Sunday, 15 May 2016

TLFG: 16-22 May 2016

For the first time in what seems like a while, we came into the final round of Premier League games with most of the big issues settled.

Leicester had won the title nearly two weeks ago while Aston Villa, Newcastle and Norwich had already been relegated. 

Even the Champions League places were pretty much decided with Manchester City needing a point to pip rivals United to the last spot which they duly got. The Red Devils, on the other hand, had their game against Bournemouth abandoned before kick off for security reasons so when it is eventually played it will ultimately only decide whether they finish fifth or sixth (only a win by a 19-goal margin will see them claim fourth).

The only major issue left to be decided was who would finish second. The two candidates were arch north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham.

Tickets will be on sale from the box office at Wembley on the day
Spurs were the only team to end up challenging Leicester for the title but faltered at the end, allowing the Gunners to catch up.

Going into the final game, Tottenham simply needed to draw at relegated Newcastle to get that second spot while Arsenal needed them to lose and beat Aston Villa themselves. 

What happened at St James' Park will probably haunt Spurs fans for many years to come.

Routed 5-1 by a previously poor team who played most of the final 30 minutes with 10 men, they capitulated spectacularly while Arsenal thrashed Villa with ease to overtake them at the death.

Despite a top three finish and a place in the Champions League, a massive achievement by Tottenham's standards, most of their fans will be understandably devastated this evening.

To rub salt in the wounds, a significant section of Arsenal's fanbase will still be asking for Arsene Wenger's head as he has 'failed to deliver again' this season. 

I kind of get where they're coming from but when you step back and look at the facts, you wonder what they're moaning about. The last three seasons alone have delivered two FA Cup wins and a runners-up spot in the Premier League. They are one of the most financially stable clubs around and will be playing Champions League football for the 99th year in a row or whatever ludicrous figure it is. How many fans can boast that?

Clubs like Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd may have won more titles recently but they've grossly overspent and all three, on the basis of this year's performances, are going backwards - drastically so in Chelsea's case.

I guess the grass is always greener...

Anyway, it's now all about the FA Cup Final which takes place at Wembley on Saturday. London is represented by underdogs Crystal Palace who meet Manchester United in a repeat of the 1990 final which produced a thrilling 3-3 draw, before United won the replay 1-0. Hopefully we'll get more of the same.

The following day, it's Non-League Finals Day (NLFD) at Wembley which I've been spending the last three or four months helping the FA to promote.

For the first time ever, the FA Vase and FA Trophy finals will be played back-to-back on the same day with one ticket getting you in for both. It's £25 for adults, £10 concessions and just £1 for U16s.

Hereford play Morpeth Town in the former while FC Halifax Town take on Grimsby Town in the latter. 

One of our challenges for the day was to try and outsell England's friendly against Turkey which is going on in Manchester the same afternoon. So far over 40,000 tickets have been sold for NLFD. I don't know how many England have sold but it's in a 50,000 capacity stadium and there are still tickets available so it must be close. Keep buying people!

Aside from these two magnificent Wembley occasions, the rest of the week is all about women's football and a few eleventh tier games several of which have plenty riding on them so check 'em out.

Hope to see you at Wembley.

UPDATE (16/05/16): This morning I found out that sales for NLFD are marginally ahead of those for the England game so outselling it is a real possibility. Go on, you know you want to be part of it.

Also, I forgot to mention that our friends at 'Two Men In Search...' paid a visit to Metropolitan Police's Imber Court for the London Senior Cup Final a couple of weeks ago. Read what they got up to here.

UPDATE (22/05/16): Heading off to Wembley shortly in the knowledge that we're close to reaching 50,000 sales. If you haven't got a ticket yet, you will be able to buy one at the stadium so come along and help us make history. The matches are at 1215pm and 415pm.

There are nearly 20 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).

Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Red pin - Wednesday fixtures
Purple pin - Thursday fixtures
Black pin - Friday fixtures

Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
White pin - Sunday fixtures

In the following section I list, by day, what are in my opinion the most notable games of the week and give some brief reasons for my choice. Check the maps above for kick-off times, ticket info and directions.

Monday 16 May
Watford Ladies v London Bees @745pm - get your week under way with some Women's Super League action at Vicarage Road, tickets are only £3

Tuesday 17 May
Essex Olympian League Cup Final @730pm - eleventh tier sides Kelvedon Hatch and Manford Way battle for silverware at AFC Hornchurch's ground

Wednesday 18 May
West Essex v FC Assyria @745pm  - the hosts, playing at Barking, can still win the Middlesex County League but they have to win one of their final two games to do it

Thursday 19 May
Chelsea Ladies v Manchester City Women @730pm - the top two in the Women's Super League go head-to-head at Staines Town
Millwall Lionesses v Oxford United Women @745pm - in the WSL2, Millwall's women welcome Oxford to the New Den

Friday 20 May 
Millwall v Bradford City @745pm - the following night, the men's team grace the New Den as the Bantams visit for the second leg of their League One play-off semi-final with Millwall 3-1 up from the first leg

Saturday 21 May
FA Cup Final @530pm - Crystal Palace and Manchester United contest the annual showpiece of the English football season at Wembley
West Essex v CB Hounslow United Reserves @TBC - if they don't win it on Wednesday, the hosts can seal the Middlesex County League title with victory here

Sunday 22 May
Non-League Finals Day - Wembley provides the stage for the FA Vase and FA Trophy finals which are being played back-to-back for the first time ever. Hereford play Morpeth Town in the former at 1215pm while FC Halifax Town meet Grimsby Town in the latter at 415pm. One ticket, costing £25 adults and just £1 for U16s, will get you in for both. Bargain!

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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