Tag Archives: #crewe alex

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:


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.


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.

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.