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FC United v FC Halifax

FC make some noise
FC United 0-1 FC Halifax (11:12:10)

There is no government health warning printed on match day tickets at FC United of Manchester. And there should be. I suffer from terracechantitis; a disease whereby if I hear a natty terrace ditty on a Saturday, it’s liable to rattle around in my head for days, weeks and, I’m looking at you here Royal Antwerp, months later. Be forewarned: FCUM have become the kings of the natty terrace ditty.

EFW has covered most aspects of the rise and rise of FC United here, there and everywhere. The one thing missing is a report on a matchday experience on their (sort of) home turf. So I rolled back the years and journeyed north for a 540 mile round trip, something I used to do every other week following Brighton, before I became obsessed with, ahem, European Football Weekends.

Under the boardwalk, watching FC.

What’s not to like?
First port of call upon arrival into Manchester was the Waldorf pub. It probably doesn’t rank too highly on beerintheevening.com, but time wasn’t on our side and it’s only a goal kick away from Piccadilly station. I’m not too sure if any new bands have emerged on the Manchester scene in the last decade, because the pub was still pumping out tunes by The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets on loop. Still, that suits me fine and it proved an inspirational backdrop as Cynical Dave, City Dave, Mr Fuller, Christa and I made notes on the EFW divisional ready reckoner.

Despite the knock on effects of a devastating crash in this area last week, the tram service from Manchester to Bury was running as smooth as a pint of Boddingtons. It was hard not to rubberneck as we eased our way through the carnage left behind on Coronation Street. Our thoughts are of course with Ashley Peacock and his family at this distressing time.

Bury tram station pumps out Abba tunes on a Saturday morning. No, me neither, but Dancing Queen seemed fairly apt as Mr Fuller was still sporting a spot of mascara from his previous nights entertainment – part of a bet on a work night out in Denmark by all accounts. Those Danes eh? What are they like?

The hospitality afforded to the EFW team at the Stade le Gigg, Bury was of the highest possible order. A chap called Swampy took us under his wing and – after negotiating the crystal maze of the Bury main stand, with doors and stairways everywhere, like a deluxe edition of Cluedo – we finally ended up in the Course You Can Malcolm (CYCM) bar. Here we knocked back an ale brewed to commemorate FC United’s FA Cup run and listened to some quality, and very funny, speeches by the home (team) manager and his trusty assistant. A bit different. A bit brilliant, actually.

She wore, she wore, she wore a Scarlet Ribbon.

I say Ottershaw, this Barnstoneworth United can play a bit lad.

Heavy duty flagage.
The highest compliment I can bestow on this match, is that it felt like a game in Germany in terms of the atmosphere. And lets not forget to mention FC Halifax fans part in all this. They travelled in great numbers – 5-600 or more – and gave their team tremendous vocal encouragement as they celebrated their 100th game as the club who replaced Halifax Town A.F.C. a c0uple of seasons ago.

In truth, there wasn’t too much high fiving between the two sets of fans. This was Yorkshire v Lancashire, and a battle of the roses, after all. A couple of FC Halifax fans had caused a bit of northern uproar by referring to FC United as ESPN United, and a few more chanted USA, USA during the game. See what they did there? Ouch. The home fans also insisted on singing anti-Leeds United songs. I don’t get that, I don’t get the songs about Eric Cantona either, but – for me anyway – 90% of everything they do makes sense.

We were plenty surprised by the high skill factor and flair from both teams during the match, which was befitting of such a large crowd. FC Halifax deserved their victory though. A small section of the travelling Shaymen put the stewards to the test by trying to encroach on the pitch at the end. This was swiftly dealt with, and within a couple of minutes both sets of players took applause. A great advert for the Evo-Stick League, in the seventh tier of English football? Yes Sir. The return fixture is on New Years Day back at The Shay. I can think of worse ways of starting the year.
Time to wheel out the ‘Stairway to heaven’ caption again, tick.
Simon Garner (former FC United player, no less) and friends salute the travelling Shaymen after notching the winning goal.
A mover and shaker.

For lots more photos from the day CLICK ME.
– Feel free to comment below –

Posted in Bury FC, FC Halifax, FC United of Manchester, FCUM, Gigg Lane | 1 Comment

EFW divisional ready reckoner

What division are you in?
Football’s just a branch of science, no? Well, after meeting our good friend Dave this morning in a pub in Manchester, yes that Dave, we decided to draw up the definitive EFW divisional ready reckoner: a list of the 92 clubs and the division, we think, they belong in. Admittedly, everyone involved in this experiment had indulged in a few lunchtime range finders, but hey, worse things happen at sea, don’t they?
So, football fans of the top four tiers of English football, listen up. This is how it feels to be lonely,(Wigan), this is how it feels to be small, (Barnet). This is how it feels when your club means nothing at all, (MK Dons).
The Premier League (Division 1 in old money)
Arsenal
Aston Villa
Chelsea
Everton
Liverpool
Manchester City
Manchester United
Newcastle United
West Ham United
Tottenham Hotspur
Leeds United
Derby County
Nottingham Forest
Ipswich Town
Southampton
Sunderland
Middlesbrough
Sheffield Wednesday
Coventry City
Blackburn Rovers
The Championship (Division 2 in old money)
Birmingham City
Bolton Wanderers
Fulham
Stoke City
West Bromwich Albion
Queens Park Rangers
Watford
Leicester City
Norwich City
Portsmouth
Preston North End
Burnley
Reading
Notts County
Brighton and Hove Albion
Crystal Palace
Sheffield United
Hull City
Oxford United
Charlton Athletic
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Cardiff City
Swansea City
Bristol City
League One (Division 3 in old money)
Doncaster Rovers
Brentford
Scunthorpe United
Millwall
Barnsley
Bournemouth
Stockport County
Peterborough United
Wigan Athletic
Carlisle United
Swindon Town
Plymouth Argyle
Bristol Rovers
Tranmere Rovers
Oldham Athletic
Blackpool
Bradford City
Southend
Gillingham
Port Vale
Rotherham
Crewe
Huddersfield
Walsall
League Two (Division 4 in old money)
Hartlepool United
Dagenham and Redbridge
Colchester United
Yeovil Town
MK Dons
Exeter City
Leyton Orient
Shrewsbury Town
Cheltenham Town
Stevenage
Barnet
Accrington Stanley
Hereford
Burton Albion
Chesterfield
Torquay United
Lincoln City
Macclesfield Town
Morecombe
Aldershot Town
Bury
Northampton Town
Wycombe Wanderers
Rochdale
So, what do you think? Agree, disagree? I fear we may be turning into Talk Sport with this one, but we’re going with it anyway.
– Feel free to vent your spleen/agree with us below –
Posted in EFW divisional ready reckoner, nonsense, what division are you in | 9 Comments

NOPA awards

Football, comedy, beer and charity.
A fun evening, filled with tons of booze, lots of nice food, a chance to meet or catch up with fellow bloggers and it’s all for charity you say? Guests to include Barry Glendenning, Luke Moore, Clive Tyldesley and – to reiterate – it’s all for a good charitable cause? Where do we sign?
It’s not often I pull a suit of the peg, but this has to be worth putting in an appearance for, no? Furthermore, European Football Weekends has somehow managed to shoehorn its way onto the list of nominees. In fact, if you’re at a loose end, you can vote for whoever tickles your fancy here:
The inaugural NOPA awards , hosted by PickLiveFootie and designed to celebrate the best that the football blogging and podcast world has to offer, take place at Hoxton Hall in London Village. Tickets for the event can be purchased HERE. All food and drink is included in the price of a ticket. All proceeds go to the charity DS Active.
With all the furore surrounding Fifa and their World Cup bidding shenanigans, it probably isn’t the best time to tell you that EFW have also been nominated for another award as well. So, in no way will I be asking any of you to head over to the Soccerlens Awards page for best niche website and put a tick in the box for us there, not on your nelly.
– Feel free to comment below –
Posted in DS Active, It's the taking part that counts, NOPA awards | 2 Comments

Besiktas v Bursaspor


Turkish eye of the storm
Besiktas 1-0 Bursaspor (05:11:10)
Three fans were put in hospital with knife wounds following the Besiktas v Bursaspor match on Sunday, meaning every news agency reported on it for all the wrong reasons. EFW Turkish correspondent Ulas Gürsat was at the match reporting on what really happened. Ulas is a football reporter for the Turkish daily Haberturk Newspaper:

A small bit of history was made on Sunday at the İnönü Stadium, because for the first time in seven years away fans were allowed to travel to a match involving Beşiktaş and Bursaspor. What could possibly go wrong?
These two teams have become huge rivals following events surrounding the finale of the 2003/04 season. Bursaspor were fighting relegation with Akcaabat Sebatspor and Rizespor, both of whom had to play Beşiktaş as the season drew to a close. Beşiktaş lost those games, and in the eyes of Bursa, did so on purpose – therefore relegating them to the second division, and thus the newest football rivalry in Turkey was born.
It took Bursa three seasons to regain their spot in the Süper Lig. Upon doing so the Turkish FA instructed both clubs not to allow away fans into their respective grounds for this fixture for fear of crowd trouble. Neither team were happy with the ruling, but after today, it will probably be back for some years to come.
This match kicked off at the unusual time of 14:00. It’s quite rare for matches involving ‘big teams’ to kick-off in daylight. Beşiktaş had played in Europe on the Thursday beforehand, and Bursaspor are due to play Glasgow Rangers in the Champions League on Tuesday. Therefore – in the interests of both clubs – the authorities settled on an afternoon start, which isn’t something we’re used to, but everyone seemed to like it – to begin with, anyway.
Beşiktaş is a district of Istanbul, and almost everybody in that area supports Karakartallar (The Black Eagles). But they also have fans from all around Istanbul and indeed the whole of Turkey. I started my short journey to the stadium from Kadıköy, a large, populous, and cosmopolitan district on the Asian side of Istanbul. I took the ferry with the other BJK fans from Asia, and even though it was early, their fans were not only in high spirits – they were drinking spirits, and the singing had already started.
Sunday morning worship. The Black Eagles take to the streets of Istanbul.
The ferry pulled in just 500 metres from the ground. Upon our arrival, there was a heaving mass of excitable fans. The reason? Well, my appearance had coincided with the 1200 visiting fans and shouts of pleasure and confusion were raining across the streets. The BJK fans approached their rivals, but had three of four lines of police in their way. By way of a greeting, the two sets of fans exchanged pleasantries in the form of beer cans, glasses, stones and small bombs.
Beşiktaş fans were very determined to get to their rivals, but the police were equally intent on stopping them. Bursa fans, for their part, threw everything they could lay their hands on to defend themselves whilst trying to gain entry into their section of the stadium. This continued inside the İnönü, but this time seats were the weapon of choice.
Beşiktaş fans gather to welcome their rivals.

Bursa fans make their way into the stadium.
Pleasantries are exchanged.

Fighting, that’s done. Now to support the teams.
Tensions continued to rise throughout the match, not helped when a Bursa fan ran onto the pitch with a green flag. He knew he couldn’t gain entry to the pitch from the away sector, because of the fences, so he posed as a BJK fan, and ran onto the field of play from the home end. Beşiktaş fans are famous for their noise, today was no different, and if anything they were louder than normal. It’s an incredible experience to watch a match here.
It was a tough game played out in front of a full stadium. The home side won it with a Filip Holosko strike. Bursa blamed the defeat on the sending off of their star man Volkan Şen. He was showered with missiles as he left the pitch for his troubles.
Bursa fans fenced in to their section.

So this chap invaded the pitch from the home section. Mentalist.
Volkan Şen is not alone as he exits the pitch after his red card.

My view from the press box.
Happily, there was no further trouble after the match, but I learned later that three people had been taken to hospital with knife wounds during the violent scenes before it. Beşiktaş took the all important three points, but they won’t be taking any of their fans to the return fixture if this was anything to go by.
For many more photos of the day CLICK ME.
Further reading: EFW visit to Besiktas. And the video of their fans.
– Feel free to comment below –
Posted in Besiktas, Besiktas fans, Bursaspor, Football in Turkey | 1 Comment

James Richardson

We belong to Jimbo

Cast your eyes skywards on a clear night and, if you’re lucky, you might just catch a glimpse of a small pod circulating in near earth orbit. Contained within that small capsule is a group of people who – twice weekly – produce a master-class in football punditry, namely, The Football Weekly.

Rallying those troops together in an attempt to reawaken Blighty with some European footie news interspersed with the odd welcoming pun is James Richardson, AC Jimbo to his mates. He brought us gold with Football Italia in our teens, delivered frankincense with the aforementioned podcast and European football newspaper round-ups, and completed the hat-trick with a long overdue presenting stint on Match of the Day ITV4 darts.
I wanted to do something special for this: the holy of holies. So, in a nod to Cash for Question in Q Magazine, but without the cash bit, I asked some friends of EFW to pitch the great man a question. Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me no greater pleasure to welcome James Richardson to European Football Weekends:

Sir, as a young(ish) journalist, I was once deployed to ask you questions about the forthcoming World Cup. Instead, we ended up nattering about Serie A for 45 mins and I ended up with a tape full of fascinating, but ultimately useless material. Firstly, does this happen a lot and secondly, how do you maintain your passion for Italian football in the face of so many scandals? (Iain Macintosh,football writer and author) First question; not as often as it should. Second question; if football leagues are like girls, Serie A was, back in the 90’s, the one we all desired but thought was way out of our class. That she then turned out to be a bit of a tart underneath made her, for some of us, all the more intriguing.

How did you pitch up at Football Italia for Channel 4? (Footie and Music)
Funnily enough there was an actual girl involved. I met a young lady from Rome, as the old limerick goes. This lead to me learning Italian, which led to a desperate tv exec calling me in a couple of weeks before the show launched to have a go at being a football reporter. Doesn’t scan very well, does it?

I’ve heard that you didn’t care for football until you got the Football Italia gig, is there any truth in this? How long did it take for you to fall in love with the game, if at all? (Rocco Cammisola, The Football Express) I’m not sure I am ‘in love’ with the game. Sometimes its unpredictability can take your breath away, sometimes it can feel like history unfolding before your eyes, but sometimes it’s FIFA world cup 2010. So I like it – love it on occasions – but not always.

From your time covering Italian football, what was your most memorable match? (Swiss Ramble) Sadly, Genoa – Milan in 1995. A Genoa supporter was murdered, the game was suspended and an angry mob took over the streets around the Marassi. After we filmed a bit of the disturbances we were surrounded by Ultras, causing my film crew to drive off at high speed and me to get a genuine black eye. Jimbo on the front line! However, so abject did I look to the burly fellows responsible that one of them was delegated to escort me out of the area, which he did, conversationally pointing out the fleeing police cars and burning vehicles as we passed. A very singular afternoon.

For on the pitch business, I remember doing a Sampdoria Milan game with Ruud Gullit turning out for ‘Doria that was a bit of a cracker. Then that Milan – Verona match in 90-something when George Weah went off on his pitch-long scoring run, and Inter Brescia at the start of Ronaldo’s first season there, when Alvaro Recoba made his scene-stealing debut in. Plus Roma – Parma, when Roma won the title and Channel 4 cut to a black and white film before the match ended.

In recognition of your legendary “duet” with Elvis Costello on Football Italia, what is your favourite Costello album? Elvis Costello’s Greatest Hits. Failing that, Armed Forces or This Year’s Model.

Is there any chance of a reunion with Elvis Costello on the Football Weekly pod? Elvis, I’m ready to ditch our current grumpy irishman whenever you give the word.

When Gazza moved back to the UK did you think “Well that’s the end of this cushy number?” (Stuart Fuller, The Ball is Round) Actually no; Paul hadn’t been involved too much in the show anyway through his injury-ravaged final season at Lazio. Plus Paul Ince was just arriving.

There are huge cultural differences across Italy, so when you had to present the show outside the northern “heartlands” were you treated with suspicion like us southerners are when we go up north? Not in the least. Almost everyone was very welcoming.

Do you see Serie A having a renaissance period in the UK? Similar to the one we saw from ’92 onwards. Or, what’s stopping that from happening? (Tim Hill, Talking About Football) Not in the next decade. Why? Money.

What’s your favourite cake? (Andrew Gibney, Gib Football Show) A proper home-made Panettone, or anything with chocolate.

Do you ever actually eat the cake/ice cream? (Jacob Steinberg, Guardian, Football Weekly) Do I ever!

What one lesson could the English Premier League learn from Serie A? (Ollie Irish,Who Ate All The Pies) Oh dear. At last a huge opportunity to answer back all those jingoistic premier-centric English clichés about the Italian game. Open net! Must. Not. Miss… Er, home grown owners?

Who are your favourite group of fans in Italy and what sets them apart from English fans? (Andy Hudson, Gannin’ Away) I don’t have one to be sincere. Perugia supporters are a decent bunch, as can Neapolitans. Any support with a healthy dose of self irony, basically.

Do you still get a Christmas card from Gigi Casiraghi after eulogising him on Football Italia? (Andy Brassell, All or Nothing TV) Gigi was my love that dare not speak its name. The time I asked him to rub my face in a plate of cold spaghetti, and he complied! Do it again, Gigi! Do it!

During your time as anchor of Football Italia did you interview anyone who was visibly inebriated? Or did you encounter any particularly annoying/awkward guests? (Rocco Cammisola, The Football Express) In answer to your first question; visibly, no. But I worked with gazza for 3 years. Annoying guests were few and far between, although I remember Alen Boksic being rather difficult. And Christian Vieri used to refuse to speak English to me.

Italy were effectively eliminated from the World Cup by a Marek Hamsik-led Slovakia. I was wondering what that result did to enhance Hamsik’s reputation in Italy and what effect did it have on his popularity throughout the country? And how is he doing at Napoli this season? (Dan Richardson, Britski Belasi) There was no Ahn-type backlash at all that I’m aware of (the south Korean who scored the penalty that put Italy out in ’02). Still, it was an entirely different set of circumstances; Italy were so abject this time that they barely noticed who put them out of their misery. Wasn’t that the best 10 minutes of the Cup though – when Italy suddenly decided to go for it at the end of that game and Quagliarella scored that blinder? Frustrating.

Just how bad is the violence and racism in Italian football? (James Boyes, Lewes Football Club) Ugh. Bad enough. Still waiting for the happy ending on this one.

You continue to be a big influence on The Football Ramble. We all remember your Gazzetta Football Italia stint with great fondness. What we’d most like to know is, which player from your time reporting on Serie A would you most like to share an ice-cream with, and why? (Luke Moore, Football Ramble) Beppe Signori. Just an all-round star, on and off the pitch.

In your opinion who was the better side – Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan ‘Immortals’ of 1989 & 1990, Fabio Capello’s Milan ‘Invincibles’ of 1991 to 1994, or Jose Mourinho’s treble winning Internazionale of last season? Oh, and could you have a look at this? (David Hartrick, I Know Who Cyrille Makanaky Was) Sacchi’s side! Woof!

Why do we see so little of you? Does being so well know as the Football Italia man hamstring you in terms of mainstream presenting gigs? (Dan Brennan; World Soccer magazine, Libero Language Lab) It must be that. It’s really putting my Hollywood career back too.

For many years I’ve considered it one of life’s travesties that you don’t present Match of the Day, and I know I’m not alone in thinking that. Have you been offered the chance to present the show and is it something you’d like to do? (Jeff,In Bed With Maradona) I would absolutely love it. LOVE it!!!

If you got the *whispers* MOTD gig, how would you change it and who would be your wingmen? (Damon Threadgold, The Real FA Cup) Adebayor and Shearer. And it would be all about Serie A.

Were you flattered by the Internet campaign to get you the MotD2 gig earlier this year? (James Maw, Four Four Two magazine) I was very flattered.

What were you thinking letting me in the pod bay doors that time James? Anyway, would you consider giving up waiting on British TV and coming overseas to host a North American targeted show on ESPN? (Richard Whittall, A More Splendid Life) Come back Villasupportgroup, by night known as Richard; you were excellent. All well in Toronto? Give me a bell when this ESPN thing is sorted, it sounds like fun.

Have you ever considered going into radio? Have 5Live or the geezers on Talk Sport ever come knocking? Ok, let’s just simplify this: I’m available and will often work for cake.

You sing (arf!) the praises of some 80’s bands on the pod. Did you ever want to be a music journalist or is football your first and only passion? When I was little, I very much wanted to be a Dee Jay.

Do you have a favourite football league team or any fond memories of watching any football outside of the Premier League? (David Bevan, The Seventy Two) I remember going to see Swansea City at Spurs on – I think – boxing day in 198-whatever it would have been for Swansea to be in the First Division. Not a particularly fond memory though, compared to some I could mention.

The thick end of 10,000 people sign up for your monthly tweet. Twitter is not really for you is it? I genuinely would like to tweet more but I have the twitter version of stage fright.

How do you keep Barry Glendenning awake during your Serie A round-up on the pod and what was it like sharing a room with the ‘rebels choice’ at Euro 2008? Electrical currents. Far be it from me to shatter illusions, but Barry is no rebel in the domestic environment. Despite his punishing schedule of bar-frequenting in Vienna he would squeeze time in between hangovers to keep our apartment spick and span. Until I destroyed the place by accident on our final night, that is.

Have you ever actually seen/met Sid Lowe or does he exist in your world solely as a voice from yonder like Holly (the computer) from Red Dwarf? What a silly idea. That’s Jonathan Wilson.

Why do fingers and toes wrinkle when left in water? (Beat The First Man) Time actually passes faster in water than it does in air, so what you’re actually witnessing is old age in preview. Fact.

Do you?
You’d be mad as a box of frogs not to download the Football Weekly podcast from The Guardian.
Follow James and European Football Weekends on Twitter
Like this? Then you’ll probably like other EFW interviews with; Barry Glendenning, Sid Lowe, John Ashdown, Sean Ingle, Jacob Steinberg and Raphael Honigstein.
– Feel free to comment below –
Posted in Football Italia, Football Weekly Podcast, James Richardson, The Guardian | 8 Comments

Brighton v FC United of Manchester

Category C, You’re Havin’ a Laugh
Brighton 1-1 FC United of Manchester (27:11:10)
Brighton and Hove Albion have three options when it comes to attracting the eye of the national press; Flirt with extinction – and be rescued by tireless efforts of its supporters, race clear at the top of League One with a colourful boss at the helm – and a shiny new stadium to move into, or draw FC United of Manchester in the FA Cup.

One argument levelled against FC United is that they get a disproportionate amount of press coverage considering they ply their trade in the Northern Premier Division. This is undoubtedly true, but it’s because they’re so newsworthy. And their fans have certainly struck a chord with us here at European Football Weekends.

Unfortunately, the hype and hoopla of this match got the better of the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) who – in their infinite wisdom – decided to grade this a Category C match, meaning that, in their view, it carried the highest risk of disorder. This was the first time this had occurred in five years, since Crystal Palace rocked up to Withdean. That I could understand. This, less so.

Initially, on internet forums (I know), both fans went in swinging virtual windmills and accusing each other of all sorts of nonsense. A resemblance of calm was eventually restored when those fans took a step back and realised they had a lot of common ground; neither of these two clubs would exist if it wasn’t their supporters – two of the best sets of fans in the country when it comes to campaigning and tackling the issues of mod£rn football.

The FC United fans arrive. Did they rampage through the streets of Brighton beforehand? Did they ‘eck as like.
Up for the cup.

When the seagull follows the trawler……
Ultimately, this fixture was drawn out of the hat a year early. Had it arrived 12 months later, then FC United would have been afforded the luxury of a 3,500 away allocation – instead of the derisory 845 – and we’d have all been moaning about ticket prices instead. £10-12 for this game by the way – no own goal there. Incidentally, a ticket to football in 2010 shouldn’t cost more than £15. If you think that’s bonkers, then tap ‘Germany + football + supporters not customers’ into Google.

So, what should have been a football fiesta celebrating FCUM’s biggest game in their short history had kicked off on a sour note. In my view, what puts the magic in the FA Cup is the fact that grounds can teem with away fans on days like these. Football without fans is well worn cliche, and with good reason. Those empty seats at Withdean on Saturday should have been filled with the FC United fans whom had to be content with a seat back at the Flixton Cricket Club, where the game was beamed back to.

There is some good news though; FCUM can rejoice in one decision this week, that of Manchester Council City’s Council Committee (MCCCC!) whom approved planning permission for the club to build a new 5,000 ground and community sports complex at Ten Acres Lane, Newton Heath (Newton Heath!). Brighton fans, for their part, have enjoyed a season in which the Gus Bus has chugged through the gears nicely, and arrived at the top of League One. Thousands of Seagulls have flocked to recent away games; 3,394 at Charlton, 2,519 at Peterborough and 3,105 at Southampton. Woof!

Time for a beer I think don’t you? I met up with a few old faces in the pubs of Brighton prior to the match. A few pangs of guilt about not attending Withdean for a while were dispatched with every passing pint of Harvey’s, and anecdotes of following the blue and white wizards home and away for over 20 years: we were up for the cup – and ready to witness some tippy-tappy football in the Albion’s (not quite) Olympic stadium. £10 for a waft of magic from Elliot ‘Benno’ Bennett’s boot anyone? – rather.
Cries of “Bring on United” rang out across the ground for five minutes or more before the match kicked off. Part of the appeal of FCUM is their vociferous supporters. Karl Marginson – the clubs one, and only manager – described FC United as a 90/90 club, where 90% of fans sing for 90 minutes. Today, they were a 100/96 club. To the tune of Anarchy in the UK then: I am an FC fan, I am mancunian, I know what I want, And I know how to get it, I wanna destroy Glazer and Sky, Cos I wanna be at FC. The songs came thick, fast and loud. The only ditties I didn’t quite get were ones related to Eric Cantona. Yes, he endorsed the club, but why not sing about the players in your own team now?
The Theatre of Trees.

The ultra club.

Keep of the pitch IN THOSE TRAINERS.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist this snap.
For new readers: this isn’t really the site to head to for an actual match report. Others do that much better than I ever could. I will say that FCUM stopper Sam Ashton chose arguably the biggest day in the clubs history to play an absolute blinder between the sticks. A performance in which he added the icing to his cake by saving a last minute penalty, thus securing an unlikely draw for the away team – who were positioned 120 places further down the football pyramid than their table-topping opponents.
It was also so cold that the Albion substitute, Spaniard Franciso Sandaza, took to the field of play sporting a pair of black tights. That wasn’t the worst fashion faux pas though; one of the linesmen had a pair of trainers (trainers!) on. Letter of complaint to the FA on it’s way as I type, obviously.
At half time I met with Andy Walsh, FC United Chief Executive. Earlier in the week, he was afforded just four minutes to put forward the club’s case for that new stadium in Newton Heath. “Everybody took the piss” he said “It normally takes me four minutes to say my name.” We all laughed. I was particularly interested to talk to Walsh, because he’d helped sell the notion of a community club – and gave a morale boosting leg up in the process – to Lewes FC. This community, co-operative club football lark could well catch on you know.
I ended up tapping my foot to the ground, not only to keep warm, but – along with a bit of hum – also to join in with the songs of the travelling support. “I wish I was in their end” said my good friend Mr Cherry. We’re both Brighton fans, but it was hard not to get swept up in the mood emanating from the away seats – seemingly several hundred yards behind one of the goals. Best and loudest song of the day (to the tune of the Beach Boys, Sloop John B): Hoist up the John B sail, see how the mainsail sets, call for the captain ashore, Let me go home, I wanna go home, I wanna go hooo-oo-ome, this is the worst trip I’ve ever been on, Doo doo doo dooo (repeat to fade).
So, the mockery of the Category C grading had been turned on its head. Best away fans we’ve had at the Withdean? Probably. Certainly, they were the loudest since Stoke City came to town around six years or so ago. There will be better days for the Albion. Promotion would be rich reward for the Brighton fans whom have fought tooth and nail to keep their club afloat in more trying circumstances. A final thought to the Safety Advisory Committee: Football is nothing without fans.
Cat C – unfair. Tick.
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Posted in Brighton and Hove Albion, Category C football match, FC United of Manchester, FCUM, The FA Cup | 12 Comments

FC St Pauli / Rot-Weiss Oberhausen

That’s The Way I Like It
Rot-Weiss Oberhausen 3-0 Arminia Bielefeld (19:11:10)
FC St Pauli 1-1 Wolfsburg (21:11:10)
Andy Hudson and Ed Barrett continue their European Football Weekend in Germany by popping into a game at Oberhausen coupled with a trip to see the Rebels Choice, FC St Pauli. Pull up a chair as we enter Huddo’s world:
Saturday evening and after Bochum we arrived back in Dortmund in time to watch Leverkusen v Bayern. At last, the first part of the weekend that hadn’t seen me rushing about. I had arrived at Weeze airport on Friday afternoon and knew that if I was quick then I’d make the Rot-Weiss Oberhausen match. A snap decision to jump off the bus in Duisburg was rewarded with a 5 minute train ride to Oberhausen instead of the 25 minute journey if I’d remained sitting to the next stop in Essen. With time against me and no research being undertaken other than a quick Twitter message to our EFW Editor, I bypassed the fans drinking outside of the train station and jumped into a taxi enquiring “fussball stadion bitte” of the driver who struggled to understand my accent.
Jumping out at the Niederrheinstadion I bought my ticket (only €9.50 for a German Bundesliga.2 team; when will English clubs halt their greedy ticket pricing policy?), entered the stadium, grabbed a beer and took my place on the terracing behind the goal just in time to hear “Who Let The Dogs Out?” accompanied by the club mascot, an oversized mutt, lapping up a lap of honour. The Oberhausen and Arminia Bielefeld players emerged from the tunnel and the home Ultra’ group turned their section into a blanket of red with their flares. Unfortunately for me, this appeared to be merely a flirtation with a great atmosphere. The stadium is quite old school in English terms apart from one thing: an athletics track which runs around the pitch, which in German terms makes it very old school as many stadiums have since removed the offending athletics aid. Any singing from either set of fans failed to make it across the lanes and despite the efforts of two drunken fans in front of me, who continuously tried to start singing but failed to co-ordinate their songs together, the noise remained on the wrong side of quiet for me. Even as the home side took the lead, after only two minutes, the celebrations were slightly muted despite the goal being cleverly worked and hammered in from just outside of the box. Oberhausen piled on the pressure against a very poor Bielefeld team and had a two goal cushion after twenty minutes when the Bielefeld defence decided that they couldn’t be bothered with any of that marking malarkey and allowed a free header in the six yard box.
Flares: yes. Flags: yes. Terracing: yes, yes. Athletics track: oh.

Fussball bitte
Grabbing another beer from the stall just behind me, and politely accepting another cigarette from the steaming-drunk guy on my left, I settled for the second half which continued with Oberhausen well on top. Their danger man, the once highly rated Nigerian Moses Lamidi, captured a well deserved third goal with minutes remaining, catching the static away defence out of position again to roll the ball across the ‘keeper into the net. One person missed this goal. A few minutes earlier I heard raised voices at the beer stand and two guys were arguing over who was first in the queue. Both then got served at the same time, off two different girls, and proceeded to throw their beer over the other and follow up with a few punches. The watching Polizei were straight in and after fending off advances from friends of the protagonists they deposited one back on the terraces and the other outside the stadium.
Bielefeld were involved in the 1971 Bundesliga bribery scandal; they might have to summon the ‘spirit’ of that season if they are to avoid relegation this year. Oberhausen, seemingly the brother of Cliftonville FC if their club badge and kit is anything to go by, could start looking up the table and not down after this performance. My immediate future was in a Dortmund pub, which is where we also headed after the Bochum match on Saturday before joining some of Ed’s friends at a party.
Who could get bored of this wonderful old scoreboard though? If only the individual bulbs lit up to to reveal a players face (imagine that – Ed.).

There is a God.
Knowing that we had to catch a train at 7am on Sunday in order to meet up with the Sankt Pauli Mafia fans’ coach, we really should have started drinking a little later on Saturday evening. But then we would have looked out of place when everyone was chucking back bottle after bottle of pilsner lager. I went as Eddie Murphy by virtue of that being the first name appearing in my head when I was asked what my fancy dress was supposed to be (I turned up in a grey hoody and a leather jacket alongside Ed who is obviously well versed in wearing fancy dress and arrived as The Dude from The Big Lebowski). After a long discussion with He-Man about Borussia Dortmund, and a promise to go to a future match with him, we staggered off some time after 6am for the long journey north to Hamburg.
Being both drunk and tired the journey was arduous. Even with bottles of beer available for €1 I found drinking them to be difficult and I wasn’t alone with my slow drinking. I’ve travelled on supporter club coaches in England before and the mantra is smuggle as much beer on as you can, drink it as quickly as you can and then dump the evidence as soon as possible. With such a relaxed vibe onboard, and talk of politics and football, the drinking took a back seat all round with the only activity completed with any speed being a smoke whenever the coach stopped anywhere.
We arrived at Millerntor with just over two hours to go until kick-off. I had expected to be heading straight to a bar like my previous pre-match St Pauli experience but today was different. The St Pauli fans are a special bunch, as most German fans are, and with their promotion to the Bundesliga, coupled with a relatively low stadium capacity of around 24,000, a new problem has been presented: ticket touts exploiting the normal fan in order to make some cash. Tickets are at a premium in Hamburg and everyone is eager to watch the boys in brown. Why should others make money off these fans? A demonstration against the touts was organised and this seemed a much better use of my time than getting destroying my newly acquired soberness in the Jolly Roger. With a stack of pre-prepared signs provided, one side displaying ‘tickets for sale’ and the other displaying ‘I need a ticket’, we set off through the funfair that sits alongside the stadium and headed for the touts’ favoured stamping ground. Leaflets were distributed to passers-by and cars navigating through the throng found leaflets attached to their back windscreen wipers. I never did see any touts before the match but I was assured that they would have been there; too embarrassed to pop their heads up and exploit the fan who just wanted to watch some football.
Our tickets were in the area popular with the Ultra’ Sankt Pauli, behind the goal in the Südkurve. In order to get a decent spot you have to get in early and so we made our way in an hour before kick-off and entered the already packed section of terracing. The Capos started just before the teams emerged for the start of the match, their megaphones gently directing the enthusiastic crowd towards another song. Any individual let-up in singing was noticed by our Capo who would fix an encouraging stare on that person and drive them into a roar. As I pogoed around the terraces, focused on any German songs so that I didn’t let down any of my neighbours with a lack of noise, I found my throat begin to strain under the vocal pressure. But I didn’t care – standing on that piece of concrete I had proper football. The flags lapped across the top of my head; arms on either side linked mine; the songs came, varied and quickly; the whole stadium was singing; and then Markus Thorandt scored for FC St Pauli from a corner. We went wild.
A quick snap, and then a pogo and a hundred songs and our work here is done.

The hand of God.
Wolfsburg, under Steve McClaren, haven’t set the Bundesliga alight this year, despite having one of the world’s most sought after forwards in Edin Dzeko. They were unimaginative and lacked any spark for vast periods of the match. They equalised after 54 minutes when Dzeko, receiving a pass from ex-Werder and Juve player Diego, scored from close-range with his only clear chance of the day. The Bosnian superstar said afterwards that the team “have higher ambitions, we have 15 points from 13 games. We will have to fight on” and McClaren will surely hope that he can motivate his players to perform much better if they are to avoid a lower table finish this season.
The St Pauli crowd sensed that they were more likely to grab a winner than the visitors and the noise increased during the final quarter of the game. Fabian Boll, perhaps the only player in one of Europe’s elite leagues who combines a playing career with a job as a police officer, almost scored a St Pauli winner but amidst a huge “ooooooh” from the crowd the ‘keeper grabbed the ball at the second opportunity. Afterwards we made our way back to the coach and caught up with the main organiser of Football Supporters Europe who summed up the mood of everyone onboard when she asked “we should have won that; how didn’t we win that?”. A film dubbed in German was playing loudly on the bus as we headed back to the Ruhr and I struggled to sleep due to one song playing over-and-over in my head: “’cause we support Sankt Pauli, Sankt Pauli, Sankt Pauli and that’s the way we like it, we like it, we like it”.
We follow.
You can follow Ed, Andy and European Football Weekends on Twitter.
Read more of Andy’s work on the excellent Gannin’ Away blog.

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Posted in Arminia Bielefeld, FC Sankt Pauli, FC St Pauli, Football in Germany, Football Supporters Europe, Millerntor, Rot-Weiss Oberhausen, St Pauli ultras, Ultras Stankt Pauli, VfL Wolfsburg | 1 Comment

VfL Bochum v FC Ingolstadt

Die Unabsteigbaren (The Unrelegatables), oh.
Bochum 1-4 FC Ingolstadt (20/11/10)
EFW regular Andy Hudson spent last weekend with Ed Barrett immersing themselves in some German ultra culture. Ed – from the FCUM A.D. blog – kicks us off with a trip to VfL Bochum, who, it would be fair to say, are at a low ebb:
Saturday and my first match of the weekend, my friend Andy’s second, and still feeling pretty sleepy, we caught the train down to Bochum. The Ruhrpott, for those who haven’t been, has (or had) the industry of the North East (steel and coal) but the footballing make up of North West England i.e. a football club steeped in history, everywhere you turn. This of course brings its problems, as just like say Blackburn Rovers or Wigan Athletic might have to compete with Manchester United or Liverpool for fans, clubs such as VfL Bochum or RW Essen also struggle with their bigger rivals pinching fans from within their own town boundaries. The issue was highlighted when I spotted a couple of fans in blue and white on our train. Great I thought, now we can simply follow them to the ground. Who needs research or a smart phone! However, on closer inspection the fans were wearing Schalke badges and would be staying on a few extra stops to make the match later on that day in Gelsenkirchen.
After a quick stop at the Bakery to pick up much needed supplies of water, food and strong black coffee, we continued on our extremely smooth, journey with public transport with the tram to the ground. A moment to stop in wonderment at a public transport system given proper investment. We travelled from Dortmund to Bochum, then got on Bochums tram system (a tram system for a population of less than 400k!), all of which ran regularly and, had we been organised enough to buy the tickets in advance, this would all have been included for the price of our €11 match ticket!
The tram eventually spat us and another hundred or so Bochum fans out onto the roadside and we were immediately presented with the Ruhrstadion. Or, in line with the sponsorship of most ground names in Germany, as its now called, The REWIRPOWER Stadium. The ground is a wonderful structure inside and out. There are no glass facades, no escalators to executive lounges, it’s an angular Eastern European looking structure from the outside , somehow creating beauty from concrete. Inside its 3 quarters seated, has around 4 VIP boxes and then one big terrace behind the goal. It would appear lack of recent success does have some upsides, as your stadium remains unmeddled with!
Having polished off our food and coffee, we took a little wander around. As with most Ultra’ groups in German football, Ultras Bochum have made their own little additions to the ground with various examples of street-art dotted around the place from sprayed stencils to home made stickers. Perhaps this was why, having paid in on the gate, the security were wise to my game and took so many of my own English team’s ones off me. Damn!
Collecting a beer which I gingerly sipped at for about 40 minutes thereafter, we climbed up the steps onto the home terrace. The angle of the terrace, older style crush barriers and low roof caused immediate excitement. Relegation to the 2nd division and the success of neighbouring BVB Dortmund and Schalke 04, means the 9k or so fans who attended had no hope of filling the 31k capacity ground. This meant that even arriving relatively late by German standards, a mere 30 minutes before kick off, we found our way up the steps and to plenty of space towards the back of the terrace with great ease.
Angular terrace + beer = cheesy grin.

Art. Or is it?

Block A give us a song, Block A, Block A give us a song.
In terms of fans, I was disappointed to witness a Ruhrpott based club with so few “kutten” (the jeans jackets covered in badges, still so popular in the region). Instead we had a relatively boisterous seated section to our left (Block A), the seemingly Italian-style orientated Ultras Bochum below us, a few normal fans around us and then a little corner of about 10 fans perched up behind the corner flag and a rather dubious looking banner. Ive always wondered about this corner, as whenever I see it on television, it always appears to be a banner with the sort of straight winged bird you’d expect on a German WWII uniform. On closer inspection there was a little curl to the wings, suggesting that perhaps that Bochum don’t have any knuckledraggers present.
After a small amount of soft-rock, including a club anthem written by famous German pop singer Herbert Grönemeyer, the match kicked off. Having a vested interest, my eyes were however on the Ultras below us rather than “World Cup Star” Jong Tae-se (his appearance on the team sheet had to be pointed out by Andy, who had bothered to watch the World Cup). Bochum probably have a hundred or so ultras. Their main logo is a cartoon chap wearing a bar-scarf, a sort of cross between the Ultra’ Sankt Pauli cartoon figure often featured on stickers and the main logo of Ultras Tito of Sampdoria. A good mix of large flags, were accompanied by one “capo” who was conducting the group. He did this without the usual megaphone and with no help from his mate on the fence, who just sat there with his hood over his head. On the pitch, a truly wretched Bochum went a goal down and unrest started to trickle in to the atmosphere. The lad on the fence, began to pull on the net between him and the goal making the masts holding it swing violently. No steward came across to ask him to get down.
A second goal came for Ingolstadt (the opponents for the afternoon) and something bizarre happened, the home fans cheered it! This was probably just as well, as approximately 20 Ingolstadt fans had bothered to make the journey, and despite two rather animated teenagers, they needed Bochums ironic cheers to help register the goal vocally.
Cheers of irony roll out across the stadium*. *Use your imagination dear reader.
Time passed by and with a backdrop of abuse, a few of the Bochum players began to wake up and make a bit of effort. Midway through the second half, Tae-se pulled a scrappy goal back for the home side. Belief started to return and Bochum had a couple more chances to get an equaliser. This however did not save them from a chorus of boos as the halftime whistle came.
In the second half Bochum started brightly and would have deservedly made it 2-2 about 10 minutes in when they forced the Ingolstadt keeper into a full stretch save. That was however as close as they came. A breakaway goal on 60 minutes for Ingolstadt finished off the fightback and produced more ironic cheers. The Bochum ultras who had been the only ones left singing and waving their flags, now stopped and for the remainder of the game all that was witnessed was sadness at the plight of their side and anger towards its management.
The lad on the fence had now been joined by a further 3, all of whom were pulling on the net in front of them. A further goal went in for the away side, which was met with an almighty roar from the home side as if it were their own goal. Some fans began making their way to the exit, some even making the detour to throw their scarf onto the pitch in disgust. Every Ingolstadt pass was ole’d, whilst chants such as “Wir haben die Schnauze voll” (We’ve had it up to here!), “Wir sind Bochumer, wer seid Ihr” (We are Bochumers, who are you?) and “AB-STEIG-ER!” (Relegation fodder!”) were directed at the pitch and directors box. I cant stand the booing of your own team, but it was quite painful standing there watching so many people sad and angry, their week ruined by the lack of effort of a team and seeming misdirection of a club.
Ingolstadt? They’ve got the power.
The match came to a close. The Ingolstadt team climbed up the fence in front of the away block to thank their fans. They were also applauded off by the Bochum fans. A few of the Bochum team ventured bravely to the home end to convey apologies and thank the fans, but were greeted with only abuse. They returned to the dressing room, replaced by stewards and truncheon bearing police, no doubt fearful of a repeat of last seasons pitch invasion.
We made our way outside. A group of Bochum fans and visiting fans from Bayern Munich (they have a friendship with Bochum and were playing nearby in Leverkusen later that day) had congregated and were getting ready to march back into town. A few bangers were thrown, meaning the police in attendance reached for their cameras. A march back to the city centre followed. Roads were closed, police vans milled around, further officers on foot ran alongside and filming frantically. It’s a familiar scene on a matchday in Germany, where an often mutual hatred between many fans and the police is stronger than perhaps in England. Fearing being kettled, myself and Andy, slipped off the back of the group and headed for the train station, thankful to have witnessed the match as mere neutrals.
A sign of the times at the Ruhrstadion.
You can follow Ed, Andy and European Football Weekends on Twitter.
For more of Ed’s work, head to his FCUM A.D. blog.
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Posted in Bochum, Bochum ultras, FC Ingolstadt 04, Football in Germany, Ultras Bochum | Leave a comment

Manisaspor v Bursaspor

Me Tarzan, you Jane
Manisaspor 0-2 Bursaspor (20:11:10)
Ulas Gürsat continues his new weekly column for EFW. Ulas is a football reporter for the Turkish daily Haberturk Newspaper:
If you fancy a trip to watch Manisaspor, one of Turkey’s oldest clubs, then bare in mind that you don’t need to hang around in the city of Manisa for too long – it’s very dull. Just 45 minutes away by car is Izmir, and that’s where you want to be staying. Izmir: party capital, Manisa: probably not.
But don’t let that put you off completely, because their football team, brilliantly, are nicknamed The Tarzanlar (Tarzans). They may not be famous for their partying, but they are rightly celebrated for their Tarzan, seriously. His real name is Ahmet Bedevi, and he fought in the Independence war of Turkey. After retiring from the army, he dedicated his life to planting trees, and took residence in the Sipil Mountains – wearing just his shorts. When the Tarzan movie showed in Manisa, locals thought it mirrored the life of Bedevi. He died in 1963 and became known as Manisa Tarzani (Tarzan of Manisa) – a famous cult hero. Statues of him adorn the city, and ceremonies are held for him each year on the anniversary of his death.
Manisaspor Megastore open for business.

A pre-match Simit bread with sesame anyone?
The Sipil Mountains overlook the stadium. On a quiet day you can make out the screeches and calls of Tarzan, Jane and little Cheetah.
This Manisaspor v Bursaspor match attracted the biggest crowd of the season to the Manisa 19 Mayis Stadium. After their spectacular win against Galatasaray, Manisaspor fans fancied a repeat of that success, and the thick end of 17,000 fans turned up. Bursaspor fans, for their part, also packed their section arriving in a dozen or so buses.
Planning isn’t quite what it should be at Turkish football matches. There wasn’t enough room for the away fans, and so some of them adopted a ‘Trojan tactic’. They purchased tickets in the home sections and 15 minutes into the game they broke through the line of security and tried to gain access to the visitors pen. It’s a common tactic at busy matches in Turkey.
Unfortunately, the jungle instinct came out in the local Tarzans, and there was sporadic violence in pockets of the stadium. Hooliganism at Turkish league matches still occurs on a regular basis, actually. You can see a fight nearly every 3 or 4 games.
A small fight breaks out in the stands. Luckily, Tarazan was later seen swinging through the trees to put a stop to it.


The Bursa fans using their ‘Trojan tactic’.

Locals respond with a bit of a sing-song and some pointy arm action.
Bursaspor won the game with an own goal from Ömer Aysan Baris, and a Pablo Batalla effort in the last minute of the first half. Manisaspor’s performance failed to reach the dizzy heights of that victory away to Galatasaray last week. They seemed over confident after that win. And Bursaspor returned to winning ways after losing against Trabzonspor. Normal service resumed.
In terms of food, Manisa is not so different to many other Turkish towns. Sunflower seeds, rice with chickpeas, meatballs are the things you can try. But there are some specialities of Manisa. The Manisa kebab isn’t too special, consisting of a spicy meatballs on pita. But for something different, how about the Mesir Macunu. It’s a paste made up of 41 varieties of spices, herbs and roots. And furthermore, it is believed to be a natural form of Viagra. Perfect for ‘getting you up’ after a 0-2 home defeat no?
We are top of the league, say, we are top of the league.

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Posted in Bursaspor, Football in Turkey, Manisaspor | Leave a comment