Sunday, 30 July 2017

TLFG: 31 July - 6 August 2017

I can't believe we're moving into the first week of August already - the first seven months of the year have flown by.

However, the best thing about this is that it means the football season is almost upon us - praise the Lord!

Last week we saw the Essex Senior League get underway, while this week things start to get really serious as all three divisions of the EFL start and we also get to enjoy the opening round of the FA Cup.

There's also a huge weekend of action at Wembley where Spurs welcome Italian champions Juventus to their new temporary home on Saturday while Arsenal take on Chelsea less than 24 hours later in the FA Community Shield.

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The Tottenham game has proved to be a bit controversial as promoters initially advertised the tickets at a ridiculously high price causing many to actively boycott the game while others were simply unable to afford it.

With sales struggling, prices have since been slashed so you should be able to get a ticket for the 530pm kick-off. The other good thing about the late start is that you can combine it with other games if you want to see more than one on Saturday.

One choice, which a German friend of mine has gone for, is the National League opening-day game between Sutton United and Leyton Orient which starts at 1230pm. Although way down in south London, you'll have three hours to get between games.

Alternatively, you could avoid the Spurs game and see another match much closer to Sutton. The nearest is the friendly between Carshalton Athletic and Dulwich Hamlet which should be decent enough.

If you've got a car you could probably also just about make it to one of the FA Cup ties at Colliers Wood United or Chessington & Hook United.

Talking of the FA Cup, if you're thinking of having a go at completing the 'Road To Wembley' and seeing a game in every round, you might want to have a look at the book just below.


The FA Cup starts this weekend - here's how you get to see a game in every round

Written by TLFG reader A E Greb, you can discover how he managed to see not only a game in every round but also a replay too as he made it all the way to the national stadium back in the 2011/12 season. A number of today's big stars emerged at lower division clubs that year and he was also at Spurs for one of the most dramatic footballing events of the year.


THE WEEK AHEAD
There are almost 100 matches in and around the London area over the next seven days with several Premier League sides, a number of top European clubs and EFL teams all in action. There are also one or two new ground openings too.

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.


Arsenal legend Ian Wright's autobiography has proved to be one of the most popular football books of the year

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
Monday fixtures - yellow pin
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 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 31 July

Pre-season friendlies
Welling United v Millwall XI @745pm - the week begins with a south-east London derby at Park View Road. After a bad start, the Wings finished last season fairly strongly and have an outside chance of the National League South play-offs. The Lions are back in the Championship this season and will probably field one or two first-teamers as they have no further friendlies before the new campaign begins on Saturday
Corinthian Casuals v Bristol Rovers @745pm - the hosts have landed a prestigious friendly against League One promotion contenders Rovers. According to the Pirates' website, this is a first team game so a strong side is expected
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Tuesday 1 August

Pre-season friendlies
Leyton Orient v Arsenal U23 @745pm - the O's conclude their pre-season programme with this testing fixture against the Gunners' talented youngsters
Tooting & Mitcham United v Crystal Palace U23 @730pm - the Terrors are back in the seventh tier for the first time in a few years. After a dodgy start to pre-season, they've won their last two and scored eight in the process. The Eagles' youngsters play the odd game at Imperial Fields so should know the ground well

Essex Senior League
Hackney Wick v Tower Hamlets @745pm - the Wickers only formed in 2015 but they've grown rapidly and are playing their first season in the ninth tier Essex Senior League. Their campaign got underway on Saturday with an impressive 3-1 win at Burnham Ramblers. This east London derby against Tower Hamlets will be their first competitive home game since moving in to share with Clapton

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Wednesday 2 August

Pre-season friendly
Aveley v Dulwich Hamlet @745pm - after spending many decades at Mill Field, Aveley open their impressive new Parkside facility with this friendly against the Hamlet

Essex Senior League
Ilford v Clapton @745pm - the ESL fixture computer has thrown up another great east London derby on Wednesday night as two more near neighbours meet. The hosts went top on Saturday after beating the newly reformed Woodford Town 2017 5-0

Outside London
Southampton v FC Augsburg @745pm - the pick of the games outside the capital is the Saints' match against Bundesliga opponents Augsburg who aren't expected to do too well this season. The last train back to London is at 11pm so getting back shouldn't be a problem
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Thursday 3 August

Pre-season friendlies
Cray Wanderers v Dorking Wanderers @745pm - the Wands will be looking for an improvement on their 11th-place finish in what was the Ryman South last season. On Thursday they entertain a tough Wanderers side who won the division's play-offs
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Friday 4 August
Enfield Town v Barton Rovers @745pm - aside from a loss to Chelmsford City, the Towners have won all four of their other friendlies and scored a whopping 21 goals in the process. Barton play a level below Enfield but made the Southern League Division 1 Central play-off final last season 

Outside London
Leicester City v Borussia Monchengladbach @745pm - the Foxes end their pre-season against Bundesliga opposition. Die Fohlen finished ninth last season and recently signed English youngster Reece Oxford on loan from West Ham. The last train back to London is at 958pm so you might have to duck out early or drive
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Saturday 5 August

Pre-season friendlies
Tottenham Hotspur v Juventus @530pm - the runners-up in the Premier League take on the runners-up in the Champions League in what should be the game of the week at Wembley. I say 'should' because the tickets were initially very expensive and didn't sell. Prices have since been slashed so hopefully there'll be a decent crowd
Crystal Palace v Schalke 04 @3pm - the Eagles also welcome Bundesliga opponents as they prepare for the new season. After the success of the early 2000s, Schalke have had a fairly lean few years and finished 10th last season
Watford v Real Sociedad @3pm - the Hornets celebrate the life and achievements of former manager Graham Taylor who sadly died in January. There will be lots of family activities from noon and tickets are £10 for the visit of Sociedad who have qualified for this season's Europa League

Championship
Fulham v Norwich City @3pm - the Cottagers made the play-offs last season but have struggled to get going so far this summer with an 8-2 defeat to Chelsea at Cobham being the low point. However, they are still among the favourites to go up
Queens Park Rangers v Reading @3pm - after a pretty underwhelming pre-season which strangely included not one but two friendlies against the Royals on the same day at the start of July (both lost), QPR welcome their old rivals from the Thames Valley for the first match of the new season. Jaap Stam's side made the play-off final last season and will be favourites to win here

League One
Charlton Athletic v Bristol Rovers @3pm - the Addicks start 2017/18 with a home game against Rovers who finished just three places above them last season. Both have a good chance of making the play-offs this time round

National League
Sutton United v Leyton Orient @1230pm - definitely the game of the day at this level, the U's derby match against recently relegated Orient is being shown live on BT Sport hence the early kick-off. Even though they enjoyed a remarkable FA Cup run last season, Sutton were well off the pace in the league and will want to improve in that respect. The O's were devastated by off-pitch problems last season but buoyed by new owners they are expected to do much better this time

National League South
Dartford v Hungerford Town @3pm - both these sides finished in the top six last season - the Darts made the play-offs and Hungerford would've done too if ground-grading issues hadn't controversially prevented them. Unsurprisingly, they're both fancied to do well again in 2017/18

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round - also known as the opening round of the FA Cup. If you want to do 'The Road To Wembley' and see a game in every round then this is where you have to start. 370 clubs from all over the country enter at this stage, most of whom play in the ninth and 10th tiers of the English game. Winners of each tie receive prize money of £1,500. Below I've picked a few of the notable ties - there are others

AC London v Crawley Down Gatwick @3pm - formed as recently as 2012, the hosts are entering the FA Cup for the first time this season. They've had a nomadic existence over the last five years and will start this season groundsharing at Whyteleafe. However, at the time of writing, the Leafe have a friendly scheduled for the same time as this game and AC are keeping everyone, including their opponents, in the dark as to where and when it's being played! Hopefully we'll get some clarification before Saturday (UPDATE: this match has been switched to Crawley Down)
Glebe v Lordswood @3pm - Glebe were primarily a junior club until recently but since putting out a senior side as well, they've gone from strength-to-strength. Always there or thereabouts in the Kent Invicta League/SCEFL Division 1, the Chislehurst-based club got promoted last season and should be ones to watch again this year
Hackney Wick v Long Melford @3pm - as was previously mentioned above, the Wickers are also relative newcomers to football at this level. I think I'm right in saying that this is the most centrally located tie of the day with the game taking place at London's oldest ground - the Old Spotted Dog
Hanworth Villa v Bedfont & Feltham @3pm - we've got a local derby over near Heathrow. Hanworth are usually among the frontrunners in the Combined Counties League and will start as favourites against B&F who suffered relegation last season to the CCL Division 1

Spartan South Midlands League Division 1
Enfield Borough v Harefield United @3pm - the Panthers only formed last season and won promotion from the SSML Division 2 at the first attempt. Head down to Donkey Lane to see how this ambitious young club fare at the higher level

Other friendlies
Aveley v Harlow Town @2pm & Grays Athletic v Sittingbourne @430pm - despite moving to their new Parkside ground this season, the Millers will still be groundsharing with Grays. The two play friendlies back-to-back on Saturday but at this stage it's unclear whether one ticket will get you in for both or whether re-entry will be required
Corinthian Casuals v Crystal Palace U23 @3pm - after hosting Bristol Rovers on Monday, CCs bring their pre-season to an end with this game against the Eagles' development side
Outside London
Southampton v Sevilla @3pm - the Saints end pre-season with this attractive fixture against one of the biggest names in Spanish football. The Andalucian club finished fourth last season and beat RB Leipzig and Arsenal in the Emirates Cup this weekend
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Sunday 6 August

The FA Community Shield 
Arsenal v Chelsea @2pm - you know the new Premier League season is almost upon us when this charity match between the Premier League champions and FA Cup winners takes place at Wembley. This year we have a big London derby between Chelsea and Arsenal. The two only met last week in China where the Blues won comfortably and you'd have to fancy them again here

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Barkingside v Stowmarket Town @3pm - the Side groundshare at Ilford and have consequently had to wait until Sunday to play this tie against opponents from Suffolk. Located a short walk from Seven Kings station, this is a pretty easy one to get to
Epsom & Ewell v Banstead Athletic @3pm - in the other tie of the day we've got a Surrey derby to look forward to. Sadly, unlike the match above, Chipstead's ground where E&E play is almost unreachable without a car

Outside London
Brighton & Hove Albion v Atletico Madrid @4pm - possibly the best 'outside London' friendly of the summer, the Seagulls prepare for their first season in the Premier League with this eye-catching friendly against Diego Simeone's team. The Spanish giants have qualified for the Champions League again and should provide formidable opposition
AFC Bournemouth v Napoli @730pm - talking of Champions League opponents, the Cherries have lined up a friendly against another one. After finishing third in Italy last season, Napoli will add a touch of glamour to proceedings at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday. The last train from Bournemouth to London is at 1006pm so you should be able to get back ok
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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 in the London area for this blog then get in touch. I also very much welcome photos of your football travels.

NEED HELP?
Got any questions about visiting London? Don't hesitate to ask - be they football or more general travel/touristy queries. I do not charge for this advice like some other sites so don't hold back!

You can contact TLFG through the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or even by good old email.

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