Monday, 10 October 2016

TLFG: 10-16 October 2016

For the second week running I managed to spend my Saturday afternoon at a real live football match.

After enjoying Harrow Borough's FA Cup win over Winchester last week, this time I found myself at Champion Hill for the Ryman League fixture between Dulwich Hamlet and Bognor Regis Town.

The south-east London club had decided to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street and the Spanish Civil War by holding a 'Trade Union Day' with the members of any union gaining entry for just £4 (a discount of 60%). 

I've never really been into the whole union thing but at my place of work it's the done thing to join and I signed up just over a year ago. So with membership card in hand, I went to claim my discount.

Having been to Dulwich several times over the last few years, I've become used to having to join a sizeable queue at the turnstiles (unlike at many other non-league grounds) as their various promotions have really captured the local community's attention.

A large crowd packed into Champion Hill on Saturday as Dulwich's Trade Union Day promotion paid off
Bognor, one of the better teams in the division, brought a sizeable following of their own and were in good voice throughout and they had reason to be as they gave an accomplished performance which saw them run out 3-1 winners. 

Despite defeat, the crowd of 2,217 and the funds they injected into the club's coffers probably softened the disappointment.

The Hamlet have had their detractors over the last two or three years for becoming too hipster, too middle class, too politically left wing or whatever but some might say so what? During that period they've gone from being just another club to the biggest one in the league with their average attendance of just under 1,000 almost double that of anyone else in the Ryman Premier. To be fair, you can't even accuse the new fans of being glory hunters as they haven't won anything during that time. 

When you also consider clubs like Crystal Palace and Millwall are on their doorstep and Chelsea aren't a million miles away, to get these crowds is even more of an achievement.

Maybe things were a little too political yesterday for many clubs and some fans but it worked because Dulwich seem to understand their audience and know how to use the tools that will help them reach them.

I believe that in the current footballing and economic climate, more clubs should be able to grow in a similar way but it does take vision, a strong connection with the local community, manpower, a willingness to do things differently and the commitment to see things through. As friends at Dulwich have told me, this success hasn't happened overnight.

Harrow Borough, my own favourites, have started to try and boost attendances too with some promotions of their own. On Saturday they decided to offer half-price entry to anyone going to England v Malta at nearby Wembley Stadium. To make sure this would work for all parties, they brought forward kick-off in their match against Billericay to 1pm. Although the crowd was nothing like that at Dulwich it was probably about 30-35% up on what they've been getting for most games this season which is significant.

If any other clubs want to do something, a great way to start is by trying to exploit an international break when there are football fans - stadium going and armchair - who will be without their normal clubs and a percentage of them will definitely want to watch something else instead. The next one is on Saturday 12 November so if your club are interested, you've got just over a month to pull something together. Please ask if you'd like any advice or suggestions.

That's it from me. Sadly I'm working this weekend otherwise I'd be at Earlsmead for Harrow's hugely important FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round tie against as yet to be decided opposition. Come on the Boro!

THE WEEK AHEAD
There are well over 90 matches in the London area over the next week as the Premier League and Championship make their return. The FA Cup is back, there are some FA Trophy replays as well as games in several county and minor league cups.

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
Magenta pin - Wednesday fixtures
Purple pin - Thursday fixtures
Black pin - Friday fixtures




WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Blue pin - Saturday fixtures




TLFG DAILY DIGEST
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 10 October

Professional Development League

Millwall v Leeds United @2pm - the U23 sides of these two former top-flight clubs meet at The Den in a lunchtime game with adult tickets priced at £5

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Sutton Common Rovers v Westfield @745pm - SCR have made a disappointing start to the season and face a tough challenge from Woking-based Westfield who will go top if they win their two games in hand

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Tuesday 11 October

Professional Development League

Crystal Palace v Huddersfield Town @1pm - there's more U23 action at Selhurst Park which means you can catch a game at a Premier League ground for £5

FA Trophy Preliminary Round Replay
Greenwich Borough v VCD Athletic @745pm - after fighting out a 1-1 draw on Saturday, these two clubs from south-east London have another go on Tuesday

Ryman League Division 1 North
Phoenix Sports v Haringey Borough @745pm - elsewhere on the south-east side of town Phoenix have made a superb start to the season and are already five points clear at the top, see if they can extend that lead here

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Wednesday 12 October

Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division
Hadley v Edgware Town @745pm - the hosts did superbly well to get to the third qualifying round of the FA Cup before bowing out to Eastbourne Borough after a replay. Consequently they've fallen behind with their league fixtures and are at the wrong end of the division but they are still above local rivals Edgware going into this derby

Essex Senior League
Sporting Bengal United v Clapton @745pm - there's another derby at Mile End Stadium but this time of the East End variety. The Tons usually take a strong and lively following with them which should generate a bit of atmosphere

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Thursday 13 October

FA Trophy Preliminary Round Replay
Carshalton Athletic v Cray Wanderers @745pm - after thrashing out an entertaining 3-3 draw in the original tie on Sunday, these two Ryman League rivals will hopefully provide another entertaining game on what is an otherwise quiet night UPDATE (12/10/16): MATCH POSTPONED

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Friday 14 October

Premier League 2
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City @7pm - the weekend gets underway with this very attractive looking game between the respective U23 sides of the top two teams in the Premier League. Tickets for the game, being played at White Hart Lane, are just £5 but it would seem they are only available until 5pm on Friday afternoon so buy in advance
Arsenal v Southampton @7pm - if Spurs aren't your bag, then you can catch their arch rivals' youngsters in action the same night up at Boreham Wood where the Saints' highly talented side pay a visit

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Saturday 15 October

Premier League

Chelsea v Leicester City @1230pm - the Blues have, by their high standards, made a disappointing start to the season and are already five points off title pace. On Saturday they welcome the reigning league champions who have so far struggled to replicate that form but will no doubt be well up for this one
Crystal Palace v West Ham United @530pm - these two London rivals have almost swapped the roles they played at the end of last season with Palace now pushing towards the Europa League places and the Hammers fighting the drop. It is of course early days but the visitors badly need a win
Arsenal v Swansea City @3pm - the Gunners could go top with a win against the struggling Swans who welcome new manager Bob Bradley into the dugout

Championship
Queens Park Rangers v Reading @3pm - QPR return from the international break with a tough derby game against the Royals who are fancied to be among the play-off contenders this year

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Swindon Town @3pm - after an iffy start to life in the third tier, the Dons have upped their game and are now only two points off the play-off places, the form guide suggests they should win here

League Two
Leyton Orient v Luton Town @3pm - the O's are a club in trouble and are going through managers like they're going out of fashion. They were a penalty shoot-out away from a place in the Championship a couple of years ago but now they look all set for a dramatic fall into non-league football if things don't pick up soon. The visiting Hatters know full well what that feels like after a very traumatic decade but they're on their way back up and start as firm favourites

FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round - this is the final round before the pro clubs from League One and League Two enter. It is therefore absolutely massive for the 64 non-league clubs who've made it this far - in some cases it could be the biggest game in their history. With £12,500 awarded to the winners of each tie, the gate receipts from a larger than normal attendance and the promise of a potentially even bigger pay day in the next round, the incentives to progress are huge

Sutton United v Forest Green Rovers @3pm - the U's have landed the toughest opposition they could've drawn with National League leaders FGR coming to Gander Green Lane. It will be tricky but Sutton should take confidence from the fact that they drew their away league game against the Gloucestershire outfit
Dagenham & Redbridge v Wealdstone @3pm - in many ways this tie appeals to me more than the one above as it pits two TLFG clubs from the far east and west of London against each other. The Daggers were a Football League club this time last year and look like strong contenders to bounce straight back up. The Stones play in the division below but cheered on by a sizeable and vocal following, should make life hard for their hosts
Boreham Wood v Hendon @3pm - these two are local rivals and used to meet regularly in the Ryman League but after a few truly great years, the Wood are now two divisions above the Greens in the National League. Given this and the fact they have home advantage it should be a foregone conclusion but with Hendon having already seen off the likes of Dulwich Hamlet and AFC Rushden & Diamonds it might not be
Welling United v Whitehawk @3pm - the FA Cup has provided the Wings with some relief from their otherwise disappointing season. Relegated into the National League South at the end of last season, they are in danger of going down again but have bagged nine goals in their two ties so far to raise spirits. Whitehawk are a much tougher proposition than Swindon Supermarine and Whyteleafe were but are also among the NLS strugglers so can be beaten
Harrow Borough v Margate @3pm - the draw has been kind to Boro so far, landing them lower division opposition in the three previous rounds. Given who they could've got, they've been pretty lucky again. Margate won the Ryman Premier play-offs a couple of years ago and, with some significant investment behind them, looked like a club who could be going places. That financing ended last season and they're no longer quite the side they were. However, as they play in the division above Harrow, they should still start as favourites here
Egham Town v St Albans City @3pm - hailing from the eighth tier, the Sarnies are one of the lowest ranked teams left in the competition and it's been 25 years since they last reached this stage so this is really big for them. The Saints play two divisions above and are among the promotion contenders so it will be quite an upset if Egham win


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. 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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