Sunday, 1 July 2018

TLFG: 2-8 July 2018

Greetings one and all and welcome back to TLFG for the 2018/19 season.

After a summer break of just three weeks, thanks in large part to a very entertaining CONIFA World Football Cup, we're back open for business.

The first week of July is often a slow one but we've still got a very good selection of games to choose from on Saturday 7 July with a number of EFL clubs in action.

So how has the recess been for you? Which of you lucky so-and-sos has been out to Russia for the World Cup? Have any of you got tickets for the final?

Do you have any other grand plans for pre-season? Will you be following one of our local Premier League sides overseas or taking the opportunity to do a bit of random groundhopping?

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Despite having always wanted to go to Russia, I didn't make it but I did get to enjoy four games at the CONIFA event I mentioned above as I know a lot of you did too.

Ahead of the final, goals were flying in at an average of over four a game so it was a massive anti-climax when the final between Northern Cyprus and Karpatalya was decided by a penalty shoot-out in the Ukrainian side's favour after a 0-0 draw.



Our friends at "TMISOTBG" made it to the CONIFA World Football Cup Final

The weather was also unpleasant with drizzle then full on rain and wind making life tough for supporters at a packed Donkey Lane.

So busy was the ground that getting a decent view of the game was actually pretty tough - you either had to turn up really early to get a decent spot (i.e. attend the third place play-off before it) or went outside the official confines of the ground up onto the grass bank along the north side of the stadium as many hundreds of spectators did.

Next up for CONIFA is the European Football Cup in 2019 and we're still waiting with baited breath to find out where it will be.

THE NEW SEASON

As usual, each season brings with it quite a bit of change and there's even more than normal as a result of the significant restructuring of the game at non-league level.

Whole new divisions have been created between the seventh and 10th tiers with some clubs, like my own Harrow Borough, moving laterally into a parallel league or lots of new teams appearing in the newly formed Eastern Senior League which will now bridge the gap between the Essex Senior League (ninth tier) and Essex Olympian League (11th tier). It's all quite confusing and that's before we even mention the incredibly convoluted play-off system that's being introduced to go with it - apparently it will be possible in some cases to win your play-off final but still not get promoted!

The good thing about new teams and new divisions is the opportunity to visit some new grounds. I imagine Hackney Wick's move to the London Marathon Community Stadium in the shadow of West Ham's London Stadium will prove a popular destination. (Update - I have received word that this move has been delayed, thanks to the various readers who updated me).

If the Premier League is your thing then this is a great time to visit London as the city now plays host to SEVEN top flight clubs with Fulham rejoining the elite this season.

In years gone by it's always been pretty easy to get a ticket to see the Cottagers so many visitors to the capital find themselves watching a game there.

Last season your best chance of watching Premier League action usually came in the form of a trip to Wembley to watch Tottenham and they will be playing their first match of the new campaign, against Fulham, at the national stadium. However, from the 15 September they're set to be back in N17 at their newly rebuilt ground on the site of their former home. I was up there a few weeks ago and it's coming along well.

Given the novelty of a new ground and with tens of thousands of season tickets already sold, I should imagine that getting tickets to visit the new stadium will be quite challenging without good connections or a sizeable budget.

The next few days will see my preparations for Non-League Day move up a level.On Wednesday the National League will publish its fixtures for the top three divisions of non-league football which it controls. I will then have an initial planning meeting with Kick It Out in the afternoon and one or two other discussions with partners later in the afternoon.

Lastly from me - on the eve of this blog being published I was humbled to receive some really nice words and a very generous donation to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund from Michael J from Surrey - many thanks sir, I really appreciate it.


THE WEEK AHEAD
There are only 30 or so matches in the London area over the next seven days as the season gets off to a soft launch. The highlights include a few decent friendlies featuring EFL sides including a number form the Championship.

As always, please make sure you check with clubs before you travel just in case a game has been called off or the venue or kick-off time has changed - this is highly possible for some of the lower non-league clubs. 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.
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
Wednesday fixtures - magenta pin
Thursday fixtures - purple pin
Friday fixtures - black pin



WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Saturday fixtures - blue 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.

Wednesday 4 July

Friendly
Hadley v Redbridge @730pm - our new season of coverage gets underway in very unassuming fashion with this friendly between two ninth-tier teams at the Barnet Lane 3G facility just down the road from the site of Barnet's old ground at Underhill. The public are welcome but spectator facilities are pretty much non-existent

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Thursday 5 July

Friendly
Aveley v FC Clacton @745pm - the pick of the two games on Thursday is to be found at the Millers' state of the art Parkside facilities where these two Essex rivals go head-to-head

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Friday 6 July

Friendly

Boreham Wood v Brentford @730pm - the first friendly of real note is scheduled for Friday night. The Wood stunned many by making it to the National League play-off final at Wembley last season but squandered a superb chance to join the EFL when they lost to a Tranmere Rovers side reduced to 10 men after just a few seconds. Whether a club of their size will ever get such a chance again remains to be seen and it will be interesting to see how they respond to that disappointment. Brentford pushed hard for a place in the Championship play-offs but fell just short and will be hoping to be competitive again

A bit further afield
Hitchin Town v Luton Town @7pm - if you keep heading north from Boreham Wood into deepest Hertfordshire, you'll end up at Top Field. Hitchin play in the Southern League (seventh tier) and welcome the Hatters from nearby Bedfordshire. This will be Luton's first game since they won promotion back up to League One

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Saturday 7 July

Friendly
AFC Wimbledon v Reading @12pm - the biggest match of the week takes place at Kingsmeadow where two EFL sides do battle. Both sides fought long, tough battles against relegation from League One and the Championship respectively last season and both just survived, beating the drop by three points. Survival will probably be enough for the Dons again this season whilst Reading, under Paul Clement, will hope for far better

Barnet v West Bromwich Albion @1230pm - the Bees, inspired by manager Martin Allen, looked like pulling off a great escape but results went against them on the final day and they returned to the ranks of non-league football. Their pre-season gets underway with this attractive fixture against the Baggies who suffered the disappointment of falling out of the Premier League back in May

Sutton United v Coventry City @1pm - older readers will know that this match represents a re-enactment of the famous FA Cup tie of 1989 when non-league Sutton beat top flight Coventry in one of the biggest shocks in the competition's history. It's a rather different story these days - until May the Sky Blues were only a division above the U's but victory in the play-offs means Mark Robins' side will start this campaign in League One so should start this as firm favourites

Dartford v Millwall @12pm - the Darts topped the National League South for large parts of last season so it must have been really tough to eventually lose out in the play-offs. They'll look to banish a few of those ghosts with a strong performance against local EFL club Millwall who were desperately unlucky not to make the Championship play-offs after a superb run of results from the turn of the year

Hayes & Yeading United v Queens Park Rangers U23 @1230pm - the hosts were another local side to suffer play-off woe last season and remain in the eighth tier as a result. It is therefore of great credit to those at the club that they have managed to land this game against an XI from a Championship club. Although not a full first team game, former England boss Steve McClaren will no doubt put in appearance as he runs the rule over some of his new charges following his appointment as QPR boss in recent weeks

A bit further afield
St Albans City v Northampton Town @1230pm - just beyond London's northern frontier lies the pleasant market town of St Albans. Steeped in Roman history, the area is worth a visit and the local football club aren't bad either. Lead by former Arsenal player Ian Allinson, the Saints fans will want to see their side push for at least a play-off place. Northampton plummeted into League Two after a 2017/18 to forget and should want to make a strong start to their pre-season

Great Wakering Rovers v Southend United @1230pm - after gaining promotion back to the Bostik League, Great Wakering have landed a visit from near neighbours Southend who recorded a solid 10th place finish in League One last season

Other games of interest
If you fancy a feast of football head down to Chalky Lane where Chessington & Hook United have lined up a doubleheader of games against Staines Lammas and Wembley from 1pm. Southall are playing a friendly at the Middlesex FA's new HQ at Rectory Park in Northolt. Waltham Forest have now become Walthamstow and begin life with a game against Dulwich Hamlet. There are also games for new TLFG clubs British Airways, Frenford and Tooting Bec


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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!

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