Sunday, 24 January 2016

TLFG: 25-31 January 2016

Welcome one and all to the latest edition of TLFG, I hope you're well.

The winter weather saw many fixtures called off at the beginning of the week but by yesterday temperatures were beginning to climb and most games took place.

Today the mercury rose to an impressive 14C/57F, well above the January average and it's set to stay that way for the next few days. It could, however, get a bit wet so make sure you check with clubs that games are still on before you set off.

Although there are the normal amount of games scheduled, they're pretty much all crammed into Tuesday and Saturday giving the week a kind of empty feel. In fact there's nothing at all on Thursday, Friday or Sunday which is unusual.

The FA Cup takes centre stage again this week but even then, there are only two games to choose from and both require membership to gain access to tickets (more info below).

Outside of the usual TLFG Top 10 match recommendations, there are a couple of county cup matches on Tuesday which deserve a mention.

In the Herts Senior Cup, National League side Boreham Wood entertain Premier League neighbours Watford. Admission is at a reduced rate of £10. It's highly unlikely the Hornets will field anywhere close to a first XI but I'd like to think there'll be one or two. In the Kent Senior Cup, Bromley host Charlton Athletic in a National League versus Championship derby match - again it's £10 and again the Addicks will probably put out an U21 side.

My football week sees a meeting with the FA on Tuesday about helping out again with the promotion of this year's FA Trophy final. This season the match has moved from March to May and there's the exciting added bonus of the FA Vase final being played on the same day as part of a Wembley doubleheader. More details to follow.

On Wednesday I'm hopping on the Eurostar and heading over to the Netherlands to watch some Eredivisie action. 

One of the huge benefits of writing this blog has been connecting with fans from all over the world and rather than play guide to them, this week it's my turn to play tourist.

The next few days are a great time to groundhop in the Netherlands as there are top flight games from Tuesday through to Sunday. I've got the week off and had grand plans of seeing at least two but given you require membership to get tickets or buy overpriced 'tourist' tickets (still cheaper than many Premier League ones) from clubs like Ajax, it's a bit tricky. It's even harder trying to sell the idea to a wife who'll be left behind with a two-year-old to look after (she turned down the chance to come, promise). 

In the end I've decided to go on an overnighter to Nijmegen for NEC v Twente where my friend Paul (author of MatchDays) will play host. We'll also be joined by Ashley (author of The Long Way), another person I originally met online, an Englishman who now resides in Germany. 

I've been to Feyenoord and PSV's grounds to see games but they were being used as neutral venues during Euro 2000 and also for the Uefa Cup final of 2006 - this will be my first Eredivisie experience. 

Despite requiring two changes, the journey to the eastern Netherlands will still take less than six hours which I think is pretty impressive - let's hope there are no hold ups.

Have a great week and I look forward to filling you in on my trip next Sunday. 


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 80 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 on the following match maps. If you've never used them 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 drop down menu at the top of the map page to make sure you get all the information. Games are listed from top to bottom in date order so Monday's games (yellow pin) will appear first and Sunday's (white pin) last. Games are also ranked in terms of status so the higher the division, the higher up the list they will appear on each day.

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).

MIDWEEK MATCH MAP
Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Red pin - Wednesday fixtures




WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Blue pin - Saturday 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 Stoke City - it says quite a lot about how quiet a week it is when this match takes top billing. The only all-Premier League FA Cup tie in London this weekend features these two upper midtable sides. The good thing is that such league placings will hopefully make them both take the game seriously as they could conceivably do quite well. Stoke should start as favourites as, aside from Saturday's reverse at leaders Leicester, they're in reasonable form. Palace, on the other hand, continued their worrying slide down the table following a comfortable 3-1 loss at home to Spurs. One glimmer of hope is their recent record against the Potters which sees them unbeaten in four. Tickets for this are still available and priced at a ridiculously cheap £15. The only snag is that you must be a member to buy one. Membership costs £25 so might be worth getting. UPDATE (29/01/16): Tickets will now be going on general sale at the ground from noon on match day - no membership required. (FA Cup Fourth Round, Saturday 30 January, 3pm. Ticket info)

2. Arsenal v Burnley - the only other tie in London pits the Gunners against the Clarets. Last season this would also have been an all-Premier League tie but Burnley got relegated despite fighting hard. This season Sean Dyche's side have responded well to that disappointment and will probably finish among the play-off places which they currently inhabit. If this game were taking place at Turfmoor then it could be quite a battle but sadly it's not. With the game at the Emirates and Arsenal challenging for the Premier League title, it should be a foregone conclusion. However, it's one of those games that will almost certainly see Arsene Wenger rest a few players and then who knows? There's no doubt Burnley will be motivated and have absolutely nothing to lose. As above, tickets are available but only to members but in this case it's £39 to sign up so it could get quite costly. (FA Cup Fourth Round, Saturday 30 January, 3pm. Ticket info)

3. Brentford v Leeds United - there's one game on in the Championship this week but it should be lively. Realistically, both sides will probably have to settle for midtable finishes this season but that means it should be fairly even. The Bees, as one of its smallest clubs, are doing really well in comfortably competing in this division. The fact they are the best London club in the second tier and are outperforming several former English and even European champions is quite something. Leeds, former three-time league champions and FA Cup and League Cup winners, are historically one of the biggest clubs in the country and arguably currently the biggest in the Football League. They will bring a sizeable following on Tuesday night, some of whom have earned their support a bad name (Leeds fans ranked fifth in England for football banning orders last season). Consequently, partly for security reasons, ticket sales have been restricted to people who have a purchasing history with Brentford. (Championship, Tuesday 26 January, 745pm. Ticket info)

4. Millwall v Crewe Alexandra - talking of banning orders, it would be remiss of me to move on to the Lions and not mention their fans' record for bad behaviour. The Bermondsey club picked up 64 last season putting them fourth in the country - a significant 'achievement' when you consider they were averaging attendances of only 11,000 during a season of struggle. Now down in League One, the team are having a much better season with a third straight win lifting them into the top six this weekend. Visitors Crewe have had a campaign to forget and are currently stuck at the bottom, eight points adrift of safety. Given this and the fact Millwall are unbeaten in eight against their Cheshire opponents, it looks like a banker of a home win. (League One, Saturday 30 January, 3pm. Ticket info)

5. Leyton Orient v Cambridge United - it's been a rollercoaster week for the O's who began it by sacking boss Ian Hendon on Monday. It seemed a pretty harsh decision given they were still well placed for a crack at the play-offs but Italian owner Francesco Becchetti clearly felt that a run of only one win in eight was too much. Then on Thursday came the slightly leftfield appointment of 33-year-old former West Ham midfielder Kevin Nolan. Without a club since the summer, the midfielder has joined as a player-manager and began with a fantastic 2-0 away win at promotion rivals Wycombe. The next few days will ensure his management career gets off to a hectic start as they have back-to-back home games against Newport in midweek and then Cambridge at the weekend. The Welsh team are fighting the drop while the U's are in a similar position to themselves so should provide decent opposition. (League Two, Saturday 30 January, 3pm. Ticket info)

6. Wealdstone v Hayes & Yeading United - if you go back a few years then this would have been a local derby of some significance but both sides have suffered some major upheaval in the intervening time which has knocked the fixture's status. Regular readers will know that Wealdstone were the best non-league side in the land back in the mid-80s but they lost their ground and it all went pear-shaped in the following decade. They've patiently rebuilt themselves and have climbed back up to the sixth tier of English football. Hayes were a decent non-league side in their own right until they merged with local rivals Yeading in 2007. This went well and they made it into the Conference National (fifth tier) in 2009. At the end of 2010-11 they moved out of their historic Church Road ground but, like Wealdstone, the transfer to a new ground didn't go to plan and they've lived a nomadic existence ever since. A disastrous spell sharing with Woking saw their attendances dwindle and relegation to the Conference South ensued. Now playing at Maidenhead United, an easier ground to get to, they're still finding things tough and even had to rely on a reprieve to avoid another relegation in 2014. Although they are getting closer to returning to a ground of their own (a move which would see them join TLFG's family), they have another relegation battle on their hands. However, let us not forget that the Stones do too. Both are locked on 26 points and defeat here could drop one of them into the bottom three so there's plenty at stake. (National League South, Saturday 30 January, 3pm. Ticket info)

7. Enfield Town v Kingstonian - the battle for play-off places in the Isthmian Premier is wide open with anyone in the top half having a chance of getting into the top five. These two are among that group. Both took on sides battling to avoid the drop on Saturday and while Enfield surprisingly came unstuck at VCD Athletic, the K's enjoyed a win over Needham Market to leapfrog the north London side in the table. Kingstonian enjoyed a slender 1-0 win when they last met in November so this will almost certainly be tight again. There should also be a decent atmosphere as Enfield are one of the growing band of London non-league clubs to have a group of Ultras supporting them. (Isthmian League Premier Division, Saturday 30 January, 3pm. Ticket info)

8. AFC Hornchurch v Tilbury - we've got another match between teams battling for a play-off place in the division below and to add to the drama it's an Essex derby too. Formed out of the ashes of Hornchurch FC in 2005, the Urchins have had an action packed decade and a bit. In that time they've enjoyed three promotions, two relegations and two play-off defeats. One of those relegations came last season meaning they'd dropped from the Conference South to Isthmian North in two years - an unenviable feat. They've responded really well though and have been in the top three for most of the season. Currently second, seven points behind leaders Sudbury, it's looking like another play-off appearance could be on the cards. Opponents Tilbury are one of the smaller clubs in the division (only Haringey get smaller crowds) but are seventh, just three points off the top five with games in hand. Two of the highest scoring sides in the division, this could be interesting. (Isthmian League Division 1 North, Tuesday 26 January, 745pm. Ticket info)

9. Ilford v Clapton - staying on the east side of town we have another derby between much closer neighbours. A brief six or seven minute train ride from Forest Gate (where Clapton play) to Seven Kings will leave you a short walk from Cricklefields, the venue for this match. The last time they played, back in October, nearly 800 turned up to witness an exciting 3-3 draw. I went to that match and had a great afternoon but it was Non-League Day and the match had received a fair bit of publicity. Nonetheless, thanks to the Clapton Ultras, I would expect at least 300 at this one - well above the Essex Senior League's average attendance of around 50-60. Both are in the top eight too so it should be close again. (Essex Senior League, Saturday 30 January, 3pm. Club info)

10. Glebe v Bearsted - the match of the week in the 10th tier sees the top two in the Kent Invicta League meet at Foxbury Avenue. Glebe are really enjoying the first season at their new home, finding themselves one point off top spot with a game in hand with just over half the season played. Their fine performances are also drawing in some relatively sizeable crowds (nearly 300 on one occasion) to put them second in the division's attendance table too. With the best defence and attack, it's just that game in hand that's keeping them off the top. (Kent Invicta League, Saturday 30 January, 3pm. Club info)

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.

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