Saturday, 15 May 2021

It's Been a Long Time

But spectators are welcome back at football matches in England from Monday.

When everything was locked down the fact that we couldn't go to matches (those that were taking place) was a shame but the long wait has been compounded, for many, by the things that people have been able to do over the last month that seem, on the face of it, more dangerous than standing outside at a game.

I've been to Meadowhall shopping centre, a very busy holiday park and shivered outside the pub but now I can look at the upcoming fixtures and, even if I don't go, I could if I wanted to.

And, although we're in a strange period that's not quite pre-season for 2021/22 or the finale to the current season, there is lots going on, from delayed cup finals to local tournaments.

The twitter page has been very busy this week and I'll keep that updated as much as possible.

Affordable Archive

Wembley Stadium

On this day five years ago I made a first visit to the new Wembley Stadium to watch an exciting National League Promotion Final, Grimsby Town sealing a return to the Football League by beating Forest Green Rovers.

Sitting close to the halfway line that day it was clear to see how much the result meant, both to Mariners' supporters and those in official positions at the club.

Returning back to the National League will, of course, have hit people hard and it has been a dismal season, on and off the pitch.

But the man who masterminded that promotion, Paul Hurst, is back in charge and, more significantly, a takeover of the club by Andrew Pettit and Jason Stockwood has recently been completed.

The Mariners Trust continue to do great work connecting the club and the community.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

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Radcliffe FC

Two years ago today I joined a big crowd at the home of Radcliffe FC as they defeated Leek Town in the Evo-Stik West play-off final, earning promotion in the process.

Much has changed since then, of course, but a recent website post from Radcliffe chairman Paul Hilton painted an encouraging picture despite all of the hurdles that have been placed in the club's way since then.

All season tickets from the truncated 2020/21 season are being rolled over to the new campaign at no extra cost and the Neuven Stadium will host the final of the Bolton Hospital Cup on 17 May, the first day that spectators are allowed back into grounds.

After that Radcliffe game I took the tram into Bury where the pubs were getting busy with fans who had been at the Shakers game that afternoon, a 1-1 draw with Port Vale in the final league fixture of the campaign.

It had been an exciting season on the pitch, with promotion to League One having been secured by Ryan Lowe's side, but the club's financial issues were already well-known at this point and the game would turn out to be the last played by Bury FC.

Thanks to the hard work of many people involved at Bury AFC, a vibrant, supporter-owned club looks to be on the rise and hopeful of bringing the game back into the town, playing their games at Radcliffe in the meantime.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

A Tweet for the Weekend

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

From Saints to Druids

An advert for the above-titled book, in this month's When Saturday Comes, caught my eye and tied in with something I'd been meaning to write about for a while, namely the Welsh (Cymru) Premier League.

Michael Grimes visited all 12 clubs in the top-flight during the 2019/20 and his discovery of Welsh football is chronicled in a book, available to order here.

During the past year of, mainly, closed-door football I've taken a closer eye on the televised offerings from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland's Championship and made a mental note to travel to some of the more interesting grounds, The Oval in Belfast, Cappielow in Morton and The Rock, home of Cefn Druids, among others.

The Welsh Premier League as a whole has always fared well in surveys of affordability, something Michael confirmed when he was kind enough to answer a few questions from me earlier this week.

I also asked him how the idea for the book came about;

'I knew nothing about the WPL, it was as a result of a conversation I had with the editor of Football Weekends magazine, where by he asked me to cover some Welsh teams. I did 3 in a long weekend, then decided to do the whole 12 WPL clubs.'

That first weekend was clearly a productive trip, leading to 'From Saints to Druids' and a warm welcome on his travels for the author.

As an aside, the current April issue of Football Weekends has a nice piece on a recent trip, made by one of its contributors, to a couple of Highland League grounds.

As for a favourite ground amongst the 12 in Wales that he visited, Michael told me;

'Probably Newtown, the ground has an old school charm about it, probably helped by the fact that it wasn't raining...a lot of rain on my trips!'

For coverage of the top divisions in men's and women's football, Cymru Football has plenty of news and stats.. 

Below the top level it has been a very difficult year for the game in Wales, without even the intermittment action that managed to sustain grassroots followers in England, but hopefully clubs have been able to weather the storm as much as possible and are looking forward to the 2021/22 season.

Y Clwb Pel-droed is an excellent website that covers all aspects of the game.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Getting Fixture Ready

The recent publication of the updated guidance from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) meant a false start for many clubs at Step 7 of the English pyramid who were expecting to be able to welcome spectators through the turnstiles from next Saturday and it will be a few more weeks now until going to a game becomes a reality again at all levels.

When the time comes, the following sites have proved invaluable to me over the years in finding fixtures.

The London Football Guide - James Doe is the man behind Non-League Day and set up TLFG to provide a comprehensive guide to football (at all levels) in the capital and its suburbs. On a weekly basis he runs through all of the fixtures of note and is also happy to answer queries from anyone coming to London and looking to catch a match - I'm really looking forward to the site being back up and running once spectators can go to games.

Football in Berkshire is an excellent not for profit site that doesn't leave a stone unturned when reporting on football at all levels in the county.

The excellent She Kicks magazine also has a website with features, stats and regular fixture updates covering all levels of the women's game in the UK with Scottish Women's Football a great source of information north of the border.

The official FA site also has an easy-to-navigate fixture list with ticket info and links and it always worth searching for sites or social media pages that cover your local area, for example Hants Womens Footie (@hantswomans on Twitter).

The Northern Counties East Football League is my local Step 5 league and the home of Hallam FC who have featured regularly on the site. The NCEFL website is an excellent resource for results and fixtures and there are many similar sites covering leagues up and down the country.

 And, for the pleasure of having the fixtures actually in your hand, the Non-League Paper is published every Sunday and still costs just £1.50, an incredible achievement. As well as comprehensive coverage of games played the previous day, and the non-league scene generally, they have detailed fixture lists at the back of the paper.

Friday, 2 April 2021

The Champions League Alternative

Before the pandemic, on midweek evenings up and down the land, an alternative universe existed where supporters would seek out tea, pies, friendship (or solitude) and football at their local club while the Champions League would play out, glimpsed on televisions in clubhouses or scores scrolled through on phones.

For the past year, of course, the choice of escaping the ever-increasing reach of the Champions League has been denied to those supporters, unable to get out to a game and reduced to a diet of group stage matches with an increasingly familiar ring to them.

I'm not a fan of the competition, as you can tell, but at least at the moment, increasingly a closed shop it may be, but at least at present it still retains the recognisable features of a tournament with group and knockout stages.

That looks all set to change with the proposed changes announced this week that will see two spaces reserved for clubs who haven't qualified through the usual routes (through a formula inevitably designed to feature the bigger clubs) and a convoluted group stage.

A superb piece by Jonathan Wilson in Sports Illustrated lays bare the greed that lies behind these changes.

But an alternative does exist and, hopefully, it is one that we can all get back to soon as clubs finalise their preparations for the return of fans.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Pick of the Week

A little more detail on some of the posts on @AffordableFooty over the past week.

Although there is disappointment that supporters are not set to be allowed to watch grassroots football after the next stage in lockdown easing, from 29th March, clubs are moving ahead with plans for friendlies and mini-tournaments.

Seaford Town FC, for instance, are looking forward to their matches in the Southern Combination Football League Supplementary Shield, with live streaming , costing £5 (free fir season ticket holders) in place for fixtures on the 10th, 13th and 17th April.

Excitement is also building for the return of the Women's FA Cup with Second Round ties scheduled for Sunday 4th April.

Crawley Wasps host Gillingham on that day and a live stream is available for £5 while Billericay Town's tie against Ipswich is live on the hosts' You Tube channel.

As good as it to see competitive action coming back, it is also great to see initiatives such as Mental Health Football in Oldham making its return and offering the benefits of a no-pressure, no-expectation kickabout every Friday.

#ComeBackStronger is the aim for Farnham Town as they raise funds for improvements aimed at forging a stronger community bond and  creating a better matchday experience.

And, as someone with keen interest in the Highland League it is hard to argue with this tweet about the toppling of Scottish Championship leaders Hearts earlier this week.

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27 March 2018 and a crowd of over 22,000 were in attendance for at Bramall Lane for England U21 v Ukraine, attracted by ticket prices of £10 Adults and £5 Concessions (deals were also available for families, Blades season ticket holders and groups) and a child-friendly kick-off time of 6pm.

From the England team playing that day, Ben Chilwell and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are in the senior squad for the current World Cup qualifiers.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Pick of the Week

A little more detail on some of the posts retweeted on @affordablefooty over the past few days.

It was very sad to read a statement from Percy Main Amateurs this week that explains why over 100 years of football at the club looks to be coming to an end soon, despite the best efforts of volunteers, and goodwill from other clubs, over the years.

Tiers three to six of the women's football pyramid have seen their seasons curtailed, with many questioning whether the top two divisions of the game in England, the WSL and Championship, are now becoming ever more detached from the leagues below.

The FA Cup is continuing and Kent Football United are among those clubs looking to keep busy with a number of friendlies scheduled for April and May.

A nice touch from Walsall, highlighted in the Express & Star newspaper this week, as the Saddlers have launched a new third kit for the 2021/22 season which has the names of supporters who did not claim a refund on this year's season (who also get a discount on the shirt itself) included in the design.

I saw the above in a tweet from Kieran Maguire at his excellent PriceOfFootball twitter page where the finances of the game are analysed.

Kieran's expertise comes across in this recent BBC Radio Nottingham podcast which discusses the latest set of accounts at Forest in the wider context of the Championship and Covid-19.

And a nice charity fundraising idea from not too far from me here in Sheffield...