Thursday, 8 August 2019

Lincoln 2-0 Accrington

It’s been 21 long years since the Imps last played in the third tier of English football and it’s fair to say my life and that of the Caterday club founder members has changed quite a bit since then.  Lincoln opened up the 1998/99 season with a long trip to Bournemouth and thus we made a weekend of it. It was the first game i ever did with Baz and Felice and thus the start of two fantastic friendships that have seen us travel all over the country (and northern Germany) watching the Imps. Time flies as they say.

When we went to Bournemouth we had no plan. No digs booked (in peak holiday season in August) no real idea of where the ground was or even the best way to get there. All we had was a change of clothes for the night out and something to wear the next day. No phones or sat
 navs no research into the area, nothing. In the end we found some digs (after asking at about 40 B&B, s)  After we checked in we had a belly load of beer at various pubs along the beach  then back to hotel to freshen up then back out on the piss and ending up in the Opera House nightclub. On the pitch Lincoln were soundly beaten 2-0 and were eventually relegated.

Fast forward to today and there was to be no all day drinking/any drinking on the Friday and certainly no night clubbing by any of us. One thing that has withstood the test of time over the past 21years has been Felice’s inability to organise himself. The plan at 9.30 was to catch the 11.10 train to Lincoln however no sooner had i purchased my ticket the call came through saying he would be getting the later train.

Pre-game was spent in our favourite “Up hill” Lincoln pub the William Foster watching the Ashes. Until some fool switched the TV over to watch Salford v Stevenage which was  met with a round of boos and the cricket put on the smaller screen, not great but we could at least see England’s tail wag to get a 90 run lead in the first innings. The pub much like much of the city centre was full of Imps shirts and there seemed a genuine buzz around the city. The opening of a new Imps shop in the centre has been a welcome addition and both times i have been in it has been quite busy and with a great range of merchandise in stock it’s not hard to understand why. I genuinely think it’s the best we have had since i have been going to the Bank and long may it continue.

After a quick stop at the chippy it was off the ground to see the Imps take on Accrington. Although as a fan i normally prefer to be away on the opening day of the season i felt in this case started out in a new league it was important to be at home on the first day and thus get a better chance of the Imps getting three points. There are no easy games (cliché ahoy) in this league but a home game against probably the smallest club in the league is as good a fixture as you can hope for.
One curious thing in the build up to the game was what the crowd was going to be. For this game all of the Stacey West was available to the home fans with Accrington being placed in the bike shed stands at the other end of the ground. As kick off approached it became apparent that there was going to be quite a few empty seats in the Stacey West. In the end the crowd was 8,668 which is very respectable and the 3rd highest in League One on the day. Now you will never find me moaning about “Only” getting 8668 through the gate but after three years of crowds growing it does make you wonder if as a club we have reached our limit. Obviously when the bigger clubs come to town and take all the Stacey West then tickets for the home sections will be much harder to obtain and sell outs will occur. Home ticket sales v smaller/less well supported clubs are defiantly something to keep an eye on as the club still wrestles with plans of moving to a new stadium or re-developing Sincil Bank for the long term.

Accrington are always held up as a prime example of what a club can do with a canny management team even if they have a low budget. John Coleman was even described in the programme as “The Alex Ferguson” on lower league football. That may be pushing it slightly but there is no denying the bloke has done a first class job at Accrington. They always give you a hard game especially at home. However that being said it was a game that on paper Lincoln were favourites to win. (in my eyes anyway)

The surprising team news was that last year’s top scorer John Akindie was on the bench. This was huge news and signaled a change in approach for the Imps. Last season Akindie was the first name on the team-sheet teams knew what they were in for and this change of tact seemed to surprise Accrington as they struggled to contain the Imps slick passing game plan.
As ever i never go into in-depth match reports on here, there are plenty of other places for that. This blog merely serves to give my overall views on the game. The Imps new signings of Morrel, Payne and Walker all impressed as did the whole Imps side. The first goals for the Imps game courtesy of a header from Micheal o’Conner on 35 minutes. The Imps never really looked in trouble at the other end but as we all know football has a wonderful way of kicking you up the arse when you least expect it and given how dominate Lincoln had been in the first half i did wonder if the Imps would pay for all the missed chances.
However i needn’t have worried as the second half followed the same pattern as the first. The Imps wrapped up the points on 82 when Akindie slotted home a trademark penalty to wrap up the points.
First day results can often bare little relevance to how the rest of the season is going to pan out but the signs today were positive. For me the big take away was the fact that the Imps now look to have two systems that can be used making them much less predictable. For much of the game City were very open and while that is pleasant to see at home i would think they will revert to a much more conservative style away from Sincil Bank.

So all in all a great start to the season with the Imps gaining three well deserved and impressive points. Good beer, nice pre game chips and a good performance. If only all games were as pleasant as this.

Monday, 8 July 2019

The Festival of Lincolnshire Football.

After a quiet summer waiting for news on friendly games to be arranged,the fixture list to come out and planning for the new season football was finally back and the first Imps game of 2019/20 was the festival of Lincolnshire football in Gainsborough. Actually i lie because it was actually two games as the festival featured the hosts Gainsborough, The Imps and Lincoln United.

There is something special about pre-season games, the sun is normally out, optimism fills the air, results don’t matter and there is normally a real buzz about going to these games. Plus you get to see fellow supporters/ goons you have missed over the long closed season months. Another reason i enjoy pre-season games especially in the early weeks if that it gives you the chance to go to grounds and catch up with clubs that you don’t normally get the chance to visit. A few years ago i use to get around many of the local non league clubs quite often throughout the season but a combination of purchasing an Imps season ticket three years ago and funds being needed for more important things in life means that forays into the non league game are few and far between.
Gainsborough is a town steeped in history that many people in the local area don’t really appreciate. As there is so much history to explore i suggested getting to the town early to try and find some of the historical sites of importance. Alas my ideas fell on deaf ears. Gainsborough gets its name after the tribe that made the first settlement here back in Anglo Saxon times, the Gaini. Gainsborough literally means stronghold of the Gaini.

The format of the day’s event was quite simple. The three teams would play each other once and the games would be 60 minutes long with 10 minutes for halftime. Two points were to be awarded for a win and one for a draw. I know some people wouldn’t count these are proper games given that they are shorter than normal but i am. Admission was a very reasonable £10 for adults in advance and rising to 12 if paying on the day. Baz, Emma Lou and i had used our loaf and ordered in advance but loads of money Felice opted to pay on the day. You always get one don’t you? Incidentally £12 is what Trinity charged last season in the 7th tier of English football. That seems a couple of quid too much to me but what do i know? I suppose funds were needed to support the promotion push that followed relegation the previous season, the promotion push never really got going though which is a real shame as Trinity really should be higher up the pyramid.

We arrived in Gainsborough just after 12.30 and although the normal car park was reserved for “Players and media” we managed to bag a spot just around the corner and made our merry way into the stadium. The “Special souvenir” programme was on sale just inside the turnstiles for £2.50 and although it looked quite snazzy it has to be said it was poor value with not a huge amount of reading material other than pen pics of the squads and given the large number of trialists that all three sides were playing it made this a tad useless. However many clubs don’t issue programmes at all for friendly games so i suppose i should be thankful that a programme was issued at all.  

Lincoln City 4-1 Lincoln United.

First up was the Lincoln derby and from an Imps point of view it was quite hard to read anything into this. The Imps named 6 unnamed trialist’s in the line up in addition to Adebayo-Smith who recently signed his first pro deal for the club and is one of the most exciting young prospects at the club. Early pre season games like this are normally littered with trialists so it’s hard for us in the stands to work out how much chance any of these players have at getting a deal with Lincoln  You also have to consider that there is a 5 division gap between the two Lincoln teams so you would expect anybody trying to get a deal with a League one club to look competent against modest opposition. In the end the Imps won comfortably with Adebayo-Smith grabbing three of the goals and the fourth coming from “Trialist E” We had the pleasure of spending the first game in the stand with Felice as he told us all about his bird watching antics over the past few weeks and gave us the lowdown on the puffin scene in North Yorkshire, something he is hugely passionate about. He is almost as passionate about it as he was the burger that he stuffed down his face at a rate of knots.

Gainsborough Trinity 0-3 Lincoln City.

This line up was far more interesting to Imps fans as it contained players that were all contracted to the club. Much of the talk amongst Imps fans this week has been the signings of Jorge Grant and Jack Payne on full time deals along with Joe Morrell who arrived on a season long loan from Bristol City. All three started in this game.  
As with the previous game City were on the front foot from the start and never really looked in trouble. We watching this match from the Carlise Street terrace and we got a perfect view of city missing a penalty in the 8th minute as Harry Anderson was adjudged to have been fouled in the box. New boy Payne stepped up to take the sport kick but it was well saved by the Trinity keeper. The Imps didn’t have to wait long for the opening goal, Andersons shot was well saved by the keeper but the rebound fell to Ellis Chapman who finished from close range. On 25 it was 2-0 as Matt Rhead finished off a good move from about two yards out. City added the 3rd in the second half via another penalty with Jorge Grant stepping up this time to take the kick. It was a decent penalty and one that Felice missed as he snuck out of the ground at halftime. Shocking stuff i am sure you will all agree.

After the second game it was time to visit the world famous Blues club for a quick pint. The blues club like much of Gainsborough is a bit of a throwback to a bygone era but it does the trick. When we remerged it appeared that about 70% of the crowd had decided to call it a day due to the Imps have finished their two fixtures. This left Trinity and United to fight it out over second place. Trinity bossed the first period whilst United had much the better of the second. The result being a 1-1 draw thus lifting United into second place. I have to thank my good friend Rob for giving me a life back after the third game thus allowing me to be able to watch it as all my viewing companions for the first two games had left for various reasons. Rob is the leading light in the local football blogosphere so check out his version of events .here

So what were my overall views of the day? This was the first time that Trinity (to my knowledge) had hosted an event like this so with that in mind i think it went pretty well and something i could see being an annual event involving different Lincolnshire sides. Although it may have been disappointing to see so many city fans leave after the 1st two games they had all paid their ticket money so neither of the two non-league sides sharing the gate money would have lost out but you would imagine the bar and catering takings would have been better if the Imps were on last as was originally planned. The bar and catering ques were fairly swiftly moving so from that point of view Trinity should be applauded. From what i could see everybody seemed to have a great day and i am sure all three management teams got something from it as well. I for one hope to see more of these in the future years and with a couple of tweaks i am sure this could be one of the high points on the pre-season calendar. I could see City, Grimsby and Scunthopre taking it in turns being the league club and another non-league side joining Trinity. If you invited say Boston or Grantham who would both bring a decent number the event could really take off.
Food for thought as they say.  

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Pre-season plans 19/20

I have always enjoyed pre-season games and the week or two that leads up to pre-season starting. After weeks and months of checking the Tony Kempseter Non league forum, Twitter and various blogs for interesting matches I now have a pretty good idea of which games I wish to take in before the real action starts on the 9th of August. However as with all things pre-season (and in life in general I suppose) things can and probably will change. I did have the novel idea of doing seven games  in seven days but that was poo pooed by the rest of the Cat Crew. Disappointing news I am sure you will agree.

Retford FC V Hykeham Town July 3rd

A nice and local one to kick off the 2019/20 season. It’s always good to get a game in early and get back into the swing of it all.
Retford FC has been a real success story over the past couple of seasons and last season gained promotion to the NCEL Division One. Off the pitch the Rail ground has seen significant investment thus making it a great place to watch football. I have a soft spot for the club given that on the field at the back was where I clean bowled Felice many moons ago in what can only be described as one of the best balls ever seen in Retford cricket.  Hykeham are new to the Lincs league this season so I know nothing about them apart from it will be a new ground to visit next season.

July 6th the festival of Lincolnshire football.

This is a novel idea and a date that I am very much looking forward to. It’s a three team tournament consisting of hosts Gainsborough Trinity, Lincoln United and the Imps. Each side will play the other in a match that will consist of two 30 minute halves with 10 minutes for halftime. First up Trinity take on United followed by the two Lincoln teams facing off, before the Imps play Trinity in the final match. Two points are awarded for a win and one for a draw. Should two sides be level on points then a penalty shoot out will decide the winners. The games will kick off at 1pm, 3pm and the bar will be open all day which is great news all round. Tickets are on sale in advance for a mere ten pounds which will rise by 2 quid on the day. Further more you can save even more by getting the family ticket (as I have)which allows two adults and two kids in for £20 thus saving you even more (chortle chortle). All these savings come in handy as the food at Gainsborough is always top notch and the beer is cheap in the Blues club.

I have a lot of time for both Gainsborough and Lincoln United so I hope a good number of Imps turn out to support the event. To that end I do hope that Mr Felice Del Colle does attend. His record at attending pre-season matches is on the poor side which is disappointing to say the least. One of his most famous no shows in pre-season was actually at Gainsborough a couple of years ago when he missed out on the Lincs cup tie between the Holy Blues and the Imps despite it being very close to where he lives and is often seen stuffing his face in the local KFC, playing Bingo and attending dance nights in the famous Blues Club. If his car has broke down (a favorite excuse in pre-season) the he will no doubt be delighted to learn that Gainsborough Central train station now receives an hourly service and is a mere 5 or so minute stroll from the Northholme meaning he can catch the 2.35pm service from Retford and make the Imps first game at 3pm. Gainsborough has a rich history so I very much encourage people to watch this three part documentary about the history of the town before the festival.  

Ilkeston Town v Notts County. 13th of July.

Something a little different with this game but that’s what pre-season is all about. I often like to partake with a couple of beers with the upper management of Barlow Enterprises and the combination of beer, sun and football is one that is too good to turn down. This is the start of a new Journey for Notts County as they adjust to non-league football and I am intrigued as to how see the start of it.  News of a proposed takeover has gone quiet in what is a nervous time for fans of the Magpies. I am sure they club will pull through but as we saw with the Imps it can take a while, but the good news is clubs like Leyton Orient completed the turnaround in just two seasons. Keep the faith as they say. Ilkeston have had troubles of their own over the past few years but won their league at a canter last season so it will be interesting to see them take the next step. The new Manor ground is a quality stadium with a large clubhouse. Let’s hope the bar is well stoked as Barlow drinking sessions are not for the faint hearted.
Ilkeston v Lincoln back in 2011

Lincoln United v Lincoln City 23rd of July.

Another cracking game here and one that is not to be missed. The Lincolnshire Cup has a very special place in the Imps history, for the reason the Imps exist was that it was felt by people in the city that Lincoln needed a side capable of winning the highly prized Lincolnshire cup and ending Grimsby’s domination of the competition. For this reason alone I have always tried to get to the Lincs cup games however my fellow Retford Imps goons seem less enthusiastic about it. A warm welcome is always revived at Ashby Avenue so it should be a great night. It may well be a “Lincoln City 11” take to the field as the Imps host Stoke City the following night at Sincil Bank. The winners of this tie will face either holders Cleethropes Town or Spadling United at home in the semi finals.

Retford United v Worksop Town. 31st July.

If you are about in the town of Retford on Tuesday the 31st of July then you have a choice of two games to attend. Firstly and the game I was going to attend when I saw it was Retford FC hosting Lincoln United, but seeing how I plan on being at the Rail the previous week to see the CML North champions play Harworth (I like to get about a bit in pre-season) I have opted to take in Retford United lock horns with neighbours Worksop Town.
It wasn’t too long ago that these two clubs were in the same division and for a while it looked like United could overtake Town as Bassetlaw’s highest ranked side. That seems like a world away now though after Worksop ran away with the NCEL Premier division title setting records left right and center while United had a disappointing season finishing 4th in the CML North. I am hoping there is a half decent crowd in for this and it will be good to see a few familiar faces.

Those are the games I would like to attend. However as i said previously some may fall by the wayside and others may be added. The Imps do host Sheffield Wednesday, Stoke City and Nottingham Forest but in all honestly the only one that really appeals is the Stoke game but  as the Lincs Cup game is the day before that takes preference as it is a competitive game. The ones v Forest and Sheffield’s 2nd highest ranked side in the football pyramid should be well attended with both bringing a good following. The two games will tug on Baz’s heart strings as he is a former Owl and will be bringing his home made half and half scarf to the match. There has also be a long standing rumour that a picture of a young Baz exists wearing a Forest shirt posing with the European Cup from many moons ago but I haven’t see it so I won’t comment.
The newly formed/rebranded Lincoln City Women have a series of pre-season games planned too which are appealing and it would be nice to pop along to Elland Road should Leeds host an interesting overseas opponent as they often do. Yaxley FC also host an Imps youth side so that could be a goer but we will see.

Till next time Cat fans.

Monday, 20 May 2019

End of season awards 2018/19

As I am getting back into this blogging lark I thought it would be fun to award my own end of season awards for the 2018/19 season. It’s fair to say this have been a fantastic season for the Imps and one that will live long in the memory  
and this made some of these awards quite tough to call. As ever with my blogging the main aim is to have a little fun with these kinds of things. Some awards are serious, some less so. Some awards relate to events on the pitch and some off it. So without further ado...

Best away trip of the season.
1st Everton (L 2-1)
2nd Cheltenham (W 2-0)
3rd Forest Green Rovers (W2-1)

As you can imagine during a season in which Lincoln had the best away record in the division there are a few strong contenders for this award. As anybody who travels to away games will tell you the day is about far more than just the game itself and from the baking heat of Northampton on opening day to the long trip to South Wales and Newport to close the season out many memories have been made.
Notts County is always a great away day (and the one I look for first when the fixtures come out). On the pitch the Imps were below par but as ever it was a cracking day off it. Cheltenham was excellent also – a new ground, great day on the ale with my best friend and taking both Cheltenham and Gloucester by storm (it was also a weekend away so that adds to the fun). Other grounds that were memorable were Northampton, Forest Green and MK Dons. But in the end the FA Cup tie at Everton was the clear winner. An iconic ground, huge away following and a very good performance from Lincoln on the pitch. Plus the staff at both Everton and Liverpool were all first class which added to the experience.
Worst away trip of the season

1st Tranmere away  (0-1)
2nd Oldham (1-1) 

It has to be said neither of these was awful, far from it. The reason Tranmere wins it is because it came at a time when my Asthma (which has been quite bad this season) was starting to get on top of me. It was quite a cold night so when you have a combination of a bad chest and a flat Imps performance you have the perfect factors for a poor away day. In a way I feel bad about writing this as I normally enjoy going to Prenton Park as it’s a cracking old school style stadium with fans that create a decent atmosphere but alas even a decent Kebab pre game couldn’t save it from this dubious award.
Oldham comes in second even though I didn’t go. Basically I am bitter. This was one that I really wanted to visit at the start of the season, a golden tick as it were as I have never been there. However my Asthma had other ideas and my plans were scuppered, and therfore it remains un-ticked.

Best disappearing act sponsored by Lord Lucan
Lee at Tranmere. 
Very easy one this. After failing to attend a game for over a year the winner this award was as one sided as a North Korean election, step forward Mr Lee Housman!! Little more I can say really. Shocking to think both mine and Felice’s other halves attended more away games than him. He did however attend the same as all our pet cats combined so that’s something.
Best new ground visited

I realise I may be going against the grain on this one but for all the stick the club get I found Forest Green Rovers, New Lawn to be a lot better than I expected. Yes it’s pretty small but it’s clean and it is perfect for what the club needs as opposed to clubs that build grounds that are way too big for them. The FGR fans really made a decent bit of noise behind the goal which always adds to the atmosphere. Although we didn’t get time for a pint there looked to be some decent pubs in the village and the chippy was nice if not exactly cheap.
Best piece of navigational skills

For once I am going to give this to myself. Macclesfield has always been an awkward place to get to and Felice was really struggling with this one. Thankfully I saved the day and got us there in good time. I won’t go into it too much as i am not one to blow my own trumpet too much but safe to say he would have been fooked without me.
Embarrassing moment of the season

Normally things that happen late on in the season stand more chance of winning these awards however for this we are going back to the first pre season game and a visit from Sheffield Wednesday. As we ambled round to the fanzone the smell of pork filled the air as the visitor’s team bus pulled in. With this Baz turned around to go and greet the players while I continued my trip to the bar.
In second place I have myself pouring salt instead of sugar in my tea during halftime of the Lincoln v Morecombe game. The weather was awful and coupled with the shock of Felice getting the teas in meant I grabbed the container with what I thought was sugar in only to pour lashings of salt into my much needed cup of tea. What a twat.
In third it has to be Felice getting all the way to the turnstiles at a home game only to realise he left his phone in the car. Thus meaning he needed to go back and get it. What made this all the more amusing was the fact he was busting for a piss and waddling like a duck. Why did he need his phone? To check how his bets were coming along and to play some stupid farming game on his phone at HT of course.  The icing on the cake was Bolton winning at his beloved QPR to mess his bet up.
Best team seen this season

This is quite a tough one to judge as firstly I have seen some sides three times, some  twice, some once and a couple not at all. Bury really gave Lincoln a run for their money in the televised game at Gigg Lane and ran us close at the Bank when Lincoln defeated them 2-1. Both games v Mansfield were also close with very little between the teams. This season however many sides have looked to sit back and given that at times Lincoln have struggled to break teams down you cannot really blame them for employing this tactic even though it’s awful to watch. I have always been a believer that the best form of defence is attack and thus I respect teams that try to win games. Not necessarily all out attack for the first whistle but not just sitting there is with 10 men behind the ball timewasting from the start. So to that end I tip my hat to the likes of Forest Green, Tranmere and Bury who did try to win the game. It’s hard to pick a winner but I would say Bury, FGR then Tranmere were the best I saw this season. Credit also goes to Northampton who looked decent in all three games against the Imps and were on the end of a Josh Vickers masterclass on the opening day of the season.

Worst team seen this season

Quite a few up for this one award as well. Oldham looked totally disinterested when they visited the Bank and gave the Imps the easiest three points of the season by far. Away from home Cheltehnam were awful with the Imps barely needing to get out of second gear in their 2-0 win at Waldon Road. Notts County were poor at the Bank but were unlucky not to take all three points in the 1-1 draw at Meadow Lane. Both Macclesfield games were close contests with little to choose between the teams and although I missed both Yeovil games Baz informs me they were poor in the game at Huish Park.
So overall Oldham get my vote as the worse side seen this season with Morecombe coming in second. I feel bad writing this as they are one of the smallest teams budget wise in the league and the fact they are still in the league is achievement in itself. As for third... let’s give it to Grimsby because... why not?

And lastly and most importantly.. The food! 

This is the hardest one to judge. Hand on heart i dont think we have had an outstanding Kebab this season nor an awful one. So with this in mind i thought i would just post a few pictures for you all to drool over! 

Bury (home) from our normal joint on the High Street

Cheltenham away

Tranmere away
WBA Away (FA Youth Cup)

Saturday, 20 April 2019

A trip to watch Dynamo Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate.

You don’t have to log on to social media sites for very long these days to see somebody taking pictures of their holiday and pronouncing their destination as “their happy place”. Normally this is by a pool somewhere or some sun drenched island. Up till October last year my happy place and city of choice, if I had to get away somewhere (and cash was no object) was Pittsburgh. Now the city of champions has been joined by another. Berlin.

I have visited Germany more than any other country. My first trip was back in 2009 when we went to watch the Imps take on Tus Celle FC on a pre-season tour. Through my work on the Woman’s World Football Show I took in trips to Düsseldorf and Koln in 2015 and 2017 respectively.  Although these cities were great I have to say they are not a patch on Berlin. I have to admit I wasn’t in a great place mentally when I was in Koln so maybe I am being unfair to that city and even though I thoroughly enjoyed Düsseldorf I didn’t get the same vibe as I did when I spent six days in Berlin.
So why have I taken two trips to Berlin in the past six months? Well a number of factors and the first one may seem shallow at first but who cares? Berlin is very affordable and there are plenty of teams to see if watching football is your thing. Although Berlin is the capital of Germany it doesn’t dominate the country the way London or Paris does. In Germany, Munich and Frankfurt are the most expensive cities to visit, followed by Hamburg and Stuttgart and then finally Berlin. I was tempted to visit Munich last year to see Bayern Munich’s woman’s team, but then after a spot of research I found that a six night stay in Berlin cost the same as three in Berlin. No brainer as they say.

Secondly, as I have grown older I have become more and more interested in the Cold War and the Warsaw Pact. I can’t really put a reason on why but part of it comes from the fact that it was a period in which I grew up in but knew nothing about. I was 10 when the Berlin wall came down and thus remember nothing about it or how significant a moment it was in history. Given that I am now 40 now I feel that it is definitely the most important event that has happened in my lifetime. I almost feel cheated that I didn’t realise what was going on. Most people in the UK and US will tell you that World War 2 ended in 1945 but ask people who lived behind the Iron curtain and they will tell you it really ended in 1989 and the more you research the Cold war era the more you find that to be true.
There are plenty of football clubs to watch in Berlin. Hertha Berlin is seen as the biggest club in the city and were the pride of West Berlin. Over in the East of the city you have Union Berlin who play in the second division and during the time of the DDR were the team of the people. In addition to the big two, you have a handful of clubs that play in the 4th and 5th divisions so you are never short of a game to watch on any given weekend. However there is one team that I wanted to see play and have fascinated me ever since I started visiting Germany and collecting Cold War football badges and programmes of the once feared and (still deeply unpopular in some quarters) Dynamo Berlin or to give them their current name Berliner FC Dynamo.
Across the eastern bloc many clubs were assigned to a certain working profession. Anything with Lokomotive in the name was for the railway workers, CSKA for the army and the most common one Dynamo for the secret police. Dynamo Berlin were the team of the Stasi, one of the most feared secret police services the world has ever seen. The Head of the Stasi and also the President of Dynamo Berlin was a chap by the name of Erich Mielke who had huge influence in East Germany and to be frank was a person who normally got his way and somebody you really didn’t want to piss off.
Currywurst. Looks awful,tastes fantastic.

After watching Dynamo Dresden dominate East German football but fail to make much of an impact in the European Cup, Mielke decided it was time for BFC to dominate instead and ordered the best players in Dresden to be transferred to Berlin and let “His Boys” have a go at bringing the European Cup to the DDR.  Domestic dominance was easily secured and Dynamo won the league for ten years in a row. Some say this was down to the club getting the pick of the best players and some questionable referring decisions, basically an East German version of Juventus. Like Juventus however they failed to make much impact on the European Cup with only three quarter final appearances being the best results. They did go on better in the Cup Winners Cup however making a semi final appearance in 71/72 before losing to the KGB (aka Dynamo Moscow) on penalties. One can only imagine the phone calls between East Berlin and Moscow during the build up to the second leg in that tie.  Although Dynmao never looked like winning the European Cup the club enjoyed fantastic nights against the likes of Liverpool ,Roma, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest during the glory times. For the big games the club used the Friedrich Ludwig Jahn Sportpark close by to the wall. The stadium has changed very little since the heyday of the GDR and this and the Stasi connection is what made me want to learn much more about the club and take in one of their games. It is getting harder and harder to find proper old school stadiums across the Eastern Bloc nowadays sadly so that makes Dynamo a must see for anybody who truly appreciates historic football venues and clubs with real history.
Since the fall of the DDR times have been tough for BFC. The club went into rapid decline being placed in the 3rd division after reunification and at times dropping down to the 5th tier and filing for bankruptcy.  

Amazing as it is given my good looks January marked my 40th year on this planet and to celebrate a jolly boys trip to Berlin was planned with a trip to watch Dynmao being one of the highlights. Most games kick off at 1.30 PM in Germany which is perfect as it gives you time to get to the nearest pub to watch the afternoon Bundesliga games before hitting the pubs for real in the evening.
The morning was spent checking out the East Side Gallery which is the longest section of complete Berlin wall left in the city. The wall has been decocted with graffiti by artists from all over the world with some though provoking messages and images. We were all feeling delicate after the night before and the sight of somebody casually strolling past the wall with a pint in hand at 9.45 AM in the morning didn’t make us feel much better.
After a stroll around Alexandraplatz the centre of the former East Berlin for some Currywurst it was finally time to head to the game. To reach the stadium you need to grab the U2 U-Bahn from Alexnarapaltz to Eberswalder Str which is three stops along the line, although I can’t remember the exact journey time it is less than ten minutes. If your inner German takes over and you want to know the precise journey time then just look at one of the maps of the lines at the station and it will tell you the journey time between the stop you are at and any other on the line which is pretty helpful and accurate. Public transport in Germany is world class and puts the crock of shite we get here to shame. The fact it is much cheaper as well is the final kick in the teeth! On all of my trips to the fatherland I have never had a problem with the U-Bhan,S-Bhans or trams whereas I can’t remember the last time that I went to London and all of the underground was fully working with no problems on the network. And don’t get me started on Northern Fucking Rail...

Anyway we arrived at the stadium with plenty of time to spare so we took a stroll around the area. The ground is very close to where the wall once ran and is next door to Mauer Park (Wall Park in German.) The ground is raised up on a hill and given that the weather wasn’t great there were very few people about and no pubs open. The outer wall of the stadium, like much of Berlin is covered in graffiti but I have to say that for the most part this actually works with some great images and designs and not the standard “Anna gives head” etc that you get around these parts. Next to the stadium is an indoor stadium that appears to be home to the local handball team as well as a concert venue. What’s shocking here is that German legend David Hasselhoff’s gig in October has yet to sell out. Apparently the gig is part of his World Tour which features dates in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and.... that’s it!

As you approach the stadium tickets are on sale for 12 and 8 for concessions at a little hut on your right hand side. Normally Dynamo fans are seated in the sections opposite the main stand however with crowds being poor this season, for most games in the second half of the season the home fans are located in the lower tier of the main stand, which is somewhat of a bargain as it normally costs 18 to sit here. In the clubs heyday you would imagine this section of the stadium being full of Stasi top brass watching on as Dynamo took the pitch to contest European Cup games. As you go through the security and walk up the steps a couple of girls were selling programmes for 2, it was a decent enough effort and was a double issue that covered today’s match and also the midweek game against league leaders Chemmitzer.
Stadium approach.

The stadium is all seated with a running track around it. Below us some of the Dynamo fans were pinning up an impressive range of flags and banners. Amongst them was the flag of East Germany which is not something you see every day in Germany. At the moment there is a debate in Germany as to whether it is right to fly the old flag. In my view the only people whose views count on this matter are the former citizens of the DDR. Many people are still proud of their former country and fear that history is being taken from them. I get the feeling a lot of people in the east don’t really feel they are seeing the benefit of reunification. The banned flag of East Germany would be seen by them as yet another attack upon themselves by people who understand very little about life in the East post 1989. Away from the flags, the beer and food stalls are setting up and doing a steady trade. Normally I am first in the queue for a beer at a football game in Germany but a combination of a hangover from the previous night and the cold and wind made the thought of a beer far from appealing. Thankfully the club shop was located inside the stand and had a great range of merchandise for sale. I bagged a scarf to match the hat a bought the last time I was in Berlin and I was ready to go.  

It has to be said that the game wasn’t a classic and to be fair looking at the league standings it was never going to be. Dynamo have been struggling this time around after finishing second last season but following the winter break they have slowly started to pull away from the relegation zone. The same cannot be said for their opponents Optik Rathanhow who have been rock bottom all season long and taken a grand total of 2 points away from home all season up to this point (they have improved slightly since this). The whole game really was a case of attack versus with Rathanhow placing eleven men behind the ball all match. Even when Dynamo took the lead (after missing a hatful of chances) the visitors approach didn’t change and it almost felt as if they were just happy to keep the score down and get out of Berlin as soon as possible. They did come into the game a little more in the second half as Dynamo continued to make and miss chances but in truth they never really looked like getting anything from the game. The final score of 1-0 to the home team didn’t reflect their total dominance.
Half time refreshments came in the shape of a brockwurst. A lot of people when they first encounter one of these wonder why the sausage is longer than the bread and there is a simple answer to this. The bread’s main function is to stop you burning your hand while you eat the sausage nothing more nothing less. It was also the only food on sale so if you didn’t want one then it’s tough, but at only 2.50 it’s a total bargain.

I have been looking forward to this visit for a while but before-hand I did have one slight concern. I had read on various sites that Dynamo had a right wing element in their support that can be quite nasty. Thankfully I can say that I didn’t experience any of that on this trip and although there were one or two people looked a tad on the scary side, the fan-base was a good mix of folks across the social spectrum. This was a low key game but the fans still tried to get the chants going even though the weather and the game weren’t really conducive to getting an atmosphere going.
Overall this was a great experience and one that if you love historic clubs - you have to visit. I would love to see Dynamo get into the 3rd division then maybe the fans would return as would visits from bigger clubs which in turn would hopefully help get a few more home fans through the gate. Dynamo will probably never again reach the top division let alone add to their ten championships and appearances on the European stage but they will always have those memories that the fans hold dear as the club motto “A light that never goes out” implies. 


Monday, 28 August 2017

Wycombe Wanderers 2-2 Lincoln City

Cat fact of the day: the longest tail on a domestic cat measured in at 16.34 inches and belonged to a Maine Coon by the name of Stewie of Reno, Nevada.

After 6 long and sometimes grueling seasons, the Imps are finally back in the Football League. The fixture computer had thrown up a trip to Wycombe first up for the Imps; a ground that my goons and I hadn't visited with the Imps since 1998. The Imps got thrashed 4-1 that day in a miserable (from our point of view at least) League One clash. The result left the Imps rock bottom of the table while propelling the hosts to the lofty heights of second from bottom. Apart from being one of the worst performances of any Lincoln game I have ever seen that match sticks out for two reasons. Firstly it was the final game the Bruce Grobbelaar played for the Imps and secondly the wonderfully named Jermaine McSporran hit a hat-trick for the home side. What was the cost of watching League One football at Wycombe back in 1998? 13 of your finest English pounds. Today's admission by contrast for this League Two game was £20 (which seems to be the going rate for this league it has to be said)

One of the brighter spots from Lincoln's time in the National League were some very enjoyable and relaxed away days. I was concerned that things on this front would change but if today was anything to go by, then we are looking at some great days out in League 2 this upcoming season. I always prefer to be away on the opening day and this was one of the most enjoyable ones in my 24 years watching the Imps.

We set off on our way at just after 9 after a hearty breakfast sandwich, and for the first time since Ipswich  we had a full compliment of Retford Imps. We may have changed leagues but some things will never change . Early on in the journey I had managed to spill sauce on my shorts and Lee "Walnut bladder" Housman was true to form and needed additional pee-pee stops. Admittedly after a few beers I make regular trips to shake the snake as it were but only after one or two pints. On this front Lee really sets a new standard. We had planned on one stop en-route to Wycombe but due to bladder issues for LH meant an extra stop was needed.

Apart from that, the journey was pretty uneventful with the normal chatter about football, kebabs and cats (in that order) being the main topic of conversation. Upon arrival we parked up a short walk from the stadium which set us back £5, which isn't bad when shared between a car full but it was noted how the passenger riding shotgun developed short arm syndrome while we were coughing up the cash to park the motor.....

Wycombe's Adams Park is located at the edge of an industrial estate and as such there isn't a whole lot of things to do around the stadium itself, However since Lincoln have been away from the football league "Fanzones" seem to have sprung up in greater numbers than teams Felice has soft spots for. Fanzones are basically outside beer tents with and a burger stall or two where both sets of fans can mingle before the game. It may sound basic but I really enjoy them and long may they continue to grow.

However as good as this was it was the appearance of the huge badge stall that really took the eye (I am easily pleased it has to be said) As many of you know I am a keen badge collector having started my collection over 24 years ago when I was still at school. I have no idea how many I have but they cover 3 scarves and this season I have started on a 4th. When I started out I just collected any badges but I have a little more structure to it all now.
When it comes to English ones I stick to grounds that I have visited. Over time for one reason or another I have missed a few badges so stalls like this are a great chance to fill the blanks as it were. Too that end I was able to pick up a Matlock Town one as well as the latest Maltby Main design. It was also good to get a Sutton United one finally. Felice was in charge of getting them at the back end of last season but alas they eluded him in much the same way the Champions League title has eluded Juventus. Fair play to the lad though he did buy them as he said him would.
20 plus years of collecting right here

We still had a decent amount of time before the game so we sunk a couple of beers and soaked up the atmosphere. At about 2.15 a chap in a suit came round and gave us a team sheet and welcomed us back to the league. A nice touch and another reminder that the Imps were back in the big time.

The Imps away games are all ticket these days (still seems weird saying that) this means that for some games we wont all be sat together. However with a few empty seats in the away end it did mean that we were able to all meet up and all sit together for the second half.

As you would expect the backing from the fans for the Imps first game back in the league was first class. However the Imps were under pressure in the early exchanges as the gap between the National League and League Two quickly became apparent. Lincoln did take the lead however when Matt Green finished off a good move from just outside the box, all seemed well. However the game changed in a crazy 7 minutes when Wycombe first equalised following a corner (in which the Imps marking left a lot to be desired). It then got worse as a couple of minutes later the hosts took the lead when a free kick was covered from just outside the box. It was hard and low and completely took the Imps defence off guard. What made this all the more annoying was the fact that Lincoln had scored a few like this last season so you would have thought they would have been a little more aware of this kind of set piece. Apparently not. It wasn't all bad news in the first half though as I had a rather tasty burger. Felice on the other hand had a crappy half cooked hot dog. It's the small victories in life.

In the second half our entourage was back together as Felice and myself made our way to join Lee, Baz, Josh, and Amer (who has lots of cats).

Within minutes of the restart the Imps were level thanks to on loan Burnley winger Josh Ginnelly's cool finish. After looking like a team of nervous kittens for much of the first half the Imps were the cool cats of the second half and looked much more at home. The fact that Wycombe had a corner in injury time and instead of going for the winner, decided to play tappy-tappy in the corner was a sign of how well Lincoln had played.

Its always good to get in the car after an away day when you haven't lost and reflect on the game. One thing that has helped us do this in recent years is a visit to McDonalds, normally just for a shake but today it was more of a full blown pig out. It seemed quite a few others has the same idea as the queue was one of the longest I have seen and even had Lee shaking like a shitting dog in fear, as he was worried that he would be late home and receive an ear full from his better half. Thankfully it was all ok even though Felice didn't get his favorite Fillet O Fish.

So all in all a great start to the season. Had I been offered a point at before the game I would have snapped your hand off. The fact that the Imps played pretty well too made it all the better. On to the next one as they say.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Lincoln 2-1 Walsall

Cat fact of the day: A cat can jump between five and seven times its own height in a single jump. 

This was the Imps final preseason game of the year thus making it the last time for 11 months you had the chance to watch the Imps stress free and not giving a rats arse about the result. The Imps opponents today were the crowd pulling west midlands footballing giants of Walsall. Apart from being the final chance for the Imps management to cast an eye over a couple of trialists and fine tune things for the season opener at Wycombe this coming weekend this game was also Lee Beevers testimonial game with funds raised from the game going to the popular Imps (and former) Walsall defender.

And speaking of popular Imps defenders, it would be wrong of me not to mention the man who was in the opposition dugout. Walsall manager Jon Whitney was at part of the great 97/98 promotion team and was a huge figure during the reign of John Beck from 95 to 98. Jon was a hard as nails left back who flattened many a fancy winger during his time at Sincil Bank. The guy was the epitome of the fighting spirit of the Imps in that era. Jon joined the club in October 95 and was a part of the side that kicked and fought  their way to safety that season.
I was in my late teens between 95-98 and at the age when we are most impressionable, and it is that era that remains my favorite as an Imps fan. I (and many other Imps fans) were gutted when Jon was transferred to Hull City halfway through the 98/99 season, a move that still makes no sense almost 20 years on. Its fair to say John Beck has his fair share of critics but several of his players from that time have gone on to make capable managers Jon Whitney at Walsall, Gareth Ainsworth at Wycombe, and Terry Flemming who has worked at a respectable level in non league football. Beck was clearly an inspiration to many of his troops.

Sadly even the presence of Imps legends past and present were not enough to get my fellow Retford based Imps along to the game. This is even more shocking given that the admission was a very reasonable £10 and it was pay on the gate. Oh well, they missed a decent enough game (for a preseason game) and racked up the Part Time Twat Points into the bargain.
My fellow Retford Imps take their seats for the big game.

Its been a while since i saw the Imps. In fact i hadn't seen the first team since the 1st preseason game at Lincoln United. Since then the Imps have been on a tour in Portugal where they lost to Benfica B 1-3 and beat Millwall 1-0. Since arriving back in the UK they have lost 2-3 at home to Peterborough and beaten Nottingham Forest U23s 4-3.  The club also played host to Manchester United's youth team when they took on the Imps youngsters. I missed this game and due to Felice attending earned   my first part time twat points of the season. The fixture has a special place in Felice's heart as he has a soft spot for Manchester United and even wore his vintage Mark Hughes replica away shirt from the year the Red devils won the European Cup Winners Cup. Its a bit snug now though mind.

I always like to attend at least one Imps home preseason game. For me its a chance to get reacquainted with all things Lincoln City before the season starts for real. The routine was pretty much the same as normal. Pre match pints in the Anchor, followed by a visit to the Back of the Net Chippy. It has to be said BOTN is a fantastic chippy and a must visit for a Saturday home game.
Proper Fishcake, chips and peas. Yours for a bargain £2.30

 Although i have been in there plenty of times i didn't know that the owners of the place use to live in Florida. This only came about as they spied my Florida Gators T-Shirt. We chatted briefly about the Gators then a went on my merry way. I was tempted to do the "Gator Chomp" but i thought better of it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this sporting tradition here is a quick video to help you out.

On to the game. I have to be honest here it wasn't really much to write home about. The main point of interest being the appearance of a couple of trialists for the Imps. This is a tad out of the ordinary as you would expect the final pre season game is the one where you would play much of your first choice 11 ready for the opening match of the season. I do not feel there is any need to panic however. Danny Cowley is renowned for taking his time in getting recruitment right and taking the time to get the right players in.
The first half was pretty much a non event. The Imps managed to contain their league one opponents without really creating anything else at the other end. The high point of the game has come at the end of the game when the two teams formed a guard of honor for Lee Beevers as he walked out and greeted the 2,300 plus who has come to show their respect for a player who has never let the Imps down when wearing an Imps shirt in his two spells at the club.

The game did finally liven up in the second half thankfully. Walsall made a much better start to the second half than their hosts and took the lead after some poor Imps defending. Over the course of the preseason the Imps have been shipping more goals than i would like but hopefully this will all be sorted when the rumored new centre-back arrives this week.
On the hour mark the obligatory raft of changes were made by both sides and after all these the Imps started to look more of a threat going forward. They equalized when Josh Ginnelly crossed for Nathan Arnold to head home.
In a throw back to last season Lincoln hit the winner in added time when Sean Raggett headed home when his header hit the post and went in following a corner. The biggest cheer of the afternoon however came when Lee Beavers was brought on for the last couple of minutes. Beevers is still in rehab following his injury but it was great to see him be able to play a small part in his big day and although you could tell it was painful for him to run he was still quicker than 90% of people reading this blog.

So there you have it. Preseason is over the now the action for real begins. I haven't gone into to much detail on the players performance in this game (or the other friendlies) as i have never felt that preseason is the time to pass judgment. There will be plenty of time for that over the next nine months.
So on to Wycombe and my 23rd season watching Lincoln City. A full complement of Retford Imps is expected at Adams Park for the trip to a ground i haven't visited with Lincoln since 1998 (a 1-4 defeat incidentally).
Coming to a League 2 ground near you during 2017/18

Part time twat league standings after the conclusion of preseason.

Lee   19
Amer 19
Felice 17
Barry 14
Adam 2