“The thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football.” Terry Pratchett.
Football is the greatest thing there is in my eyes – no matter what level or where it is being played there is something simply magical about it. Saying that, I have witnessed quite a lot dross this season and only glimpses of magic on the pitch over the 88 games I’ve been to over the past 12 months. However, the dross has been worth it for some of the joyous moments I’ve witnessed on hallowed turfs across the lands – many listed in the awards below, so I won’t spoil the delights ahead.
On the field I’ve witnessed some shockers, but this is where I agree with Pratchett’s statement at the top: for me, football is not just about football. There has certainly been no ‘dross’ off the field this season; in fact, it seems that things have turned a lot more…well, weird this year. Random stuff, wacky folk and general mischief have all seemed to be making a bee-line for me more than ever before this year. Someone recently asked me do I exaggerate anything or even make things up on my blogs for entertainment purposes and I can honestly say I don’t need to – this stuff just seems to happens to me. Stopping Northern Irish/English conflict in a pub in Crewe with my dance moves? That happened. Being topless in a square in Bruges whilst I let a Englishman who I’d known 5 minutes take a lighter to my brand new Swans shirt for the sake of magic? That happened. That bizarre, drunken night out in Carlisle?…Well, we think that happened but we can’t be sure – it’s all very hazy. And I’m fairly sure I can never ever write anything on this blog about my night in a back room of a bar in Newcastle back in September, as I know my parents will read this (I’ll just say 1990s Newcastle shirts were involved). I have countless strange stories from ‘the road’ this season, but such escapades are what make the adventures so fun. Wacky is good in my eyes. So, lets get the cringey, sentimental bit done now.
If you have had been a part of the adventure at all this season, I love you. Whether that be reading the blogs, sharing them, talking to me about the blogs, advising me on my travels or if you are one of the hardened souls who actually comes to the games with me, you all play a big part and I appreciate you all. Also, I got my first ever Twitter troll this season, which I think is a sort of sign of success and achievement in this digital day and age.
I regularly say to people that I feel like the blogs I write a lot of the time do not do the trips justice, as it is difficult to put into words just how much fun I, and I’d like to think others with me, have doing this whole groundhopping malarkey – or ‘Rock’n’Roll groundhopping’ as my form of groundhopping has been dubbed. The same applies to this ‘Awards’ blog – it will never do justice to how much fun I’ve had this season, but I hope you enjoy it anyway. And don’t forget to hang about until the end for the epic ‘double thumbs up’ montage.
Considering I’ve gone to almost 90 games, my list of really stellar games is actually rather limited. I actually struggled picking a 3rd place here (the top 2 have been settled for months), but here we go…
Controversial one here, as I opt for a game where my team lost, but in regards of ‘standard of football’ this game was indeed one of the best I saw. This was in the nascent stages of the season when Swansea were actually joint top of the Premier League with Chelsea. The Swans absolutely tore Chelsea apart in the opening half hour and should have gone further ahead than just the 1 goal. Then, Diego Costa happened.
The bullish striker made it 1-1 and then grabbed himself a hatrick with the help of a scintillating Eden Hazard performance. Debutant Loic Remy scored with virtually his first touch in a Chelsea shirt, before Jonjo Shelvey scored late on for the Swans. Swansea can take some pride in the fact that they were the only team this season to score twice at Stamford Bridge in the league. Undoubtedly the game was a superb spectacle.
Possibly the most mental game and the most fun I’ve had watching football in a very long time. This game was truly barking mad! Crawley took the lead with a penalty about 15 minutes in, but then lost their goalie Brian Jenson to injury. With no sub keeper on the bench, striker Matt Harrold was forced to go in goals for an hour – and he was heroic. It may have been the clumsiest goalkeeping showing I’ve ever seen, but he kept MK at bay anyway he could, much to the delight of me and the Reds’ fans behind the goals.
Amazingly, Crawley went 2-0 up, but then endured attack after attack. There was some truly heroic defending on show from the home team, but eventually MK got themselves back in the game with a goal, before an MK player had a cup of (lukewarm) tea thrown over them by a home fan after some sort of confrontation between the pair. Cue a rather fiercely contested and full-blooded closing stage.
After more last-ditch efforts from Harrold and his defence, MK sickeningly scored a last gasp equaliser with virtually the last kick of the game. Alongside me, Crawley pal Craig collapsed on the floor after such a heart-breaking equaliser and to be honest I felt like doing the same, as I was knackered after watching such a ridiculous, yet pulsating game. Sheer entertainment from start to finish.
To beat that Crawley game was going to take some doing, but this was not just my favourite game of the season, but possibly up there as one of my favourite games I’ve ever been to. The game ticked all the boxes: an incredible atmosphere – check; European football under the Celtic Park floodlights – check; goals – check; and entertaining football – definitely check.
Quite incredibly, Inter got themselves 2-0 ahead without really doing anything, before a fluid Celtic fought back to make it 2-2. Only 25 minutes of the game had past. Then Craig Gordon made an error to make it 3-2 to Inter practically on the half-time whistle. A relentlessly fast-paced half!
The second half was sheer end-to-end stuff with chances for both teams. Celtic looked to have run out of steam, but in the 92nd minute John Guidetti scored to send Celtic Park absolutely bonkers. I can’t ever remember celebrating a goal for a club I don’t support like that and I was soon squashed under a heap of bodies on the steps of the Jock Stein Stand. The post match festivities in Celtic pub McChuills was equally epic. A mental night!
This is actually the first time in 4 years that Jonjo Shelvey hasn’t made it into my top 3 goals of the season – you need to up your game Jonjo!
3. Marcus Maddison (Peterborough United v Barnsley – League One – 18th October 2014)
Seconds before the ball came crashing into the top corner, I was shouting “E-OY!” in delight, as I knew Maddison’s rocket was flying in. Why “E-OY”? No idea, but amazing goals make you react in amazing and weird ways at times. You can click the link below from the excellent Away Days YouTube channel, which actually captured my bizarre reaction. The goal itself was a 30 yard freekick struck side-footed and superbly by Posh’s Maddison to put the home team 2-1 in front. An absolute belter.
2. Mark Battersby (Holker Old Boys v Atherton Collieries – NWCFL Division One – 11th April 2015)
Not an obvious choice, but this has to be one of my favourties of the season. With Colls at 1-1 against Holker in an important game as they chased the title, they brought on their freescoring striker Mark Battersby with just under 15 minutes left. Within minutes he had scored 2 and his 1st was incredible. A cross to the near post seemed to be going harmlessly towards the keeper, but from nowhere Battersby threw himself low to the ground and powerfully diverted the ball past the keeper and in with one of the best and most unorthodox diving headers you could ever see. I didn’t believe it had gone in until the fans and players around me began celebrating.
1. Steve Settle (Ashton Town v West Didsbury & Chorlton – NWCFL Premier Division – 25th October 2014)
The best I saw all season and once again it’s from non-league. This year’s winner of my goal of the season is West Didsbury & Chorlton’s ginger-haired right back (and now newly-appointed club manager) Steve Settle. I described it in the blog as a ‘blockbuster moment’ and it certainly was. The ball bounced near the right touchline a few yards ahead of the dugouts. Settle got the bouncing ball under control, before launching a 35 yard dipping volley. I was right behind him when he hit it and it absolutely flew in. “I’m not going to hear the end of this in the car home,” said his underwhelmed Dad to me at half-time.
This was very hard to decide. I have changed my mind countless times here already, right up to moment of publishing and it’ll probably change again later, so big shoutouts to Luton’s Kenilworth Road, Palmerston Park in Dumfries, Celtic Park, Bristol Rover’s Memorial Ground, KAA Gent’s Ghelamco Arena and Cefn Druids’ The Rock – all could have been in the top 3 really, but here’s my 3…
Thomason Fold was definitely ‘surprise of the season’. There is not much to it and it’s the sort of basic ground with no stand that I don’t usually like, but on this lovely, sunny, spring evening, it just seemed perfect. The scenery around it is magnificent and you can even watch the game from on top of the adjacent hill, whilst enjoying views of Lancashire and the reservoir below at the same time. Perhaps not the sort of ground you’d want to visit on a wet and wintry evening though! I can’t really explain it much more and I feel the photos on the blog do it a hell of a lot more justice than my words.
I just absolutely loved Holt House – this is my sort of non-league ground. Located on top of the hill above the very likable town of Colne in deepest Lancashire, Holt House may well have the most ridiculous gradient of a pitch I’ve comes across on my travels; this just adds to the charm, along with the stands which slope down the hill with the pitch. It really is a non-league gem and you won’t find many better fans or welcomes than at Colne FC’s home either. Maybe another one to avoid on a cold, rainy evening though.
This year I’ve found it extremely difficult to pick a favourite ground as there’s been so many I’ve loved, but when I thought about which was the one that brought the biggest smile to my face, it was definitely Brunton Park. ‘Old-school’ is the best way I can describe it. Firstly, it has a sizable standing terrace behind the goal, so my heart was already won, but the rest of the ground is quite idiosyncratic and a bit of a mish-mash of old and new. We were free to wander the terraces during the game and the whole place just oozes character under it’s large floodlights. Excellent pies too. A perfect league ground for me.
This was very tough to decide this season, Firstly, I never include the Jack Army in this, as I genuinely do believe they are the best (obviously I’m more than a bit biased there). Secondly, Morecambe fans, you know I still love you too, but felt the spotlight should be shone elsewhere for a change – you’ve had enough Lost Boyos coverage. 3rd place was going to go to Glossop for the brilliant fun we had at Wembley with them (3 words: ONE STEP BEYOND!). Also a shout out to Alfreton Town fans who treated me superbly and introduced me to a shot called ‘Yates” – messy stuff. But top 3…
3. Northern Ireland fans (Green and White Army)
Undoubtedly, the season finale watching Northern Ireland take on Qatar in Crewe (random,
I know) was a brilliant way to round off this season’s travels; this was largely down to the Northern Ireland fans. They were superb. Crewe’s Nantwich Road was a sea of green and white and our afternoon partying in the Brunswick pub with the Green and White Army was as good fun as I’ve had all season. Despite a mix of Welsh/English in our group, the NI fans were superb to us and soon we were joining in with chants about Chris Baird, Gareth McAuley and piss ups with George Best after we had died. We even drank with Socrates!
In the ground, the fans were just as boisterous and the dire game did not put the fans off their party – which we made sure we got in the middle of. Green and White Army – I thank you for being so friendly, welcoming and, most importantly, good fun.
2. Club Brugge fans
“No Sweat, No Glory.” I learned very quickly that proclaiming these four words, the Club Brugge motto, got you a lot of kudos (and beer) from the Club fans. Not that it was needed. Club Brugge fans treated me and Gibbo like kings on our arrival in the city’s square and it took me little time to fall in love with the club and their fans. They were genuinely chuffed that we had come over to watch them in their derby game v Cercle Brugge and that I had bought a shirt off eBay for about £7.
We were then invited to march through the streets of Bruges, a Bruges derby day tradition, with a whole host of flares, smoke bombs, flags and pissed up Belgians joining us. Undoubtedly, Club Brugge are my European team of choice now and I can’t see that changing no matter where I head on the continent in the future.
1. Crawley Town fans
This really was the Club Brugge fans’ award, but then I did that thing called ‘thinking’. After ‘thinking’ I realised Crawley’s supporters deserved the accolade. Crawley Town fans have been superb to me this season. As I said in my Walsall blog, Crawley have been the most ‘fun’ (definitely not the ‘best’) team to watch on the pitch for me this season, but off the pitch I have had a ball with them too.
When I turned up in West Sussex to watch them back in January, I thought nothing of Crawley Town (well, I probably thought they were a bit ‘tinpot’) and I was purely there to tick off another ground. However, I happened to be guided around Crawley by passionate Crawley fan Craig, who has since become a very good pal of mine, and it soon started to occur to me that I had massively misjudged and prejudged the club. A proper community football club with some of the most arduous, passionate and loyal fans you could possibly meet in football. Plus, when I attended Colchester away with them I learned that they can be a noisy and boisterous lot too!
The relationship has got to the extent that Crawley fans Craig, Tom and Ben even joined me at Wembley for the FA Vase final and returned the favour of me supporting their club by joining me in the away end at Crystal Palace with the Jack Army in May. Crawley Town fans even provided me with birthday presents last month: a yellow Crawley away shirt off Craig and the far more grandiose gift of a pack of Haribo Fangtastics off Tom. Cheers Crawley Town – Lost Boyos salutes you (or more appropriately, gives you a big double thumbs up).
3. “Oh what a feeling!/Watching Nomads in the evening!” (To the tune of Lionel Richie’s Dancing on the Ceiling – Connah’s Quay fans at Cefn Druids).
There were about 10-15 Nomads fans singing behind the goal at Cefn Druids’ The Rock, but they did make some noise. I felt this chant was so simple, yet it also pure genius as they combined their love of Connah’s Quay with a Lionel Richie classic. More importantly, it brought a smile to my face.
2. He’s not a ball point / He’s not a felt tip / He’s not a biro / He’s not a bic (he’s not a bic!) / We’ve got a better pen / He wears our number 10 / So let’s sing for Russell Penn…. / He’s not a ball point… (York City fans in ode to their number 10 Russell Penn)
Russell Penn became a sort of Lost Boyos cult hero this season purely for this song. Also, he was probably York City’s best player on the day we visited Bootham Crescent. Me and Gibbo even got to meet the great man post match and I got to tell him that he has my favourite player chant in football.
7 hours later, in the early hours of the morning after a boozy night on the town in York, me and Gibbo were stumbling through the streets of York still singing his name loudly. “HE’S NOT A BALL POINT…”
1. “Hey you! Don’t watch that, watch this! / This is the heavy, heavy monster sound / The nuttiest sound around. /So if you’ve come in off the street, and you’re beginning to feel the heat, / well listen buster, you’d better to start to move your feet to the rockin’est, rock-steady beat of Madness! ONE STEP BEYOND!…(everybody chants the tune to One Step Beyond)” (Glossop North End fans at Wembley to the tune of Madness’ One Step Beyond – obviously).
Just amazing scenes. As we sat amongst the Glossop Ultras in the midst of the first half of the FA Vase Final between Glossop and North Shields there were calls from the ultras for the GNE Fans to sit down and be quiet. We knew something was coming, we just didn’t have a clue what. Then, a lone fan stood up behind us and started belting out the opening speech to Madness’ One Step Beyond. “…ONE STEP BEYOND,” then, just like the song’s creators, Madness ensued in the stand. Brilliant.
(NOTE: I’m sure people will point out that other clubs do this ‘chant’ too – I am aware of that).
Best Young Player
3. Marcus Maddison (Peterborough v Barnsley – League One – 18th November 2014)
Claimed 3rd place in my Goal of the Season category and he also gets a bronze medal here. Was brilliant on the day helping the home team claw themselves back into the game from going 1-0 to Barnsley. And that goal! E-OY! Signed preseason by Peterborough from Gateshead, once again showing the gems that can be brought into the league from non-league football.
2. Dan Burns (Northwich Flixton Villa v Atherton LR – NWCFL Division One – 22nd April 2015)
A strange one here, as I thought I’d never include anything to do with Northwich Flixton Villa in these awards. On a Wednesday evening in the closing months of the season, me and a few others headed along to Valley Road, the then home of Northwich Victoria and the mysterious and enigmatic Northwich FV. There were rumours that it could be the last game at the ground before its demolition (rumours were unfounded). It’s a quite bleak ground, but on this evening it was lit up by a tricky, young left winger called Dan Burns. He was superb fun to watch with his showboating and pace and ‘cool’ singular large wristband fashion choice. Rob even went and chatted to his dad about signing for his team West Didsbury and Chorlton.
1.Ben Osborn (Nottingham Forest v Norwich City – Championship – 8th November 2015)
As seems to be the case these days when I visit Nottingham Forest, I hadn’t actually planned to be there. A late game cancellation at Mansfield Town saw me and fellow hopper Richard dash south to Nottingham and to the City Ground for Forest’s 3pm kick-off against Norwich City. We ended up witnessing a great, very late 2-1 win to Forest, but the highlight was definitely discovering this gem of a player. I’d never heard of Ben Osborn before this game, but he was absolutely impeccable in the middle of the park. A super left foot, powerful, hardworking and more than anything an excellent passer of the ball – he reminded me of Joe Allen in his Swansea pomp. Watch this lad if you get the chance. He’s going to be really, really good.
Best Player Performance
3. Jack Cork (Aston Villa v Swansea City – Premier League – 21st March 2015)
Undoubtedly, Gylfi Sigurdsson is my favourite Swansea player and that crown will be hard to take, but Jack Cork…well, just wow. I’ve always felt he was one of the most underrated players in the country at Burnley and Southampton, so I was delighted when he signed for the Swans. However, it seemed I had even underrated him. Put bluntly, Cork has been superb and has helped us have a superb 2nd half of the season. For me, his finest showing came at Villa Park, where he singlehandedly bossed the entire centre of the park and even just the whole game at times. For the record, I voted Ki Sung-Yeung for Swansea Player of the Season as he has been superb since Day 1 of the season, but if I had to vote for my Player of the Season since January, it’d have be Cork. A Cork-er of a player…
2. Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (Luton Town v Southend United – League Two – 11th October 2014)
A name not many may be aware of – myself included until I headed to Luton’s crumbling home. He certainly made an impression on me though. A powerful and skillful runner with the ball, on this Saturday afternoon he caused utter chaos to the Southend backline, who eventually resorted to just cutting him down. A pleasure to watch.
1. Leo Messi (Manchester City v Barcelona – Champions League – 28th February 2015)
“Messi’s statistics stagger. But none are half as extraordinary as watching him.” Jonathan Norcroft.
Spot on Jonathan. Messi is the greatest of all-time in my eyes anyway. If you ever get the chance to see Leo Messi kick a football, do it. I was fortunate to see him (and Ronaldo) play in a friendly between Argentina and Portugal at Old Trafford back in November. Messi didn’t see that much of the ball and was subbed after 45 minutes (as was Ronaldo) much to the dismay of the Old Trafford crowd, but when Leo did have the ball, he was joyous. I wanted to see more.
Fast forward 3 months and Barcelona were in town to take on Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League and I had another chance to see Leo. What followed was possibly the greatest footballing masterclass I’ve ever witnessed live. Messi was phenomenal. Nutmegs everywhere, dribbling past players for fun and showboating gold. However, the thing that caught my eye more than anything was that first touch – seeing it in the flesh just didn’t look real. His showing was beyond unreal. Plus, he even had the audacity to miss a penalty (and the follow up) with the last kick of the game. I still remember being on the phone to my Dad post match and just trying to find the words to describe his performance and just stuttering everywhere (non-alcohol related as UEFA ban beer in grounds). Words couldn’t do him justice. Still the greatest ever and I think it’ll take someone very, very special to come along and to convince me otherwise. Best thing I saw on a football pitch this season by a long way.
From Messi to getting messy. Many would argue that this is the biggest and most eoveted award of my Lost Boyos awards as there is regularly more drinking than football involved in my blogs. So, here we go with the best of the season…
3.Charters – Peterborough
I quite like boats. I definitely like bars. Put the two together and you have a…bar on a boat! A great bar too. Floating on the River Nee, it is on board here where you generally find away fans at Peterborough. Plenty of continental ales, a good environment and a unique and quirky setting. Ace.
2.The Golden Lion – Ashton-in-Makerfield
A bit of dive when it comes down to it, but I love a dive! Cheap (very cheap!) and cheerful, on the main high street of Ashton-in-Makerfield, surrounded by plenty of other pubs and a football club, Ashton Town FC, not too far away. They also had the kindness to set up a special screening of Swansea v Leicester for me, whilst the rest of the pub watched El Clasico.
1.Burnley Cricket Club
Okay, technically not a real pub, but I still love this place. A brilliant two-storied structure that lets away and home fans mingle happily and lets the young ones play out on the cricket pitch in a ‘local kids v away kids’ game; although the adults get involved too sometimes (read the Burnley blog for my tale of scoring at the cricket ground and pretending I’d scored for Swansea). The place also sells decent, cheap food and the beer isn’t too expensive either. My favourite pre- and post-match drinking hole of the season.
Best Food of the Season
There were some good pie efforts this season with particularly shoutouts to my chicken and leek pie in Carlisle and the pies at Brampton Pie Co. in Peterborough town centre, but there is only one winner here…
Bradford Park Avenue – CHIPS!
Quite simply the greatest chips in football. Lovingly cut hours before kick-off by the jolliest catering staff you could possibly meet. There’s a lot of love in these chips and 100% worth the slightly daunting non-league chips price of £2.50. The best.
Best Alcoholic Drink of the Season
Yorkshire Red Lager – (Drunk in the Borough Baliff pub in Knaresborough)
Best pint of the season, as agreed by me and Gibbo – we loved it and we know you will too. Beautiful stuff.
Danny Lever – Barnton v Darwen
It seemed that all my northern non-league football pals loved young keeper Dan Lever and after this game, so did I. I’m just waiting for the official fan club to start up now (probably led by @iBreezeblock). On the day I witnessed him play for Barnton against Darwen, he made one almighty good save at full stretch as shown below, and I didn’t see any better all season.
The Cosmin Matei Football Hipster of the Year
This is the award invented last season in honour of the genius that is Cosmin Matei, who we witnessed play at Leigh Sports Village for Dinamo Bucharest v Hearts at the start of my 2013/14 travels (yes, you read that correctly and no, we didn’t understand why either).
3. Francesco Totti (Manchester City v AS Roma – Champions League – 30th September 2014)
Okay, so he may be a bit too mainstream to be ‘hipster’, but this is Francesco Bloody Totti for goodness sake- one of the coolest footballers ever! Made himself ultra cool on the night by scoring against Manchester City, after the City’s Twitter account mocked his record of zero goals on English soil before that night. That sure showed them. Played ultra cool too.What a guy.
2. Jordan Lukaku (KV Oostende v KV Mechelen – 16th August 2014)
Romelu Lukaku? Nope, for us hipsters it is all about his brother Jordan – the left back for KV Oostende. Delivered a superb attacking performance from left full back on the evening me and Gibbo witnessed Oostende overcome Mechelen 2 – 0. It’s always hip to like the more obscure footballing brother.
1. Tony Taylor (New York City v St. Mirren – Friendly – 10th February 2015)
An American is the season’s hipster? What? Following in the footsteps of last year’s uber-hip winner Cosmin Matei? Definitely. Firstly, he came off the bench for New York City in the ultra-hip friendly game between NYCFC and St. Mirren and he was instantly blessed with adulation from everyone in the stands. His alliterative, yet bland, name won him early love from the masses, but his dazzling wing play soon had everyone excited. He even had the standing terrace of the City’s Academy Stadium chanting his name to the tune of the ‘YAYA’ chant. Then he scored New York’s second and the terrace erupted. What a man Tony Taylor is.
Best Celebrity/Football Personality
A running theme of my travels over the past few seasons has been the celebrities that have been met on the way and my pursuit to get them to do ‘double thumbs up for me. There have been quite a few again this year, but the best 3…
3. Steve Lamacq
I was always a huge fan of his radio show on Radio 1 in my teen/Uni years and I had the pleasure of being on a bus home from Colchester to London with him following Colchester v Crawley. And what a bloody nice guy! Chatted all things music and football (especially his beloved Colchester United) all the way to London and I could have gone on for hours more. Got some top band recommendations off him too. Big up to Blossoms! Top band!
2. Gordon ‘The Wealdstone Raider’ Hill
We met The Raider at the home of his beloved Wealdstone FC at height of his fame, but you could not meet a more humble guy. Clearly utterly perplexed by the fame that he had acquired, but decided to roll with it and make good use of it by doing various things for charity – including going for Christmas Number one. On this December afternoon, Gordon had time for everyone who chatted to him and he even made me blush by claiming that I was the ‘legend’ not him.
1. Gylfi Sigurdsson
Okay, he clearly wasn’t that interested in talking to me but I am sort of madly in love with Gylfi, so I was happy to just spend a few seconds with him and his beautiful blue eyes. I literally was a gibbering mess as I tried to talk to him outside of Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park, after he had made his first appearance in a Swans shirt for 2 years and scored 2 goals – one a beautiful trademark free kick. We met the whole Swans team post match and undoubtedly Lukasz Fabianski was the best and probably the nicest footballer I’ve ever met – but he’s just not Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Prize of the Year
Atherton Colls’ raffle – bag of meat!
My best mate Ed had never been to Atherton and I felt that needed to be addressed when he visited me in Manchester before Christmas. I love Atherton. I think the place is great. The town has plenty of pubs, including a ‘Pound Pub’, a top football team at a superb non-league ground, but undoubtedly the highlight of this day was winning the raffle that me and Ed went halves on. I was expecting a bottle of some sort of spirit, but to our surprise we received a huge bag of meat instead. Sadly for Ed, he forgot to claim his half when he headed back to Bristol the next day. This left me with a huge bag of meat to enjoy, which fed me for the whole week. Best football raffle prize…no scrap that…just outright the best thing I’ve ever won.
Sunderland 0 – 0 Swansea
Angel Rangel got a second yellow for kicking the ball away…I think that was about all that happened. Happy with a point with ten men obviously. Can’t remember anything else happening.
(In fact, the only two 0-0s I saw all season were Swansea away games when the Swans had ten men – the other was Everton away).
Just really didn’t feel this place – something probably not helped by it being a cold Tuesday night and the home team being beyond dire. All just a bit bland and dull. Sorry Glasshoughton – it is nothing personal. And if it makes you feel better, I still hate Stoke more.
The Matt Harrold Hero of the Year Award
I’ve even named this award after the inaugural winner of this first ever Hero of the Year award: Matt Harrold. With 35 minutes gone between Crawley and MK Dons, striker Harrold stepped off the bench and played the next hour or so in goals. And so ensued one of the most ballsy goalkeeping performance I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t perfect and it definitely wasn’t orthodox, but for a long, long time Harrold was getting the job done with the help of injured goalie Brian Jenson coaching behind the goal and a shed load of luck. He even claimed the official Man of the Match award on the day. Just a shame that MK Dons got 2 past him eventually. What a hero though.
Twats of the Year
Awful ‘comedy’ psychic act before Man City v Newcastle at City Square
Nothing destroys my soul more than having to watch a local school/college send out a dance troop on the pitch before a game, but nothing will top these two for shocking prematch entertainment. I love City Square at the Etihad and their prematch shows are usually spot on with a good selection of bands and guest speakers on stage. However, the act which was on show before City’s League Cup loss to Newcastle…well, it was tragic. A comedy act which parodied psychic medium acts, but no-one really got it. Cue the longest streaks of awkward silences I’ve ever had to endure.
Best Game that Never Happened
FC Barcelona v Stoke City – World Cup Final
This conversation will live with me for a long while and for those alongside me at the time. A drunken friend (who will remain nameless to save his blushes) with me in the stands watching Crystal Palace v Swansea:
Me: “Stoke are beating Liverpool 5-0 and it’s only half-time.”
Drunken friend: “So does that mean that Stoke will be in the World Cup final…against Barcelona.”
Drunken friend: “Stoke winning means they’ll be playing in the World Cup final!”
Me: “Okay…yes it does.”
We rolled with it. The dialogue went on longer than that, as aforementioned friend was determined that Stoke were off to the World Cup final, as well as something about Jon Walters being top goalscorer. Clearly the prematch Jager had completely melted his brain. Although he did still call me ‘stupid’ an hour later after sobering up (slightly) for then daring to tell him that Stoke were still winning and still on course for the final.
“Stoke? In the World Cup final? Don’t be stupid! Stoke isn’t a country!”
Indeed. I had spent half-time browsing ticket sites trying to get my tickets for the big final too. Best game that never happened.
“You shithouse avocado!” (My Morecambe pal Dom Lancaster’s shout towards Exeter goalie Lymm, who was in goals directly in front of the Globe Arena standing terrace – he was wearing a very lime green shirt).
“Have we changed our name from ‘Salford City FC ‘to ‘Fannying Around At The Back FC’ or something?!” (Old Salford fan at Salford v Warrington as the Salford defence repeatedly passed the ball around the back and repeatedly cocked it up).
“What’s the difference between you and that grass keeper?…That grass is good…” (A child behind the goal at Holker Old Boys to Atherton Colls keeper Taberner).
Best Double Thumps Up Photo Award
The big prize goes to Curzon fans, as a photo that originally began with just me and Curzon loyalist Oliver posing turned into a massive double thumbs up orgy at their game v Ramsbottom United. Top effort Curzon.
Highlight of the season
I alluded to it earlier, but my overall highlight had to be the march through the streets of Bruges with the Blue and Black Army of Club Brugge. It is the sort of thing I keep embarking on these travels for – moments like these. I’d learnt the whole Club songbook by now, so was able to play our part in the chanting, the bouncing and the sitting down (before jumping up again). Flares and smoke bombs were going off around us, flags and fans waved from the windows of the streets leading to the ground and random Belgians would not let us walk without beer, so kept passing us freebies.
I still remember there was a moment halfway through the march when I turned to Gibbo and just said, “This is the best thing ever,” and at that moment it really felt like it. It summed up what I love about these travels. Passionate fans, friendly people, having beer with my mates and heading to watch the game I love. For that 40 minutes of marching through Bruges, life just felt bloody good and it is a memory and feeling I promised myself at the time that I’d preserve.
So there you go, there is my season in a rather large nutshell. It has been a bloody blast! I’d love people to comment on saying what their highlights of their season were or even where they’d like me to go next season.
There is only one way to finish: an epic double thumbs up montage!
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