Monday, 27 April 2009

EFW update

Coming soon

Hansa Rostock v Kaiserslautern (01:05:09)

The EFW team are kicking off May in style with a visit to everybody's favourite football and beer destination, Germany. Our flight arrives in Berlin on Friday morning before we board the train - or as we like to call them 'mobile pubs' to Rostock. I've been doing a little research this morning and I can exclusively announce that our pre-match venue will be the Brauhaus Trotzenburg. Just have a look at their website, if that doesn't make you thirsty for splendid German beer then you're not human.

VfL Wolfsburg v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (02:05:09)

On Saturday, 16 of us are heading to Wolfsburg to see league leaders Wolfsburg take on Hoffers. When we booked up to see this match, little did we know that it would turn out to be so important. Wolfsburg are on the verge of winning their first ever Bundesliga title so a win on Saturday would probably result in the locals partying like it's 1999 (again). It would be rude of us not to join in with their little party.

Pleasingly, there is an actual pub inside the ground at Wolfsburg. Even more pleasingly, we've been on to them and they can't wait to receive us! We're now best mates with the barman Benny and he's agreed to show us around upon our arrival.

On Sunday we'll be going to a local game in Berlin as yet to be decided. Not a bad little line up eh!? (Edit - actually we are now off to Poland for Pogon Szczecin v Polonia Slubice which if this is anything to go by, should be rather good fun).

New York New York

Impressive away turn out for York City away to Lewes (26:04:09)

'You're going home in a Sussex ambulance'

The EFW team were out and about last Sunday with a visit to the Dripping Pan for the Lewes v York City match. It was a rare day off from reporting for me as I had Stuart Fuller on hand to do the biz. You can read his report on the rather splendid The Ball is Round website by CLICKING ME.

We signed up another two members of the EFW club on the day, namely Mr Richard Brodie. Yes the very same Richard Brodie that has fired in 18 goals for City this season, keeping them in the league and securing a place for them at the new Wembley in the FA Trophy. Aside from goal machine Richie we signed up York City manager Martin Foyle who turned out to be a nice chap, a very nice chap. Photos of these two - proudly holding aloft the EFW logo - will appear in the next European Football Weekends gallery. That's coming very soon with loads of good stuff in there including our biggest signing to date, England cricket star Jimmy Anderson. Sod it lets show you Jimbo now in a world exclusive:

England star Jimmy Anderson, who chose to celebrate career best figures for Lancashire by signing up for all things EFW. Welcome aboard Jimbo. 1 x Ashes win for England this Summer please lad.

Your European Football Weekends

I updated the Your European Football Weekends section of the site over the weekend. We've had photos in from all around Europe, with more still to add. Check out the Belgian section, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, and some excellent stuff from Stephane Lievens in the other European Countries section.

So that's it for now chaps. The Germany stuff should be up by the middle of next week. Don't forget to tell your mates to sign up to the EFW Facebook site where there are nearly 1,000 of your photos and sections on helping with tickets and information on the great EFW get together in October. Also, if you want an EFW logo to photograph on your travels or at your local club then drop me a line ( and I'll post you one out in your teams colours. Cheers!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Jorvik Reds - York City FC

Ultra Vivid Scene

Why do I like European Football Weekends so much? Well, one of the main reasons is the supporters and the atmosphere they create. Fans abroad invariably treat every game as if it's their last and I for one love them for it.

I bang on about 'ultras' a lot on these pages but with good reason. These are the fans responsible for bringing noise, humour, colour, vibrancy and passion to stadiums. Without the ultras - matches would be played against a backdrop of silence - as often occurs in the Premiership. Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal may get tens of thousands of fans through their turnstiles but unless it's a derby or another European glory night, you could hear a pin drop in the stands at most matches.

So as top flight football in England becomes further obsessed with money and alienating their own fan base accordingly, I've turned to the non league for my domestic kicks.

So how about a group of ultras who combine the passion of our European cousins and follow a team in the nether regions of the football pyramid - step forwards the Jorvik Reds of York City - a winning combination in our book. The Jorvik Reds are our new best friends here at European Football Weekends, they've followed the Minstermen through thick and plenty of thin over the last few years spreading a riot of colour along the way.

York City have flirted with relegation from the Football Conference this season. Relegation would have resulting in them pitching up in the Conference North for the first time in their history. That would have mean more local derbies than the Jorvik Reds could have shook a 40 metre 'Come On City' banner at but alas they should survive the drop this season, just.

So ahead of York City's visit to the Dripping Pan this Sunday for their last match of the season against Lewes, I thought I'd interview our friends from the Jorvik Reds to see what they are all about:

How long have Jorvik Reds been established? Since 2004. This coming July will be our 5th Anniversary.

How many members do JR have and what is the criteria for becoming a new member? We don’t have ‘members’. We have a core of 30 who are always with us, and we can have up to 100 with us at some games.

How has the group developed over the past few years? Since 2004, we have improved a lot. Before, we were performing small displays. But now, we have lots more people involved, and are pulling off big and effective tifo. We also have a wide range of merchandise also available now.

What do York City FC (the club) think about JR? Are they supportive or do they keep a distance? We have had problems with them in the past, but at the end of the day, we need the club, and they need us, and many of the people at the top of the club love what we do.

Do tifos and other displays have to be permitted by the club(s) or do you bring the material into stadium(s) and test the attitudes of the stewards on the day? At home games, we are not allowed certain items, and York City can be very difficult with us. However, at away games, we try to get everything possible in.

Do JR have any influences inside/outside of England and if so why? JR arguably had an affect on the UK scene today. A lot of people from other clubs started seeing our displays, and wanted to copy what we do.

What are the future plans for the group? To carry on supporting York, and to produce bigger and better displays of passion.

What is York City's away support like and how many of those would be made up of the JR? We have one of the best supports in the league, usually around 150-250 at nearly every game, more at big games. Usually around 20% is made of JR.

How do you travel to away games? We run our own coach to most away games. If not, we travel in cars or on the train.

Do you have any rivals - other teams or ultra groups? York as a club do not have many traditional rivalries due to it’s location. Scarborough were a rival, but they have since drifted into obscurity due to financial troubles. Leeds and Hull were also considered rivals, however many see this rivalry as unbalanced due to the differences in size between the two clubs. As a group, we don’t have any rivals as such, but we do like to be the best at what we do.

What is the JR attitude to violence and do you think there is a link between ultras and violence? JR are a non violent group. We never go looking for fights, as that is not what we are about. In other countries, Ultras and violence sometimes go hand in hand, but I think many people have an ignorant attitude towards the word ‘ultra’, associating it only with violence and racism, whereas that is clearly not the case.

What do other - non JR - York City fans think of the group? Overall, I think there is a positive view of what we do. Many fans like the way we go ab out our support.. There are others who don’t like change and who see us as nothing more than ‘idiots’, but they are becoming an increasing minority.

What chance do ultra groups have in the UK given the high ticket prices and the cost of travelling to see away matches? Good question (award winning we like to think - Ed). It depends how much people are prepared to stand up for the cause. If the prices increase, then obviously it makes it difficult for the ultra to travel to games. However, I believe that if enough people stand up to the clubs in this modern age, then the traditional fans can eventually reclaim it for themselves.

Do you think Premiership clubs will embrace the ultra scene or do you think UK ultra groups will be confined to the downstairs of the football pyramid? I think the best groups will be confined to the lower leagues. Should safe standing be the brought in, we could see a change in this, but it doesn’t look likely that it will happen any time soon. The stewarding is more relaxed than in the top flight, and there also seem to be more people willing to get involved during the lower leagues.

Ultra groups vary from country to country. How would define 'ultras' in the UK? Do you think they differ from their European counterparts? Ultras in Europe have a lot more tradition, and it is written into their football culture. The big groups often have hundreds of members, whereas in the UK, most have less than 50. I don’t think there is a big difference when you look at the whole picture, it is just the fact that the ultras in Europe have a lot more power to influence, and seem to be able to get away with more than we can in the UK.

Do ultra groups in the UK have political tendencies? Some do, some don’t. Celtic and Rangers will always be politically influenced because of their history. However, I don’t think that any of the other groups in the UK are fiercely political one way or the other. The JR is apolitical. York, then everything else.

What are the aims of ultra groups in the UK in general? Do you fight against high ticket prices, terracing, changing the kick off times, banning orders or do you just go for bigger and better displays and try to increase the atmosphere at games? Of course we aim to support our club first of all by way of displays and singing, but there is more to ultra than that. It is about standing up for what you believe in, 24/7, not just in the football stadium, but throughout life. The ultra must battle against repression from people who want to stop us doing what we do, and of course we must stand up for ourselves in the face of modern football, which is ruining our game.

What are the relationships like between opposing UK ultra groups? We realise that sometimes we must help each other, as it is only good for the scene to have new groups emerging. However, at the end of the day, we started with nothing, so others should also do the same, and not come constantly searching for ideas from others.

Is there an age structure for UK ultras? Is it mainly young lads or can anyone join in? Anyone can join in. We don’t discriminate on age, as it is only the love for York that matters. In our group, the majority of people are about 18-23. We have some who are older than this, but also some younger people as well. We also have a few females, one of who is high up in the group.

So there you have it. You don't need huge numbers, far from it. You just require bags of enthusiasm which is what the Jorvik Reds have in abundance - good luck to them!

Thanks to Christian and Wendy for answering my questions. For further reading, photos and videos check out the Jorvik Reds website which is standing in for their own website which is currently being upgraded. is the place where all UK Ultra groups tend to gather.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A Tusca-knees up in Siena

Siena 0-2 Chievo (19:04:09)

- click to enlarge photos -

I'm guessing most peoples idea of an Italian football match would be of an ultra fest, complete with organised ambushes of trains carrying visiting fans and general 70's style naughtiness!? To be fair - out of the four games I'd previously seen there - I'd only seen that occur twice (cheers Napoli). The Sienese football experience however is one of relative calm in comparison.

I picked up my match ticket the day before the game, as one has to do in Italy. I had a choice of three prices: 22 Euros for the Curvas (yes please), 38 Euros elsewhere other than the main stand which would have set me back an astonishing 143 Euros! What do you get for coughing up an additional 121 Euros!? A roof and a blue seat as opposed to a green one. A tad excessive possibly, however all the gate money for this match went to the L'Aquila earthquake appeal so hats off to anyone who could afford 143 big ones.

Like all good Sunday mornings abroad, my match day started with a trip to a flea market, haggling over the price of antique nude 'nudi' postcards and old Italian football badges. All the best local bars tend be located near to flea markets and the very best of those will invariably have a group of shady looking blokes standing outside. Bar Salicotto fitted that bill nicely and so in I went for Marrquino and a large cake full of lashings of custard.

After a large Birra Morreti overlooking the glorious Piazza del Campo it was time to head to another local bar for local people. The Osteria 'Il Grattacielo' had attracted a few pre-match punters and in there I helped myself to half a litre of very passable red wine and chatted with some of the Siena ultras from the Robur 1904. Fans of facts might like to know that 'Robur' means 'strength' and 1904 was the year AC Siena were formed.

Vicky, Anna (sister) and my wife (Ana) in the Piazza del Campo.

Chievo fans

The lads at the Osteria 'Il Grattacielo'

My new mates of the Robur 1904.

By this time everybody wanted a piece of the EFW action.

No wonder there wasn't any trouble with this show of force from the Carabinieri.

Entering a ground in Italy isn't always as straight forwards as it should be. It can take a dogs age to queue to get in. Mob rule can overtake at some grounds - mentioning no names *cough* Napoli - but here in Siena it was polite pushing and shoving. No passport = no entry so remember to take yours with you next time you pitch up at a Serie A game.

Inside there are lots of green seated temporary looking stands. There are 13 (thirteen!) of various sizes in total. The ground is also surrounded by lots of trees - The Theatre of Trees? - and I would say resembles the 16th green at Augusta National golf course (would you now you lunatic - Ed).

Disappointingly for an Italian ground there weren't many cars parked randomly around the pitch. This happens a lot in Italy. We did have 1 x fire engine though which was nice. I also noticed that the hanging up of flags and banners in the stadium was treated very seriously. For this job 5 (five!) stewards were employed for nearly each stand.

The Robur 1904 boys in the Curva Robur were in fine voice throughout. None of your aggressive singing that sometimes accompanies games in Italy - Napoli springs to mind - not a note out of tune for these boys. They did treat us to a version of Mike Oldfields 'Moonlight Shadow' though which disturbingly seems to be the norm in a lot of European Stadiums these days. The 329 Chievo fans also sang throughout. Ultras down the front of their stand, Mums and Dads to the back as per usual.

My favourite Siena fan was a Jimmy Saville look-a-like in a red jumper. He got through roughly 23 ciggies each half and had a superb array of hand gestures. He threw shapes with his arms - in between smoking - that I didn't even know existed. I bet he looks good on the dancefloor.

Siena is a City that welcomes visitors with open arms. Unfortunately for them, AC Siena's defence also extended a warm welcome to Chievo forwards. It was help yourself time for Sergio Pellissier whose brace sealed the points for the away side. The second goal was a beauty after di Rigioni had collected a gift in the form of the ball from the Bianconeri and waltzed unchallenged for what seemed liked days before setting up the Pellster who picked the perfect club to loft the ball over the advancing keeper.

As conditions worsened during the 2nd half - due to heavy rain - we were treated to one tremendous sliding tackle that took the lino clean out. Nobody likes to see the lino land flat on his face, least of all me *snigger*. This prompted a 10 minute version of the English national anthem from the travelling Chievo fans. Good old European Football.

Your host inside the Stadio and full of red wine - hence silly grin/arms out wide stance.

Give me strength - it's the Robur Curva.

A seat in this stand!? Yours for 143 Euros.

Chievo open the scoring....

.....which made this lots day.

The 16th at the Augusta National or Gradinata Paolo De Luca!?

The great thing about the location of the Stadio Artemio Franchi is that within seven minutes of the referee blowing his full time whistle, I was back in town sipping 7.2% Elephant beer in the San Paolo pub in the centre of town with the wife. We then partook in a five course medieval banquet in the Gallero Nero complete with litres of wine for the princely sum of around 12 buttons. Seriously what's not to like!?

As my apartment was only a couple of minutes from the ground. I went back the next day - just briefly - to try and break into the ground and get onto the pitch. Breaking in was a piece of cake (I'm very good at this) but getting on the pitch was impossible. One of the things I love about countries like Italy and Spain is that groups of old men get together and talk nonsense to each other all day. I am going to sign up for some of this in my days as a senior citizen. They normally do it in bars, bus stops, park benches wherever. In Siena though a group of them meet up everyday inside the football stadium in one of the 13 (thirteen) stands and talk about football all day. Here they are - three of them proudly holding the EFW logo. This dear reader is me in fourty-five years time hopefully. Arrivederci.

The day after the game looking out at some of the 13 (thirteen) stands.

(Do you sleep with that bloody logo - Ed!?)

Friday, 17 April 2009

Coming soon....

It's back to 'European' Football Weekends with a trip to AC Siena v Chievo this Sunday. A quick look at the Serie A table shows these two teams sitting just about the relegation zone. As such a draw would suit both. Whose to say that as I type the two Chairman aren't sitting in a restaurant in Tuscany concocting - and I'd better throw in the word 'allegedly' here - a stalemate that would suit both parties. I fancy (allegedly) that the old brown envelope in the shoe might be doing the rounds as we speak.

The forecast is for four days of persistent heavy rain during my trip which I am undertaking with the wife, her mate and my sister. Between you and I dear reader, the only thing I've been worrying about this week is the state of the pitch at the Stadio Artemio Franchi and its ability to take a drop of rain.

All being well, the report will be on these pages on Wednesday morning. There may well be a bit of Twittering you can follow by scrolling down to the bottom of the menu on the right hand. That is dependent on the amount of red wine I sink.

Until then Arrivederci.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

It's a hoot hoot at Waltons Park*

Walton Casuals 1-0 Walton and Hersham (13:04:09)

- click on photos to enlarge -

Regular readers will have established by now that the EFW team are seldom reluctant to spurn the opportunity of a pre match ale. Even by our own high standards though, the plan for this Walton-on-Thames local derby bordered on the optimistic/foolhardy. The plan - dreamt up at EFW HQ - was to kick off at Walton and Hersham's ground early doors and visit every pub between there and Walton Casuals place before the match. A simple plan no!?

So Cynical Dave, Big Deaks and I pitched up in Walton-on-Thames just prior to opening time on this Easter Monday after an extended journey up from Brighton on the train. Extended due to rail works and an eye opener in places; Byfleet and New Haw Railway Station has to be seen to be believed (in the negative sense).

After a visit to Walton and Hersham's ground and sinking beers in seven pre-match pubs (for details CLICK ME) it was onto the match itself. They won't thank me for reminding them but the last time we covered a Walton and Hersham match, they got thumped 5-0 by Merstham. Futhermore - and how is this for a link - Merstham gaffer Mick Sullivan was the man who revived the fortunes of Walton Casuals several years earlier. Helping them on their way to where they find themselves now; the dizzy heights of the Ryman Division 1 South with local derbies to be savoured and all sorts.

We were meet upon our arrival by regular Sky Sports pundit, Ex-West Ham United player, Sun columnist and now Director of football at Walton Casuals - Tony Gale. Tony talked to us about plans to extend the clubhouse area and develop the ground via funding from the football foundation. Plans include promoting football at all levels in the area and as such Walton Casuals -helped by our best mate Galesy - look destined for greater things. Good luck to them.

No expense spared.

Big Deaks enters proceedings.

Myself (Danny) with best mate Tony Gale.

Our eight and final pre-match pub....and relax.

I'd been tipped off on two Walton Casuals players prior to my arrival. Ultra competitive, central midfielder and club captain Craig Lewington and Anthony Gale - son of our best mate Tony Gale. Neither disappointed us during this match played in sultry conditions. Lewington is The Stags player of the season - it's not hard to see why - he was immense. Anthony on the other hand scored the goal which ultimately settled this match late on by racing onto a through pass from Patrick Damali and prodding home the winner. This virtually secured Casuals place in this league for next season.

Non league football is all about characters. For most of this game, I stood next to a chap called Fred. He was in his 70's, had been following Casuals in their various guises since the year dot and boy - did he like a moan. Fred liked what he said and he bloody well said what he liked. He was (nearly) as cynical as Cynical Dave! Whilst I was chatting with Fred, Walton Casuals scored. Do you think that made him happy!? Did it 'eck as like. He had a pop at the players for overly celebrating the goal. "In my day, it was a handshake at the most and get on with it" he shouted. After the game, a fed up Fred went and collected each corner flag shaking his head in the process. Fred - we salute you Sir!

Casuals keeper Craig Bradshaw was 'commanding between the sticks' as always.

The Swans keeper who some wag referred to as being 'the size of a bus'.

Players form an orderly queue for a header.

The Walton Casuals Ultras.

The Walton and Hersham Ultras.

Casuals celebrate their goal...

....which Fred wasn't best pleased about. Good old Fred!

Casuals skipper and player of the season Craig Lewington joins the European Football Weekends team.

After the match we headed back into town and visited the one pub we hadn't done before the match. The Ashley Park Hotel next to Walton-on-Thames Station. It was a typical hotel bar - the type favoured by Alan Partridge. Upon entry a hue of lightly battered, processed food filled the room. That was our last pint in Walton and with that we were off - back to EFW HQ to reflect on what wasn't the best match we'd ever seen but one of the best days of the season. Good old life!

* I'd better explain the headline. For those of you who didn't live in the Meridian TV during the 80's, Paultons Park used to advertise roughly every 25 seconds on local tv - telling us that it was indeed a 'hoot hoot' at Paultons Park with "so much to see and do for all the family". Way too much fun for one day? Rather!