Category Archives: Football

Talking Of Football On Hospital Radio

Football and radio in the 21st century remain intrinsically linked through Hospital Radio Broadcasting and share many similarities. For decades, volunteers have provided live action coverage of games broadcast directly to hospitals, for patients to enjoy. You may wonder if such a service has any relevance anymore, and I would say it is as vital today as it has ever been.  You may also like to read my other blog concerning hospital radio here:

https://angiesallsorts.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/hospital-radio-in-the-21st-century/

Hospital radio as a concept was born in an era when TV was barely an infant, a personal music player, mobile phones and the internet were futuristic science fiction ideas, and radio was king of entertainment. Patient stays in hospital were far longer, visits severely restricted and contact with the outside world minimal. The BBC only had three programs, commercial radio did not exist, and the only real way of following your football team was to attend the match on a Saturday afternoon.

The core ethos of hospital radio was to provide patients with a service not easily found or available elsewhere.  The development of hospital radio was really to provide a much needed personal, message orientated light entertainment program that was easily accessible by patients. In fact, many hospital radio stations began their existence because of an overwhelming desire to provide sports commentary relevant to local teams, as the BBC didn’t provide a sufficiently detailed service.

The organisation I volunteer for, Radio Leighton in Crewe began as a direct consequence of an experimental broadcast of a Crewe Alexandra FC game in 1966. Our archives don’t record the details of that inaugural broadcast, but I know equipment was borrowed from Forward Radio in nearby Stoke who covered both Stoke City and Port Vale games. An internet search of the 66-67 fixture lists suggest Crewe v Bradford City (1-0) on 8th October 1966 could be a candidate, as both Stoke and Port Vale played away that week.  A second Crewe game was apparently covered on January 7th 1967, a FA Cup game against Darlington (2-1).  Both broadcasts proved so popular that the Mayor Councillor Herbert P Vernon convened a meeting to hear all about these activities.  And so it was on May 4th 1967 in the mayor’s chambers the Crewe and District Hospital Broadcast Service was conceived. Fund raising began and in 1968 on April 20th the Crewe v Wrexham game (0-0) was broadcast using our very own equipment. The following November a full broadcasting program to patients began.

Football clubs can vary from Premiership status to lower league county level and consequently differ in size enormously. Likewise hospitals can be huge complexes spread over several sites down to small county establishments. Teams can have anything from a global appeal to a much more localised support. Similarly hospital radio can be (in theory) available to a worldwide audience through internet broadcasting, cover a wider broadcasting area through FM or AM licences, or just be heard by patients within a specific hospital using an internal loop system (Radio Leighton). Clubs can be run on enormous budgets with huge staff numbers, going down to relying on a small cohort of people to run things on shoe string finances. Larger hospitals can rely on a wider geographical area to find volunteers and have a better chance of attracting sponsorship to enable, for example, 24/7 manned hospital radio stations. Radio Leighton being situated in a small town hospital very much runs on a shoe string budget and relies on a relatively small team of volunteers. Our organisation is indebted to both the Mid-Cheshire Hospital Authority and Crewe Alexandra FC. The hospital authorities ensure we have studio space and cover our daily costs, whilst Crewe Alex finance the costs involved in maintaining our phone link between the studio and stadium. In return for this, our football commentary team link also provides visually-impaired fans full action description.

Modern technology offers unlimited entertainment through streaming and instant connectivity and interaction with the world.  There is a lot of assumption in society that EVERYONE has the means to interact with this modern communication phenomenon. But the average age of patients today still finds the biggest majority of them without this capability, or the funds to sustain a service (such as Hospedia TV) during a longer than expected stay in hospital. In this instance, those excluded from the mobile technology world rely on whatever form of entertainment is provided within a hospital complex. That is why a free to access hospital radio service still remains important and an invaluable social service in the 21st century.

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The Poppy World Cup Qualifier: England v Scotland

England faces Scotland at Wembley in a World Cup football qualifier on Armistice Day November 11th 2016. Both teams wish to wear the poppy symbol as an act of remembrance, but face the wrath of FIFA sanctions if they do. The World governing body of football stipulates that no international team may wear any sign of political, religious or commercial affiliation, which they deem inappropriate. Alas, FIFA have once again in my opinion, shown how totally out of touch they really are with the game at ground level. Perhaps if they got out of their ivory towers, seen things as they really are in the sport and learned a little history they would get on a lot better.

I am totally in favour of both teams wearing the poppy symbol, especially with the game falling on the actual date when the guns of WW1 fell silent. It is particularly poignant when you consider the hostility between England and Scotland goes back centuries, when men fought on battlefields in the name of an English King, a Clan leader or a Young Pretender to the throne. Two nations shaped by their shared history through war, intertwined by a strange mix of inherent animosity and togetherness. What better way to honour the fallen of battle from both nations than by wearing the communal symbol of remembrance.

I’m aware that some people are of the opinion the poppy has become a political symbol which advocates support for interventions around the world. I don’t share that view, because if you think about it, war in general has been perpetuated throughout the ages by political manoeuvrings. Therefore you could say that ANY war or conflict is politically motivated and unjustified, not just the battles you disagree with. To me wearing a poppy shows a small sign of solidarity with all those who gave their lives in conflict situations, believing “ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die”.

The poppy became a symbol of remembrance in the UK shortly after the end of World War One, representing the poppy fields of Europe and the bloodshed spilt by the flowers of a whole generation. On the first Christmas Day of the war in 1914, a number of football matches broke out in several places along No Man’s Land in France. Warily laying down their weapons, soldiers from both warring factions came together to share small gifts and play improvised games of football. Peace on that 1914 Christmas morning was briefly restored, as the British and Germans celebrated a shared Christian faith and spoke the universal language of sport, and football was the most fluently spoken language between the two sides. Football gave the men a shared understanding, a reminder of their humanity and a brief sense of peace and camaraderie.    Hostilities resumed the day after and continued for four long hard years, orchestrated by military chiefs far away from the front lines. But on December 25th 1914 the foot soldiers took matters into their own hands and shed a light on what can be so good in sport. Thinking of those historical and unprecedented football matches makes it seem even more relevant that England and Scotland should wear their poppies with pride.

FIFA have not always been consistent in their edicts on the laws of football. In March 2016 a friendly match took place between the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland, where the home team displayed an overtly obvious “political” reference to the Easter Uprising of 1916. And FIFA did allow England to wear a black armband with a poppy logo on it for a November friendly match in 2011. But the match next week is a World Cup Qualifier which puts a different slant on the situation, and I guess they are trying to ensure every team conforms in the same way! But giving out mixed messages over the years does not help FIFA’s argument. Neither does the rather pompous comment made by the FIFA general secretary Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura “they are not the only countries affected by war”. That is not what the FA or SFA are saying at all, just that they would like to show a mutual mark of respect for a shared national remembrance day. If either England or Scotland had been playing Germany, I may have at least understood FIFA’s discomfort with the situation a little more.

FIFA should lead by example before riding rough shod over member nations with their interpretation of what political, religious and commercial neutrality actually means. Let FIFA be seen to conduct itself in a transparent and neutral manner, and show it has its own house in order first. But FIFA has shown itself to be a seeker of massive commercial advantages by awarding a World Cup to Qatar, a nation awash with cash but with no real football heritage. The decision can be interpreted as being religious and politically motivated as well. The successful Russia World Cup bid isn’t much better, though the nation is not as financially viable as the Middle East option. The rumblings of an “extended World Cup” that would allow more nations to take part in a qualifying round of the tournament, smacks of fleecing the average football fan out of their hard earned cash.  To me that idea is a purely commercial initiative to fill the FIFA coffers even more than they already are. And I haven’t even touched on the corruption charges meted out to several high ranking FIFA officials.

It seems that the Football Association and Scottish Football Association are agreed that they will defy the FIFA ruling, and wear a poppy symbol for the match. In a world where political correctness has gone mad, thank goodness some common sense prevails between my two home nations.

My Historical Euro All-Star X1

Twenty-four teams will contest the European Football Championships in France this year. Surprisingly only nine teams have won the tournament with twelve finalists in total, since the contest began in 1960.

I have come up with an all-star team selection of players spanning the lifetime of the championships. My inspiration was a select UEFA 50 list used for a competition, and members of the list had to fulfil at least two of the following criteria:

Featured in at least a semi-final

Featured in a team of the tournament (ref: ToT)

Featured as the Euro top scorer (ref: TS)

Featured in an iconic moment (ref: IM)

From 1960-1976 only four nations competed for the title of European Champions. This increased to eight from 1980-1992 and then sixteen from 1996-2012. As a result some names I expected to see as a UEFA option were not offered, for example Cruyff and Kahn.

Anyway, I’ve decided to comprise my team of players who can represent every winning country and two other finalists. My players represent every decade the tournament has been played. So here is my All-Star XI team using a 4-3-3 formation:

PETER SCHMEICHEL: Goal Keeper: 1992 winner Denmark (ToT)

I thought about having Yashin the Soviet Union keeper for 60 & 64 instead of Schmeichel but wanted the big Dane between the posts. Interestingly from the keeper options; (Buffon, Casillas, Yashin, Schmeichel and Zoff); Yashin has been the ONLY keeper EVER named European Player of the Year, which is a travesty.

GIACINTO FACCHETTI: Defender left-back: 1968 winner Italy (ToT)

FRANZ BECKENBAUER: Defender centre-back/sweeper: 1972 winner Germany (ToT). Germany has also won in 1980 & 1996.

ANTON ONDRUS: Defender centre back/sweeper: 1976 winner Czechoslovakia (ToT).  He also won the bronze medal in 1980.

SERGIO RAMOS: Defender right back: 2008 & 2012 winner Spain (2012 ToT). Spain’s previous win was in 1964.

MICHEL PLATINI: Midfielder: 1984 winner France-(ToT), player of tournament & TS (9). France won again in 2000. I had grave reservations in naming Platini due to his recent fall from grace in the game, but I wanted another player from the 80s. My more natural French choice is, and always will be, Zinedine Zidane the French captain in 2000.

THEODOROS ZAGORAKIS: Midfielder: 2004 winner Greece-(ToT), player of the tournament.

DRAGAN DZAJIC: Midfielder (left winger): 1968 finalist Yugoslavia-(ToT in 68 & 76). Yugoslavia was also a finalist in 1960.

MARCO VAN BASTEN: Striker: 1988 winner Netherlands-(ToT), best player of the tournament, TS (5), IM (volley against Soviet Union in final)

VALENTIN IVANOV: Striker: 1960 winner Soviet Union-joint TS (2). Also a finalist in 1964.

CRISTIANO RONALDO: Striker: 2004 finalist Portugal-(ToT 2004 & 2012). He has scored six goals in the Euro Championships so far.

I liked the idea of having strikers from the infancy of the European Championships through to its more mature years. Van Basten was the obvious choice to me for the “middle years” and so I avoided Denmark’s Brian Laudrup from 1992 and picked Schmeichel instead. This meant Ivanov for the Soviet Union could represent the early years in my strike force.

The only Euro finalist without a representative is Belgium from 1980 beaten 2-1 by Germany. There wasn’t any player from that country mentioned in the list of fifty.

My substitute’s bench would include at least one player to cover each position.

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy finalist 2012, (ToT 2008 & 2012).

Midfielder: Pavel Nedved (Czech Republic finalist 1996, (ToT 2004))

Defender: Paolo Maldini (Italy finalist 2000, (ToT 1988, 1996 & 2000)

Striker: Alan Shearer (England semi-finalist 1996-(ToT, TS (5) and second most prolific scorer in the Euro championships with a total of seven goals. Only Platini has scored more goals (9) but Cristiano Ronaldo may over take both men if he has a good 2016 tournament!

Bend It Like Beckham: The Musical

Bend It Like Beckham won the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Musical  in January 2016, just a few short days after announcing the production would finish at the Phoenix Theatre on March 5th. The world premiere took place on 15th May 2015 and I watched this joyous show last June and again this past weekend at the Phoenix. On each occasion my husband and I were both enthralled and elated by the wonderful combination of music and dance, which told the mixed tale of sport, culture and dreams. Somehow the production managed to infuse both eastern and western cultures together into a delightful and powerful show, that packed an emotional punch with an amusing under current.

The two football protégés are Jules an English girl from a one parent family and Jess Bhamra the youngest daughter of a Sikh family. Jess is obsessed with David Beckham whilst Jules admires Mia Hamm the US soccer star, and both have their sporting heroes adorning bedroom walls. Jules already plays for a local women’s team (the Harriers) and having spotted Jess’s potential invites her to a trial. They quickly form a formidable partnership on the pitch but Jess has to lie about having a part-time job to continue training, having incurred the wrath of her parents who forbade her to play any longer. So an opportunity for Jess to play in Germany sees her torn between trying to be a dutiful daughter and being true to herself. This is beautifully portrayed at the end of the first half in a dream like sequence. On one side Pinky tells her sister Jess she owes her parents to be dutiful because they have worked so hard, and an eastern dance/music element dominates. On the other side Tony a good friend of Jess tells her she has to take her chance, be herself and show what she can do, and here a western music/sport element prevails. Neither side come together but as Jess clearly makes up her mind to travel to Germany she dreams of playing with David Beckham.

In the first half both mothers are at a loss to understand their daughters and sing the same lament “Tough Love”. Each desperately wants the best for their offspring, yet the girls both feel totally misunderstood and angrily sulk in their room. I found myself annoyed with Mrs Bhamra because she was so entrenched in the traditional ways of her culture and how things were done, she found it virtually impossible to see beyond that and acknowledge that perhaps the world of opportunities for girls was changing in 2001. She and her husband want Jess to go to university but no doubt to make her a better prospect for a future husband, not to make their daughter feel more fulfilled. Jules Mum Paula on the other hand tries so hard to be supportive to her child but usually has the effort thrown back in her face. How I wanted to tell Jules how damned lucky she was to have that kind of unstinting support.

At the start of the second half the audience see that Jess and Jules are effectively two sides of the same coin. Jess sings of being told she is a dreamer because she looks beyond her culture and the traditional expectations of her parents. Jules sings of being told she is a loser for hoping to transcend her class and its limitations. Both travel to Germany and triumph in their game and whilst out celebrating Jess kisses the football coach Joe, not realising that Jules is madly in love with him. This results in a major argument between the girls in the airport back home, witnessed by Jules Mum waving an English flag to celebrate the team win. Believing she has seen a lover’s tiff Paula concludes her daughter Jules must be gay! Jess meanwhile having fallen out with her friend must now go back to her parents, return to being a dutiful daughter helping with her sister’s wedding arrangements, and face the prospect of never playing football again. The mournful traditional wedding song heralds a daughter leaving her old family life to start a new one with her husband. This hauntingly beautiful music is reflected in Jess sadly sitting in her bedroom rolling up her football posters and bagging them for the bin. It looks like something has died in her too. The following day is Pinky Bhamra’s wedding day and also the day of a football final for the Harriers team. An American scout is to be there to watch Jules and Jess play, however Jess is at the temple for the wedding ceremony and looks thoroughly miserable in the process. There is a smashing moment here when Jess sings about her love of the game but her duty to her family is more important. Then Jules sings of missing her friend, Joe about his love for Jess and her amazing football talent, and Tony encourages his friend to slip away from the celebrations to play the second half of the football final. This quartet piece is very striking in its heartfelt interwoven emotion. When the main wedding ceremony is over Mr Bhamra agrees to allow Jess to play in the match if it would make her smile. She dashes off to make the game arriving just after the audience see a funny scene between Jules and her Mum. Paula dressed in an outfit for Ascot turns up to support her girl, lets it be known she’s aware of Jules “preferences” after all there is “a cup for every saucer” and waves a gay flag with pride. Mortified Jules laughingly reassures her Mum that she has only had eyes for Joe not Jess, but finally realises just how much her Mum does care about and love her.

As the wedding celebrations continue we see the football team get ready and warm up for their game. The football clearly represents the western street music culture whilst the wedding depicts the eastern traditional culture. But unlike in the first half where the torment of Jess meant they kept apart in this half a seamless fusion occurs. Both sides merge into one harmonious unified body of movement and it is wondrous to witness. Having her father’s blessing to play the game makes Jess whole again and this symbolically represents that epiphany.

The team from Southall win the final thanks to an effort from Jess and both girls are offered a football scholarship to attend college and play in the US for a year. It looks like the Bhamra’s won’t allow Jess to go citing the prejudice they faced when they first arrived in England. But Jess retorted that was their road, but things can be better if you work for change and her appeal to them is heard. She will be travelling with Jules to the US and everyone gathers at the airport to see them off on their big adventure.

The music is infectious in this show as I witnessed in the London Tube station on Saturday night, when four separate groups of people along the platform were singing the same tune. I’d heard it on the escalators as well and walking along the street too. It is such an uplifting show you can’t help but smile and everyone was wearing a broad grin leaving the theatre. It is hoped the show will tour around the UK and travel to India. As the ultimate mood enhancer I recommend Bend It Like Beckham a piece of theatrical magic.

Betty and Becks enjoyed the show. Image credit abmj70
Betty and Becks enjoyed the show. Image credit abmj70

QATAR v NORTHERN IRELAND International Friendly

On 31st May 2015 just before 5pm the senior men’s football teams of Qatar and Northern Ireland took to the pitch of the Alexandra Stadium in Crewe. It was an out-of-season friendly match with no real significant meaning, other than giving both teams a run out before bigger games in June. Northern Ireland face Romania in a European Championship qualifier on June 13th and Qatar begin their 2018 World Cup qualifying attempt against Maldives on June 11th. It was an interesting experience being part of the 3,022 fans who gathered to witness the occasion which ended as a 1-1 draw.

Qatar v Northern Ireland. Image credit abmj
                Qatar v Northern Ireland. Image credit abmj

Before a ball was kicked I was pleasantly surprised by two things. Northern Ireland (called the Green & White Army) being officially the away side, came out wearing their royal blue away kit whilst Qatar had their usual white strip with maroon flash. Not being aware of the Northern Irish away colours I was a little taken aback and my surprise heightened as the national anthems’ struck up. All the fans rose to their feet (so I scrambled to mine) and sang with pride and gusto God Save the Queen. They politely stood for the Qatar anthem as well and respectfully applauded after. I’ve NEVER been or seen a game where that has happened before, I can usually discern the odd heckle somewhere. Well done Northern Ireland fans who undoubtedly made up the crowd, although I did make out about half a dozen Qatar jacketed people in a small cohort near to where I was sitting.

First Half Action: Northern Ireland seemingly using a 4-1-3-2 formation had virtually all of the possession, with Qatar being completely unable to get any quality balls into the final third. As a result the Northern Ireland keeper Roy Carroll had NOTHING to do at all whilst Qatari keeper Armine Lecomte earned his keep, dealing with at least four efforts to encroach his goal. Both Northern Ireland front men Grigg and McGinn were involved and McGinn had by far the best chance. Qatar lined up with a 4-3-3 formation which morphed seamlessly into other permutations including 4-1-3-2 during the game. Although the changes appeared to develop naturally through game planning, the Qatari’s just couldn’t get the ball to any player pushing forward. I wondered if it was a lack of communication between the defence and midfield and yet when left back Yasser surged forward, midfielder Elsayed fell back instantly to defence and Ismail and Mohamad slotted into the midfield wing positions. Qatar had goal scoring potential throughout their squad but there was no evidence of this at all, as they could barely get the ball out of their own half. Was the less than ideal playing surface a factor, or the Northern Ireland pace, momentum and zeal the real problem?

Midfield action Qatar v Northern Ireland. Image credit abmj
Midfield action Qatar v Northern Ireland. Image credit abmj

Second Half Action: Northern Ireland made one substitution at the break bringing on Michael McGovern in goal. They were on the pitch a good four minutes before the Qatar team appeared to recommence the match. Instantly Northern Ireland began the attack surging down the right wing. At the far corner flag McGinn brought the ball inside to be nearer the edge of the box, chipped the ball over the heads of the hapless Qatari defence, thus enabling Stuart Dallas from four yards out to head the ball home on 46 minutes. Northern Ireland now in the lead continued to show their dominance, but multiple substitutions by Qatar near the midpoint of the half ruffled Irish feathers a bit. At least four new players for Qatar came on virtually all at once and within minutes the game was equalised. Boudiaf from around the 23 yard mark launched a screamer into the top corner of McGovern’s net, having been supplied by a beautiful cross from Asadalla in midfield. In my opinion the game was equalised on 70 minutes and not 75 minutes as I’ve seen reported elsewhere. There is no official time clock at the Alexandra Stadium but I had just completed my commentary of the third quarter of the game, and handed over to my colleague for the last twenty minutes. Qatar were a different team after the changes and created a couple more chances to score, Muntari’s effort glancing over the crossbar and McGovern scrambling for a ball delivered from a low powerful free kick by Al Haidos. These two chances were the only time Qatar actually got the ball into the Irish 18 yard box with other efforts coming from distance. Although the Northern Ireland team made major changes before and after the equaliser, they were not quite the same force against a resurgent Qatar side. Near the end Jonny Evans could have won it for Northern Ireland but his effort went wide. Worryingly Evans had gone down earlier with an apparent leg injury but had run off the effects by full time. And Magennis seemed none the worse for having landed head first over the advertising hoardings in the last four minutes of time.

My Thoughts: The game was a pleasantly sedate affair with only a couple of meaty tackles during the whole match. Qatar played with a quality and naivety that was devoid of cynicism and many would describe this as not having the technical ability to close the game down. But I quite like the innocence in play, and I was reminded of the same trait being shown by the oriental teams in the 2010 World Cup (Japan, South Korea, and North Korea). And to give Qatar credit, having scored in this game means they have failed to score in only one of fifteen games over the past ten months. That is a track record I imagine Northern Ireland and many other teams might like! The predominance of advertisements for Qatar around the pitch told the tale that the game was being shown in the Gulf state. This was offset by the Northern Irish flags on the terraces making a weird visual combination!

Northern Ireland flags & Qatar adverts. Image credit abmj
Northern Ireland flags & Qatar adverts. Image credit abmj

The match was less frantic than the fight for survival league games the Alexandra Stadium normally host, so I was able to think for a change. I enjoyed the bustle of the Northern Ireland team, their good possession of the ball and seeing some familiar names. The crowd were in terrific voice, although I wasn’t aware of what they were actually singing or chanting and the sound of a steady drum throughout was like a heartbeat for the game. It was a lovely atmosphere to experience and I know that the St John’s Ambulance volunteers and stewards share my viewpoint, how we wish that every week could be like that in the home of Crewe Alexandra FC.

My only gripe about the match concerns matters away from the pitch. Whoever decided that a souvenir program was NOT NEEDED is an idiot. Many of us would have happily paid for a memento of the match, and a combined issue covering the Scotland friendly on June 5th would have been greatly appreciated. It was surreal watching a team that we knew nothing about and a program fleshing out some of the Qatari players would have helped (and been a good PR move).

Northern Ireland: GK Carroll (McGovern 46), RB McLaughlin, Cathcart, Hughes (J Evans 61), LB Lafferty, McNair (Magennis 82), Norwood, C Evans, Dallas (Boyce 73), F Grigg (McCourt 73), F McGinn (Ward 61).

Qatar: GK Lecomte, RB Musa, Kasola, Traore (Hassan 56), LB Yasser, Siddiq (Asadalla 65)), Elsayed, Hatem (Boudiaf 56), F Ismail, F Muntari (Jeddo 81), F Mohamad (Al Haidos 56)

My Men of the Match: Northern Ireland’s McNair for his tireless work linking the defence and midfield and Qatar’s Asadalla for his immediate impact on the game and changing his team’s fortune.

Off The Beaten Track 5: FA Carlsberg Trophy Final 2015

On Sunday March 29th at 1330 North Ferriby United faced Wrexham on the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium to contest the FA Carlsberg Trophy final. Both teams started brightly but Wrexham quickly imposed their league supremacy, when Louis Moult opened the score line in the eleventh minute. From what I could ascertain from the BBC Radio Wales commentary, Wrexham remained dominant at least until half time with the score remaining at 0-1. The game appeared to be beyond North Ferriby’s reach when Jay Harris scored on 59 minutes, or at least that was the impression given by the Radio Wales commentary team who implied Wrexham were in “cruise control”. However, that did not take into account the heart and guts displayed by the “little men” from the East Ridings of Yorkshire.

The critical point of the game seems to have been the 72nd minute substitution of Dean Keates the Wrexham captain, when my audio feed began to describe the Welsh side as disappearing! North Ferriby Utd also seemed to have altered their formation to 4-4-2 compared to Wrexham’s 4-3-3. Suddenly the two front men for North Ferriby were causing trouble and Wrexham were struggling without a natural sitting midfielder, as all three on the pitch were inclined to go forward. Under this resurgence North Ferriby forced Wrexham’s keeper Coughlin to concede a penalty and captain Liam King slotted home to bring his team back into the game. It was now 1-2 with 76 minutes on the clock. With new found confidence North Ferriby (known as The Villagers) put increasing pressure on their opponents and were rewarded, when substitute Ryan Kendall scored to equalise four minutes from time. At 90 minutes the score was 2-2 with four added minutes on the clock. North Ferriby still pressing hard could have pulled off another goal to seal victory before regulation time was called, when Clarke’s last gasp effort produced a fantastic over the bar save from Coughlin. This ended a catastrophic fifteen minute period for Wrexham where they failed to peg back their opponents. At the 90+ minute boos rang out from the Wrexham fans end of the stadium.

EXTRA TIME

I wondered if the better fitness of the Wrexham team (known as The Dragons) would play a part in extra time, especially with the Welshmen having fresher players on the pitch. And although The Villagers appeared to be dead on their feet they kept running none the less. Wrexham’s right-back Steve Tomassen had no real support from the second half onwards, and endured a particularly torrid time from the pace of Jason St Juste. It was from this area that St Juste supplied the cross into the box for Kendall to head in North Ferriby’s third goal. A bit of a fluke with the ball having taken a wicked deflection, but a downward glancing header from Kendall ensured Coughlin picked the ball out of The Dragons net. For the first time North Ferriby were in the lead at 3-2 on 101 minutes. Just before the first fifteen minutes were indicated, Wrexham’s Manny Smith just missed connecting with a toe poke to equalise. Despite coming agonisingly close to scoring Wrexham fans once again indicated their displeasure at the team.

During the second period North Ferriby heroically soaked up the pressure from Wrexham who had all their team in the opposition half for much of the time, with as many as seven players in the box at one point. The Villagers Nathan Peat cleared off the line and Danny Hone put in a brave sliding tackle just before Wrexham’s Bishop pulled the trigger. It was inevitable though that this Welsh onslaught could not be repelled forever. On 118 minutes a vicious half volley from Louis Moult gave Wrexham an equaliser to make the game at 3-3 after 120+ minutes.

PENALTIES

Here is a breakdown of how the penalty shootout panned out with each team having to take SEVEN penalties to find the winner. Which keeper would turn out to be the hero of the hour Wrexham’s Andy Coughlin or North Ferriby’s Adam Nicklin?

North Ferriby went first.                                 Wrexham went second

Liam King SCORED 1-0                                    Wes York SCORED 1-1

Nathan Jarman SCORED 2-1                        Andy Bishop SCORED 2-2

Ryan Kendall SCORED 3-2                             Conor Jennings SAVED 3-2

Jason St Juste SAVED 3-2                               Neil Ashton SAVED 3-2

Tom Denton SAVED 3-2                                   Louis Moult SCORED 3-3

Matt Wilson SCORED 4-3                              Blaine Hudson SCORED 4-4

Nathan Peat SCORED 5-4                              Steve Tomassen SAVED 5-4

FA TROPHY WINNER North Ferriby United: 0-1 ht; 2-2 ft; 3-3 aet; 5-4 pens.

Going into this match North Ferriby were in ninth position in the Conference North Division and Wrexham fifteenth in the Conference Premiership Division. Never before until now had a Conference North side beaten a Conference Premier one. North Ferriby certainly punched way above their weight but deservedly won the trophy. It was Wrexham’s accolade for the taking but they inexplicably conceded their advantage.

North Ferriby is a community in the Kingston-upon-Hull area with a population of just under 4000. No doubt many of them were in the 14585 crowd at Wembley where they witnessed a dream come true. I’m sure Jason St Juste was happy to live the dream and receive a winner’s medal, having given up the opportunity of representing St Kitts & Nevis in an international qualifier against Turks and Caicos Islands, to appear at Wembley.

I heard all the action unfold using a battery operated analogue AM radio because I was out of range for the Welsh DAB radio service, and I had no reception for my phone so was unable to use the BBC Radio player app. Thank goodness for old technology, as it was certainly an unforgettable experience listening to the commentary as The Villagers won the FA Carlsberg Trophy. Well done lads and many congratulations on your wonderful achievement.

Port Vale v Crewe Alexandra 24th January 2015

Although Port Vale (the Valiants) is based in Staffordshire and Crewe Alexandra (the Railwaymen) in Cheshire, they are geographically only a few miles apart. Therefore when the two meet in the English Football League One it is a big derby match day. I started my volunteer football commentator activities at Port Vale and completed nine seasons based there. But when public transport issues became problematic, after a three month break I transferred to Crewe Alexandra, and am in my third season now. So when these two meet my emotions are mixed as I’m a fan of football rather than a supporter of any particular club.

On the day of the game I unexpectedly found myself with some extra time in the afternoon. With a decent signal on my mobile phone, I decided to follow the events at Vale Park by checking the mobile app “one football” and the Twitter feed from Crewe Alex FC. Using nothing more than these two sources I decided to try and compile a match day report for posterity and this is what I came up with:

First Half: It would appear that both teams were evenly matched with both creating six efforts toward goal, as well as a penalty being saved.

0-15 mins: Port Vale took the initiative when Marshall, positioned outside the box, put a right foot effort too high. Michael O’Connor quickly followed with a 35 yard volley targeted straight at Crewe’s keeper Ben Garratt, giving him an early test. The ball then streaked across the face of goal and went wide from Birchall’s endeavour, all of this action occurring in the first seven minutes. When Port Vale’s Robertson conceded the first corner on ten minutes it was time for Crewe to aim for goal. Jamie Ness launched the ball toward the corner left of the six yard box and found George Ray, who watched his header being saved by Vale keeper Neal in the middle of goal. Shortly after a low ball from Ikpeazu was collected easily by Neal before a Baillie shot into the final third was blocked by Port Vale’s defence.

16-30 mins: Ben Garratt had to make himself big in the box to prevent Ben Williamson breaking the deadlock for Vale. Almost immediately the ball ended up the other end of the park and George Ray forced a save. The main drama happened on 24 minutes when Neal fouled Ajose in the box and conceded a penalty. Ajose’s right kick (after a stuttered run up to the ball) was saved by the Vale keeper who dived to his bottom left side.

31-45 mins: Yates watched a long range shot go high and wide for the home team and Ajose had another effort blocked. Dickinson conceded a corner to Crewe and this time Jamie Ness provided a lovely weighted through ball to Ajose positioned in the middle of the box. His right boot succeeded in placing the ball in the bottom left corner of the net. With 45 +1 on the clock Michael O’Connor’s attempt was saved to keep the score at HT Port Vale 0 Crewe Alexandra 1

Second Half: Port Vale piled on the pressure after making their three substitutions simultaneously, creating nine efforts compared to the oppositions six. Interestingly the Crewe Alex Twitter feed didn’t spring to life until about 15 minutes into the second period!

45-60 mins: Immediately after the interval Dodds got close to goal but found the angle too acute and watched the ball go wide. Ajose in his predatory position in the middle of the box put a volley toward the centre of goal and had it saved. Port Vale’s O’Connor was given a yellow card on 51 minutes and their man Dickinson tried to level the score with a long range effort which went high on 59.

61-75 mins: At the start of this period Port Vale made their three substitutions with Lines, Daniel and Pope coming on for Brown, Birchall and Dodds respectively. In the five minutes that followed whilst the Port Vale squad settled Ness put the ball toward the goal area twice. One shot from outside the box missed going wide left and the other from a direct free kick curled but went high and ten yards wide of the target. Ikpeazu then forced Vale’s keeper Neal to make a save at full stretch from the top right corner. Vale began really pushing the Alex from this point with Williamson forcing a save from six yards out. Robertson’s header failed to convert a Port Vale corner and an O’Conner volley from distance was stopped by Garratt.

76-90 mins: James Jones watched his effort in the final third go high over the bar for Crewe Alex. The Railwaymen made their first substitution on 78 minutes bringing on Ollie Turton for Anthony Grant in midfield. Port Vale’s response in the latter part of the game appeared to be launching long balls into the box seeking out Tom Pope. The Valiant’s top scorer this season, despite being out for thirteen games with a knee problem, failed to capitalise on the supply. Harry Davis helping the Crewe defence soak up the pressure found himself in the book with a yellow card on 82 minutes. Vale’s Daniel at this point had just seen a shot from outside the box drag wide of the right post. Crewe replaced Ikpeazu with Dalla Valle up front with four minutes of regulation time remaining. On the ninetieth minute Tom Pope from two yards out had a free header and his best chance to level the game. Garratt in the centre of his goal took the direct shot and saved it. Five added minutes gave hope to Port Vale and piled on the agony for Crewe. Chris Lines with a vicious left foot shot from outside the box rattled the crossbar. Stewart replaced James Baillie on 90+4 minutes in an attempt to shore up the Alex defence and soak up the aerial onslaught from the Valiant’s. Crewe’s Tate managed a header clearance off the line on 96 minutes before the final whistle sounded. This ensured that the result remained at FT Port Vale 0 Crewe Alex 1.

Crewe Alex had pulled off a club double victory this season against their local rivals, I believe the first time that accolade has happened in the club’s history. The last “double victory” was claimed by Port Vale in the 1985-86 season. It would appear that both teams played with enormous spirit, great gusto without being dirty (only two yellows issued) and provided end to end entertainment from start to finish. Well done lads.

PORT VALE: GK Neal; Defence- Yates, Dickinson, Robertson, Veseli; Midfield– Dodds (Pope), Birchall (Daniel), O’Connor, Brown (Lines); Forwards-Marshall, Williamson.

CREWE ALEX: GK Garratt; Defence-Davis, Ray, Tate, Leigh; Midfield-Grant (Turton), Ness, Jones, Baillie (Stewart); Forward-Ikpeazu (Dalla Valle), Ajose.

Note: Leigh able to play left back, left midfield position and Baillie right back, right midfield position. I suspect as the pressure intensified both players helped form a five man defence with Ajose slotted into a midfield role leaving Ikpeazu up front alone.