Monday, 3 August 2015

TLFG: 3-9 August 2015

Hi there and welcome to the season-opening edition of TLFG.

I can't believe it's that time again already and for the first time in what seems like years, all the leagues are getting under way on the same day (bar the odd Friday night appetiser).

London clubs are expected to do well again at national level with Chelsea and Arsenal set to challenge for the Premier League. Brentford, Fulham and QPR in with a chance in the Championship and Millwall and Leyton Orient fancied to do well in League One and League Two.

Boreham Wood and Bromley are both making their debuts in the fifth tier so it will be interesting to see how they get on against the likes of Grimsby Town and Tranmere Rovers.

At the other end, a number of new sides have moved up to the tenth tier so if you're a hardened groundhopper there could well be some new grounds for you to tick off.

Atalanta defend a QPR corner in front of their very vocal supporters
So how was your week? I managed to finally catch a game by visiting Loftus Road for QPR's friendly against Serie A side Atalanta.

It was a reasonably competitive affair with the visitors taking an early lead when Jasmin Kurtic crashed a superb volley past Rob Green before new signing Jay Emmanuel-Thomas equalised with a deflected shot midway through the second half.

The highlight of proceedings, however, were the Atalanta supporters. There were only a few hundred but the noise they generated throughout with their highly co-ordinated routines impressed many of the Rangers faithful. I have no idea what they were singing about but everything passed off smoothly enough.

Over the last few years I've taken a few of my friends' kids to watch QPR in an effort to put them on the right track but all, after a promising start, have drifted away into the clutches of clubs like Manchester City and Arsenal as trophy wins and peer pressure have worked their magic over them.

However, I believe I'm onto a winner with my latest protege who has flags and other merchandise adorning his room at home. His sister made a her debut at yesterday's game too so hopefully she'll be a member of the QPR family soon as well.  

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 90 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
Orange pin - Thursday 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. Arsenal v West Ham United - the Gunners completed a successful pre-season with a 1-0 FA Community Shield triumph over Chelsea on Sunday. It was their first win over the Blues in eight attempts and should put them in a very positive frame of mind ahead of this weekend's season opener against the Hammers. Whether they mount a serious title challenge this year remains to be seen and with the bookies seeing them finishing third again, it could be all about the cups. West Ham have been playing competitive fixtures for a month already thanks to their participation in the Europa League. Despite playing unheralded opposition and fielding slightly less than full strength teams themselves, they've made heavy weather of it and have been far from convincing. When you also consider the east London club have lost their last 10 against Arsene Wenger's team, it's hard to envisage that run being anything but extended. (Premier League, Sunday 9 August, 130pm. Ticket info)

2. Chelsea v Swansea City - the reigning Premier League champions begin their title defence at home to Welsh club Swansea and most would see this as a comfortable home win. Despite Garry Monk putting together a decent side who finished eighth last season, they struggled against the Blues losing both league games and conceding nine goals in the process. The Swans also have to go back all the way to 1981 to find a record of their last league win over the Stamford Bridge outfit. Don't completely write them off though, last season they opened with a very unexpected win over Manchester United at Old Trafford so Jose Mourinho won't take them lightly. Tickets for Chelsea games are hard to get hold of for non-members but if you want to go to this, at the time of writing, tickets are on general sale in the away supporters section of the ground so contact Swansea as soon as possible. (Premier League, Saturday 8 August, 530pm. Ticket info)

3. Charlton Athletic v Queens Park Rangers - Chris Ramsey's side begin life back in the Championship with a London derby against the Addicks. QPR are expected to challenge for a play-off spot but Charlton are seen by many to be certs for relegation. Only time will tell but with only two wins from seven pre-season games, things aren't looking great for Guy Luzon's side. I had a look at Rangers in their game against Atalanta on Sunday and find it hard to see them getting more than a play-off place so with it being a derby and the opening day, it should be pretty even. QPR also have a poor record at The Valley so anything's possible. (Championship, Saturday 8 August, 3pm. Ticket info)

4. Leyton Orient v Barnet - this time last year, a derby like this was probably not on the near horizon for fans of either side. The O's had been a penalty shoot-out away from a place in the Championship while the Bees had missed a place in the Conference play-offs by a comfortable margin. Twelve months on they're together after seasons of massively contrasting fortunes - the O's got relegated after going through several managers and Barnet went up after winning the title. With former Bees player and manager Ian Hendon taking the reigns at Brisbane Road over the summer, this game will have that little bit more to it than usual. The hosts will start as firm favourites but a Martin Allen inspired Barnet should be well up for it. (League Two, Saturday 8 August, 3pm. Ticket info)

5. Bromley v Wrexham - the Ravens won the Conference South last season and make their long-awaited debut in non-league's top flight on Saturday. They begin with a mouthwatering clash against Welsh club Wrexham one the biggest clubs at this level. A League One club until as recently as 2005, the Dragons have become one of several clubs whose finances have dragged them down the pyramid. The last few years have seen them make the play-off and FA Trophy finals and they have been installed as one of the promotion favourites again. Bromley are a club with real potential and consolidation at this level will be the priority so a point from this game at a busy Hayes Lane should be celebrated. (National League, Saturday 8 August, 3pm. Club info)

6. Sutton United v Maidstone United this National League South match between two of the bigger clubs in the division really wets my appetite. Sutton have been promotion contenders on an almost yearly basis so it was a bit a surprise to see them struggle to fifteenth last season. Despite this, they've kept faith with boss Paul Doswell and they're fancied to challenge again. Maidstone clinched the Isthmian League title last year to continue the long climb back towards the Football League place the Kent town lost in 1992 when the previous club of the same name went bust. Still with a large following (they averaged crowds of over 1,800 last season) and a fine modern stadium, it can't be too long before they push on again. One other point of note - this will be Sutton's first competitive game on their new 3G pitch. (National League South, Saturday 8 August, 3pm. Ticket info)

7. Grays Athletic v Hendon - it's quite hard to predict who's going to do what when you get to this level but the bookmakers are under the impression that these two will challenge. Hendon came close last season, losing to Margate in the play-off final, but their supporter base is still relatively small as they head into the final year of their groundshare at Harrow Borough and finances are said to be tight. Grays are in a similar position to Hendon in that they are currently without a ground of their own and although they didn't make the play-offs, they only missed them by a point. Don't expect a massive turnout for this (200-250) but do expect a closely fought game. (Isthmian League Premier Division, Saturday 8 August, 3pm. Ticket info)

8. AFC Hornchurch v Cray Wanderers - elsewhere in Essex in the division below, we have what many of the tipsters see as potential top-two clash. The Urchins have had a rollercoaster last four seasons that have seen one play-off final win, one defeat and two relegations. So in just over two years they've gone from the Conference South to Isthmian Division 1 North, a fall not many had foreseen. As mentioned, the bookmakers see it being another eventful season for them as they challenge to get back up. Cray, the capital's oldest club, a mainstay of the Isthmian Premier for several years, found themselves destined for life in the Southern Counties East League until a fine rally at the end of 2014/15 saw them stave off relegation. With ambitious former VCD Athletic boss Tony Russell appointed over the summer, the Wanderers are expected to do well. (Isthmian League Division 1 North, Saturday 8 August, 3pm. Ticket info)

9. Barking v Ilford - the opening day fixtures in the Essex Senior League have thrown up a local derby between these two East End clubs. Playing just over a mile apart, there's not much between them in terms of distance. Although Haringey Borough romped to the title last season, Barking finished a very creditable third and will hope to push on this time. Ilford were an Isthmian League side until recently but were well off the pace last season and I've heard nothing to suggest things will be different this time round. A derby's a derby though so either could win. (Essex Senior League, Saturday 8 August, 3pm. Ticket info)

10. FC Elmstead v Orpington - several new clubs have moved up to Step 6/Level 10 this season and one of them are FC Elmstead who have joined the Kent Invicta League. The Chislehurst club have been selected to kick-off the KIL season with this Friday night fixture against Orpington under lights at Holmesdale's ground near Bromley. Free on Friday night? Then pop down to Oakley Road to see what they're capable of. (Friday 7 August, 745pm. 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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