Monday, 22 May 2017

Wembley Showdown For Reading & Huddersfield Town

The build-up to Bank Holiday Monday’s Championship Play-Off final between Reading & Huddersfield Town will inevitably focus on the potential financial windfall that is coming the way of the Wembley winners.

Various price-tags will be placed on the ‘richest game in the world’ (I've seen £170m in one report) and that will be the main thrust of the coverage, ahead of what promises to be quite an intriguing battle between the two teams and their respective managers, Jaap Stam at Reading and David Wagner of Huddersfield.

In terms of this blog and its focus, this is a meeting of two clubs who have featured heavily here and on our Twitter page.

With the Royals there has been a general theme of significantly reduced prices for home cup ties over the past few seasons and regular free admission to Under 23 games played at the Madejski Stadium.

Add into that their ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ pledge last summer, which saw away tickets capped at £20 and matching prices for home supporters in the Eamon Dolan Stand (with a £2 membership card) and some worthwhile extra touches on travel to and from the stadium.

Huddersfield, were the main story of last summer in terms of pricing after their decision to offer season tickets for £179 sparked a huge response from supporters.

Home matches this season have been played out in front of increased crowds and in a positive atmosphere helped, of course, by the success that Wagner has had in transforming his squad.

It's impossible to quantify whether the better attendances and upbeat vibe has won the Terriers any extra points on the pitch but the shrewdness of chairman Dean Hoyle in making the offer was that he could clearly see behind the scenes that Wagner was capable of doing something special and looked to add to the feel-good factor by subsidising season tickets from television revenues.

And many Huddersfield fans travelling to Wembley over the Bank Holiday Weekend will be doing so having snapped up £199 season tickets for 2017/18 when they could be watching Premier League football in West Yorkshire.

Friday, 19 May 2017

An International Double Bill

Two interesting matches taking place at the end of May are linked by the presence of the England ‘C’ team which brings together a selection of the best Non-League players in the country.

Under the auspices of the experienced Paul Fairclough, a host of players now plying their trade in the top four divisions of the game have pulled on the England shirt and a new generation will get their opportunity to impress in two upcoming friendlies.

Fairclough has named an experimental squad for the matches against the Panjab FA (more of whom in a second) and the Jersey FA, which take place on 28 and 30 May respectively, with clubs from Blyth Spartans to Boston United represented.

The Panjab football team is a representative side that is formed from the Punjabi community in the UK and who played their first fixture in 2014.

Solihull Moors play host to their game with England and admission is free for the 3pm kick-off although tickets must be obtained in advance.

Founder and chairman of the Panjab FA, Harpreet Singh, told the Solihull Moors website: "To make it an admission free game was something that was on my mind from the moment the game was agreed with The FA back in January. 

"It is more important to me that all people from different backgrounds, the young, the elderly, people who may never have watched a football match previously, come to the game and enjoy this unique fixture, the first of its kind."

Two days later, under the banner of an FA XI, Fairclough’s side will play at the Springfield Stadium in Jersey. Admission to the 7:30pm kick-off is priced at £5 with Under 11’s free.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Here Comes The Summer!

The quietest few weeks of the year, Affordable Football-wise, are upon us and that is especially so this year as the Women’s Super League makes the transition to a winter calendar.

Action in the Spring Series winds up on Saturday 3 June in preparation for this summer’s European Championships in the Netherlands (tickets for which are very reasonably priced if you fancy experiencing a big tournament without some of the logistical and financial drawbacks that come with a men's World Cup or Euros.

Looking ahead, Northern Ireland welcomes the European Women’s Under-19 Championship in August and tickets are already on sale for the hosts three group games, the semi-finals and final at Windsor Park, all priced at just £4 Adults and £2 for U16's.

It won’t be too long, of course, before pre-season friendlies are upon us and there are some good ways to keep up to date with the matches that are taking place.

The Pitchero site has a comprehensive list of matches involving Non-League clubs while Scottish Football Fixtures does a similar job for football north of the border.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Tranmere Rovers v Forest Green Rovers

Wembley Stadium, National League play-off final

Tranmere Rovers supporters prior to Sunday's National League play-off final at Wembley which, despite the greater numbers in attendance from Merseyside, was won by Forest Green Rovers and means the Gloucestershire club will be playing in the Football League next season for the first time in their history.

I went to the game having enjoyed last season's clash between Forest Green and Grimsby and took advantage of the early bird ticket offer which meant Level 2 tickets at Wembley were available for £20 Adults and £10 Concessions.

That positive, meant to attract neutral spectators, was more than counterbalanced, perhaps, by the fact that walk-up tickets were £36 and £41 with no concessions on the dearer Level 1 seats and a price of £18 for Under 16's on the Level 2 seats, meaning an expensive day out if you wanted your children to sample the Wembley atmosphere.

As has been pointed out, the match was organised by the National League hiring the stadium rather than the FA so those costs have to be taken into account but, as much as I thought the game provided a positive image for the top-tier of the Non-League pyramid, a second successive attendance of under 20,000 may prompt a rethink for next year's venue.

Sticking with Wembley and this Sunday's Non-League Finals Day has both the FA Vase and FA Trophy Finals taking place and tickets priced at £25 Adults, £10 Concessions and £1 Under 16's and lots of activity taking place in between the two games.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Woking FC & Ross County Revisited

A season of National League football is available for £99 at Woking FC with an early-bird offer on season tickets having now been extended to the end of May after the sale of more than 1,000 to date.

Students aged 20 and over can watch for £75 and those aged 19 and under will pay just £20.

The Cards recently preserved their status in the top-flight of Non-League football but are heading down a slightly path for next season with the departure of experienced manager Garry Hill and the appointment of Anthony Limbrick, untested as a manager but very highly-rated as a coach at youth level in the Premier League.

Add to that the recent announcement of impending investment in the club and it is changing times at the although the legendary figure of Geoff Chapple remains very much involved.

I mentioned Ross County recently in connection with the free admission fixture against Hamilton Accies, which takes place this coming Tuesday (16th May), and the Dingwall club are also looking towards next season with a move on season ticket prices.

A brief in the Jail End (South Stand) has been reduced from £300 to £200 for the 2017/18 campaign (over 65’s reduced by £65 to £100) with new season tickets introduced for Young Adults (18-21) in the same stand which will cost £100.

Ross County Chairman, Roy MacGregor said:
“We have been holding regular Supporters Meetings this season and it became apparent from those that football in general has become too expensive. We’ve not raised the price of season tickets for five years but we wanted to go further than that and try to make football more affordable and get more people along on a Saturday afternoon."

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Bramall Lane, Wednesday 10 May

My third Sheffield United versus Coventry City match of the season, after watching the Under 23 game at the Blades’ training ground and the first team match at Bramall Lane, was Wednesday evening’s Under 18 play-off final between the two teams.

Bramall Lane, Sheffield

There was free admission and a relaxed atmosphere on a warm evening with the hosts having the better of the skirmishes and lifting the trophy with a 1-0 victory.

But there is still more football to be played in S2 as the Northern Counties East League (NCEL) League Cup Final between Penistone Church and Bridlington Town takes place on Wednesday 17th May at 7:30pm with admission priced at £5 and £3.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Under 23 Action At The Emirates

Another Twitter follower has kindly sent me a picture of their evening at an Under 23 fixture, this time it was Monday's clash between Arsenal and Manchester United.

Those in attendance saw an exciting 2-2 draw and an excellent personal display from Arsenal's signing from Non-League earlier in the year, Cohen Bramall.