Friday, December 30, 2011

End of year round up - stuff that happened

January - a bumper month with failing floodlights
The year got off to a fine start with plenty of games coming in thick and fast after a November and December that had seen a number of cancellations due to snow and rain. Ely got off to a good start with a win over Newmarket. I went to Fulham v Peterborough in the cup which saw Fulham win 6-2, we were sat near Barry Fry and George Boyd in the stand and just behind Posh manager Gary Johnson in the dug out. At the time we didn't know it but a few days later Johnson was on his way out and Darren Ferguson was on his way back to London Road. In January I also made my first trip to Thetford Town where they drew 2-2 with Ipswich Wanderers in a game that went on for ages thanks to the floodlights packing in.

February - Wind and rain
The bad weather was back in February with yet more cancellations happening. The highlight of the month was a fine win for Ely City over CRC, where the wind assisted the team more than a little bit.

March - FA Vase and a lack of goals
The highlight of the month was definitely seeing King's Lynn beat Rye in the FA Vase with Robbie Harris providing the heroics with a brace in extra time that finally sunk the plucky visitors. I also saw Rocester put three past the now defunct Friar's Lane and Epworth. It wasn't all fun at the Unwin though as Ely followed up a 0-0 draw with Wroxham at the end of February with a 0-0 draw with Norwich United at the start of March.

April - Ely bonanza and the right royal skive
April saw Ely play 4 home games as the bad weather earlier in the season led to a number of rearranged games. It was that time of the season when the teams like Ely in mid-table were looking knackered. However, Ely put in some great performances at the Unwin and started off the month with a 4-1 win over Brantham and ended it with a 3-1 win over Great Yarmouth. Sandwiched between this was a couple of draws, but it meant that the Robins finished the season on a high and Josh Bridgeman showed us what he was capable of after breaking into the team. The only thing that spoilt it for Ely was some ridiculous refereeing in the Yarmouth game that saw Ben Lawrence get sent off. Apart from all the Ely games the Royal wedding allowed me to go to a Thursday night game in Lynn where the Linnets beat Rothwell Corinthians 3-0 despite not really getting out of first gear.

May - Play off excitement and the double headed weekend
The month started off with Villa v Wigan in what was my first trip to Villa Park of the year. The game ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw and saw Charles N'Zogbia score for Wigan. Despite signing for Villa in the summer that was the last time that he scored at Villa Park! The day after I completed a double header of a weekend by going to Ebbsfleet V Chelmsford on a 'work' trip and saw the Fleet clinch a place in the Blue Square South Play-off final. It was a great day out and a great weekend as double headers are a thing of rare beauty (apart from in Ukraine where we had them all the time). The play off atmosphere at Ebbsfleet was to be outdone on a noisy night out in Peterborough where Posh booked their place in the League one final after beating MK Dons. The story seems to have a happy ending too, as both teams seem to be holding their own in the Conference and Championship respectively.

June - No football
There wasn't any football in June.

July - Pre-season in Ely
The performances were encouraging, but the 1-1 draw with King's Lynn was probably the pick of the pre-season action in July. It was good to see Brady Stone back, but it has since become apparent that he won't be featuring much. The signs though were encouraging, but perhaps didn't hint at how good Ely were going to be this season.

August - The Emirates, Palace's panto villains and Diss get destroyed
August started with a trip to the Emirates in the pre-season Emirates tournament where we saw Boca Juniors take on PSG and Arsenal play New York Red Bulls. PSG looked fantastic and destroyed Boca. Although they were already there it was before the Arab money had turned the club into another media circus, and with Kevin Gameiro and Neeskens Kebano it looked like they had a good enough squad without buying the big names they are now being linked with. In the other game Arsenal looked like they were going to struggle, which they did at the start of the season before Van Persie started working his magic. A week later the real football kicked off and Posh beat Palace in a game where Glenn Murray and Darren Ambrose seemed to be playing the role of panto villains. Elsewhere I went with Beer Can to Cambridge v Telford and saw an Ely reserves game as well as two first team games that saw the Robins beat Diss 4-0 and then 2-0.

September - Cup goals galore
The month started off with a 2-0 win for Thetford in FA Vase and was then followed by a league game between Ely and Newmarket, which Ely won 2-1, but weren't that convincing in, but after that the Robins have hardly looked back. A few days after the Newmarket game the Robins drew 1-1 away to Needham Market of the Ryman League when Austen Diaper scored a last gasp equaliser. Ely gave the Market men a run for their money in the replay, but finally lost 4-3 in extra time with the post saving the visitors twice in the closing seconds of stoppage time. A week later Ely were away to March in the league cup. This time the game went to extra time, but Taz Chisonga saved the day and Ely won 4-2. It went to extra time again, but at least neither of the games went to penalties.

October - More goals
Ely made up for the blip in the previous season where there were very few goals with a flurry of goals this season and October really saw the goals begin to flow. The month started off with a 4-3 win over Haverhill and the next game I went to was a 3-3 draw at CRC. A few days later the Robins only beat Wivenhoe 1-0 and we felt hard done by. They made up for it a couple of days later by beating Over Sports 3-2. Elsewhere we saw Villa lose to West Brom in a game where Roy Hodgson moaned about everything after despite his horrible team getting the result. I finished off the month with a trip to Thetford where the home team beat Halstead 5-0 in a very one sided affair.

November - Winding down a bit
In November I had to miss some of the action as I was in Croatia and was also aware that I had to work a few Saturday's in December. My last Ely home game was a 4-2 win over Gorleston on bonfire night and my last trip to the Unwin of the year was a reserves game a week later where they lost 1-0 to Leverington Sport. That was a bad tempered game where the ref didn't even get his card out for GBH. The other game I went to in November was a 1-1 draw in the Championship between Peterborough and Middlesbrough.

December - the one game wonder
In December, as I said I have had a load of work on, so the only game I got to was Posh's victory over Coventry that you can read about in a few posts previously.

The rest of the season?
A year ago or even at the start of the season it would have been difficult to predict such a good season for Ely or Thetford. At present Ely are in third and the hope is that they can finish in this position or even higher. After a fantastic start to the season Thetford must be favourites to go up. Elsewhere King's Lynn will be looking to put the disappointment of coming second despite getting 100 points last season and to push forward with a promotion and Peterborough will hopefully finish mid-table and push on from there.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

End of year round up - the teams

Here is a record of the top ten teams on results of games I was at in 2011.

1 Ely City
P 23 W 12 D 8 L 3 F 48 A 30 Pts 44

2 Thetford Town
P 4 W 3 D 1 L 0 F 10 A 2 Pts 10

3 Peterborough United
P 5 W 3 D 1 L 1 F 8 A 9 Pts 10

4 King's Lynn Town
P 3 W 2 D 1 L 0 F 7 A 2 Pts 7

5 Needham Market
P 2 W 1 D 1 L 0 F 5 A 4 Pts 4

6 Mildenhall Town
P 2 W 1 D 1 L 0 F 5 A 4 Pts 4

7 Fulham
P 1 W 1 D 0 L 0 F 6 A 2 Pts 3

8 Paris Saint-Germain
P 1 W 1 D 0 L 0 F 3 A 0 Pts 3

9 Rocester
P 1 W 1 D 0 L 0 F 3 A 0 Pts 3

10 Biggleswade Town
P 1 W 1 D 0 L 0 F 2 A 0 Pts 3

Most goals in a match = 8 on 8 January Fulham 6 Peterborough United 2 (FA Cup Round 3)

Biggest home win = Thetford Town 5 Halstead Town 0 on 29 October (Eastern Counties League Division 1)

Biggest away win = March Town United 2 Ely City 4 on 27 September (Eastern Counties League Cup Preliminary Round)

End of year round up - the stadiums

Well after a couple of quiet months, I still managed to get to 43 games and see 133 goals in 2011. The most notable thing about the year is perhaps that it is the first year since 1994 that I haven't visited a foreign stadium.

I'll get on with a full review of the year after looking at the stadiums and the teams performances of the year.

1 The Unwin Ground, Ely (Ely City) 21 games
2 Mundford Road, Thetford (Thetford Town) 4 games
3 London Road, Peterborough (Peterborough United) 4 games
4 The Walks, Kings Lynn (Kings Lynn Town) 2 games
5 Villa Park, Birmingham (Aston Villa) 2 games
6 The Emirates Stadium, London (Arsenal) 2 games
7 The Abbey Stadium, Cambridge (Cambridge United and CRC) 2 games
8 Craven Cottage, London (Fulham) 1 game
9 Recreation Way, Mildenhall (Mildenhall Town) 1 game
10 Hillsfield, Rocester (Rocester) 1 game
11 Stonebridge Road, Northfleet (Ebbsfleet United) 1 game
12 Bloomfields, Needham Market (Needham Market) 1 game
13 GER Ground, March (March Town United) 1 game

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Posh grind out a win

Yesterday Peterborough took on bottom side Coventry City in the Championship and got their first clean sheet of the season, it wasn't all good news though, although after a run of bad results it was pretty critical that Posh got the three points.

The first 20 minutes were not a typical performance by Posh with both sides looking reluctant to go forward and a Lee Tomlin shot that went wide being the only chance either side got in this period of play.

For the rest of the first half the better chances went to Coventry, who despite having the chances never really looked like scoring. Lukas Jutkiewicz and Cyrus Christie both had good chances for the Sky Blues, but they definitely lacked a bit of bite at the end and the target man Clive Platt looked like a poor man's Emile Heskey, he really was that bad. Peterborough meanwhile lacked a creative spark and with the absence of Grant McCann, who is injured, Emile Sinclair failed to get much service and when he did he showed a poor first touch.

The second half was quite a different matter fortunately and Peterborough looked a lot more creative and domineering going forward. This was helped by Paul Talylor coming on for Lee Frecklington on 47 minutes. Everybody was wondering why Taylor hadn't started and his introduction really did make a huge difference. The team was transformed and Posh started to create chance after chance most of them being created by Taylor. Finally Peterborough made the break through on 66 minutes when Taylor squared the ball to Sinclair who fired home to put Posh one up. Sinclair could have been 2 up when Sinclair had another gilt edged chance but it wasn't to be. Posh continued to push for a second, but Coventry were far from out of the game and towards the end could have easily equalised Bell, Wood and Christie all came close in the last couple of minutes and in the last minute our hearts were well and truly in our mouths when Gary Gardner hit the post and on the 3rd minute of stoppage time Jutkiewicz was cleared off the line by Gabriel Zakuani.

Posh held on to get the points, but Lee Tomlin joined the injury list which includes Grant McCann and it could be a worry, as the midfield attacking positions have been what have helped Posh get goals this season. Despite a clean sheet and some great performances in defence by Gabriel Zakuani and Ryan Bennett; and Joe Lewis being back to top form in the Posh nets, they going to have to be more resilient against the better clubs in the division.

The picture at the top shows Sinclair scoring the winner for Posh.

Some bad pictures from a frozen London Road

Yesterday we went to Peterborough United V Coventry City. Here are some not very good pictures from the day, but it was that cold I have an excuse for freezing hands.

Here are a couple of pictures of Posh warming up:

The teams line up:

Some blurred match action:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Coventry City Shirt History

Next Saturday we are off to London Road again, this time Posh are taking on one of my least favourite teams of all time; Coventry City, who were strangely the first team I saw playing against Stoke at the old Victoria Ground in 1983.

Anyway, it's not looking good for the Sky Blues this season, as they currently sit at the bottom of the Championship and all doesn't seem well at the club, it hasn't always been like this though.

Coventry were formed as Singers after the factory that made bicycles in the City in 1883. Their original kit was thought to be pink like the colours of the factory, there is also evidence that the Sky Blues wore sky blue in this period too, but that may have been a change shirt. One of the earliest shirts on record was a number that mixed both blue and pink, which dates back to 1889.

From 1890 to 1891 Singers adopted a black strip with a pink 'S' on the breast to represent the factory.

During the next few years Singers donned a black and red number before settling on dark and light blue halves in 1898 when they changed their name to Coventry City.

They kept this shirt until 1904 and then experimented with kits that mixed dark blue, sky blue and white. In 1919 when the football league was expanded Coventry were admitted and at the time adopted sky blue and white stripes.

The first few years for Coventry were a struggle as they tried to hang on to league survival. However, they were clearly starting to feel like they were representing the city as between 1892 and 1894 they adopted the municipal colours of the city, a rather fetching red and green number.

From 1924 to 1962 Coventry didn't do much of note rather than kick around in the lower divisions of the league and during this period they wore blue and white stripes. Things were about to change for Coventry though. Jimmy 'Chinny' Hill was brought in as manager and things were transformed. Firstly, he introduced the sky
blue kit (and introduced the nickname) that has more or less become synonymous with the club, he also got the maximum wage abolished, introduced the version of the 'Eton Boat Song' that Coventry still thing, encouraged the players to mix with the fans and later was the driving force that saw Highfield Road become the first all seater stadium in the country.

In 1964 Coventry were promoted from the 3rd division on the last day of the season and in 1967 they reached the first division and for the first time they were in the top tier of English football. Hill left for a career in TV on their promotion but Coventry were to remain in the top division until 2001.

During this period they released a couple of interesting kits. There was the sky blue first and brown second shirts of 1975-1978 that have become cult classics.

And then there was also the controversial Talbot kit of 1981 to 1983, which used the Talbot logo as part of the 'design' in order to get round rules over the size of sponsors on shirts.

Shortly after this they changed to a more sensible if unoriginal sky blue number that like a lot of shirts of the mid 1980s had the same colour in two different shade. This shirt being the same one as the one they were wearing in the first game I ever went to.

Coventry's greatest achievement came in 1987 when they won the FA Cup beating Spurs 3-2 with a Keith Houchen diving header.

In 2001 Coventry were, after years of hanging on in the top division, relegated by their ex-player Dion Dublin in a game against Villa, a team that they always found it hard to get any result against. It was an impressive record, but they haven't looked like coming back at any point since dropping out.

In 2005 Coventry left their Highfield Road stadium for the Ricoh Stadium. Since then they haven't worried the play off places, and are looking in real trouble this season in this kit, which is a more or less carbon copy of the one Jimmy Hill introduced.

Quiet time

Well like the last couple of years November and December are proving to be a quiet period in the season. Unlike the last two years, it isn't because the weather is bad and that there are no matches on, but rather that after the last couple of years I decided to do some extra work on Saturdays in anticipation that most of the matches would be off.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Borough and Boro deadlock

Yesterday we went to London Road for the clash in the Championship between Peterborough and Middlesbrough. The first half was a bit of a disappointment. Middlesbrough are clearly a decent team and should be looking at a play-off place at the least. They were clearly the stronger side in the first half but they didn't really look like scoring, although Peterborough seemed keen to give them a helping hand with some shocking blunders in defence. That's perhaps a bit unfair as the Posh defence saw a lot of the ball in the first period with them unable to get the ball out of defence. Anyway, the half drew to an end with neither side scoring, which wasn't helped by a whistle happy ref.

The second half was a lot better, but it was Boro rather than Borough who scored first with Matthew Bates putting the visitors ahead with a header on 58 minutes. Posh fought back though and Boyd and Tomlin both came close only to be denied by Jason Steele in the Boro goal. Grant McCann had a go at several set pieces in dangerous positions, but it wasn't to be his day as most of the shots were off target with the closest him coming to the goal being a shot that hit the post. Borough finally got back into the match on 82 minutes when a superb shot from Paul Taylor flew in from the right to go into the top left corner of the goal. And that's how it finished 1-1, a bad first half, but a decent enough second half made good by Posh's never say die attitude.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Park life

Yesterday Ely were away to Brantham and the only game nearby seemed to be March v Cornard, so I decided to go to watch the reserves play Leverington Sport in the first round of the Cliff Bullan Challenge Cup. Basically it was a glorified park game. It's not often you see a right back having a fag as the game kicks off or hear a referee say 'get up you tart' when a player gets down easily,but as I still needed to pay £2.50 to go in I think that it counts as a game.

The game though was big on commitment. Ely's centre halves managed to keep Leverington at bay for most of the first half. They had a few chances themselves, but never really threatened to score. The Ely Reserves keeper did well and could perhaps step up if Lee Pacey does leave the first team. Ely didn't manage to hold on until half time though and Leverington went ahead on 41 minutes.

At half time I spoke to a couple of the A-Team players who had been playing against Cherry Hinton and had lost 8-1. It sounds like the referee had been card happy in that game with 2 sending offs and about 8 bookings. The same couldn't be said about the refereeing in the Reserves game though.

Leverington started off brightly enough in the second half, but Ely soon had them under pressure. The Leverington defence and midfield seemed able to mop up the pressure, although they were coming close to losing their cool. In fact the Leverington number 7 at times looked like he should have been cast in the prison team in 'Mean Machine' after two tackles on the Ely left back that looked designed to break his leg the left back 'accidentally' stamped on him. This ended up in some squaring up and I thought that the Leverington lad was about to throw a punch. The ref's answer: 'Shake hands'. I may have been critical of refs being too strict lately, but that was a bit too much.

Anyway, the game ended 1-0 to Leverington, which was probably fair. Ely had perhaps most of the play, but Leverington had the better chances including hitting the cross bar in the early encounters of the second half. They might have been a bit thuggish at times, but the visitors obviously want to do well in this trophy and showed a level of commitment that was higher than in the game between England and Spain in the evening. Well, the first half of the England game, as I didn't see the second half as I was at the fireworks.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Comeback Kings

Yesterday Ely took on Gorleston and as has been usual of late there were plenty of goals.

Gorleston were quick out of the blocks and Lee Pacey had to get down well to block a Gorleston shot on 3 minutes. Ely soon got back into the swing of things though and Adam Wallis was unlucky to shoot wide. This led to a sustained period of pressure by Ely, but the Gorleston defence were fairly resolute and the attackers looked dangerous on the counter attack. On 20 minutes the visitors caught the Ely defence napping and were 1-0 up.

Ely continued to pile on the pressure and Gorleston continued to mop it up and on 38 minutes things went from bad to worse for the Robins when a well worked move from the Gorleston players led to a second goal and it looked like Ely would be lucky to get anything out of the game. If they were to get anything it was probably necessary that they got something in the first half.

Luckily Ely did strike back quickly and a Ben Lawrence throw was flicked on by Adam Murray and Luke Parkinson was on hand to prod home. 2-1 at half time might not have been to bad for Ely, but they managed to do better than that and get back on level terms before the break. Just one minute after getting Ely's first goal Luke Parkinson managed to win the ball just in Gorleston's half to run down the left and slot the ball home to make it 2-2.

Ely started the second half looking to get ahead for the first time in the game and Luke Parkinson could have had his hat trick in the first minute if the ball hadn't gone just wide. On 48 minutes Chadwick had a chance of a tap in, but he somehow managed to hit the post when it would have been easier to score.

At the time it looked like Ely might live to regret those chances when the Gorleston number 7 had two great chances on 51 and 57 minutes, but on both occasions he couldn't keep his balance and put the ball wide.

The Robins did finally get the lead though on 61 minutes when a goal line scramble from a corner was prodded home. It was difficult to see who got the last touch, but I think that it was Adam Wallis.

After surrendering a 2 goal lead to go 3-2 down Gorleston were obviously feeling dejected and Ely started to really dominate. Chadwick came close on 69, but the ball was not going in the net for him on the day. Ely did get another goal though when on 79 Ely were awarded a penalty for a hand ball in the box. I don't know what the statistics are, but I think that Ely have probably been given more penalties than any other club in the league, but have also probably got the worst conversion rate. Therefore nobody looked like they were willing to take it and the crowd were suggesting that Lee Pacey should abandon his goal and take it. In the end Josh Bridgeman showed the courage and converted with a well taken penalty.

In the last 10 minutes Gorleston seemed to wake up, however they didn't really threaten the Ely goal, so thankfully we didn't have our hearts in our mouths and luckily the referee ignored a couple of ludicrous penalty appeals by Gorleston. Another game and another 6 goals at the Unwin. Ely 4 Gorleston 2

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Blakey and his magic boots

Yesterday I went to see Thetford play Halstead in Divsion 1 of the Eastern Counties League. Going into the game Thetford had played 8 and won 8 in the league and are also still in the FA Vase having beaten Premier League high-flyers Dereham 3-0 away in the last round. Considering that they have gone on this run without centre forward Matt Blake or winger Bruno Tavares playing much of a role is even more impressive. Both Blake and Tavares were back for the game, but as Halstead themselves had a record in the league of won 5 drawn 2 and lost 1 it didn't look like it was going to be a pushover.

The game started off with both teams appearing to be fairly equal, although Thetford had the best of the early chances. A speculative shot by Bruno Tavares on 7 minutes nearly went in over the keepers head and Matt Blake had the ball in the net on 11 minutes, but was offside. Matt Dixon, who in Blakes absence has scored 7 league goals and 7 cup goals came close 26 minutes and hit the crossbar.

Just 1 minute later Thetford took the lead. As Blake got onto the end of a long pass from Tom Cusack to beat the keeper. What made the goal even more special was that Blakey had a broken stud when he scored and had been about to change his boots before running on to score. As soon as he did score he changed his boots got back up got on the end of a ball through by Tavares and it was 2-0 just before the half hour mark.

On 36 minutes Bruno Tavares ran through the Halstead defence and could have crossed to give Blake a hat-trick, but instead slotted the ball in the bottom corner to give Thetford a comfortable 3-0 lead.

You felt that Halstead might have got back in the game in the second half, but just 3 minutes in and Matt Blake crossed from the right, it looked like the ball had eluded everyone, but Tom Cusack was galloping in from midfield and connected with it to go 4-0 ahead.

Thetford weren't finished yet though as on 63 minutes Blake somehow got the ball in the back of the net to make it 5-0 and to make his personal record for the season so far played 2 scored 5.

That was it as far as the goal scoring went, but in true Eastern Counties League Fashion Thetford continued to try to score. Sean O'Donnell had the ball in the backl of the goal on 79, but was offside. Not a lot happened in the last 10 minutes, but who can blame them for sitting back a bit.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Club Focus - Halstead Town

On Saturday I will hopefully going to see Thetford take on Halstead Town in Division 1 of the Eastern Counties League.

Halstead town at first glance look like they are probably a pretty likeable team, who can't like a team that where quartered shirts like it's still the nineteenth Century? Their record in the Eastern Counties League and the way they lurch from unparalleled success to abject failure also endears them. At the moment they are in one of their boost rather than boom periods. That said I shouldn't get my hopes up too much, as they will perhaps turn out to be an objectionable bunch as teams who wear black and white quite often do!

Halstead were formed in 1879, but due to the relative geographical isolation of the town only played friendlies until they were admitted to the North Essex League in 1894. Their first piece of silverware coming 8 years later when they beat Chingford in the final of the 1902 Essex Junior Cup.

After this early success Halstead flirted with various different local leagues until the end of World War II when they added Town to their name and joined the Essex & Suffolk Border League. During this period they also moved to their Rosemary Lane Ground that they still play at, although in the first season they had no changing rooms and had to change in a local hardware store. They also went on to win division 1 in 1950 and 1952.

In 1958 after promotion to the Premier Division they won the league and the league cup beating Lakenheath 11-4 over two legs in the final. They also went on to win the league in 1969 and 1978 before joining the Essex Senior League in 1980.

In 1988 Halstead joined the newly formed division 1 of the Eastern Counties League. In the first season they finished 2nd and were promoted to the Premier Division. In 1994 they finished runners up in the league and beat Canvey Island 2-0 to claim the Essex Senior Trophy. In 1995 and 1996 they finished top of the league and in 1996 managed the double after beating Fakenham 4-0 in the League Cup Final. They didn't build on this success by applying for promotion and just a few years later in 2001 they were again relegated to the first division. They didn't hang round with rebuilding yet again though as in 2003 they won Division 1 and the Division 1 Cup. It now seemed that Halstead were building momentum again and in 2005 they won the league, but in true Halstead fashion they were relegated again in 2007. They have been in Division 1 since then.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hibernian shirt history

Hibernian at the moment seem intent on bringing out even more shirts than Borussia Dortmund, so it seemed like a good idea to have a look at their history of their shirts.
Recently they brought out a shirt to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their Scottish League Cup Final victory over Dunfermiline.

The shirt appears to be pretty accurate, despite being made by a different manufacturer and the original can be seen below, as worn by Keith Wright scoring in the 2-0 victory over the Pars.

That said it all seems like a bit of a con for the Hi-Bees faithful with them also having a new home and away kit and a third kit. What they need to have a third kit for is anybody's guess, but they have brought out the lilac effort below that was worn in a home game a couple of weeks ago agianst Motherwell. They lost and Motherwell also wore their away kit.

The lilac kit has been advertised by the manufacturers as a homage to yesteryear, but Hibs, who were formed in 1875 first wore a white shirt with a white harp and white and green trousers. The players were responsible for providing their own kit and a cap too.

The team of 1875 grew up in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh, which due to its high number of Irish immigrants in the area, hence the harp on the shirt and the club motto of 'Erin Go Bach' (Ireland forever). The first manager of the club was a Father Hannan of the local St.Patrick's church and it was soon decided that any profits from the club would be drilled back into the local, impoverished community. However, the club were banned from having any contact at all with members of the Scottish FA, but Heart of Midlothian broke the embargo by playing them on Christmas Day 1875.

In 1876 Hibs had adopted a green and white hooped shirt and were allowed into the Scottish FA. Hears perhaps regreted their friendly gesture though, as one year later Hibs knocked them out of the Scottish FA Cup and the first of many punch-ups between the clubs broke out.

In 1879 Hibs adopted an all green shirt that would form the basis of the kit until the 1930s although they regular changed the colour of the shorts mainly alternating between white and blue ones.

By 1887 Hibernian were considered one of the elite clubs in Scotland and in that year they won the Scottish FA Cup. This formed the catalyst for 'Hibernian' clubs to be set up by Irish communities across the country. One notable Hibernian club of the period being the Glasgow one, which became Celtic, who were formed by a Father Walfrid. Celtic as they were to become though actually served a few blows to their Edinburgh brothers, as despite being founded on the same altruistic ideology Celtic even then were much more commercial. By the following year Celtic had 'stolen' Hibernian's best players and the Edinburgh club was in meltdown.

In 1891 the lease ran out on their ground so as well as losing players they also lost their ground at the start of the year. In May their manager Father Hannon died and the club wound up. In 1892 the club was back up and running though and in February 1893 the club played their first game at Drum Park, which is on the same site as their Easter Road Ground, a makeshift team losing 3-2 to Clyde. In 1902 they won the Scottish FA Cup and in 1903 they won the League.

Just before the outbreak of World War II the Hi-bees introduced the white sleeves to their green shirts in honour of the Arsenal team of the period.

It seemed to do the trick as the post-war period was the most successful in the history of the club. They won the league in 1948, 51 and 52 and in 1955 became the first British club to take part in the European Champions Cup.

The next piece of silverware after these heady days came in 1972 when they won the league cup wearing this kit.

The 1980s were a lean spell for the Edinburgh club, but after bouncing back Hibs managed to win the League Cup in 1991, were runners up in 1993 and finished 3rd in 1994. In 1998 Hibs were relegated but in 2001 they reached the SFA Cup Final with Alex McLeish's Hibs going down 3-0 to Martin O'Neill's Celtic.

Not much good has happened since then unfortunately. This season the team are wearing the kit below, if they aren't wearing a commemorative shirt that is.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Aston Villa legends

A new feature in the Villa programme is where fans choose their team of Aston Villa players from the ages. I also spent many a cold winter night debating this over a bottle of cheap brandy in Kyiv and on the what now seem like prehistoric internet chat sites of a decade or so ago.

After having a decent think of it here is mine.

Goal Keeper: Nigel Spink 361 Villa League appearances (0 League goals)1977 - 1996

Spinky joined Villa from non-league Chelmsford City when he was only 18 years old. He had to wait nearly 5 years until he made his debut though, and what a debut it was. He came off the bench, well legend has it he was actually having a hot dog in the stand to make his Villa debut in the European Cup Final in 1982, which Villa went on to win 1-0 against Bayern Munich, which was thanks in no small part to his goalkeeping prowess.

He went on to become a regular in the Villa team for the best part of 14 years and the poster I had of him on the wall nearly faded out.

After Villa he went on to play for West Brom where at 39 years old he became their oldest goalkeeper ever. I also caught up with him when he was Forest Green manager in a game against Burton Albion. Nowadays he's a gaolkeeping coach at Sunderland.

Right Back: Chris Price 111 (2) 1988 - 1992

Villa have had some decent right backs in the past, but unfortunately I'm too young to remember some of the legends and have therefore opted for Chris Price. He hardly ever missed a game in his 4 years at Villa, which were sandwiched between 2 spells at Blackburn. He was also one of those full backs that loved to get forward, which was a bit more unusual then and unlike a lot of today's full backs who love to get forward he could defend as well. He always gave 100% to the team and he had no hair and we didn't care.

Nowadays he lives in Australia and in January miraculously survived being washed out to sea.

Left Back: Colin Gibson 185 (10) 1978 - 1985

Colin Gibson was a member of the Villa team that won the league in 1981 and the European Cup in 1982. It was a close call between him and Tony Dorigo. Since the days of Gibson and Dorigo the number 3 shirt at Villa seems to have been cursed with Mark Delaney and Freddy Boume suffering from horrendous injuries and Stephen Warnock suffering from the curse of Gerard Houllier. That's not to take anything away from Gibson who had his best years at Villa before going on to play for Man United and Leicester City, where he played under another Villa legend: Brian Little.

Centre Back: Allan Evans 380 (51) 1977-1989

Alan Evans was what is known as an old fashioned centre half in era when defenders were men with feminine hairstyles Evans was a colossus and great leader of the club. He also had a fantastic record from the penalty spot that most people have forgotten about, if goalkeepers got in the way they usually found themselves in the back of the net too.
He was also an ever present on the bedroom wall of my childhood, wore brilliant sweat bands and looked decidedly hungover whenever the Villa News & Record took photos of training sessions.

Centre Back: Paul McGrath 252 (9) 1989 - 1996

Paul McGrath started his professional career at Man United, however the drinking culture that grew up amongst McGrath, Norman Whiteside and Bryan Robson led to Alex Ferguson getting rid of Macca. That's the biggest mistake he made. Despite recurring knee problems and a severe booze problem McGrath at Villa became the best centre half in the world, possibly ever. As well as being an inspiration at Villa until his knees finally gave in and he was put out to pasture at Derby the big man was also inspirational for Ireland in the 1990 and 1994 world cups. Still the hero of Villa fans and still known as God by the Holte End and so good they put him on the stamps in Ireland there was no way he wasn't going to make this team.

Midfielder: Tony Daley 233 (31) 1985 - 1994

Tony Daley used to go down the Villa wing like a torpedo and although maligned by pundits at the time was a player of mercurial if sometimes maverick skills. He won the League Cup with Villa in 1994 and almost scored, hitting the post before Dalian Atkinson drilled home.

The first time I came across TD he was a youth player and collecting money outside the ground for charity. The first time he came to the wider public's attention was probably when he scored a ridiculous bicycle kick for Villa in a 2-0 win against Everton from a cross so good by Chris Price that he celebrated it on his own. I also remember him going on a mazey run in a 6-2 drubbing of Everton where he beat the whole team of Toffees to slot home. Howard Wilkinson's response: 'he should have passed that'!

TD later went on to play for Wolves, but his speed had gone as I told Clint Poppie when I saw him pogoing around a nightclub in a Wolves shirt shortly after his defection. He also ended up at Forest Green with Spinky.

Midfielder: Gordon Cowans 288 (42) 1976 - 1985 and 117 (7) 1988 - 1991

Sid Cowans is a legend to all Villa fans and although he played for several clubs he always remained a favourite of the Holte End. A member of the Championship and European Cup winning team, he returned to Villa after a spell at Bari to help them climb up the table under Graham Taylor in his impressive first spell as manager of the club.

Midfielder: Tony Morley 137 (25)

Tony Morley is yet another member of the team that won the league and the European Cup. He played for several clubs during his career, most notably West Brom. However it was at Villa where his wing play was the most effective. He set up the goal that Peter Withe scored in the European Cup Final and in 1981 won the goal of the season.

Midfielder: Ashley Young 157 (30) 2007 - 2011

OK so Ashley Young is still playing and left the Villa, but we had some good times and he really was part of the Villa revolution under Lerner and O'Neill, which now seems to be ages ago. I wish he was still at Villa, but at the same time I still hope he goes from strength to strength and does well for the national team. Does anybody remember when Messrs Hansen, Shearer and especially Lineker mocked O'Neill for calling him a genius after one especially impressive performance against Everton? Well at least he's making those tools swallow their words.

Forward: Peter Withe 182 (74) 1980 - 1985

He might have played for a myriad of clubs but he was responsible for the greatest moment in Villa's history scoring that goal in Rotterdam in 1982. There was no way he couldn't have made this team. The number of times we have drunkenly tried to relive that moment in replica shirts from the final doesn't bear thinking about.

Forward: Gabby Agbonlahor 2005 -

The only current Villa to make the team. Given a couple of years Petrov, Dunne and Bent might come into consideration, but it's Gabby who has always shown willingness and loyalty to the Villa, has scored some cracking goals and has been willing to play anywhere and be patient when he is out of the team.

Peter Withe's goal in the European Cup Final:

Tony Morley's goal of the season 1980-81

Homage to Tony Daley:

Ashley Young in that game against Everton

Derby Day Blues

On Saturday we went to the big Derby match of the weekend when Villa took on West Brom at Villa Park. All in all we had a good day out, although the result wasn't great and the refereeing from Phil Dowd would have embarrassed a referee at County League level.

Villa started off well enough and dominated the opening exchanges, although N'Zogbia and Hutton quite frankly looked out of their depth even when Villa were fully in control of the game. Villa duly took the lead when Gabby Agbonlahor was fouled in the box (the foul is shown at the top of the page) and Darren Bent popped the penalty away in style to make it 1-0 on 23 minutes.

Villa were looking comfortable, but seemed to lack the creativity of a wide man, whether N'Zogbia really is out of his depth or Mc.Leish and his disregard of the Villa tradition of exciting wing play is the problem only time will tell.

Baggies had felt aggrieved on 19 minutes when Shane Long limped off after a tackle from Alan Hutton, I think he got the ball, but it was a bit reckless and to be honest along with N'Zogbia he seemed like the weakest link as he seemed to panic every time Baggies were on the attack. That said Bannan and Petrov were controlling midfield and Dunne and Collins looked solid enough in defence; Agbonlahor was causing problems to the Baggies defence and Bent despite missing some good chances was at least in the right place.

All that changed though on 36 minutes when Chris Herd was sent off. As I was in the North Stand and it happened at the Holte End we presumed that he had done something diabolical, but as it happened Phil Dowd decided that he would send him off for apparently no reason at all and give the Baggies a penalty. It wasn't enough of a favour for Baggies though, well not yet, as Chris Brunt took probably one of the worst penalties I have ever seen and blasted the ball high and wide. You have to also remember that most weeks I watch Step 5 football at a club with the worst penalty conversions in their league and even some of their bloopers weren't as bad as Brunt's effort.

The sense of shadenfreude wasn't to last though as on 41 minutes Villa's Laurel and Hardy aka Hutton and N'Zogbia clumsily clashed heads. Some good came of it though as Carlos Cuellar replaced Hutton and it was great to see the Spaniard back and he did do a lot better job of being the right back for the remainder of the game. There was more pain to come though when Baggies equalised on the stroke of half time when left back Jonas Olsson, who is rapidly becoming one of my least favourite players out jumped the Villa defence and slotted home an equaliser.

I had thought that Villa if they could have held until half time might have regrouped and manage to battle on, but the equaliser and the sending off meant that it was always going to be hard. Solomen Tchoyi, who replaced the injured Shane Long was looking more effective than the man he had replaced and Shay Given was going to have to be on top form. Luckily Given was, but as the Olsson goal illustrated despite being one of the best shot stoppers in the game he is a bit dodgy on crosses.

The second half got under way and Villa were under the cosh from the off. The sending off meant that they started to bypass midfield and Barry Bannan and Stylian Petrov were clearly feeling the pressure. Tchoyi continued to press and Dunne, Collins and Cuellar, who despite playing really well was lacking match fitness were under constant pressure. Inevitably Baggies scored through a crossed ball to Paul Scharner on 57 minutes.

If Villa were going to get back into the game there was going to need to be a bit of creativity in midfield and a bit of play down the wings, luckily Marc Albrighton was warming up, but unluckily Mc.Leish decided to put Heskey on.

Villa did buck up a bit and Albrighton did come on on 78 minutes and made a difference after Barry Bannan had ran himself into the ground, but playing for the best part of the game with 10 men and Mc.Leish continuing to play without wingers meant that the result went to the Albion. Thanks Phil Dowd for ruining the game and Alex Mc.Leish, the wingless play may have got a result against Wigan, but it can't continue. N'Zogbia and Ireland, who have been so disappointing for Villa might stand a chance if we played to their strengths and why not use Albrighton more?

Photos from Villa V Baggies

Thursday, October 20, 2011

West Bromwich Albion shirt history

On Saturday I'm going to my first Premier League game of the season when Villa take on West Brom in what is the derby game now that the Blues have gone. They might be the local neighbours and Villa's traditional enemy, but it's certainly worth looking at their history.

West Bromwich Albion started off as West Bromwich Strollers when they were formed as a team for the George Salter Spring's Works in 1878. They got the name Strollers allegedly after they walked to Wednesbury to buy a football so that they could play. Their first strip was the rather fetching white shirt with a blue sash and hat a baggy trousers shown below. However, they didn't get their nickname 'The Baggies' from this strip rather it was from when their fans turned up to Villa straight from work wearing the baggy aprons of the metal works that got them the name not long after their inception.

Their next change of kit came in 1881 when they adopted yellow and white quarters and also wore the Staffordshire not as a badge on their shirt.

After this kit they experimented with a number of different colours in their formative years: red and white hoops between 1882 - 1883; chocolate and white the following season and a very unpopular red and blue between 1884-85, its unpopularity coming from the fact that it looked like a comedy team that performed in the Black Country at the time. In 1885 The Baggies finally settled on the navy blue and white stripes they have more or less worn ever since.

The Baggies first major piece of silverware came in 1888 when they were surprise winners in the FA Cup Final where they beat Preston North End. After winning this they had the chance to become the 'World Champions' when they took on Renton of Scotland, however it wasn't to be and the team from North of the border won 4-1. They were also not surprisingly invited to become founder members of the league.

In 1900 Albion moved to the Hawthornes, where they started out life in the kit shown below.

In 1919 Baggies won the League for the first time in their history and what is up to now their last time.

West Brom were relegated in 1927, but they came back in 1931 and also celebrated by beating Birmingham to lift the FA Cup. For the game they wore a special crest on the badge that resembled a deer even though they had had the nickname the Throstles since the early days when they had a pet bird at the club it wasn't for ages that they would have a thrush on the team shirts.

They were back at Wembley in 1935 for the FA Cup Final and again had a special crest designed for the shirt, but this time they lost to 4-2 to Sheffield Wednesday.

Just before World War II West Brom were relegated and during the war years they wore a plain blue shirt as they couldn't get the material for the striped shirts.

In 1954 Albion had a bitter sweet season when they nearly won the double. However, they lost the league to bitter rivals Wolves at the the Hawthornes. A week later they lifted the FA Cup by beating Preston North End 3-2.

The next notable trophy for West Brom came in 1966 when they entered the League Cup for the first time and won the whole competition by beating West Ham over two legs.

West Brom's most famous team since then has probably been the team of Viv Anderson, Cyril Regis and Brendan Batson who between 1978-81 reached the UEFA Cup three times and as well as the home shirt shown below also wore the cult classic yellow and green striped shirt shown.

In 1986 West Brom were relegated and have been more or less a bit of a yo-yo team since. In 2000 the throstle appeared on the shirt for the first time.

The shirt for this season is shown below: