Monday, 9 May 2016

TLFG: 9-15 May 2016

Apologies for the later than normal publication of this week's piece. On Sunday I ran the Hackney Half Marathon in east London where temperatures reached 27C (81F) leaving me pretty shattered for the rest of the day.

With the Football League concluding over the weekend, we have less than 30 matches to look forward to this week and a large chunk of those are in the 11th tier. 

Possibly the biggest game of the week and certainly the most historic will take place on Tuesday when West Ham United finally play their last ever match at the Boleyn Ground.

Almost like a testimonial, the famous old stadium will be graced by a visit from Manchester United for a match which both sides could do with winning in their pursuit of European places. Unsurprisingly it's sold out so don't even try getting a ticket unless you're prepared to pay an absolute fortune for it.

I went to the Boleyn Ground twice to see QPR play there. The first time back in 1994/95 the match got rained off as I was going through the turnstiles so I didn't even get in let alone see a game. The second time was last season when I took part in a fans' charity walk across London and then saw our rather hopeless side lose 2-0. 

There's less than two weeks to go - join us for this historic occasion
It will be a shame to see it go and whether the Olympic Stadium proves to be a good home or not remains to be seen. Of the bidders, West Ham certainly seemed the most logical tenants and it will be great to see a Premier League club using it and bringing people to the surrounding park. The area certainly has great facilities and the transport infrastructure is way better than that which serves the Boleyn. 

Aside from that, we also see the Premier League season come to an end this week. From a London perspective, the most interesting thing will be to see whether Tottenham or Arsenal finish second.

For weeks it's been all about whether Leicester or Spurs would win the title, with little focus on the rest of the chasing pack.

With the spotlight elsewhere, Arsenal have gone on a nine game unbeaten run which means they will pip their north London rivals to the runners-up spot if they win against bottom club Aston Villa and Spurs lose at struggling (and possibly already relegated) Newcastle.

To miss out on the title was very disappointing for Tottenham fans but to get eclipsed again by their biggest rivals right at the death would be devastating.

In League Two, AFC Wimbledon are in the play-offs and host Accrington Stanley in the first leg of their semi-final on Saturday evening. Given their small capacity, tickets aren't available to non-members but there were some hospitality tickets going for £60 the last time I looked which I thought was pretty reasonable given you get a three-course meal thrown in.

Earlier in the day up at Wembley, we've got a tasty London derby to look forward to the FA Women's Cup Final where Arsenal and Chelsea go after a major piece of silverware. Tickets are really cheap so give it a go if you've never been to the national stadium before.

It's a busy weekend at Wembley so if you're not a fan of women's football you could try the National League play-off final instead. Forest Green Rovers play Grimsby Town for a place in the Football League so there's plenty at stake. Consequently tickets are up around the £40 mark.

As I mentioned earlier, there's still a lot of 11th tier football on at the moment. If you do decide to go to one of these games, please verify kick-off times and venues with the clubs involved as they do have a habit of changing at short notice.

Have a great week and make the most of it, there's only about two weeks to go before the summer break.

There are nearly 30 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

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 9 May
British Airways v New Hanford @745pm - the visitors have two games to go and must win them both to secure the Middlesex County League title (match being played at Ashford Town near Heathrow)

Tuesday 10 May
West Ham United v Manchester United @745pm - the Hammers play their last ever match at the Boleyn Ground and it's an important game that could play a large part in deciding whether or not they play in Europe next season
Arsenal v Aston Villa @7pm - the clubs' respective sides meet in the U21 Premier League Division Two play-off final at the Emirates (tickets are only £4 but must be purchased by 3pm on match day)

Wednesday 11 May
Southern Combination Cup Final @745pm  - Dorking and Molesey meet for the week's first bit of silverware at Molesey's Walton Road ground

Thursday 12 May
South Kilburn v Kilburn @TBC - the Kilburn derby takes place at Vale Farm Sports Centre in Sudbury. Neither side have any great online presence so I've struggled to get a kick-off time. Check with the clubs or league before you travel.

Saturday 14 May 
FA Women's Cup Final @2pm - Arsenal take on Chelsea at Wembley in one of the games of the week where it's free for U16s to get in
AFC Wimbledon v Accrington Stanley @730pm - two of the smaller clubs in League Two have made it to the play-offs where they meet for this semi-final first leg

Sunday 15 May
Arsenal v Aston Villa @3pm - the Gunners could finish above Spurs in second if they win here against Villa who play their last match before relegation
Chelsea v Leicester City @3pm - with the Foxes already securing the title, neither side have much to play for but that could well lead to a more open game
Watford v Sunderland @3pm - depending on midweek results, the Mackems may have to win this to retain their Premier League status
National League Play-Off Final @4pm - Forest Green Rovers and Grimsby Town go head-to-head at Wembley for a place in the Football League

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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