Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Beachboys 2013 Review Part 2

Wednesday 3rd July, a date that will live long in the history of Concord Rangers, was the day when the promotion to the Skrill South really hit home. The fixtures for the 2013/14 season were released, and seeing names like Dover Athletic, Sutton United and Ebbsfleet United alongside little old Concord Rangers made everyone involved with the club sit up and take note! To paraphrase Dorothy, we’re not in the Ryman any more!

The friendlies through July were all won in convincing fashion by the Beachboys, only letting in 3 goals and scoring 28 during the 6 fixtures. One of which included a 4-0 demolition of neighbours Canvey Island in a game raising money for the two clubs chosen charities. The 2 friendly fixtures in August though were a different story, as losses to Billericay and Chesham not only hit the preparation for the league, but the Billericay game also saw captain & striker Tony Stokes suffer a knee injury which took him out of action for 3 months.

In reaction to the injury to Tony & one to Nicky Cowley, the gaffer wasted no time in bringing in striker Sam Higgins and midfielder Sam Collins as the season got under way. Concord earned their first point of the season away to Chelmsford City with a 2-2 draw, and the following Saturday went one better and picked up their first victory at this level, beating Dover 1-0 away from home. August ended with Concord having played 5 games and earning 5 points, with performances being at both ends of the spectrum!

Obviously this league is much tougher than the Ryman Premier, and our team did their best to rise to the challenges that came their way. An impressive and hard-fought 0-0 draw at Eastbourne was followed by a 3-2 loss at home to table toppers Bromley before Concord eased to a 4-1 victory over Maidenhead as September came to a close. The Beachboys also began their FA Cup journey this month with a 4-3 victory over St Ives Town, a journey that ended with an eventful trip to Barnet at the end of October! Prior to that though Concord suffered their biggest defeat at this level, a very bad day at the office was had as Weston Super Mare put 5 past the Beachboys with no reply.

The Essex Senior Cup also got under way for Concord Rangers during October, beginning with a 5-0 demolition of Waltham Abbey. This journey continues to this day, as we await the draw for the semi-finals in mid January. The Beachboys journey in the FA Trophy also began & ended during November, with a replay victory over Dulwich Hamlet & a loss at Gosport Borough. The league was kinder though, with a 0-1 victory at Staines ending their unbeaten home record for the season. Controversially sponsored Farnborough also visited Thames Road, but were sent packing after the Beachboys hammered 5 past the Paddy Power-less opponents! Another new addition to the squad was made prior to that game, as midfield dynamo Jack Powell signed on loan from Millwall.

The year comes to a close, and the month of December provided all the joys of the festive season! Cup victories over Chelmsford City & Canvey Island, coupled with draws against both Eastbourne Borough and Dorchester Town were rounded off with a 2-0 victory away to Boreham Wood on Boxing Day. This proved to be the final Concord game of 2013, as a power failure led to the fixture against Chelmsford City on the 28th being postponed. Welling striker Kiernan Hughes-Mason joined the club on loan at the start of the month, and has also bagged a goal & provided an impact going forward.

2013 was an eventful one for the Beachboys and everyone who is a part of this club, new challenges continue to present themselves and these guys will face them in the only way they know how, as a team. On behalf of the Concord Rangers Supporters Association, here’s to a healthy & happy 2014 for you all!

You Are My Concord

Beachboys 2013 Review Part 1

With another year coming to an end, it’s that time once more to look back & reflect on the last 12 months, and look forward to what lies ahead. 6 months first, and the following 6 months will come at a later date!

Concord Rangers began 2013 with a 2-0 away victory at Cray Wanderers, but the main story of the month was that the weather, and mainly snow, was playing havoc with fixtures. A Ryman League cup tie vs Wroxham was put back two weeks on the bounce due to snow before finally being played on the 29th January. Concord won that fixture 2-0 as the mist descended on Thames Road, almost leading to a 3rd postponement! A comeback 2-1 league victory over Margate at home on the 5th January had extra significance for the Beachboys faithful, as on the same day Canvey lost a 4-1 lead & lost 5-4 to league leaders Whitehawk.

Other highlights of January were an Essex Senior Cup victory over Chelmsford City on penalties (déjà vu this season), Danny Cowley earning league Manager of the Month honours and former Canvey midfielder Leon Gordon signing for the club.

February may be the shortest month, but it contained events that would live long in the memory of all involved with Concord Rangers. The Beachboys picked up big victories at home to Hastings & away at Lewes in the league, but fell to a 0-2 loss against Grays in the Essex Senior Cup semi-finals. Two weeks later the Ryman League Cup semi final vs Hastings took place, and the end result was just one goal shy of the league fixture as Concord won 3-0 to book their place in the final. The big news though occurred 4 days later, as Concord hosted Thurrock in a league tie. A nasty tackle left influential striker Harry Elmes with a broken leg, and the game was abandoned shortly afterwards. I’m happy to say that Harry is back running with the team, and although still a while off playing again, is still very much a part of the Concord Rangers family.

The club had to move on, and that they did with March signings of Leon McKenzie from Hornchurch, Serge Makofo from Farnborough, and probably the highest profile of the lot, Ben Greenhalgh. Ben had previous won a TV football talent show which earned him a contract with Inter Milan, and after spells with Welling & Ebbsfleet he was to spend the rest of the season playing for the Beachboys! The month was full of league games, 9 of them in total, and Concord were able to grab 21 points from a possible 27 to leave them in a great position trying to get a playoff spot.

April kicked off with the 2nd Island derby of the season, a familiar story on the day as the Beachboys picked up a 2-0 victory. However 2 losses in succession were not the most ideal preparation for the Ryman League Cup Final on the 9th! It didn’t matter though, as Concord Rangers fought like warriors to beat Dulwich Hamlet 3-2 aet and win the Isthmian Ryman League Cup. The celebrations continued well into the night & on to the morning, but the focus went right back on to the league and the push for a playoff spot. 3 consecutive away wins coming against Leiston, Met Police & Kingstonian cemented the Beachboys place in the playoffs for the first time.

The 1st of May, Concord Rangers travelled to Wealdstone for the semi-finals of the playoffs, the place where over a month before Concord had dominated the game but lost 2-1 on the night. It was a total opposite on this occasion though, Wealdstone had the better of the possession but the Beachboys won 2-1. The victory was made all the more sweeter because of the manner of the victory compared to the previous encounter! Lowestoft were next up, a location where Concord regularly lost in the league. Streaks are there to be broken though, and thanks to a combination of the overwhelming over-confidence of the Lowestoft team & fans and the dogged determination of the Beachboys the odds were overcome. Goals from Steve King and Leon Gordon sent Concord Rangers in the Skrill South and the fans into hysteria, with many of us invading the pitch and celebrating with the players.

So June was a month of change and preparation for all involved at Concord Rangers, alteration work began on the turnstiles & ground in general, whilst staff & players were brought into the fold. A new physio was hired in Mike Hine, Jamie Butler was signed to keep goal, and Bradley Hamilton was brought in to boost the midfield. There was also two high profile returns, with defender Paul Goodacre and midfielder Gary Ogilvie coming back to the Beachboys.

Optimism was high, and there was plenty more to come for everyone who was a part of the club as the new season approached.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

A Rivalry Renewed!

Over the past three seasons both Concord Rangers and Canvey Island have plied their trade in the Ryman Premier Division, which has led to 6 interesting encounters between the two sides. However this season, with the Beachboys being promoted to the Skrill South, a charity friendly was organised prior to the season to fill the derby day void. As far as the clubs were concerned, that would be it for the season, the only meeting between the two Island based teams.

Then on Thursday 5th December, the draw for the Essex Senior Cup Quarter Finals threw up the fixture that would provide probably the most important chapter in the Concord/Canvey history! Concord Rangers were drawn at home to Canvey Island FC, made even more interesting by the fact that it was Canvey gaffer & former Concord striker Danny Heale who made the draw for the home side! The game is to take place on Tuesday 17th December down Thames Road, and it promises to be an eventful night, with both sides looking to progress in the only cup competition they both remain in.

Now for a bit of recent history. The first scheduled encounter between the teams was due to take place on Boxing Day 2010, but due to a frozen pitch this was put back to a cold Tuesday night in February! It was a tense affair this first game, but a late goal gave Concord Rangers the 3 points & the bragging rights until the return match on the following Easter Monday. This return match was a totally different game though, as the Beachboys eased to a 4-0 victory over the Gulls at their own ground!

During the 2011/2012 season the honours were shared between the two clubs, both earning victories as the away team. Firstly on Boxing Day Concord picked up a 2-0 victory at Park Lane, then Canvey scored their first goals against the Beachboys on Easter Monday to earn a 2-1 victory. Normal service was resumed for the 2012/13 season as Concord were victorious in both league encounters that year. The Beachboys won 3-0 at home on Boxing Day, and then won 2-0 on Easter Monday. 6 league encounters over 3 years, 15 points for Concord and just 3 for Canvey, with the goal difference being 13-2 in the Beachboys favour.

The friendly prior to this season saw Concord Rangers emerge victorious once more, keeping a clean sheet in a 4-0 win over the island rivals. It may have just been a friendly, but it still meant bragging rights for the fans given that at the time, it was to be the only fixture between them this year.

All of that history, the current form of the team, the friendly prior to the season, that all means absolutely nothing now. Cup competitions are all about the day, it’s whether each team turns up with the focus to get the job done, it’s about who can make the most of the 90 minutes on that pitch. History would suggest a Concord victory, but as we all know anything can happen in this wonderful roller-coaster of a sport. There should be a great atmosphere at Thames Road on Tuesday night, I can’t wait!

#YAMC

Alan Jessup-Peacock

Friday, 29 November 2013

A Loan Between Friends?

Some surprising news was announced yesterday by Concord Rangers, striker & club captain Tony Stokes is to go on a 5 game loan spell to Canvey Island FC. I’ll let you digest that for a moment before I continue!

Canvey Island is a small place with two successful non-league football teams, a massive achievement in itself. With the recent rise of Concord Rangers through the non league ranks the rivalry between them & CIFC has intensified. The results in the recent encounters between the two clubs have been in the Beachboys favour on all but one occasion, players (& coaches) have made the small jump across the island, more recently in the direction of Concord, and the fact that the Beachboys ply their trade in a division higher than Canvey all adds fuel to the fire. You only have to have a glancing look at Twitter to see the banter that flies between fans of the two sides, always increased when one side is victorious & the other is subject to defeat. I will openly admit that when at a Concord game & we find out that Canvey are losing, a bit of a cheer can be heard, and I’d put money on fans at Canvey doing the same. All part of a healthy rivalry eh?

Now on to Tony, he’s been with Concord Rangers for a few years now and has established himself as a potent force in front of goal for the Beachboys. He was made club captain at the start of last season, and was an integral part of the side as they won promotion to the Skrill South this past summer. Stokes did have a niggling groin injury last season, but was over that and fitter than ever coming into what was (and is proving) to be a historical season for the Beachboys. However, disaster struck in the final preseason game as Tony injured his knee as Concord lost in emphatic fashion to Billericay.

His recovery & rehab went well, with Stokes making his return to the squad around the same time that his partner Meg was due to give birth to their first child! Plenty going on for Tony on & off the field during that time I’m sure you’ll agree!

Being in a league like the Skrill South, players need to be able to hit the ground running as the competition is fierce, opponents are very tough & it’s a massive step up for a club like ours. This means that Tony has found it a struggle to get back into the starting 11 for Concord; he needs match fitness & sharpness by playing 90 minutes consistently but isn’t getting that at the moment. You could liken it to the old job application excuse, you need more experience before we let you in, but the only way to get experience is by being in there in the first place! This is where the loan move comes in, and it was announced yesterday that Canvey Island FC, our long time rivals & opponents, will have Tony playing for them on loan for 5 games. It was a shock, and will have surprised many people around both sides, however when you look at the bigger picture it makes a lot of sense.

Tony was prolific in the Ryman Prem, knocking in goals for fun, stepping back to that level for a period of time will allow him to get comfortable banging goals in again. He’ll play regularly, which will ensure that his match fitness is back up to its peak, and will ensure that his confidence is at a high when he returns to Thames Road. He’s got a young family, and Canvey Island FC are just down the road, which is ideal for him & his family. Concord want their club captain back to his best, he’s an important part of the Beachboy family and this loan move will ultimately be good for us in the long run upon his return. Canvey Island lost their striker recently to a broken jaw suffered off the pitch, and need a goal scorer to replace him for a short period of time. In this move they get a proven player at this level who’s attitude & commitment is unquestionable, and fill the void until their guy is back fit & healthy.

Benefits all round then from this move, as surprising as it all was! Tony’s a mate, and I wish him the best over there & hope it works out, so that when he returns home the goals are flying in. It’ll seem strange when on Saturday a mate will be playing for the rivals, certainly makes it tougher to want them to lose, but as much of a mate as he is, you wont see me cheering for a Canvey win any time soon!

YAMC!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Trophy Trials

The FA Cup is the most revered & traditional cup competition in football, it’s the one all teams want to play in & win. As we know this year Concord Rangers fell agonisingly short of making the first round when they lost 3-0 to Barnet, FA Cup dreams then took a back seat until next season.

However, the FA Cup is not the only competition organised by the FA for teams such as ours in the Skrill Conference South. There’s also the FA Challenge Trophy, or FA Trophy as it is more commonly known. The competition is open to teams in steps 1 to 4 of the Non League Pyramid, with higher teams entering in the latter stages. The competition begins with the Preliminary Round, 64 regionalised ties between 128 teams from the Ryman Division 1 North & South, Evo Stick 1st Division North & South, and the Calor Gas Division 1 Central & South West.

80 more teams enter the competition in the 1st Qualifying Round, those being the clubs in the Ryman, Calor Gas & Evo Stick Premier Divisions. Again this round is regionalised, as are all the qualifying rounds in this competition. 72 matches take place at this level, leading to 36 in the 2nd Qualifying round as no new teams enter at this stage. The victors from this round then are joined by the 44 clubs plying their trade in the Skrill North & South divisions (including Concord Rangers) in the 3rd and final qualifying round. The Beachboys have never made it past this level prior to this season, so history was just 90 minutes away (or more if it went to a replay).

Nothing ever goes smoothly in football, and it took a lot more than 90 minutes for Concord Rangers to reach the First Round of the FA Trophy, but reach it they did! The lads were drawn away to Dulwich Hamlet, the team Concord had beaten the previous season in the Ryman Isthmian League Cup final. A hard-fought 1-1 draw was the result on the day, and a replay was held the following Tuesday at a very cold Thames Road! Held the same night as an England game, some would have thought to stay indoors rather than brave the cold; however those that did endure the freezing temperatures were rewarded with 7 goals over 120 minutes of football! Oh and my announcing of course, as I was filling in for the normal guy on the night.

Concord took an early lead through James White, however they were pegged back within 5 minutes after Dulwich showed some great pace going forward resulting in Nyren Clunis being able to put the ball past Jamie Butler. The second half started exceptionally well for Concord, as an attack within the first minute found Sam Higgins in the right place at the right time to smash Concord into the lead! Dulwich, much like the Beachboys, never know when they are beaten, & after fighting their way through the second half, equalised in the 3rd minute of stoppage time to force another 30 minutes play. Extra time is always a nervy time, this was no different, with the first period ending goalless & the second seemingly heading that way. Reece Harris had other things on his mind though, as he cut in from the right and hit a great shot past the diving Hamlet ‘keeper, helped by a great dummy by Steve King (shocker I know)! Sam Higgins looked to have put the game out of site with just minutes to go as he notched his second of the game, but the end was destined to be a tense one as almost immediately Hamlet scored in reply to make it 4-3!

That was how the game ended though, credit to Dulwich for what was an excellent game of football to watch, they took it to Concord but were outdone in the end by the Beachboys undeniable spirit and resilience! History is made once again, as Concord now head to Gosport Borough in the 1st Round of the FA Trophy. This round was still regionalised at the draw even with the addition of the 24 Skrill Conference Premier teams, however if we make it past them then there could be some long old trips heading our way! Exciting times for the Beachboys, and I hope we see as many fans as possible cheering the lads on as we progress!

#YAMC

Alan Jessup-Peacock, Concord Supporters Association Chairman

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

An FA Cup Experience to Remember!

With a 3-0 defeat away to Barnet this past Saturday, Concord Rangers dreams of making the first round of the FA Cup ended for another season. The Beachboys went to The Hive ready to play, and eager to cause an upset over the team managed by Dutch footballing legend Edgar Davids, and who were as recently as May this year plying their trade in League 2. Sadly it was not to be, as the former league side showed that they were the better side on the day. Barnet moved the ball around exceptionally well, and we seemed to give them a bit too much space & respect at times through the game, which they took advantage of with their first two goals. The Beachboys had chances of their own, albeit fairly few. Steve King came away from the day with something more than expected, a swollen left eye, a large cut above the said eye, and a number of stitches to go with it! To the Concord fans in attendance it looked blatant, but the referee appeared to miss it completely. It wasn’t the only decision I felt that the officials got wrong on the day. But there was no denying Barnet were worthy winners and I’d like to wish them the best of luck on their trip to Preston North End in the next round, and for the rest of the season. Of course, there’s always more to an away trip than just the football! The cameras from ITV sport were covering the game as its lead highlight segment on the First Round Draw show the following day, which made it a special day for the lads that’s for sure! If you can catch the show on demand then I would recommend it, if only for Leon Gordon breaking out his unique dance moves in the changing room before kick-off! Danny Cowley also played a prominent part, being interviewed both before & after the match; however his opposite number Davids was notably absent. I’m disappointed to admit that my overall opinion of The Hive & Barnet football club in general wasn’t great after Saturday though. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good day & experience for our club, but there were a few things that grated on our fans, and the team & committee. Firstly, all the fans were seated in the corner of the ground, with a large area behind the goal closed off. Upon questioning the stewards, normally away fans are allowed in that area, but it was closed off for us. This disappointed me & many of the others as standing behind the goal & taking part in the everyday banter is something that we love about football at this level. I felt the attitude of the stewards was poor; it was almost as if the belief was that Barnet were still a league club, and shouldn’t have to bother with a small club like ours. The away bar felt like it was an afterthought, basically a small shed-like structure under the stand, empty except for one tv screen. Add to that I felt the beer was overpriced, which left a bad taste in my mouth (the price, not the beer). There was an issue with the players food too, as they had been left just two plates of sarnies in the changing rooms for their post match meal. Now according to the rules, both teams are to be provided with hot food after the game, and this was only achieved when Bees keeper Graham Stack had a word with their chairman & got it sorted. That’s all the moans I have though, as the final parts of the day just highlighted to me why I love being a part of this club & being at this level. Prior to the game I had responded to a tweet from the Non League Show (broadcast on Radio 5 Sunday mornings at 05:30) about going to the game Saturday, and because of that they called me after the game for a short match report. I was bloody nervous to be fair, but it all passed without incident, and if you get a chance to listen to the show, originally broadcast this past Sunday, my little bit is around 17 minutes in! Admittedly though I was still a bit shocked when doing the match report, as I was struggling to get my head around a fellow fan being arrested! Nothing sinister happened I can assure you, but at the final whistle Mark Tate, a good mate of mine & fellow Beachboy and Hammer, ran onto the pitch waving his Concord scarf above his head. Mark made it to the players, even shaking Danny Gloziers hand, but when instructed by the stewards he left the pitch & returned to the stand. He was then escorted out of the ground, and after a talking to from the local plod, he was taken away & arrested! We all thought he’d just get a slap on the wrist, but clearly they have taken it more seriously than we imagined! The journey home on the players coach was its usual mix of banter, laughter & entertainment which is always great to be a part of. One thing though, it was highlighted that you should never, and I mean never leave your phone, tablet or IPad unattended in the presence of your teammates. No gory details, as it wouldn’t be fair to the player given what was found & exploited, but I can say with all the conviction in the world that Gary Ogilvie will not be making that mistake again any time soon! The lads now move on, with cup dreams shifting to the Essex Senior Cup & FA Trophy. And of course the Skrill South campaign will not be getting any easier as the season progresses either. But Concord Rangers can hold their heads high after a great, history making FA Cup run, and use that to drive us on to further success! I’d also like to close with a few words for our captain Tony Stokes. During the game Saturday there was surely a slight distraction hanging over his head, as his partner was coming to watch the game whilst ready to give birth to their first child at any moment! I’m happy to say that the game went by without incident for them, and since then they have announced that their baby boy was born healthy and well on the following Monday morning. On behalf of all the supporters at Concord Rangers, I would like to wish Tony & Meg congratulations and all the best for the future! #YAMC Alan Jessup-Peacock Chairman, Concord Supporters Association

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Upsetting The Odds

Upsetting the odds, it’s a phrase we’re all familiar with, whether it be to do with sport or achieving something on a personal level, it gives the person/people involved a fantastic feeling of success and that the effort that’s been put in has been worth every ounce of energy. The thing is, when the odds are against you, it tends to have originated from someone or something claiming the task is not possible, that it cannot be achieved by your or your team. There are those out there with the natural drive to succeed, however personally I think we need to have the odds against us sometimes, we need someone to challenge us and say something cannot be done, which lights a fire in us to succeed, prove them wrong and upset the odds.

The reason I am writing about this is down to three of the sports teams I follow, and how their seasons have begun. I’ll start with Non League football, which of course means the Beachboys Concord Rangers. Last season was full of instances where Concord were the underdogs, written off and reportedly destined for a poor year. Time has since passed and we now know that the so called experts were wrong, with a cup final victory & promotion in the summer to the Conference South. Being at this level for the first time in the clubs history, many writers around the net & so called experts amongst the league had the Beachboys down as “an easy 6 points” and a “tinpot team destined for relegation”. This has spurred the lads on, they use it as fuel to their fire, and so far this season have more than held their own against some very solid opposition. Draws at table-toppers Eastleigh and Eastbourne Borough, along with victories away at Dover and at home to both Dorchester and Maidenhead have shown that Concord Rangers can run with the big boys. There’s no pressure on the team thanks to the low expectations, and the lads are continuing to upset the odds and prove that they can do the job in the Skrill Conference South.

It’s not just Non League football though, it’s the top flight as well. Not on the same level, but in my eyes an achievement which certainly upset the odds and proved a lot of people wrong. West Ham United, last season they just been promoted back to the top flight, many teams drop straight back down in the current footballing climate, but the Hammers earned a steady mid-table finish. Hopes were high for this coming season with the signing of Andy Carroll, Joe Cole returning to form, and the addition of guys like Razvan Rat & Stewart Downing. Injuries though have hit the team hard, with a severe lack of goals being a key problem. This past Sunday West Ham travelled to White Hart Lane to play Tottenham, and to be honest hopes were not high for the Hammers. Goals are hard to find, & they were taking on the best defence in Europe at the time in terms of goals conceded, a team that had spent around £100 million over the summer improving their squad. Add to that the fact that West Ham hadn’t beaten Spurs at their ground since 1999, and a Tottenham victory was expected. Of course, I wouldn’t be writing about upsetting the odds if things went the way they were expected to, and West Ham surprised a hell of a lot of people by winning 3-0 on the day. As a Hammers fan it was a great feeling to get a result like that against a London rival, even more so that it was against the odds and it wasn’t expected to go that way!

Finally there’s the New York Jets, after 2 seasons of pain and disappointing results, the media experts believed that the Jets would be in a rebuilding year. Drafting a young QB in Geno Smith, the concensus among many was that the Jets would have a poor season, winning maybe 2 games and drafting early next year. Admittedly one Jets blogger/fan that I speak to was in the minority when he was optimistic about the season, and fair play to @hastagfrankie for it as so far this season he is being proved right. The Jets picked up victories over Buffalo and Tampa Bay, but have suffered from mistakes by the rookie QB and other issues over the field. Week 5 this past Monday night had New York travelling to Atlanta to face the 1-3 Falcons, who many thought were better than their record displayed. Looking on ESPN before the game, all their “experts” had the Falcons winning without a second thought. Gang Green though had something to say about that, and put together a performance worthy of their 30-28 victory. Geno Smith looked calm, took his time and completed his passes (80% completion rate, QB rating of over 140), the receivers stepped up, Goodson had a solid debut at RB, and the sack machine Mo Wilkerson again did the business on defence. The Jets were meant to be 0-5/1-4 by now according to the experts, but at 3-2 with the winless Steelers up next, the green side of New York are upsetting the odds and proving their doubters wrong.

For a fan of these teams, seeing them do what nobody expects them to is a great feeling, which is what prompted me to write this little blog in the first place. Sport has many ups & downs, the downs hurt like hell, but the ups make it all worth it, even more so when it’s against the odds! Proving the so called experts wrong is one hell of an achievement, whether that’s the teams you follow, or you doing something you were told you’d never be able to. The negative comments, the belief of some that things cannot be done, use that to fuel the fire; it can be done as thousands of people prove every single day.

Monday, 30 September 2013

There's Still Magic In The FA Cup!

It’s no secret that the lads at Concord Rangers have had a spectacular rise over the past few years, improving season by season, and this was punctuated by the club securing promotion to the Skrill Conference South this past summer. League success is always important, but of course the various cup competitions also play a big part in the success of a side. For example last season Concord were able to win the Ryman League Cup in a thrilling final against Dulwich Hamlet. However when it comes to FA Cup progression, this has eluded the Beachboys over the years, and this season a focus of the club is to go further than they have previously done and make the first round proper. In previous years Concord Rangers have been entered into the competition at the first of four qualifying rounds, with the furthest they’ve progressed being the 3rd qualifying round. This season though, we entered the competition one round later, and in turn leaving us with one less game to get through in order to achieve our goal. The Beachboys were given a home draw against St Ives Town, that’s the St Ives Town in Cambridgeshire, not the St Ives Town in Cornwall! The Saints play in the Calor Southern League Division 1, which is essentially two steps down from where Concord play. But of course, league levels mean absolutely nothing in the FA Cup, shocks don’t only happen in the later rounds when Premiership teams are involved! St Ives had overcome Soham Town Rangers in the Preliminary round, and beaten Dereham Town in the first qualifying round to set up last Saturdays clash. Fans of goals were not disappointed as Concord Rangers earned a 4-3 victory on the day, but it was more a case of poor defending which led to the amount of goals being scored by both sides. A win is still a win though, no matter how it comes along. And this put Concord Rangers into the hat for the third qualifying round draw, which took place on Monday. Now standing in the way of Concord Rangers’ highest ever progression in the FA Cup are Histon, who currently play in the Skrill Conference North. Histon also entered the competition at the 2nd qualifying round, and were able to beat Royston Town 4-0 away from home. They will provide a tough test on Saturday October 12th when they visit the Aspect Arena. The countdown is now on, in just under 2 weeks (at time of writing) Concord Rangers will host Histon in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, just 2 games away from the First Round Proper, what all non-league teams aspire to achieve! It’s there for the taking, the lads will have to work their backsides off, but that’s no different than normal. Best of luck to the Beachboys, and here’s hoping we see as many people as possible there cheering on the lads. You Are My Concord! Alan Jessup-Peacock

Saturday, 21 September 2013

A Scottish Tale

It's been over 10 years since I last visited Scotland to see my family up there, so with life moving in the right direction, work going well & having settled into the new flat, I thought it was about time I got my backside into gear! I went up last Tuesday, had about an 11 hour trip there in total by train! Yes I know it's quicker to go by plane, but given that I work on the railway the fares are cheaper and therefore more appealing, even with a long old journey! After leaving Basildon at 08:30, I arrived in Elgin not long after 19:00, and got to my Aunts place in Lossiemouth a little after 19:30. The journey was made that much more bearable by the new Reacher novel from Lee Child entitled "Never Go Back". Funny thing about that is I started the book just as the train left London, and had the whole thing finished shortly after leaving Aberdeen! The first 3 nights of the trip I spent in Lossiemouth with my aunt, and it was good to catch up and relax! Over the days I was lucky enough to visit the Glenfiddich & Glen Moray distilleries (it would have been rude not to really), the Speyside Cooperage where they make & repair the whisky casks, and have a meal in the Skerry Brae, a great pub that has served decent grub for years! Also made sure that I walked along the beach towards the lighthouse, even though both myself & my aunt ended up soaked thanks to the rain. That beach is home to some great sand dunes, sits right next to the golf course, and is directly under the flight path from RAF Lossiemouth. I remember countless times where as a kid me & the brothers would run & play along that beach! During the downtime where I wasn't out & about or my aunt was working we spent probably far too much time watching the History channel & Food Network! Duck Dynasty, Storage Wars, Diners Drive Ins & Dives, they all helped provide some entertainment! On the Friday I said goodbye to my aunt (after buying her a small bottle of champers for letting me stay) and made my way off to Inverness. I was there earlier than I needed to be as I couldn’t check into my B&B until half 4, so I took the time to enjoy a cigar and watch the world go by next to the River Ness! After checking in, I met with my cousin & went out for a bit of dinner & a drink or two. We had quite an honest discussion about a few bits, and it was good to do so! After a bit of shopping around Inverness Saturday morning I met my cousin again around lunchtime and we decided to head towards Aviemore and the Cairngorm mountains beyond. However whilst on the way we went past what looked like a zip-line place amongst the trees called "Treezone". Basically it was an obstacle course suspended in the trees at heights reaching 40 feet, split into two separate courses. Both myself & my cousin signed up and did it, ending up pretty shattered once we'd managed to work our way around it! There was no way we were stopping though, as two young kids were going round in front of us, and we couldn't be shown up by them! A trip up to the top of the Cairngorm mountain followed, before heading back to Ness. The journey home was just as long as the one going, and without a book to keep me going I was focused on watching the West Ham game on my phone. Ok it ended up being 2 hours of my life I'd never get back, but it helped pass the time! I had a great few days away, loved being able to spend time with family I haven’t seen in ages, and felt a lot better for it.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

5 Games In!

We’re 5 games into the Skrill South season, and I’ll be totally honest in saying I had no idea as to where Concord Rangers would be sitting at this early point of the season. Obviously I hoped we would be doing well, but I was under no illusions as to how difficult the Skrill Conference South would be for the club. I’m pleased to say though that the Beachboys have made a positive start to the season, and given more than a good account of themselves in some difficult games already. Opening weekend was a great occasion & experience for everybody involved with Concord Rangers as they made their debut in the Skrill Conference South at home to Basingstoke. The visitors were a good side, as all opponents are certain to be at this level, and they provided a very entertaining game on the day. John Easterford made his mark on the Beachboys history books by scoring Concord Rangers first goal at Conference South level, however there wasn’t too much celebration as a late Basingstoke goal ensured that they would get a 2-1 victory. There wasn’t a long wait before Concord were able to put points on the board though, as they following Monday the Beachboys made the short trip to Chelmsford City. With the game even at halftime with the score at 2-2, it looked to be a fast-paced and competitive second half. That’s what we got, however for all the possession, domination and chances that Concord created, the score remained the same at 90 minutes. A point was on the board though, and once again history was being made by this Beachboys side! Of course, for a club playing at this level for the first time, the early part of the season will be full of moments where history is made, a new record is set for the team and moments are created that will live long in the memory of those involved. So it will be no surprise when I say that another special moment occurred the following Saturday, when Concord made the trip south to face a well fancied Dover side who had won both their previous matches this season. Danny Spendlove was able to score an absolute classic of a goal to give Concord the lead, and although he then went off injured and the lads played with 10 men for the last 15-20 minutes, it was the Beachboys who came home with all 3 points. Bank Holiday Monday brought Sutton United to Thames Road, and with them former loanee keeper Tom Lovelock. Both him and Concord custodian Jamie Butler were unbeatable in their respective goals and a 0-0 draw was the final result on what was a beautiful day on Concord Island! Things were not so beautiful in Bath City the following Saturday though, as although the weather was spot on, the end result wasn’t. A tough 3-1 loss ensured that Concord Rangers would finish their first 5 games of the season with 5 points. A solid start to the season, personally I am happy with how the lads have played and how they’ve risen to the challenge that has been put before them. But of course there is still a lot of football left to play, plenty more games will be won or lost, all that I ask for is that the team remains competitive as we have shown we can be. The Conference South journey has begun, it’s been fun so far and I know I am not the only one looking forward to seeing where it takes us over the coming months! You Are My Concord!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Preseason Is Over, Now The Real Action Begins!

The preseason preparations are finally over, the friendlies have been played and squads rotated & tested. Now it’s time for the main show to get under way after what has seemed like an age of a summer!

The preseason has been an eventful one for the Beachboys, with plenty of goals being scored and up until the final two games very few being let in. It’s also hit the squad hard with a couple of significant injuries that have had to be addressed.

July saw the Beachboys involved in 6 preseason matches, and all of which saw Concord Rangers victorious. First up were a Stevenage Borough XI who were overturned by a 6 goals to 1 margin, which included goals from Tony Stokes, Paul Goodacre and Jason Hallett. Next up was a charity encounter away to Canvey Island, where the money raised on the night would be split between the Indee Rose Trust and the Danny Green Fund, the two clubs chosen charities. Although this was a friendly, there was still bragging rights at stake in what will be the only Island derby for at least a year. It was Concord Rangers evening on this Friday night on Canvey, as a dominant display saw them earn a 4-0 victory on a pitch they’ve not lost on now in 4 consecutive visits.

The following day another squad match took place, this one being used to showcase a number of the younger players in the Beachboys squad against Waltham Abbey. And showcase they did as Concord again picked up a preseason victory, winning 3-1 on a sunny Saturday afternoon on Canvey! What was expected to be the first real test of preseason turned out to be another one-sided victory on the following Tuesday night. Thames Road was the venue for Concord Rangers taking on St Albans of the Calor Premier League, and the Beachboys eased to a 3-0 victory. 12 goals in 2 games meant that Concord Rangers were able to see off a Southend United XI 6-0 and a Dartford XI 6-1 as the July preseason action came to an end.

August however was where the issues started to appear, with the first preseason match of the month being a 4-0 loss at home to Billericay, a team who this past season had been relegated from the Conference South back into the Ryman Premier League. A number of first choice Beachboys were missing, however the biggest story of the day other than the result was that captain Tony Stokes came off injured. After visiting the hospital it was found that Tony had locked his knee, will need an operation and will be out of action for the first couple of months of the season. Devastating stuff for Tony who overcame a niggling groin injury last season & was at a great fitness level coming into this campaign. Concord have wasted no time in trying to fill the void left by Tony, as former East Thurrock striker Sam Higgins was brought in to help lead the attack. Sam was able to slot straight into the preseason action this past Saturday away to Chesham, however no Beachboy found the score sheet in this 1-0 loss. Now thoughts turn to this coming Saturday, Concord Rangers finally open up their inaugural Skrill South campaign at home to Basingstoke, before travelling to Chelmsford City on the following Monday.

Competitive football is back at Thames Road and personally I cannot wait to get back & get behind the Beachboys. We’ve got a tough season ahead, pegged as the underdogs wherever we will go, but I’m sure that much like last season, the determination & heart of this club will prove many an “expert” wrong over the course of the next 9 months!

You Are My Concord!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Expecting Too Much?

The season is nearly upon us, just over a week until the Skrill Conference South (and North) kick off and get under way. 44 teams all with their own aims and ambitions for the season, whether that is to simply stay in the league they're in, to have a decent cup run, or to achieve promotion to the next level. Then of course there's the fans, we have our own hopes & dreams for the coming season, some realistic, some clearly not.

I'll be completely honest, at the start of last season I never even dreamed that Concord Rangers would achieve all that they did. There were hopes of a decent cup run or two (considering there was 4 the club were a part of) and a top half table finish, but that was it. Obviously as the season progress the expectations and aspirations change with how the team progresses, but at this point before the season begins in earnest you have to be reasonable with what you hope for your team, right?

Well a number of teams fans (especially at Ryman level after seeing Twitter recently) believe that their team will be promoted no questions asked, obviously they cannot all be right and given the strength of some leagues many will be in for a massive shock. In the Ryman Premier I've seen fans of Lowestoft, Canvey Island, Wealdstone, Billericay and Hornchurch all state they will be promoted this season, personally I think one of those could well be right, however some are just dreaming a bit too much! I am glad that Concord Rangers were promoted from this league, as it looks to be the toughest it's been in a long time, good luck to anyone who believes they can predict what is going to happen there!

We all want success for the teams we support, don't get me wrong, however there has to be a realistic view as to what success is for each club. For example, this coming season in the Conference South, my view of success for the Beachboys will be to be competitive and stay up in a league many believe we are punching well above our weight to be in. Another cup run would be nice, obviously it's tough to beat a cup win like last season, but making the 1st round proper of the FA Cup would come close! I don't expect Concord to challenge for the league title, I don't expect us to make the playoffs, it would be a fantastic achievement and a dream come true for all at the club, but it's not something that enters into my expectations for the season.

It's about being realistic about what your club can achieve, it may well be easy to get carried away in the excitement when you win your first 5/10 games and sit at the top of the table, but there's always a result or two which can bring you right back down again. For teams such as Manchester United and City, league championships and cup victories are almost a given, a regular achievement which fans expect to challenge for. For teams like West Ham and Fulham, mid-table finishes are achievable and can be made consistently, European football is possible along with decent cup runs, but you're not expecting to make the Champions League or win the Premiership. Fans of top level clubs generally tend to be more realistic over what their team can achieve, I think some non-league fans would do well to learn from them.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Still Smiling!

Been very quiet on the old blogging front of late, I think that’s because of three main reasons. The first is that football season is still a few weeks away, the second is work being busier and more active, and third, and probably most importantly, I’m content and plodding along nicely through life.

Most of my blogs over the past year or so have revolved around football, many of which focusing on Concord Rangers and the journey I had the pleasure of being a part of last season. It has been easy to write/type about the experiences as part of the club, as it was something I felt passionate about. I have mentioned it before, but the way the club welcomes you in, the family atmosphere which resonates throughout the club, it’s not hard to see why it breeds such loyalty and emotion. This coming season Concord Rangers embark on their debut season in the “Skrill.com Conference South”, just 2 promotions away from league football. Some people say that the lads are punching above their weight at this level, but that’ll only spur the lads on. It’s gonna be one hell of a journey this year, and I am looking forward to being a part of it.

Had some decent moments on a personal level recently, couple of weekend jaunts for one reason or another. First up was a weekend in Brighton for the wedding of Paul & Emma Hill, who I’ve known for a few years now after meeting through a former colleague & still great friend. I went down on the Friday night, and was in a good mood anyway as I was able to win just under £300 from the bookies, which essentially paid for my weekend! A decent part of the Friday night was walking along Hove beach smoking one of my Montecristo cigars, the sun lowering in the sky, bloody picturesque it was! The wedding itself the following day was at Sussex County Cricket Ground, home of the Sussex Sharks, and on the day there was an international 20/20 tournament taking place. A great moment was during the ceremony, as Paul was saying his bit, a cheer went up around the ground. No, not because Paul was saying “I do”, but because a Danish player has just hit 100! Couldn’t have been better timing! It was a superb ceremony, excellent reception in the pavilion, and we even got to go onto the pitch when the Italians were presented with the trophy! Karaoke was part of the reception too, fair play to the lads who got up there, some fantastically funny moments to see/hear! Seriously though, brilliant day & celebration, caught up with some friends I hadn’t seen in ages, congratulations once again to Paul & Emma (and I know Paul reads these, as he admitted as much that weekend!)

The weekend after that I was away again, but this time with my brothers and my dad. Been years since all 4 of us had been away anywhere due to work commitments etc, so it was gonna be a laugh rolling back the years after all this time. 3 nights in Clacton, in one of the caravan parks that we used to stay in as kids when Dad took us on holiday. Amazingly all four of us large bastards were able to fit in this caravan, no idea how given the size of us though! We didn’t spend that much time in the caravan though, most of the time we were in Clacton itself, spending far too much money on the 2p slider machines, crane machines and any other amusement we could bother to find. Oh and a bit of mini golf as well, which the old man won (we had to let him win, he’d paid for the holiday). We also visited our Nan on the way home, which was fantastic as she’d not seen all of us together in years either. The pictures are all up on Facebook, all four of us together is not a pretty sight! It was a brilliant weekend though, and one we wont forget in a while!

Plenty going on in the world at the moment, what with train crashes, royal babies, porn being censored, politicians lying etc. But I ain’t complaining, things are trundling along well enough, plenty to look forward to over the coming months, I hope that you, reading this, have a smile on your face as big as mine lately.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Training With The Beachboys

Concord Rangers have begun preseason training ready for their inaugural Conference South season, and with the new division comes a new training ground. Previously training on 3G in Brentwood, this season the Beachboys have moved to a facility in Basildon. This just happens to be about a 30 minute walk from my flat, so with that in mind I decided to take a stroll (smoking a rather nice Montecristo No. 4 whilst doing so) and take the chance to watch the team train.

First impressions of the facility was that it was very well maintained. The owners of the facility are Fords, and as they sponsored the Beachboys last season on the home kit, it’s easy to see where the connection came from. There’s a vast field to be used, with the standard boxes already marked out, & pitch markings to come within the next week. The majority of cones etc had already been set up by the time I arrived just after 19:00, with nearly everyone there ready to get involved with what Danny Cowley had lined up. Now I’ve seen the preseason schedule, and what is involved in the build up towards the season, and I don’t envy those lads one bit to be honest!

One player was late, I’ll name and shame him too as I’m good like that, it was Leon Gordon who rolled up shortly before 19:15. He was the subject of some banter from Dan later on too, as he had decided to run/train etc wearing a vest. Every other player was in a standard football/training top, oh except for Danny Spendlove, but his dress sense, even when training, is expected to be a bit different to everyone else!

Danny starts the training session with a short bit of verbal about what is the aim, what the lads are there trying to gain from the session and what it means going forward. He then handed the players over to his brother & player-coach Nicky who led the lads off to do a conditioning warm-up. Glen Alzapiedi, Danny Cowley & Miki Hood spent this time setting up a various amount of cones, poles, balls & other bits which would play a part in the 2 and a half hours that was to follow! Obviously I’m not going to detail everything that goes on though, the team are training & don’t need me telling all the details of the process etc!

Then came the hard work for the lads, a lot of running involved early on which certainly seemed to test the limits of some guys. It was clear that there’s a varying range of levels when it came to the running, but every lad to a man looked determined and were not afraid to put in the effort. There was also one key factor throughout a majority of the training, there was plenty of work with the football. It’s not just about fitness, you need to be able to control the ball and after the time off since the last season it is key to get back into the swing of it.

Both Danny & Glen were involved in the drills over the session, clearly showing that whatever the players could do, they could as well! Although to be honest, there was some shocking defending from Glen in the 5-a-side matches at the end! One drill even saw the assistant to the kit man Miki Hood get involved, with Danny shouting to all “I can’t have an unfit kit-man” as the reasoning behind bringing him in. Miki lasted through one drill, and to make up the numbers the new physio took his place in the next one (which led to plenty of comments that previous physios would never have got involved in that way).

There were a couple of things that really stood out to me over that time watching the guys, the first being that although they were working hard & pushing themselves, there remained a great atmosphere. Everybody was in good spirits and clearly looking forward to getting the new season underway. If it had been a heavy summer for some of these lads, it didn’t show as they ran their backsides off over that 2 and a half hours. The fitness of the team was dead impressive, and it was evident that it’s not only the fans eager to get the Conference South season underway.

You Are My Concord!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Ins & Outs down Thames Road

With pre-season training starting this coming week, along with the fixtures due to be released Friday as well, I thought it best that we have a quick run down over the changes that have happened around Concord Rangers over the summer so far.

First the outgoings, the players/staff that have moved on. It was expected but Ben Greenhalgh, who played for the Beachboys for the second half of last season, has been signed by Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Premier League. Ben became an integral part of the Concord team and I’m sure I speak for every Beachboys fan when I wish Ben the best of luck north of the border! Also moving up levels is defender Matt Fry, who has been signed by Conference Premier side Dartford, and will be looking to play a big part in their push for promotion into the Football League.

We’ve also seen the departure of physiotherapist Steve Wright after one season with the club as he looks to move forward with his career. Steve, or simply “physio” as many knew him as (including myself) was called into action on many occasions through the season, playing a big part in treating Harry Elmes after his leg injury against Thurrock, and seeing to the various knocks and injuries our players picked up over the season (see Danny Spendlove, John Easterford etc). Goalkeeper Dale Brightly, who returned to the club to cover when loanee Luke Chambers was recalled by Southend, has moved to the other side of the island, signing for Canvey Island FC, whilst young starlet Sammy Knott has moved to Aveley in order to get regular first team football at Ryman Premier level.

Over the summer (if you can really call it that) some other changes have been made or are in the process of being made at Concord Rangers in preparation for our inaugural Conference South season. One major change will be noticed on your first return to Thames Road, with new gates being installed where the players enter the pitch, and an alteration to the main turnstiles upon entering the ground. The kits are also changing, with Under Armour being the makers and Canvey-based company Design 4 Print becoming our main home sponsor.

Now for the incoming players, a quick rundown of the new additions to the Concord Rangers family who are looking to push the club forward in the Conference South. The first new signing announced was a returning face, that of Paul Goodacre. A vastly experienced defender who has been at Conference South level for some time, Paul previously spent a loan spell at Thames Road during the 2011/12 Ryman Premier season. Another familiar face was next to be announced, this one being Gary Ogilvie, who was a part of the Beachboys team that won the Essex Senior League & Gordon Brasted Trophy back in 2007/08. Since then Oggers has spent his time on a scholarship playing for Florida Tech, and more recently with FC London of Ontario in the Canadian League. Gary also spent some time with the Beachboys during the 2011/12 season, scoring against Kingstonian & Horsham.

Two more players were announced recently, the first being Jamie Butler who is a 21 year old goalkeeper who spent last season playing for Ryman Premier side Met Police. Having a fully signed custodian of the goal will be a welcome sight for the club after spending most of last season with ‘keepers on loan (Tom Lovelock, Luke Chambers).  Additionally, Canvey-based defender/midfielder Bradley Hamilton adds more experience to the Beachboys side, having signed from League One side Colchester United. And finally the new physio for the Concord Rangers 2013/14 will be Mike Hine, who is a Wickford based lad due to complete his MSc (Masters Degree) in Sports Therapy from London Metropolitan University shortly.

Plenty of goings on at Thames Road, with probably a few more things to come as pre-season gets under way. Needless to say though, I am looking forward to being a part of it as the Concord Rangers family progress!

You Are My Concord!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

No Football, More Blogs

The summer is tough to manage when there’s no major football tournament on, I know there’s tennis and cricket, and the Lions tour, but it’s just not the same! You end up with little to focus on when the weekends come around and try to find something to keep you occupied! Which in turn has led me to write another blog, I’ve always found it easier to write things down whatever the issue/subject, so the fact that “summer” is dragging gives me reason to waffle on.

Nearly 4 months now in the new flat for me and my brother, the 3 month inspection went well with no issues, plus a couple of bits we’ve found were taken care of shortly afterwards. It feels like we’ve been there an age already, everything under control (pretty much), tasks being done by the both of us, cooking being shared, bills etc. All that is great, and after the inspection/visit the property manager said she’d be happy for us to sign a renewal to the original 6 month contract. So once we organise a time and day, we’ll be in the flat for another 12 months from when the first 6 months ends in August. Needless to say we’re both pleased with that outcome!

Last time I said I had a busy month ahead, well that’s pretty much done now and everything went without a hitch. Had a great time in Doncaster for my friend Vikki’s wedding. I’ve stuck some of the pictures her brother took online as well as a couple I got on my phone, it was a beautiful day weather wise which certainly added to everyone’s enjoyment! Spent some quality time with Vik, her now husband Craig & her boys Kain & Dion, the two lads are always full of energy and will make sure you are knackered by the end of the week! Also was good to see Viks family, over the years I’ve got to know them fairly well and always enjoy catching up with them all. At the time Vikki was heavily pregnant with her third child, a little girl called Leigh who was born just over a week ago now.

Also had my yearly trip to Blackpool to take part in the Railsports with a number of the guys from work. The guys that come along have slowly drifted to playing darts as they’ve realised that it’s not much effort, and you can drink from early on as its held in a working mens club! 7 of us played from our company, 2 of them came back with medals (4th year on the trot someone from our lot has got one). We also take a football team up as well, who this year won the whole tournament, so congratulations to them! It’s always an entertaining weekend as we start enjoying ourselves on the train up Friday afternoon, play some cards, drink a few beers etc, and the party tends to keep going until Sunday morning when the hangovers kick in. The story of my weekend though was being lucky on the machines, winning £300 on the Friday morning in William Hill, then another £200 in Ladbrokes on the Saturday afternoon! Needless to say my weekend was free!

Still plenty of stuff coming up to look forward to though, weekend away with the old man & the brothers being the key one. Not long after my parents split, dad was taking us on holiday to a caravan park in Clacton for a week at a time, always had a laugh and it even lasted as we got older. However it’s been some time since we all went together thanks to various work commitments & other situations over the years. Well now the old man has taken his pension & paid off the house, he thought it was about time we did it again. And that’s what is gonna happen next month, Friday to Monday in Clacton at the caravan park we’ve stayed in previously, and it should be a decent few days!

Still got the Great British Beer Festival to look forward to in August, and a friends wedding next month too. All stuff to keep your mind from being purely focused on work as it has a tendency to be at the moment! Also I’ve looked a bit further on into the year and booked some leave at the start of September. It’s been a long time, seriously long, since I went up to Scotland to visit my family up there, so it’s about time I got my backside into gear and got up there. The planning begins now, but I’ve got to make sure I visit Lossiemouth & Inverness as the main focus. It would obviously be rude not to pop into any local distilleries whilst there, and there’s a couple of friends I’ve met online over the years that would probably be offended if I didn’t make time to visit them!

I’m lucky to be in the situation I’m in, pretty comfortable with a job I enjoy & good people around me, I plan on making the most of it going forward!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Who's With Us In The Conference South?

With Concord Rangers being promoted last season (still struggle to take that in sometimes!) and making their way into the Conference South, I thought it best to have a quick glance at some of the teams (and in turn lengthy journeys) we’ll have the pleasure of enjoying next season! Please note that mileages & journey times are estimates found online, and I am using the initial FA team placement to identify our opponents, the league set-up will be ratified at the AGM later next month.

I’ll start close to home, and the closest team are one that we’ve become accustomed to playing in cup competitions over the years, Chelmsford City. Just 20 minutes down the road, we’ve played & beaten them in the Isthmian Cup this past season and in the Essex Senior Cup the season before. Back in 2009 they beat us to win the Essex Senior Cup that season, so it’s been back and forth over the years. The Clarets are currently without a manager, but by the time the season begins they are bound to be back on track and pushing forward in the league.

The other teams that are within relatively close proximity to the club include Ebbsfleet Utd (40mins), Bromley (55 mins), Bishops Stortford, Tonbridge Angels & Boreham Wood (1hr). Ebbsfleet United were relegated from the Conference Premier last season, finishing 23rd overall after earning just 8 wins throughout the year. The Fleet were the only Conference Premier side to be relegated into the Conference South this season, as the other three teams were placed into the Conference North, and Bishops Stortford were moved from the North to the South division. The “Bishops” have spent the last two seasons in the Conference North after Rushden & Diamonds were expelled from the Football Conference, which has led to some testing journeys over the years, so they’ll be much happier to be back in the South!

Alongside us, Whitehawk (now Brighton City FC) were promoted to the Conference South as champions of the Isthmian Premier League, and we know all about them from our two encounters last season! Gosport Borough were also promoted to the Conference South after winning the playoffs in the Evo-Stick South Premier League, and much like us they are entering this level of football for the first time in the clubs history.

Being at this level of football means that our away days will be longer, with journeys stretching up to nearly 200 miles and well over 3 hours long when travelling by road. From what I could find out, the longest journey for the Beachboys this season will be 195 miles down the road to Weston Super Mare, a journey which will take around 3 and a half hours. Add to that the journey back, and the lads will be in for a very long day. Slightly closer (but not by much) are Dorchester Town (176 miles), Bath City (170 miles) and Eastleigh (125 miles), all taking between 2hrs 10 mins & 3hrs to get to! Obviously it’s not just us making these trips, our opponents will be doing the same when they visit us, but they do look like some excessively long and drawn out trips. The key will be when the fixtures are (released in early July), as a 390 mile round trip wont be fun on a Tuesday night!

One of the other teams of note will be Sutton United, where Tom Lovelock is the custodian of the goal. Tom spent a period of time on loan with the Beachboys this past season, turning in some excellent performances including in the penalty shootout cup victory over Chelmsford City. I would love to have seen Tom back at Concord Rangers but best of luck to him there, except when playing us of course.

I could spend all day going into detail on the teams in this, such are the stories and histories associated with them, but I don’t wish to bore you all to tears (if I haven’t already). Next season will be a massive one for the club without a doubt, and I for one am looking forward to the challenges it’ll bring!

You Are My Concord!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Back To Basics


It’s been some time since I wrote a personal blog, strange considering I used to do them on a regular basis. But to be honest most of the time over the past year I’ve been writing about Concord Rangers and the hell of a season the club and everyone associated with it has had. It’s not been a bad thing, football helped keep my mind off issues at home with my mum & her partner, and stopped me writing pages of emotional issues!

So before I drift into that of which I have been avoiding, things are a lot steadier and more relaxed now in my personal life. Myself and my youngest brother Ben moved out of the “family” home (I say family like that because of the issues we had and that I continue to have) at the end of February, the date set by ourselves as a target after a conversation with our mum late last year. We’ve moved to a decent 2-bed flat in Basildon, right near the station & town centre so everything we need is right there on our doorstep. Admittedly took a while to settle in, I for one wasn’t exactly sleeping well for the first couple of weeks. But now everything is in place, our expenditure is under control, Sky has been installed, and we are both eating well & regularly!

My aunt & Nan both said that a few months in we would wonder why we didn’t do this earlier, and they wasn’t wrong. Both myself and Ben have wondered that, as it’s gone so well. I say that, but it’s our first inspection next week so it could all go horribly wrong! We did receive an awful lot of help from our dad and Nan, both provided immense support and assistance in the lead up to and the weeks after the move. I really cannot thank them both enough for everything.

What else? Well work has been interesting to an extent. I am now mainly based at our New Cross Gate depot, the control room there was admittedly left to the side and now the focus is on bringing it up to the same standards if not better than our main control room at Swiss Cottage. The guys there are now getting regular management coverage (me) and a bit more support when it comes to systems stuff and decision making when things go wrong. No denying it’s been tough at times, but thankfully some of the guys there are very decent and make the job a lot easier. The nature of our company means that minds are changed higher up more often than you’d like, and closer to the front line we have to adapt and keep them happy, so far so good!

Still a single man, slowly but surely approaching my 30th birthday this November so I do feel as though I am getting old. Thankfully the move has saved me from feeling like too much of a sad old bastard. I do still have plenty going on though to keep me from going mad, and not just football, although that is one of the key things (and has been for some time). I’ve got 2 whisky tasting events the next few weeks, the Great British Beer festival in August, Railsports (providing everything gets signed off in time) next month, oh and the small matter of two weddings. Paul Hill & his partner Emma will be tying the knot in July down in Brighton, over the last few years Paul has become a very good mate after meeting him through Duncan (a friend & former colleague), and I wish him all the best. Before that though, a friend who I have been through a lot with, who’s seen as many ups as they have downs, will be getting married in June. Over the years myself and Vikki have had our arguments, disagreements and issues, but as friends we’ve managed to get through it somehow. I wish her all the best and will be glad to be there for the big day.

So yeah, that’s pretty much it for now I guess. Nearly 3 months in the new place, me and my brother are surviving, keeping everything under control. Football season ending will see it missed for the summer, but thankfully the lads that are a part of that have become good mates and I’m sure there’ll be a few beers drunk before preseason starts (not too many though for them, of course). I appreciate you reading this if you’ve managed this far, thank you!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Beachboys In The Conference South!

Football has an amazing effect on your emotions & your physical state, and never is it more apparent then during the business end of the season!

So Monday 6th May started like any other day, except full of nerves and a distinct lack of sleep because of it. History had already been made by Concord Rangers this season with the highest league position and the Ryman League Cup victory, but today was a chance to add to that in spectacular fashion by winning promotion to the Conference South. Win or lose though, it had been a brilliantly successful season for the Beachboys and the lads could be proud of what they had already achieved.

The players coach left Thames Road just after 9:30, and so begun the long slog up the A12 towards the days opponents, Lowestoft Town, themselves a team who were making their 3rd consecutive appearance in the Ryman Playoff final. The mood was jovial to be fair, a bit of nervous excitement around, but that was eased midway through the journey as we descended on a café just past Ipswich and came close to eating them out of business (well, that may have been just me). A great story of the day was that winger Reece Harris had flown back from the States just to be a part of the squad, which to me just highlighted the effect this club has on the people involved with it.

We arrived in a sunny Lowestoft at around half one, and the supporters we had begun singing almost immediately, if only to drown out the fairly woeful karaoke singer our hosts had brought in to “entertain” the crowds! 90 minutes to kill, so the Lowestoft facilities were enjoyed & the beer sampled, as the other coaches of Beachboys fans began to appear. The time just seemed to drag until kick off, as the ground filled and nerves were clearly being felt by everyone there (final attendance was around 2,490).

With the game under way, a group of us descended on the shed behind the Trawlerboys goal and proceeded to make ourselves heard with a variety of songs, made all the more vocal when Steve King headed in our first goal. There wasn’t much room in that shed, but we made sure every inch was used as we bounced around celebrating! Our voices rarely stopped to be fair, even when Lowestoft equalised we continued to show our support and cheer on the lads. It was a beautiful day, and an occasion that happens rarely, so we were making the most of it! Second half was more of the same, noise from us and Concord playing fairly well against a Lowestoft side who were not at their best. Maybe it was the pressure of being there for the 3rd time in a row, maybe it was the crowd, but the Trawlerboys were not playing as well as they had done previously. Concord made that count as with a few minutes of normal time left Leon Gordon popped up at the back post to head the winner past the ‘Stoft ‘keeper, sending us fans into delirium!

After what seemed like an eternity the final whistle blew, prompting emotional scenes from the players, bench, committee and the fans (including myself) who clambered on to the pitch to celebrate the amazing achievement. That was my first pitch invasion, actually felt special to be a part of! Didn’t do myself any favours though as I fell to the ground in a heap after getting over the barrier! The first person I saw was Danny Cowley, it was all I could do to give him a hug and scream “we did it Dan”! The whole experience of the day, the celebrations on the pitch, on the coach home & in the club afterwards, was something to behold. Everyone pulling together for one goal, all the emotion, blood sweat and tears that have been invested into this club being worthwhile as promotion was achieved. When I started watching Concord Rangers 3 short years ago, never did I believe I would be a part of something so special, it’s a great feeling which continues to show why non-league football has become such a big part of my life!

Everyone involved in the club should enjoy this moment, soak up the emotion of it all, and then in few weeks time, start looking forward to life in the Conference South!

You Are My Concord!

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Season Draws To A Close

With just one game left in the regular season, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how the whole thing has gone, and look towards our impending playoff journey.

Coming into our 3rd season in the Ryman Isthmian Premier League, the main priority was survival, it’s no secret that we as a club are punching above our weight, and the focus was keeping Concord Rangers established at this level. The months that have passed since the season kicked off back in August has seen the Beachboys do just that and much more. We’ve had heartache, joy, tragedy and more bumps & bruises that you could care to count.

The start of the season saw some poor results come our way, including 1-3, 1-4 & 0-3 defeats from 3 of our first 4 games in August. Only 2 league games in September thanks to cup commitments, both of which produced 2-2 draws. The cups however provided a bit of welcome relief after victories at home to Needham Market & away to Kettering Town. It was possibly the first game n October which started to light a fire in the lads when in the league, as we grabbed a deserved (and to outsiders unexpected) 2-0 victory away to Margate. The cups also continued to provide excitement for the Beachboys, as they came back from 0-3 down to win 4-3 away to Dagenham & Redbridge in the Essex Senior Cup.

An unbeaten November highlighted the corner that had been turned by the lads, winning 4 league games, drawing 1, and winning cup games against Takeley and Redbridge (which Jason Hallett score 7 & 6 goals respectively). A total of 34 goals were scored by the Beachboys this month, highlighting the strength of not just the strikers (Stokes, Hallett & Elmes) but the rest of the squad in that respect. December gave the club a smack in the mouth a week before Christmas as Lewes came to Thames Road & won 6-3, but the team were able to recover quickly and win the first of the two Island derbies 3-0. January became a month controlled by the weather, as did much of February, with snow & rain meaning many games were postponed and rescheduled! The good form continued though, and Concord were able to reach the semi-finals of both the Essex Senior Cup and the Isthmian League Cup. Although Grays sent the Beachboys out of the first, a victory over Hastings sent Concord into the final of the latter.

Thanks to the previous months weather, March & April were some of the busiest months I’ve known for any football club. Tuesday night games were a mainstay, with a few on Thursdays having to be thrown in for good measure. Concord were able to cope though, and remained unbeaten through March until an away trip to Wealdstone on the 28th where they fell 1-2. A victory over Canvey Island on Easter Monday did little to stop a slide though, as the Beachboys then lost their next 3 league games. The league wasn’t the main story at this moment in time however, as on Tuesday 9th April history was made when Concord Rangers beat Dulwich Hamlet 3-2 aet to become Isthmian League Cup Champions. It was a fantastic performance from the team, and the support shown for the lads was excellent.  Later that month the form returned with hard earned victories at Leiston & Met Police which confirmed our place in the playoffs, but at the time of writing our opponents were not certain.

Within the season we’ve also seen our players take a battering. Striker Harry Elmes suffered a horrific broken leg in a home game against Thurrock, a player who means a lot to the team on & off the pitch, I personally wish him all the best and it’s been great seeing him at games recently cheering the lads on. Other players have been seen to take harsh knocks too, Easterford putting his head on the line & coming away a bloody mess, and more recently Danny Spendlove suffering a double break to his eye socket & a compressed/fractured cheekbone. The team have been through the wars this year, and they have worked hard for what they’ve achieved. Now after the home game against Leiston it’s time to focus on the next goal, securing promotion through the playoffs!

You Are My Concord

Alan Jessup-Peacock
Chairman “Concord Supporters Association”

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Bit of a Mixed Bag

Lately the fortunes of Concord Rangers have been as mixed as the weather! Since the end of March it really has been a rollercoaster for the Beachboys & their fans, and it’s not hard to see why given the fact that the team are running on empty (as most teams with hectic schedules are right now).

The topsy turvy run of form began on the 28th March with a tough away trip to fellow playoff (and possibly title) hopefuls Wealdstone. An early sending off for Leon McKenzie made the job difficult for Concord on the night, however some exceptional defending and determined play kept the game scoreless through the first half. John Easterford rose above all others midway through the second half to give the Beachboys the lead they deserved after being the better side even with 10 men. However 2 quick goals in the last 5 minutes gave Wealdstone the victory. There were some ugly scenes at the final whistle from the Wealdstone “fans” invading the pitch, but highlighting the details would give them publicity they do not deserve.

Another away game lay ahead on Easter Monday, this one being the 2nd of the seasons Island Derby games against Canvey Island. To be completely honest it wasn’t the greatest game between the two sides, but Concord ran away easy winners on the day by a 2-0 scoreline. An early Tony Stokes goal & a bit of luck from Jason Hallett got the job done against a Canvey team seemingly not bothered (save for maybe one or two players) whether they won or lost.  

2 more defeats followed for the Beachboys (at home to Hendon & away at East Thurrock) which really killed off any hopes of pushing Whit£hawk all the way for the title, but the playoffs were (and still are) a very good possibility. Before the playoffs though there was the small matter of the Isthmian League Cup final against Dulwich Hamlet. I won’t go into detail as there’s already a great report on the site by Jack Junior Smith on the match which sums it up completely, but after extra time Concord Rangers won 3-2 on the night. The celebrations after the game continued long into the morning for some of us, and it was a date that will live long in the Beachboys memory, even more so for captain Tony Stokes who that day announced he and his partner are expecting their first child.

Concord were brought back down to earth with one hell of a bump this past Saturday though, as relegation threatened Harrow Borough came to Thames Road and pulled off an unexpected 2-1 victory. Players were playing injured, 4 solid penalty appeals were waved away by the ref, & 2 sending off offences were also ignored and just punished with yellow cards, but even so it was a tough defeat to stomach. This made it 4 league losses from the last 5 games, 3 of them in a row, which is the poorest form we’ve been on this season. Every team has blips, and it appears that ours has come right at the business end of the season.

The final 4 games of the season will be tough, as all games are in this league. Tonight Concord travel to Leiston, visit Met Police on Saturday, go to Kingstonian next Monday before ending the regular season at home to Leiston on Saturday 27th April. Now depending on how those games go, the playoffs will take place during the following week, 2nd & 3rd place will host 5th & 4th place teams respectively before the final on Saturday May 4th. Obviously we’d love to see Concord there, so it’s fingers crossed as the final weeks come and go. It won’t be easy though, and the lads will need all the support they can get, it’ll be good to see as many of you as possible at the games!

You Are My Concord!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Cup Final Fever

I am writing this with a little over 24 hours to go until kickoff of the Ryman League Cup Final between Concord Rangers & Dulwich Hamlet, and I have to admit, I am buzzing!

I’ve seen finals before, watched West Ham in the FA Cup final against Liverpool, and went to Wembley to see West Ham beat Blackpool in the Championship Playoff Final last season, but this is different. I tend to approach watching Concord & watching West Ham as following two different sports, although it’s the same game, it’s a different atmosphere, different set up etc. And I know that tomorrow, when I’m on the coach down to Maidstone for the game, it’ll be an experience like no other.

Ok so I’ve followed the Beachboys for 3 years, I’m open when it comes to that, and I’ve not been here through the Essex Senior League days of yesteryear. But it shows the type of club this is, and the effect it has on people, that in these 3 years I’ve become a passionate supporter, a regular contributor to the club (by these articles, PA announcing at matches) and being named “Chairman, Concord Supporters Association”. So when the team does well, it’s the club as a whole succeeding, and it is very easy to feel a part of that success, as even us fans singing in the shed end all have a part to play. The word being used around the club to sum it up is Teamship, sounds made up I know, but thanks to some work by Miki Hood, he found that it’s a proper word, and the meaning he found sums it up completely:
Teamship – “The state or quality of being a team, associated or working with other teams, towards a common benefit or goal.
Teamship, where multiple teams work together, is necessary for the better care and good stewardship of the planet. It’s the next level up from partnership, which is a one-to-one concept.”

So the lads have to take that Teamship, that togetherness, that focus on the goal into the game tomorrow night, even more so after 2 consecutive league losses. This game will be the perfect opportunity to forget the league for the moment, take in the atmosphere of a cup final on what will be a spectacular pitch, and put in a performance worthy of the prize ahead. A number of players have been a part of the Beachboy journey this season, some for only a couple of games and many throughout the whole season, and all their efforts come down to this period, the “business end” of the season. The team have had a fantastic season so far, and it’s nowhere near over with so much still to play for. But a cup final victory, well that would be a payoff for all the hard work the lads have put in over the months since it all kicked off last summer.

I’m excited, it’s hard not to be, it’ll be the biggest game for Concord Rangers that I’ve been a part of without a doubt. And to be fair it’ll be one of the biggest some of the players would have been a part too. It’s a big occasion, as the Chairman has said a few times, it’s a big game for big players, the lads have to step up, put the performance in that’s needed, and work to bring home the first bit of silverware in a few years! There will be a healthy amount of Concord support down there tomorrow night, it’ll be a pleasure to be a part of it, here’s hoping we all come back as very happy Beachboys!

You Are My Concord!

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Road To Maidstone

With a less than a month until the Isthmian League Cup final, I thought it was worth looking at how both teams made it to the game which will be held at Maidstone FC on the 9th April. It’ll be a momentous occasion in itself as the Isthmian League Cup becomes the first major competition in the country to stage its showpiece cup final on an 3G surface, how that will effect the play of both sides remains to be seen!

Our opponents on that day will be Dulwich Hamlet of the Ryman League South Division, and they are no stranger to playing higher league opposition in this seasons cup competition. After a 2-1 away victory at Eastbourne Town in the 2nd round, and a 5-1 home victory against Herne Bay in round 3, “The Hamlet” hosted Ryman Premier League high-flyers Wealdstone. Dulwich were the better side throughout, and scored the only goal of the game 4 minutes into the second half. As seems to be the case in most games, the trailing team rallied in the closing stages, but the tie-saving goal never came, booking Hamlet a Quarter Final date at home to Kingstonian (also in the Ryman Premier League).

After 3 weather-related postponements the game finally took place at the start of February, and Kingstonian took an early lead. Many would think the lower league team in this scenario would capitulate, but they rallied together to get back into the game & eventually ran out 4-1 winners. Although the score looked one sided, the Hamlet match report naming their ‘keeper as MOTM probably tells you all you need to know about how the game went. A penalty shootout victory over Thamesmead in the semi-final (after being 1-1 at 90 minutes) gave The Hamlet their place in the final next month.

The Beachboys journey to the final began away to Romford in the 2nd round, with the match being played at the home of Thurrock FC due to a ground-share agreement. A comfortable 4-1 win for Concord Rangers against the lower league side set up an away trip to Redbridge in the 3rd round, where the lads demolished their opposition by winning 9-0 (Jason Hallett even grabbed 6 goals). Next up was a home draw against fellow Ryman Premier team Bury Town, and a tough game saw the Beachboys earn a 2-1 victory early in December.

The weather affected the quarter final against Wroxham, with the game being postponed two weeks on the trot, however when the game finally took place it started fairly quietly. The first half finished scoreless but within 4 minutes of the restart Jason Hallett gave Concord the lead. Wroxham tried to get back into the game and put on some pressure, however they left themselves open at the back and 3 minutes from time Ade Osifuwa pretty much killed the game off with a 2nd Concord goal.  Hastings were up in the semi final just over a week after beating them in the league 4-0, but nothing could be taken for granted as football can produce some surprising results. Didn’t happen on this night though, Concord romped to an emphatic 3-0 win in the mist to set up the final.

The countdown is on, it’ll be a massive game with both clubs looking to take home their first bit of silverware for the season, hopefully we’ll see as many Concord Rangers fans as possible there to support the Beachboys!

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