Sunday, 18 September 2016

TLFG: 19-25 September 2016

The last week has made me realise a few things, not least that as you grow older your tastes definitely change.

Last Saturday I had the chance to go and watch QPR for the first time this season but actively decided to make other plans. On Tuesday they played Newcastle, one of the biggest games of the season, and got hammered 0-6. This was Rangers' heaviest home defeat of all time and I hardly batted an eyelid and I've been trying to think why and how my interest has waned so spectacularly.

Probably the highlight of my entire football watching life was being at Wembley just over two years ago when Bobby Zamora netted that dramatic late winner in the play-off final against Derby. I've never felt such a football high as that ball went in and it's a feeling that hopefully I'll never forget. 

Five years ago I was having sleepless nights ahead of crucial games prior to our promotion back into the Premier League after a 15-year absence. In other years, I made firm decisions not to attend crucial promotion and relegation matches because my nerves simply couldn't take it. I would have Saturdays and whole weekends ruined by defeats.

But not any more.

The other day I admitted to friends that if I didn't live in Shepherd's Bush I probably wouldn't bother going any more. 

We're not even doing that badly so why do I feel like this?

Maybe it's the promise of great things that never materialised since welcoming a succession of billionaire owners to the club - yes, we got three seasons in the Premier League out of it but two were a complete embarrassment.

Had enough of my moaning? Watch this video from our friends at 'Two Men In Search of the Beautiful Game' instead

Maybe it's the fact that our failure to progress despite these riches can be put alongside the likes of Swansea, Southampton, Crystal Palace and Leicester who have all come up since 2011 and either got to cup finals, made it into Europe or won the blimming Premier League with far less. 

Maybe it's the thought that £29 is now the price of the cheapest ticket to watch a bog standard Championship game against the likes of Barnsley or Rotherham (no offence).

Maybe I'm just feeling glum as it's the end of the summer and we've had a dodgy result or two. 

I've got the chance to go and watch them play Sunderland in the EFL Cup on Wednesday night - tickets are only £6.70 and the Mackems are in worse form than we are. We could win against a Premier League side and make it into the last 16 of a major cup competition - I can feel a stir of excitement returning...

Now I've just heard that manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink intends to play a reserve team and with that I'm back to square one. 

Alongside this plunge in interest, my love of non-league has made a strong comeback. 

If you're a new reader, as a teenager I almost totally devoted my life to following my local club Harrow Borough all over the place. I had probably the most enjoyable times I've had as a football fan despite the team being pretty bad throughout that time and the entire 28 years I've been a follower.

Football at this level is far more accessible. You feel far more involved. The grounds, and some of the people are quirky, weird and wonderful. What the players may lack in ability is usually more than made up for with passion. There are strong fan rivalries but the atmosphere is rarely toxic or threatening as it is or has the potential to be at most games in the professional ranks. 

For me, it's generally more fun and I also know that my money makes a difference whereas in the Premier League clubs could play in empty stadiums all season and it would hardly impact on their balance sheets.

This might all simply be down to the fact that I'm now in my early forties and becoming very middle aged - I've seen it all before, I don't need the hassle or expense of the Premier League, my team are never going to win it so why get that worked up? I remember meeting a friend of my uncle's back in the '80s who told me he 'used to be a QPR fan' but had since lost interest. I thought such a statement was crazy back then. How could anyone fall out of love with their team? Now I am well on my way to becoming that man.

Maybe I will make it along to the Sunderland game, maybe we will mount a play-off challenge, maybe we will get back into the Premier League at some point and maybe we'll become the little guys punching well above our weight as we always used to, living within our means, spending prudently and creating stars, earning respect along the way. This might give me back a bit of pride and excitement about what we do but it seems a long way off at the moment.

Anyway, that's just me. Football is still a great game and London is a wonderful place to watch it and this week is once again bursting at the seams with action.

We've also heard from our friends at 'Two Men In Search...' who have been discovering the Beautiful Game in Mile End where they watched Sporting Bengal United take on fellow Eastenders London Bari.

There are 100 matches in the London area over the next week with games in the Premier League, EFL, FA Cup, FA Vase, several county cups and the FA Women's Super League.

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
Magenta pin - Wednesday fixtures
Black pin - Friday fixtures

Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
Orange 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 19 September

Professional Development League
Millwall U23 v Nottingham Forest U23 @12pm - get your week of football watching underway with this development game at the Den, the early kick-off will allow you to see at least two games today
Watford U23 v Sheffield Wednesday U23 @7pm - one option is to combine it with a visit to Vicarage Road for this one

Premier League 2
Arsenal U23 v Everton U23 @7pm - or you could go to Boreham Wood for this one which should provide a higher standard of football but you won't get the big stadium

Ryman League Premier Division 
Kingstonian v Bognor Regis Town @745pm - the K's welcome Bognor who made it to the play-offs last season and are well placed for a promotion push again

Essex Senior League
Barkingside v Ilford @745pm - if you're on the east side of London, this groundshare derby could be for you


Tuesday 20 September

FA Cup Second Qualifying Round Replay
Thamesmead Town v Hanwell Town @745pm - these two eighth-tier sides from the parallel Ryman and Southern Leagues cancelled each other out on Saturday and will do battle again on Tuesday for the £4,500 prize money

Ryman League Premier Division
Staines Town v Enfield Town @745pm - the Swans recorded a notable cupset over local rivals Maidenhead on Saturday and will look to get among the play-off places in the Ryman Premier as they return to league action here
Harrow Borough v Wingate & Finchley @745pm - these two met in the cup last week and produced a thrilling 4-4 draw which W&F eventually won 8-7 on penalties, it will probably be goalless this time

Ryman League Division 1 South
Tooting & Mitcham United v Guernsey @745pm - the Terrors have come flying out of the blocks and are currently four points clear at the top while the Green Lions have made a poor start and should be there for the taking


Wednesday 21 September

EFL Cup Third Round
West Ham United v Accrington Stanley @745pm - on paper the Premier League Hammers should see off their League Two opponents with ease but they're in poor form and Stanley beat Burnley in the last round so shouldn't be underestimated
Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland @745pm - QPR have hit a bad patch and will hope to raise spirits with the scalp of Premier League strugglers Sunderland - also, tickets are only £6.70 if bought in advance

FA Cup Second Qualifying Round Replay
Colliers Wood United v Merstham @730pm - the Wood are one of the lowest ranked teams left in the competition and did superbly well to hold Merstham, from two divisions above them, to a 0-0 draw on Saturday. They've never been this far before, so to make the third qualifying round would be some achievement


Friday 23 September

Premier League 2
Chelsea U23 v Arsenal U23 @705pm - with the clubs' first XIs meeting less than 24 hours later, this match at Stamford Bridge should provide a fine hors d'oeurve especially as it's only £5 a ticket

FA Vase Second Qualifying Round
Wadham Lodge v Enfield 1893 @745pm - it's also another big weekend of cup football in the FA Vase and it gets underway in London on Friday night up in Walthamstow with this one between two Essex Senior League sides


Saturday 24 September

Premier League

Arsenal v Chelsea @530pm - the game of the week takes place at the Emirates Stadium where London's two biggest clubs meet in this teatime encounter

Queens Park Rangers v Birmingham City @3pm - Rangers will be looking to avoid a third straight league defeat but they're up against a Blues side who've only lost once in their eight games so far this season

League One
Millwall v Rochdale @3pm - the Lions suffered a disappointing loss to struggling Southend on Saturday and surrendered their place in the top six in the process, Rochdale present a very real chance of regaining it as they have started poorly

National League
Bromley v Dagenham & Redbridge @3pm - it's derby day down at Hayes Lane as the Ravens welcome the league leaders

National League South
Wealdstone v Truro City @3pm - the Stones are fancied to do well this season and will probably move into the play-off places with victory against their Cornish visitors

Ryman League Premier Division
Dulwich Hamlet v Folkestone Invicta @3pm - the biggest crowd of the day in this division will almost certainly come at Champion Hill where two of its best supported sides meet
Enfield Town v Hendon @3pm - there should also be a healthy turnout for this north London derby

FA Vase Second Qualifying Round
Cockfosters v Hadley Wood & Wingate @3pm - it's derby time up in the far north of London where these two Spartan South Midlands League neighbours contest the bragging rights
London Tigers v Southall @3pm - if it's a derby you're after on the west side of town, then only a few hundred metres of the A40 separate these two local sides
North Greenford United v Oxhey Jets @3pm - an all ninth-tier game between teams from the parallel Combined Counties and Spartan South Midlands Leagues should produce a decent contest
Wembley v Hillingdon Borough @3pm - despite their name, the hosts have never made it to one of the big finals while Boro have been runners-up in the Trophy and Vase, the latter as recently as 2006
Glebe v Deal Town @3pm - Glebe are currently top of the Southern Counties East League Division 1 and are figuratively snapping at some of the lower ranked teams, like Deal, in the division above - this should be a good test of how good a team they are

Sunday 25 September

Premier League
West Ham United v Southampton @4pm - these two have made underwhelming starts after great seasons last year but while West Ham aren't showing signs of recovery yet, the Saints have won two on the bounce

FA Women's Super League 2
Millwall Lionesses v Watford Ladies @2pm - if you can't get a ticket for the above, you could head down to the Den instead for some women's football but I doubt you'd want to if you're a West Ham fan


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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