Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Return of the Sounders

The MLS has a new team this season with Seattle Sounders returning to big time football in the States. The city was given a franchise for this season and the fans voted on bringing back the name of the team that did them proud in the days of the NASL in the 70's and 80's.

Back in the days of the NASL the Sounders averaged 20,000 and they believe that they can easily beat that this time around. Back then the club was a refuge for British players looking for a last pay day. Scot Jimmy Gabriel managed the club from 1976 to 1979 and in 1976 Geoff Hurst scored 8 goals for the club. In this year the Sounders lost in the final to Pele's New York Cosmos. The assistant manager was another Brit, it was Harry Redknapp who launched his managerial career as Gabriel's number 2 ( good to see he is still acting like a number 2 then).

By 1980 ex Derby player Alan Hinton had taken over and the club still had a very British feel to it. In 1982 they reached the final again and lost to the Cosmos agai. However attendances had dropped to less thn 13,000 and ex Gridiron player Bruce Anderson stepped into take over and rid the club of the British influence that he really hated. He'll probably not be too impressed that the club have organised a pub crawl for the fans on March 31st. Whatever next a fish and chips night?

In 1983 the NASL came to an end and so did the Sounders. They were later reborn in 1994 and played in the US League first division up until last year.

This year sees them take their place amongst the elite and they won their first game in a friendly against LA Galaxy and beat New York Redbulls 3-0 in their first league game.

They seems to have a financially secure future with Xbox and Microsoft amongst their backers. Drew Carey is the fanclub coordinator.

They get their name from Paget Sound and their shirts are supposedly the colour of the water, although they look more like a toxic green to me. There aren't so many foreigners in the team now due to the strict wage structure with only one player being able to break it. For the Sounders this player is ex Swedish and Arsenal midfielder, the somewhat accident prone Freddy Ljunberg.

Higlights from the game with New York Redbulls

Monday, March 23, 2009

Newmarket Town's badge

It's notoriously hard to find out any information about badges of clubs at this level, so there is a lot of guess work going on here. Firstly, the most obvious part of the badge is the horse with the jockey on it. Newmarket is the centre of British horse racing and has been since the days of James I. The rampant lion above the horse and jockey could possibly be from King James' Coat of Arms, as he was also the King of Scotland, as well as being an avid horse racer, who saw that Newmarket was the perfect place for horse racing also became famous for sponsoring the bible in 1611. However the coat of arms of James is the same one that appears on British Passports, so the lion is facing the wrong way. The lion could therefore be from King Charles II who was also King of Scotland and incorporated the rampant lion in his coat of arms facing the same way as on the badge of Newmarket. King Charles II really put Newmarket on the map. He was such an avid horse racer that he would often move the court from London to Newmarket in summer. It is thought that the phrase 'the sport of kings' comes from his patronage of the sport (this has probably the most overused and annoying cliche in sport with second place going to Pele and his coinage of 'the beautiful game').

The 2 crowns with the arrows through are from the Suffolk coat of arms (pictured below the Newmarket badge) and are from the symbol of the Saxon King of East Anglia and martyr, St.Edmund. The motto in Latin can roughly be translated as 'Happiness in Sport'.

The Pitch (Newmarket Town v Fakenham Town)

Newmarket Town entrance

It looks a bit shabby, but for me it has a certain charm and reminds me of some of the entrances to grounds I have visited in Eastern Europe rather than in East Anglia

The stand at Newmarket

Goal Celebration

Jamie Thulbourn celebrates scoring against Fakenham.

Phoyos from Newmarket

I finally took a few photos at the game with Fakenham, so a few will follow.

Jockeys and ghosts

On Saturday I stepped down from the heady heights of the Eastern Counties Premier Division to visit Newmarket Town in the first division. To be honest I'd planned a day out in Newmarket away from the football, but if you're not into horse racing there isn't a great deal of tourist activity. So at 2:30 I decided to visit the local team and I wasn't disappointed.

First from a map at the bus station I was able to decipher that the ground wasn't far from the railway station, but they don't call me tom tom Holloway for any reason, so after taking a scenic route via some Suffolk countryside a couple of housing estates and a view that looked out onto the July Racecourse. The result being I arrived at the ground 5 minutes late.

The locals seemed friendly and the ground wasn't too bad, although the entrance and the programme weren't of the highest quality.

Anyway, Newmarket who are top of the division and nicknamed the Jockeys due to the town being the horseracing capital took on bottom placed Fakenham Town (nicknamed the Ghosts after the folk ballard The Fakenham Ghost).

Not surprisingly Newmarket went one up from a Jamie Thurlbourn goal a couple of minutes after I entered the ground and then doubled their league from the penalty spot a couple of minutes later. Fakenham didn't look too bad a team, but the clumsy challenge that led to the penalty was fairly typical of their defence and has probably been their undoing in several games this season. However they didn't lie down and die and fought back to pull a goal back after about 30 minutes and this came after they had had a goal disallowed for a foul on the Newmarket keeper. So at half time the score was 2-1.

The second half started lively enough, but Thurlbourn scored another after 10 minutes and the Ghosts were left chasing, er, ghosts. The game finished 3-1 and the result put Newmarket 6 points clear at the top of the table, so it seems that a swift return to the Premier is imminent

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Non League ground standards and daft red tape

One thing that the trip to Outwell and a few of my recent trips out in East Anglian football have highlighted is how some of the bureacracy in the present economic climate is potentially going to kill a few clubs off.

First of all is the case of Cambridge City who were relegated from the Blue Square South to the Southern League because their ground just wasn't up to scratch. I would however say that it was adequate. Now they are looking for a new ground. I am however a bit cynical about this one, as their present ground really is a nice bir of real estate for someone. However their crowds hardly warrant a bigger ground and the only problem with the present ground is that poor shots often end in neighbouring businesses or property.

Then there is Soham Town Rangers, they have been told that the standing area down one side of the ground can't be used because there is too much space there! So now nobody can stand there. They can't change the situation though as it is adjacent to their training area, so they are stuck with a much reduced capacity.

Wisbech Town are also victims of this. They reached an agreement with Outwell Swifts to play for one season there while they were having a new ground built. They gave Otwell some floodlights and there are a few areas of covered standing areas and a little stand, which is more than adequate for crowds of around the 100 mark. However you have to go through the village hall and there isn't anywhere to realy put a turnstile, so it isn't good enough for the Eastern Counties. Well it is, but only for one year. This could have serious consequences for Wisbech as they are having problems with the sewers at their new ground and it doesn't look like it will be ready for the next season.

In the most extreme of these situations locally Whitton United folded when they knew they wouldn't be able to reach the ground standards in time.

Surely now more than ever is the time for common sense.

A bad day out in Outwell

Another midweek sport special, but a very different day out to the trip last week to Kings Lynn. After the salubrious setting and conference standard ground at Kings Lynn we made the relatively short trip from Ely to Outwell to watch the Robins, playing in blue, always a bad omen I'm informed.

The opponents were Wisbech Town who are actually below Ely in the league, but like Ely have recenly found winning ways. Wisbech are currently playing at the Nest in Outwell while they are having a new ground built in Wisbech. It sounds like the Fenmen are running into trouble with this little project, and it could land them in trouble as the Nest is not deemed good enough for the Eastern Counties League.

I didn't think that the ground was that bad, it had a little stand and the only thing that could possibly be problematic for them is that there is no turnstile, but entry is through the village hall. However, is this really a problem at this level?

Anyway, enough of the stalling the worst thing about the game was the result, Ely who had several key players missing and some playing out of position lost 6-1 and were never in the game.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Club focus - Kings Lynn Football Club

a little known fact is that Kings Lynn is a football hot bed. The Norfolk FA was formed at the Black Horse Pub in the town in 1881. It had one of the first local football newspapers, the Lynn Football Star was first published in 1903 (although it folded in 1915. Kings Lynn also have have one of the best records in the FA Cup in terms of games won.

Nobody is sure when football was first played by a team under the Kings Lynn banner, Lynn Town were formed in 1879 after taking over from a previous team that has disappeared in the mists of time.

Nowadays Kings Lynn FC are placed in mid-table in the Conference North with their reserves being placed in the wrong half of the Eastern Counties League, a position that wasn't helped by their defeat to Ely last night. Most of their history has been spent jumping between the Northern Premier League and the Southern Leagues. In 2008 they finally reached the Conference after failing to negotiate the play offs the season before.

Another mystery surrounding the club is nobody is sure when they were renamed from Lynn Town to Kings Lynn FC. A lot of sources state that they changed their name during World War I, however there is photographic evidence of them being called KLFC from as early as 1908.

One thing that isn't a mystery is that the team that were once known as the Shrimpers and are now known as the Linnets is that they changed from their original strips of black and white to their current colours of gold and blue when they turned out against Cromer in 1923.

The club's ground is known as the Walks and they are unusual in that they have spent their entire history at this ground

Trip to Lynn

The Champions League might have been enticing for most on a Wednesday evening, but the Ely hardcore made the trip across the fens to Kings Lynn to see Ely City take on Kings Lynn Reserves. It was probably one of the best grounds that ely get to visit, so I was glad to get the chance when Mick invited me.

The Kings Lynn first team play in the Blue Square North and judging by the fans of the Linnets in attendance the reserves attracts shall we say, some of the more eccentric locals. Funnily enough despite having played the previous night Lynn fielded several of their first team squad, but it didn't seem to do them much good.

In the first half Ely had the better of the chances although Lynn seemed to have most of the possession. the game was pretty scrappy and some tough tackles were going in from the start. In the second half of the first half Ely made the early breakthrough with Nick Impey snatching on a defensive error to nutmeg the goalkeeper. Unfortunately he also injured himself and had to be withdrawn in the second half.

Ely managed to hold on to half time. In the second half it was Ely who did most of the running and finally Dave Smith scored a header from a brilliant Petit cross. Petit only coming on when Impey had to be withdrawn.

As is often the case at this level tempers got lost and Kings Lynn soon found themselves a player down. However, this seemed only to galvanise the side and with 10 minutes left they got themselves back in the game with a goal. Ely then seemed to conspire to throw the victory away, but finally they held on and Ely won 2-1.

The picture shows Kings Lynn's impressive main stand. I took a few other photos, but they were still too dark even afte rbeing photoshopped.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Away at home

It was a case of being both home and away on Satrday as Cambridge United took on Burton Albion. I've been followin the Us while being down here when I haven't been at Ely City, but my heart is still with Burton Albion. Scott came up for the match and I managed to get us lost in his car on the way to the ground. I would have been happier walking to be honest, especially as I met another Brewer in Sauce while I was waiting for El Macca, who had a decent map. Funnily enough he was waiting for a Norwegian friend to arrive on the train. It looks like the recession must have made foreign visitors to give up on dreaming about the Bridge or Old Trafford and settled fr more down to earth surroundings to get their football fix in Britain. Anyway after negotiating directions with a bunch of plastic Cockney Arsenal fans in one of the shitest pubs in Cambridge we finally got to the ground.

Burton had brought a fair ammount of noisy fans, who were to leave the ground disappointed. The first half was to put it bluntly bobbins with neither side making it look like the top of the table clash it was supposed to be. You wouldn't have thought that the Brewers were playing on the back of a 17 game unbeaten run.

In the second half Burton seemed to have more possession, but couldn't do much going forward and Shaun Harrad cut a lonely figure up front. Greg Pearson was inroduced later on, and thebig question has to be why wasn't he on the pitch before? Anyway, he Us took the lead on 55 minutes when Pitt put the mercurial Scott Rendell through. In fairness neither side looked brilliant in ths game, but on the break Cambridge always threatened more especially when Rendell had the ball at his feet.

With 10 minutes to go yet more disaster struck the Brewers, when Martin Butler and Cambridge keeper Danny Potter clashed with a 50/50 ball. Potter was fine but his Academy awardwinning performance led to Butler's dismissal.

Obviously Burton had to throw everything forward, but on 83 minutes Cambridge again caught them on the counter attack and Simon Beck capped a dreaful day for the Brewers.

On a happy note for both clubs Cambridge went to second and Burton staye 12 points clear, as Histon loss. It's the first time I've heard the away fans cheer Histon losing louder than the home fans at the Abbey.

The end of the cup run

To be honest if it hadn't been for the endless games against Shelford it wouldn't have been such a long running cup run. After beating Soham Town Rangers in the last round, Ely City took on Cambridge City away in the semifinals.

Soham are a step above Ely, but Cambridge City are 2 steps above and where as Ely are stuck in a relegation battle,the Lilywhites of Cambridge are in the promotion mix at the top of the Southern League. Most fans of both teams predicted a big win for Cambridge, but things turned out differently.

The evening started off well enough, with a trip to Champion of the Thames and some fish and chips a Tommy Tucker's, but then the weather went bad and we had to put up with more idiocy from Cambridge City, something that it would appear that this club specialise in.

All of the familiar faces from Ely were present, as was a bloke who I met at the first Shelford game, but hadn't seen since. He didn't seem to recognise me though. There were also a load of German groundhoppers at the game, and you have to admire their ability for drinking and hardcore score on what was a fixture that most Cambridge City fans couldn't be arsed with. Infact the didn't even bother reporting on the game ontheir website. It was definitely a case of German Groundhoppers 2 Dutch groundhoppers 0 in both the boozing and hardcore stakes.

As for the match itself, as I already eluded to Ely matched Cambridge for most of the match. Cambridge took an early lead through Steve Gentle, but they weren't able to run away with it as just 5 minutes later Wayne Goddard converted a goal for the Robins from the spot and put them back on level terms.

The weather continued to worsen, and Cambridge brought on some reinforcements with plenty of experience with an eye to extending their lead. They did early in the second half when Scott Neilson put them ahead. This was a sign for Cambridge to start show boating and acting like Boca Juniors rather than a team from the Southern League. Being a smart arse hardly ever pays off though, and Ely were level on 80 minutes when a Ben Lawrence trademark long throw found Lee Dixon to send the game into extra time.

Why is it that extra time only ever occurs when the weather is crap?

Unfortunately Ely were very unlucky when in the second half of extra time Ben Lawrence miss kicked the ball to put it in his own net and Ely were left concentrating on the league. Fortunately on Saturday they got down to the job at hand with an important 3-2 win at home to Norwich United

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A cup that counts

I have to say I'm getting a bit sick of how important the premiership and the Champions League have become at the detrement to everything else. We've had the Arsenal kids in the League Cupfor years and now it appears that the FA Cup doesn't matter to anyone who has the slightest chance of being relegated or getting promoted or into Europe aren't interested. This week we also ad Villa and Spurs treating the UEFA Cup with disdain. Therefore, it comes as a bit of a surprise that the clubs in the Cambridgeshire Invitation Cup take it so seriously. It isn't across the board in all non league competitions, as several clubs field weaker sides even for trophy games.

In the Cambrdgeshire Invitation Cup first we had the Shelford epic and then a hard fought game at Soham. Meanhile CRC who are in the final and have been taking the competition seriously, and on Tuesday Ely play Cambridge City, who are regular winers of the competition.

Time to get back in the groove

February was a quiet month with Ely's victory at Soham being the only match I made it to with the weather, work and an abundance of of away fixtures making it hard to get to any matches. This month kicks off with Cambridge City v Ely in the semi final of the Cambrdgeshire Invitation Cup with a place in the final with CRC at the Abbey at place. The next Saturday Cambridge take on Burton in the Conference as 3rd take on first and after that, well we'll have to wait and see.