When Dave Went Up is the fairy-tale story of Wimbledon’s famous 1988 FA Cup win over Liverpool, and how a small team overcame the giants of English football.

More than just a recollection of the final itself, the book takes us through the tournament round by round, from the third round to the semi-final, and everything in between.

We all know that Lawrie Sanchez got the winning goal, but did you know he was in the wrong place for the free kick? The story shows what great team spirit and sheer hard work can achieve. With tales from the key players in the side, the staff, the fans, plus some of the opposition, this is the definitive account of how Wimbledon FC won the FA Cup.

Along the way you’ll discover how the Dons fell in love with the competition, with background info on their run in the 1974/75 season, when Dickie Guy become a household name overnight after saving a penalty against Leeds United.

If you don’t know about the Dons’ connection with the famous old cup, you certainly will after reading this fascinating book.

(Publisher:  Pitch Publishing Ltd. May 2023. Hardcover: 320 pages)


Buy the book here: When Dave Went Up

Book Review: Pompey Chimes, Pompey Times – A Collection of Portsmouth FC Memories & Memorabilia Sean ‘Northstandcritic’ Simpson, Derek Hammond & Gary Silke

Conker Editions is an independent publishing company, established in 2017 with the aim of producing high-quality, beautifully designed books. Conker specialises in books on football, memories and memorabilia and here at FBR we have been lucky enough to review many of them including, Can We Not Knock It?, 101 Manchester City Matchworn Shirts, Flat Caps & Tangerine Scarves, Glove Story, Glove Story 2, Football’s Black Pioneers, The A-Z of Weird & Wonderful Football Shirts and The Got, Not Got Football Gift Book.

This latest offering is a homage to Portsmouth FC, a Club who in winning the First Division title in 1948/49 and 1949/50 were crowned champions of England, but by 1978/79 had fallen all the way down to the Fourth Division. Pompey’s history is as choppy as The Solent that laps around its famous harbour, so for every triumph, most recently, the FA Cup win in 2007/08 as a Premier League club, there has been financial ruin and relegation down to League Two just five years later.

Where Conker’s previous books (and this addition also) win, are that the stories have an authentic feel, which for this Portsmouth book comes from having a dedicated and life-ling fan, Sean ‘Northstandcritic’ Simpson, as the readers guide to all things Pompey. As with some other titles from the Conker’s stable, there are within the pages, images of a great collection of memorabilia, whether that be kits, programmes, pennants, flags, rosettes, or football cards.

However, it also provides so much more, as Simpson captures the unique identity of those from the ‘island’ of Portsmouth, with its naval and dockyard links and history, the famous Play Up Pompey chime and larger than life fan, John Anthony Portsmouth Football Club Westwood. It is also a tribute to many that have been at the heart of the club through the ups and downs and featured with the section ‘Pompey People’ and most of all to Simpson’s father who passed away nine months before Portsmouth’s FA Cup victory in 2007.

Nothing within the Club’s History is shied away from as tales of the rise and fall on and off the pitch are covered, with the League title and FA Cup triumphs, and the season in Europe, sitting alongside Pompey’s poor Play-off record and financial crisis’s in the mid-1970s and early 2010s. But Simpson also captures what it has been like as a fan following the Fratton Park side, giving readers his personal choices, in the sections titled, ‘Top ten players’, ‘Match of the decades’ and ‘Away day tales’, which contains an absolutely genius story of a trip to Liverpool, and which is worth the price of this book alone.

Yes this is a book aimed at Pompey fans, but followers of other teams will understand the experiences Simpson provides as a fan, and of the trials and tribulations that clubs endure through their history whether Premier League or Northern Premier League.

(Publisher: Conker Editions Ltd. May 2022. Paperback: 176 pages)


Buy the book here: Pompey Chimes

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Three Goalkeepers and Seven Goals turns the clock back to 1982 for the most memorable match in Leicester City history – a quarter-final FA Cup tie with Shrewsbury Town that stands without parallel for twists and drama.

Told through the eyes of fictional reporter Bob Johnson, the story brings to life that extraordinary game, as a capacity crowd wedged into the atmospheric Filbert Street witnesses Leicester stage a spectacular 5-2 comeback using three goalkeepers.

Set in an era of macho newsrooms, Thatcher and the Falklands War, the book resurrects a remarkable period in British history.

Hard-nosed newspaperman Johnson thinks he’s seen it all, but his world is turned upside down as one of the lucky fans who witness Leicester’s inspirational comeback, aided by a goal from a young Gary Lineker.

Johnson’s account captures the immense drama of this epic game before tragedy strikes.

In Three Goalkeepers and Seven Goals, Mark Bishop skilfully weaves fact with fiction to honour a match that is part of Leicester City folklore.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. February 2022. Paperback: 224 pages)

Programme Review: 2021/22 FC Halifax Town

Fixture: Emirates FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round Replay

Date: Tuesday 19 October 2021 

Teams: FC Halifax Town v Pontefract Collieries

Venue: The Shay Stadium

Result: FC Halifax Town (1) – (0) Pontefract Collieries

Programme cost: Complimentary

Pages: 36

The FA Cup has taken a battering over the last few years with its importance to clubs clouded by the riches of the UEFA Champions League, and the money earned as members of the Premier League. But it has also been eroded in other ways. What traditionally has been the closing fixture of a domestic season has seen it shifted to before the end of season, and also kick-off time moved from its 3pm slot. Replays too have been deemed surplus to requirements from certain rounds in order to reduce the number of games played by the ‘stars’ of the Premier League, although there is a certain irony as invariably Premier League clubs generally don’t field a full strength side and resting the aforementioned ‘stars’.

Thankfully replays still survive in the earlier rounds although only one is permitted and so fans will never again witness the type of marathon that occurred in the 1971/72 FA Cup. Back then, the Fourth Qualifying Round game between Alvechurch and Oxford City became the longest FA Cup tie ever, lasting a total of eleven hours before Alvechurch won the fifth replay 1–0. The six matches were played at five different grounds – Alvechurch’s Lye Meadow (2-2), Oxford City’s White House ground (1-1), St Andrew’s, Birmingham (1-1), Oxford United’s Manor Ground (0-0 and 0-0) and finally, Villa Park, Birmingham (1-0 to Alvechurch). Sadly, a piece of Cup tradition and magic lost and never to be repeated.

So to the programme for this game coming about after Northern Premier League East Division Pontefract Collieries held National North side FC Halifax Town to a 0-0 draw. Good planning by Halifax will have seen their media team prepared for a replay in terms of programme content. On the night and with a short turnaround the 36-pager is impressive.

In terms of size it is the commonly used A5, with a thicker paper (especially the cover) and a colour matt finish, different to many clubs who print with a thinner paper and gloss colour finish. The cover proudly gives the title of the programme, the Shaymen Shout, (the club play at The Shay Stadium with the club nicknamed The Shaymen) and carries a wonderful image of Jordan Slew in the game at Pontefract. Standard details include, issue number, teams, competition, date and kick-off time, as well as the logos of the FA Cup, and the club’s three main sponsors, Core, nuie and Adidas.

The inside cover (page 2) is an advert for the Kick It Out campaign, although it is last season’s version. Contents are listed on page 3, with  a list of club officials. Pages 4 and 5 are Boardroom Notes, which provide a reflection on the game at Pontefract, a general overview on the Fourth Qualifying Round results and update on the injuries within the club, accompanied by an action shot from the game against The Colls. This is followed by another double-page spread, this time given over to manager Pete Wild with the background a cracking image of the Shaymen’s gaffer. It is a short piece with the usual welcome to the visitors, thoughts on the tie at Pontefract and a thank-you to the fans for their continued support. Captain’s Column from Niall Maher can be found on pages 8 and 9 with a full page picture of the skipper training and his views on the draw at Ponte, his disappointment at the draw for the First Round and a look ahead to the next league fixture at Solihull Motors.

The next four pages are given over to a feature article titled Meynell’s Memories, 100 Years of The Shay, which is an interesting read. It opens with a reminder that the last time Pontefract were at The Shay, they were beaten 14-3 in a West Riding County Cup match. What is not mentioned though is that Halifax were thrown out of the competition for fielding an ineligible player Instead the focus of the piece is a look at the FA Cup Second Round Replay from January 1967 when Halifax beat Bishop Auckland 7-0 and a profile on one of the scorers that day, Bill Atkins.

Page 14 is the FA’s advert for its Player app, with page 15 an advert for the club’s home shirt and on-line shop. There follows a double-spread given over to the Travellers’ Tales and their description of the day out at Ponte in the tie from a fans perspective. This brings us to the centre-fold which has a picture of the current FC Halifax Town squad. There is no title to say as such or indeed details of the squad line-up and it would have been useful to have included them.

Page 20 is an advert for one of the club’s sponsors, Core, with page 21 a slightly strange image given it shows a part of the home end terrace with no text to provide any context – maybe just a page filler given the tight deadline for production. The next four pages are for the Shaymen’s club fundraising and commercial efforts with Play the Square and Goal O’ Meter on pages 22 and 23 respectively and a double-page spread for player sponsorships.

The visitors Pontefract Collieries are afforded the next four pages, with In Brief, (manager) Craig Rouse and Club Connections featured on page 27 against a great backdrop picture of Pontefract’s Regional Electrical Service Stadium, with 10 things about The Colls on the next page. The shame about the 10 things list, is that some are repeated from the content on page 27. Page 29 provides a match report from the Last Time Out, which could have benefitted from the addition of the team-line-ups. The one thing that leaps out in respect of the visitors content and which may have been useful for home fans to read would have been the pen-pics for Ponte.

Page 30 is an advert for club sponsor nuie, with the next a guide to the forthcoming away game at Solihull Moors, including details of the nearest Wetherspoons to the venue! Pages 32-33 are the Fixtures and Results, with all the associated annotation required to understand competition, goal-scorers and team line-ups. Page 34 is an advert for the next home game v Dagenham & Redbridge and 35 (the inside cover) a picture of club skipper Maher applauding the home crowd. Finally, the back cover provides the team badges and squad lists with details of the match officials. It also handily includes a QR code which links to the club website.

Overall this a decent effort, which has good clean design and some great images which are not just the run-of-the-mill actions shots but enhance and complement the text. There are some typos and areas where content could be improved, but given the turnaround time for production, they can be forgiven.

Website: fchalifaxtown.com

Programme Review: 2021/22 York City

Teams: York City v Morpeth Town

Venue: LNER Community Stadium

Result: York City 1 (1) – (0) 1 Morpeth Town

Programme cost: £1.50

Pages: 16

The debate about digital v physical programmes has featured in our opening two reviews (Selby Town and Chadderton) and continues here with York City producing both a digital and physical version for their FA Cup tie v Morpeth Town. Looking at the Club’s on-line store, it seems that ‘The Minstermen’ have done this all season, for both their National North and FA Cup games to date, for which they should be applauded since it gives fans the option of which to purchase. One thing to notice though, is that for league fixtures the programme is £2.50, so is presumably a more substantial production than the 16 page version costing £1.50 for the FA Cup.

So what of this offering in the FA Cup, which celebrates 150 years in the 2021/22 season? Well, seven pages are given over to adverts (44%), with club/ground sponsors jmp, LNER, York Gin, DWA, and go store accounting for five of these. The remaining two are for The FA Player app and Kick it Out, although this is advert from the 2020/21 campaign. Since the Club will undoubtedly be contractually obliged to these companies and organisations to carry these in the programme, it will mean York have no option, but given that, couldn’t the programme be at least 20 pages?

The programme cover leaves you in no doubt that this is a FA Cup tie with an image of the famous trophy dominating and is a template used in the previous home ties. It is titled. “The Citizen” a nod to the founding of the city by the Romans. Colour-wise it is in the red club colours with the club badges of York and Morpeth and the standard match information – venue, date, competition and price. Additionally, the logo of shirt sponsor jmp features as does the Emirates 150 Years FA Cup logo. A nice little feature is at the bottom right hand corner, where a print effect looks to reveal that this is No: 9 of the programmes this season.

In terms of content this is where it feels a little strange. Page 3 is the first non-advert material of this edition and rather than being a welcome or game scene-set from the Chairman or manager, there is an article from youth team player Kyle Lancaster who was an unused substitute in the previous round v Whitby Town. Whilst an interesting article about the youngsters recent game against Notts County and thrill at being involved with the senior squad, it just doesn’t feel that this is a introduction to the game ahead. Incidentally, came on for the last ten minutes to mark his senior debut.

The programme is generous in the pages given over to visitors, NPL Premier Division, Morpeth Town with pen-pics and head-shots of the squad featuring on pages 4 and 7, and a club history on page 12, all very useful to fans on the day. However, the history for ‘The Highwaymen’ is curious in that it cuts off at the end of the 2014/15 season, with no details after that date. Pages 8 and 9 are the centre-fold of this edition and detail the ‘classic’ fixtures, results and line-ups common to all programmes. Additionally there is the National North League table as well as the current seasons appearances and goalscorers. The space on page 9 (games yet to be played), is used to provide a profile of a York volunteer, details of the other FA Cup fixtures involving National North teams and a picture of Olly Dyson the ‘Man of the Match’ from the last home game v Southport. That fixture provides the content for page 10, titles “Action Replay” with six images from the game as well as a brief match summary including the York line-up. All that leaves is the back page, which contains the common squad lists, with respective clubs badges and details of the match officials and the forthcoming games at the LNER Community Stadium.

Overall, whilst this is a tidily produced programme, however, the overriding feeling is that with the addition of four more pages it would have been improved in having a better flow and more bang for your buck. These could easily have been provided through the addition of some of the following – a welcome from the Chairman, a preview of the game from the York manager, a full list of the other ties taking place rather than just those involving National North teams, a look at both sides game played in getting to the Fourth Qualifying Round or indeed a summary of the record of ‘The Minstermen’ over the 150 Years of the FA Cup.

Website: Home | York City Football Club

Book Review: Arthur Kinnaird – First Lord of Football by Andy Mitchell

An excellent biography of an extraordinary man.

If you haven’t already delved into Victorian football this book will whet your appetite and also provide you with new opportunities to explore the early years of what is now the Global Game through, to give him his full title, Arthur Fitzgerald Kinnaird, the 11th Lord Kinnaird.

Just where do you start with this man of many facets? Kinnaird the footballer? The humanitarian? The politician? The administrator?

Of all these, prior to reading this book I was aware of Arthur Kinnaird’s’ exploits in football from my interest and knowledge of the FA Cup, especially during the Victorian era, with an additional insight provided by the Netflix mini-series The English Game, which although not totally historically accurate was an otherwise excellent programme.

Author Andy Mitchell has written a number of other football books, primarily concerning Scottish football, and here he has utilised a great source for this biography, with access to the family records and Arthur Kinnaird’s personal papers and scrapbooks through Kinnaird’s great-granddaughter, the Hon. Caroline Best, proving invaluable. Overall, the book is well written and concise, although I would have preferred some expansion in some areas of the book. The source material though enables Michell to provide readers with detail of his life outside of his football career, which in itself was so influential.

Despite Kinnaird’s Old Etonian education and wealthy family background he was extremely pious and cared greatly for social issues especially those affecting the poor. Along with his wife he used these attributes to be influential in the establishment of the YMCA and YWCA. Indeed, his early philanthropic leanings saw the couple teaching the children of the poor to read and write, with Kinnaird involved himself in a range of areas specifically those of a humanitarian nature covering education (for the poor and refugees), religion, poverty relief and health, as well as political and financial. As a Member of the House of Lords, he was a politician with a conscience, something those in positions of power and wealth today would do well to remember.

Kinnaird’s legacy to football came in two ways. On the pitch as a player, he was undeniably the superstar of his day, the Victorian Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo or Messi. Mitchell details his football career quite extensively, covering the great teams of the period with Kinnaird playing for Wanderers and Old Etonians, earning himself five winners’ medals from the nine appearances he made in FA Cup finals between 1873 and 1883. Additionally, he was involved in setting up the first international games between England and Scotland, and despite being born in London, as a son of an old Perthshire family, he turned out for the Scots.

Off the pitch, he was involved in the evolution of football as an administrator, where Kinnaird worked hard to standardise the rules of game and was involved in the formation of the English Football Association (The FA), serving as President for 33 years. During his stewardship, he oversaw the introduction of professionalism within the game, as the influence of the Southern public schools and the upper classes was usurped by the North and its professional teams, with this battle also featured within the aforementioned Netflix series.

Besides Kinnaird’s story, what I also loved about the book were the reproduction of newspaper articles and memorabilia from his own scrapbook which paves the way for readers to exploring more about football in the Victorian era in conjunction with an extensive bibliography.

Purely from a football perspective, this is where I would have wanted more, however, the reality is this is a biography of the man, not simply a history of Victorian football. Readers should be aware that the author assumes a level of knowledge around the formation and tactics of the Victorian game which were significantly different to that the modern fan is used to, and which evolved during Kinnaird’s playing and administrative career.

Overall though Mitchell has produced an excellent read and as I say will lead the curious amongst readers down a wormhole through the origins of the Victorian game and one of its significant influencers.

Steve Blighton


(Independently Published. March 2020. Paperback: 189 pages)


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Book Review: Black Boots and Football Pinks: 50 Lost Wonders of the Beautiful Game by Daniel Gray

I have already waxed lyrical (twice!) about Daniel Gray’s football books on this site (Saturday, 3pm: 50 Eternal Delights of Modern Football and Extra Time: 50 Further Delights of Modern Football), so to head off any claims of sounding repetitive, I will clarify from the get-go that once more I am about to wax lyrical. But it’s simply impossible to do otherwise, such is the joy and brilliance of Gray’s writing, so forgive me indulging one more time.

Unlike Gray’s other two books which meditate on the delights of modern football, Black Boots and Football Pinks takes a slightly different approach, as signified by its subtitle – 50 Lost Wonders of the Beautiful Game. Indeed, this is a book that celebrates the nostalgic, a time before football became the slick, commercialised beast of modernity, where shirts were tucked in and Teletext ruled (those under 30 may need to google it). As per the style of his other books, Gray’s fifty titbits take the form of perfectly sized missives on each of his chosen themes, and it’s one of the strengths of Gray’s writing that he uses these shorter-form compositions – for that is what they are – compositions, rather than essays – which ensure that the subject matters remain vibrant and full of life rather than becoming drawn out and laborious. Gray knows his football-fan readership want action-packed, end-to-end drama, not a staid 0-0 draw of a book and that’s exactly what this format gives. It also allows for a clarity and intensity to the writing, in which every word matters and does its job. There is no waffling or rambling here, no digressing or circumlocution, just perfectly formed written showpieces, which once again illustrate Gray’s brilliant skills as a wordsmith.

In terms of the themes of chapters, they offer a smorgasbord of throwbacks to football’s not-so-distant past, but depending on your age, some of these may seem utterly implausible – shabby training grounds, really? – or sail completely over your head – pixelated scoreboards, what sorcery is that? For other readers, these lost wonders will be as clear as yesterday – ramshackle dugouts and radios bringing the scores from elsewhere – and will bring a sense of nostalgia, of simpler times. And whilst a lot of Gray’s highlights are largely consigned to the footballing dumping ground these days, some of them still make a rare appearance and when they do, it’s all the more magical. Step forward Kieran Tierney, a master of old-school shirt etiquette, who rigidly tucks his shirt in each match, whilst around him, team-mates and opposition go for style over substance. Step forward too, Igor Akinfeev. Who? you may ask. CSKA’s goalkeeper. Why him? you may probe. Because he is that rarest of modern footballers – a one-club man (so far), with over 600 appearances for the Russian outfit and a tenure of thirty years, spanning his youth career. Fortunately, we haven’t lost terrible goal kicks or foul throws either, nor have they lost their appeal for fans. And this season’s FA Cup also delivered us one of the other great joys of football of old as highlighted by Gray – homes with views into grounds – thank you Marine AFC. How we all longed to be sat in those back gardens in the middle of January. And for better, or worse, depending on your outlook, we haven’t entirely yet lost luxury, superfluous players. I can think of several to have graced the Premier League in recent years, and a few still who epitomise Gray’s description: ‘He had no exact position, no duty other than creation. His game was not rounded; his tackling was grim. He had no function beyond entertainment.’ Yes, there are definitely some players who fit the bill.

In contrast, paper tickets and player brawls are certainly somewhat waning traditions. The former, which once bloated scrapbooks, now replaced, as with most things, with an electronic version – e-tickets, whilst the latter, perhaps not missed by the puritans, has largely been eroded with players who are wont to drop to the ground at the slightest touch rather than square up to their ‘aggressor’, with ‘brawls’ usually consigned to the side-lines or tunnels these days. Of those lost wonders Gray pinpoints, the dearth of old-fashioned wingers is a particular source of sadness, so too the lesser-spotted big man/little man combination up front, which provided many an entertainment, and goal in days gone by. And don’t even get me started on multiple cup replays. Yes, teams bemoan the hectic schedule, but what fan doesn’t want to see a six-match thriller(?) played over 17 days with nine goals added to the mix (admittedly, there were two 0-0 draws in there), a la Alvechurch and Oxford City in the longest FA cup tie in history in November 1971.

But whether it’s genuinely extinct phenomena, like Ceefax, disappearing traditions like ‘home away, home away’ or dormant but potentially revivable aspects like understated goal celebrations, whether it’s traditions that fans are glad to see the back of or those they rue with undisguised displeasure, readers will find much to consider, recollect and reminisce on in Gray’s fifty themes. And what makes this book all the more interesting is the question of how it will age, that’s to say, just how will football look in five or ten years. Will black boots have made a comeback – will black be the new, er, black? Will loan moves return to being something of a rarity? Will goalkeepers decide to once again wear hats? And will players stick around at clubs for more than five minutes? Or will there be new lost wonders? Perhaps VAR – or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. But whatever the future, Daniel Gray has once more hit on modern football’s zeitgeist and captured for fans, regardless of their age or history, the quirks of football’s recent past in his truly accessible and engaging style.

Jade Craddock

(Bloomsbury Sport. October 2018. Hardback 160 pages)


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Book Review: Soap stars and burst bubbles: A season of Yorkshire football by Steven Penny

This book from Steven Penny was born out of his record of matches he attended during the 2002/03 season, documented on his website www.tyketravels.co.uk and which focuses on the game below the top four professional leagues in England. The book produced at the time proved popular but then went out of print, so prompted by repeated requests since, it was republished in February 2021.

Structure wise the book follows a timeline from August 2002 through to May 2003, and within each month, each game attended is afforded its own chapter. Given this format, it would be all too easy to fall into the trap of this being another book which just provides match reports, team line-ups, scorers etc. Penny’s great advantage that as a journalist he provides an interest story within each game, so that readers get interviews with players, managers, club officials and fans, which gives a wider perspective on the clubs featured, the realities of football at this level and some interesting tales indeed.

One such gives rise to part of the title of the book, with Helen Worth (soap star, Gail from Coronation Street), the Honorary President of the Ossett Albion club back in 2002/03 featured in the opening chapter. Another features a Goole supporter who was banned from attending matches at their Victoria Pleasure Grounds venue, but still bought a season-ticket!

The book very much focuses on life in non-league with trips to games within the Northern Counties East League dominating, however, this is supplemented by games featuring Yorkshire clubs, in the Northern Premier League, Humber Premier League, Northern League, and Central Midland League, as well as County Cups and the FA Vase and FA Cup. There are a handful of trips to watch games in the top four divisions, but in the main are not experiences that Penny enjoys, and his love for the non-league game which affords him his living as a journalist is evident.

Penny had intended that there would be a follow-up, in which he revisited and updated events at the various clubs he had taken in back in that 2002/03 campaign, however the global pandemic has had other ideas. Instead, his intentions are that a second volume will be produced once football at all steps of the National League System returns, with visits to completely different clubs to those featured in Soap stars and burst bubbles, and further down the line a third book, re-visiting and updating clubs’ stories from the first two volumes.

Reviewing this republished version, eighteen years after its first publication, it is evident that any follow-up will have many tales to tell and be able to reflect on much that has changed. For instance, there are clubs featured from 2002/03 that are no longer with us, even a new club in the form of Ossett United, from the merging of Albion and Town, and others that have either plummeted through the divisions or have equally soared to new heights. Fingers crossed that 2021/22 will see an uninterrupted return of football allowing Penny to tell the stories of those changes and bring fans once again more entertaining tales of his travels.

(Victor Publishing. February 2021. Paperback 267 pages)


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2019/20: An Incredible Journey. A Pause.

And then came the Coronavirus Pandemic!

A country in lockdown – no more spectator sport, no more football.

When the situation eased in Germany, I tried getting my footie fix by watching the Bundesliga on TV but found it unbearable. I think it was the lack of crowd noise and probably because I don’t have any affiliation with a German side.

When the Premier League came back with added crowd noise I did find that better, and of course I had a greater interest through being a Chelsea supporter and the knowledge and familiarity that brings in terms of the Premier League. Given the blanket coverage by Sky, BBC etc. I also got the opportunity to see all of The Blues league games and the conclusion of their FA Cup involvement.

2020 FA Cup Final programme cover

It proved to be an exciting end to the Premier League season especially with the tense run-in to see whether Chelsea would make a top four finish, which they finally did with help of the woeful form of Leicester City. The Blues also made it to the FA Cup final beating Manchester United in the Semi-Final at an empty Wembley Stadium. Obviously, I was sad about the final result against Arsenal, but also disappointed with the level of refereeing. Mateo Kovacic should never have had a second yellow for that challenge, and I would have loved to have seen a replay of Gunners ‘keeper Emiliano Martínez “handball” incident in the second-half but can’t find a replay of it anywhere!!

However, it all looks good for next season with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech already in the bag, and fingers crossed for Kai Havertz – we look stronger going forward. The club did well in blooding some youngsters through the season and it will be good to see this continue. I think Mason Mount will be a regular, Reece James has to unseat Dave at right back, but we have great cover there. Other youngsters I hope get more game time next season would be Billy Gilmour, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Fikayo Tomori. But we need to shore up the defence, we need a left back – shame we sold Tariq Lamptey to Brighton last season but need a defensive option with experience. We also need a commanding centre half, Christensen, Zouma and Rudiger, are too similar, and I feel we need another JT (John Terry). I think Fikayo can be this player but is too young and inexperienced so needs to be brought through without affecting his confidence.

But what of last season and my Incredible Journey?  What an adventure and a strange ending to boot. First of all the statistics, let’s get the boring bit out of the way:

    • 28 matches attended, 22 new ones to add to my list of grounds (current and previous members of the Football League and FA Cup winners)
    • I mingled amongst 137,781 fans, the biggest being at Turf Moor for Chelsea’s victory over Burnley (20,975) and the smallest being 2 – myself and one of the players girlfriends, at the Clapham Rovers vs Ladzio cup game, the next smallest being 54 at Shelley. An overall average attendance of 4,921.
    • 12 wins, 6 away wins and 10 draws. 55 goals (33 first half, 22 second half. 31 home goals and 24 away goals).
    • On the road I travelled 2,476 miles, slightly skewed by a trip to Edinburgh to see Hearts vs Stenhousemuir (as part of holiday) and a trip to London, but I did manage to squeeze three games into that trip. The Clapham game being Sunday football was free and I was treated to a few games from Paul, Frank and Nick – cheers lads, but in total I spent £415.50 for my tickets, I would say extremely good value’


Let’s start with the least favourite game. Lincoln City away at Blackpool. An awful journey, sheeting rain all the way there and all the way back, delays on the M62 for the usual unknown reason other than the volume of traffic. I arrived twenty minutes after kick-off, missed all the goals and Lincoln lost. There’s always going to be one of these games a season and to be fair I kept drier at this game than others I had attended – it’s grim up north!

Clapham Rovers and guest!

The London weekend was definitely one of the highlights, not just the trip down to see my friends and family but the football aspect too. Two games on the Saturday – Brentford and AFC Wimbledon, and an absolute cracking time talking football and music with my mate Paul. We also got to see the developing new Brentford ground and on the Sunday I went to see the new stadium at Plough Lane.  I followed this up watching Clapham Rovers in my old stomping ground in the Wimbledon/Southfields area. I had a great chat with their captain and manager Chris Kew, talking their plans for the coming years which (fingers crossed) might include a game against Charterhouse Old Boys, who of course are Old Carthusians FC winners of the FA Cup in 1880/81 – Rovers having already played against another Victorian FA Cup winning team, Wanderers FC in a charity game. On that Sunday I managed to get some cheeky photos of the team with me as their added guest. They invited me to the pub after the game, unfortunately I had other plans (a family meal) but wondered if perhaps they went to one of my old drinking haunts, The Pig and Whistle. I shall definitely be watching them again next time I am in London.

Stamford Bridge before development
Sincil Bank before development

Favourite grounds visited. I have enjoyed every ground I have visited during my journey for a multitude of reasons but primarily from a historical perspective. There are two grounds I have seen evolve over a number of years, Chelsea’s home, Stamford Bridge from the late 1960s and Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank stadium, from the early 1970s. It has influenced my preference for authentic and historic grounds, so unsurprisingly my favourite grounds on this journey have an element of history attached to them. The trip to London saw me visit Griffin Park, unique due to having a pub on each of the four corners of the ground and has been the home of Brentford since 1904. It was a privilege to attend what turned out to be the penultimate home game in front of their fans. The visit to Moss Rose – who knows what future lies for Macclesfield Town – was also a highlight, attending a ground which has been their home since 1891.  Probably my two favourites were Turf Moor where Burnley, founder members of the Football League, have played since 1883 and the Anchor Ground where AFC Darwen now ply their trade and where the original Darwen FC played from 1899, where the clubhouse draws upon their historic beginnings.

As we have seen through lockdown and the coverage of football on TV, the game is nothing without fans in the ground. Most games have gone to form as opposed to offering the smaller home side the advantage of having a crowd baying them on. Throughout this journey, the fans have been brilliant right from the small 50+ attendances at both the Shelley games I attended to my visit to Turf Moor. The Bolton Wanderers (another founder member but sadly no longer at Burnden Park – I think I shall add visits to former ground sites for future seasons) vs Coventry game had a fabulous atmosphere, I really felt part of the crowd and was jumping up and cheering Bolton on. The primary reason for my support of The Trotters on the day was due to Bolton’s dire financial situation and their decision to play a team with an average age of 19 who absolutely ran their socks off and received a standing ovation from both sets of fans at the end. The Stalybridge Celtic vs FC United of Manchester game at Bower Fold, where they have played since 1906, was a Charity Day and so which boosted the attendance. In addition, it was a local derby and ‘Staly’ were also at home to a side who had spent some time as tenants at the ground and have a good away following, so all contributing on the day to a crowd three times the average home gate. I would also say that this was probably the best game I watched over the journey bar one.

Burnley v Chelsea programme cover

Of course it has to be Chelsea, but not just for Chelsea sake. Firstly, the company – one of my best friends who had stuck by me and helped me in my hour of greatest need and my gorgeous daughter. It was also a birthday treat from Frank and Michelle just before my birthday. Secondly, the history of the ground and the home team. Additionally, the seats were perfect, with a view just above pitch level and close to the action – it’s a very compact ground. It was to be the only Premier League game of the season I attended, although I think I have come to prefer lower league football, given that it is usually a much closer game and better matched quality wise than the higher leagues which are usually determined by money. However, at Turf Moor, the quality of the players on show, the athleticism and speed of the players was evident. It was a joy to marvel at the technical ability of the players and to have the opportunity to see a number of Chelsea’s new stars, and of course Pulisic stood out with his perfect hat trick. A game of six goals – Chelsea 4 – 0 up and cruising until their leaky 2019/20 defence managed to ship two late goals – an exciting game throughout.  And lastly but not least, probably the best match programme of the journey.

So what of the season ahead? Well unsurprisingly, it all depends when they start letting fans into the grounds. I would attempt 51 games in 2020/21 but I can’t imagine at that stage that the season will start with fans, and I fear there is likely to be a second peak of the coronavirus or perhaps a mutation which will probably see us in lockdown again. Fingers crossed it does not hit over the winter during the periods of high influenza across the nation.

Badge of Loch Ness FC

However, if/once fans are allowed to return, I think I will concentrate on adding to my collection of Football League games as well as local midweek games in the local leagues.  I have plans to visit friends and family in London again, so clubs such as Leyton Orient, Millwall, and grounds like the Emirates Stadium, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London Stadium, new Plough Lane and Brentford Community Stadium, all are on the list and of course if Clapham Rovers are at home Sunday league football, I would make a return trip. I also plan to visit friends in Devon so possible destinations include Torquay United, Exeter City and Plymouth Argyle and if I plan properly I might be able to catch a game on the way down and back on both trips. I also have a cousin who lives near the Bescott Stadium (home of Walsall), so I can get the opportunity to visit some Midlands clubs too. I also have two good friends in the village where I live – one a Manchester United fan and the other a Leeds United fan and we are planning a trip to the Highlands to take in a game at Loch Ness and Fort William, no doubt we will be able to find a Warrior games around the same time.

For now though, we will just see what happens.

I’ll leave you with the list of games that comprised my Incredible Journey:

24 July 2019 – Betfred Cup Section A: Hearts 2-1 Stenhousemuir

03 August 2019 – Sky Bet Championship: Barnsley 1-0 Fulham

10 August 2019 – Sky Bet League One: Bolton Wanderers 0-0 Coventry City

13 August 2019 – Vanarama National League: Stockport County 3-2 Barrow

17 August 2019 – Sky Bet Championship: Blackburn Rovers 1-0 Middlesbrough

24 August 2019 – North West Counties League First Division North: Nelson 0-0 Shelley

27 August 2019 – Carabao Cup – Second Round: Rochdale 2-1 Carlisle United

31 August 2019 – Sky Bet League Two: Scunthorpe United 0-1 Carlisle United

03 September 2019 – Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay: Glossop North End 3-1 Eccleshill United

07 September 2019 – Sky Bet League Two: Macclesfield Town 1-1 Crawley Town

21 September 2019 – Sky Bet League One: Rotherham United 0-0 Shrewsbury Town

27 September 2019 – Sky Bet League One: Blackpool 2-1 Lincoln City

05 October 2019 – BetVictor NPL Premier Division: Stalybridge Celtic 2-3 FC United of Manchester

08 October 2019 – Vanarama National League: FC Halifax Town 0-0 Chorley

19 October 2019 – Sky Bet League Two: Oldham Athletic 0-1 Macclesfield Town

26 October 2019 – Premier League: Burnley 2-4 Chelsea

02 November 2019 – Vanarama National North: York City 1-1 Kidderminster Harriers

11 January 2020 – Sky Bet League Two: Salford City 1-2 Northampton Town

21 January 2020 – Vanarama National North: Guiseley 1-2 Darlington

28 January 2020 – Wigan Athletic 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday

04 February 2020 – North West Counties League First Division North: Shelley 2-1 Garstang

08 February 2020 – North West Counties League First Division North: AFC Darwen 3-3 Daisy Hill

18 February 2020 – BetVictor NPL Premier Division: FC United of Manchester 2-1 Stafford Rangers

22 February 2020 – Sky Bet Championship: Brentford 2-2 Blackburn Rovers

22 February 2020 – Sky Bet League One: AFC Wimbledon 0-0

23 February 2020 – Frank Blunstone Cup: Clapham Rovers 1-1 Ladzio (Ladzio won 6-5 on penalties)

07 March 2020 – Vanarama National North: Bradford (Park Avenue) 2-1 Chester

12 March 2020 – BetVictor NPL North/West Division: Pontefract Collieries 4-0 Droylsden

2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 25 (Game 26) – Sunday 23 February 2020: Clapham Rovers v Ladzio

For my final game on my London weekend trip it would be Sunday League Cup match in my old stomping ground in Wimbledon Park just up the road from my local Youngs boozer and rugby team, The Pig and Whistle. Clapham Rovers FC vs Ladzio – yes Ladzio, who play in the same colours as the Italian giants, with another team in the same league are called Real Ale Madrid and of course play in all white – at Aspire at Southfields, Kimber Park.

Original FA Cup trophy

Clapham Rovers FC were one of the leading sporting clubs at the end of the 19th century running both a successful Association Football and Rugby Football Club. Their first football game was against Wanderers in 1865, who were another successful club from the same period, winning five of the first seven FA Cup finals between 1872 and 1878. Wanderers too still have a Sunday League side running which will no doubt feature in a future visit to “the smoke”.

Clapham Rovers were one of the fifteen entrants to the inaugural FA Cup competition in 1871/72 and Rovers Jarvis Kenrick, who later moved to Wanderers, with whom he won three winners medals, scored the first ever goal, the first of his brace against Upton Park in a 3-0 win. They were defeated 1 – 0 by eventual winners Wanderers in the Second Round.  They reached the Semi-Finals in 1874 where they were beaten 1-0 by Oxford University who went on to lift the trophy beating the Royal Engineers 2-0 at The Oval. Rovers made the Final in the 1878/79 competition and they were beaten 1 – 0 by Old Etonians through a Charles Clerke goal in front of 5,000 fans at Kennington Oval. The following year they went one better, lifting the famous cup. Rovers journey to the Final began with them beating Romford 7 – 0 in the First Round, South Norwood 4 – 1 in the Second Round, Pilgrims 7 – 0 in the Third Round, Hendon 4 – 0 in the Fourth Round, Old Etonians 1 – 0 in the Fifth Round and then received a bye in the Semi-Final, meaning they would meet Oxford University at the Kennington Oval.

Rovers played in their cerise and grey halved shirts whilst the University team turned out in their familiar blue and white halved shirts. There were well known players on both sides –  for Rover, there was Reginald Birkett who represented England at both football and rugby union, in goal, and captain Robert Ogilvie, Edgar Field, Norman Bailey and Francis Sparks, who also won caps for England.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet replicated below is an article about the Final and a curious piece about Oscar Wilde.

The Oxford team that had conquered much-fancied Nottingham Forest in the Semi-Final immediately took the initiative in the Final. Phillips’ early free-kick, given for hands, went within an ace of its intended destination. Then Clapham, recovering their poise after this sudden attack, moved forward in fine style and caused their opponents’ backs many anxious moments.

Lloyd-Jones’s cross was only cleared to outside-left Ram and his shot came back off a post, Lloyd-Jones tried a shot himself which went over the tape and that proved to be the last noteworthy incident of the half.

Oxford, with the wind, carried ail before them in the first few minutes of the second half and immediately forced two corners in quick succession. Play then proceeded so evenly that thoughts of an extra half-hour’s play were being entertained. But with ten minutes to go, King failed to cut out Sparks’ cross and Lloyd-Jones rushed up to shoot between the posts.  Birkett, an England international at both football and rugby, moved smartly to save from Childs as Oxford launched a counter-attack, but the Clapham goal was not seriously threatened again.

The myth of Oscar Wilde at the FA Cup Final, 1880 – Oxford University, when they played Clapham Rovers in the 1880 FA Cup Final, were so certain of victory against the lowlife of London SW11 that they called in the great Irish playwright – then 26 – as a “trophy striker” who would raise the game to exquisite levels of artistic sophistication. Unfortunately, Wilde was wholly unconvincing as a footballer. He drifted languidly round the edges of the pitch in blue satin culottes, carrying a lily. Play was held up as he upbraided the midfield in drawling epigrams (“To muff one pass, Mr Hallsworthy, may be regarded as a misfortune; to muff two looks like perversity”). A crucial cross in the 89th minute landed at his feet, but he disdained to kick the ball. “Take that horrid thing away,” he said to the goalkeeper, “before it soils my loafers.” Asked afterwards by reporters for his view of the game, he replied: “Twenty-two men struggling to possess a bladder of air – the perfect metaphor for the London marriage market.”

FA Cup Winners 1880

Rovers continued to compete, though unsuccessfully in the FA Cup through to 1889 by which time the professional clubs of the north were starting to dominate the competition.  There were still reports of Clapham Rovers playing through to the First World War which is when the original club was eventually dissolved. Since 1996 a Sunday league team has been in existence which is the incarnation I would watch today. The Club with a nod to its past carries on the badge, ‘FA Cup winners 1880’.

The match was played on AstroTurf and there was a strong wind blowing down the pitch which spoilt the game. It was a good end to end affair which saw Ladzio score the first in the second half against the wind. With the wind at their backs Clapham pressurised Ladzio and they finally equalised ten minutes from time, to take the game to penalties which Ladzio won 6 – 5. James Cunnah was the hero, saving the 12th penalty. To show how windy it was, some penalties required someone to hold the ball in place (rugby union style), so the kicker could take it!

PS. Many thanks to Rovers for inclusion in the team picture. Nearest I’ll get to being in a FA Cup winning line-up!

Sunday 23 February 2020

Frank Bluntstone Cup

Clapham Rovers 1 (Smith) Ladzio 1 (Sam) [Ladzio won 6-5 on penalties]

Venue: Aspire at Southfields

Attendance: 2

Clapham Rovers Squad: Sprotson, Ford, Booker, Cerenko, Hill, Keenan, Kew, Louis, McKee, Nicou, Smith.

Ladzio Squad: Cunnah, Goldwater, Jack Gravestock, Joe Gravestock, Martinez, Persson, Robbins, Sam, Stevenson-Steels, Sweeney, F Gravestock, M Gravestock


Steve Blighton