Sunday, 2 July 2017

TLFG: 3-9 July 2017

Hi there and welcome to the first TLFG of the 2017/18 season - the last six weeks have really flown by!

How was your off-season? Did you get to see any of the impressive England youth sides in action, head to Russia for the Confederations Cup or maybe you were in the States to see some MLS games?

What have I been up to? Well I've launched this year's Non-League Day (7 October), worked on a polling station during the General Election, had a job interview (result pending) and ran a 10km near the Olympic Stadium getting my second fastest time.

However, the biggest thing to affect me was undoubtedly the Grenfell Tower fire. This block is exactly one mile from where I live so I got woken by the helicopters circling it in the early hours of 14 June.

With mainstream news sources not covering the disaster in its early stages, I gathered there was a problem developing via the Metropolitan Police's Twitter feed but it still wasn't clear how bad it was.
On getting up for work, the news channels were broadcasting nothing else with the images of the block engulfed in flames horrifying all who watched.

As I headed out to work, the smell of the burning building immediately hit my nostrils and the otherwise brilliantly blue sky was tainted by a large thick cloud of smoke drifting out to the west of London.

As the day unfolded, it was clear a terrible tragedy had taken place - although far smaller in scale it will probably become West London's 9/11 with everyone in the area affected in some way.

With the Hammersmith & City Tube line closed since the fire, I travelled into work on it for the first time since it reopened earlier this week. The tower is located very close to Latimer Road station and as you pass you get to see what's left of the totally devastated building.

Those couple of seconds spent looking out of the window at the large charred building provided possibly the most sobering sight of my life with the mountains of debris strewn all around its base providing some idea of what it must have been like on the night - men in white boiler suits, masks and hardhats were picking through it all when I went past a couple of days ago.

One of the few positives to come out of it all has been the community response which has been fantastic with donations of time, space and money pouring in from all quarters - London really outshone itself and reminded me once again why I'm proud and lucky enough to live here.



Right, now you came here for football information so lets make sure you get some.

The first handful of friendlies got underway this weekend so I know a few of you have already been out to the likes of Bedfont Sports and Colliers Wood United to get your first football fix of the summer.

Most of the action gets cracking this week though with Saturday particularly having a lot to offer.

Like last year, I've cast the net a bit wider than normal and have included a few interesting games from beyond the boundaries of the capital. These will all include Premier League or Football League clubs who have announced an intention to take a first-team squad to the game.

For groundhoppers there are new stadiums to look forward to in the coming season with the grounds at Aveley and CB Hounslow United immediately springing to mind.

It will also be interesting to see how Tottenham get on at Wembley. I'm sure longstanding hardcore supporters will have more than a few grumbles but for more casual fans, neutrals and tourists the move to the national stadium should almost guarantee a source of Premier League tickets at reasonable prices.

So I think that's it from me. It's great to be back. Enjoy your football watching and let me know what you've been up to.


THE WEEK AHEAD
There are over 50 matches in the London area over the next seven days with one Premier League and several EFL sides playing friendlies in and around the capital.

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 (orange 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.

A fine summer read if football tactics are your thing

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.

MIDWEEK MATCH MAP
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - magenta pin
Thursday fixtures - purple pin
Friday fixtures - black pin



WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin




TLFG TOP 10
In the following section I list 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.

1. WOKING v WATFORD
The game of the week takes place just outside London in the leafy Surrey suburbs. National League Woking play host to the Premier League Hornets - the only one of our local top flight sides in action this early. The match is listed as a first team game for Watford and will be the first in charge for new boss Marco Silva. It's pretty easy to get out to Woking with trains from Waterloo and Clapham Junction leaving frequently and taking only 20-30 minutes. (Saturday 8 July, 3pm. Club info)

2. ALDERSHOT TOWN v BRENTFORD
The night before just a few miles beyond Woking, we've got a decent looking game between another National League side and the Bees from the Championship. Again, this is listed as a first-team game for the visitors so they should field a decent line-up. Like Woking, Aldershot is also easy to get to from Waterloo and Clapham Junction and the stadium is very close to the station. (Friday 7 July, 730pm. Club info)

3. DARTFORD v MILLWALL
The Darts finished third in the National League South last season but sadly didn't get through the play-offs. They'll hope for another strong showing this time round and begin their pre-season with this match against the Lions who are back in the Championship for 2017/18 after winning the League One play-offs at Wembley back in May. Links between these two clubs are strong with the Lions playing a number of their U23 games at Princes Park last season. (Saturday 8 July, 3pm. Club info)

4. SUTTON UNITED v COVENTRY CITY
These two clubs created a bit of FA Cup history when they met way back in 1989. Sutton were a non-league side as they are today but Coventry were up in the top flight and had won the FA Cup in 1987. Against all the odds, Sutton won 2-1 to create huge headlines around the football world. Fast forward 28 years and Sutton are famous again after making it to the fifth round in last season's competition but sadly things are very different for the Sky Blues who suffered another relegation and come into this as a League Two side so it should be pretty close again. (Saturday 8 July, 3pm. Club info)

5. MAIDSTONE UNITED v BARNET
Back in the late '80s this would have been one of non-league's heavyweight contests with these two contesting the Conference title. They both made it up into the Football League but sadly for Maidstone they went bust pretty quickly and took a long time to recover. Now back in the fifth tier they have a fine ground and large fan base and will hope to improve on last season's disappointing showing. Barnet are in League Two and giving young coach Rossi Eames another go as manager this season after holding the post briefly as caretaker during the last campaign. Again, this is outside London with direct trains to Maidstone running from Victoria. (Saturday 8 July, 3pm. Club info)

6. ST ALBANS CITY v PETERBOROUGH UNITED
This Hertfordshire 'city' just beyond the M25 plays host to one of my favourite non-league grounds. The Saints' Clarence Park is packed with charm and sits within the confines of the public park of the same name. It's leafy, green and has an old stand which harks back to yesteryear. It's also very close to St Albans station which is quickly reached on the Thameslink service from Blackfriars and St Pancras. Former Arsenal player Ian Allinson is currently in charge and he'll be looking for a play-off spot in the National League South this season. Perennial League One play-off contenders Peterborough have recently installed former player Grant McCann as boss so he'll want to get off to a good start here. (Saturday 8 July, 3pm. Club info)

7. SLOUGH TOWN v WYCOMBE WANDERERS
As with the Maidstone game above, this used to be a huge non-league game between sides on either side of the Berkshire/Buckinghamshire county line. Both located just outside London and with significant followings these games often drew significant crowds. Since the '80s Wycombe have cemented their place in the Football League while Slough have suffered a period of great instability and have been without a stadium of their own since 2003. However, that has now been rectified and they start this season at the very fine Arbour Park back in the town centre and should be a club to watch. Please note that this match is expected to draw a big crowd again and has been made ALL TICKET which means you must buy in advance - no tickets will be available on the day. (Saturday 8 July, 130pm. Club info)

8. HITCHIN TOWN v LUTON TOWN
Just to the north of London, Southern League Hitchin have landed this friendly against near neighbours Luton who are one of the favourites for the League Two title. Both sides suffered play-off heartbreak in their respective divisions last season so will be hoping to put that right in 2017/18. The Hatters have confirmed that this will be a first-team fixture so will be sending a strong side. (Wednesday 5 July, 745pm. Club info)

9. HITCHIN TOWN v STEVENAGE
The Canaries follow up the Luton game with another derby against another League Two opponent. Stevenage finished 10th last season and are fancied to have an outside shot at the play-offs this time round. Again a first-team squad is expected to be sent to Top Field. (Saturday 8 July. 3pm. Club info)

10. EAST GRINSTEAD TOWN v CRAWLEY TOWN
My last recommendation this week takes place in the Sussex town of East Grinstead so provides a good option if you're located on the south side of London and want to get out of the city for the day. This is a derby with the Bostik League side welcoming Crawley from League Two. The visitors have recently appointed former Liverpool player Harry Kewell as manager. As a quirky side point, East Grinstead is probably most famous for being home to lots of different religious groups with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and The Church of Scientology both having a significant presence in the town.

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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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