Sunday, 31 January 2010

Weymouth FC

Our glasses are half full

Weymouth 3-1 Lewes (30:01:10)

- click on photos to enlarge image -

We could have locked the doors of EFW Towers this weekend, made a beeline for the sofa, and popped on our 3D glasses to watch Arsenal v Manchester United. Instead, we decided to get some air in our lungs, slip into an altogether more comfy pair of beer goggles, and head to Dorset for the basement battle at the Wessex Stadium. Weymouth v Lewes, winner to get six points, well, sort of. To be honest it was one of the easier conundrums we've had to deal with.

Whilst we are on the Disney theme, you could probably make a half decent Hollywood blockbuster with the (A)list of ex-managers who have swung through the revolving door down at DT4. Steve Claridge, Bobby Gould, John Hollins, Neil Webb and even Trevor Senior have had a sniff at releasing the potential of the Terras.

Weymouth FC have been suffering from off the field problems recently. On the field, they are rock bottom of the Conference South. Oh. All too familiar tales of administrators, lack of cash, unhappy fans, resignations, chaos, sackings, umpty thrumpty managers etc. Like Lewes, they too have survived by the skin of their teeth and are now hoping for (yet another) new dawn under the guidance of former Cambridge United chairman George Rolls, who is now the new owner and Jerry Gill; who just prior to this game took up the managers hot seat.

As we chugged our way through the New Forest on the train to Dorset, the EFW Team - Cynical Dave, Big Deaks and I - past the time by talking about Willie Thorne (Willie Thorne!). Willie, or Mr Maximum to his mates, has battled back from the brink of a gambling addiction. Famously, he once stuck 38 large on John Parrot to lose a match in which he'd lost his cue and had to borrow one from the venue he was playing at. Much to Willie's annoyance, Parrot won the match in which Thorne actually - get this -commentated on. Snooker loopy or what!?

Talking of Mr Maximum (nice - Ed.), I managed to pop in a cheeky 180 during our pre-match darts and beerathon upon our early arrival in Weymouth. It was darts heaven in town. Every pub had a board, it was like the old days. In fact in did rather feel as if we'd stepped back into the 80's but hey, what's not to like!? We took advantage of the £2 (£2!) pints and the splendid free jukeboxes; Cynical Dave is a Journey/Don't Stop Believing sort of guy, Danny dived headfirst into The Clash/White Man in Hammersmith Palais and Deaks, actually, Deaks could not be arsed.

The 80's theme continued as we stepped into the agreeable surroundings of the Wessex Stadium. Banks of terracing and some aesthetically pleasing floodlights juxtapose with some slightly over the top fencing. Big Deaks and I chose to pay homage to the three dimensional direction that Sky are hoping to bring into our living rooms. We sported some specially commissioned glasses throughout the game. Silly gooses that we are, we love mocking the week.

A McCartney-esque thumbs aloft

We can see right through the Terras new gaffer Jerry Gill... must be our new 3D glasses! Big Deaks and Danny pay homage to Sky Sports.

One man and his terrace. Sadly, crowds have dipped a bit at the Wessex Stadium.

Grade A!? The police chopper circulates overhead in a bid to detect the Lewes Lunatic Fringe.

Disappointingly, The Rooks put in one of their most inept performances of the season. The 'new manager syndrome' had fired up the home side and they outclassed Lewes, especially in the second half. The highlight for the Terras was probably Stephen Reed's 25 (twenty-blooming-five!) yard screamer that put them 2-1 up after 58 minutes. From then on it was men against boys and Jake Reid's tap in put the gloss on a thoroughly deserved home win *he said through gritted teeth*.

We are not ones to get dismayed easily here at EFW. The team regrouped in the pub opposite the station, purchased some Polish beer for the journey home and continued to laugh like drains all evening. I don't know what 'laughing like a drain' actually means, but we did it anyway.

What this defeat does mean is that the very last game of the season is now shaping up to be something of a cracker. Lewes are away to fellow strugglers Hampton and Richmond. This match may well decide who gets relegated, us or them. If that is the case, then we'll be inviting our chums from around Europe to travel to the game and cheer on The Rooks. It could well be the biggest party Europe has ever seen. So keep the 24th April free in your diaries folks.

Whoops! Ross Sutton fails to clear and it's 1-0 to Weymouth.

Joe Keehan fires in the equaliser from the spot. Yeeeeees!

Kane Louis takes on the Jewson lot.

Breachy and Wheeler jump to support local football.

Back of the net.

I think that is it is it.....ummm.....*checks notes* oh. No it isn't. I did an interview with a Weymouth fanatic Richard Wood and furthermore, here it jolly well is:

What's the best thing about supporting Weymouth? It’s my hometown club. I was taken there by my uncle to old ground near the harbour. Following that I lived for years around half a mile as the crow flies from the Wessex Stadium. You can see the floodlights from the back garden! Also you can meet the players, and you usually feel more “a part of it” than you would going to watch a league club.

And the worst? All the bad publicity and all the other off field shenanigans, which seems to have been part of the staple diet since we took up residence at the Wessex. It’s all about money these days.

What has made you laugh in your times of following The Terras? I can’t think too many things in particular. Older fans could probably reel off a few. There was a moment in our last home game against Chelmsford, when one of the visiting defenders managed to get fouled by the corner flag! The flag escaped a booking though. Although the player had to go off injured around 5 minutes later! On the whole though, most of the funny things I have witnessed over the years seem to have been unintentional, and there have been plenty of those!

Who are you rivals? Older fans will say Yeovil every time. And history wise I have to agree. But the clubs are so far apart these days it’s hard to see us ever meeting in a meaningful game for a long time to come, if ever. But things can change quickly in football. At the moment the local rivals would have to be Dorchester Town, or the Maggots as we like to call them.

We like a beer with our football here at EFW, what's the clubhouse like at Weymouth and which pubs do you recommend we frequent before and after the game? Not really the person to ask this one to. The hardcore fans used to use the Market House, not sure if this is still the case. Also the last I heard the Swan near the town bridge was quite popular with fans. The clubhouse has been a bone of contention for years. Long and narrow, upstairs with no lift, so not very disabled supporter friendly. Also not very well designed, but if you do use it I am sure you would be made welcome, we are quite a friendly bunch on the whole, win or lose!

Can you sum up Weymouth in a Tweet of less than 140 characters? A big part of my life for quite a few years, sometimes it makes me angry, sometimes it makes me happy, but it is ALWAYS entertaining.

Click to enlarge this flakey attempt at a panoramic photo.

This one any better? (Not really - Ed)

Big Deaks laughing like a drain - whatever that means.

Danny milks the EFW ipad/3D glasses gag one more time.

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Friday, 29 January 2010

What A Wind Up

Stuart Fuller from The Ball is Round comments of a week of wind ups:

The latest fashionable place to be seen as a football club is in court facing a winding up order. Virtually all of these relate to debts owned to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs - i.e unpaid tax. So far in January we have seen Portsmouth, Crystal Palace, Cardiff City, Plymouth Argyle and Southend United from the league, and Lewes and Chester City in the Blue Square. So why now? Southend's Chairman Ron Martin has a theory:-

"HMRC appear to be sending out winding-up petitions against football clubs like confetti," Martin said. "The club may now need to apply to the court for an injunction against HMRC". HMRC has indeed become more aggressive in its dealings with debtors after it lost its protected creditor's status, meaning that once football debts have been settled in full in insolvency cases, the taxman must wait in a queue alongside all other creditors. HMRC refused to discuss the specific case at Southend, but a spokeswoman said: "We do not take these steps lightly."

Winding up orders rarely lead to the end of a football club. We did see the demise of Kings Lynn in November 2009 when the courts took the side of HMRC and wound the club up for a debt of £77,000. Lewes, on the other hand have faced 3 in the past year, despite paying off most of their outstanding debt in accordance with a plan agreed with the Tax man. Unfortunately it appears a new man took over the case and got aggressive, giving the Blue Square South club just 72 hours to find £48,000 a few weeks ago, which they managed to do at the 11th hour. Chester City face a "final" hearing on 10th March where they need to stump up £26,000 otherwise they will go the same way as Kings Lynn.

However, winding up orders do more than often lead to Administration for a club. In the last 25 years, 69 Football League clubs have entered Administration, some more than once. This week we have seen Crystal Palace decide for a second time that they cannot afford Simon Jordan's sunbed sessions and have appointed P & A Partnership as the clubs only hope of survival. The administrator, Brendan Guilfoyle admitted he was not a football fan to Talksport's Danny Kelly. His stance was very clear - "I will do everything to ensure the long term survival of this football club." It is no surprise that the club's biggest asset currently is Victor Moses, the 19 year old utility player. Rumours of his departure had been circulating long before Guilfoyle was asked to try and rescue the club. The Administrators first act was to "ban" Moses from playing at Newcastle on Tuesday. When asked by Kelly why, his response was cold -

"One of the options for the administrators is to sell players during the transfer window," he said. "Independent football agents appointed by the administrators to assist with player sales have reported that there is a great deal of interest from clubs wanting to buy Victor Moses."

"I could not sleep last night worrying that Victor might be injured in the forthcoming match against Newcastle which could jeopardise the future of this long-established club. I therefore took the tough decision to instruct the manager that Victor Moses was not available for selection. The manager was very disappointed."

Interesting enough, one of the liabilities of the club was payments to agents (Palace paid nearly £250k in agents fees in 2008 alone), yet here is the administrator using one (in this case WMG) to try and get the best deal for the club, and of course themselves.

Asked if a situation could arise when other players were under offers would be "banned" from playing, Guilfoyle stated of course, and even if the club were forced to field less than eleven players. Luton fans may remember Mr Guilfoyle from their time in administration last year.

But what is Administration, why do clubs do it, and why don't any ever actually go out of business? Administration is essentially another world for Insolvency. A business is deemed as insolvent when its debts outweigh its income. A company can call in an Administrator at any time if it feels that it cannot continue with its ongoing business. The Administrator is there to protect the long term and secured creditors (such as staff) and will do everything within their power to ensure the long term survival of the business. In footballing terms it means as soon as a club goes "into administration" they lose control of the club.

The Administrator takes sole charge and can essentially dictate all affairs, apart from naming the team of course, within the football club. Their interest is to freeze all debts, including those to staff and players, and find a viable solution to the issue. Normally, a creditor will negotiate a settlement of x pence in the pound. Which means that if a club owes £100,000 and a settlement is agreed on for 50pence in the pound, all creditors would get half of what they were owed - but not immediately. This is where the Company Voluntary Agreement comes into play - the CVA. This is the reason that Luton were docked further points. They had what they believe was an agreement, but it was not ratified so by coming out of Administration they had no legal backing and the league thought they were naughty boys.

So why also dock clubs 10 points? Surely this will make it harder for their long term survival? Yes and no, but the sole reason for this lays in the Leicester City case. At the start of the 2002/03 season the club moved into their new 32,500 all seater Walkers Stadium. Unfortunately the club had run up monsterous debts of £30m and just ten weeks after the start of the season they went into Administration. The club was eventually purchased by a consortium led by Gary Lineker and creditors were forced to settle for a tiny fraction of what they were owed. The club were then free to start spending again, and off the back of this they won promotion to the Premier League just a few months later.

So the Football League (note - not the Premier League - we will get onto them shortly) decided to stop this happening again, where a club could essentially gain a competitive advantage on the pitch by wiping out their debts. So in came the 10 point Administration penalty. Now the rules are that if you go into administration prior up to and including 6 weeks before the end of the season you get a 10 point penalty there and then (as Darlington have done this season). If you apply for an Administration order after this date then you might get 10 points now, or you might get 10 points the following season - it depends where you finish in the league. If you are a no hoper and already relegated then you may think that heading off into Administration may seem like a good idea - wrong! You will get minus 10 points next season. However, if you are fighting for survival against relegation, or pushing for promotion then it will deducted there and then.

In the Blue Square Leagues it is different once again with points penalties ranging from 10 points up to 25 points as Chester City found to their surprise in the summer. They can also force teams out of the conference for other financial irregularities as well - just as Boston United - see Gary Andrews excellent article here. This season we have seen the first club in the top four levels of the pyramid go under for quite awhile as Kings Lynn lost their mid season fight against their debts in the Unibond Premier and folded, meaning the expunging of their records (is their an official expunger I wonder?)

Chester City FC about to be awarded a (points) penalty.

And finally we have the Premier League. The top table, the creme de la creme. So what is the penalty for such misdermeaners here? Well there isn't any actually! No Premier League club has ever gone into Administration and so they have never had to decide on a fate. There have been a number of near misses, most recently West Ham's situation after the collapse of the Icelandic economy (in theory West Ham were in default of a number of long term commitments in 2008 and should have filed for Administration immediately, but appear to have forgot) and Portsmouth's current situation is fingernails if ever there was one. Rumours circulate that the penalty will be 9 points, but any such punishment will almost certainly relegate the club, and with their precarious position it is hard to see them returning to the top table.

In 1923 the Football League consisted of 88 teams. Seventy Five years later 85 of those teams were still in existence. Simon Kuper in a recent article for FourFourTwo compares this with traditional business - how many theatres for instance that were in existence 75 years ago are still open today? And what about Airlines? Remember such greats as Pan-Am, Pacific South West, Danair or very recently Sky Europe? All no longer in existence. So why can football clubs "bend" the rules? Banks anyone? Lehman's, Barings, Northern Rock - yet little old Rochdale still carry on as normal.

So in some ways football clubs are more solid than banking institutions. But why do they get into such a state. We can understand some of the debt at the top of the tree as clubs chase the impossible dreams of "breaking into the big four", or even some Championship teams who gamble on getting into the Premier League. But what about the likes of Palace? Where did the £30m worth of debt come from? A club living beyond its means? Simon Jordan does not strike many as a reckless businessman, and indeed saved the club from oblivion in 2000 after their previous administration. Cardiff City - smart new stadium, playing at the highest level they have been for decades, yet all of a sudden the vultures are circling above the Cardiff City Stadium.

The club had raised around £3m from a season-ticket initiative to buy players in the January window, but it will no longer be used for that purpose. They will also be selling off "assets" which refers to land and holdings rather than the playing squad.

A statement issued by the club this week said: "The financial health of the club is the ultimate priority." The Bluebirds face a second winding up order 10 February if they fail to pay an outstanding tax bill of £2.7m owed to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. Chairman Peter Ridsdale made assurances earlier this month that the club was "trading as normal" and there was "no immediate threat" to the future of the club.

Cardiff City "trading as normal" according to the ever reliable Mr Risdale.

So how many more will fall foul of the taxman this season? Surely it is only time before a club in the league is wound up, and if that happens do we enter the forth age of football in England? Author Alex Fynn famously quoted that the first three ages were 1) The creation of the Premier League, 2) The first Sky TV deal, 3) The arrival of Roman Abramovich....All positive measures in terms of money now are we seeing reality at last hit the beautiful game? Maybe just maybe.

Written and reproduced with the kind permission of Stuart Fuller from The Ball is Round.

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Thursday, 28 January 2010

Juventus v Roma & Inter Milan v AC Milan

Juventus 1-2 Roma (23:01:10)

Inter Milan 2-0 AC Milan (24:01:10)

For once, I'm going to shut up. No really I am. Just allow me to explain that this report was written by Nick Waterhouse, in a first of possibly many, of your European Football Weekend experiences. Over you to Nicky Boy:

All aboard the Serie A Espresso

A few months ago it was decided over a couple of post work drinks to make the pilgrimage to the San Siro in Milan. A couple of scoops later and we were off to the Milan derby. In true EFW tradition, there was no point in going all that way without turning 1 game into 2, so all we needed was the fixtures. Ahhh the fixtures….one of my favourite expressions is "football with no bother", unfortunately, rather like their Spanish counterparts, this is not an expression that is muttered too often at the Italian FA’s headquarters. The kick off times for this round of fixtures were not announced until a month before the games, making the booking of flights a lottery. Additionally, tickets are not on sale until a week before each game. However the TV chiefs were kind to us and selected Juve v Roma for the Saturday night and the Milan derby on the Sunday.

All aboard the 6.06 train to Gatwick on Saturday morning then, luckily no one took this time literally so we did not have to listen to 2 hours of half-wits pleading for goal line technology or whether Gerrard and Lampard can play together ZZZzzzzz....

One issue guaranteed to give me sleepless nights is not having match tickets in hand. Due to the magnitude of the fixtures we were attending, we were forced to go down the dreaded ‘’ route, i.e. tickets 4x their face value. They were to be delivered to our hotel but upon our arrival in Turin.….no tickets agggghhhh. Panic not though, we re-read the small print and they would be there 3 hours before kick off. So we took ourselves off into Turin to see what it could offer us… I say, when in Rome (or Turin) do as the locals do, so to put us in the mood we popped a couple of espressos down the hatch and moved into the pizza market.

I’m delighted to report that EFW pizzas are now widely available in Turin!

So, 3 hours prior to kick off, we collected our tickets and made a beeline for the local bar ‘Costa Rica’. A rather fine tradition in Turin is ‘Apertivi’ time – where all bars give a load of free tucker to all patrons at around 6pm, it really is fill your boots time – hearty fare for the price of a few pints, what’s not to like? (Well €6 a pint since you asked.) In this bar we also picked up a copy of the famous ‘La Gazzetta dello Sport’ and were delighted to see that EFW had made the front page!

Anything to sell a paper those Italians.

Free food = nice. €6 a pint = wallet ouch.

Sadly, Juventus are currently strutting their stuff at the Stadio Olimpico while the Stadio delle Alpi is refurnished. It’s a fairly soulless place, certainly not helped by one end being closed as a punishment for Juve fans misbehaving at a previous fixture. The police conduct a thorough search of punters as they enter the ground. I’m not too sure what they are looking for, it certainly wasn’t flares, fireworks or spliffs as they were all being lit by the truckload in the stadium.

The Soulless Stadio Olimpico. James Brown would have hated it.

Roma fans spark into life.

Kev, Nick and Binso pay the Old Lady a visit.

The game itself was a slow burner that sparked into life in the second half where all boxes were ticked: Buffon sent off, penalty for Roma and the visitors finally ran out 2-1 winners courtesy of a last minute diving header from Jan Arne Riise. I was pleased it was him because he was resplendent in short sleeved shirt and shorts whereas all the others were mincing about in tights and gloves.

After a night on the beers we were up and at them the following morning to catch the train to Milan. Naturally enough it was not straight forward to purchase a ticket but all said and done €9 for the 90 minute journey was not to be sniffed at. Kev had prepared a marvellous football quiz for the journey; I won’t say who won as I’m far too modest ;-)

A few more beers and apertivi to put us in the mood and it was time for the big one. Approaching the San Siro really was special; this place really is a football cathedral. We were sat up in the dreaded 3rd tier where the view would be woeful enough without the netting that they have put up to obscure your view even more.

Binso needed his binsos from the third tier!

In the blue and black corner Inter....

....and in the red and black corner AC.

Can I have a go on those binsos Binso!?

Fortunately we were able to move round to the half way line and took up a sneaky position at the back of the stand – perfect view – tick! I can only describe the pre match atmosphere as sensational. I attended the Old Firm derby earlier this season and this knocked it for 6. The fan displays, the singing and all the flares made it quite spectacular.

The game was played at 100mph, Inter ran out 2-0 winners and quite frankly Milan’s finishing was appalling. Inter were down to 9 men by the end of the game yet Milan still could not score, Ronaldinho even missing a penalty.

We returned to the centre of Milan for a few more beers to round off a pretty special weekend of EFW action. Bring on the next one.

Arrivederci Milano!

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Celtic FC - Green Brigade

Bhoys Brigade

The British ultra scene suffered a bit of a set back a couple of weeks back with the news that the Red Ultras of Aberdeen had disbanded. Hassle from the police, stewards and even ex-players meant they finally laid down their red flags and hoisted up the white ones of defeat. I've no doubt they'll be back though, probably bigger and better.

So who rules the roost in the British ultra scene? Well, most would point to the Green Brigade at Celtic. Aberdeen and (would you believe) even some Rangers fans have accepted that they've been No.1 in the last two years. The Green Brigade are both active and radical, they differ from almost every group in Britain by adopting a political stance. We live in a democracy though and as such, EFW dialled them up to hear what they had to say about themselves, other groups, politics, ticketing and of course - winding up Rangers:

How long have Green Brigade been established? We were formed in 2006. The majority of our founding members had been involved with a tifo group called the Jungle Bhoys but had split from them after realising there was a difference in mentality and felt that the Jungle Bhoys were not as independent from the club as they should have been. Since then we've grown and picked up plenty of new members and become an established, respected part of the support at Celtic.

Hampden Park gets a much needed facelift.

How many members do GB have and what is the criterion for becoming a new member? We have approximately 60 members. There's a lot of interest in the group and we could probably triple our membership overnight but we are quite selective. Members have to be at least interested in the three core areas of the group - Celtic, the Ultras scene, and our politics. They've also got to regularly attend matches and be prepared to do some graft (i.e. painting banners, making flags) and have an Ultras mentality.

How has the group developed over the past few years? We've slowly but surely grown from a group with 7-8 members, and only a few in section 111 where we stand, to having 60 members and on a good night we can lead 3-400 fans into going 'tonto' at league matches. At cup games, when a lot of the ordinary season book holders aren't at matches, there can be over 1000 lads flocking to the section to get involved.

Keep the Faith - tick.

What do Celtic FC (the club) think about GB? Are they supportive or do they keep a distance? We don't have any relationship with Celtic, or at least not a positive one. They are happy to use the chants we start over the tannoy and our tifo pictures on their adverts for ticketing but beyond that there is no relationship to speak of, and we regularly have problems with them in terms of getting access with materials, with aggro from club stewards and officials etc. Recently our members taking the group banner into matches have been pointed out by Celtic stewards to the police who have demanded details and searches, using spurious legislation against us.

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 matches) in our first season or two we had to sneak our materials in but the club seemed to finally accept that we weren't going away and for a while we got used to turning up for the gates opening and getting access with materials. They have, however, refused access twice - both for derby matches, including the most recent one (January 3rd) - so we're back to where we were before, sneaking materials in. They had previously demanded to know what we were doing but we would rather do nothing than tell the club the content of our tifos so it looks like we'll be back to the old guerrilla tactics of before for the foreseeable future, especially after we had a go at the board's transfer policy and have used pyro in the matches since. At away matches, we've only asked for permission at two places - we took a pragmatic decision to ask for access to Aberdeen after they had previously knocked back our materials at the turnstiles (and because we needed early access). On one occasion they refused so we sneaked some flags in and used pyro - we got access the next time, funnily enough! The other time was at Fir Park for a tribute to the late Phil O'Donnell (we needed access to set up a card display).

RIP Phil O'Donnell

Do GB have any influences inside/outside of Scotland and if so why? There are obviously groups that individual members admire but we wouldn't say there's anyone that has particularly influenced us.

What are the future plans for the group? We plan to continue steadily growing in terms of numbers, influence on the Celtic support and continuing to do what we do. We're getting ourselves a section by stealth just now, with lads on the fringes relocating towards the group and those who aren't interested moving away from where we stand so hopefully in the next couple of years we could have a really good section at Celtic Park and increase our influence among the support.

What is Celtic's away support like and how many of those would be made up of the GB? Our away support is the best in Scotland and on its day can be up there with anything you'd see in Britain, or indeed elsewhere. Off our day we can still be pretty decent. Generally we'd have at least 30 members at every away match, with more attending some matches - for example, we often take full coaches ourselves to Aberdeen. Some of our lads are unemployed and others come from Ireland which makes it difficult for them to make every game.

'Blow them Away' - the Halloween display against Man Utd.

Surely with such a huge support it must be a nightmare trying to arrange away tickets? Not particularly - for some games at smaller stadiums it can be tight (some of the teams in the SPL have only got 6000-seaters, with only maybe 2000 seats for us) but we'll generally find a ticket somehow, especially as away tickets are distributed according to your record of how many games you go to. For young lads starting out it may be difficult to build their record up and ensure they get tickets to the bigger games though. One problem we now have is that Celtic refuse to allocate away tickets to our fans for league matches unless the home club gives them 5% commission, and some clubs don't (e.g. Hearts, Hibs), which can sometimes make it a lottery to pick up tickets as they don't care about your previous record. But through contacts we wouldn't normally go short.

I don't think we need to ask who your main foes are, Do you have any rivals with other teams or ultra groups? In terms of football rivalries, Celtic v Hearts is probably the only other fixture worth writing home about, and the atmosphere is always electric at Tynecastle when we play there. In terms of Ultras groups, the Red Ultras were the only other group in Scotland but they've recently disbanded. There'll likely be a new group at Aberdeen in the next while though so they'll undoubtedly be someone we're competing with on the terraces.

Celtic are famous for having a few friendships with other clubs (St Pauli being the most obvious, to me anyway) do you subscribe to those? Some of our members had pre-existing links to St Pauli before they joined the group and 4/5 of our lads travel over regularly. As a group though we don't really subscribe to friendships with other clubs - we're Celtic first, Celtic last, Celtic overall. Our members do have some personal friendships with lads at other Ultras groups and we are a member of the international anti-fascist Alerta network, with the likes of Ultras Sankt Pauli, Schikeria Munchen, Gate 9, Ultras Inferno 96 etc. but do not have any official friendships. Additionally, we have a good relationships with Freak Brothers and SP07 from Ternana, and Irreductibles 93 from Toulon and regularly have them over in Glasgow for matches.

What is the GB attitude to violence and do you think there is a link between ultras and violence? Like any set of football fans we will defend ourselves if attacked but we're neither pro or anti-football violence, and see that as a personal thing. The scene is different country-to-country and we're probably more like Germany, where the hools and Ultras are separate, but the Ultras may get into the odd confrontation with rival groups - we just don't have any rival groups here!

What do other (non GB) Celtic fans think of the group? Other fans are generally pretty positive about the group and we get a lot of support - be that in the stadium when stewards/police are trying to harass lads, on online forums or through buying merchandise which helps fund the group, and we regularly get 6-700 'unique' users on our forum each day, so there's plenty of enthusiasm. We're aware that many fans might not like us or think some of what we do is a bit alien (e.g. our banner being upside down in protest at the appointment of John Reid is often raised against us on forums, and very occasionally at matches) but on the whole the support has been (somewhat surprisingly) behind us, especially the 'hardcore' away support. We're pretty good at winding up rangers fans so that definitely gets the support on our side - we're probably best known for unveiling a big arrow banner with 'Scotland's Shame' painted on it', pointed at the rangers fans. 'Scotland's Shame' was a term given by politicians to sectarianism, which is primarily only a problem at rangers but politicians and media claim 'both sides are as bad as each other'.

That 'Scotland's Shame' banner

What's been the group's biggest achievement to date? Probably just being here, growing to what we now are and the influence we now have. From an original 7-8 lads to a group that could quadruple its membership over night if we opened our doors. From having 3 lads in section 111 to leading hundreds. From being thought of as a wee novelty by many in our support to being probably the most recognisable and talked-about supporters organisation in Scotland. From a group of inexperienced lads to running a pretty successful group with some really decent, original tifos and other activities - e.g. a football league for asylum seekers/refugees, anti-discrimination football tournament, political discussion classes etc. - we think we've done alright but we'll always be striving to do more and get better.

What chance do ultra groups have in the UK given the high ticket prices and the cost of travelling to see away matches? Ticket prices are rightly a cause for concern and we have protested about these in the past. We're fortunate in Scotland that travelling costs aren't that expensive and our longest away trip is the 3 hours to Aberdeen but it shouldn't really be a barrier to other groups who want to set up - (probably) most of the tifos we do are at home, much like many European groups (some of whom travel in only very small numbers).

The main problem is the mentality of fans in Britain, most of whom are happy to 'sit down, shut up' and glibly accept whatever line they are fed by their club. If there were more lads willing to do what we do, back the team for 90 mins and do a wee bit of work to bring some colour and actions to the games then the ultras scene in Britain might actually kick-off, rather than having so few proper groups as it does now (only really ourselves, Jorvik Reds, Holmesdale Fanatics and perhaps Ultras Barrovia who are very small).

Everybody loves a bit of The Greques.

Ultra groups vary from country to country. How would define 'ultras' in the UK? Do you think they differ from their European counterparts? Groups in the 'UK' vary, really. Most who claim to be Ultras aren't, though, as we've seen with the many groups who've fell away almost as soon as they've started. As above, there are probably now only three or four proper Ultras groups in the 'UK', though that may be harsh on some of the groups in England in the lower/non-leagues but they don't seem too active or have the Ultra mentality. For us, the basic ultra mentality of 'beyond' should be the same for group, regardless of where you come from. The main distinction you might see from there is whether groups are into football violence, and that varies country-to-country. Where we in the 'UK' differ from (most of) our European counterparts in that the Ultras scene is an established sub-culture, as opposed to something fairly novel here. Very few lads here 'live it', in contrast to elsewhere where the Ultras (and fan) scenes are far more developed.

Do ultra groups in the UK have political tendencies? Only ourselves, as far as we're aware. We are an unashamedly anti-fascist group and are supportive of a united Ireland and independent Scotland. We do the occasional political action (from campaigning against anti-Irish racism to showing solidarity with Basque political prisoners) but a lot of our political stuff is off the terraces - e.g. our work with asylum seekers, political education etc. As above, we protested (and protest) at the appointment of John Reid as chairman of our club, and we've probably got most publicity from protesting at the politically-motivated imposition of the red poppy on the Celtic jersey (see website for statement), when in 2008 we walked out of Celtic Park and in 2009 we boycotted our match away at Falkirk.

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? It's a slow process and as we've established ourselves as a group our voice has grown louder. We've protested against the appointment of our chairman (by demos at the time, subsequent tifos, chants and our banner being permanently upside down), against high ticket prices, against the club's ticket touting arrangement with Thomas Cook for European away matches etc. We've also campaigned on fan issues - our action against Hibs is about a fan being censored and other issues like safe standing etc. is definitely on our radar. We're the most active group in the 'UK' and we're definitely the most radical, though the Holmesdale Fanatics have also held protest marches etc. We are also obviously looking at doing good, original tifos and trying to increase and improve the atmosphere at games but this is combined with a fairly radical, independent streak too.

A good point well made

What are the relationships like between opposing UK ultra groups? As above, there's really no relationships worth speaking about, bar our previous rivalry with the Red Ultras about who outdid who on the terraces. There's a couple of tifo groups at rangers but they're nothing really. The only contact we have with other groups is some of our lads just checking out what's happening at their places over an internet forum.

Is there an age structure for UK ultras? Is it mainly young lads or can anyone join in? It seems at a lot of the groups that start then fall away the majority of lads are very young, but contrary to what some would have you believe we've a wide age range and our average age is probably late 20s. We've only maybe 6-7 lads in their teens with the bulk of the group in their 20s, and a considerable number of lads in their 30s and 40s. For us, anyone can join - if you're good enough you're young/old enough. In practice, maybe because of the difficult relationship we have with the club and the fact the lads who started the group were a wee bit older and wiser, we've always been pretty conscious that we need older, 'sound' heads and we're quite selective about who we let take up membership. We're also run as a collective - one member, one vote, but trying to do things by consensus - so we only tend to let in the more clued-up lads.

If you want to see the Green Brigade in action on video then click away at these:

Season 2007/08

Season 2008/09

League Cup Final

Man City friendly



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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Stand by folks...

Over the next week or so on these very pages, we'll be bring you a world exclusive Q&A with Barry Glendenning of Guardian and Football Weekly podcast fame, an article on AFC Wimbledon, Borussia Dortmund and D.C. United plus match reports from Weymouth v Lewes and AFC Wimbledon v Forest Green Rovers. Furthermore, there will also be a report on the Milan derby and Juve v Roma from last week and quite soon, we'll be doing what we get paid for (as if) and heading out to Denners for the Copenhagen derby. What's not to like!?

Saturday, 23 January 2010

QPR fan rant

Mr Angry

You've probably all seen this now but just in (Jimmy) case. Here is the infamous QPR fan rant that is doing the rounds. Fan rants are all the rage at the moment so expect hundreds more to follow in the coming weeks. We will only jump on the bandwagon just this once though:

I take more pleasure in seeing Chelsea lose than I do in seeing QPR win at the moment.

I sat through so many matches when we were absolute dogs**t under the likes of Ray Harford and with people like Paul Bruce, Matthew Brazier and Mark Perry in the squad and I never felt like this.

The club isn't ours anymore but more so than that - football is just properly gash these days.

I mean really gash.

football generally.

I hate nearly everything about it these days....

I hate the Prem and the myth that it is exciting this year. Man City breaking into the top four isn't exciting. They spent loads of money. It's no more exciting that Nameless C*** getting to number 1 in the charts after winning the X-Factor.

I hate the myth of Arsene's kids. Buying some French kid when he's 17, playing him in the League Cup and then selling him when he's 20 after about 3 appearances in the league is NOTHING SPECIAL.

I hate hearing about Liverpool/Man Utd's debt but nothing ever happening about it. A club needs to go to the wall for the money thing to change but it doesn't happen. Why the **** are Charlton, Leeds and Southampton still in business?

I hate Frank Lampard's stupid f'ing face. I hate that Joe Cole's tongue is never in his mouth, the downsy spacker. I hate John Terry being England captain when he's CLEARLY AN OAF.

I hate the England team.

I hate young exciting wingers who have nothing but pace. Tony Scully had nothing but pace.

I hate the FA Cup. There may be little shocks like last night but for the most part you know who's going to win it. Unless a team throws away all their financial security to win it a la Pompey.

I hate Harry f'ing Redknapp. And Jamie Redknapp. And Louise Redknapp. And the Wii.

I hate James Nesbitt, Eammon Holmes and f***ing everyone.

I hate Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer.

I hate Garth Crooks.

I hate Garth Brooks for that matter.

I hate Sky Sports.

I hate that when a lower league player beats 10 players and chips the keeper it doesn't matter but if Rooney scores from more than 20 yards it's amazing.

I hate that everything football related has to have 'Club Foot' playing behind it.

I hate that female sports journos are now mandatory.

I hate Mark Lawrensen for not coming out. 'I do like a big man at the back'. I bet you do.

I hate any advert that portrays football to be about anything other than pain and disappointment.

I hate any advert that mentions pies at football.

I hate Lee Hughes and the fact that he makes a living from the game. I hate Marlon King and any team that signs him when he gets out. I hate that it'll probably be us.

I hate Phil Brown.

I hate 'well the ball is a lot lighter now and will cause goalkeepers real problems this summer' before EVERY F'ING TOURNAMENT.

I hate that Kieron Dyer earned more in the time I took to write this post than I'll earn this month.

I hate Adrian Durham, Ian Wright and Alan Brazil.

I hate Gazza. Either die or shut up. Stop f'ing lingering.

I hate hearing about Hillsborough more than I hear about Heysel or Bradford.

I hate that a comeback from 4-0 down at half time (TWICE) means nothing because we aren't f'ing scouse.

I hate Leeds.

I hate Roy Keane.

I hate grown men wearing football shirts of their team whilst shopping on a saturday when their team is playing at home.

I hate that I don't hate Roy Hodgson.

I hate Jermaine Beckford and any player who has neck tattoos.

I hate songs being inappropriately taken as club anthems and then sung in a manly way. 'I'm forever blowing bubbles....'. Gaylords.

I hate Danny Dyer and anyone he's ever interviewed.

I hate the book 'Cass' by Cass Pennant. It is honestly the stupidest thing I've ever read. Chapter 1: Millwall. 'Yeah we took 50 to Millwall. They had 1000 in their mob but we ran 'em up and down the street'. Chapter 2: Liverpool. 'Yeah we took 50 to Liverpool. They had 2000 in their mob but we ran 'em up and down the street'. Fk me... Jade Goody's autobiography is probably better. Even her non-ghost written one.

I hate that all good youngsters end their careers at Spurs before they start.

Just to cheer this chap up, here is Mr Bump dressed in a QPR replica shirt:

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Kidderminster Harriers FC


Kidderminster Harriers 3-2 Lewes (19:01:10)

- click on photos to enlarge image -

How many self respecting football fans wouldn't relish a near 400 mile round trip to Kidderminster on a grey, drizzly Tuesday night in January!? Would this be one social gathering which, despite good company, would become painful and require a large dosage of alcohol to relieve the pain?

Don't be daft lad. This was an away day with the Mighty Rooks. This trumped my alternative of a day in the office by a Krypton Factor of 8. I'd been to Aggborough, home of the Harriers, before - 9 years ago to watch Brighton - but little gumption was required to sign up for a return visit.

The romance of the trip didn't quite extend to a 10 hour 4 minute return journey home on the train (including a 5hr stop at Banbury), so Cynical Dave and I broke the habit of a lifetime and hitched a ride on the Lewes FC team coach to the Wyre Forest district of Worcestershire.

Happily, the beers flowed quite freely on the coach amongst the travelling throng of 5 (five!) fans. We were "treated" there and back by a couple films picked by assistant manager Jason Hopkinson. I can safely say that when it comes to, Jason - who is actually one of the nicest blokes you can meet - deserves a chuffing oscar. To boost morale during the traffic chaos just south of Birmingham, the famous 6-2 New Years Day win over Dover was also shown on the giant plasma screens. What could possibly go wrong?

Upon our arrival at the ground a couple of hours before kick off, we were a) given free match tickets by the players b) welcomed with open arms in the Harriers Arms pub c) shared our bar space with a 6ft harrier bird and d) feeling quite chuffed with life.

Harry the Harrier joins the EFW team for a pre-match pint and nibbles.

Chris King is evidently huge in Kidderminster*. *Booking advisable.

Emily in the Harriers megastore.

As you'll be aware, this isn't really the place to head if you fancy an in depth match report. You can find professional efforts both here and there if you wish. Just briefly, Lewes went 2-0 down in the second half and looked doomed. Then, as if by magic, they fought back liked caged tigers to level at 2-2 before a goal in injury-time by Gavin Caines sent the home side through to the next round. Did I mention this was an FA Trophy 2nd round proper (proper!) match?

Hilariously, the stewards at the ground gave me a ticking off for taking photos. I think they must have mistaken the Aggborough Stadium for the o2 Arena. Talking of the o2 Arena, did you know Jimmy Greaves is playing a gig there? Funny old game Saint. Anyway, as it was freezing cold, I'd been told off and they weren't selling beer anywhere, Cynical Dave and I decided that some drastic action was required. As such - and I don't quite know how this happened - we found ourselves pitched up in the hospitality suite for the second half. Beer on tap, friendly locals and some warm seatage.

Plant and tool hire in Kidderminster? Not a problem.

The North Stand packed to the rafters. Well sort of.

Home made soup and a cottage pie please Betty love. Highly recommended by the way.

Meet The Board Bangers of DY10.

Dean 'Deano' Coleman.

As Lewes were surging forward during the later stages of the match and goals were flying in willy nilly, I plugged in the EFW "happyometer" which registered a record 99%. That came thumping down to a big fat zero when Kiddy stunned us with that last minute goal but hey, good luck to The Harriers. I hope they get to play local rivals Worcester City in the next round. That should be some occasion. Chris King has already been pencilled in for a night at the Harriers Arms should they win that one.

In what is becoming a bit of an EFW tradition, I managed to hijack someone from the home team for an exclusive interview. Is that Parky hot seat still available? If not, I'm sure I read somewhere that Johnathan Ross' Friday night spot is up for grabs. Anyway, until then, here is the result of a chat with Phil from the rather fine Harriers Online website:

What is the best thing about supporting Kiddy? It's local, I know many of the fans - which is something you won't find with Premiership/Championship clubs - and it makes you feel good inside when they win.

And the worst? When the many Man Yoo (sic) and lifelong Chelsea fans around here laugh and tell me to support a real team. The difference is, I get out of my seat to support my team.

What has made you laugh in your times of following The Harriers?
I don't think I've ever found or seen anything funny while watching the team but you always have a laugh with the lads before the match over a pint or two. Especially when the pub, beer and the weather is good. the Railway Vue at Histon is one we look forwards to because we always take a good crowd there and have a good laugh.

Who are you rivals? I class Hereford, Shrewsbury and Cheltenham as rivals but some older fans hark back to the days of playing Worcester City and Bromsgrove and can't wait to play them again. One day, far far away, Worcester might be but never Bromsgrove.

What do you prefer: Football League or Non-League? Football League to be honest because of the bigger crowds, teams and stadiums. Compare going to somewhere like Notts County with visits to the like of Tamworth and Kettering where we have to go to now. (Give me Tamworth any day of the week - Ed).

Can you sum up Kidderminster in a Tweet of less than 140 characters? Harriers. A team once amongst the elite of non-league footie but now just middling along as an also ran. Got potential though.

We'd already warmed to Phil but his pièce de résistance was this pub guide to Kidderminster which he's put together for those of us who like a beer with our football. Of that little lot, he told us that the Harriers Arms (which we can confirm) and the King & Castle are by far the best. Cheers!

All told, it was quite a surreal day out. We got home at 2am having been dumped out of the cup but yet again, I think Lewes FC emerged from the day with a bit of credit. Same again next year? Where do we sign.

For more photos from the day CLICK ME

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