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There is no end to waiting

Time is as infinite As frustration.

“This too shall pass”

As everything does.

But in the middle

In the neartime waiting

It seems we are all

Slowly slowly slowly

Inching along 

Late already

Unable to know

The way out

Or the way in

To anywhere

Or anything 


Trapped forever

By the world which surrounds us

Lost and alone 

In the massive and meaningless multitude. 



Monday 2nd December 2013 EUFA Women’s U-17 Championship Group Stage

Spain                                                                                4

Andrea Sanchez 13, 55,

Aitana Bonmati 66, 69,

Germany                                                                         0

referee:- Zuzana Strpkova (Slovakia)           attendance:- 343    DSCN2630

You won’t be seeing this for much longer,…..sadly!

It was back to Hinckley United’s ground (well, they are now defunct, but it was their stadium!). This was the last of the group stage matches and having watched Germany crush Scotland 4-2 and Scotland’s never-to-be-forgotten battle with Spain which ended 0-0, but which the Scots should have won by a knock-out, I settled down for a substantial German victory. How wrong I was (as Graeme is ever won’t to mention!). DSCN2633 Spain are a talented side and they did to Germany, what Scotland should have done. They pressurised them. They never let them settle on the ball. They have skilful players, too, and in Andrea Sanchez, a true marksman. She notched two, one in each half and the other two were added by tireless midfielder, Aitana Bonmati. Germany were thoroughly humiliated! Both teams qualified, but Spain, ominously, have yet to concede a goal, and they go through as group leaders. In the other group, England came second, despite a superior goal difference, crucially, because they lost their game with Italy, although both teams finished on equal points!

Final tournament – Group stage

Group A(Host country: England)

Teams P           W    D   L       F    A      +/-   Pts
1 Italy Italy 3           2   0  1       3    1      2   6
2 England England 3           2   0  1       8    3      5   6
3 Austria Austria 3           1   1  1       2    2      0   4
4 Portugal Portugal 3           0   1  2       1    8      -7   1

Group B(Host country: England)

Teams P        W    D    L        F     A     +/-   Pts
1 Spain Spain 3        2    1    0        6     0     6   7
2 Germany Germany 3        2    0    1        8     6     2   6
3 France France 3        1    0    2        1     6     -5   3
4 Scotland Scotland 3        0    1    2        2     5     -3   1
England will be sorely tested against The Spanish!

Monday 2nd December 2013 Toolstation Western League k.o.:- 7.30pm Premier Division

Melksham Town                                                                   7

Gary Higdon 16, 31, 36, 83,

Dan Kovacs 23,

Leigh Rogers  78,

Matt Cooper 43,

Winterbourne United                                                        0

referee:- Mark Russell                                                attendance:- 87 DSCN2638 All those Mondays going past this season with Melksham Town on the fixture list, and I didn’t take the opportunity! This time, I was determined to get down there before the old ground disappears into the mists of time! Mind you, sat-nav was less than accommodating, as I moved directly from Hinckley (via Countesthorpe, where I decanted Graeme), to Wiltshire via the A46 and then the A429 through Stow-on-the-Wold down to Cirencester. I didn’t get to Cirencester. Sat-nav said that the A429 was closed north of Cirencester and directed me down the A419 to Swindon and the M4. It was a bit of a hike, but I got there in plenty of time and the first person I bumped into was Alan from Fleckney! Now, if I’d known that he was travelling down………….!

There was an air of gobsmacked amazement at the club when they realised that two spectators had travelled down from Leicestershire especially for this match! The members of the committee were very friendly and helpful. They made sure that we had the teams and the final attendance and they even filled me in on the strange name of the stadium – The Conigre – it is a derivative from the French for rabbit (conil) and ‘gree’ which is a gathering, a conclave (no doubt where we get ‘agree’ from). So, as the man said, a rabbits’ meeting place! DSCN2640

Artist’s impression of the new stadium

The Conigre, home of Melksham Town since their inception in 1876, is a lovely olde world ground right in the centre of the town. There is a relatively new stand on one side with seats for around 150 spectators and this replaced an earlier stand which stretched much further along the side, but which was burnt down several years ago. There is cover on the opposite side and behind the goal furthest from the club house, where the club name is emblazoned in large capitals – see below – but no further seating. There is some evidence of neglect – some parts of the terracing were very overgrown and sealed off –  but this was explained by the fast approaching transfer to the new arena and did nothing to detract from the appeal of the ground.!

DSCN2641 The land on which the ground stands, has been bought by Wiltshire County Council from The Avon Tyre Company who had leased it to Melksham Town from time immemorial. The County Council have substantial plans for developing the land, including a huge new swimming pool where the football ground now stands. The new ground, which forms part of the same plan, is on the edge of town where a whole new complex, of which the new stadium is but a part, will incorporate several sports – rugby & hockey, for instance – and is planned to open at the end of 2014. Melksham, however, hope to move in to their new home in January 2015. DSCN2643 Fortified by a cup of hot chocolate and a Mars bar, I went out into the elements to enjoy the match. Town’s opponents, Winterbourne United from near Bristol, just weren’t up for the fight in the first half. They found themselves three down in half an hour and five down by half time, as the home team ‘cried havoc and unleashed the dogs of war’!DSCN2644

After half time, The Bourne came out with a considerably more determined approach to the fixture and really made a game of it. Two goals in the final ten minutes, however, put the icing on The Melksham cake as they deservedly thrashed their Premier League colleagues!


I really enjoyed my visit, despite the long journey back (130 miles) after the match. I was agreeably surprised by the welcome from the club and impressed by the positive air about the place. Whilst there was a tinge of sadness and nostalgia at losing The Conigre, there was also a chirpy confidence about what the new stadium  – and the future – would bring.


The stand behind the goal with the club name prominent!


The second goal goes in, but it was Dan Kovacs, not Leigh Rogers, who scored it!

Tuesday 3rd December 2013 Sky-Bet Championship k.o.:- 8.00pm

Reading                                                                                    1

Billy Sharp 13,

Charlton Athletic                                                                   0

referee:- Mr D Sheldrake                                     attendance:- 18,149 DSCN2652 Graeme and I met at Blisworth, off the A43 just beyond Northampton on the way down to Reading for a first visit to The Madejski Stadium. Graeme transferred to my car, a decision he was later to rue! I had been to Elm Park, many years ago (1st April 1991 Reading 0 Swansea Town 0 FL Div III attendance:- 3,597), but this would be our first visit to Reading’s new home! Sat-nav ignored the blandishments of The M40 and sent us down the A34 to Chieveley Services where we joined the M4. Soon after, we exited the M4 and were almost immediately in sight of the stadium. We had been warned about car parking at the ground. There wasn’t much free space and we paid an exorbitant £8 for off road parking! Naturally, as we walked up the road to the Fish ‘n’ Chip shop, we passed an off road parking lot at £7 per car!


Like most big clubs, there is a definite pecking order of importance amongst its clients. In that pecking order, the average fan comes nowhere. Players are princes.  If you are taking ‘hospitality”, you are reasonably well treated. Members of the press are well looked after as well. When I enquired about a team-sheet, I was looked at askance. Eventually, I walked into the Press Entrance as bold as brass and asked for a team sheet – and I got one – but by the time I got to my seat in the stand, Graeme had already got his team lists from the announcer by the simple expedient of noting down the numbers, when they were announced, and aligning them to players names in the programme later!


Championship football is all about hype. It just has to be about the most boring football on the planet. All the teams are pretty evenly matched and each result is ground out in fear. There is a desperation not to lose, not to concede, so that the beautiful game is snuffed out, and so it proved tonight! All improvisation and enjoyment is squeezed out of the contest in the desperate determination to avoid defeat! Even some of the regulars were lest than happy with what was being served up for them. We had prime seats right on the half-way line and within two seats behind us was another hopper, Dave, who is a season ticket holder, poor fellow, at The Madejski.


A couple of mascots!

Reading won 1-0, but they had to withstand a pretty hefty battering during the last twenty minutes to maintain that single goal advantage. Charlton Athletic certainly deserved a draw!


We had hardly got onto the M4 on the way home before that motorway was reduced to one lane westbound all the way to Chieveley Services and we were thankful to decamp onto the A34 to Oxford and beyond. We were making good time, too, and I was beginning to think that being home before midnight was going to be a breeze. Then we saw signs that the A43 was closed at Towcester! There, we had to take the A5 northwards and before very long, all the diverted traffic came to a halt at some extensive roadworks. We waited for what seemed like hours whilst ONE car came through in the opposite direction, before the lights changed and it was our turn. However, only three cars got through before the lights changed again, and I, some twenty cars back in the queue, had just about had enough. I pulled out and put my foot down, overtaking the lengthy queue and caught up with the last of the three cars going through. On the other side, as we passed, the lights were still on red, AND three more cars had jumped the queue behind me!

To cut a long story short, we eventually reached Blisworth after a tortuous journey through the Northamptonshire countryside, but upon attempting to rejoin the A43, we found the way blocked by bollards and a “Road Closed”  sign. Graeme was less than happy when I suggested that he might climb out and move the bollards, so I had to do it myself! Even then, the entry to the M1 was blocked for repairs and we had to retrace our steps all the way to Weedon to get onto the motorway! I didn’t get home until ten to one in the morning!

The more travelling I do, the more I notice that this country displays all the traits of a banana republic!

Thank God there s no need EVER to return to Reading!

Thursday 5th December 2013 EUFA Women’s U-17 Championship  k.o.:- 7.00pm


Spain                                                                                      3

Andrea Sanchez 16, 79,

Pilar Garrote 55,

England                                                                                0

referee:- Vesna Budimir (Croatia)                        attendance:-  887 DSCN2567 This match was played at The Pirelli Stadium in Burton-upon-Trent, home of Burton Albion of League Two. Before the match, I wondered which Spain would turn up, the imperious swashbucklers who smashed Germany or the timid greylings who ought to have been crushed by Scotland. For England’s sake, I hoped that it was the latter! In actual fact it was the former! DSCN2658 England didn’t help themselves with their negative play. They made an annoying habit of continually passing backwards and they found stringing consecutive passes together almost impossible! It was like ballet dancers against carthorses and the Spanish girls danced to victory with two goals from top scorer Andrea Sanchez and one from skipper Pilar Garrote. It could have been a lot worse!

Saturday, 7th December 2013   FA Cup with Budweiser    k.o.:- 3.00pm

2nd Round

Rotherham United                                                            1

Lee Frecklington 5

Michael Tidser s/o 73

Rochdale                                                                             2

Matthew Lund 55,

Pete Vincenti 83,

referee:- G. Scott                                               attendance:- 4,957 rotherham271-35025 DSCN2664

I let the train take the strain for his match. I caught the 10.27 to Leicester and the 11.04 to Sheffield and finally, ‘a dirty little coaster with a salt caked smoke stack’ of a local Northern Line train to Rotherham Central. Ten minutes later on foot and I was at The New York Stadium.

DSCN2665 I paid exactly the same amount for this match as I had for hospitality at Shrewsbury a few weeks ago. At Shrewsbury, I had a two course meal, tea and coffee at half-time, and a complimentary drink, none of which I received at Rotherham. In fact, I began to feel like one of those rare beasts, someone who has paid through the nose for hospitality and is still treated like dirt by the football club! Then I met some of the regulars who were on my level of so-called hospitality and I found out that a retired couple were paying £180 a month for the privilege of watching Rotherham United and I began to realise that rip-offs don’t just occur in The Premiership!

The ground was lovely and I had an excellent seat high up on the half-way line. The old ground at Millmoor which I had only visited the once (28th December 1987 Rotherham United 1 Doncaster Rovers 0 FL Div III, attendance:- 5,840) was visible by its floodlight pylons as you walked down New York Way. I’d also been to see Rotherham at The Don Valley Stadium (19th May 2010 Rotherham United 2 Aldershot Town 0 Coca Cola League 2 Play-off semi-final second leg, attendance:- 7,082) where they were temporarily housed before taking possession of their magnificent new stadium.

I was glad that they lost to Rochdale, however. Rochdale are a league below them and in the first half it showed as the Millers took an early lead and really should have increased it! In the second half, ‘Dale were a different kettle of fish. They equalised just before the hour mark and, after Michael Tidser was sent off for the home side for two yellow cards, they scored the winner with seven minutes to go and sent the away end into a frenzy. I hope that they get someone decent in the third round!

Sunday 8th December 2013    EUFA Women’s U-17 Championship  k.o.:- 12.00noon

3rd/4th Place Play-Off

Italy                                                                                   0

England                                                                           0

There was no extra time. Italy won 4-3 on penalties.

referee:- Zuzana Strpkova (Slovakia)             attendance:- 530


This was a pretty appalling match. These two teams are so far behind Germany and Spain that it is a mis-match to put them on the same pitch. Yet the winner of this match will be joining the two finalists in the World Cup! Italy had already beaten England 1-0 in the group stages and there was plenty of Italian support amongst the healthy Sunday morning crowd. England had obviously been honing their passing backwards skills because that is all they did for the first half hour. They have one good player, centre back Gabrielle George, who is as fast and accurate as any I have seen in this tournament. Several times in the first half, she chased down strikers in full flight and relieved them of the ball with unerring accuracy.


The England team with Gabrielle George, number 6, the speedy, skilful central defender!


The Italian team with their player of the match, no 10 Manuela Giugliano

In the second half, England gained some ascendancy and in fact had the ball in the net, only for it to be disallowed for some unexplained infraction. The end when it came, was a merciful release. We all knew that England would lose the penalty shoot-out. They always do! So it was Italy who progressed to The World Cup Finals, but they were no better than England …….  except at penalties!

Sunday 8th December 2013   EUFA Women’s U-17 Championship  k.o.:- 5.00pm


Spain                                                                                1

Patricia Guijarro 9,

Germany                                                                         1

Isabella Hartig 76,

There was no extra time. Germany won 3-1 on penalties

referee:- Sara Persson (Sweden)               attendance:- 1,196


At last! I caught a football! Before each match in this tournament, ten balls, five from each team, are kicked into the crowd. Tonight, at the last game, I managed to catch one!


I had every expectation that Spain would win this match comfortably having watched their earlier demolition of Germany at the group stages. The Final was being played at Chesterfield’s new Proact Stadium and there was a comparatively large crowd there for the final match of the tournament. It has been a well organised tournament and there have always been plenty of volunteers with orange vests to help the spectators. I have been pretty impressed.

In the first half, Spain shone and really should have had more than the one goal to show for their efforts by half-time. In the second half, they lost some of their lustre as they seemed content to rest on their lead, confident in the fact that they had yet to concede a goal in the tournament. That was a fatal error. With a scant four minutes remaining, substitute Isabella Hartig popped up in the penalty area, completely unmarked and smashed in an equaliser. Spain had no time to retrieve the situation. There was no extra time and we know who always wins their penalty shoot-outs!


It was hard on Spain and in particular for my stand out player of the tournament, Beatriz Beltran, the Spanish left back. I felt for Nahikari Garcia and Mireya Garcia Boa, two outstanding forwards for Spain who both missed their spot kicks.


Germany celebrate their success!

The celebrations were all German and I was pleased for their coach, Anoushcka Bernhard, who had worked very hard since that first defeat to Spain to negate many of their opponents fine, flowing, attacking moves, but I think that even she was surprised at the ease with which Isabella Hartig found so much room in the penalty area to score the equaliser!

It has been a thoroughly entertaining tournament!


Matches this season :- 107     new grounds :-  79


Matches this year :-  207        new grounds :-  117


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