Sunday, 9 August 2015

TLFG: 10-16 August 2015


And they're off!

After two-and-a-bit months of waiting (it seems no time), the new season has begun.

What an opening weekend it has been with a number of notable upsets taking place right here in the capital.

London's big two, Arsenal and Chelsea, both began at home with matches against sides they would expect to beat. Jose Mourinho's reigning league champions gave away the lead twice to draw 2-2 with Swansea while the Gunners lost 2-0 at home to West Ham - a result I really didn't see coming.

Tottenham also came unstuck at Old Trafford - no shame in that, while Watford began life back in the top flight with a useful draw at Everton. Crystal Palace netted a fine 3-1 win at Norwich as they look to record a top 10 finish this year.

In the Football League, QPR lost 2-0 in the derby at Charlton. Unsurprisingly, but ridiculously unfairly, a section of the fans are already calling for Chris Ramsey's head. Brentford scored twice in injury time steal a point off fellow promotion contenders Ipswich while Fulham drew at Cardiff.

There were also wins for Millwall and Leyton Orient in League One and League Two.

The Saudi Super Cup is coming to QPR's Loftus Road on Wednesday
Newly promoted Boreham Wood and Bromley both made their debuts in the newly renamed National League and both enjoyed fine 3-1 wins over clubs with former Football League heritage.

Isthmian League favourites Dulwich Hamlet lived up to their billing as they dispatched Canvey Island 3-0 to go top.

There were many more stories from around the leagues and if you went to a game I'd like to hear about it.

The week ahead is crammed full of action again and aside from the normal league games, we have the opening rounds of the Football League Cup and FA Cup which have thrown up some interesting ties.

We also have one of the most unusual fixtures played in the capital for sometime.

Over the last few years, grounds in London have regularly played host to international friendlies between teams who usually have either/or a large contingent of players plying their trade in England or Europe and big expat communities in the capital.

QPR's Loftus Road has been used several times and as it's on my doorstep I usually try to go. I've seen the likes of Australia v South Africa, Ghana v Denmark and South Korea v Ivory Coast. All have been good fun and the atmosphere has been lively.

On Wednesday the hallowed turf in Shepherd's Bush will see the Saudi Super Cup played upon it. The Saudi Arabian equivalent of the FA Community Shield between the league champions and cup winners has for some reason been moved from the Gulf State to W12.

I've yet to hear a reason why but I'm all for quirky fixtures like this and would under normal circumstances love to pop along.

However... the prices are staggering.

With the two main stands running along the side of the pitch 'unavailable',  there are only tickets currently on sale behind the two goals. The cheapest tucked away in the wings where your view will be far from ideal are £25. All the others are £45 and £75!!!

I love Loftus Road (how can I not?) but as any regular approaching six foot will tell you, the leg room in the seats makes Ryanair's offering look first class. SEVENTY-FIVE OF THE QUEEN'S POUNDS for the Upper Loft is crazy.

If they do manage to sell them and the place is packed to the rafters then fair play to them but they'll have missed a trick if they don't and it's half empty. Good luck to them.

Rant over. Enjoy your football and please let me know what you go to watch, particularly if you make it to the Saudi Super Cup.


GET INVOLVED
If you're going to see a game, whether you're a local or a visitor, please let me know what you've been up to. If you're interested in reviewing a ground within the London area for this blog then get in touch. You might also want to have a go at writing a 'Top Ten' one week. I also very much welcome photos of your football travels.

Got any questions about visiting London? Don't hesitate to ask - be they football or more general travel/touristy queries.

You can contact TLFG through the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or even by good old email.


LATEST TICKET NEWS
Please follow this link or click on the tab at the top of the page for all the information you need about how to get a ticket, what's currently available to non-members at London's biggest clubs and any other special offers or promotions which might be running.


THE WEEK AHEAD
There are over 100 matches in the London area over the next seven days so there's plenty to choose from whatever your budget.

However, please make sure you check with clubs before you travel just in case a game has been called off or venue has been changed. Also, please let me know if anything is wrong or missing.

Details on all of this week's games can be found in the following match map. If you've never used it before, please note that when there is more than one match at a specific ground you'll only be able to see individual match pins if you zoom right in. If you don't, the pins obscure each other and you might miss them. To avoid this, you can also scroll down the list of games on the left side of the map page to make sure you get all the information.

Also if you're unfamiliar with the English league structure I indicate the level at which an individual league sits in the national 'pyramid' with the Premier League at the top (Level 1) and various minor leagues at the bottom (Level 10). Typically a top level game will see crowds of anywhere between 20,000-60,000. These figures will gradually decline as you go down the leagues until you get to Levels 8-10 where attendances of 150 or less are most common.

It should also be noted that the top four levels are for fully professional teams. Level 5 has a mixture of professional and semi-professional teams, while Levels 6-10 will see most players paid but it will vary from no more than travel expenses at the bottom, right up to several hundred pounds a week at the top (e.g. clubs in the Conference South).

MATCH MAP
Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Red pin - Wednesday fixtures
Claret pin - Friday fixtures
Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
White pin - Sunday fixtures



Next up is this week's TLFG match recommendations where I list a few games which I think could be worth a watch. If I miss one that you think should get a mention then add your own in the comments section below. 

TLFG TOP 10

1. Crystal Palace v Arsenal - Alan Pardew's side got off to a flying start as they recorded a solid 3-1 win at newly promoted Norwich on opening day. Arsenal, however, suffered what must be the shock of the weekend as they lost 0-2 at home to West Ham. Personally I thought the Gunners would win with relative ease against a Hammers side which was booed at times during their brief Europa League adventure. On paper the north Londoners should win here too. Palace's record against the Gunners is poor - their last win came at Highbury over 20 years ago. However, the West Ham result and the fact that this is a very positive and united Eagles outfit could well see Arsene Wenger's charges come unstuck again. (Premier League, Sunday 16 August, 130pm. Ticket info)

2. Watford v West Bromwich Albion - perhaps not the most mouthwatering offer of the day at first glance but it's the Hornets' first home game back in the top flight after eight years away. The atmosphere should be special and in West Brom they face beatable opponents. Much has changed at Watford over the summer on and off the pitch and they acquitted themselves well at Everton on Saturday, forcing a 2-2 draw. It will be hard to know how good the Baggies are until they play Manchester City on Monday but they are unbeaten in six against Hertfordshire's top club and should provide a good test for the hosts. (Premier League, Saturday 15 August, 3pm. Ticket info)

3. Saudi Super Cup - one of the most unusual fixtures to have been played in London for a while is taking place at QPR's Loftus Road on Wednesday. The Saudi Arabian version of the FA Community Shield pits league champions Al Nassr against cup winners Al Hilal. I have to confess to knowing very little about either but both hail from the capital Riyadh so if nothing else it's a derby. How many fans of either side make it to London will be interesting to see but only seats behind each goal are currently still available. One point to note - legendary Colombian scorpion kicker and all round eccentric Rene Higuita is goalkeeping coach for Al Nassr so hopefully he'll put in an appearance of some sort. (Saudi Super Cup, Wednesday 12 August, 7pm. Ticket info)

4. Fulham v Brighton & Hove Albion any game against London opposition, particularly ones from the south and west of the city, pretty much count as derbies for Brighton. The seaside town around 50 miles south of the capital is often referred to as 'London-By-The-Sea' because of its proximity and popularity with its denizens. Consequently a large away following should make their way to Craven Cottage, particularly given their positive start to the season. Fulham managed a decent draw at Cardiff on Saturday so should manage to take at least a point from what is historically a pretty even contest. The Cottagers are also holding a Fans' Day in Bishop's Park next to the ground before the game if you want some extra entertainment. (Championship, Saturday 15 August, 3pm. Ticket info)

5. Millwall v Coventry City - both these former top-flight sides are expected to push for at least a play-off spot this season and both got off to good starts on Saturday with wins in their opening fixtures. Coventry are too big for this division but financial problems in recent years have seen them suffer. However, things seem to be getting back on track and they have now returned from exile in Northampton to play at the Ricoh Arena again. The Lions, let us not forget, came flying out of the traps last season and became early leaders in the Championship but it all fell apart and they got relegated. There seems to be a more positive vibe around the camp at the moment with former playing legend Neil Harris now in charge and this will be a good test of their credentials. (League One, Saturday 15 August, 3pm. Ticket info)

6. Dagenham & Redbridge v Leyton Orient - the O's began life back in the fourth tier with a tidy 2-0 win over fellow Londoners Barnet on Saturday. Next up in the league they face another derby against a side, like them, from the east of town and hence it's probably the derby for these two this season. Given the Daggers have only been around for a little over 20 years, there have only been 11 previous meetings but the record is totally even with four wins apiece and three draws. Orient have been more dominant of late though, are unbeaten in five and should win here. The Daggers suffered a 3-0 reverse at Portsmouth in their opening game and are expected to struggle. (League Two, Saturday 15 August, 3pm. Ticket info)

7. Hendon v Dulwich Hamlet - after losing in last season's play-off final, the Greens were installed as one the favourites to win the Isthmian League title this time round. However, with opening matches against fellow contenders Grays, Enfield and Dulwich, the fixture gods couldn't have been much less helpful. Having taken a point from their trip to Essex on Saturday, they have to negotiate the derby against Enfield before the current favourites pay a visit to Earlsmead. Dulwich, if you're new to the non-league scene, are a club on the rise. Another side to come unstuck in last season's play-offs, the south London club have seen their support base come close to trebling over the last two or three years as an attractive and largely successful team has pulled in the punters. Regularly attracting crowds of over 1,000, no mean feat for a team in the seventh tier, they began their 2015/16 campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over Canvey Island to immediately go top. (Isthmian League Premier Division, Saturday 15 August, 3pm. Ticket info)

8. Tooting & Mitcham United v Corinthian Casuals - the rise of Dulwich has been particularly painful for Tooting fans who view them as their biggest rivals. Former regulars in the Isthmian Premier, they're currently in the division below and will hope to get back into the top flight as soon as possible. They got off to a good start with a win at East Grinstead and next welcome near neighbours CCs for a derby at the well appointed Imperial Fields. Corinthian Casuals started well last season but fell away into midtable by the end, however, the bookies suggest a play-off place could be theirs this year. They saw off a well-fancied Worthing side in their first fixture so will start as slight favourites for me. (Isthmian League Division 1 South, Tuesday 11 August, 3pm. Ticket info)

9. Croydon v Sutton Common Rovers - this season's 'Road to Wembley' begins on Saturday with the playing of the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round. A total of 736 teams from around the country will take part at some point with the first 368 of them doing battle this weekend. There are quite a few ties in the London area so it's been hard to pick which two to feature but I've firstly gone for this one as it's a derby. With only Carshalton between them, Croydon and Sutton almost run into each other in London's Deep South. Both playing in the ninth tier and recently in the same league, these two began with league defeats so will look to get their seasons back on track with a win and a useful bit of prize money. (FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, Saturday 15 August, 3pm. Club info)

10. Hillingdon Borough v Wembley - what better way to start your 'Road to Wembley' than by watching the club of the same name? Unsurprisingly they don't play at the legendary stadium but you get a good view of it from their pitch. On Saturday they travel six miles west to the Middlesex Stadium to play Hillingdon who were one of the best non-league sides in the country back in the 1960s and '70s. They even made it to Wembley for the FA Trophy Final back in 1971. Currently down in the tenth tier after relegation last season, they'll start as underdogs. (Saturday 15 August, 3pm. Club info)

If you have any questions or want advice about watching football in London, you can contact TLFG using the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or email.

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