Racism, club ownership and City to retain their title – FWA Live

Our latest FWA LIve event at the Landmark London on August 6 was a huge success, with a wide range of topics discussed by our panel in front of a packed house.

Chris Hughton, Simon Jordan and Teddy Sheringham were our special guests from the world of football, and joined FWA Chair Carrie Brown and Times football correspondent Henry Winter on a panel hosted by Gerry Cox, former Chairman of the FWA.

The first 45 minutes involved a panel discussion on the likely winners of this season’s Premier League (Manchester City were overwhelming favourites), transfer dealings this summer, the fates of the newly-promoted clubs and how Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will fare.

After a short break, panellists took questions from the 100 or so guests, resulting in lively and revelatory discussions about racism, club ownership, the difficulties of management and more.

The event was streamed live on Facebook thanks to our title sponsors William Hill, and you can see the first 45 minutes on the FWA’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/FootballWritersAssociation/videos/2131821920279052/

And a substantial sum was raised for our charity Alzheimer’s Society.  See the great work they are doing on research into a disease that increasingly affects not only football but society as a whole https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/

(Left to right) Gerry Cox Former Chairman of FWA/Hayters TV, Chris Hughton Former Brighton Manager, Simon Jordan Former Crystal Palace Owner & Broadcaster, Teddy Sheringham, Carrie Brown FWA Chair and Henry Winter  of The Times.

Simon Jordan, Former Crystal Palace Owner & Broadcaster, and Teddy Sheringham during the FWA Live Season Preview at The Landmark Hotel, London.

Carrie Brown- FWA Chair and Henry Winter of The Times during the FWA Live Season Preview at The Landmark Hotel, London.

Chris Hughton, Former Brighton Manager, during the FWA Live Season Preview at The Landmark Hotel, London.

General view during the FWA Live Season Preview at The Landmark Hotel, London.

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium media facilities

Tottenham Hotspur stadium media facilities

The FWA have been in consultation for some time with Tottenham Hotspur over media facilities at the club’s new stadium, and the results are stunning.

The new stadium is set to stage the first of two test events this weekend, an under-18s game between Spurs and Southampton, followed by a legends game next Saturday against Inter Milan.

Subject to approval, Tottenham will formally open the stadium on April 3 for their Premier League clash with Crystal Palace, followed by their Champions League quarter final first-leg against Manchester City, and media attending these games are in for a treat, according to Gerry Cox and Mike Collett of the FWA National Committee, who have been in consultation throughout and visited the stadium earlier this week.

“Simon Felstein, the club’s Head of Communications, welcomed the FWA’s input from the early stages of planning and listened to our ideas and responded to our feedback,” said Gerry Cox. “The planned media facilities looked first-class on paper, but when we actually saw them we were blown away.

“If there are finer media facilities in world football, we have yet to see them!”

The stadium has been planned to accommodate world-class football and also NFL games, and the media facilities reflect this in size and state-of-the-art technology.

Journalists and photographers have a dedicated entrance on the north east corner of the stadium, just off Tottenham High Road. The media lounge has space for over 200 in a relaxed environment, with a range of bar-stools, comfortable chairs and other seating . Workspaces feature plenty of power, ethernet and USB charging points. There are kit lockers for video-journalists and photographers, who also have a separate work room nearby. Hot and cold drinks and food are available before games and at half-time, with vegan and gluten-free options, while big screens will show relevant sports programmes and carry a club ticker with important information for journalists – news updates, lineups, etc. There is a dedicated broadband for media, through wi-fi and hard-wired connections, and Spitfire’s representatives will be on hand to help with any connectivity issues.

Access through to the press seating is via a dedicated media corridor, which leads to an impressive press tribune with seats for around 170 journalists – 118 with desks, 54 without. All desks have power and connectivity and a monitor for each pair. The press box is situated to the left of the halfway line with excellent views of the pitch and the visiting team’s dugout just in front. All media areas are accessible for wheelchair users, with lifts and ramps.

From the tribune it is a short walk to the press auditorium, which has 120 seats, with pull-out desks, power, ethernet connections and USB charging points.

There is also a large, covered mixed zone adjacent to the dressing room area, which both home and away players will pass through after games, with wi-fi throughout. And for broadcast rights-holders, there are 10 flash interview rooms located next to the tunnel area.

All in all, it is a perfect working environment for our members, and we thank Simon Felstein and the club for involving the FWA in the planning and implementation of these facilities.

To see a short film of the facilities, please visit: https://youtu.be/ZcIk4BMAFG0

MANarama National League column – Leyton Orient

Leyton Orient, by Glenn Moore

On 25 May 2014 Leyton Orient were twice on the brink of reaching the second tier of English football for the first time in more than three decades. As they prepared to celebrate promotion at Wembley that day, the idea that they could be playing a league match at Braintree within four years – and coming home elated after a win – was beyond comprehension.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday night around 1,600 O’s fans made the 40-mile journey back from Essex in jubilant mood. Justin Edinburgh’s team had won 5-1 at Cressing Road to extend their lead at the summit of the MANarama National League (sponsors Vanarama have renamed the competition in support of the charity Prostate Cancer UK).

Victory eclipsed a club record set in that 2013-14 season when Russell Slade’s team began with a 12-match unbeaten run before having to settle for a play-off place. At Wembley they led Rotherham 2-0 with 35 minutes left, then led again in the penalty shoot-out.

Two failed penalties followed, and less than three years later they were relegated from League Two ending a stay in the Football League dating back to 1905. This precipitous decline, which almost concluded with the club ceasing to exist, began when long-term owner Barry Hearn sold to Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti. This proved ill-fated as Becchetti rattled through 11 managers, overseeing two relegations, a string of unhappy headlines, and the alienation of supporters. Soon after dropping out of the League the club faced a winding up order.

This, however, was staved off and the club bought by a consortium fronted by Nigel Travis, an Orient fan and former schoolmate of Hearn who had risen to head up Dunkin’ Donuts.  The bulk of the cash was provided by Texan millionaire Kent Teague whose enthusiasm has extended to watching the club’s walking football teams play.

The pair brought stability off the field and, after a brief stint by former Crewe boss Steve Davis, Edinburgh provided it on it. The former Tottenham defender arrived at Brisbane Road at a low ebb having been fired in quick succession by Gillingham and Northampton Town. However, he had good experience at non-League level having taken Rushden & Diamonds and Newport County into the National League play-off places, winning promotion with the latter.

Edinburgh banished fears of a second relegation as the Os finished mid-table. This season they began by snatching a late equaliser at Salford and have been unbeaten ever since with six wins in the last seven games. Macauley Bonne, a 22-year-old signed by Davis from Colchester United, took his O’s total to 31 goals in 57 matches with a hat-trick at Braintree. Just as influential have been the experienced Jobi McAnuff and Dean Brill, youth product Josh Koroma, East Thurrock recruit Marvin Ekpiteta, and an injury-free run that has enabled Edinburgh to name the same XI for nine successive matches.

MANarama National League is a hard one to escape. Less than half the clubs relegated from League Two in the last decade have bounced back. Orient are on course to buck the trend.

For more on Leyton Orient visit: https://www.leytonorient.com/

For more on the MANarama National League visit: https://thenationalleague.org.uk/

For great deals on cars and vans visit: http://www.vanarama.co.uk/ 

Vanarama National League column – April 4

Easter by Luke Coulson, Ebbsfleet United and FWA member

On Easter weekend, children across the country ran round their gardens screaming and shouting as they tried to claim all the hidden Easter eggs. Similarly, but without the chocolate ending, teams from across the Vanarama National League ran around screaming and shouting as they tried to claim all the bank holiday weekend points.

With two games in four days and the end of the season closing in on us, Easter weekend provides a huge opportunity for clubs to establish their position in the league or move further up the table.

On Good Friday, I was excited at the prospect of playing against my former team Eastleigh; the club that introduced me to Vanarama National League football. However, a waterlogged pitch meant that the game was postponed, allowing my team mates and me to rest for the bank holiday Monday clash against Dover.

Before kick-off, our not so distant rivals were precariously sat in 7th position, seven points ahead yet having played two games more. Therefore, as we arrived at Stonebridge Road, we knew the game was vital to keep our aspirations alive of claiming a playoff spot this season.

It must have been clear to the 1,700 fans in attendance how desperate we were to win as we raised our performance levels to fit the occasion. Having not lost since early February, our confidence was high and we dominated the game, urged on by the Ebbsfleet faithful.

Dean Rance and Andy Drury were instrumental in the centre of midfield, while Danny Kedwell somehow, yet unsurprisingly, handled three central defenders allowing Whiteley and me the freedom to express ourselves in a must-win game. However, the score remained 0-0 at half time owing to a fantastic display by the Dover goalkeeper, Mitch Walker.

After the break, our constant pressure caused the breakthrough. An overhit corner allowed Sean Shields to take the ball on to his left foot and his low driven shot finally gave us the lead. I must admit that I expected Dover to begin to chase the game and pile on the pressure, yet we looked comfortable for the remaining half an hour until disaster struck in the 93rd minute.

Having been substituted with five minutes to go, it was agony to watch from the bench as the referee pointed to the spot and awarded Dover a penalty in additional time. I pulled the coat over my head and hoped to hear a cheer from the home crowd but it was the away fans that began to sing.

Watching helplessly from the bench, we were rewarded a free-kick with a minute to go. Myles Weston stood over the ball and his inch perfect delivery led to a scramble in the box before the ball fell to the hero, Andy Drury, whose composed left foot shot nestled in the far corner as the passionate celebrations began. A goal we deserved and most importantly, needed.

The final whistle blew and relief flooded throughout the stadium. The result continues our surge towards the playoffs, maintains our excellent current form and builds excitement for our next game live on BT Sport against league leaders, Macclesfield. 

Vanarama column March 21 – “Make the most of it!”

Throughout my career, I have heard senior players share different words of wisdom with younger team mates. Yet, there is one reoccurring quote of advice that every older player is in agreement upon; ‘Make the most of it, it’s over before you know it’.

At the beginning of the month, I stared at the smoke as it slowly dissipated from the candles atop my birthday cake, while pondering on those frequent words of guidance. It seems only yesterday that I was signing my first professional contract at the tender age of 18 and now I am beginning to see the truth in those words.

It is not always an easy thing to do – to enjoy the moment and savour it while you can. However, with nine games to go and the end of the season around the corner, I am determined to make the most of the games that remain.

After our fixture against Wrexham was postponed, due to poor weather conditions, we travelled an hour up the road to face Leyton Orient. Despite an unexpected season for the former League Two side, their home attendance has been one of the best in the Vanarama National League and once again more than 4,000 fans came to watch.

Unfortunately for those supporters, I have to admit that the game was far from the most exciting spectacle of the season. Corey Whitely opened the scoring after latching on to a Danny Kedwell header and his low shot gave us the lead after 15 minutes. Yet, the home side equalised soon after, when a low driven cross was unluckily turned into our own goal by our captain, Dave Winfield.

The second half was a dull affair with limited chances and the game finished 1-1. However, despite the lack of excitement, we were happy to take the point after our four previous wins and extended our unbeaten run to five games.

Disappointingly, we weren’t able to build on that momentum last weekend due to another cancelled fixture as Gateshead featured in the semi-final of the Buildbase FA Trophy. Therefore, we played a friendly against Eastbourne Borough to help us prepare for Maidenhead United, who visit Stonebridge Road on Saturday.

Now that I am 24, I am still aware that I have many years left in my career and I am far from wishing those years away. Having said that, I am now realising that the advice from the senior players is invaluable because just like my birthday cake; my career will be gone before I know it.

For more about the Vanarama National League visit: http://www.thenationalleague.org.uk/

For great deals on car and van leasing visit: http://www.vanarama.co.uk/

Vanarama Column Feb 28 – Boreham Wood

by Glenn Moore

Meadow Park, Borehamwood, may not be the first stadium that springs to mind as a Champions League venue hosting international footballers, including world and Olympic champions. But that is because most of the above have been stars of women’s football, with Arsenal Women playing the majority of their home games at the 4,000 capacity stadium on the outskirts of London.

Now, though, it is the men who are aiming to put Meadow Park on the map. Arsenal’s hosts, Boreham Wood FC (the Hertfordshire town was originally spelled with two words, and the club has done so since formation in 1948) are beginning to dream of playing in the Football League.

Boreham Wood attract the lowest gates in the Vanarama National League averaging around 700. This reflects a relative lack of footballing heritage, strong local competition from established London league clubs, and the 32,000 population of Borehamwood. Yet crowds have more than doubled in the last three years and could be set for another boost. The club lie fifth in the Vanarama National League after taking 13 points from the last 15. The play-offs beckon. Having won their past two promotions through that route Boreham Wood can approach such a scenario with confidence, improbable though it would have seemed only a decade ago.

This is The Wood’s third season at the elite non-League level having not played above the Isthmian (now Bostik) League until 2010. Former Arsenal player Wayne Allinson steered them into the National League but quit early in the first season at the top after a poor start convinced chairman Danny Hunter the club needed to go full-time. This did not fit with the work commitments of Allinson who now manages Vanarama National League South promotion contenders St Albans City.

Assistant manager Luke Garrard, three weeks into his 30s, stepped up. Though Garrard had only recently retired as a player for Boreham Wood he had eight years’ coaching experience at the club’s academy. The relegation struggle went to the final day, but The Wood stayed up. Last season they rose to seventh before finishing 11th. The upward mobility has continued this season, fired by the goals of Portuguese Bruno Andrade, a former QPR academy graduate.

For Hunter, who has a background in the film industry (the world-famous Elstree studios are nearby), it is a family club, literally. His father Mickey managed it and there are several other relatives involved with Hunters filling a variety of roles from groundsman to academy manager.  Danny Hunter himself has been chairman since 1999 and the club would not be in its current positon without his regular investment.

The club recently agreed a 10-year extension to their hosting agreement with Arsenal. The women’s game may be much better known by 2028, but Boreham Wood hope if the crowds are finally filling Meadow Park their men’s team will be the draw.

For more on Boreham Wood FC please visit http://www.borehamwoodfootballclub.co.uk/

For more on the Vanarama National League, go to: http://www.thenationalleague.org.uk/

For great deals on car and van leasing visit: http://www.vanarama.co.uk

Vanarama National League column Dec 20 – Gateshead

The Vanarama National League column – Gateshead by Glenn Moore.

 

Gateshead International Stadium will stage a very local affair on Boxing Day, and enjoy an unusually vibrant atmosphere. The ‘Heed’ host Hartlepool in a rare Vanarama National League north-east derby with every expectation of a substantial four-figure gate.

It will be a significant match for Steve Watson, the former Newcastle United player who was lured back to his native north-east in October to take on his first managerial job. Watson, who made more than 350 Premier League appearances, for Everton, Aston Villa and West Brom, besides the Toon, has declared it his mission to take Gateshead into the Football League.

Watson, 43, had been assistant manager at table-topping Macclesfield, but seized the chance to replace Port Vale-bound Neil Aspin and come home. He returned to a region that, while noted as a football ‘hotbed’, has made little impact in the country’s premier non-league competition.

This is only the third season in the National League’s 39-year existence that there have been two clubs from the north-east in the league and there have frequently been none. The Northern League’s reluctance to join the original Alliance Premier League in 1979 meant several of the area’s bigger clubs were left behind as the football pyramid was formed. Blyth Spartans, of FA Cup giant-killing fame, were then dominant in the Northern League, but by the time they switched into the pyramid were playing catch-up and are yet to progress beyond Vanarama National League North.

Gateshead, who were formed in 1977 after the eponymous former Football League club, and its successor club Gateshead United, both folded, have the region’s most regular National League club with 20 campaigns in four stints. They were briefly joined by Darlington from 2010-12, and now by newly-relegated Hartlepool.

The holiday fixtures – the return at Victoria Park is on New Year’s Day – will be a good test of both teams’ progress. Watson has improved Gateshead’s results, but they remain lower-mid-table, eight points off the play-offs. Pool, anxious for an instant return, are one point ahead but have lost four on the spin. They play Saturday, at home to Maidenhead, while Gateshead have the weekend off.

It will also be a measure of the effect Watson’s arrival has had off the pitch. In many respects playing in a smart stadium refurbished as recently as 2011 has its advantages, but unfortunately the International Stadium is both designed for athletics and too big for non-League football.

At 11,800 its capacity is only exceeded by The Shay at Halifax. However, an average gate hovering between 750-850 is matched only by Boreham Wood. With only the two covered stands each side of the ground usually opened for Vanarama National League matches, and an athletics track around the pitch, fans often complain about a lack of atmosphere.

Proposals to build a new ground have been floated but Watson’s short-term solution is to copy the philosophy of his former manager Kevin Keegan. “We have to entertain, to get out on the pitch and play good football, to get positive results,” he said. “Then before you know it, there are more on the gate.”

For more on the Vanarama National League, visit: http://www.thenationalleague.org.uk/
For great leasing deals on cars and vans, visit: http://www.vanarama.co.uk/

Vanarama National League Column

Glenn Moore looks at Kent’s place in the Vanarama National League 

Kent, the home of hops, apples, and the Channel Tunnel, has never been regarded as a hotbed of football. The Royal Engineers, the first FA Cup runners-up, came from the Chatham Dockyard; Chris Smalling, Tony Cascarino and Jon Harley grew up in the Garden of England; but in sporting terms the white horse county is best known for cricket. Excluding Charlton Athletic, never officially part of Kent since the club’s formation, Gillingham are the county’s only representatives in the Football League. They always have been, aside from three seasons a quarter-century ago when Maidstone United joined them before going bankrupt.

In non-League football, however, it is a different story. Kent has long had a busy non-League scene, perhaps because of the lack of Football League clubs. In 1979 the original Alliance Premier League, the forerunner of today’s Vanamara National League, included Maidstone United and Gravesend & Northfleet, and within two seasons they were joined by Dartford. 

These days the Vanarama National League has a strong Kentish flavour. Dover Athletic, thriving since the return of Chris Kinnear despite a huge turnover of players, are the surprise leaders. A trio of local rivals are in close pursuit. Re-formed Maidstone United are fifth, two places ahead of Bromley (now a London borough, but part of Kent until 1965). Ebbsfleet, as Gravesend & Northfleet are now known, are three points further back. Hoping to join them are Dartford and Welling United, respectively first and third in Vanarama National League South.

What is notable about these clubs is the sense of progress and ambition with most playing at new, or refurbished stadia in front of rising crowds. Dover last year opened a new £1.3m stand at their historic Crabble home. Ebbsfleet’s own £5m stand at Stonebridge Road is nearing conclusion. Bromley, prospering in only their third season at this level, put down a 3G pitch in the summer and a new stand is to be erected next year. 

Dartford, meanwhile, have one of the most ecologically-advanced grounds in the country at 12-year-old Princes’ Park, with features including a sedum roof, floodlights powered by solar panels and water recycling. Welling are the smallest of the sextet, but with Mark Goldberg, once Crystal Palace owner, more recently Bromley manager, chairman, do not lack for ambition.

The most extraordinary tale is that of Maidstone. The Stones had to start again in the Kent County League’s fourth division, step 12 of the pyramid, after going bust in 1992. Playing on their former reserve team pitch they climbed into the Kent League (step 5) by 2001, but then had to ground-share in Sittingbourne and Ashford before returning to the county town, at a new ground, in 2012. At this stage they were in the Isthmian League (South) but inspired by having their own home, one which has become a community hub built around the 3G pitch, they won three further promotions in four seasons. Their 4-2 FA Cup win at League Two Cheltenham on Saturday confirmed the Stones are rolling again, as are their rivals in Kent’s fertile non-League garden. The Gills’ proud boast of being ‘Kent’s only Football League club’ is at risk again.

For more on the Vanarama National League visit: http://www.thenationalleague.org.uk/

Find out about Vanarama’s leasing deals for cars and vans here: http://www.vanarama.co.uk/

Danny Fullbrook

DANNY FULLBROOK REMEMBERED AT FULHAM FOOTBALL CLUB

Danny Fullbrook's family receive a signed Fulham shirt in his memory

Danny Fullbrook’s immense contribution to football journalism and Fulham Football Club was recognised prior to Fulham’s home fixture with Hull City last month when the Fulham Supporters’ Trust presented Danny’s family with a signed first-team home shirt bearing his name.

Danny sadly lost his battle with cancer in 2012 but his legacy lives on through the work of the Danny Fullbrook Fearless Foundation. The Fulham Supporters’ Trust wanted to ensure that Danny’s family and friends were aware of just how fondly Danny is thought of by the Fulham fans and the football club. The Trust’s communications officer Dan Crawford, whose own path into sports journalism was inspired by Danny, handed over the signed shirt at Craven Cottage on the evening of the game against Hull.

Dan, pictured with Danny’s parents Jim and Sylvie, sister Jo and son Edward, said: ‘Danny’s infectious enthusiasm for football and Fulham left a lasting impression on everyone he met. He was a massive supporter of the ‘Back to the Cottage’ campaign and the Fulham Supporters’ Trust and encouraged me as a teenager to pursue a journalistic career. We are very keen to support the work of the Fearless Foundation and ensure that Danny’s legacy will offer more opportunities for young people through sport and sports journalism. We would like to thank Carmelo Mifsud, Mark Maunders, Alistair Mackintosh and Slavisa Jokanovic at Fulham Football Club for arranging at such short notice to provide this shirt to Danny’s family, which shows how specially he is still thought of at Craven Cottage’.
The Trust will be working with Danny’s family, friends and colleagues over the forthcoming months on a number of projects dedicated to his memory. If any FWA member would like more information, they are welcome to email info@fulhamsupporterstrust.com

Vanarama National League – a new column

 

Vanarama

Each week the FWA will round up events in the Vanarama National League in association with our sponsor Vanarama. Glenn Moore, former football editor of the Independent and FWA committee member, explains…

It is said the league table cannot be trusted until ten games have been played. Until then it a phoney war, shadow boxing, foreplay – whichever cliche takes your fancy. The Vanarama National League has now played a dozen matches, more than a quarter of the programme. It should have settled down by now with a picture of who will be contending for the title – and with it automatic promotion, and who will be pushing for the play-offs.

Well… that hasn’t quite happened. As of this morning Maidstone United are three points behind Sutton United. The Stones are not exactly on the leaders’ heels – they are back in ninth. Leyton Orient, in 13th, are three points off the play-offs. It is tighter than a Wrexham defence that has conceded six goals in 12 games. The gap from 1st to 18th-place Tranmere Rovers is nine points, easily bridgeable for last season’s runners-up.

The Championship is usually quoted as the most interesting competition. Big clubs like Aston Villa who have fallen on hard times, sleeping giants such as Leeds United waking from their slumber, upstarts Burton Albion, bloodying noses. And plenty of unpredictable results. But, after just nine matches, the leaders are already seven points clear of ninth and 11 ahead of 18th.

The Vanarama National League also has bruised egos – half the competition are ex-Football League clubs with Leyton Orient on the cusp of the Championship three years ago. There are clubs with a long-established non-League pedigree, such as Woking and Sutton. And there are the nouveau riche, keen to hurry through the leagues, like Eastleigh and Fylde.

There is plenty of vibrant life, and vivid backstories, in the regional divisions too. In Vanarama North on Saturday Harrogate Town drew a staggering 2,800 to the Bettys Tea Rooms derby with York City. Town’s win kept them ahead, on goal difference, of Salford City – famous now for their association with former Manchester United players Gary and Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt. York, who once conquered Don Howe’s Arsenal, lie seventh having finally halted a horrible slide. Close behind lie several others trying to clamber back to the full-time game including Stockport County and Darlington.

While there are 11 fallen Football League clubs in Vanarama North none are in Vanarama South. Instead there is a cluster of upwardly mobile ones such as current leaders Truro City, the highest-placed Cornish club in the football pyramid, and East Thurrock United, less than 50 years old, an Essex League club 25 years ago, and in only their second season at this level.

It is a competition full of stories, often only told when the FA Cup juggernaut rolls around and the media descend on the plucky part-timers looking for butchers and bakers. Increasingly they find instead full-time pros, especially in the Vanarama National League, but they still have stories to tell, often of rejection from a Premier League academy, a tumble down the divisions, and a quiet determination to make their way back. Every week this new column will seek to tell the tales of a fascinating competition.

For more about the Vanarama National League visit: http://www.thenationalleague.org.uk/

For more about Vanarama visit  http://www.vanarama.co.uk/