Monday, 28 March 2011

The promotion push goes on...

So, last time I did a proper blog I was talking before the game at Lancaster where we hoped we'd continue our impressive away form - well it didn't turn out that way, and we lost our unbeaten record on the road, and our first defeat in 16 games, which was a great shame, but it was always a tall ask to see us going unbeaten away from the Exacta all season.

What wasn't expected was two really pointless threads about Neil Young & Martin Gritton - now whilst we all accept criticism, some of it unwelcome, but some of it genuine, and to learn from, I do feel that some over-stepped the mark - I mean, you'd have thought Martin Gritton had become the anti-Christ after featuring in just 5 games for the club - despite being man of the match against Clitheroe, it didn't quite happen in the next few games, but that can happen - I just feel that certain people went too far with it, and you have to think outside the box here, it makes it harder for the boss to attract more players from the likes of the Football League.

Any player who is contacted about coming down to Chester will see the expectation, and some will deal with it, and become successful, whereas some will see the fans reaction to previous attempts by players to adjust and think "I'm not going there just to get that kind of stick" - some really do believe I think, that we're still a League 2 club, when in all honesty we're a growing club stuck right now (and not for long hopefully) in the 8th tier of football, and we need everyone to help push us forward, and that means attracting better players from leagues above if we are to become successful.

Clueless? Really?
The reaction to Neil Young was laughable in my eyes, hearing someone shout "Young is f***ing clueless" is an absolute joke, look at the table ffs! - we're top of the league, having built a side from scratch last summer, just lost 3 games on the way, and having scored nearly 100 goals - Neil is under enough pressure anyway to get the club out of this league, he doesn't need people going over the top questioning his ability when the league position is there for all to see - that person may think that he's helping...he's not.

Anyway, back to matters on the pitch, and the question would always be how the side bounced back, and as usual when we've had a poor result we do tend to bounce back pretty well, and the last 7 days has seen us put another two wins on the board, with the wins over Woodley Sports on Wednesday & Harrogate on Saturday.

The build up to the Woodley game was good, right after the Lancaster defeat thoughts turned to the next 3 homes games, and a chance to grab another 9 points and really turn the screw on the challengers, who to be fair are like Hereford all those years ago, they just won't give up will they?

Although Tuesday night was quite good as Chorley lost at home, I was sitting watching that unfold on the live text commentary on the magpiesinspace website, and for those who have asked, we did hope to have that live and kicking on the website this season, but the upgrade to the existing site by Pitchero simply has been good or quick enough, and that is why we'll be hopefully be moving to a better website platform in the summer, which will allow us to have the live text commentary, podcasts, and also TV footage of the boys in action.

Basher donates his jacket
So, Skem won, Chorley lost, but Wednesday night back to Exacta and instead of having a Legend of the Week, we actually had a party of them, with four blasts from the past, as John 'Basher' Evans was handing over his Chester FC jacket that was created for the Man Utd game in 1964/65, and with John were former players Bobby Hunt, Mal Starkey, and Dennis Reeves, and Club Vice President Gary Talbot joined them on the pitch at half time - they all received the star treatment in the Legends Lounge though, just like our usual Legend of the Week - I think they were all impressed.

The presentation saw John take to the mike, and we just couldn't get him off it ha ha, he loves to talk does John!

The game saw us rack another 3 goals up at home, and Robbie Booth was in the perfect place at the right time as he took advantage of an error by their goalie, and slotted the ball home after just 7 minutes, just what we needed that!

The Yobs behind the goal
I went in to the Harry Mac Terrace for the second half, I do try when I am able to, and just fancied a good shout which isn't always possible in my usual spec in the Main Stand, so off to the HMT and time to join in with the songs - and then talk about being in the right place, when Boothy delivered a pin point cross for Michael Wilde to produce a fantastic diving header into the back of the net, and signalled Wildey's return to form, and boy did he enjoy it, the celebration just let out so much relief for him it was felt all around the ground.

We didn't have to wait long for his next one either as a ball in from Iain Howard - how good is it to see him back - was met at the far post by big George, who then nodded it back to Wildey who headed in the third goal of the evening - game set and match.

Talk meanwhile was around the lights, and whether they'd stay on after what happened in Stockport that night a few weeks ago, well thankfully they did and we got the perfect response we wanted after the Lancaster defeat.

Jenks & Lee Dixon?
So, onto Saturday, and time to concentrate on the visit of the biggest name in football...Harrogate Railway Athletic. Iain Jenkins was our Legend of the Week, and I was in touch with Jenks a few weeks ago, when looking to set this one up, and fair play he drove down from Scotland on Friday, which was a 5 and a half hour drive, and we were delighted to see him join our match sponsors in the Lounge for the pre match meal, wearing Blue and White stripes too!

One late call was taken on Friday when I was told that John Thomas would be attending the match too, so without wanting to miss a trick, we got him on the pitch at half time too - buy one get one free!

I took my usual standing place by the door at the back of the stand, and saw us struggle in the first half, and concede yet another classic goal at the Exacta this season as their centre half just smacked a ball in from outside the area in off the bar to give the visitors the lead - and I must admit that was the last thing I was expecting on Saturday, and Fred Flintstone & the Roman in the West Stand were delighted I think it's fair to say, in fact I'm sure I heard a "Yabba Dabba Doooo" when that goal went in.

We bounced back though thanks to more calamitous goalkeeping as George Horan claimed what seemed to be an own goal by the keeper himself, but considering the way George has played this season, we'll let him have this one!

So now you think about going and getting the win, and in the second half we were pegged back again, with this time a looping header being too high for Mikey Taylor to nod away, and into the net it went - cue more celebrations from the travelling Harrogate fans, of which there were about 20, which included their Directors who had sat over with their fans, rather than in the comfy seats at the back of the Exacta Stand, fair play.

The time then for us to stand up and be counted, and Chris Simm did exactly that, as he was in the right place at the right time - hmmm I keep on saying that don't I? - anyway, there he was ghosting in for a header to level it up at 2-2, before then the place went wild when he slotted home his second of the game, that's the loudest I've heard the crowd react to a goal this season, as the place went nuts with us going 3-2 up.

We did have chances to finish it off before the referee then brought the Chester fans immense relief with the final whistle to what was a classic lunchtime encounter, and we'd maintained our 7 point lead at the top (with Skem winning again!).

Time to move on to the Wales - England game, and a quick peek into the Blues Bar as I heard a massive cheer, and that was a penalty that had been give, and Frank Lampard made no mistake from the spot to give the Three Lions the lead, and then back outside dealing with a few queries from both sets of supporters, I then heard a second roar from the BB, and it turned out that was Darren Bent's tap in for 2-0 - that'll do nicely.

So, back home for 5.30pm, and time to relax with a few drinks - yeah just a few, to see the day out.

It's Monday morning now then, and thoughts turning to the Curzon Ashton game, and waking up to see a text from Graham Abel confirming he'll be there on Wednesday night as the preparations now turn to the match night schedule for that game.

Bring it on!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Time for a quick belated poem for World Poetry Day

Well it was World Poetry Day yesterday but I missed it, so here goes a little late, but never mind...

There was a club called Chester FC,
Who's fans are probably the best that you'll see,
Neil Young is in charge,
The lead was quite large,
But now it's down to six points you see.

So, it's time to buckle up,
and get ready to ride,
The famous Chester rollercoaster,
For a promotion ride.

We all want the title,
But Chorley remain,
Along with the Skem,
A right flippin' pain.

Just 11 games left,
For us all to get through,
With the message to the fans,
Now we really need you!

So, can we really do it,
Of course, yes we can,
and all shouting loud,
I am a Chester fan...

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Blank on the pitch, but scoring big on the TV!

Well another week has passed and again we're talking about a big match in Lancashire today - this time at the Giant Axe as Chester go in search of 3 valuable points to keep the momentum going, as well as that amazing away run which is close to becoming a record run, but I'll keep quiet on that one for now.

Lets rewind back 7 days ago, and that great feature on Football Focus, which I'm pleased to say went down extremely well amongst Blues supporters. I'd arrived with Mrs B at the ground early so we could nip into the Blues Bar for a drink whilst watching the feature, and bang on 12.45 as advised we were on.

The focus is on the Blues
The feature showed just how far we've come as a club and that should not be forgotten as we head into the run in on our promotion hunting season - everyone should take a bow.

Then it was back inside to greet the Legend of the Week, Eddie Bishop, who I'm pleased to say was able to attend the game as I'd been after Eddie to come down for a while, but because of his non footballing interests had found it difficult to squeeze in!

Eddie loved every minute of the Legend Experience, and I couldn't stop him talking up in the Lounge which was great, we talked about THAT game against Wrexham where he had some great stories about the players and also Derek Mann, the manager in charge that day.

Eddie and his itchy head
Eddie mentioned his nerves when stepping up to take the penalty that put us 1-0 up, "I was bricking it to be honest, as all I could think of was 'don't miss this in front of the Chester fans!' but then the fact that big Dave Felgate had saved Benno's penalty earlier helped a little" - and miss it he didn't as he sent us all wild in the away end that night.

He said that Derek Mann was normally a placid chap who didn't tend to show great emotion, but he said that he really rallied around everyone in the changing room that night, and put the belief into the players that they could get something out of the game, and boy did they do so!

The requests from the media to do interviews with Eddie came flying in, so I had to hang around the Lounge keeping my eyes on him to grab him once he'd finished his starter, so that Shane from Dee and Neil off Radio Merseyside could do separate interviews with him, and he did them both before diving back in for his main course!

Sadly, the match afterwards didn't live up to expectations, although there were chances for both sides to win the game - how on earth did they miss those chances from inside the 6 yard box though, Judgey must have thought Christmas had come early for him!

That's me £3 in credit says Wildey
I spent most of the first half watching the game with Wildey & Iain Howard, most notably winding Wildey up saying that I'd heard a rumour that he'd agreed to pay 50% of his weekly wage back to the club for every game that he failed to score in - his response was "that's definitely a rumour and not true!!"

But a point was gained, and it may just be a vital point to as it does mean that with our goal difference that chasing clubs would need to get an extra point to get past us - if they do catch up at all.

Midweek saw a few of the challengers play games in hand, firstly on Monday night Curzon Ashton played Skelmersdale in a crunch match where we were hoping for a CA win or draw, and it was all taking place during the latest CFU members meeting - quite a straight forward one, but one where I was asked if we can regular updates of games on the official website as this gentleman found it difficult to tune into the radio or get updates on his mobile whilst he was at work - his work turned out to be driving a train, so not sure how he's get away with surfing the internet for the latest score whilst he's driving the train!!

Anyway, Skem won the match 3-2 having trailed initially, so fair play to them as they have been banging them in recently - down to 10 points clear then.

On Tuesday, it was the turn of Chorley to play their game in hand - against today's opponents Lancaster City, and on my predictions I had this one down as a home win, and for a while it seemed I'd be (hopefully) wrong, as Lancaster were holding them at 1-1, but then the inevitable late goal for Chorley that we've all become accustomed to, although at least this time it was inside the 90 minutes, 85th to be precise!

So, the lead cut down to 9 points, but remember, effectively 10 with that draw against Witton last weekend.

The last couple of days have seen us getting the matchday programme ready for next week's game against Woodley Sports - so time to update the Blue's Blog, which next week is based on how we look after the legends each week.

made for radio!
An invite from Shane Pinnington then followed to go on to the Friday Night Football Show on Dee - we do try and rotate the appearances on Dee between all of the Directors, to ensure that we're consistently bringing all of the news to the fans that we have going at the club at the time, as we've always said transparency is the key to a successful football club.

Finally, it was great to see a page in the programme dedicated to football blogs about the blues - this one included, now I've done this blog for a while now, firstly of course it started out as a blog about the situation that was developing at the former club, which you can have a read of here - then of course the reformation started up, and I wanted to do the blog to give an insight to what happens behind the scenes at the club as far as my role is concerned, and hopefully it's interesting to read.

Time to sign off now as the lads get ready for the trip to Lancaster, here's hoping we can bring the points back down the M6 today from the Giant Axe - COME ON YOU BLUES!!!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Another big week sees the Blues edge closer

It's been another chaotic seven days following the Blues, with two more wins as Chester continue the relentless charge towards the first Championship title since reformation.

Last Saturday was of course a huge result, only weeks after a top of the table clash between 1st and 2nd at Chorley, arrived another one, this time against Skelmersdale, who had all of sudden burst through the group into 2nd place, and on a great run.

Big George powers home the winner at Skem
It was then built up as a major match, and if the Blues could grab the points from this one then we'd put ourselves in a tremendous position at the top - and so it was, big George who maybe shouldn't have been on the pitch according to some, rose highest to power home a second half header to send the travelling Blues wild knowing that this was a major moment in the game.

That turned out to be the winner, and yet another important goal scored by local lad done good, George Horan. The shivers still go down the spine when you see the goal in your head from the Witton game where he scored the winner in a 5 goal thriller at Wincham Park, what a goal, and what a match that was!

Riiiiiiiimmer, Riiiiiiiiiiimmer!
So, 12 points clear at the top then, and time to enjoy Saturday night, although thoughts were already turning to the Wednesday fixture with Salford City, with the added bonus of the visit from BBC's Football Focus. As it was coming up to a year since Chester City went under, I shared a phone call with the producers of the show, as they were looking to do a return visit to the Exacta Stadium - 12 months previously I'd done an interview with them about the impending closure of the club - so we worked out what they could do, and said I'd arrange all the interviews that they'd need, so onto that I got started.

That coupled with the return of the prodigal son, Stuart Rimmer meant that is was going to be a busy Wednesday night and certainly a lead up to it.

On Sunday, a case of responding to various e-mails that had been received at the club, which included a University student's questions for a project - we've had a few of those this season and I'm quite happy assisting those who have managed to do assignments on Chester FC - it's always nice to talk about where we've come from in the past 12 months.

Turning to the start of the week, and it was board meeting night on Monday - and as usual lots to discuss, including the new away kit, and whilst we wanted to put the shirts to a vote, there was really only one winner, as the choices that people wanted to be put forward as a choice for last season weren't available to buy as just a shirt (you had to buy other items with it), and I'm sure there would have been a landslide victory for the Yellow kit anyway, given the demand for it last summer!

The only down side is that we'll all have to wait until June to get our hands on it, but when was the last time Chester FC had a new kit to bring out to the fans just a month after the previous season had ended????

We'll be looking at the range of leisurewear associated with the away top, and I can assure those reading this that there are some extremely attractive items in there - some of which will I'm sure sell like hot cakes to the supporters!

We are also discussing season ticket prices for next season, and one thing that we all need to be aware of now is the need to ensure we remain ambitious enough to progress further, and we need everyone's support in the future - so if that means a slight increase in the prices then just take a minute to think why that would be - mainly we want to drive the club forward, and if we are to compete in the Conference, then based on current wage budgets in that league, you'd be looking at £500k to £1m easily, so we all know we have to do what we can to bring in the revenue required to get to that point.

what a great programme!
Monday is also the day we proof read the match day programme to spot any typos - as we try to make it as professional a job as possible, and Martin Huxley & Rob Ashcroft do a fantastic job of pulling this together, and most of the time it's spot on apart from a few dodgy typos in the Blue's Blog page - not sure who does that =)

Tuesday I received confirmation that Stuart Rimmer was definitely coming down to the Exacta Stadium for the Salford game, and I was more than delighted at that as Stuey was one of my heroes in the mid 80s when he banged in all those goals in his first spell at the club.

The same day I got an e-mail from Eddie Bishop confirming his attendance at the Witton game - I'd asked Ed if he would like to attend that game based on the fact he used to manage Witton - it just felt right - and so I was delighted when he accepted.

So, all thoughts turned to Wednesday night then, and after producing all the usual match day schedules for the board, PA announcers, and the photographers it was time to get in to match day mode as I left work - although thanks to my car returning after its 2 year lease ended I had to grab a lift with Chief Exec Steve Ashton in his new cool motor!

So, down to the ground to meet up with the Football Focus team who had arrived and were already filming and look out for the nice shot of Jonathan Ledgard opening up the Exacta Stadium gates as if to say "Chester are Back" - that was the first glimpse of the filming they were doing, and they would go on to do lots lots more.

The free statto fact I gave everyone that night was that 6 months to the night we'd beaten Trafford 6-0 in our very first home game with the BBC in attendance, so I convinced them that they were a lucky omen, although I also told them I'd hold them responsible if we lost!

One Chris Pilsbury, there's only...
They firstly interviewed Chris Pilsbury - wonder how Chester's very own Bill Oddie will come across on the air tomorrow?? - and I'm sure he gave a very passionate interview. Steve Ashton was next on the BBC conveyor belt, before they then sought out Neil Young to do a one to one with him in the dugout - and with the temperature dropping looked quite blustery out there!

I'd asked George & Wildey to do interviews with the crew too, and have risen to Wildey's challenge to get him on Sky Sports - although I'm not so sure I should highlight our star striker to the nation just in case anyone comes in for him - perhaps I should draw up a contract with a clause in it that prevents him from moving on based on the interviews I manage to get him!

Both lads were asked if they could do the interviews in the dressing room, but that look of panic set across the faces of George & Wildey spoke volumes, in fact probably louder than what they talked in the actual interview - afraid that they'd get so much ribbing from the rest of the lads - and they probably would - they chose to do the interviews outside in the freezing main stand - although Wildey had to cover up the GP on his jacket to avoid confusion after he'd borrowed it off Gary Powell!

We then looked after the BBC crew in the Legends Lounge, by giving them the full treatment, and then the arrival of Sir Stuart Rimmer, who confessed he was very shy about the whole going on the pitch thing at half time, and so we agreed to do just the presentation of the CFU Hall of Fame induction at pitchside rather than the interview - hope that explains why we did things that way - I know loads of people wanted to get their questions in, and if we'd have been able to, then we would have done.

So to the game itself, and after the usual pre match build up, which included Ashley Williams receiving a deserved player of the month award - wonder who selected that on the Seals Podcast last week - although having said that it was the most difficult selection I've been involved in, as Robbie Booth, Carl Ruffer, Chris Simm and Greg Stones had all had a great month themselves, but in the end we narrowed it down to Boothy and Ashley, and the latter became the winner.

Are you Ryan in disguise...?
Where was? Oh yeah, the match. Well it started off quite well with Boothy having a cracking effort go just wide, but then the game went a bit flat - that was until of course a fantastic shot from the edge of the box from Steven Beck, who has come on leaps and bounds recently, firing in to put the Blues 1 up - and we though right here we go then - until a couple of minutes later when the ref awarded a free kick to Salford, and quite predictably up stepped Rhodri Giggs who curled a free kick in to the arms of Adam Judge - well that was the plan anyway, but unfortunately the ball squirmed underneath our excellent keeper who has been in great form since taking his chance, and it was 1-1.

We didn't have to wait long though for order to be restored, as Barnesy - who had come on for the injured Ashley Williams - threaded a beauty of a ball through to Simmo who raced away very Rimmer-esque and slotted the ball home to restore our lead, great finish.

Half time came and time to go down to the pitch with Stu and hand over the framed picture which was handed back as it will go onto the wall in the corridor upstairs on the way towards the Legends Lounge.

Stu had been sitting with the Football Focus team all the way through the first half as Jonathan Ledgard grabbed his through-the-match comments with our returning hero, but had commented that he was really enjoying the match as we walked down to the tunnel.

Then on to the second half, and it was certainly a windy affair out there, with Salford carving us open a few times, but much to the despair of their Directors who were up and down like a yo-yo thinking their team had scored - especially when Foster struck the post with his effort - that was quite funny, and they did engage in plenty of humour with the Blues fans sitting in front of them to be fair.

The match was of course sealed when Robbie Booth finished off a great run from the left and cracked a shot in off the left post to give us the 2 goal advantage that we were all craving - great finish from a lad who is full of confidence at the moment.

The end of the game approached and I ushered Stuey Rimmer out as he had to travel back to Southport and be up for work at 5am, so he had to get out before the infamous car park queue leaving the ground trapped him!

our 3 minutes of fame tomorrow!
Football Focus hadn't finished though, and they continued to film inside the Legends Lounge, grabbing interviews with Neil Young & Giggs, before then having a relaxing drink before their return to begin the editing of near on 6 hours of footage - hope their cameras were working alright!

Right, have babbled on enough now, it's Friday lunchtime, and we're all looking forward to tomorrow's game, although the news on Wildey & Ash isn't too great - received that from Neil this morning, so a chance for the rest of the boys to step up and make a case for themselves.

Hopefully tomorrow, we'll hear lots of singing from the fans, so Harry Mac boys do your best and get the East & West standers singing too in the way that's worked before!

Come on you Blues!!!!