Saturday, 23 July 2011

21st Century Hampshire Top Twenties: 2006/2007

If you go down to the woods might meet Van Broccoli, Bashley's biggest fan.
2006/07, the season that Rio Ferdinand scored the best own-goal ever at Fratton Park; the season that Pompey missed out on a place in Europe by one disallowed goal in the final match (thanks for incorrectly overruling your lino, Graham "Three Yellow Cards" Poll). Saints lost in the play-offs to Derby County. Bashley broke all previous records for this century in winning the Southern League South & West title (100+ goals and points - only Dorchester Town had scored more in any season since 2000) - their nearest rivals were Fleet Town, and they were a country mile behind in second. Gosport Borough won the Wessex League title and promotion to the Southern League.

And I nearly forgot! AFC Totton reached the FA Vase final at Wembley, where they lost to Truro City in front of a record Vase crowd of 27,000+. I was at the home semi-final leg against Billingham Synthonia, where it looked as though they'd blown their chances with a 2-1 defeat, but they came back to win in the north-east.

On the downside, this was the season that Glen Johnson stole a toilet seat from B&Q; Lymington & New Milton gave up their co-habitation experiment due to local indifference and voluntarily dropped back into the Wessex at season's end, changing their name to New Milton Town on the way; and Farnborough Town were liquidated - they reappeared the following season as plain old Farnborough FC.
Van Broccoli memorising non-league football statistics, in case the subject ever comes up on Mastermind.
Hampshire Top Twenty rankings, 2006/2007:

1. (1) Portsmouth 1/9
2. (2) Southampton 2/6
3. (3) Aldershot Town 5/9
4. (5) Havant & Waterlooville 6/4
5. (4) Farnborough Town 6/11
6. (6) Eastleigh 6/15
7. (7) Basingstoke Town 6/19
8. (8) Bashley 8/1
9. (9) Fleet Town 8/2
10. (12) Andover 8/9
11. (11) Winchester City 8/13
12. (10) Lymington & New Milton 8/19
13. (14) Gosport Borough 9/1
14. (13) AFC Totton 9/2
15. (17) VT FC 9/3
16. (16) Moneyfields 9/7
17. (15) Fareham Town 9/8
18. (20) Lymington Town 9/12
19. (NE) Brockenhurst 9/13
20. (NE) Horndean 9/16

Sad goodbyes to Hamble ASSC and Cove. And a big hearty Hampshire welcome to Horndean and the returning Brockenhurst!
Still reading in the dark. You'll ruin your eyes, Van!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

21st Century Hampshire Top Twenties: 2005/2006

Havant & Waterlooville season ticket holders could feel reasonably satisfied with their club's showing in 2005/06.
An unremarkable season.

Pedro Mendes scored the most well-known goal of Pompey's Premiership stay against Manchester City to kickstart the club's miracle escape from relegation. Elsewhere, Saints and Aldershot Town were stuck in the middle of their respective tables, like a pair of blue snooker balls. AFC Totton, who haven't finished outside the top eight of whichever division they've been in this century, were slap bang in their median position of fourth. Fareham Town, who have finished between fifth and tenth in the Wessex League for all but one of the last ten seasons, shuffled nervously back to their usual level after a dip the previous year. The only champions were Winchester City - their fourth championship in six seasons - they won themselves promotion from the Wessex.

Top Twenty rankings, 2005/06:

1. (1) Portsmouth 1/17
2. (2) Southampton 2/12
3. (3) Aldershot Town 5/13
4. (4) Farnborough Town 6/3
5. (6) Havant & Waterlooville 6/6
6. (7) Eastleigh 6/8
7. (5) Basingstoke Town 6/19
8. (8) Bashley 8/9
9. (9) Fleet Town 8/14
10. (10) Lymington & New Milton 8/16
11. (11) Winchester City 9/1
12. (13) Andover 9/3
13. (14) AFC Totton 9/4
14. (12) Gosport Borough 9/5
15. (18) Fareham Town 9/9
16. (16) Moneyfields 9/11
17. (17) VT FC 9/13
18. (NE) Hamble ASSC 9/15
19. (NE) Cove 9/16
20. (NE) Lymington Town 9/17

Cove became the first Combined Counties League side to nuzzle into the rankings. There was a re-entry for Hamble Aerostructures Sports Club, and Lymington Town sidled in at 20 - much to the pleasure of their supporters, who weren't too happy when they originally merged with New Milton in the late 1990s - like Palestine or Chechnya in the United Nations, their fans refused to recognise the new club and started off afresh at their home ground in Lymington.

Dropping out temporarily were Brockenhurst and Alton Town; BAT Sports were never to come back under the tobacco company's name (they are now Totton & Eling).

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The 2011 Island Games: Isle of Wight v Guernsey

The ultimate flag quiz at Cowes.
A short stuffy bus journey from Cowes Sports, in which us concertinaed passengers had as much wriggle room as a gathering of sand eels in a puffin's beak, took me to the final of the men's football tournament at Newport (IW)'s St George's Park ground with fifteen minutes to spare.
Nearly at the turnstiles now...
Now, an arrival time of fifteen minutes before kick-off at most small grounds would normally give me time to do the essentials of paying at the turnstile, buying a programme and a raffle ticket after a short chat with the seller about the weather, a quick visit to the clubhouse bar or tea hut for refreshments, and maybe a swift hunt around the club shop for an addition to the enamel badge collection, and all in plenty of time for the pre-match handshakes...
It's that giant football again! Last seen at Cowes yesterday!
...but not for this match! The queue to gain entrance stretched back past the stand, across the car park and out onto the pavement along St George's Way. The match had to be delayed for fifteen minutes to allow everyone to come in via the two turnstiles.
The view from the grass bank at Newport.
They say that 1,000 people can fit around the railings of an average-sized football pitch (hence the minimum capacity at even a small ground such as Andover New Street's would be in four figures). At Newport for this match, people were generally standing at least two deep around the pitch. And it goes without saying that the 350 seats in the stand were all occupied by the early arrivals. The club had even allowed spectators to stand on the grass banking over the far side from the entrance. Bearing all this in mind, the official attendance of 1,870 seemed a little low.
A flat cap's-eye view of the proceedings.
Apparently, Games competitors were allowed in for free, and not counted in the official figures (and there were many tracksuited competitors dotted around the place). Thus, St George's Park's record attendance of 2,150 may well have been unofficially broken for this Friday afternoon fixture.
The covered terrace opposite the main stand.
This mighty throng were treated to a match worthy of the final billing. Both sides had won all four of their previous tussles during the week, with the Isle of Wight preventing an all-Channel Islands denouement when beating Jersey the day before. Jersey's consolation was a bronze medal in the 3rd/4th play-off match. They will be seeded in the next tournament in Bermuda in 2013, along with the two finalists.
The official dance moves of the Island Games, as performed by Guernsey (in green) and the Isle of Wight.
Guernsey - who will be playing in the Combined Counties League on the mainland this season, against the likes of Hartley Wintney and Eversley - took the lead within minutes of the start after a flowing move ended with a screaming close-range net-bulger at the far end of the pitch. But despite being the better team for much of the first half, they couldn't hold on, and the hosts equalised and then took the lead with two quick goals with ten minutes to play.
The last photo before the camera battery gave out!
Guernsey managed to pull the score back to 2-2 before the end. However, extra-time did for them. The Isle of Wight's more comfortable nights in their own soft and fluffy beds helped them to stay more alert as Guernsey's defence nodded off once in each extra half. The higher stamina levels of Wight's Southern League and Wessex League players eventually turned Guernsey's dream into a nightmare, as it ended 4-2.

So, here ends my Island Games match reports. There would have been at least one photo of the hosts' end-of-match celebrations, however, my camera battery decided it was a good time to become fully discharged. So, you'll just have to imagine their joy for yourselves...

Monday, 4 July 2011

The 2011 Island Games: Isle of Man v Åland

The back of Cowes Sports' stand.
It's July 1st on the Isle of Wight - the last day of the Island Games. There are finals going on in various sports all over the island. Some competitors will be going home with nice new shiny medals to show their friends and family, whilst others will simply be leaving with tired limbs and a colourful plastic bucket full of memories.
The flag of Åland flutters in the breeze outside the ground.
There are six medals up for grabs in the two football competitions - bronzes in the third-place play-offs; golds and silvers in the finals. Greenland's women's team had already won their island's first-ever football medal by the time the women's final kicked off at midday - they would be flying back to Nuuk as national heroes after their 1-0 victory over the goal-shy Western Isles (six goalless games in seven attempts by their two teams).
And here's the Isle of Man flag inside the ground.
The two finalists were the two highest scorers in the women's competition: the Isle of Man (16 goals in three matches) and Åland (18 in four). The only other unbeaten team were the unlucky Isle of Wight, and they came along to heckle the Isle of Man.
A secret football pitch behind the covered standing area.
Other athletes in the stadium included the Isle of Man men's football team, who sat in the stand and cheered their women on in their Mark Cavendish-semi-Scouse-like accents. Also in attendance were a phalanx of Scandinavians, both from Åland and the Norwegian island of Hitra. They seemed to take the Isle of Man's fans' chanting as a challenge - anything they could do, the Scandinavian Barmy Army could do louder - much much louder - with their raucous Swedish/Norwegian tonsils and Natwest-sponsored whacking balloons (possibly coming to a stadium near you this coming have been warned!). The official crowd was 185, but they were ten times louder than the ten-times bigger crowd at the men's final later on in the afternoon - think Fratton Park v the Highbury Library, and you get the picture.
Åland on the ball.
Not only was this the most vocal crowd of the week, but they were also treated to the best football that I saw. Åland's tiki-taki passing game on the bowling lawn of a pitch at Cowes was splendid to watch. The Isle of Man were good - they even took the lead after five minutes - but they were eventually outclassed by the brilliant Ålanders.
A tremendous save by the Åland keeper.
The short passing game of the Scandinavians bamboozled the Isle of Man, and they soon began to look tired (as well they might after the week's heavy schedule - most teams were playing four or five matches in six days - some with extra time). Åland were able to score almost at will, despite their opponent's best efforts.
"Give us an Å! Give us an L..." By far the noisiest crowd of the entire tournament.
The final whistle blew with the score at 5-1 to Åland, and I got the impression that they had throttled back in the second-half, after going in 4-1 to the good at half-time. They hugged and received their medals, and no doubt had a whale of a time at the closing ceremony in Cowes later that evening, where they could take their hairbands out, have a glass of wine or two and talk about the 23 goals they had scored this week.
We did it! Åland have won the gold medal!
Meanwhile, I took a bus to Newport, along with the Hitra football team, ready for the men's final at 3pm...

Sunday, 3 July 2011

The 2011 Island Games: Isle of Wight v Jersey

The match ball was over-inflated.
Now I know how Puff the Magic Dragon felt. Okay, admittedly I don't know what it feels like to be a large, fire-breathing, psychedelic, drug-quaffing mythical beast (I'm not a rock star, after all), but I do know what it feels like to be, er, puffed out after a long uphill walk. The women's semi-final at East Cowes had finished late, so I only had twenty minutes to trot the 3km to Cowes Sports' Westwood Park ground, and this included a fifteen minute wait for the chain ferry across the River Medina. Like a middle-aged, male Kate Bush, I was running up that hill as fast as my little legs would carry me so that I missed as little action as possible, but still arrived 30 minutes after kick-off.
ITV Channel Television had their cameraman covering the action.
The match in question was the men's semi-final of the 2011 Island Games football tournament (kindly sponsored by Hovertravel, the hovercraft company). The hosts, Isle of Wight, were taking on fellow group winners Jersey. Both sides had won all their matches thus far, with Jersey being involved in the most newsworthy game of the tournament four days previously, when Rhodes had had four players sent off, had attacked the fourth official, and then allegedly trashed Newport's dressing room after the final whistle. Rhodes had been sent packing, with a ban from the next two tournaments as their Isle of Wight souvenir (instead of the usual test-tube full of multi-coloured sand from Alum Bay). Their results had been expunged from the records, so I suspect the first match I had seen (Rhodes v Greenland) now officially never happened!
Jersey, all in blue, attacking the Isle of Wight's goal.
This semi-final could have done with a few incidents, as I can barely remember what happened, despite it being only three days ago. What I do recall is that the Isle of Wight scored the only goal of the game midway through the second-half, a matter of minutes after I'd swapped ends, believing that Jersey would be the most likely team to score, and that I might get a photo of their celebrations if I stood behind the goal that they were attacking. Wrong, as usual!
A Jersey player suffering in front of Cowes Sports' large stand (which seats more than Newport's, and is thus the biggest football stand on the island).
Talking of photos, a combination of arriving late, and being in a relatively large crowd of 813 (and thus not being able to move around the ground as freely as I had been doing at other games), meant that I couldn't take very many interesting pictures, so this photo diary is a little bare. It even includes the same idea twice, as you may have noticed. I took a few more when I went back to Cowes the following day for the women's final, which will be coming up next...
Beware of Stray Flying Footballs (again!).

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The 2011 Island Games: Greenland v Åland

Radio Greenland up on the roof.
Now, this is where my very unjournalistic lack of note-taking during the matches I go to comes back to bite me, like a gooey gummy bear who's lost its dentures (hang on, wrong simile...should have mentioned crocodiles or piranhas or something...). Four games in two days, twenty goals and sundry other incidents. With one game, I can remember most of the salient points, but four...hmmm.
Lining up for the anthems. Greenland...
Luckily, nobody reads this text anyway, so I could just wibble on about the periodic table or monster truck racing, or anything really. I know people just come here to look at the pictures, so think of the next four Island Games football reports as a photo diary, okay!
...and Åland.
The first of these photo diaries is of the women's semi-final between Greenland and Åland, played at East Cowes Victoria Athletic's ground on Thursday 30th June 2011.
Singing beneath the flag.
Åland had won their qualifying group with big wins over Jersey and Hitra (5-0 and 6-0 respectively), and a 1-1 draw with the Isle of Wight. According to overheard conversations, they play together as a semi-professional outfit in the Swedish women's football league.
The team photo before kick-off.
Greenland had controversially qualified as best runners-up, with a 3-1 defeat against the Isle of Man and a rip-roaring 8-0 thumping of Gibraltar earlier in the week. This had left them with the best goal difference of the three second-placed teams, but with a worse points-per-game ratio than the Isle of Wight. The organisers must have decided that goal difference was the most important of the two factors, and through they went, with the hosts contesting the 5th/6th play-off with Saaremaa.
The match gets under way.
It was obvious from the first whistle that Åland were the better team. But whether it was nerves or misfortune, or a mixture of the two, they just couldn't break through the stubborn Greenland defence. Greenland had a couple of chances, much to their fans' delight, but the Åland keeper didn't really have a save to make. Surprisingly, it was still 0-0 at half-time.
Watching from the bench.
I don't know if they have half-time rollickings on Baltic islands, but in the second half, Åland played as though there had been some tea cup throwing going on in the dressing room. They were 3-0 up within five minutes of the restart, and it was game over. Greenland's passing game disintegrated and they started thinking about the third-place play-off and a possible bronze medal.
A Greenland flag on display behind the goal.
Both sets of fans (around 15-20 for each side in an overall crowd of 100 or so) kept cheering, but everyone knew the result was inevitable.
Åland score their second penalty of the afternoon.
The ref awarded three penalties for various misdemeanours in the box - two for Åland and one for Greenland - all of which were converted. Greenland's penalty was what they call a consolation goal, as they were already 6-0 down by then.
Åland move forward in front of the East Cowes Vics stand.
Final score: 6-1 to Åland. The match had kicked off twenty minutes late, due to the Greenlanders simply enjoying the pre-match warm-up too much, from what I could see. The officials had asked them to return to the dressing room several times, but they either didn't understand the instructions, or ignored them. This made me later than I would have been for the next match in West Cowes, but it didn't bother me too much. Slack time-keeping is too rare in modern life, and should be cherished when the opportunity arises (or so I told myself as I sat on the chain ferry pondering this, that and various other). Thus, onwards to a men's semi-final...
The final whistle blows and Åland have won!