past and present.
Easton started his career with Dundee United back in 1996 before heading to Livingston, Orient, Swindon Town, Southend and Dunfermline before he signed in Summer 2012 for (my beloved) Torquay United. But like fellow Scot Pat Nevin (written about in the blog, too) Easton recognized the need to supplement his playing skills with something else.
Easton studied Professional Sports Writing and Broadcasting at Staffordshire University and came out with a First Class Honours Degree, and the Scot has already put his skills to good use contributing substantially to newspapers in his native Airdrie and Swindon. He’s a blogger who has ventured outside his soccer (and sports) experience at http://eastonblog.wordpress.com/ and Torquay die-hards the world over are followers on Twitter @craig8easton - where he’ll share his thoughts on live albums, Kasabian concerts, the latest from Noel Gallagher, how gutted the lads were to get a point and plenty of banter with the other Twittering Torquay players. It’s a unique insight.
On the pitch, Craig has brought Torquay a little steel in the midfield playing deep in front of the back four. Having suffered an early season injury that kept him out a couple of games - fans have been able to conclude that the team his better with him in.
What were you doing when you were 17?
Liverpool’s hopes this season are starting to fall on the shoulders of a teenager. Raheem Sterling has speed, skill and youthful energy. He has proven to be a bright star in Liverpool’s otherwise poor start to the new EPL season. Good or bad, the pressure will mount as Liverpool supporters are desperate for improvement from the team’s 8th place finish last season.
Five things to know about Alex Morgan.
We new a few of the things on the list (i.e. SI body paint issue). But do you know what nickname her teammates gave her or who she might be dating?
RVP may have missed the penalty, but his hat-trick on Sunday officially announced his presence and value to Manchester United. Sir Alex once again is awarded with what seems to be, at this early stage, a brilliant move for a brilliant player. Will RVP continue to rip the back of the net or will he succumb to injury as has done so often in the past? Thankfully the season has only begun and we will all witness the glory and drama the EPL has to offer.
It took a bit of patience, but Zoltar’s predictions never fail. 0-0 through the first 70 mins of the game until Whitman broke the ice (or should I say scorching heat wave) with a much needed Zenit goal. It was all set up by a beautiful cross from Fernando, who had a blistering game, beating the Omegas down the right hand wing all game. Shortly thereafter Whitman added a 2nd goal from a clinical strike near the top of the box, 2-0. Nick S. put the game away with a late PK. I’m hoping Zoltar predicts cooler weather in the future…
NO PAIN NO GAIN! Justin Raisen helped Dinamo Spartak kick off the new season with a victory, receiving a broken nose in the process. Now that is a Spartan through and through!
(7/19/12) Dinamo Spartak |2-1| Burn FC
Turbine flew out of the gate, kicking of the new season (7/14) with a 3-2 victory over Kickn’it. The details and goal scorers sheet has somehow been lost in the mix, but chalk it up to fantastic team effort!
Rough day (7/21) for Turbine, they only had 8 girls, a lot of key players were out of town and they were playing one of the top teams in the league. The girls who did show worked hard and kept their heads held high, and they managed to save some face sneaking in 2 goals. With a full squad, this would have been a completely different game. Hoping this will be the last week Turbine struggles with numbers. A lot of new players are being added to the roster, and things are looking up.
Turn around!!! Dinamo Turbine ladies get the W, second of the season (7/28). Lani Stewart gets the goal, her fourth of the season as they beat Lady Killers 1-0. Go Turbine!