Friday, 23 December 2011

A Small Island, A Big Derby

I feel under a bit of pressure writing this blog now, as thanks to the subject matter of my previous entry it was read by a hell of a lot more people than usual! Will they expect more of the same? Or will they just take what I normally write? Well neither of that really matters at the moment, as I am once again writing about non-league football on Canvey Island, and more importantly, a match taking place on Boxing Day.

First though, a very small bit of history and stuff for you. Canvey Island is a small place deep in the heart of Essex, often overlooked due to its location near Southend and Basildon, and normally remembered for the floods of 1953 and the large gas/petrol works on the island. Well on this small island there are two football clubs, those being Canvey Island FC and Concord Rangers FC. Canvey Island FC has been around since 1926, surviving the floods and having varied success over the years. The big moment in Canvey’s history was when local businessman Jeff King took over as manager, helping to plough money into the club and raise their profile and quality. The team have made the third round of the FA Cup before, but have been up and down through the non-league system since before then. There have been notable achievements for the side, including winning the FA Trophy on live TV, and winning the Essex Senior Cup.

Taking that and much more into account, many people on Canvey saw CIFC as the big club on the island. Well recently there have been contenders to that title in the shape of Concord Rangers FC, who as a club have been around since 1967, and until the past couple of years have been under the radar of many islanders.

The following info has been taken from the Concord Rangers website, so please forgive me for plagiarising! Concord Rangers originated from a team of boys headed by Steve Lant, before securing some land on Thames Road in 1985 (where they remain to this day). The club started to get moving, joining the Essex Senior League in 1991 and having a few cup successes over the years. After securing promotion from the ESL in 2008 under the guidance of Danny Cowley & Danny Scopes (the two guys are still in charge), the club entered the Ryman League and managed to get promoted after 2 seasons, this time through the playoffs, and enter the Ryman Premier League.

And it’s there that this blog entry comes up to the present. With Concords promotion, it meant that both teams based on Canvey would be in the same league for the very first time, providing the island with what looked to be some interesting derby matches. Canvey are still seen as the big club on the island, and were expected to brush aside the Concord pretenders during their encounters last season. The first match was at Thames Road on Boxing Day, however due to the weather the game was postponed until a Tuesday night in February. Concord were expected to be whipping boys by many, however they put up a fight on that cold evening, and after some very tense moments Rangers were able to score a 90th minute winner. Now obviously this put a few noses out of joint in the CIFC camp, and the return match was due for Easter Monday where Canvey Island were expected to get their own back on the upstart Rangers. Things didn’t go to plan though for Canvey, as an in-form Concord outplayed a very lacklustre Canvey side in front of a packed Park Lane crowd to win 4-0.

This season and things are fairly similar, Canvey are higher in the league than Concord, Canvey are expecting to win, but I doubt they’ll underestimate the Beachboys this time around. Concord are a better side than they were last year, and although the results may not show it, Rangers are playing pretty well. I can’t speak for Canvey as I’ve not seen them play, however I fully expect the game on Boxing Day at Park Lane to be a hard-fought, tough match for both sides. Excitement is high in the Concord camp, and another decent result against their neighbours would just make the mood that much better for them over this festive period!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

A Bit Of Non League Passion

Yes this is another sports based blog, but this is one focused solely on football of the non-league variety, and this is another one that's been going round in my head for a while waiting to be typed up!

Now everyone is familiar with professional football, even if you don't follow it there is enough news around the sport that its bloody hard to miss. However its when you look deeper at the sport and take notice of the grass roots, that's when you get a whole new appreciation for the game and what playing it entails.

At the moment there are two non-league football clubs on Canvey, the town which i have called home for all my 28 years, Canvey Island FC & Concord Rangers FC. Now when i was younger i only knew about Canvey, and even had a season ticket one year. Well after a while that got left behind and i got fully into the professional game.

Over the past few years though that's changed. After going to see Canvey a couple of times i was starting to get the bug back, but the fascination with the team i had when younger wasn't there. It was then that i was talking with a friend of my brother who worked on the staff and played in the reserves for Concord Rangers. Well after a while i thought i would check a game out down there, and although i can't remember the score, the love of standing in a ground with 150 odd fans watching this team came back!

I started going to more games, and last season was witness to two huge victories for the Concord Rangers team. It was the first time both they and Canvey were in the same league, so 2 heated league derby games would happen. The first was at Concord, and although a scrappy affair Rangers won 1-0 over their "bigger" rivals. That was nothing though, as last Easter Concord made the short journey across the island to play Canvey in the return match. This wasn't as scrappy or as close, as Rangers demolished Canvey 4-0! A fantastic day for all involved with the club that was, especially the players and us fans.

Now i mention all of this because non-league football offers something different to the pro game, and is a big, vital part of the sport in this country. Young players are spotted there, older players go there to keep in the game, and generally there is a passion and love for playing which is rarely seen in a professional game.

Take for example my experiences at Concord. I stand next to the home dugout, so i talk to my mate Miki, and i also talk to the coaches, players and manager. I even had a decent chat with the chairman this weekend! You go through everything they do, and get a great perspective of the game. Its something you don't get at big professional grounds and makes you feel a part of the team. Another point was a couple of weeks back when Concord got their first home win of the season, the reaction on the bench following the winning goal and how it involved us standing by the dugout was a superb experience!

I can only recommend going to see non-league football for yourself. Its something that's cheaper than the professional game, but is filled with just as much, if not more excitement. My love for West Ham never stops, but having a team right on my doorstep that is worth watching is brilliant and a top way to get involved in the game.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A Year Of Change

I was reminded on Sunday during a conversation with someone who i recently saw for the first time in ages that i hadn't written a blog in a long time. Not for any particular reason though, I've thought of plenty of things to talk about but just haven't sat down and put it onto a computer! So what'll come over the next week or two is a bit of a blog blitz, stuff I've thought about writing down but never actually got round to doing.

Where else to start but with yours truly eh? The past 12 months have been full of change for me, with plenty going on left right and centre to be honest.

This time last year i was just moving into a control room based role at work, where i remain to this day. The actual job is constantly evolving and sending challenges my way, but even though the circumstances behind the change weren't ideal, i wouldn't go back on it. Being a Station Manager, and a manager in general, hasn't been doing it for me for some time, and I've made it clear to my boss how i feel. I may not want to manage people, going back to a standard job is ultimately what i am after, but still working in control is fun, and it is a constant learning experience which will help me going forward.

On the subject of changes at work, since joining LOROL over 2 years ago I've met a lot of good people, a few of which became very good friends. Two of those got engaged, had a wonderful baby boy and moved to Ireland! Duncan & Helen have been there for me over the 2 years, and it was a pleasure to be at their wedding this past weekend. Two fantastic friends who i wish all the best for, and sincerely hope they are enjoying the honeymoon right now!

There was quite a significant change to my personal life during the summer, as many reading this will know after 4 years together me and Gemma split up. It may not have felt like it at the time but it was the right thing to do. A few times its not been easy given how differently we both moved forward, but we remain good friends and i know i feel better that way than having huge arguments and never being in contact again.

My family changes constantly too, as Ben is now fully bedded in as a full time railway employee, which to be honest i thought i may not see! But fair play to him, he's working his backside off now. My 'little' sister isn't exactly little anymore, nearly 14 and actually scaring me at times with how much she's grown up. Hell i still remember being woken by my nan and being told i have a baby sister! And what of Stephen i hear you cry? He's found happiness right now with someone very special to him. I've got all the support and respect for him in the world, he's still my little brother, even if he's just under 2 years younger than me!

My family however did take a hit recently, as my Aunt Debbie passed away. I've been lucky in a sense that I've not had a family funeral to attend until now, so last month was a very emotional experience for me and the family in general. My cousin Kelly has been an absolute rock through it all, and i know i speak for my siblings when i say we're with her all the way forward.

There's plenty more over the year, but to be honest i am sure you'll say that's enough for now. It's been a year of transitions, changes and learning experiences, and i doubt 2012 will be much different in that respect. Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Harsh Reactions

Well number 2 on my list of blogs to get done focuses on sport, and rightly so considering there's a fair amount of it i watch, even if the majority is just football and the NFL.

The title of the blog is about reactions quite clearly, and to be honest the majority of sports fans are guilty of very harsh reactions after a decision/result doesn't go their way. Players and coaches do too, but my focus here is us fans. Whether its football, NFL, cricket,rugby or whatever, we seem to have three reaction times which govern our feelings of support for our teams after a loss.

Immediately after a loss the majority of us react angrily, thinking of excuses and denying what we've just seen with utter disbelief. A few days later if its mentioned the reaction is a bit more measured, the result has been reflected upon and we've accepted what happened, even if we still ain't happy with it. Then finally there is the moment the following week when you react with optimism and ignorance, almost forgetting what had come the previous game and looking towards the next fixture where you could go through it all again!

I mention that as its something i certainly have felt this season whilst following both West Ham & the New York Jets. There have been times when both teams have had losses that left me and others in shock and disbelief, with a certain anger towards the team for losing. I cite the Hammers games against Cardiff & Ipswich, and the Jets game against Denver. All games that my teams really could and should have won, but events conspire against us!

If i had of written a blog immediately after these games my tone would have been a bit different to what it is now, if only because i have had a chance to reflect on them and take a look at the big pictures. West Ham are second in the league, with around half the season still left to play. Plenty of football and plenty of possible points, so reacting badly and assuming that every loss will cost us promotion will get me nowhere. The team still needs to improve, of that there is no doubt, but we have shown we can do the job even if we play ugly. I am still very positive that we will achieve promotion in May.

As for the Jets, after back to back losses, including the aforementioned Denver defeat, the season looked over as the offence were playing badly, the defence were not at their best, special teams were letting us down and the play calling looked horrific. Fast forward a couple of weeks and the chance to take it all in has changed things. Ok our play calling still ain't great, but the offence got the confidence boost they needed by soundly beating Kansas City this past weekend. The defence is getting back in its stride, and special teams is doing ok, even with a few mistakes still happening. Add to that the fact that we are still well in with a chance of making the playoffs and things actually look good!

One more thing, i was very pleased to hear that the NBA have finally got a new bargaining agreement in place, so a new season will start on Xmas day, albeit about 20 games shorter than normal. The Bulls came close last year, i hope that this time they'll be back at the top of the pile.

Thanks again for reading if you've made it this far!

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