yellow

it was all yellow

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There aren’t many weeks where you get to be part of the ‘Yellow Wall’, go to the outposts of Mossley and Darwen, watch an international friendly between Argentina and Italy, before rounding it all off in the beautiful town of Harrogate. That was my week though.

yellow wall

I am old enough and lucky enough to have once stood on the Kop at Anfield. Done the Stretford End too and the Kippax. All pretty special. One of the few things left on my ‘to-do list’ was to visit Signal Iduna Park (or Westfalenstadion without sponsorship) and be part of the hosts incredible ‘Yellow Wall’.

Westfalenstadion has been the host to some incredible times, with a capacity over 80,000 and the largest terrace in Europe; the near 25,000 capacity Sudtribune. This is the ground where Liverpool beat Alaves 5-4 in the UEFA Cup Final, Scotland played Zaire here in the 1974 World Cup and Italy knocked Germany out of the 2006 World Cup in the Semi-Final. Not a bad history that is it?

An early morning express train from Cologne to Dortmund, the ground is a 45 minutes straight forward walk from the train station, just follow the crowds. Once at the ground, the sight is yellow wherever you look. For such a large ground, weirdly the turnstiles are all at the North End and then you make your way to whatever part of the ground you are in.

The standing areas are made up of individual blocks/pens, however they are strictly stewarded to make sure that the correct numbers go into the correct pen. It works, it works very well FA. Bring it back. Please.

With the atmosphere building towards kick off, the last 15 minutes before the teams come out was brilliant. A rousing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” just before the sides emerged into the sunshine.

When we got underway it was Borussia who took control, Chelsea loanee Batshuayi hit the post within the opening 60 seconds, in fact the opening 45 minutes was pretty much all one way. That the score was only 1-0 at the interval was done to lax finishing and some desperate last ditch defending. However, the goal had a moment of true class, a corner on the left wing was played into the near post at pace by another Chelsea ‘reject’ Schurrle, Batshuayi’s run gave him space and a deft flick with his right boot took the ball past Tschauner in the Hannover goal.

Dortmund didn’t have it all their way in the second half and as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes both the team and their fans started to tense up, in fact it was the home fans who looked to drag their heroes over the finishing line in the end with their rousing songs. In the end the solitary goal was enough for the 3 points as the hosts revival under coach Stoger continued.

My German adventure was over, back to Blighty.

seadogs manchester adventure part 1

Following a home game on Saturday, Scarborough Athletic had to make the trip to the suburbs of Manchester 3 times in 5 days, nigh on 700 miles of travelling. Hopefully the east/west split next season will assist to make weeks like this a thing of the past.

The travelling did not do them any harm on Tuesday, they dominated Mossley from the word go, Grimsby Town loanee winger Wright was the main threat, he tormented his marker all night. It was from the right that Athletic’s opener came from, Valentine being on hand to put the ball over the line. A bullet header from striker Walshaw doubled the advantage before the break. It should have been more.

It was just after the hour, Walshaw practically walking through the home defence to get his second and his teams third. A late penalty brought Mossley some consolation, though to be honest a 1-3 scoreline was flattering to them.

matthews hits 4?

Does it always rain in Darwen? My fourth visit and it has rained every time. It also rained goals for Northwich Victoria and in particular Matthews. This match was over in the first 30 minutes, the visitors at that point were 4-0 up and in cruise mode. Debutant Halsall opened the scoring on the quarter of an hour mark, I thought he also scored the second a couple of minutes later. The NWCFL website gives it to Matthews.

If the goal was Halsall’s then Matthews opened his account five minutes later to make it 3-0 and another five minutes after that he made it 4. At this point there was a feeling of wondering at just how many Vics could score. Their foot came off the pedal slightly and they toyed with their hosts for the remaining hour.

A fifth was added with 20 minutes to go. Matthews got it. Now we just need to clear up, did he get 3 or was it 4?

good & bad

Friday was a rare opportunity to do something unusual for me, an international friendly. Argentina v Italy at the Etihad.

A night of complete contrast. For a friendly I thoroughly enjoyed what happened on the pitch, both sides showed a level of skill and technical doings that Southgate’s mob cannot attain. Really enjoyed it, liked Lanzini on the night in particular, Argentina deserved winners.

Off the pitch was awful. Huge queues to get in, how on earth do they get 50,000+ in here for a game. Good job we arrived at 6:45, 30 minutes to get in. No programme. £5 for a hot chocolate & diet coke. Probably a good job there wasn’t a programme.

However, the worst bit were those in attendance. Is this what a modern day popular event is like. People taking selfies from start to finish, rarely watching the game and do not even get me started on the Mexican Wave. In the end I was glad Messi didn’t get on the pitch, it would have been just stupid.

yorkshire yellow

I finished my week off with another one that has been on my to-do list for far too long, Harrogate Town.

A pleasant train journey over to Harrogate, via Leeds, and a relaxing 20 minutes stroll to the CNG Stadium. I must say at this point that everyone I spoke to from the club was very friendly and helpful, a credit to Harrogate Town FC. I would also recommend ensuring you are hungry when you arrive, club caterers Burgers & More offer an excellent choice of scran.

Getting underway in the sunshine, this was a game that Town should not have too much trouble with, Trinity struggling at the opposite end of the table and their new boss Sinnott didn’t even get a honeymoon period when he recently took over.

Early exchanges were fairly even and the first chance of the afternoon fell to Trinity, quite how you do not score from a 3 on 1 breakaway I do not know, but Gainsborough managed it, Belshaw saving from Jarman. As we approached the 20 minutes mark Town took the lead, Knowles setting up Emmett who fired past Ravas , 1-0 to Town.

Town looked to stamped their authority on the game, Ravas saving from Knowles, but Trinity would not lie down as Belshaw save from Hinchcliffe, the game opened up, end to end stuff until the break.

Following the tea break Thomson hit the post before Trinity must have thought they had equalised on a couple of occasions, Belshaw saving from Jarman, quite how he kept out the follow-up I do not know, this was followed minutes later by a header from a corner being cleared off the line by a falling Leesley.

Trinity were on top, but then as this game does, they paid for not taking their chances, Beck turning in a Burrell cross from close range. This game can be cruel at times. Trinity were beaten, their players looked a tad fed-up with that goal and it was Town who finished the stronger. Whilst Harrogate deserved the win, I think a 2 goals margin was flattering.

The return journey was just as pleasant. A great day out.

stats ‘N’ stuff

games: 4 (+ 1 friendly which I don’t count)

goals: 12 (+2)

total att: 82,889

milestones: Borussia Dortmund v Hannover 96; highest ever attendance – 81,360 / total attendances past 500,000. AFC Darwen v Northwich Victoria; 300th goal of the season – Matthews or was it Halsall, who knows? Harrogate Town v Gainsborough Trinity; 10 games since a 0-0.

totals – all-time

games: 485

goals: 1650

total att: 549,592

female officials: 14

red cards: 102

penalties: 149

0-0s: 13

highlight of the week: Has to be being part of the yellow wall. Not every week that you get a chance to do something like that. Incredible.

 

 

 

Lisbon

‘You’re gonna look at me twice, it’s eventual’

GAME OF THE WEEK

Glasgow Celtic 2 Hibernian 2

Ladbrokes Premiership

Attendance: 59,259

Gate: £35

Programme: £3

A figure like 200 requires something special. Very special.

So for my 200th ground, I wanted to do something a bit over the top compared to where I usually go. So I put together a list and there was one standout option. Glasgow Celtic. Parkhead. Home of the Lisbon Lions. First British side to win the European Cup. A club with a special history.

Ticket bought over the old internet, I had decided to pay the extra few quid for a padded seat and would be watching the game from the Jock Stein Stand. First of all though I had to get there. Setting off from home at 9am in the company of my pal Mr Wilks, we were soon driving through sun then rain, then sun again and then rain again. Stopping for refreshments en route a couple of times we arrived in the East End of Scotland’s biggest city.

Parked up we headed to the ground, had a walk around, headed to the club shop, had a gander and then parted for the game. Yes, we were sat in opposite stands. Don’t like him that much!

Once inside Parkhead the buzz grew, even whilst I was having a drink on the concourse, the music was playing. This place is special. Out to my seat, soaked up the atmosphere and waited for the afternoon to unfold. A version of ‘Dirty Old Town’ was played, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was belted out by the fans and finally the teams come out. Followed by the home boss, to a big cheer, then followed by old boss, Neil Lennon, returning to Celtic for the first time as a visiting boss, cue massive cheer.

Situated at the opposite end to me, in the railed seating (standing) area are the fantastic Green Brigade. They never stopped singing, waving flags. I need to be in this end at some point of my life.

Attacking the end hosting the ‘Green Brigade’ the hoops started the better, though Hibs were obviously not over awed and attacked when they could rather than just sitting back. Half chances were appearing at both ends. Celtic struck first, Dembele holding the ball up until McGregor arrived on the scene, controlled the pass and dispatched the ball into the back of the net, 1-0.

Efforts straight at the keepers were swapped before the best chance of the game, Boyle was put clean through, running 40 yards he was just about to pull the trigger when somehow Boyata had got back and prevented the equaliser.

Things got even better at half-time. Picking out the winning ticket was Coolio. Brilliant!

Second half saw the introduction of Sinclair for the largely ineffective Edouard, but apart from one effort from the sub, it was the visitors that had taken the game by the scruff of its neck, especially McGinn. He was bossing it, Ntcham was struggling. It was no surprise when in the 53rd minute the ball broke on the edge of the box for McGinn, he hammered into the bottom corner, their fans went mad, 1-1.

Whittaker headed just over from a free-kick then came a moment of brilliance. A corner flicked on at the near post and there was Whittaker to make it 2-1 for Hibs. Somehow Gordon got across and kept his effort out, If you haven’t seen it, Google it. It is incredible. I cannot remember ever seeing a better save.

Then Hibs took the lead. With just 13 minutes to go, McGinn again picked up a loose ball and hammered it past Gordon, 2-1 to Hibs. Was the unbelievable going to happen, was a 57 domestic game unbeaten run going to come to an end? Was Neil Lennon going to do the unthinkable?

No.

The lead lasted 3 minutes.

A ball to the far post broke in the area, who was on hand? McGregor. Side footing the ball past Laidlaw and also a stray boot on the line. 2-2. The release was enormous.

I can only imagine what it would have been like had Celtic been awarded a penalty in added on time. How the referee missed the hug given to Sinclair yards in front of him I will never know. Though to be fair a draw was a fair result.

Game over, I headed back to meet Mr W and the long trip home.

A great day. I am going to come back. Again and again. Love it.

ADDED ON

At one point every season I will be at a match around this point when the weather has turned, I am ill prepared clothes wise and I think to myself ‘Why on earth do I bother?’. Then the football entertains me and all such thoughts go out of my head. High flying Linnets made the trip north on this cold, wet and thoroughly miserable Wednesday evening and totally controlled the opening 45 minutes.

A strike from Bryant just past the halfway point of the first half was all the visitors had to show for their efforts when the players went in for the break. They should have had more. Quite a few more.

As the teams swapped ends so did the pattern of play, the hosts were reduced to 10 for a second yellow to right back Brown, and then picked up their game. Darwen went for it, as the weather continued to play havoc, they were eventually unlucky not to grab a point. Good effort lads.

Linnets may well look back on this as a very important evening. Awful weather, didn’t play particularly well, opposition had some decent chances, but they still came away with all 3 points.

GAMES

Wed: AFC Darwen 0 Runcorn Linnets 1

Sat: Glasgow Celtic 2 Hibernian 2

FACTS

Games: 420

Goals:  1430

Grounds: 200

Games since a 0-0: 33

Milestone: 200th Ground – Glasgow Celtic

SOUNDTRACK

My Love is Cool – Wolf Alice