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.

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!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Ready to Go!

It's the eve of the football season, and all the moan, the groans, punches of delight, dodgy offsides, disallowed goals, and the ups and downs of the football season all get underway again tomorrow, and thank god for that!

Chester v New York Cosmos (..almost)
I think we're all a bit friendly-weary now, and ready to start our league campaign - when the results do matter of course. Friendlies have been a bit strange this year, and I do feel disappointed that we were not able to get a Premier League team down here, but unfortunately most of them were flying away from the UK - yet another reason why the big boys don't help the small clubs, as those 2 weeks they could be playing lower teams from their own country rather than swanning off to shores elsewhere in the world - ah well, gripe over, and we'll be trying our best to get some quality opposition in next year. For the record, we had tried (and failed) to get Liverpool, Aston Villa, Everton, Man City, Man Utd, Stoke, and Wigan, amongst others, but had little success. The closest one I guess was Pat's attempt to get the New York Cosmos in for a match ahead of the Paul Scholes testimonial match, that would have been a classic to reveal had it come off, but sadly their players were jetting in to the UK just a few days after 30th July.

Our friendlies were mucked around of course with the pull out of both Fleetwood & Stockport, which left us reeling a bit as we had to find other opposition very quickly.

Anyway, glad to see the back of them, and it's time to look ahead now to the bread and butter, as the league gets underway tomorrow, and it's been a busy old week this week, with football yet again dominating everything!

Last Saturday of course was the friendly against Bangor, and my time to stand in front of the players in the changing room - not to give them a pre match talk you understand - no this was to give them a bit of a media chat, and what I was hoping for them to do to give the fans some good features in both the programme and also the new website which we'll be launching very soon.

It was a bit never wracking, and I sort of felt like a supply teacher, with the fear of being heckled in their, or thrown into the cold bath - thankfully none of that happened, and they all listened to what I had to say, so thanks lads!

Was this the Bangor massive?
The game last Saturday was a good open one I thought although not impressed whatsoever that we had to open the West Stand for away fans only, based on the fact that Bangor fans had previous - we counted about 49 Bangor fans through the gates, a whole stand opened for 49 people, a stand that had to be stewarded for that very reason, costs costs costs.

Anyway, the match passed without incident, and an entertaining 2-2 draw was played out, and plenty of talking points from the match with some cracking goals.

Onto Monday, and after work, and a few e-mails / cfu calls to make, off to the near on 4 hour board meeting - as ever, plenty of things discussed, debated, and actions to be taken by all, most notably to pick up a bottle of wine on the way home, thank god they stayed open late these days!

Then Tuesday, and another match, this time against Hyde, and this one was very low key, we knew that this game would produce the lowest crowd of pre-season, as I said above, I think we were all fed up of friendlies by now!

Never have I seen a game where Chester had so many chances in the first ten minutes, and had we taken just one of those chances I reckon we'd have ended up with a different score. I sat with Alan Tarbuck most of the night, discussing the various chances, but it was all positive with the chances being created.

Cracking finish by Simmo...
  Then a cracking goal by Simmo, who exchanged passes with Alex Brown before picking out the corner of the net, and we seemed set for a win, until two goals in a short space of time turned the game on its head, and we were all of a sudden losing our 3rd game of pre-season, totally undeservedly in my view.

Onto Wednesday, and a chance to key some more CFU membership forms, we're now heading towards 2000 which is a great achievement considering it's difficult to retain members when things are going well as it's the nature of the beast that when things are going wrong, i.e. crisis times, people tend to pull together more, but I'll keep on banging the drum as the more people that join, the better.

Thursday, and time for the Seals Podcast to return, and I'd been delighted to accept an invite to the first show back, I remember when I sat on the very first show last season, with Tom Jones, and we both thought this could go places, and boy did it!

Last night also featured the Bellis Brothers, sounds like a 70's tribute band that, but no, Richard & Neil have come up with a new fanzine, called "The Blue & White" and I've had some interaction with the two lads, who have put a great deal of effort into the new mag, which is out in time for the FC United game on August 24th.

Looking forward to seeing the result of their efforts, and hopefully it will successfully follow in the footsteps of Hello Albert & The Onion Bag, which became legendary fanzines at Chester.

I did some dodgy predictions in last night's live podcast, from memory I think I said 2-0 v Rushall (Simm first scorer), 5-0 v Burscough (Horan first goal), 1-0 Hednesford (was it Wright first goal?), and 3-2 v FC United, although my enthusiasm got the better of me here and I predicted Robbie Booth would score the winning goal in the 90th minute, I forgot we were supposed to go for the first scorer!

It's now Friday morning, and plenty to do today whilst at work, all done in breaks of course (!) - press pass requests to deal with, also the match schedule for tomorrow to draw up - we've got a Junior Blues Guard of Honour tomorrow, and also the visit of Ray Crofts, who without any doubt was our last popular chairman (at least one who didn't turn on the club's own fans!), so it will be great to see him back!

Til tomorrow then!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Tyre Pressure & the Power of Twitter!

Not my actual car!

Last night, I was hoping for a nice quaint trip to Stalybridge for the game against 'Celtic' and so after finishing work a little later than planned, I still managed to make an early start from Chester, looking forward to the game and catching up with Jim Harvey.

All had been going well, listening to Talk Sport on the way, with the usual controversial subject of the day being very entertaining, and then time to make a few phone calls - hands free of course - and whilst on the phone to one just heading past the M6 junction, an almighty bang, then the worst case of vibrations experienced since the Ann Summers shop opened up in Chester!

Luckily I was in the slow lane, as I had to pull on to the hard shoulder, and with every bang you do of course think that your car has given up the will to live - especially when it's a 10 year old Saxo, but hey it's only done 30k miles (hence the reason why I bought it!), but when something goes wrong with a car I always fear the worst.

So, stepped out to assess the damage and thankfully the engine hadn't gone - always my first concern, and then looked down to a sorry looking front wheel which had pretty much exploded!

So, being the car mechanic that I am certainly not, I surveyed the damage and though, "shit, I may have to change this" - now I'm not the most gifted when it comes to cars, and all previous cars of mine have had a spare wheel safely stored away in the boot, but this one...underneath - hmmmm.

I got back in the car to gather my thoughts, and thought I'd send a tweet looking for assistance - out of hope more than anything else! Unfortunately in the Saxo, I'd not got breakdown cover - typical, if I'd used the other car, I would have had.

With lorries and cars breezing past me at speeds of over 70mph, and my arse twitching as each one went past, I decided to make a couple of calls, the first was unsuccessful, then the next would be using one of those emergency phones on the road that I thought I would never use!

As soon as I picked the phone up it was ringing, cool. Then answered straight away by a fella from the Highways Agency who then told me that no-one could come out to fix it, but they would tow me to a garage to sort it out tomorrow, with the match at Stalybridge kicking off in just 90 minutes, being towed to a garage was not on my radar - but it would have been completely off the radar if what happened next hadn't happened.

On my way back from the Highways Agency phone - who by the way told me that I had 2 hours to remove my car from the hard shoulder or it would be towed away anyway, and charged for it in the process, all this whilst seemingly standing in an infestation of ants - the kind that looked like those off I'm a Celebrity, in fact I ended up showing more footy skills than David Beckham booting them away!

So, I decided that I'd try and make a few calls to avoid being ripped off, and on the way back from the phone had a black Vauxhall Corsa blast past me tooting their horn (thanks Jay!), and then when I'd given up all hope, up popped a Blue car, and it was none other then the Whelans, and Matty had checked out his Twitter to see that I was stranded - okay, I'd had a tyre pop, but to me anyway I was stranded!

Thankfully out popped Steve from his car, and came over to help me with my problem, and ten minutes later the wheel had been replaced, he made it look so easy, and it probably was to him and any other like minded person, but to me it was a nightmare.

I managed to drive off and take my time, and thankfully get to Stalybridge in good time - thank god I'd set off early - and arrived to be offered a cuppa by one of the home officials, but instead all I wanted was a sink so I could wash!!

Being the Tweeter for the night for ChesterFC it was then time to quickly pick up the team sheet, but as Paul Wheelock from the Chron had already tweeted the team news, I decided to take the easy way out and retweet it - yep, the lazy option.

In fact the rest of the evening it became a battle of who could get the match news out the quickest, but Paul won it hands down - and I gave in due to the fact that typing on a pc is much better and quicker than typing out tweets on a HTC phone, especially one that was rather annoying on the predictive text!

So, the match was a fairly open one, and two goals in the first half did the damage, and that damage also ensured my final bodge of the night, when what was supposed to be my final tweet of the night I stated that we'd won the second half 1-0, completely forgetting that we'd actually drawn it - oh well!!

So, all in all a nice evening weather wise in Stalybridge, complete with a king sized sausage & bacon bap for £2.80, which more than made up for the result last night.

Next stop...Bangor City - thank god that's at home though!

Thanks to The Whelan's for being the (Blue and) White Knights of the Road last night!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

A warm return to the Sunny Exacta

Well following a very difficult week personally in the Banks household, it was a case of getting suited and booted again on Tuesday night for the Southport friendly, and getting back in to the swing of things, it was the first game I’d been at since the Tranmere win.

It was a pretty warm evening again, so it felt quite hot in the ‘ill-fitting Matalan suit’ – and as soon as I was through the doors it was time to get straight into it and get into work-mode but at the football. First to meet the Southport officials who were in the Boardroom, nice people. Then, off to see how our media peeps were, and a quick chat with them to see how things were progressing, especially Blues Live, who are getting bigger and bigger this season, and with the support from the Chester FC Exiles, the product should become better and better as time goes on.

A quick chat followed with Cleggy and also Dan Burns, who will be taking to the pitch for the pre match / half time entertainment we have planned this season at the Exacta, and as Dan is connected to the club’s media side already via the Seals Podcast, it gives us an extra dimension, and hopefully Dan will be able to bring some of those top 10 players of the Decade that was announced on the podcast recently.

The media side of the club will start to gear up again for the start of the season, with hopefully some more interviews with Colin Murray along the way, and also more coverage on other outlets. The Friday Night Football Show is expected to make its return on Friday 12th August, the eve of the new season of course, so keep your ears out for that one, with no doubt a Cilo Green (sp) or Take That tune thrown in too!

As always with most friendly matches, the atmosphere was pretty low key, more akin to a nice evening in the sunshine, and enjoying that, but that all came to halt as Wildey suffered his shoulder injury, so I went down to see what was happening following the long lingering trudge off the pitch, and it was obviously a shoulder problem, and to say he was gutted in the treatment room was an understatement.

Will Osborne and the paramedics were certainly kept busy, and the decision was made to send him to hospital, not what we wanted to see, but neither was the bump sticking up out of his shoulder!

Having text him yesterday morning, Wildey is definitely gutted about what appears to be a lengthy lay off, but he's asked me to thank everyone who has sent him good wishes, hopefully we'll see him back sooner rather than later, but what it does do is open the door of opportunity for the other strikers at the club, and we'll certainly be expecting them to step up to the plate.

The match itself was disappointing too with Southport taking the lead on the stroke of half time, but there was such a great chance to level things up through Jerome Wright in the second half, and I think we all held our head in our hands when that went over the bar!

Southport then took a grip on the match, and there was no way back for us, but as I pointed out to others, we lost 2 pre season friendlies last season and went on to win the League, so I'll settle for the same again, but would prefer it if we just lost the one game in pre season this time around.

So, back in to the swing of things again, and plenty going on as we build up to August 13th.

One thing last night annoyed me, and that was the ridiculous post on DevaChat concerning Gary Kent, with the poster claiming:

Mr Gary Kent treated with such contempt by Chester FC officials/directors can no longer be an employee of Chester FC (CDHT) from September.

Mr Kent has seen more owners and directors come and go than the current board put together yet cannot agree with what is currently happening at the club.

I feel the supporters do not own this club - a select few have made it their own.

Well all I can say is that this post is laughable and downright insulting, and after a reply I decided to log off DC for the rest of the night. I remember I had an honest chat with Gary Kent when the original CFU boycott was taking place, and when he wasn't being paid by SV. We had a good hour on the phone one night as Gary couldn't see why we were boycotting home games, but after the reasons were pointed out, and our plans - which included keeping Gary on as Groundsman - he saw what we were trying to do, and following that conversation, I had a number of good chats with Gary and how he was pleased how things were going.

This post also came as a surprise to me, as only at the board meeting on Monday night were the board advised that Gary was retiring in September - I think it's fair to say we were all surprised, but we all appreciate what Gary has done in the last few decades as Groundsman, and we'll certainly give him a great send off, but "treated with contempt" and "cannot agree with what is happening at the club" are just way, way off the mark.

The supporters do certainly own this club, and many are helping in their own way to run it, volunteering their own services in various places of the club, maybe the original poster should stand for election to the board and then he could see just how much we appreciate everyone's help in running the club the way it should be. Maybe he could sit in the office taking calls, maybe he could pick up rubbish after the match, maybe he could clean the toilets, maybe he could help behind the bar, maybe he could help in the club shop, maybe he could help by being a steward, maybe he could jump inside the BiG Lupus outfit, maybe he could help stuff envelopes, maybe he could run around like a blue arsed fly on match days making sure that everything is going according to plan. We may be the ones in suits on match days, and that's because we are making sure this club looks and acts professional, but believe me, we are 200% appreciative of everyone's role at Chester FC, and there are nearly 2000 owners of the club, who I'm sure are extremely proud of it.

Don't you just dislike people that try to put the club down at every opportunity?

To that poster, try getting off your arse and doing something positive for the club. Many have done, and many will still do, and all take pride in what they do to help. They have been insulted by this remark too.

Right, off my soap box now, I'm going to work...great.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Friday Night Football to return to the Exacta!

Superb goal by Joe Ormrod
What a week it's been, sadly I missed the FC United match due to being away in London all weekend for Mrs B's birthday weekend, but kept in touch via the Twitter feed, and was delighted to see that the lads kept up the 100% pre season record, with a 'come from behind' win - and even better to see that Joe Ormrod scored a cracker on his debut after making the step up from Chester FC Youth last week.

The weekend also saw our pre-season plans being disrupted, thanks to a couple of teams. First of all after setting up a match against Fleetwood on July 23rd - they then ended up going and setting up a match of their own on July 22nd, which made it plainly obvious that they were then only going to send their young kids, something that we were not prepared to see as a fixture, and so the fixture was pulled.

Are you Phil Thompson in disguise?
All through July there has been much discussion over the Stockport friendly, and it's fair to say that we were 'monitoring their situation' very closely indeed - we all know who was 'rumoured' to be linked to their club, but you can go changing fixtures around without knowing full facts, and Didi Hamann confirmed that despite cancelling other away friendlies, he wanted the Chester match to go ahead.

That match would have been discussed further in time, but then Stockport then advised us that they were pulling out of the game, quite insulting really knowing that it didn't leave much time to sort out another game, bear in mind that 99% of teams already have a friendly set up for that date - shame we didn't book Accrington Stanley in instead hey!

People will ask why we need to play so many games at home, it's simple, we have money to raise in our pre-season games as part of our budget, so to have pre-season messed around the way it has been is rather annoying not just to us, but to Neil Young who will have been gearing his team up for these friendlies.

It's not been easy to get friendlies booked in against the 'big' teams, with many of them sorting out their schedules well in advance, and despite us requesting 'glamour' friendlies against some big clubs, it just hasn't happened for one reason or another this year, although a large part of that is the fact that virtually every Premier League club has left the UK for a tour elsewhere, and the further they travel the longer they need to prepare & recover, hence the lack of dates available, but again it's something we'll look at for next year, and I'm confident that we'll have a friendly or two against Premier League opposition next season.

We have of course a game now against Airbus on Friday night, and one to look forward to, it will certainly be one for Ash Williams to look forward to given his move from The Wingmakers last year, and another good chance for fans to see the Chester lads who are doing well this time round as well, and it showed how much the lads want this, by their performances against Tranmere & FCUM (okay, I'm basing my thoughts on FCUM from the NATV clips, but it looked like we were up for it!).

Looking forward to getting back to it all on Friday night, and hopefully a third win in a row for the Blues!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Football's back at the Exacta!

After what seems an eternity, football eventually re-appeared at the Exacta Stadium on Tuesday night with a visit from an extremely strong Tranmere Rovers side.

Exacta looking good again
It was great to get back in to the swing of things, although with all the planning and meetings taken place in the summer so far, it doesn't actually feel like we've stopped or had a break, but everyone - including me - felt the excitement of seeing the lads and in particular the new signings, on the lavish green grass at the Exacta.

They didn't let us down either with a good performance that saw them take the game to Rovers, remembering that Tranmere were four leagues higher than us, and what a goal from Wes Baynes to clinch the win...stunning!

The preparations for pre-season have been going on for a while of course, and we have been trying to secure a pre-season friendly against Premier League opposition, but so far have been unsuccessful with most as they just don't seem to be able to fit us in to their hectic schedules - talks are still ongoing with a couple of them, but they may not come off this year, there is still a small possibility of it happening though, so I won't write it off completely.

We have of course got many home games in our pre-season line up and that will of course benefit the players - in particular the new lads - as they'll be able to get used to match conditions on the fantastic surface at the Exacta, again great credit to Gary Kent & CDHT for helping out there - it certainly looked good the other night.

BiG Lupus - a bit hot!
Off the field we've been very busy still at the club, and appearances at various fetes and events such as Chester Events, Blacon/Hapsford/Lache fetes, and many more to come - all promoting the Club and City Fans United/Junior Blues - it's all very important to keep that up - although I think BiG Lupus may have shed several stones in the last few weeks with the heat, in fact I think he may go onto the opposite of the Atkins Diet to build him up a little bit again!

It was great to see Andy Donaldson & BiG Storage sponsoring BiG Lupus again, Andy has certainly put his money where his mouth is since we reformed, and is a great credit to the Chester Business Community.

There have been a few changes around too based on fans comments, we have taken on board suggestions to have beer available inside the ground during matches, and we were hoping to start trialling that on Tuesday against Tranmere, but thanks to a delivery that never turned up, we were unable to start it, but it should be fine for the match against Fleetwood on the 23rd, which incidentally is our Chester FC Community Day, in which we hope to have the Army, Fire & Rescue, Police, and the North West Ambulance Service amongst others exhibiting in the Car Park, whilst there will be the chance to have a go at the Soccer Speed Shot, something to test your footie skills out on, and also the Chester FC Youth will be giving you the chance to take part in a penalty shoot out before you head into the Exacta. It all gets underway at 10am on the 23rd.

So, back to Tuesday, and I must admit it felt good putting the blue & white tie on again, the first time since the Town Hall celebration at the back end of May, but here we go again, maybe the start of another memorable season - let's hope so.

Can you hear me Cleggy?
The plan for the match day entertainment is always low key on the pre-season friendlies, and all we had planned for the half time sequence was the draw for 2 tickets to the Manor House Stables Box at Chester Racecourse, and that was going to be drawn by Tom Dascombe, successful trainer, but there was no plan for me to even talk at half time, but just as I was leaving the house I got a phone call from Jim Harvey asking if he could bring along 2 former Chester City players to the game, so naturally I said if we can get them on the pitch for a quick interview then yes!

And so, they did - to their credit, they looked as nervous as hell, so I kept the questions brief, as I said I wasn't planning to speak at all, but that all changed!

The sound system has long been a bug bear, and there were plenty of faults with it pre match - largely due to the fact that there had been so many Community games played in May, and plenty will I'm sure have fiddled with sound level buttons, which left Cleggy all over the place when he opened up, and plenty of microphone screeches, so for anyone blaming him, please think again, it really wasn't his fault!

What made it even harder for him was the fact that a team sheet had been provided, but when the substitutes were being made, the numbers didn't correspond with the actual players, and some didn't even have a number at all, which as you can imagine threw him into total confusion, as it would with anyone else, we were talking whilst one sub was taking place, and I jokingly suggested that we should get the Tranmere fans to sing the name of the player coming on, thankfully we didn't do that!

Although when the Chester substitution happened, and he changed the name about five times, I went in to the PA room and gave him the Alan Sugar look, and said, "Cleggy, it's with regret, you're fired!" - all jokingly of course, as the job he does is very good, and not just about talking in that room, he gets a lot of requests thrown at him in a short space of time, plus it's boiling in that little room!

So back to the game again, and I thought we did well in the first half, more than matching Tranmere, and putting some good moves together, and particularly liked the free kick that caught them cold, but sadly Powelly couldn't get it past their keeper, and the chance had gone.

Wildey was doing his usual role in shrugging off the defenders and making his way into the box and was unlucky not to score, but score was something Wes Baynes did, and what a way to score too, picking up a loose ball from 25 yards out before hammering one into the top corner, a great way to introduce yourself to the Chester fans, and especially after coming to the Blues from the dark side too, perfect way to start.

Tranmere had a couple of chance but bar the late flurry you always felt that we were in control of the game, and when the final whistle went, Les Parry came up to wish us all well, fair play he's a nice bloke, and of course was the first person to agree to a friendly last season when I was with him on Colin Murray's live show in Liverpool University.

Following the match, there were a few jobs to do, and great to see the Lounge was full of potential sponsors for next season, and a very successful night was had up there and many put themselves down for match sponsorship for the new season, and I'm sure Pat will reveal just how much in Saturday's programme, but there was certainly a large smile on his face!

Well that will do it for now, as got to get ready for work, but just time to refer to a nice little piece in the latest issue of When Saturday Comes, where they have a feature of fan owned clubs, and a nice picture of the open top bus in May.

More good publicity!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Promotion Party & Parade draws a line under the season

What an amazing time Chester fans had last weekend, with the City Fans United Promotion Party last Friday night, followed by the Town Hall Civic Reception on Saturday which included the first open top bus tour since the 1970s featuring a winning Chester side on the top deck, complete with Championship trophy!

Friday was quite an eventful day to say the least, I'd been in touch with Daryl Clare as I'd invited him as CFU's guest for the evening together with his family. It was 12 months to the very date that Daryl had last been over for the Chester FC Re-Lanch at the Guild Hall, so what better opportunity for him to come over and see what had been achieved in that space of time.

I'd kept Daryl in the loop on how things were going as well as keeping up to date on how his career was going with Alfreton, who enjoyed promotion to the Conference this season. Daryl was certainly keen to come over and join in with our celebrations.

Oops, wrong Travelodge - nice one Jeff!
So, Daryl was booked into the hotel, and thought I'd give him the directions to the hotel, but completely forget that there were two hotels of the same chain in the City Centre, and yes, I'd given him the wrong hotel directions, so I got the call at just after 6pm on the Friday night with Daryl already walking through town from Pepper Street down past the Grosvenor Museum - the woman at Travelodge by the amphitheatre had told them it was only 10 minutes walk - what she didn't tell them was the best way to get to the Travelodge up by the Fountains roundabout!

I offered to go and pick him up, but as I was in the Saxo, it would have been a bit tricky to fit 2 adults, 3 kids, a buggy and a case in the car - Daz had already parked his car up in the car park by the other Travelodge so had decided to leave it in there overnight.

He declined the lift as he was happy for them all to have a walk up the road to the roundabout, but then I received a call back from him telling me little Courtney's CD was still in the car, so like a fireman running to his fire engine, here I was running to the Saxo - all ready for the Racecourse, but it was time for a slight diversion, so off I went picked him up and drove back to the car park, had a great chat along the way, whilst feeling a complete knob for giving him the wrong hotel directions!

Anyway, back to the hotel, dropped off, and then I made my way to the Racecourse for the do, had a good chat with Jonathan Legard who was hosting the evening, and began to relax, speaking to various supporters there on the night, and I'd decided that that's how I'd approach the evening, by catching up with many fans who I'd not had the chance to do a few weeks ago at the Club Awards evening.

It was a great night, with the CFU Player of the Year award going to Michael Wilde, the Away Travel Player of the Year going to George Horan, and the Best Dressed Award going to Gary Powell!!!

It was also great to see the Chairman of the Evo-Stik League along with the League Operations Manager attending the do to present Wildey with his Golden Boot Award, and with it a great speech by the Chairman who announced that we should never have been placed in that League, and that was greeted by an ovation by the Chester fans at the venue.

Courtney Clare - a star in the making!
Then we were tresated to a rendition of Danny Boy from the talented Courtney Clare, another reason why Daryl had brought the family over with him. Little Courtney has already wowed many with her singing, and the Pavillion Suite was certainly brought to a halt to listen to the 8 year old sing, and what a reception she got at the end of her song, a standing ovation!

Another song was to follow, and we really believe that she could go far, although I'm not sure where that voice came from, it certainly didn't come from her dad, although I joked with him the other day that he should get up and sing at the next do!

The rest of the evening saw a great quiz, where Michael Wilde showed us an impression of Iain Howard, and George Horan did the same for Carl Ruffer!

Then we had an amazing auction that saw Trevor Storton's shirt being auctioned for over £500 - amazing, and the very first yellow away kit for next season being bought for £210 - nice one Chris!

That topped off the evening, and I had to head home at that point, but the following morning was amazing too, and having got up early made my way down to the Exacta Stadium for the start of the bus tour. We were expecting the players to pack out the top of the bus, but a few late withdrawals meant that there were a few spaces left, so I took my place at the back of the bus, and when we got going from the Stadium, we passed a handful of people down Bumpers Lane, whilst the police then raced off to the traffic lights to stop the traffic, and let the bus make its way round onto Sealand Road - I think we were all rather cautious as the bus turned a corner, holding on tight!!

Mind the Bridge!
The bus eventually made its way up Canal Street which saw the first real load of fans waiting for us with flags, before we then turned on to Northgate Street to see the bridge above packed with people taking photos, and then passing that we then saw the crowds in the distance - we'd all wondered if it would be a half decent turnout, but I think its fair to say we were all left gobsmacked when we saw just how many people had made their way to the Town Hall - we felt like a Premier League team that had just won the title, or the FA Cup, as all you could see was a swarm of blue and white everywhere!

What a great sight!
The bus bypassed the Town Hall, before embarking on a trip down Werburgh Street, and one lady heading out of her workplace for an early brekky it would seem, shouted "Not being funny but who are ya?" in a big scouse accent, I shouted back "We're Chester!" with arms open wide. She then responded, "Ah, I'm not from round here", to which I sarcastically shouted back "You can tell!" given the strong accent, and lack of knowledge about the club!

Anyway, heading round Eastgate Row you could see the tourists thinking WTF?? But it was great that on Races Day we could give the City something different to celebrate, and when we made our way back up the cobbles on Northgate Street, people were hanging out of windows above shops to greet us, all that was missing was the ticker tape!!!

I'd been filming most of this as it was something I wanted to keep forever, and so glad I did, as it gave the different angle of the bus tour from the top deck, rather than the countless many videos taken from within the crowds.

The bus came to a halt and the players were quite rightly given a magnificent welcome by the crowd, and a few interviews were carried out - whilst I took the opportunity of grabbing the trophy and thrusting it in the air in celebration - have it!!!

So, in to the reception we went inside the town hall, where a couple of nice speeches were given by the Mayoress and also Mike Jones, and it really hammered home just how much we'd pleased the community with the efforts on and off the pitch this season and long may it continue.

The morning ended with the though, bugger I've got to get back to the Exacta now to pick the car up, and so I took the No 10A to Connahs Quay via Sealand Road, not quite as glamorous as being on the top of the bus, but a great chance to reflect on what had been an amazing day in the growing history of Chester Football Club!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Time for it all to quieten down? No, not really!

It's been a couple of weeks since that amazing finale to our season, and the superb promotion party - part 1 at Chester Racecourse last Saturday night - what a do that was.

It was always promising to be a great do, the moment Colin Murray gave his thumbs up to hosting it, and what a job he did, and to be fair to him he was feeling worse for ware before the event, suffering from illness, and on the Friday afternoon I got the "bad news" call - I thought 'oh no, this is it, we're going to see our host pull out' - and to make matters worse we kept on missing each other's calls as I was down at Chester Races celebrating with the lads, when at the end of the afternoon I'd noticed the missed call!

Anyway, the voicemail was classic, "Jeff, I've got some bad news I'm afraid, but not as bad news as bad news could be, but it's still bad news" - I was already confused with that!

Anyway, I phoned him back and he told me that he'd been drafted in to do the Sunday afternoon show that he thought he'd got out of, and that meant that he had to be in work at 9am on the Sunday, add to that he was feeling rough, but he said he was still intent on coming up to host the event, and so he did driving up after his saturday show finished, and he would head straight back down to London from our event at 11pm - what commitment to the cause that was!!!

He did a great job, and some of the gags were classic, at one point I thought we'd hired a comedian for the night! The best thing though was that he was so down to earth and bring Perry with him was great too, who was well up for slamming those drinks down his throat!

Perry was sat on the same table as our Chairman, and it wasn't long before he came over to our table to speak to Colin telling him that the Chairman had said that there may be room for 3 people on the board so you know what Perry was thinking....I was busy thinking "oh no, what have I started here, Colin, Perry & Pat on the board???" - that would make board meetings interesting!!!

The night itself saw the awards dished out to the players, and Wildey & George definitely deserved their accolades, and now the battle is on to become the CFU Player of the Year, which takes place this coming Friday night, another event to be hosted by a top BBC sports person, this time in the form of Chester fan Jonathan Legard.

The best award of the night had to be the Clubman of the Year Award, which saw Richard Wightman voted as the winner of the award, and it was great to see Richard's mum Lesley come up and collect the award, I think it was fair to say that moment was so full of emotion for everyone concerned, but well deserved too.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that things wind down now that the season is over, well I wish that was the case, there is still so much going on, what with the CFU Promotion Party to be organised (and at this point I'll say that Pat Cluskey has done a great job with both Parties), and also the Open Top Bus Tour for the Saturday morning before the Races, it's still a busy time.

For me personally, it's been a nightmare last couple of weeks, with serious family illnesses dominating my life, and maybe I've put football ahead of that which at times is inexcusable I will admit, but people who know me will know that I'll always try and do my best to balance things up.

Looking at the forums in the last week has seen a huge debate on the pricing of season tickets and matchday admission, and a hell of a lot has been said, some healthy debate, others totally off the mark - and the fact of the matter is we discussed this in great depth to ensure we arrived at the right decision. It must be remembered that each one of us on the board is a big Chester fan, and we go through what everyone else goes through, we all have season tickets ourselves, and do what we do for the love of our club.

The decision arrived at therefore was to increase the prices slightly - and I do believe it's slightly, given the fact that it's a solitary pound on the Harry Mac - which is mainly where the younger people go, and £2 in the stands - mainly where a lot more of adults go, not that that's the reason for the increase - nothing like it at all, we're just looking at the future, and if we want to be challenging for promotion from the Conference in a few years time, then we have to be looking at full time football - that is going to be a key life-changing moment as far as the football club is concerned, and we have to be ready for it, we have to be ambitious.

If prices were kept as they were last seaosn, then we'll go into next season with the same budget for the manager to use, when we all know that wages will be higher as you climb the leagues, and in the conference you're looking at annual wage bills of £500k-£1m, so to prepare for that kind of money, we have to look at the long term strategy, I really don't believe the price increases are unfair, in fact I've spoken to lots of people and they really do believe that the prices are fair, and as all money is going back in to the club then they are happy to pay it.

We also asked in the survey last year if people would be prepared to pay more in order to keep the youth prices down, and a huge percentage backed this idea, this prior to this year's Census which saw another massive vote for raising the prices if it meant we could move forward again - the questions is over the word 'modest' increase - which I believe the increase is.

Another point was made that the prices should have been kept as they were 'as a thank you' to everyone, and again i refer to the point that we are all fans, who want the best for our club, and there are indeed other ways we can offer thanks to fans for the journey we are embarking on, like for instance the Club threw a party for the fans who have committed countless hours to the club, volunteering their time to clean up after games, working the turnstiles, selling programmes, running the shop, helping behind the bar, and many many more vital jobs that need doing, all because they love their club, and I know they appreciated it.

That's the way the Club should look after it's army of volunteers, and they will be represented at next week's Civic Reception at the Town Hall, not everyone will be due to the numbers allowed, but they'll be represented nonetheless.

We're also looking at the kids, as they have formed 30% of the support that the club has now got, I somehow think that if prices had been raised by £1 for them, and only £1 for the adults in the seated stands, then there wouldn't have been half the kick off that there has been, but we wanted to keep the kids prices as they are given that they are the future, and any rise for their prices would be unhealthy at this point.

The board will always be open to criticism, we have to make decisions, and so far most of them have proved to be the right decisions, the club is looking professional from top to bottom right now, and will continue to do so, but we must look to progress - looking at the Conference, many teams have got into it but not prepared for the step up, and hopefully when it happens, it will be a massive step up, but we have to be ready for it.

On the player front, it's been an exciting few days with the arrival of Jamie Rainford, I know Steve Ashton has done a tremendous amount of work with Neil on Jamie's signing, and it's resulted in Chester getting an excellent deal on the transfer, given that Marine wanted a lot more money for him last season.

I obviously won't go into the figures agreed, but to see £60k quoted was completely laughable, and should in no way be taken seriously, a bit like the fact that people believe some of our players are on £500 a week, two words..."Get Real!!!" - that really is complete nonsense - let's not forget Chester City FC were paying that for full time wages, well they should have been paying them I should have said, but our lads are on wages nowhere near that amount, and I'm sure they'd love to be on that kind of money, but they're not!

The transfers kept coming too, with Liam Brownhill's addition on Saturday, and another one in the pipeline at the moment, but as ever we'll stay tightlipped - we put a press release out the other day about Jamie Rainford, as the two clubs agreed the other day that rumours about the player were unhelpful, so we moved quickly to put that to bed.

Anyway, another week has passed at Chester FC, as the dust begins to settle on the promotion campaign, but as said, one more party to come, followed by the bus tour, and I think we better get that trophy in bubble wrap, and hope that we don't have a Real Madrid moment on the bus!