Monday, 28 February 2011

One step closer to that title...

It's been a busy old 10 days and that's why I've not had chance to blog recently, so here we go time to catch up, and a lot to catch up on, the win at Chorley, the Cup defeat at Lancaster, and the win against Durham, which sees the Blues go nine points clear at the top of the table.

So, Chorley first.

Let's get the ugly out of the way first, and a lot has been said already about the scenes at Victory Park, and I'm not going to talk too much about it as it is all being dealt with behind the scenes, but let's just say that scenes like that should never have been allowed to happen on the day, and steps should have been taken to have a police presence inside the ground given the way the match was being built up.

The statement that we came out with was labelled by one individual on a forum as "pathetic" yet to everyone else it was bang on and as diplomatic as we could make it. I think that individual would have created quite possibly the most unprofessional had he been given the task of doing the statement - and that is why we have a bunch of more than decent people running the club, as they can help keep the club looking professional by casting eyes over suggested statements and offering amendments where necessary.

A great away following at 1-0 Victory Park
It would have been completely the wrong thing to do to go out all guns blazing with a statement that blamed everyone else, except ourselves - we needed to get our own house in order before complaining about others, however that statement did register our dissatisfaction at what we'd seen at Chorley.

We could have come out with a knee jerk reaction to the events, but instead the extra few days following that statement release gave us the chance to let the dust settle, and then really get stuck into what happened that day, and put our feelings across - hence why my ugly mug found it's way onto the Chester Leader and Chester Standard too - that flippin picture wasn't exactly my finest hour either!

We've obviously written to the police and made our feelings known pretty clearly there, and we await to see what response we get. One thing I will say though is how hard hitting the Chronicle was last Thursday, and no-one should have to witness things like that, and as for the last comments by a Chorley 'fan'...well I'm not even gonna say anything, apart from the fact the lad should be embarrassed to actually be part of their supporters trust.

Are you Judgey in disguise?
I decided to jump on the Team Bus last Saturday as it was a big day and fancied doing a Q&A on Twitter with the players, and there were some great questions, including one for Adam Judge - had he ever been called Michael Buble before - he did laugh, and surprisingly said "yes" - although perhaps the funniest one was for Brad Barnes, who was the last person to call him Tom Cruise? About 5 of the lads all said at the same time, "himself!".

We then arrived at Chorley's ground only to be told to drive round the estate again, it became a farce in the end as we were directed to exactly the same point we'd been at before!

As for the game itself, well what a nervous ending, but what a great noise in behind the goal, and after the debacle of everyone getting white on their backs thanks to the newly painted turnstiles (why???), it was time to get the voice going and lots of singing was the order of the day, but those missed chances in the first half got you thinking was it going to be our day?

Well the second half proved it was, and in the distance great to see Wildey chasing down the defenders and forcing the error which led to Boothy scoring what turned out to be the winner, as everyone in the Chester end went delirious with delight.

Only 5 minutes injury time??
The rest of the game was a case of hoping we'd get that second goal, but the longer it went on, we knew we were approaching Flitcroft time, and when the board went up for 5 minutes, we just knew this was going to be a tense ordeal, and so it proved, but also proved how calm Chester remained under pressure - granted there were 2 good chances for the home side, but other than that, we just threw bodies in the way of everything, and the sweet sound of that final whistle signalled the fact that we were now well clear of Chorley in the table. Satisfaction.

The atmosphere inside the changing room was clear to hear, some very happy lads in there, although there was natural concern for Iain Howard who had gone off to hospital.

As I said, a lot of has been said about the aftermath, so I won't comment further on that.

So, the table looked great after that victory, and next up would be the President's Cup Semi Final at Lancaster, which sadly I couldn't make so had to follow the game on Twitter, and what a disastrous start, down to 10 men so early in the game, and the resulting penalty putting us one down.

Fair play to the lads for pulling it back though, and also good to hear that our hosts were extremely welcoming - as most have been this season wherever we've gone - and hearing that we'd equalized got the hopes going that we'd score another before the end to allow us to reach a Final for the first time in nearly a decade, but it wasn't to be as we were beaten in extra time and a long and late journey back for the lads.

Speaking to Chris Williams on Saturday at the game, and he said he got back at just after 2am then up for work at 8am, the joys of being a part time footballer hey?

Great to see Greg Stones & Michael Wilde take part in the Mobile Soccer Stadia event at Flint on Thursday night, Greg was very keen to promote this as he works for the Flintshire Youth Justice Service, and great for our players to be out there in the Community supporting initiatives like this.

Also on Thursday, an interview with Dee 106 to cover based on the events at Chorley, but had to wait until after work that one as it had been a very busy one for me on Thursday, well all week really!

Onto Friday, and the usual promoting of the Dee 106 Friday Night Footy Show on facebook & twitter, but lots of other stuff going on Friday too meant that the official website was a busy one, with the match preview and also the news that the players were going to do a signing session for the kids before the Durham game - a move we decided to make based on the fact that many children were involved in the scary scenes at Chorley, and we wanted to make them feel that they were extremely welcome at Chester Football Club, and their support has been great all season, with lots of them being decked out in blue and white!

Then to Saturday, and as usual a busy pre match, that saw John Kelly in as our Legend of the Week, my clearest memories of John in a Chester shirt are the goals against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup at Sealand Road, the Owls were in the top league at the time, and Lee Chapman was playing for them, but JK put us 1-0 up after just 7 minutes as Harry's boys tore into their visitors, in the same season that we beat Wrexham twice in the Cup of course.

Chapman though got them back on level terms though thanks to a foul on Billy Stewart which the ref never blew for, and they held out for a replay which they beat us 3-1 in of course.

The other goal I seem to recall JK scoring is the one that went in off his arse I think, against Man Utd in the 'official' opening of the Deva Stadium back in 1992!

Anyway, the busy pre match stuff was done, and now onto the game, a match of course that on paper we should have won comfortably - so I took my seat. That was the problem, my superstition is normally to stand at games, but this time I took a seat, and Durham promptly scored, so that was it back to my feet, and standing by the door, and thankfully Simmo scored at the end of what was a dismal first half to watch.

The Ruffer keeps Chorley in his pocket
So, to the second half , and this time Chester were putting much more together, and it didn't take long before the Ruffer put us 2-1 up, even if it did come with the help of a deflection, although I'm sure he'd disagree with that - but I thought Ruffer had a superb game on Saturday with some crunching challenges.

Then the agonising wait for a third goal we all knew was needed, having seen a few 2-2's already this year we didn't want another, so we were all naturally delighted when Kyle took his goal very well indeed, and nice one in off the far post, and that was that - the points were in the bag.

A quick look at the other scores told us that Skem & Fylde were winning, but Curzon who always seem to have about 2 or 3 games in hand on us were losing, and so it transpired, and the Blues went 9 points clear at the top, and 11 clear of Chorley, who didn't play.

So, a quick drink in the bar after the game, before settling down for the night and reflecting on another match down, 16 to go, and hopefully not too much longer before we can all start to celebrate a championship win!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Busy Busy Busy as Friday is set to be Media Day!

Well this week has seen another busy week in the media role at the club with plenty going on!

But first, reflections on the match at Woodley Sports on Tuesday - or rather, the lack of a match on Tuesday!

BP garage - not quite Woodley Sports FC
Tuesday didn't start well for me, as the sat nav was programmed in, and guided me all the way through the motorways to Stockport in about 45 minutes flat, before telling me we were 1.2 miles from the ground, but when the voice said destination on the left I looked in amazement as I didn't realise that Woodley Sports played at a BP garage - thanks Sat Nav - useless piece of s...

Anyway, "perform a U-turn" was the most annoying and regular thing I was hearing as I tried to work out where the hell the ground was, so had to pull over and then drive with one hand on the Evo-Stik League handbook for directions, whilst the other steered me to what I hoped was closer to the ground!

When I eventually got there, you could feel the friendliness of the place from the off, and after a lovely pre match burger, I went to meet Woodley's official Wayne Ashworth, who had gone out of his way to accommodate Chester, and provide a great night for Blues fans - inviting comments from Chester fans in the match day programme, offering hospitality for just £25, reducing prices for Dads & Lads to a tenner, when they could quite easily have increased prices for this fixture.

Naturally being pulled from pillar to post, and then the big nightmare started, the lights started to fail, with them coming back on, before going off again - repeat that two or three times and we know what happened.

I was gutted for Wayne who was so keen to get the game on, but this one was out of his hands, one thing that struck me was how many electric "experts" there seemed to be all of a sudden at the game.

We're working with Woodley & the Evo-Stik League to come up with a solution, and hopefully that will mean a game back at Woodley free or charge - it's a shame that some fans cannot make the re-arranged game on April 5th, and Woodley won't be able to say that a refund can be made until they have agreement with the Evo-Stik League, so those who think the club are ;fobbing them off' should just give them a bit of time to sort things out - they have to do this the correct way, which is why it's not being rushed.

The attention if of course turned now to the Chorley game on Saturday, and even though the game is actually tomorrow, there has been so much going on in the last couple of days media wise it's been hard to catch up!

On Wednesday we had the Alan Irwin Show on City Talk, with then Podcast being made available here - Alan, who has upped City's coverage of the Blues this season, had Neil Young & Michael Wilde on the show which is in the studios at the top of the Liverpool tower, and I can tell you now you can feel the thing swaying when you're up there!

"Get in! I've got Wildey on my show!"
 Then yesterday I got a call from Colin Murray, who initially was ringing about his designer sunglasses that he left up here last time he visited - and he's going on holiday on Saturday so he wanted them back - so I did him a fair trade, he could have them if he got Wildey on his Friday night show, and I don't think he needed too much persuasion, as Wildey is of course the number one striker around!

We were also trying to sort out a time when Colin & friends could make it back up for a game, which will be on a Wednesday, so barring any more fixture changes I'm hoping that he'll be up for the game against Salford on the 9th March - and now here lies the spooky link - Colin's birthday is actually the 10th March, and what happened on the 10th March last year? Hmmm, a Chester fan for life guaranteed now, as his birthday falls on Day 1 of the reformation of Chester FC!

Colin also confirmed some more good news as Pat Nevin has now confirmed for the event on May 7th at Chester Racecourse, so that's the full set now, Colin, Perry, and Pat will all be attending.

Also tonight, The Non League Channel (internet based station) will be featuring the comments from Neil Young ahead of the game at Chorley on Saturday, so more coverage there.

The Friday Night Football Show also on tonight with myself joining Neil & Pat in the studio, thanks to Shane for the invite.

Also, yes there's more - the Seals Podcast should be out today which features the 'Team of the Decade' and I have to admit mine was sneaked in, at the last minute, so hopefully it made a difference to the voting!

So, all that AND the fact that tomorrow is the big game - it'll just be nice to slow down for the game!!!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The highs and lows of being a Chester fan!

Well it’s been a while since I last blogged, in fact 11 days, so plenty to catch up with on all things Chester FC.

Travelodge Durham - a bit busy last week!
  It was great to see Wildey take the goalscoring charts by storm recently, and obviously at Durham where he grabbed himself a hat trick, scoring all the goals in a 3-0 win on the artificial pitch with many making the trip to spend the weekend up in Durham!

Then onto Fylde on the Tuesday night where Wildey was rested, and many were expecting a very close game with Fylde, and that’s certainly how it started with Fylde going close on more than one occasion, but then the goal from Kyle Wilson started the ball rolling for us, and it wasn’t long before the second arrived when Iain Howard netted to effectively kill the game.

Then up popped Robbie Booth to score a third goal, and well deserved given Boothy’s form recently, and that was it, job done, in the Cup Semi Final, against either Curzon Ashton or Lancaster City – time will tell on that, but the fact remains we’re one win away from the final!

The following day I did an interview for which will hopefully be published soon – great to see another media outlet getting interested in Chester FC – and we have a Chester fan in Gazz Pashley to thank for helping to set that up.

Then on Thursday, the day everyone wasn’t particularly looking forward to – the day when we would say farewell to Rich Wightman, and a half day at work was followed by the funeral at Caldy Valley Church which was packed out, and that was replicated at Blacon Crematorium where everyone had crammed in to the small venue for the service – even the Minister taking the service was astounded at the numbers turning up for Rich.

Then back to the Exacta Stadium for the Wake, and spirits were lifted throughout the afternoon with the family being extremely appreciative towards Chester fans, that was Rich’s life, and I’m sure will continue to be up there as he looks down from above.

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it's Wildey!
So, after a draining day for all, back to the football, and on Saturday Rich’s family and friends – about 30 in all were there to see the Blues thump home 5 goals in an amazing second half period that saw yet another Wilde hat trick – it wouldn’t surprise me to see him run into a telephone box, do a few twists, and all of a sudden come out as the caped crusader!

Typically, I managed to miss his best goal of the afternoon having run into tell those still working behind the scenes that it was 2-0, all I heard was a massive roar before getting my vantage point, it was like one of those moments where you see your bus driving off in the distance just as you’ve turned the last corner for the bus stop!

It didn’t help that doorman Ed told me that it was one of his best goals, great – just great. Thank god for NATV’s highlights package hey?

Made sure Colin Murray was aware of the score, and he promptly replied by saying we need to keep hold of Wildey – now there’s an understatement of the year!

Following the match was of course ‘the queue’ for the Chorley tickets – having only been given 1200 tickets (1100 initially until we advised we would need more), there were 500 tickets going on general sale, and a queue that featured about 20 people in it just after 4pm soon grew to around 250 by 4.45pm, and by 5pm it had stretched to 450 – such was the demand for a ticket to the match at Victory park – let’s hope it’s us who are celebrating a ‘Victory’ at the ‘Park’ on Saturday.

I began counting the numbers in the queue to try and assure everyone that they would be okay for a ticket, but unfortunately I ended up getting into conversations with people, and that was it, lost my count so I’d have to start again!

Thankfully the queue never went beyond the 500 mark, and only 20 tickets were left to sell on Monday at the ground, which as expected were snapped up in 5 minutes!

Sausage & Chips - you just can't beat it!
 So, a great weekend was had with Chester winning by a 5-0 margin, sausage & chips on the way home before celebrating with a few glasses of wine – well more than a few, but still just managed to watch Match of the Day, albeit hanging on to whatever vision I had left after all that Pinot Grigio!

Yesterday was of course St Milner’s Day with Chester fans across the globe paying tribute to the man who rescued a point from the very large jaws of defeat at the Racecourse that night 16 years ago – I remember it well as I’d left my tickets on the dining room table such was the rush to get over to that place down the 483.

I remember the sinking feeling once I’d got the massive floodlights in range, but I had no alternative, I had to go back for them as I was not missing this game – so I flew down the 483 back to Chester – thankfully the police must all have been concentrating on other matters so they didn’t see me going at 116mph all the way back to Chester! (hope they aren’t reading this by the way!)

Anyway, made it back in time – just – and got to witness an incredible 90 minutes, where the Blues had 12 men to beat (that referee was just encouraging a riot wasn’t he with his decisions?) and whilst we didn’t beat Wrexham, that equalizer was like the greatest goal ever, and probably one of the most celebrated goals ever too!

Ooh Andy Milner, Ooh Andy Milner!
So, raised a glass to Andy Milner yesterday too!

Onto today, or tonight to be more precise and 3 points is the order of the day at Woodley Sports, who have been extremely welcoming so far, hopefully they’ll allow us to leave with maximum points tonight, although I don’t want any on the way home down the M56!

Come on you Blues!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Richie, Leigh, and Chorley!

Well what an emotional last few days it's been at Chester FC, with the sad passing of Rich, which I've already blogged on here.

Still smiling Richie lad!
It's been great to see Richie's mum the last few days and assure her that the club are going to do absolutely everything it can to pay tribute to the great man - we have a number of things planned, and we will of course have a minute's applause next Saturday (12th February) at the Exacta Stadium when we take on Clitheroe.

It's been very moving reading all the tributes that have been left for Rich both on Facebook and also at the Stadium gates where many have left flowers and scarves, and I'm sure there will be many more yet.

Turning back to footballing matters, and sadly Tuesday night we couldn't get that win for Rich, but we did manage not to lose a game that appeared to be heading that way up to the last 5 minutes after Leigh Genesis had scored with just 20 minutes left to play.

If only it were that light on Tuesday!
Getting to the ground was a challenge as I didn't have a sat nav to play with, so it was pure scribbled down instructions from Google Maps, and constant flicking the light on whilst driving to see where the hell I was supposed to be heading.

One embarrassing moment was when we were on the estate leading up to the ground, I pulled over as I saw two figures walking towards a house, having wound my window down I shouted "Oi hads, don't suppose you know the way to Crilly Park do you?" - imagine my shame when out of the shadows into the light appeared one of the 'lads' that was actually a young woman - ooops - should have gone to Spec Savers!

We didn't perform well at all on the night, and although the 'larger than life' goalkeeper Phil Priestley caught everything, we should have tested him more.

A few glancing headers went wide of the target when an inch the other way would have found the net, and Wildey tried his best to find a goal but it just wouldn't happen. Just when things were looking very very grim for the Blues, and with the light getting seemingly worse at the small ground, nice work between Iain Howard and Michael Wilde set up Chris Simm who made no mistake from 15 yards and we were back level again.

Up to that point I'd been standing on what must have been the coldest bit of concrete around, as I could hardly move when we scored - or was that in fear of jumping off the step into a massive pool of mud - I don't know!

So, we ended it 1-1, and kept our unbeaten record going and also the record of scoring in every League game this season so far too.

The next thing to happen was the Chorley saga, and the tickets were received for the away game at their place on February 19th - but all tickets were labelled up as £10 with no concessions.

Spotted in Lancashire, can you guess where?
This naturally didn't go down too well, and what made it worse is that Chorley became the only club this season to want to charge more for away fans than home fans, something clearly unacceptable in football.

If it wasn't bad enough to see kids being charged a tenner for entry, it was even worse to know that home fans would watch the match for £3 less and with better facilities than what Chester fans would get.

The Club made their feelings known on the matter, and we await to see whether the League agrees that this is unacceptable - there are rumours that a decision has been made and that Chorley will be made to sell all tickets at £7 - not just their own.

Chester FC travel to Durham this weekend, and the lads are staying over this weekend, so hopefully that will enable them to have a good go on the artificial pitch tonight before the main event tomorrow.

Let's hope for 3 points!

Come on City!