Tuesday 21st January 2019
Rivalries are there in all age groups and at all levels. Even in lower league or grass roots football. They can be for a number of reasons of course. Challenging for trophies. Particular famous incidents or matches. Even manager feuds. But more often than not they tend to be simply geographical.
Being in London that dictates we have many many ‘derby’ matches to negotiate in every season, some of them more intense than others of course. And this week, in 2 very different situations, we can be considered Kings of London!
On Thursday night I made the journey from the Isle of Wight to Borehamwood as our youngsters entertained our nearest geographical rivals in the FA Youth Cup. And if ever evidence was required that these rivalries exist at every level this was the night.
My abode being where it is these days I’m far from a regular at youth or under 23 level matches but if there is one competition I have attended quite a number down the years it is this one. Being youth football’s premier cup competition still to this day, it has historically been considered a prestigious tournament to win. Throw in the game was against that lot from Middlesex and it had been made an all ticket affair, I just couldn’t resist.
On a freezing cold night our opponents definitely saw the better of the first half and deservedly took a 2-1 lead into the break. Where have we seen that before I wonder.
Come full time, after becoming much the more dominant team, it was level and extra time would follow and possibly penalties beckoned. Until we scored a 3rd that is. And a 4th. And a 5th. Thoroughly entertaining, well deserved and into the 5th round we go.
It is safe to say we have been on a difficult run of late. Frustrating after our pretty decent start. So when the likes of Chelsea come next you can’t help but fear the worst. But I had an air of optimism around me on Saturday afternoon. Admittedly I generally always do and the evening kick-off meant my pre-match refreshment might have been clouding my view a little!
And on the day we played well and were deserved winners I felt. 2 good goals, the second with an element of fortune about the actual finish of course and a 2nd period where I felt our game management in a winning position was excellent.
So, 3 big points then before another match where the atmosphere will be simply crackling I’m sure. That Friday night feel, the beginning of the weekend and an FA Cup tie at home to one of them rivals I mentioned earlier that is nothing to do with geography.
Having gone on an impressive run since their manager departed, there is no doubt it is a hugely tough game.
And we can play our part as always.
Come on you mighty reds!!
Saturday 12th January 2018
Sometimes, in defeat, you can argue it hasn’t been your day. And in 2 short periods during the course of today’s game we created enough decent chances to have scored. But in the vast majority of the 90 plus minutes we cannot have any argument or excuses for our performance.
That’s not me saying our hosts were great. They were no more than mediocre. Yet we lost to them.
Sometimes I’m full of words. But not this afternoon. Our recent away performances have very much mirrored virtually all of last season’s. And although I am very much a believer our manager needs to build and nurture his own squad rather than totally rely on the one he has inherited, our performances need to drastically improve. And quickly.
Chelsea at home next then. I would like to describe that one as a tough fixture on paper. But I wouldn’t put Brighton, Southampton or West Ham in that bracket and we’ve picked up one point out of nine against them. So tell me any easy game right now.
Keep the faith.
Sunday 6th January 2019
Any Premier League side who plays a team from a lower league in the FA Cup is expected to win. But the competition is what it is for its lengthy history of shocks. So the TV companies turn up longing to be providing coverage of the next one. And when it doesn’t happen the higher ranked club gets zero credit for putting in a professional performance and getting the job done. Instead words like ‘strolled’ and ‘routine’ make up the match reports.
For me FA Cup 3rd Round day is right up there as one of the very best on the football calendar. Especially when you are away from home. Why this is the case is difficult to put into words. But there is certainly a buzz about the day. And a sense of a full ‘army’ of travelling fans turning up for the day.
My journey started when I left my house at 6am yesterday morning and after a brekkie at Euston it was onto a direct train to Blackpool North, one that almost felt like a football special.
A few beers with my fellow travelling Gooners saw us arrive in good spirits and we checked into our hotel located actually in Bloomfield Road on what was to be a strange old day.
Blackpool fans are very unhappy with the current owners of their club and amongst other things they have shown their anger by simply not turning up. If the stadium had been full yesterday it would have gone totally against the beliefs of the majority. But it wasn’t and fair play.
It made it a strange old atmosphere.
One of the huge attractions with an away day in the cup is a ferocious home following full of excitement and doing their utmost to make it as difficult and uncomfortable as possible for the visitors. Like at Preston and Nottingham Forest in recent seasons for example. So although I support the Tangerines’ fans in their plight, yesterday lacking any of that was a shame.
On the pitch the players out there did their job and no matter how we analyse and look at how we played, on a difficult surface, with everyone outside our club wanting us to fail, 3 nil is thoroughly satisfactory. Into Monday night’s 4th round hat we go.
Post match we enjoyed a few beers, some questionable karaoke in an even more questionable pub and a late night curry bringing a fine trip to a satisfactory conclusion.
And that brings me to my train journey home today and my thoughts turn to West Ham away this coming weekend.
Up the Gunners!
Tuesday 1st January 2019
Happy New Year everybody. May it be healthy, happy and prosperous for each and every one of you. Four goals and three points today will certainly help on getting the middle one underway.
Sorry if this sounds a bit miserable but I’m not a massive fan of New Year’s Eve. The ‘once a year’ merchants tend to be numerous and can often go on to spoil it for those of us that go out most weeks just because they’ve had a couple of shandies. Harsh? Maybe. But you know what I mean.
Right up until about 11am yesterday morning, partly as a result of my feelings detailed above, I genuinely had no plans. But my sister was hosting a bit of a shindig back in Kent. Generally I don’t take too much persuading when it comes to such events. And my sister and her family can certainly party!
So a train journey later and I was in Kent. And turning in just before 5am was par for the course when it comes to my sister. Ouch.
Getting in a taxi just 4 hours later was painful. Very very in fact. But, New Years Day means football. Certainly most years. And I thanked my lucky stars we were at home.
A few pre-match liveners helped the nausea. Not big or clever I accept. But essential if I’m honest and had me at least feeling back on the straight and narrow for the game ahead.
It could be said we rode our luck a little in the first period. But I counted 5 clear cut openings for us and 3 for our visitors. On another day we might have been 2 or 3 up or 2 or 3 down. But Granit’s strike was enough to see us go in with a lead and something to build on.
Laca doubled that lead midway through the 2nd half after a fine passing move and we looked pretty much home and hosed. But with every 2 nil scoreline we all know the next goal can be hugely influential on the final result.
Fulham went hell for leather and without sounding too condescending, deserved to get something for their efforts, even if potentially there was a foul in the build up. But we stepped up a gear having conceded and went on to win the game fairly comfortably. Pleasing and on we go.
Blackpool away next in a fantastic FA Cup 3rd round example. Historical and mouthwatering, especially for all those neutrals out there hoping for a big upset. Focussed and professional we need to be in my opinion. And with that attitude we will progress.
If we are complacent however, history demonstrates, even with our great club, you can come unstuck.
Another road to Wembley begins.
Come on you mighty reds.