Takeways and off licenses are also doing a roaring trade with my former Taekwondo sponsor the Retford Charcoal Grill in particular seeing an increase in business from all at Mind of an Imp HQ. Last night England recorded a fine 3-2 win over Sweden to give them a great chance of reaching the knock out phase of the competition. All of a sudden all the bitching about good old "Arry" not getting the England job seems to have disappeared.
|The aftermath of England v Sweden at HQ|
While the Mens side are away in Eastern Europe the Ladies side face a huge match in their quest to qualify for the 2013 Ladies European championship in Sweden. Group leaders the Netherlands were in town and before the game sat 5 points ahead of England having played one game more. Only one team qualifies automatically from the group, with the second placed side going into the playoffs. For England to have any real chance of winning the group they really needed to win this game. A draw here and a win for the Dutch in Serbia in their last group match, would see them win the group regardless of what England did in their remaining matches against Slovenia(A) and group whipping girls Croatia.(H)
The venue for today's encounter was the City of Salford stadium which is home to the Salford City Reds Rugby league side who currently sit 10th out of 14 teams in Superleague. The ground is a new stadium and was only opened for the start of the current season. I must admit that I was a tad surprised at the choice of venue. Not the area of the country that the game was being played in. I think it is great that the Ladies side play their matches around the country as it helps to promote and build the game and its about time that the North west got a piece of the action.
What I was surprised at was the FA's decision at choosing a rugby ground to host it when I am sure that the likes of Oldham, Stockport, Bury, and Rochdale would have jumped at the chance at hosting a match like this as it would have given one of them a shot in the arm when lower league football is really struggling. I like to see all levels of football helping each other out so in my view this was an opportunity lost. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the City of Salford stadium or that they didn't do a good job hosting the event, I just felt the FA missed a trick here in helping out lower league football. I wonder if the RFL will return the favour and play a Ladies rugby international match at Sincil Bank or Spotland in the future?
The big news to have come out of the England Ladies camp over the past couple of months has been the appointment of Lincoln Ladies captain Casey Stoney as full time England Captain after Faye White retired to start a family. In truth it wasn't a huge surprise as Casey was the Vice Captain before and has captained England in a number of occasions in the past during her 100 plus cap career. As a Lincoln fan its great to see one of our players given this honour and I am sure that she will be a fantastic Captain for England. For those reading this who haven't seen or heard her before i have dugout a fun interview she did at an England training camp when she was interviewed by fellow Lady Imp Jess Clarke and former Lady Imp Sue Smith.
It may not be the most serious interview the football world has ever seen but its a hell of alot more interesting than hearing the England Men's Captain good old Stevie G droning on and on reeling out cliché after cliché in every press conference.
Casey wasn't the only Lady Imp on England duty today as fellow defender Sophie Bradley had also received a call up. I am pretty sure that Jess Clarke would have been in the squad (She has been in the last few and scored against Serbia last time out for England) but her injury sustained against Arsenal a few weeks ago put her out of contention for the squad for today's match and Tuesday's away game in Slovenia. I am sure England will want to get her back fit just as much as Lincoln do.
We had booked tickets for today's match a few weeks ago with the cost being a very reasonable £5.50. Today's game was also being screened live on BBC 2 which is another boost to the Ladies game. Although interest is nowhere near as big as it is in the Men's game, things like the BBC screening live games and the success of the WSL show to me that the Ladies game is moving in the right direction and interest is growing. Slowly but surely is the message.
Even with one or two hold ups and a 50 mile an hour stretch on the motorway we still managed to arrive about an hour and a half before kick off. One problem about these new stadiums is that they are often built in the middle of nowhere until other units, Pubs, and Fast food outlets etc. are built along side. Sadly this was the case here as there is very little around the stadium for adult fans to do (Go for a drink etc) The pubs i had been told about were a good 20 minute walk away which didn't seem very appealing.
Speaking of the Dutch, a small but very vocal group of their fans had made the trip to support their side and were milling around outside the ground before kick off. A few of their number were dressed in the traditional Dutch national team fans uniform. That being and all orange suit, fluffy clogs, and crazy head wear. In this case big fluffy lion's manes (Because of the lion on the Dutch FA's badge i assume) The outfit is completed with a Dutch national team scarf. They seemed very friendly and were happily posing for photos for people and chatting to fans in between chanting "Holland (Clap clap clap) Holland" and banging on various instruments. This was quite funny at first but quickly got a tad irritating. This is the first time i have ever seen anything like this at a football game. Its certainly not the kind of thing you see at Barrow away on a September evening. I didn't get a picture of them outside the ground but did take one of them with the England mascots inside the ground.
Once inside the ground you find a tidy new style stadium. We were sat opposite the main stand which was larger than the stand we were sat in. At either end of the ground there are terraces although only the central bits of the terraces were open as the sides were covered with huge England banners. With it being a UFEA match no beer was on sale inside the ground. On the plus side this gave us chance to watch the sides warm up and it was noticeable that the Dutch were first out by a good ten minutes or so. Another noticeable feature was that we seemed to have ended up in the block of seats that the majority of Dutch fans had bought tickets for. Cue more chanting and instrument playing. They did add a bit of colour and atmosphere to the day but we decided to move once the game kicked off to save our ear drums slightly. Its good though to see that rival football fans can sit together and have a bit of banter without kicking seven bells out of each other.
perspective Manon Milis' shot hit the side netting. Chances-wise that was pretty much for the first half.
The Dutch would have been happy with the way that they went about their work. England had been disappointing and i am sure Hope Powell; the England boss, would be eager for her side to up their work rate. About 10 minutes or so before halftime i snuck off to sample the food on offer. For £2.80 i bagged a hotdog that was different in the respect that it had two smaller sausages in it instead of one long one. It was pretty average stuff and not a patch on the splendid tucker served up by the Lady Imp caterers.
Shortly after England were awarded another freekick in a similar position to the last one. As Yankee again lined it up i commented to my travelling companion that she couldn't do any worse than she did with the last one. Just as i said that she went and unleashed a fantastic shot right into the top corner which gave the Dutch keeper no chance.
1-0 England with 67 minutes gone.
It had been a game of few chances but the win for England was huge. Qualification for Euro 2013 is now in their own hands as two wins against Slovenia away (Live on the FA website) and Croatia at home in September will be enough to send them to Sweden as group winners.