What a season I’ve had. The 71 games that have been my Lost Boyos adventures this year have been bookended by two famous bald heads; my season started at Stalybridge’s Celtic’s Bower Fold watching former Italian football legend Attilio ‘The Bald Eagle’ Lombardo patrolling the touch-line (he was managing a Manchester City EDS XI against Stalybridge) and ended with me watching not only the greatest bald head ever to grace the game, but probably one of the greatest players ever to grace it, as I had the pleasure of watching Zinedine Zidane at Old Trafford for my 71st and last game of the season (in the Manchester United Legends v Real Madrid Legends game).
As a Swansea fan, the 2012/2013 has been too kind, especially for an exiled fan like myself who mainly goes to away games these days. On my travels this year I have seen Swansea win at Loftus Road (finally and emphatically), Anfield, St. James Park, Emirates Stadium, Craven Cottage and the DW Stadium. Of course, there was also one other place I saw Swansea win outside of South Wales: Wembley. Yes, 2013 was the year Swansea City lifted their first ever major trophy, fittingly in the club’s centenary year, and I can say I was there to witness such a historical moment. That whole weekend was brilliant with the Saturday spent at Brentford’s Griffin Park and enjoying a huge Jack Army gathering at the Hercules of Pillar pub in central London later that night – a boisterous gathering to say the least! The next day was cup final day and what a day that was. In the least patronising way possible, I would also like to applaud Bradford City fans that weekend; they were brilliant and helped make a great, friendly atmosphere – I’m glad that they eventually later won at Wembley in the League Two playoff final and earned themselves promotion to League One.
Additionally on my wanderings this season, I’ve awarded the Man of the Match award at Atherton’s Flat Cap Derby; circumnavigated Sammy Lee’s arse at Radcliffe Borough; been appointed as a football scout for a Football League club following a drunken chat in a bar at Birmingham New Street station; had scouse barmaids try to steal my Swansea shirt and scarf right off my back to put on their football memorabilia wall in the Valley pub in Liverpool; been captured by the Match of the Day cameras twice (once celebrating a goal at Southampton; the other sulking over Swansea’s 5-0 loss at Anfield; seen the Salford Advertiser Cup, League Cup, the NWCFL Challenge Cup and the Premier League title all lifted by their respective winners; won three raffles at three different football grounds; got the website a plug over the tannoy at two football league clubs (cheers AFC Bournemouth and Fleetwood Town); witnessed Sir Alex Ferguson’s last ever match as a manager at Old Trafford, as well as being told to go away by the great man only weeks before at a United U21 game; and finally, in my last game of the season on 2nd June, I got to see the legendary Zinedine Zidane play football. Phew!
My 2012/2013 travels would also see me very much cement a new-found love of mine into my football calendar: non-league football. I encourage anyone that loves football to go watch non-league football: the quality on show is better than most realise; everyone is ridiculously friendly; the prices are cheap; the food is much better than your usual league game and you get to visit some of the most unique grounds in the country. I love you non-league football.
However, as corny and cheesy as it may sound, the highlight of my travels this season has been the people who I have met on them. I’ve met a whole host of characters this season, from the friendly to the absurdly wacky – nonetheless I have loved them all and they’ve made my football adventures this year all the more fun.
Cheers to everyone that has read about my travels this season (the amount of views we get on the site still shocks me at times), has joined me on my travels this year and the people at the various clubs I have visited for putting up with me. It has been a blast! Bring on 2013/2014!
Here are the highlights (and some of the worst parts) of this year’s travels. See you all next season.
(Click the link to see each goal)
Premier League, meet Michu. Within minutes of his debut, Michu had scored for Swansea City. This was to become very much a running theme throughout the season. Michu’s second goal was a moment of sheer quality and was the first signs of how accomplished a finisher the Spaniard is. A through ball down the middle of the pitch found Michu on the edge of the box; without thinking, Michu elegantly opened up his body to curl the ball into the far corner, completely out of reach of Rob Green in the QPR goal.
Oscar’s name will be the one on the scoresheet, but the goal was all Neymar’s making. It seemed everyone in attendance at Old Trafford that day had come to see Neymar, but for me it was actually Oscar who shone brightest on the day; that was until Neymar came to life 15 minutes from full-time. With the scores at 1-1 Neymar scored an incredible 25 yard free kick, but it was his part in the second goal that really caught my attention. After a burst down the left side, initiated by nutmegging his marker with a header (I’m still sure not how he managed to do that), Neymar skipped past two defenders before backheeling the ball to the onrushing Oscar, who comfortably buried his shot to make it 3-1 to Brazil in this Olympics football match.
For the 2nd season review running, Jonjo Shelvey makes the Top 3 goals, but this time he claims top spot for his piledriver for Liverpool U21s at Old Trafford. Anyone that knows me will know that I’m a big fan of Jonjo and despite sitting amongst the United fans that day at Old Trafford, I was quite happy to see the midfielder rocket home from distance. A great little pass through the midfield by Suso played Shelvey into room to fire into the top corner from 25 yards past the Ben Amos in the United goal, who had no chance whatsoever.
This was probably my favourite game watching Swansea this year. The two sides strived to out pass each other in a stunning display of ‘tika-taka’ football. It was a privilege to watch two teams attempting to play the game in what many would call ‘the right way’. As the second half unfolded, Swansea began to seize the advantage and the introduction of Dwight Tiendalli and Luke Moore seem to reinvigorate the Swans. It was to be Moore’s through ball that would send Michu through on goal to score the opener in the 88th minute and to send the Jack Army the craziest I’ve seen them in a while. Moments later, Michu did it again, after excellent work from Nathan Dyer forced Arsenals’ Carl Jenkinson to give away possession on the halfway line, which led to Michu bursting through on goal and to make it 2-0 to the Swans. Brilliant game. Brilliant day.
2. Egypt 1-1 New Zealand (Olympics Football – 29/07/2012)
The score line does not do this game justice. A breathless 90 minutes of attacking football ensued where the clichéd ‘end to end stuff’ rung true more than ever. Neither nation is really considered to be a football colossus, but there was plenty of quality attacking football on show with the legendary Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika being a real joy to watch. The closing minutes saw plenty of one-on-one misses, as well as Egypt missing an open goal, but sadly the game had to come to an end at some point. On the final whistle all 22 players collapsed onto the floor after giving absolutely everything, as the Old Trafford crowd rose to its feet to heartily applaud the spectacle they had just witnessed. The game definitely upstaged the Belarus v Brazil game (also very good) that followed it an hour later.
1. Atherton Collieries 4-3 AFC Darwen (North West Counties Football League Division One – 29/10/2013)
This is why non-league football is brilliant. At the time AFC Darwen were top of the league and were expected to roll over Colls – Atherton CollIieries were having none of that. What followed was 90 minutes of attacking football with goals flying in everywhere. However, the limelight was stolen from the players by the referee. Safe to say, the referee (and his linesman) had an absolute mare – in fact, probably the worst refereeing display I’ve ever witnessed (as many there that night I know would agree) but the referee’s bonkers performance added to the craziness of this thrilling game. Darwen looked to have snatched a point with a late, controversial penalty to make it 3-3, but a game of such craziness had to be won by someone. The win would come in dramatic fashion with Atherton Colls scoring with practically the last kick of the game. Easily the most entertaining 90 minutes of football I’ve seen all season (and it only cost £5) and a perfect embodiment of the fun of non-league football.
Best Player Performance
3. Andrew Tutte (Rochdale AFC)
I made the trip up to Rochdale’s Spotland on a cold Tuesday night in October and despite enjoying the Church pub next door to Spotland, it is reasonable to say that the match I witnessed, Rochdale v Oxford Untied, was rather awful. However, there was one shining light: Rochdale centre midfielder, Andrew Tutte. One of the most composed and best passers of the ball I’ve seen in the lower leagues. I began questioning what on earth he was doing playing for the Dale in League Two? It was quite clear to see that Tutte had been coached at a Premier League club (Man City) and if he plays like he did that night every week, I’m sure he can begin climbing the leagues again.
2. Phil Davies (Warrington Town)
I did not expect to find such an accomplished footballer whilst watching Warrington Town v Wakefield. Right back Phil Davies was in just 19 when I saw him play a couple of months ago and despite his age, he delivered a superb performance, displaying coolheaded defending and flying up the flank with real intent throughout. He also produced a superb assist to help Warrington on their way to an impressive 4-1 win . This boy shouldn’t be in non-league, as I told the club’s manager Shaun Reid (brother of Peter) in the bar after the game.
1.Duncan Watmore (Altrincham FC)
Easily the most exciting performance I’ve seen all season. What a talent this kid could be! Watmore has recently signed for Sunderland meaning he will jump from playing Blue Square North football with Altrincham to taking on some of the best players in the world in the Premier League – a 5 division leap for 20-year old Watmore. When I was asked how I would compare Watmore to, in regards to style of play I could only think of Messi (of course, I’m not stating he’s as good as the greatest player ever). The awkward looking low centre of gravity, the skills, the goals, both footed and the incredible turn of pace. I could go on for ages, but it may be just best to watch the video below. I’m delighted he’s in the Premier League and hope he can make an impact (although it is likely that he’ll be mainly featuring for Kevin Ball’s Sunderland U21 squad for most of next season).
(NOTE: I purposely ignored grounds that made the Top 3 last season to make this a bit more interesting)
3. Griffin Park
Probably the best weekend I had all year was my ‘Wembley weekend. The day before Swansea were to triumph in the League Cup, I decided to head to Brentford FC for their game against Walsall. The game was dire, but what a brilliant traditional ground. However, there is one distinctive feature which propels this ground to the pantheons of great grounds: a pub on every corner of the ground! Brilliant! Sadly, Brentford are planning to move to a new ground in the next few seasons, so make sure you visit Griffin Park before it is too late if you haven’t yet been.
Definitely the best away end I’ve been in. Yes, you are placed up in the heavens with the match action seeming miles away, but it does offer some amazing views of the city of Newcastle below. Just like the football club, the stadium is in the heart of the city (and what a city it is!) meaning there is plenty to do prematch. I, for one, was certainly hoping that Newcastle would not get relegated this season, as I was already looking forward to returning to St James Park with Swansea next season. If you have never visited St James Park, I cannot recommend it enough – especially if you are an away fan.
Still my favourite league ground in the country. There are so many little quirks to the ground, you just cannot help but fall in love with its pleasantness. Perhaps my favourite feature of the ground is the fact that you can enjoy a pint and pie in the away end on the bank of the Thames. A wonderful football ground in a nice part of London as well. I look forward to returning for a third time next season.
A club that once again shows why non-league football is great. I had informed Marine FC that I would be visiting their club via Twitter the night before and the club did everything to make me feel welcome. My trip to Marine, who are situated in the Crosby area of Liverpool, was easily one of my favourite days out of all my travels this year. The day was made all the better by getting to see Swansea legend Lee Trundle play once again and meeting the great man after the game.
What else can I say that I didn’t already say above. One of the best cities in the country with one of the best stadiums there is. The trip was made all the better thanks to Swansea winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Michu and Jonathan De Guzman (plus a 91st minute consolation for Demba Ba for Newcastle). I had a train back to Manchester at 8pm and I was enjoying myself so much, I was hard pushed to leave the city and our post match celebrations.
I think a lot of people are now aware that I have a massive soft spot for Morecambe FC (so much so I recently purchased a Morecambe away shirt for £10), a soft spot which I developed largely thanks to the amazing welcome I received on my trip to the club’s Globe Arena. First of all, the place is a great little seaside town with some great pubs. However, it was the friendliness of the people I met at the Globe Arena itself that made it such a good day. Also, let’s not forget the award winning pies. Thanks again to Paul Carter and the Shrimps fans for their welcome and I look forward to visiting the Globe Arena once again and to maybe even joining the Shrimps on an away trip next season.
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3. “I was there when Shechter scored!”
The Swansea fans serenading their misfiring Israeli striker, Itay Shechter, after he finally scored for the Swans in their 3-2 win over Wigan at the DW Stadium. I can proudly say: “I was there when Shechter scored.”
2. “We’ve got Moore!/ Moore!/ Always believe in Luke Moooore/ he’s got the power to score/ he’s indestructible/Always believe in Moore” (To the tune of Spandau Ballet – Gold)
Anyone that has spent any sort of time with me this year will probably have heard me launch into random renditions of this number in ode of Swansea striker Luke Moore (yes, I know Swansea fans stole it off WBA). For those that are unaware, I am a huge fan of Luke Moore so anything that recognises his brilliance is good with me. One of my favorite moments of the season was when Moore scored the opener against WBA, who’s fans hate him after he was a multi-million pound flop for their club, and the Swans fans launched into a hearty chorus of the song (although we did end up losing 2-1 to a Lukaku-inspired WBA).
1. “I am an FC fan/I am Mancunian/I know what I want and I know how to get it/ I want to destroy, Glazer and Sky/Because I want to beeeeeeee/At FC!” (To the tune of Sex Pistols – Anarchy in the UK)
To be honest, the whole top 3 chants could have been FC United songs – from their version of Yaz’s ‘Only You’ to their rousing rendition of “Into Something Good”. Experiencing an FC United game is something special – their fans create a heck of an atmosphere and relentlessly sing for the whole 90 minutes. The highlight of the whole songbook was the re-imagined version of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK” – an aptly chosen punk song to reflect the club’s whole ‘punk football’ philosophy and to deride the men who drove the fans away from Manchester United to FC in the first place.
(NOTE: I purposely ignored pubs that made the Top 3 last season to make this a bit more interesting)
3. Riverside Bar (visited before Newport County v Wrexham)
Anyone League Two teams planning on making a trip to newly-promoted Newport needs to pop into the Riverside Bar. Unsurprisingly, located next to the River Usk the pub looks nothing special on the outside, but on entering you are met with a superb pub. A whole host of Newport County shirts covered the ceiling, the drinks are ridiculously cheap and, on our visit there we were entertained by a local live jazz band. Brilliant.
2. The Trafford (visited on numerous occasions before attending games at Old Trafford)
Still not sure why this wasn’t in my Top 3 last year. There’s very little in regards to pubs near Old Trafford, but it makes up for it with this gem. A must visit for United fans with memorabilia adorning everything single wall space, not to mention a red pool table. Located on Sir Matt Busby Way and less than a 5 minute walk to Old Trafford – a must visit for all visiting Old Trafford (apart from away fans maybe).
1. The Vine (visited before West Brom v Swansea)
There is surely not a better pub in the UK. This is the ULTIMATE pub for any football fan. This large pub is located just under 15 minutes walk away from the Hawthorns and is a an almost Utopian like place. Three separate bar areas; award-winning curry house; indoor barbecue selling kebabs; plenty of tables and room; plenty of ales on sale and an outside, sheltered patio area with beer garden. What a place! It’s worth going to a WBA game just to visit here.
3. Glossop North End (Surrey Street)
A textbook chicken tikka pie in one of non-league football’s most famous pie destinations. Also delightfully cheap. Top marks to the Glossop North End pie hut!
2. Morecambe FC (Globe Arena)
The Morecambe love-in continues. The only reason I had made such an effort to vist the club in the first place was because of the repeated praise I heard from other fans about their pies. The club wins constant awards for their pies efforts and they even sell them in Harrods! They did not let me down with a delicious meat and potato pie on my visit to the Globe Arena. Another reason why you should all visit Morecambe FC.
1. Llanelli (Parc Y Scarlets)
Parc Y Scarlets was not exactly my favourite ground this season to say the very least. My day at the new ground in Llanelli wasn’t helped by the poor showing from an abject Wales side, who lost 2-0 to a very good Bosnian team. However, in one of the surprises of the season, the pie on offer that day was otherworldly. It was beautiful (but very expensive). I give to you the…the beef and chilli pie – the winner of Lost Boyos pie of the season.
And the rest…
“Was you bullied as a child referee?”
Directed at the ref at the brilliant Atherton v Darwen by a Colls fan annoyed at the award of a freekick from which Darwen eventually scored from.
I just cannot love this ground. I just find it utterly soul-destroying (which is probably the point of the place); a feeling that isn’t helped by the fact you know it is the sort of place you go with Swansea City in the knowledge that they will surely lose to such a pragmatic side. Located on the outskirts of the city centre, there is very little to really entertain you near the ground either, so much so we enjoyed our prematch drinks in a bar in a 5-a-side football centre.
See above, but add the fact that the town is hardly the most welcoming for away supporters. Sorry Stoke, it really is nothing personal.
As mentioned previously, a superb day at a superb ground, but bloody hell what an awful, awful game. A horrendously, uneventful 0-0 draw. Although, it was great to see Febian Brandy, who once played for Swansea on loan from Manchester United, play for Walsall – he was one of the better players that day actually.
Photo of the Year
You may have noticed that I do love a good ‘arms-outstretched-with football-ground-in-the-background’ pose. Just as the second half was kicking off for Swansea’s recent clash against Wigan at the DW Stadium, I was posing for such a photo with Chester Mike as my willing photographer. “Don’t take it yet Mike, Swansea are on the attack,” were my final words before turning around to witness Kemy Agustien’s pass float towards Angel Rangel, who’s finish to make it 1-1 was Van Basten-esque. Despite my warning, Mike had gone ahead and taken the photo anyway and captured that wonderful moment brilliantly. You can even see my fist clenching as I wait for the ball to hit the post and cross the line. All this before we sprinted down the front like little girls to celebrate with the players. Top marks to Chester Mike for some superb amateur photography.
Donkey(s) of the Year
The staff at West Ham’s ticket office just pip the referees at Atherton Colls v AFC Darwen and Joe Cole’s abysmal performance in the League Cup for Liverpool against Swansea to the award of ‘Donkey(s) of the Year’. Rude. Unhelpful. Twats. After a cock-up with our tickets (our tickets had been duplicated by Swansea City it seemed) the staff at West Ham offered us no help and basically treated us like shit for 20 minutes. An absolute disgrace to the concept of ‘the customer comes first’ ethos that is supposed to reside in the customer service industry.
AND FINALLY, NOT TO END ON A NEGATIVE NOTE…
Best Non-Football Related moment of a Lost Boyos trip
Drunken man dropkicked off bike by bouncer outside Walkabout in Shepherd’s Bush
The greatest thing I witnessed on all my travels this season! Maybe even the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Hours before Swansea’s 5-0 thumping of QPR had even kicked off, I believed that the day could not be topped by the moment of comedy gold that occurred outside the Shepherd’s Bush’s branch of Walkabout. A shirtless drunken loon on a BMX, for no reason whatsoever, approaches the smoking area at the front of Walkabout and begins shaking railings aggressively – bouncer doesn’t like this. Drunken man walks away swearing at the bouncer – bouncer doesn’t like this. Drunken man continues to slur drunken abuse at the bouncer and the general public – bouncer doesn’t like this. Just as the drunken man is pulling away the bouncer comes flying in, dropkicks the front wheel of the bike and sends the drunk hurling through the air and crashing onto the pavement much to the laughter of the vast crowd around him. The drunken man stands up dazed and has no clue what to do, except accept defeat and sulk off into the distance. A genius moment.
Cheers for reading. It would be great to hear from other fans on the best/worst experiences they’ve had at football this year. Just drop a comment below.