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!