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Memories of Holland 2013

Thinking of Holland
I see broad rivers
slowly chuntering
through endless lowlands,
rows of implausibly
airy poplars
standing like tall plumes
against the horizon;
and sunk in the unbounded
vastness of space
homesteads and boweries
dotted across the land,
copses, villages,
couchant towers,
churches and elm-trees,
bound in one great unity.
There the sky hangs low,
and steadily the sun
is smothered in a greyly
iridescent smirr,
and in every province
the voice of water
with its lapping disasters
is feared and hearkened.

(by Hendrik Marsman)


Monday 4th March 2013 Baker-Joiner Midland Football Alliance k.o.:- 7.45pm

Coventry Sphinx                            3                       Continental Star                   2
Harry White 31                                                               Aron Garvey 28
Kyle Rhodes 63, 71                                                       Matthew Brown 34
referee:- Rob Cairns                                                     attendance:- 35


Already, the nerve ends are tingling for this Friday, the annual Dutch trek commences and for all four of us, the adrenalin is flowing freely as we wait in greedy anticipation like a poor man before a feast! Tonight’s match at The Sphinx Ground in Stoke Heath, was no feast! I quite enjoy my occasional visits to see Coventry Sphinx, but the crowd tonight was about half of the previous lowest attendance when I had been at the ground. Added to that, the gateman was away on holiday and when I arrived at 7.15pm, the place was floodlit but deserted, and I could have picked up a programme and just walked straight in!


The main stand at The Sphinx Ground, sparsely populated this evening!

“Continental Star? Who are they?” asked my friend Phil, who must have thought I had gone to an exhibition match! They are a somewhat nomadic team, but they do cater for a wide range of football interests:-

“Founded by a group of friends who just wanted to play structured football, in an era when football did not fully understand or embrace an every changing multicultural society.  Today, Continental Star remains a beacon for many in the inner city areas of Birmingham.  Out of humble beginnings, it now boast several football teams, beginning with the ‘Mini-movers’ a project that offers an introduction to the game for children aged between 3 and 6 years old; right up to the veterans.  A successful ‘Ladies’ team ensures that opportunities are available to all.  Simply put, Continental Star is ‘More Than Just a Football Club.’” (From the Continental Star FC website)

Every one of the Star players looked, on average, to be about six inches shorter than their opponents, but in the first half, they were rampant and put the home side to the sword. Harsh words must have been exchanged in the Sphinx dressing room at half-time, for in the second half, they made their greater physical presence tell and two goals in the last half hour eventually turned the game their way.

The pies, Claire, are something else! Tonight, I had chicken and vegetable at £1.50 and it was really delicious!

Tuesday 5th March 2013    Chromasports & Trophies United Counties League k.o.:- 7.45pm

Division 1

Rushden & Higham United                0               Burton Park Wanderers             1

                                                                                            Luke McIlroy 23 (pen)

referee:- Scott Dempsey                                                    attendance:- 41


Well, this was unexpected! I went with my son, Mike, to a ground I had previously visited only once and that was twenty-seven years ago! We were both pleasantly surprised by the bar (which was showing the European Champions League round of 16 tie between Manchester United and Real Madrid), the facilities and by the ground itself, which I hardly recognised from my previous visit. However, the impressive wooden stand was no longer in use! Apparently, it has asbestos in it somewhere. However, underneath the stand are the players changing rooms, and they are definitely still in use. I understand that when time and finances allow, it will, sadly, be pulled down and new dressing rooms will replace it.


Lovely looking stand…but nobody allowed inside!

Rushden & Higham United (who were Rushden Town, playing in The Southern League, when I last came here), were playing rock bottom Burton Park Wanderers who have had only one victory in their eighteen games this season and who trail the rest of the division by ten points! Meanwhile, the hosts were mid-table and some twenty-two points better off.


“Call The Midwife!”

The game was enthralling, not least because the Wanderers took an early lead and the question was: could they defend it? Equally, it would have been difficult for a stranger to have told which of the two teams had the better playing record. Certainly, the away team, with the recent appointment of a new manager ,were good value for their early lead, courtesy of an inexplicably bad tackle almost on the goal line in the penalty area. That they won was down to their own determination and a pretty lacklustre performance by the home side! Can they catch the rest? Good one to watch out for!

Tuesday 6th March 2013 Blue Square Bet North   k.o.:- 7.45pm

Corby Town                             2                           Guiseley                        3

Ryan Semple 45+1                                                James Walshaw 3, 45+3

Jordan Ivey-Ward 79                                             Josh Wilson 81

referee:- Michael George (North Walsham)            attendance:- 229


After this match, Gary commented: “Played ninety minutes and level for just seven minutes!” Guiseley took a third minute lead and on the stroke of half-time, Corby drew level, only for Guiseley to retake the lead in the third minute of added time in the first half. On seventy-nine minutes, Corby drew level again, but, two minutes later Guiseley had wrested back the lead and hung on fairly comfortably for a slightly fortuitous victory.

Corby Town are now in serious difficulties and relegation stares them in the face. That is a great pity because they worked so hard to achieve this status and I doubt that they will regain it easily, should it be lost. It is not the end of the line, yet, however, young Jamie, Gary’s teenage son is taking part in a sponsored cycle ride to Hinckley for Corby Town’s match there on 23rd March. If he rides the forty-odd miles, his sponsor sheet looks very healthy! Good Luck Jamie!

Friday 8th March 2013                Eredivisie                  k.o.:- 8.00pm

FC Groningen                     1                        NAC Breda                       1

Maikel Kieftenbeld 48                                Jordy Buijs 50 (pen)

referee:- van Boekel                                     attendance::- 21,064



What a great start to this year’s Dutch Adventure! The flight across had been uneventful. James met up with me at Luton Airport and Jonny and Mark, who flew from Heathrow, met us at Schiphol and from there, we entrained on the 15.33 for Groningen (changing at Zwolle and if they don’t go down this season, they will be on our list for next year!). By the time we got there we had noticed the severe drop in temperature; also, it was raining heavily as we dashed from the station to the hotel. Groningen has a pretty impressive railway station!


The impressive railway station at Groningen.

The ground was pretty spectacular, all decked out in green and through the glass entrances you could see right into the stadium. It was reasonably modern, too, holding 22,550 spectators. We had excellent seats, high up in one corner of the ground. The match however, didn’t live up to all our expectations. FC Groningen, fresh from a 4-1 hammering at Roda JC last week, really ought to have won the game. The penalty, which drew Breda level, was soft in the extreme and having already defeated their opponents in the away fixture, the expectation was that this would be a home win. It was not to be!



(left) Jim, just after half-time at Groningen, when they had let off a flare on the pitch!

(right) Second half action from The Euroborg Stadion 

After the match, we were lucky to find an unoccupied taxi loitering adjacent to the stadium. Whilst they went out in the rain for the evening, I cosily re-acquainted myself with several Ginnever & Cokes in the hotel bar!

Saturday 9th March 2013                 Topklasse                    k.o.:- 2.30pm

DETO Twenterand                    0                                 Kozakken Boys                     6

                                                                                      Arif Irilmazbilek 25,35,38,

  Stef Lamberink s/o 23                                          40,65, 89

referee:- Ingmar Oostrom (Oudewater)                      attendance: 400



DETO Twenterand, Schout Doddestraat, 7671 GT, Vriezenveen


DETO Twenterand, Hoofdklasse Champions 2011/12

We were staying at the pretty impressive Theatre Hotel in Almelo. The evening of our stay, there was a Celtic singing and Irish Dancing event in the theatre and as it ended, the bar filled with theatre goers!  The first match of the day was at Vriezenveen, just outside, about seven or eight kilometres away from Almelo. DETO Twenterand were champions of Hoofdklasse in 2011/12 and had been promoted to Topklasse. Sadly, this season has not been so successful and they languish in bottom place some nine points behind second bottom and fifteen points off safety! Kozakken Boys, meanwhile, are handily placed in sixth (out of sixteen) some ten points adrift of leaders Katwijk. Seven euros to get in (only four euros for an old man like me) and a free programme and the rain which had been falling all day relented briefly as the match started.


DETO Twenterand   0   Kozakken Boys   6


Jim, Sporting the colours of Corby Town at DETO Twenterand

The avalanche that was to follow wasn’t immediately obvious, but then, in the twenty-third minute, the home team had their right back sent off for a heavy challenge on a forward who had to be substituted shortly afterwards. By half-time, Kozakken Boys had ratcheted up four goals, all  to the prolific Arif, who just seemed to be in the right place at the right time!


Arif Irilmazbilek (at rear) carried off by his team mates at the end of the match.

At half-time, the friendly chairman invited us into The Business Bar for drinks and a chat, but that made no impression on Kozakken Boys for whom Arif added a further two in the second half and was carried off by his team mates at the end to excessive jubilation from the away fans!

Saturday 9th March 2013           Eredivisie                    k.o:- 8.00pm

Heracles Almelo                   1                   NEC Nijmegen                        0

Everton Ramos da Silva 58

Thomas Bruns s/o 67

referee:-                                                         attendance:- 8,405


In the evening, we went to the relatively modest Polman Stadion in Almelo, where the excellent seats on the half-way line which Jim had procured, were sadly open to the elements and the elements were very active!


Loosely translated, the banner behind the goal exhorts the local authority to support the club in building a larger ground!

Heracles won a fairly lacklustre encounter with a second half goal but had to endure a torrid final twenty minutes after defender Thomas Bruns was sent off for dangerous play – a little harshly, I felt, although the victim hobbled around before he was himself substituted later!


The present ground holds only around 9,000 spectators


Heracles Almelo   1   NEC Nijmegen   0

After the match, the heavy rain returned and we took a taxi back to the hotel! Sadly, I suspect that whilst the others were out on the town, I imbibed too heavily of my favourite tipple of Ginnever & Coke. Jim found me comatose in the bath in our hotel, where I had apparently fallen, when he got back and had to rescue me and tumble me into bed!

Sunday 10th March 2013                 Eredivisie                        k.o.:- 12.30pm

Roda JC                       0                                          Feyenoord                     1

                                                                                      Pelle 30

referee:- P. Vink                                                     attendance:- 16,117


The earliest train out of Almelo down to Kerkrade in the deep south was at 8.06am and it arrived in Heerlen at 11.48. The match was originally scheduled for a 2.30pm kick-off, but had been brought forward due to its “risk” factor which we were to find out about before we even got there! We eventually secured a taxi (the taxi rank had been empty when we arrived at the station), but then found ourselves jammed in traffic on the dual carriageway as the Dutch police wrestled with a coach load of Feyenoord fans, some of whom we could see climbing on top  of police vans and taunting the constabulary!


We only got into the ground just before kick-off and found that our seats were adjacent to a rowdy group of Feyenoord fans who were sitting (and chanting) amongst the home support! There was some trouble as  club stewards unsuccessfully attempted to remove them and, in the meantime,  we moved away to a safer part of the stand!DSCN1270

The main stand at Roda JC

Roda JC are in trouble, this season, just a point above the relegation zone and they were well beaten by a Feyenoord side who barely got out of second gear. Towards the end, however,  the home side did pile on the pressure and nearly scored a couple of times, which would have been just reward for the Rotterdam side who made little effort to entertain and just came for the points!


After the match we went to collect our luggage from Reception and found ourselves shepherded into the hospitality area upstairs, as battle broke out between police and Feyenoord fans across a great swathe of car park in front of the main entrance! Mounted police brandishing long wooden staves charged into the brawling mass and they lashed out indiscriminately and with venom at all who lay in their path!


This is a model of the Parkstraad Limburg Stadium.

The rioting took place right across the area to the front of the model. 


All this lasted over an hour and we watched on from the upstairs windows drinking free coffee and keeping warm. Eventually,seventeen coaches containing Feyenoord fans were escorted by police away from the ground and it was deemed safe to leave. We took our hand luggage and repaired to our hotel, Zevende Hemel (Seventh Heaven)! After a meal in the evening, we had a pool tournament which Jonny won, and, much to his disgust, Jim lost to his dad!

Monday 11th March 2013              Erste Divisie                             k.o.:- 8.00pm

Emmen                                 P                       Cambuur                                P

Sadly there was no fifth match for me! The others had taken the afternoon flight back to England, and I had left them at Utrecht to entrain for Zwolle where I changed for the sneltrain to Emmen. When I got there I spent quite some time negotiating at the bus station to find a route to the ground for the evening kick-off. When I got back to the hotel, it was only to find out that the match was off due to a frozen pitch. It was bitterly cold and, whilst there was plenty of snow on the ground, it was the rock hard surface which had eventually killed off the game!

I spent the evening writing up the rest of my twenty postcards, but when I went to find a post box, I found that there were none in Emmen, but a kindly group of Dutch women agreed to post them for me on their way home! After that I found time to stow away a few more Ginnever & Cokes and tottered off to bed!

That was Holland 2013. I haven’t told the whole story! Jim found some tokes in Groningen, but this year I didn’t indulge. I needed twenty-three euros twenty cents in coins for my ticket to Schiphol by train in the morning, because there was only a ticket machine on the station and I had to go round to several shops to get change. At Zwolle, I just missed the Schiphol express and a kindly conductor invited me onto his train and told me to change at Utrecht. At Amersfoort, he announced over the loudspeaker to the whole train,  that, if the English traveller would like to get off, there was a more direct service to Schiphol from this station! Sadly the Amersfoort-Schiphol express broke down at Hilversum and my odyssey continued with another train which went via Diuvendrecht and Amsterdam Zuid before eventually delivering me to Schiphol! It’s experiences like these that make the weekend memorable.

Here’s to next year! We still have NEC Nijmegen, PEC Zwolle, RKC Waalwijk, AZ Alkmaar, and SC Heerenveen to do (Jim, Jonny, and Mark, also need Utrecht, which I took in last year).

Can’t wait!!!!!!!


Jonny                                                                                                                    Mark



Jim                                                                                                                Eddie

Next year will be our fifth consecutive trip to The Netherlands!

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