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!

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