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.

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