Posted by: musinganorak | August 17, 2012

16 Days In August…*

* Actually 4 days in July and 12 days in August…

Wednesday 6th July 2005, and at the 117th Session of the International Olympic Committee the decision is made to host the Games of the 30th Summer Olympiad in London. London. The capital city of the United Kingdom. Where I live. As soon as the decision was announced I joined in with millions of other people wondering how I was going to get tickets to see it. IT! The Olympics. The Greatest Sporting Event on THE PLANET!

Fast forward 5 years and 9 months to April 2011 and I finally get to submit my initial application for tickets. You can’t buy them, you just get to say what you’d like to see and then eventually somebody would let you know what you are actually going to go and see. After much thought and head scratching I eventually submit an application for a total of 11 sessions covering 10 different sports. My potential bill is just over £1000. But it is The Olympics! All I have to do now is wait for them to decide what I’ll be allowed to see…

Fast forward another couple of months and I get THE E-MAIL. I have been allocated tickets. But for less than half of what I asked for – 5 sessions of 4 different sports. The initial disappointment wears off after a few days as more and more stories emerge of people who applied for far more tickets than me and yet got allocated nothing. I was lucky, lucky it seemed to have got any tickets, and very lucky to have got as many as I had.

Only another 13 months to wait before I could actually use my tickets…

As the countdown to the Games continued, and various other convoluted ticket allocation ballots came and went – all of which I was barred from due to my success in the initial ballot, it started to become a possibility that more tickets may be available to buy nearer to the Event.

Careful scanning of Twitter feeds and regular visits to the Official Website initially proved fruitless. By this stage I had already booked the two weeks of the Games off from work – I was at least going to watch it all. Live, as it happened, and not on highlights shows. Then all of a sudden it happened. Tickets for various events became available.

So I bought some…

Then other sports became available.

So I bought some…

Even as the Games got underway and I was enjoying my first Olympics Experiences they kept releasing tickets, especially after the furore around empty seats took hold.

So I bought some more…

Eventually I ended up with tickets to 16 sessions of 15 different sports! At The Olympics!

The irony of it was though is that I probably saw less of the action at this Olympics than of any of the previous Olympics I watched on TV. If I wasn’t at an event I was travelling to it, or from it, or to the next one.

But that didn’t matter at all. I WAS AT THE OLYMPICS!! A once in a lifetime opportunity to witness, in the flesh, The Greatest Sporting Event In The World!

No pig in muck, ever, throughout history, has been as happy as I was!

Posted by: musinganorak | January 19, 2012

February 2011

So I wasn’t going to be able to finish the New Year Master Plan of completing the top 5 leagues in the football pyramid. I could, however, still achieve the primary aim of completing “The 92.”

The first Saturday saw me heading off for another of my missing Conference grounds – Altrincham. Unfortunately the footballing Gods had other plans and, after leaving Mum & Claire in Manchester, I found out that the Altrincham game was off whilst stood on the platform waiting for the tram to Altrincham. It was too late to try and find another game so I decided to go to Altrincham anyway for a look around. This turned out to be a good move as I found not 1, not 2 but 3 authentic Belgian beer bars in the town centre – within a couple of hundred yards of each other. Result!

The following weekend saw me take on a double header – one of the things that had sown the original idea for the NYMP. Mansfield Town had had their game against Newport County switched to the evening so that it could be shown live on some obscure satellite channel. I managed to precede this with a visit to Barnsley for their Championship encounter with Ipswich Town. Oakwell is a great old ground, and I got to see Harold “Dickie” Bird outside the ground before kick off. Unfortunately the game was a very average 1-1 draw. But it mattered not as I had now finished the Championship, and hence the top 3 levels of English football. 91 down 1 to go.

The evening’s entertainment was much better. The visitors started like a train and by the 28th minute they were 3-0 up. Amazingly a few minutes later Mansfield pulled 1 back, and 4 minutes later it was 3-2 after Todd conceded a penalty and was shown a red card. In stoppage time the home team equalised. It was one of those games when you definitely didn’t want half time to arrive. Unsurprisingly Newport defended a lot in the second half and in theend Mansfield couldn’t make the extra man count and it ended 3-3.

The following weekend saw us in Sheffield with friends for a weekend of beer drinking, but I still managed to make my way to Gainsborough for Trinity’s Conference North encounter with Stafford Rangers.

And so to the last Saturday in February – Bury v Crewe Alexandra in League 2. 9286 days after doing my first league ground I was going to complete “The 92” for the first time. Gigg Lane is a  wonderful old ground and I’m glad that I was able to reach my goal at a “proper” football ground and not one of the new builds, I’ll have enough of those as I keep re-completing “The 92” in the coming seasons.

I started by seeing Crewe lose 3-1 at home to Watford, I finished by seeing Crewe lose 3-1 away to Bury. Some things never change!

Midweek entertainment was provided during February at Ampthill Town, Mangotsfield United, Wimborne Town, Eton Manor and, best of all an evening at Kenilworth Road, Luton watching England ‘C’ v Belgium with hospitality thrown in.

Anyway, that’s the league grounds out of the way – I can concentrate on proper football now!

Posted by: musinganorak | January 9, 2012

January 2011

After the thrilling “spectacle” that was Derby v Millwall I could quite happily have abandoned my grand plan. If that was a sample of things to come then I wasn’t sure I wanted any part of it. Two things spurred me one, the first being that if I saw it through then that would be it done, once and for all. The other, more pragmatic, reason was that I had already tickets for the next couple of games!

First up was a trip to the Stadium of Light for Sunderland v Notts County in the FA Cup. To be fair it was another fairly poor game, but with the visitors winning 2-0 I did at least witness a bona fide cup upset. It also saw the first small landmark on the way to completing my goal – the Premiership was completed.

Probably the biggest downside to my plan was the fact that all of the grounds I had to visit were in the North of England. I guess that’s what comes of only starting groundhopping after moving down South. It also meant that a week after driving to Sunderland I was heading North again, this time to Hull City. The car got a rest today though as I had managed to pick up some relatively cheap train tickets. This meant I got to travel some new rail lines, visit more pubs and get 1 step closer to finishing the 92. This time it was a fairly entertaining game that saw Hull City beat Barnsley 2-0.

So I found myself, midway through January, with 2 Championship, 1 League 2 and 3 Conference National grounds to visit. Blimey. I might just do this!

7 days later and I was driving back up to the North-East for a visit to the Riverside, home of Middlesbrough. The result was a scrappy 1-1 draw with Preston North End. After being impressed with Pride Park I was now tiring of the design as both the Stadium of Light and the Riverside were pretty much identical. Ho hum.

Guess where I headed the following Saturday? Indeed – the North-East of England! The plan this time was to get the Darlington Arena out of the way. It was I was starting to enjoy a half in one of the town centre pubs at around 13:00 that I overheard a conversation that I didn’t want to. The game was off. Bugger. Darlington is an awfully long way for a postponement. A frantic search of club websites and forums and I managed to find a game that was still on in that part of the world and I ended up thoroughly enjoying Newton Aycliffe 4 Washington 0 in the 2nd division of the Northern League. To be honest I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed a game at Darlington anywhere near as much.

So the plan hit its’ first snag in the last weekend of January. In all honesty it had been optimistic to expect it to go trouble free through the winter months of January and February, especially given the winter we were experiencing. I just had to hope that everything else would fall in to place. I’d just have to come back to Darlington. Oh joy.

To break the monotony of trawling around football league grounds each weekend I managed to visit Thame United’s new ground for a midweek game as well as a couple of bracketed ticks to bring me closer to re-completing the Combined Counties League.

Onwards and upwards – but please let it be over soon!

Posted by: musinganorak | January 5, 2012

Where the hell have you been…?

Hmm. Is it really bad to take a 12 month sabbatical after only 6 months? Probably best if you don’t answer that!

They do say that “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” In that case I’m probably somewhere towards the 8th Circle about now. And to save you looking it up, the 8th is Fraud.

I’ve kept meaning to get back to this blog, but something always gets in the way. Honest. I figured that as it’s the start of a New Year, OK so I missed that by a few days as well, then I really should get back in front of the keyboard.

The plan, and stop sniggering at the back, is to write a number of posts to bring things back up to date. I’m sort of thinking that 12 should do it, but we’ll see how it goes.

Should anybody reading this – anybody? anybody at all out there? – see me in the next few weeks then please feel free to make sarcastic comments to me about the lack of posts. Maybe I just need a bit of public humiliation to spur me on…

Try and stick with it. I did some really good stuff last year. Maybe one day you’ll get to read about it!

Posted by: musinganorak | March 14, 2011

A Slight Editorial Change

Yet again I find myself falling behind with the blog. In an attempt to speed up at least some of the information contained I have decided to add seperate pages listing pubs visited and new beers drunk in 2011.

The thinking behind this is that it should be very quick to update these lists on a regular basis as I haven’t got to compose any accompanying prose.

Let’s just see how it goes eh?

Posted by: musinganorak | February 28, 2011

List Updates – 03/01/11

British Beer

#3446 Brunswick : Railway Porter 4.3%

#3447 Derby : Dashingly Dark 4.5%


Derbyshire, Derby, Brewery Tap

Derbyshire, Derby, Brunswick Inn

GBG11, Derbyshire now at 10 out of 93, 10.75%

Football Grounds

#646 Pride Park, Derby County

Season 2010/11

#49 Derby County 0 Millwall 0, npower Championship

Posted by: musinganorak | February 28, 2011

NYMP 2 – What Have I Let Myself In For?

So on to part 2 of the plan. A trip to the Midlands and a visit to Derby County‘s Pride Park. They are playing Millwall in an npower Championship game.

After arriving nice and early and finding a, relatively, inexpensive car park I set off for a wander around the city centre. The first hurdle is getting to the other side of the railway – from where I’m parked the nearest bridge has ticket barriers at either end. Luckily the station staff are happy to let me through and I’m soon hunting my first target of the day. I’ve been hearing good things about the beer drinking scene in the city, but until today I’d never sampled it for myself. I soon rectify that with a visit to the Brunswick Inn, handily placed over the road from the station and home of the Brunswick Brewery. After sampling a couple of their beers I head further in to the city to search out more beer.

My other visit is to the Brewery Tap, the brewery tap of the Derby Brewing Company. After a quick half here I begin the long trek back out to Pride Park on the outskirts of the city. Luckily the route is well signposted and for most of the way runs alongside the River Derwent.









As is my want I arrive at the ground very early, allowing more time than is necessary to collect my ticket. Once inside the ground I find my seat and decide that I like the new ground. It is one of the earlier new builds and still manages to have some character, although nowhere near as much as the old Baseball Ground. I also hear one of the bizarrest PA announcements I can ever recall – “It’s 10 to 3 and time to welcome your Derby County ballboys!”

Unfortunately this is where the afternoon peaks because shortly afterwards the game starts. It turns out to be quite possibly the worst game of football I have ever seen. I honestly can’t remember either side having a shot on goal in the entire 90 minutes. The home fans who have turned out in impressive numbers despite their club’s recent form deserve much better than this. All I can say is that I am one closer to my target, but I’m dreading any more games like this!

Posted by: musinganorak | February 18, 2011

List Updates – 01/01/11

Football Grounds

#645 Colchester Community Stadium, Colchester United

Season 2010/11

#48 Colchester United 3 Charlton Athletic 3, npower League 1

Posted by: musinganorak | February 18, 2011

NYMP 1 – It Begins

What better day to begin the New Year Master Plan (henceforth NYMP) than on New Years Day. So that’s what I do. I set sail for Essex, OK I drive to Essex, and the closest of the 92 that I hadn’t visited, Colchester United. They are starting their New Year with an npower League 1 fixture against Charlton Athletic.

Colchester’s new ground is adjacent to the A12 on the outskirts of the town. In the weeks prior to my visit they had completed the new sliproad that allows easy access, avoiding the town centre altogether. Marvellous. Except for the fact that I had to drive back into the town in order to find anywhere to park. I then had a walk of just over a mile back to the ground. What is the point in building a ground in the middle of nowhere if you then fail to provide enough parking?!

The ground is pretty much what you’d expect from a modern new build, plenty of steel structures placed around a pitch. The problem at Colchester is that there is a gap in each corner between the 4 stands meaning that the wind has easy access, and in January the wind is pretty damn cold.

This game meant that I have finished all the grounds currently in League 1 and it was a pretty good game with which to do so. 3 times the home side took the lead and 3 times the visitors pulled it back, twice through penalties. The second of these penalties, in the 39th minute, saw Colchester reduced to 10 men.

The final equaliser came in the 76th minute and both teams went all out in the last quarter of an hour for a winner but neither managed to find one. With a couple of minutes to go the referee restored numerical parity when he sent off a Charlton player. The draw was, in the end, a fair result and despite the cold whipping around the stadium it had been a good start to the NYMP. All that remained was the long walk back to the car.

Posted by: musinganorak | January 31, 2011

The New Year Master Plan

As I have mentioned earlier I am slowly chipping away at the “92,” that is the clubs in the Premiership and Football League. My approach in recent years has been to do new grounds when Crewe visited them and pick others up when special offers appear. Heading in to 2011 I had plans to visit my last League 2 ground at Bury when Crewe visit at the end of February, and I had also managed to pick up a cheap ticket for Sunderland’s FA Cup tie at the start of January. At this point I realised that after visiting these 2 grounds I would only have 5 others to do, and that it was probably time I should make the effort to finish them off once and for all.

Enter the New Year Master Plan. I decided that it would be good to finish the “92” watching Crewe, and by careful planning I was able to identify dates for the other grounds I needed. At the same time I thought that I may as well try and visit my remaining 3 Conference National grounds, especially as I was already planning a trip to Mansfield for a Saturday evening game in February. Luckily the dates all fell nicely and I had a schedule for January and February that would see me, hopefully, finish the “92” with the bonus of completing the Conference National as well. The top 5 divisions of English football would hopefully be finished. For now.

All that remains is for the football Gods to play ball…….

Older Posts »