Saturday, 10 March 2012

Two Years On...The Dream Is Still Alive



March 10th, 2010, was a horrible day for Chester City fans – make no mistake about that. The end of the Club they had supported for years, decades, many heading towards a century, but in one fell swoop the Club they had followed collectively since 1885 was shut down, thanks to one unpaid tax bill hearing at the High Court.

The problems of course had surfaced long before that unpaid tax bill, with a whole plethora of problems at the football club we had put so many years of effort and support into.

It was a black day in the history of the Club.

It was however, also the dawn of a brand new and brighter era for the fans. Knowing that the support was out there from not just our own fans, but fans from other clubs up and down the country gave hope and inspiration to those who dared to dream of a better future for football in Chester.

Who would have thought that the days of being embarrassed to wear the blue and white striped shirts around the City would turn completely on its head and become a ‘cool’ trend amongst kids and adults alike to be seen in their tops around the historic City of ours.

Who would have thought that the fans who met in ‘Bingo halls’ as some said, would go on to deliver a Club that actually embraced the Community, and gaining supporters – some who had never been down to the Deva Stadium before – and many who returned for the new era, convinced that this was a new dawn for the Club.

Who would have believed that we would see such a great standard of football at the level we were faced with playing, and enjoyable trips to grounds around the North West of England, and some beyond that perimeter.

Who would have thought that we’d be appearing on national radio as proof that a club can prosper despite being effectively knifed through the heart by its previous owners in its previous form?

Who would have believed that a Club could be pulled together in just 12 weeks and that the Club would win silverware in its first season as a reformed club.

The fact is that the fans did believe that this was possible, and this is only the start of the journey to get to the Promised Land… the Football League.

Those fans, the 2000 odd owners of Chester Football Club, the 500 Junior Blues, the 3500 that turned up for the Nantwich game in 2012, the 4000 Twitter followers, the 5000 weekly visitors to the Club’s Facebook page, and the 20,000 monthly unique visitors to the Club’s website, believe that Chester FC is part of their lives, and how right they are.

Chester FC is now in our hearts and in our soul (apologies Everton fans!), but then again, it always was, and that is why it was worth fighting for in the first place. The Club was on its knees, desperate, looking for a lifeline, but cruelly denied it by one family in particular.

The Family that is the Chester Family stood up and were counted, and now that family is spreading the word throughout the Community, that their Club is alive and kicking, and on the way back – and how.

We have a Manager that is totally dedicated to winning trophies and driving the Club forward, the board is totally dedicated to that too, and are doing things the right way, to ensure that nothing, I repeat nothing, puts the club’s future at risk.

It has been a challenging two years alright, but look at how far we have come – from that first friendly at Colwyn Bay, where 1500 fans travelled to herald a new era, to the away match at Garforth last season where 2300 fans made the journey to Yorkshire to go through what can be described as a ‘unique’ experience to win a League at it’s first attempt.

This season has seen no let up in the ambitions to get back to the first milestone, which is Conference football, and with five or six more wins, may actually leave the Evo-Stik League for the Conference League – where the old girl Chester City died.

Two years ago, we felt numb, gutted that it had come to losing our club, and yes we were a bunch of romantics who believed that we could do something about it, and thankfully we weren’t the only ones with the backing received at the Guild Hall in February & May 2010, and also at that very first home match against Trafford in September 2010. Then we knew that this was a dream that could come true.

The best thing in the two years for me, has been the smiles of the faces inside the ground, yes there are always debates about whether that player or this player should be in the starting eleven, or why we didn’t score 3 goals rather than 2, but isn’t it great to be talking about that rather than worrying where the next winding up order was coming from, or how much the next unpaid tax bill would be for?

Football in Chester has changed forever, and if we keep doing what we’re doing, then it can only bode well for the Club’s future – especially with all the kids that are coming down to the ground now.

If you haven’t got your little one signed up to the Junior Blues yet, then do it today, it’s a fantastic way to get our younger fans hooked on to Chester FC the way you were. If you haven’t joined or renewed your CFU membership yet, then do it today, this is YOUR club, and who else can claim to be owners of their football club for just a fiver??

The nightmare of March 10th, 2010 happened, but so did the rising of the Phoenix on the same day, and the fire is still breathing now amongst every Chester fan, and long may it continue. We need to keep that fire alive, and everyone can play their part in doing so, so please keep it going, and help us prove to everyone that Chester FC are well and truly on their way back.



Chester Forever.


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Chester FC on Radio 1 - Who would've thought it?

Yes, I never really thought I'd see Chester FC & Radio 1 in the same sentence, but yesterday that actually happened, when an out of the blue (no pun intended) call came through from the Radio 1 Newsbeat team, who were looking to do a feature about the situation in football at present, notably at Portsmouth & Rangers, and wanted to see how a club can cope with going under, and if there is any way back.

We have displayed at Chester FC that there is life after death, and that hope is never lost, despite having to go through what was a cruel, cruel death thanks to to one family's work, some may say we're better for it now, to be where we are now, although I would never agree with the sentiment 'It's the best thing to ever happen to us' - as I don't believe it was, if a person dies having been in pain, you wouldn't often say that it was 'the bets thing that ever happened to them' - you'd probably say that they were now in a better place - and that's the way I see things.

March 10th 2010, was one of the hardest days to bear, knowing that our club would be wound up in the High Court, left a very bitter taste in the mouth with how Chester City FC had been destroyed, without any chance of saving it. Some fans from 12 miles up the road say how we let the club die unlike them when they put their money in to save the club - well it was a completely different situation.

At Chester, the fact was that Vaughan wanted £750,000 - a little different than the £150k raised by Wrexham fans - there was no way he was going to see that back, no way at all. I even remember the argument I had with him over the phone at work on my lunch - stood up at my desk, for a solid hour, with him telling me that he deserved this money and that we could have the club as long as we took on the debt, which was mainly a claim of loans from himself.

The Club was in a mess, and as we know, one that it would fail to recover from in the form of Chester City, and on March 10th, the message came through that it had gone, and for a moment a pause then the thought of 'this is it, this is where it all begins for real' and the process of building the club up again would start that very day, that Wednesday, in March.

Of course a lot of work had already been done in the background, with the thought 'Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst' in mind - it had served us well to do just that, and from that moment on we never looked back, and have always tried to do the right thing - I say tried, as not everyone agrees with key decisions that are made, that's just human nature, if we all agreed it would be boring. One thing is for sure though, whatever steps we have taken to move the club forward have done just that, and we plough on trying to get back to the promised land of the football league.

A good debate is where we'll think we have got back to where the club was when CCFC died that painful death. Is it when we get back to the Blue Square Prem, where the Club was sitting in minus points whilst the wreckage ensued all round it?

Would it be when we get to the Blue Square North, as CCFC would obviously have been relegated in that final season had it lasted, or would it be the league we're now fighting to escape from as the Conference would have more than likely kicked CCFC out of both of their leagues given the issues they were presented with, so it could have been that the league we're in now is where CCFC would be today had it continued, so it could be argued that we're now at where the Club left off.

The way I see it is that we just remain focused and get on with it, it won't feel like the first part of the job is done until we get to the BSP, which will hopefully be just around the corner, and I keep looking at the table to see just how tough the Conference North is, and Halifax, despite picking up recently, have started to endure a bit of a blip, now we all know about those of course, but I really hope that Halifax get promoted this year, as they are definitely one of the stronger teams in the Conference North, and it would be great for them to get back to the Conference too, given their history.

Jim Harvey's Stalybridge seem to have hit a stumbling block too, for a while it looked like it would be them & Hyde who would be fighting it out for promotion, but Hyde appear to have it half in the bag now/ I do fancy our chances in the Conference North though I have to say, but let's just get there first, hopefully we won't see a repeat of last season where it went down to the last day - we have taken a really strong step forward recently, with results also going our way, so with an 8 point lead and a game in hand in the bag, hopefully we're in a stronger position this year, it certainly feels like it. We just need to see Northwich play a few games, and drop points along the way!!

Oh yes, back to Radio 1, never would I have thought that I'd be getting a call off them, we'll be on the Top 40 next - maybe The Jestrian's Neil Young rap will make it to the top of the charts!!

It's all good coverage though for the club, and hopefully it won't end there, I'm sure Football Focus will be getting an invite to come back to the Exacta again 12 months on from their last visit here, and I'll keep on trying, but hopefully one day Sky Sports Soccer Saturday will take a trip down here too, it seems ages ago since I did an interview by the river with them, so think I'll give them another reminder that we're still here - and doing well!

So, onto Saturday we go then and Frickley away, we were all cheering that equalizer on Saturday in their game against Hednesford, and they won't be easy either considering they took a point off us at the Exacta earlier on in the season, but hopefully the lads will give it their all and come back with 3 points!

Come on you Blues!!!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Back on the Promotion trail


I must admit, I've only just realised that I've not blogged since before Christmas, so to anyone reading this, hope you enjoyed your festive celebrations, and had a great New Year, seeing the Blues top of the League at Christmas and going into 2012 was all we wanted, and got!

Form has been a bit patchy for the Blues since that win at Marine, but the fact remains we are now three points clear of Hednesford, with 2 games in hand, and with the implosion at Northwich, Chorley & Marine seem as though they could be the challengers to the current top 2.

Powell gets a late Christmas card
That Northwich game was extremely frustrating, with the early goal and sending off meaning we should have won that match at a canter, but we failed to take our chances, and let Northwich back in it, and if we're being truthful the ref could and should perhaps of given Vics a penalty in the last minute - although it wasn't the first mistake of the day by him, having decided to let himself be overruled by an official who was furthest from the Michael Powell and John Disney incident - purely ridiculous that.

The turn of the year saw us then take on Nantwich at home, and revenge was in the air following the 4-1 defeat back in August, but Nantwich proved very stubborn, and a succession of missed chances meant that our first home game of the new year ended in a draw, just like it did back in 2011 against Warrington! The most amazing thing from the Nantwich game was the attendance, over 3500 were inside the Exacta, and I'd popped in to the Safety Room to ask if we were anywhere near the 3000 mark at about 2.50pm and was staggered to be told we were already over 3200 and people were still queueing outside!

The thoughts then turned to Rushall, where we all wondered how we'd fare against a team that have taken points from most of the teams at the top of the table this season, but those fears were dispelled as we set out on a major 4-0 win over our West Midland counterparts, and that was great to see, restoring some confidence perhaps lost in the Nantwich draw.

Maybe next year, Wembley.
Attentions then turned to the FA Trophy, and I think it's fair to say we were all gutted that we didn't get at least a draw against Ebbsfleet, as our performance certainly deserved that outcome, having had to travel so far, the lads pulled out the stops to try and get the replay, but that 3rd goal just wouldn't come, and the Wembley dream was left behind, with a possible envious glance back at Wembley Stadium by those travelling back on the train.

I definitely think we missed Powelly in the middle, and who knows maybe we would have got something had he not been missing that game.

Then the big game at home to Hednesford, and another great crowd, only 91 fans travelled from the Midlands, which was maybe disappointing, but seeing over 3200 Chester fans inside again was superb. As for the match, well that was another day of frustration, with rare slip ups at the back costing us the game, but I did feel that if we could have got back to 2-2 in that game then we would have gone on to win, but alas we didn't and we had to surrender our superb home run of 27 games without defeat.

eerily dark on a sunny day
Perhaps the most disappointing thing to deal with was the smashing of a window on the away supporters coach - there is no place for that kind of act at our Club, we have built Chester FC up with a family reputation, and that will continue. These people just don't realise the effect that this has on the Club, think back to the Colwyn Bay mess. We were trying to get various sponsorship deals for the Club, and they then see that there is trouble at our first friendly - that had so much impact on what we were trying to do, as potential sponsors will think that they do not want to be involved with bad news, and rightly so. But thanks to a great effort to pull sponsors back in, we succeeded in convincing them that Chester FC were a forward thinking club, with a strong community ethos, and I think the proof is in the pudding, but these idiots certainly don't think about the fact they are hurting the Club they claim to support.

Anyway, back to the football, and we were all left disappointed by the fact the Liverpool v Man Utd reserves match had fallen foul of the weather a couple of weeks ago, and there was an argument that the pitch covers should have been deployed, but in the end it really made no difference as the temperature plummeted once the sun disappeared beneath the West Stand, and ice started to appear on the pitch and by 6pm it was clear that the game would have been a ice-nightmare for the players involved, and we could have talking of the likes of Berbatov causing themselves a great injury, something which we would have not wanted, and clearly the ref decided the same. Who knows what kind of action these clubs could take if such an incident occurred.

That game will hopefully be replayed in April, and certainly Liverpool understood that we were beaten by the weather, and hopefully come April, we'll have better weather and a potentially bigger crowd.

The fact that we had another home game on the Saturday meant that we would take no chances on the Friday night, and we put the call out for fans to come down and help lay the pitch covers, and I think that it was the right decision to make as the cold snap certainly happened on the Friday night, and a quick call to arms again meant that the game went ahead, and what a start - 2 goals in the first 20 minutes, and I think its fair to say we were all expecting an avalanche of goals, but it really didn't happen, and after Mickleover scored their goal we sort of went into our shell a bit.

The plus point was the introduction of Stefan Cox who certainly had a lively looking debut, when he eventually got the ball, he then made life a misery for the full back, and when he swapped to the right wing, with Howard on the left, we looked to have a bit more balance, and Cox looked electric down the right, despite being a left winger!

My favourite shot from a cold crisp day at the Exacta
I recently took the opportunity to get some snaps of the Exacta Stadium, on a cold crisp day, and hopefully anyone reading this (is there anyone reading this bar me??) will like those photos, which I've included on here today.

On the media side recently, there has been plenty going on, just the other week myself & Pat visited the new BBC set up at Salford Quays, to meet one of Colin Murray's production team, and the place was very impressive, a very 'open' feel to it, with all staff having a decent view out of the windows, but also where people walking past can see in to their office, so you're pretty much on view here to anyone!

We're working together with Colin's team for something that we had hoped to announce this season, but things have just dragged on a little bit longer than what we'd hoped, but we will still definitely be doing something with Colin & co in the near future - the major plus is that he has been coming to our home games whenever possible, showing his support for the Blues.

The Jestrian has to be one of my favourite reads each day, even though I'm the butt of some of those made up names, Jar Jar Banks, Army Tanks, and Jaffie Bracks being some of those names, but I do love the humour of it, and its all a welcome break from the busy life that this 'media junkie' seems to have, even though I'm officially out of work at the moment!!

Looking ahead to today, well there is a stack of CFU stuff to be getting on with, so time to put a bit of man power to that, will blog again soon, and will attempt to not leave it over a month this time!

Come On You Blues!
 

Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Well it's been a while since I blogged - it's just been crazily busy recently so not really had the chance to do much, so 2012 will be different on that score that's for sure - it's been a brilliant 12 months with the Championship win and the team currently top of the Evo-Stik Premier League - what an amazing feat that the lads have achieved.
It's been a very busy time off the pitch too, with much work being done behind the scenes too, and special praise must go out to all the volunteers who are each doing their own bit to help drive the club forward - I'm sure each and every one of those volunteers really enjoy what they are doing to help, and that is how we all feel too, so again together as one.

One of my favourite moments of 2011
Being a Chester fan has never been easy, and its definitely been challenging at times, but the 10's (as in the 80s, 90s etc) has certainly got off to a great start, and that 40 year cycle of Chester FC continues to trend, in the 1930's the club entered the football league, in the 1970's the Club enjoyed it's best ever spell, and now in the 2010's we are enjoying the Club being reborn, and treating us all to some great away days, and results to go with them.

Next week of course it's the Boxing Day match at Northwich, and I can't remember getting this excited since that Boxing Day trip to Preston North End when we were chasing promotion from the old Division 3 (the one after it used to be Division 4 of course!), and that day we took 2500 fans to Deepdale, with the home stewards and police shocked that we'd brought so many. I think only the trip to Blackburn could put that one in the shade, and what an atmosphere that turned out to be, and I'm sure the one at Northwich will be a cracker (no pun intended), and the sound of 'Yellows Yellows' will be ringing away arund the ground.

Much has been made of the Northwich chairman, and their interesting way of ticketing arrangements, and we will only know on Boxing Day if what they decided on was a mistake or not, certainly their 'poke' at Chester was unwarranted, and every other Club has agreed to the commission rate on tickets sold from the Exacta - it's just standard practice - but for some it obviously isn't. They want slave labour.

This last week has been interesting too on the media side of things, with a request for me to do an interview with the Ebbsfleet Podcast to help preview the big game in the FA Trophy in January. The podcast is I think aimed at those exiled from Ebbsfleet, or those who have bought a piece of 'My Football Club' that live in the US - either way, it was a nice little interview and I tried to push home just what Chester fans had been through in the last few years, well decades I should say!

That interview is due to air sometime next week I believe.

9 Gold Rings - Classic Ash!
Last night was the Chester FC Christmas Party, and it was a really good night once again at Chester Racecourse, and a chance to take the mickey out of a few of the players via the Christmas Quiz - seeing them attempting to guess the Christmas song titles via a Give Us a Clue type game was classic!

Well that's about it today, I could go on, but it's my last day at work and I now have to get ready before 12 years at MBNA comes to an end, so to all Chetser fans, have a brilliant Christmas & New Year, and let's get those singing voices ready for Northwich on Boxing Day - COYB!

By the way The Jestrian, what a top blog, and amazingly one of my favourite Christmas bites is a box of Jaffa Cakes!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Away Days are great aren't they...apart from Plymouth



What an amazing day last Saturday was.


One of the best I would say since following the Blues, and we’ve had some crackers too, but there is nothing like coming behind after the referee has gifted the opponents two goals, meaning you think you’re playing against twelve, thirteen or fourteen men – let me check, yes they were all male officials – to then turn it around and grab a winning goal right at the end, that was special.

The celebrations probably seemed over the top to FCUM fans, but hey, we’ve put up with so much shit over the years, that we’re entitled to celebrate like we’d won the world cup at the end of the match – how many times have we seen late goals going in that have cost us a game, many I would think, so we’ll enjoy this one thank you very much.

The actual game reminded me of my first match memory, all the way back in 1982 I think it was, eek 30 year anniversary to come next year, but if I remember it correctly, we were playing Portsmouth at the time, yes, really.

Tervor Morley - season wrecker
We ended up taking the lead in that game, before we were 2-1 down, only then to come storming back to win 3-2, and that is where my love affair with Sealand Road and Chester FC started, I wish it was all as good as that – christ knows I’ve seen some shockers over the years, the worst at Sealand Road was probably the 5-0 defeat at home to Northampton on the first game of the season, a lovely summer’s day, everyone singing songs with high spirits, and then the referee’s whistle sounded and Trevor Morley went on to wreck our first game with a hat trick against us. I clearly remember this match as I’d won free tickets to sit in the Main Stand (only ever did this three times, the other two were the 1-0 win in the Fright Rover Trophy against Mansfield, when we were so so close to getting to Wembley, and the other being our fine 2-1 win over Wrexham in 86 – ‘Mean, Mean, Mean Machine’ – come on Stevie Johnson!).

Anyway, where was I? Oh that’s right, free tickets. I’d won them in a competition on Marcher Sound, as it was then, I couldn’t believe it, a freebie to watch my beloved Blues, and then they go and do that – I wrote back asking for a refund even though it’d had not cost me a penny!

Hmmm, not like the old away end then? Bastards.
Talking of worst games, there are a few that stand out in memory following Chester. The 1-0 defeat to Plymouth in the FA Cup, it pissed down all day, the coach journey back was possibly the most miserable of trips ever, remember sitting there in my boxers as the jeans had come off they were that soaked – I sincerely hope that would be on the only time someone would sit on the Hipkiss Express in their boxer shorts!

That day really annoyed me, the rain was one thing, but they even told us Blues that there were no seats available in the covered stand, only to then pay at the turnstile for the open terrace, and look up and see loads of empty seats. Bastards.

They then proceeded to keep us in for 20 minutes after the game, by this point we’d all be doing impressions of a human sponge, and just as we thought we’d nick a replay, they scored a late winner, 5 minutes before the end if I remember correctly. Bastards.

They then marched us through a covered stand – why did they do that, did they just want to rub it in even more? – then on what seemed a circular journey to go back to our coaches, we’d have been closer to the coaches if we’d just gone through the turnstiles we came through in. Bastards. Magic of the FA Cup my arse.

The other crap games I remember, well until the mid 90’s Mansfield away was always crap, we always seemed to get beat 2-0 there. Hartlepool was quite possibly the coldest place on earth – apart from winter in Macclesfield 1990-91.

We did have some crap home games too, I seem to remember Crewe stuffing us 6-0 at the Deva in the mickey mouse tournament (that had been devalued since we were so close to Wembley). I remember that match for two reasons, one for the result, and the second for the fact it was the first match for my now ex-girlfriend, she never came again, bad omen she turned out to be!

The 5-1 defeat at home to Leyton Orient was a shitter too, that turned out to be the day that I bumped into Terry Smith in the corridor at the back of the club, told him in no uncertain terms what I thought of it, and him, and next thing he was stepping down. Good.

Pejic...crap.
In fact I had made a habit of that, as when we got beat 4-0 at home to Birmingham at the Deva, I was doing the commentary for the blind in those days, and when Mick Pejic came up, I had a pop at him, and he said ‘Do you think you could do better yourself?’, “Yes” I told him, and also said I’d love to have the chance to prove it. He got sacked a few days later!

I better watch what I say with Youngy ha ha!

Drifted off a bit there, so back to it – amazing support at FC United, non stop singing was absolutely superb. What a load of rubbish when we were told by FCUM that they couldn’t hear us – did we hear them? No, not really, we were too busy singing!

Apologies to all who I may have jumped on in that melee after the second goal, it was just a case of dancing a jig of delight, and then I managed to compose myself somehow for the winner! Great day out, it’s not often you win 30-2 away from home!

More of the same tomorrow lads!!!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

What a long month!

Little did I realise how eventful September would become...

When the month started, it was more a case of the lads bouncing back from the Bank Holiday defeat at Nantwich, and what a good start was made to that, but who would have envisaged that for the rest of the month Chester FC would go on to score 23 goals without reply, with 7 wins on the bounce, one of those a very very satisfying win over Chorley at the Exacta.

The whole month for me though was destined to become linked to working on the launch of the new website, although I don't think even I realised how much time it would require!

London looked good in the blue sky!
In mid September myself & Chris Pilsbury visited Perform, the group who supply all the help and expertise of running the websites across the league, those Football League websites that you see. Before we got there though we took a breather and had a look at the London eye before getting the train on to our final destination!

Seeing their premises was impressive, and seeing how they pull things together was even more eye-opening. We were given a tour of the buildings, and shown how they receive streams of live sport from across the world, and how they then transfer that in to websites around the world.

During that visit, we learned a lot, and also found out that the anticipated go-live date would be just 10 days after our visit - that frightened the shit out of me if I'm being perfectly honest!

So, the task would be to bring together content for the whole site, which at this starting point was a shell, so much work would be needed to get it to where it needed to be.

The next 10 days and nights then would be full of work at home for me, so everything else had to be forgotten about for the time being, sadly that included the Hyde away game, and the match at Stafford too, as I would simply have run out of time.

Unfortunately this also meant pretty much being in my own world for 10 days & nights too, so ended up probably becoming a stranger to my own wife, so now it's live there is plenty of making up to be done!

Yes please!
Last weekend was quite stressful in the way that I knew everything had to be bang on, but some things weren't working or appearing as I'd expected it too on the test site, whilst there were other items that would be part of the package that I hadn't even got around to looking at just yet. By 10pm I'd had enough of staring at the screen though, so power off and time for sleep!

So, the Monday morning, as ever, up at 5.30am and opened up the PC prior to going to work, and doing some last minute tests - everything was ready at my end, now it would be over to Perform to test and hopefully launch on the Monday.

There were a few issues which still needing ironing out as there were a few references to Chester City FC which we obviously needed to remedy, and with the testing of the website, it appeared that it would take longer for the launch to happen, and on Monday afternoon it was decided that the site would be launched on the Tuesday, as some testing still had to be done on the Tuesday morning.

It was almost a case of what else could I do on the Monday night, so I had a quick read of CoveritLive, the live text commentary, but my head was so panned from the weekend where I'd sat on the couch with the laptop on for 12 hours each day, that I just called it quits and chilled out!

So, to Tuesday morning, and here we go again, waiting for the nod, which finally came in the afternoon, as it took a few hours for everything to be put in to production, and finally at around 6pm the website went live, so the next few hours were spent dealing with any issues that had arisen on the site, or things that weren't showing correctly.

I think I fell flat asleep on the Tuesday night, but pleased it was finally launched, and just in time too before the big Chorley game on the Wednesday.

So, Wednesday night it was back to the Exacta and I think everyone was feeling up for it during the day, and couldn't wait for the action to start - there was plenty to do pre match too, with plenty of press coming along, plus the setting up of the half time penalty shoot out which involved some running round to organise, but we got there!

The match itself was a great occasion, the first half was edgy, but as soon as Brownie let rip with that thunderbolt of a shot, there was only one winner, and when Matty McNeil headed in for number 2, I nearly gave myself a broken neck when I went running down the steps to celebrate, thankfully the wall in front halted the charge forward!

Well beaten!
That third goal was a peach too, with Wes curling it home from 25 yards, and that was that - I was in the tunnel when the players were coming in, and just gave Mr Flitcroft a wink, with one word, "Unlucky" - and then back out to help sort out the exit of the Chorley media, and back to quickly get a drink in what was a hot bar!

What a night, and a great way to see out September!

Plenty more to come in October, and let's hope that our great run continues, and that we get Chorley back off the top of the table!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Back on Track!

It's been an eventful week at Chester FC.

Following the Nantwich Nightmare, so much was said, and vented, but we all just wanted to get back to winning ways on Saturday at home to North Ferriby, and the lads were clearly of the same mindset, whipping United 6-0 in front of a decent gate of over 2100.

It was the perfect response. Iain Howard & Chris Simm recalled to the team that they'd been dropped from a few days earlier due to their lateness, and I'm sure people now realise why that had to happen, and when I saw them on the pitch before the game as I walked in, I gave them a bit of banter about the fact that they were here on time this week!

In my blog for The Cestrian last time out I was writing about big wins, but I didn't actually think we'd get such a big win on Saturday as the team we were playing were half decent themselves, but when I saw that they'd only been able to name 3 subs, hopes were lifted.

It was fairly even early doors, and North Ferriby were looking like a team who had done well the past few seasons, having been involved in the Play offs, but as soon as Simmo scored their was only going to be one winner.

Then, step up Iain Howard - a beautiful step over and drag back of the ball led to a pass for Simmo to run on to and collect his second of the match, when he slid the ball under the keeper, Simmo admitted after the game he was knackered by the time he got to the penalty area - well at least he didn't get his feet all tangled up again like the FC United game ha ha!

It was then Iain's turn though to put the ball in the net, and how, a special scissor-cum-overhead kick that found its way into the corner of the net to put the Blues 3 up - this was the icing on the cake, but the cherry would follow later!

Think Brad & the Harry Mac enjoyed that one!
In a week when many have demanded Bradley Barnes gets a look in, Neil decided to introduce him to the match, and what a great reception he got too - and in just a few minutes he had everyone cheering after blasting home in front of the Harry Mac - he couldn't have been better placed!

Barnesy didn't get long to celebrate his though as Robbie Booth let fly from the edge of the area, and with the aid of a deflection made it 5-0, a great goal, and well deserved for Boothy who has been working extremely hard to get where he is now.

The scoring wasn't over then either, as Matty McGinn - quite possibly one of Chester's best ever loan signings, was upended in the penalty area, and he got up dusted himself down, and blasted home another spot kick, 6-0!

So, a great day for The Blues, and everyone feeling much better thank you than the previous Monday, and that's what we all needed, confidence back again - well done boys!

It was a football dominated few days, probably didn't go down too well at home, what with the England match on Friday night, the Chester match on Saturday, board meeting on Monday night, England match again on Tuesday night, followed by the Chester game at Ashton on Wednesday - wall to wall? You betcha.

So, to Ashton, and I still can't believe the weather the other night, I bet the subs were pleased to be sitting on that bench, as it couldn't have been much fun out there in that torrential rain, it was bad enough watching from the sides!

Iain Howard - great at pens apparently
I did a bit of Boardroom duty at Ashton, and I have to say that we were looked after superbly by the Ashton officials, had a good chat about Iain Howard, being a previous player of theirs and they informed us that he is deadly from the penalty spot, so we'll be looking for that in future Cup games if needed!

What a start we got off to though,and Simmo was the hero again, he really is on fire at the moment, and long may it continue - he's been running his plums off recently and now he is getting the rewards with the goals, but I don't think anyone was expecting such a quick start the other night in that rain, but we pretty much dominated that game, and deserved the second goal, although for some reason watching the match, you never feel comfy until we get a third.

That didn't come, but the rain did, and fair play to Pat Cluskey, who was taking the kit bag home, his car must have weighed a ton going back, and Jimmy would need more than Daz Ultra to get that crap off the kits!

We're back to Friday again, and another away day at Worksop tomorrow, let's hope the boys bring the points home again, and we can push on in our quest for the title!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Bring on North Ferriby!

It's been a long week for Chester fans, having experienced both the highs and lows of the game in the past 7 days, with a thumping win at home to Stocksbridge, followed by a thumping defeat at Nantwich.

Not the best away day we've had
Much has been said about the performance and result at Nantwich, so I won't touch on that, but some people should take a look at themselves with their over the top criticism of "the club they love" - we've all seen bad games involving Chester, christ knows the last ten years have seen enough crap performances to turn us into manic depressives, but we have come out of that era, the last thing we want to do is see the club head back into it thanks to abuse of the players, who if that is continued are bound to be affected by it.

The one thing that the lads need is the fans behind them, when things are not going well, they need encouragement, not slating personally, like what happened on Monday.


Nasri accidentally downloads Arsenal Fans greatest hits
I often think about what players feel about fans when they hear scrams of abuse from fans (in genaral now, not talking about Monday), and you only have to look at Samir Nasri, who decided to up and leave Arsenal after the disgusting songs from Gunners fans which upset the player, how the hell you can take pride in singing a foul mouthed song against your own player is beyond me. That player decided to leave the club, when it appeared he was going to be staying, and that I'm sure would be on players minds when hearing such abuse.

Players need confidence to do well, and the rewards are the performances and goals that we'll see in front of us, but we need to be on their side if they are to do well.

It's been a big media week this week, with several good things coming out following Monday, which has lightened things up around the place.

The Guardian did of course do a lengthy feature on the FC United game last Wednesday, and I'm just so pleased that we put on our best display of the season, and maybe beyond that, in our 2-1 win, which I know the boys from The Guardian really enjoyed, so much so, that when I went to do my interview with them the following day, they actually bought not one, but two club scarves, their way of saying thank you, and helping the club at the same time.

About the same time we had the NATV footage too, which was cracking, everyone was awaiting this, and we were kept waiting due to a dodgy PC fault, but thankfully the footage came through, and we've all enjoyed remembering what a quality night it was.

Just this morning, I've had a request off BBC Wales, who are looking to do a feature with the Club, I think they are looking at the fan-owned picture as a whole, and want to see how we have managed to get Chester FC off the ground, so expecting some more cameras at the Kendal game on the 14th September.

Time to look forward to the North Ferriby United game tomorrow now, and it is of course Non League Day, with the emphasis on getting first timers to a non-League match, based on the fact that there are non Premier League games due to the international break this weekend.

Martin Huxley has designed a great poster, which we are aiming to be in most pubs across Chester, and we've got volunteers covering most of them, and hopefully it will entice a few newbies to the Exacta tomorrow as there will be nothing to do for those Liverpool, Everton, Man Utd & City fans, so they may as well come on down to experience 'football as it used to be'!

Ladies link up with Blues
Yesterday I did a quick interview with Dee 106.3 who were referring to our press release about the link up with the Chester Ladies team, this is something that we are delighted to be involved in, the Ladies team have been going for 19 years believe it or not, but have never been officially recognised by the Club, but now things are set to change, and with a change of name from Chester City Ladies to Chester Ladies FC, it's another box ticked when it comes to Chester FC in the Community.

So, we're all set for tomorrow then, and the entertainment at half time will be provided by the Ladies, who are taking part in the Crossbar Challenge, hopefully they'll enjoy the experience, and the crowd will get right behind them!

I've been trying to get a Legend down here for Saturday, but time has conspired against me, although I did try a few, including Peter Jackson, who has stepped down at Bradford, but he is away, unsurprisingly trying to get away from it all for a couple of weeks, and another one attempted was Billy Stewart, who couldn't make the game, as he is currently away with Northern Ireland's Under 21s until next week, so hopefully we'll see Billy, Billy Stewart (clap clap) down at the Exacta soon.

Okay, that's it for now, looking forward to a good show from the lads tomorrow, and hopefully at 4.50pm tomorrow we'll be looking at the table with Chester on 13 points.

Come On You Blues!!!

Friday, 26 August 2011

One of those great nights at the Exacta

Wednesday night we had such a great atmosphere at the Exacta Stadium for the visit of FC United of Manchester.

I think we all knew we'd get a decent atmosphere, but I think the fact that we got a cracker of a game to go with it was the icing on the cake, oh and the victory too!


The Harry Mac getting in to it on Wednesday!
Considering we have only been together for a year or so now, this match definitely presented us with our biggest opposition to date - and a club that was within a whisker of getting into the Conference North last season, and we more than matched them, in fact I'd say we fully deserved the win over FCUM on Wednesday, and should have been about 3 or 4 up at half time.

It was one of those eagerly anticipated games, and for me even more so as I'd been away when the friendly match took place in July, so definitely was looking forward to this, although was trying to keep the lid on it whilst at work, in order for me to then finish at 4pm, and get in to match day mode.


It was going to be a busy one as far as the media side of things was concerned, as there was plenty going on, Sweden's national radio channel Sportschannel P4 were going to be there, as were The Guardian, who were coming up to film a piece on it, and then there was the visit from FC United's entourage, which included FCUM Radio, who would I'm sure have given a different account to that of Blues Live on Wednesday night!

Blues Live has been a great success so far, and we're now looking at the possibilities of covering the away games, but that is still a possibility rather than a probability given the issues with wireless coverage away from home at some of the grounds in the League - what has to be remembered is that too much use of the wireless signal at away games could pose problems for the press at the game, so all these things have to be taken into account.


Anyway, back to Wednesday, and once at the ground, time to do the usual things in my role, which is of course to see the press, make sure they are sorted with everything for the match ahead, and then dealing with any queries that come my way, greeting the opposing board members, checking in with Cleggy & Dan to give them the schedule for the evening, getting the team details for our Twitter coverage, and then getting the various people ready for the pre match and half time sequences. I also needed to ensure that the Guardian reporters were seeing everyone they needed to see before the game.


One of those was the Chester FC Youth team presentation, and how great that Tony Durkin is sponsoring the Youth team this year - he's been a great sponsor of Chester over the years, and fantastic to see that he is still involved with the club now.


Simmo's laces give way again!!

The game then of course got underway, and what a game we saw, a really good open match with the Blues going for it in the first half, something we all want to see of course, as we've found that we do tend to batter teams in the second half of a game, so why not the first, but we certainly took the game to FC United, and had it not been for the crossbar and Simmo's laces then we could have been 4-0 up at half time, but we'd definitely take the 2 nil lead!

At half time it was of course challenge time, and this week the challenge was to 'Hit the Post' from the half way line, and the winner of the competition certainly gave it a good go, wearing stand our red boots, he hammered his first attempt just inches from the half way line as I looked from the stand, and his second and third attempts weren't that bad either!

He was unlucky in the end, but I think he was made up that he walked away with a family ticket to Chester Races, who'd kindly donated the prize.

Back to the game, and the second half started the same way as the first did, and we were desperately trying to find that third goal, but it just didn't seem to want to find us, and then FC went and made things a whole lot worse by grabbing a goal ten minutes before the end, to ensure that we were all nervous as anything, maybe not Garforth-style nervous, but it was bad enough but when that free kick sailed way way over the bar, that was time to relax, and thankfully the whistle went straight afterwards, and we'd done it, beaten one of the League favourites, and I'm sure confidence will fly though the camp now.

The night wasn't over, as it was time to do the post match stuff, before settling down to a nice cold pint. Think I left the ground at 10.30 but still managed to get a much needed bottle of wine to celebrate with on the way home!

It all starts again tomorrow too, with another home game, and hopefully another decent crowd to follow up on our FC United game, and hopefully another three points on the horizon too, so enjoy the game everyone, and Come on you Blues!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Mixed bag of results in opening week

So, a draw, a win, and a defeat in the first week of the season, and we're well and truly back on the Chester Rollercoaster that we all boarded just 8 days ago.

It's been one of those starts, where we all wanted to see Chester FC start with 9 points but probably knew deep down that that wouldn't happen, but good to have football back all the same.

The Rushall game was possibly one of the most frustrating games ever, seeing us batter the Olympic goal, but not getting that elusive second goal, even when we got the chance to score from the penalty spot, unfortunately Jamie Rainford saw his decent effort blocked by the keeper, but the kitchen sink soon followed but their defence got in the way of everything to be fair.

"You'll get 3 crap refs in the first three games Chester!"
The performance of the referee was an absolute joke - and probably summed up by the reception the Rushall board - who are a lively (and friendly) bunch, clapped the referee off the pitch with even one shouting "Well done referee" to the man in black - one of the Rushall board was well known from his appearance last season at the Exacta, shouting that we were "big time charlies" and I certainly put him in his place last year but that's another story, we had some very good banter that night, and the same followed this one too, all enjoyable, if a little tiresome knowing the effort that has gone into making Chester FC what it is.

So a draw in the first game, but good to have it all back again, and all the matchday experience that surrounds it, on the first game we had a CFU presence outside the ground with the chance to renew memberships, and we also had the trophies out on show for fans to have their pictures taken with, and for me that's what's it all about - the fans deserve to enjoy the rewards that have come our way. I really do see Chester FC as the 'People's Club'.

It's been a long hard week at work too, and mixed in with that has been several phone calls to many people (press and non-press), organising a Swedish national radio station to come down to the FC United game, and also another conversation with Colin Murray - I'll come back to that later!

In fact, I actually received a text message from Colin whilst standing on the bank behind the goal at Skelmersdale as we set about seeing off a spirited Burscough side, with yet another dodgy refereeing decisison - never a penalty in a million years!

Jamie Rainford, the new Stuart Pearce?
Having seen Jamie Rainford step up Stuart Pearce style to hammer home his penalty, I thought right we're in for a hatful tonight, and we did eventually achieve that, but wasn't expecting Burscough to come back into it the way they did. Never a penalty - have I already said that?

I spent the first half by the dugout, and once again Jimmy Soul was funny to watch, with his disagreements with the officials, he is so so passionate, and love watching his reactions.

Off to the bank behind the goal for the second half then, and amusing to watch several fans trying to keep their drinks balances whilst running down the bank towards the back of the goal. Concentration on the match was achieved though, and the goals started flying in towards the end, what a great finish from Jerome Wright too!

So, back home within an hour with our first victory in the bag, and a happy Wednesday it was, completed with a Rustlers and a bottle of wine from the shop!

Not the best photo David Evans has ever had!
Then Thursday, and a bit tired at work, but the football didn't stop,and a read of The Chronicle at breakfast on Thursday morning showed the story that I'd been in touch with Dave Triggs of the Chron about, the £65k award from the Adult & Community Learning Fund - a truly amazing job by fellow Director, David Evans, and the work he has put in on this should not be under-estimated, and quite rightly got a good write up in the Chron on Thursday.

Thursday afternoon, and at 4pm I left work, to then speak with Colin Murray, who had to ring me back due to being soaked in the London rain, and the call followed, and it was a very good one, we spoke about what we could so with Pat & Perry this season, and there is a belter of an idea on the table for this season, and more about that later, but first Colin had to speak to his producer on the Friday to get the nod.

Friday at work is usually a slowdown day, but not this Friday, it seemed busier than ever despite the announcement that MBNA would be selling off its UK business, so not the best of weeks, but certainly not a quiet one, and after I finished on Friday, I had a couple of calls to take & make, firstly, a follow up with Colin Murray, and good news, in that his producer had given the nod to the idea that we'd spoken about yesterday - stay tuned for more details, as I can't reveal it at present, but it will be special!

Then a call to The Guardian, and a discussion around them coming up to the Exacta next Wednesday to do a special feature during the FC United game, so keep an eye out for that as they will be filming outside the ground. That took a good half an hour, before I suddenly realised that I had to leave as Dee 106.3's Friday Night Football Show was on the horizon.


The ladies love our Shane!
 All attentions turned to the weekend then, and the show on Dee, we'd had a good laugh with the Crossbar Challenge during half time at the Rushall game, and I decided to mix it up a bit and go for the a different challenge to be witnessed at the FCRushall game, and I decided to mix it up a bit and go for the a different challenge to be witnessed at the FC United game, and that was to hit the post from the half way line, so nipped down to Dee 106.3 with Shane & other guest Gary Powell, to get that one up & running.

I couldn't actually make it to Hednesford on the Saturday, but was glued to Twitter the whole time and was gutted as everyone else when the news came in about Ashley Williams, and then the goal on 88 minutes that condemned us to our first defeat, and also the first time we hadn't scored in a League game away from the Exacta.

RIP Flt Lt Jon Egging
It was also a very sad day as the Red Arrows lost a member of their own team, with the crash down at Bournemouth, and this made me feel quite down on Saturday night knowing that someone who loved his profession didn't just lose his own life, but he actually put his own life ahead of many others when he steered his aircraft away from causing what would have been a devastation below. Football seemed a distant second when watching the footage, and seeing the words from his wife on the news.

I still had plenty of CFC stuff to do on Saturday night, and if anyone wants to know what it's like to be a football manager of the Blues, and what pressure goes with it, then take an e-mail during the early hours of the morning from Neil Young, who couldn't sleep after the Hednesford match, and a very disappointed Neil Young at that. It was at that point that I thought he's only human like the rest of us, and probably feeling worse than the rest of us about the result.

Now, we're heading towards another big week of football, and just watching Match of the Day 2, so it all starts again tomorrow, and will be looking forward to Wednesday night's game against FC United, who also lost on Saturday of course at home, and I have to say one of their fans was very quiet after telling the world that they'd scored after 33 seconds, strange that!

Roll on Wednesday!