Sunday 29 July 2018

TLFG: 30 July - 5 August 2018

Greetings one and all and welcome to TLFG as pre-season starts to wind down and the real stuff begins.

For the majority of our local clubs, the real competitive action gets underway this weekend with the EFL, National League and all our local ninth and tenth tier leagues starting.

The Premier League and all those in the seventh and eighth tiers stick to friendlies for another week and kick-off on the 11 August.

So what did you get up to this week?

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From what I've seen around online, quite a few of you made it down to Loftus Road to watch QPR take on German side Union Berlin.

Their supporters put on quite a display, filling out the entire upper tier behind one of the goals which would mean them bringing between 1,500-1,800 fans.

I didn't make it to the game but managed to capture the bulk of their fans' arrival in Shepherd's Bush as the police marched their large red column (ooh errr) down Uxbridge Road prior to the game - something you can see in my tweet below.

Sadly the fans' impressive performance was not mirrored by their team who seem to have been seen off with relative ease by Steve McClaren's side who ran out 3-0 winners.

The week ahead affords you plenty more opportunities to watch some decent European sides although you might have to travel outside London to see some of them. The biggest names include the likes of Marseille, Real Betis, Sampdoria and Valencia but there are others too.

The biggest game of the week takes place at Wembley where Chelsea and Manchester City contest this year's FA Community Shield.

Although seen as a glorified friendly in most people's eyes, it's a nice bit of silverware to win and both sides usually field their strongest teams.

The good news is that, at the time of writing, tickets are on sale to non-members from both clubs so choose which team you want to support (or hate least) and head to their website to buy one. Tickets in the Chelsea end are only £25 so they're pretty reasonable too.

One other match I'd like to highlight is the one taking place at Harefield United.

Most of you will probably have never heard of them but on Saturday they're celebrating their 150th anniversary which makes them one of the oldest clubs in the world.

They want as many people as possible to celebrate with them and have made it free entry to all for their game against Winslow so if you're over in the Ruislip/Northwood area then get yourself to Preston Park.

My personal football highlight of the week was seeing my five-year-old daughter take part in her first football match just yards from Loftus Road as part of a 'She Can Play' session on Wednesday.

If you've got a young daughter between the ages of 5-11, I strongly recommend one of these drop in sessions that cost only £3 a go and take place all over the country.

Have a great week and please keep me updated on what you've been up to and let me know if you have any questions.

There are over 100 matches in and around the London area over the next seven days as the pre-season period starts to wind down and real stuff gets going. The highlights include a few decent friendlies featuring some Premier League sides and the opening weekend of the EFL.

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.

Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - magenta pin
Thursday fixtures - purple pin
Friday fixtures - black pin

Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin

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 30 July

Hampton & Richmond Borough v Barnet @730pm - both these sides ended last season on a low note - Hampton lost in the NLS play-offs and Barnet lost their place in the EFL to return to the non-league ranks from which they originated. Now only one division apart, this is set to be a full first-team game for both
Welling United v Millwall XI @730pm - after stuffing a young QPR XI 4-1 on Saturday, the Wings conclude their pre-season preparations against a squad from near neighbours Millwall


Tuesday 31 July

Boreham Wood v Crystal Palace XI @730pm - the hosts bring their series of friendlies to an end with another game against a pro club. After holding AFC Wimbledon to a 0-0 draw on Saturday, they'll fancy their chances of getting a good result here
Wealdstone v Cardiff City U23 @730pm - the Stones have saved the most eye-catching of their friendlies till last as a Bluebirds development team heads to Ruislip
AFC Hornchurch v Arsenal U23 @745pm - the Urchins won promotion last season back up to the seventh tier and have done well to land a home game against the Gunners
Enfield Town v Oxford United XI @745pm - last week Spurs sent a side to Donkey Lane, this week it's the U's turn
Clapton v Upton Park @745pm - the oldest ground in London plays host to two of the most historic clubs in the city as the two look to raise funds for young cancer sufferer Isla Caton - give her your support


Wednesday 1 August


Grays Athletic v Ipswich Town XI @745pm - the fine facilities at Aveley's Parkside ground host Grays and a team from the Tractor Boys

A bit further afield
Fulham v Sampdoria @745pm - the best action on Wednesday is to be found outside London with the Cottagers staging this attractive friendly against 'La Samp' at Aldershot Town's ground on the south-western fringes of town - direct trains from Waterloo and Clapham Junction drop you off very close to the stadium so it's very easy to get to
Leicester City v Valencia @745pm - it might be some way north of London but Leicester is only a 71 minute train ride from St Pancras. The Foxes warm up for their Premier League campaign against the side who finished fourth in Spain last year. If going by train, you'll probably have to stay overnight or run back to the station to catch the last train just before 10pm
Southampton v Celta Vigo @745pm - a far less risky option on the train front is a trip to St Mary's. The journey time is about the same but trains run back to London far later


Thursday 2 August

FC Elmstead v Farnborough OBG @7pm - this is the only game in town and it's only for hardcore hoppers and addicts in desperate need of a football fix. If 10th/11th tier football on a park pitch is your thing then fill your boots! 

Friday 3 August

Brentford B v Southampton U23 @1pm - the Bees' second string entertain a development side from the Saints at lunchtime. There is also a game between Watford and West Ham's U23 sides at the same time but I'm not sure if the public will be admitted, something which is never usually an issue at Brentford's training ground

Roy Vintner Charity Shield
Cray Valley PM v Phoenix Sports Reserves @745pm - I was under the impression that this annual curtain raiser ahead of the SCEFL season was supposed to feature the league champions and league cup winners. Last season they were Sevenoaks and Whitstable respectively so how Cray Valley and PSR are in the final I've no idea. If someone could enlighten me I'd be very grateful

A bit further afield
AFC Bournemouth v Real Betis @7pm - once again the day's best action is to be found outside the capital. If you've got the time, I'd really recommend a trip down to the Dorset seaside resort town of Bournemouth to catch this match and their friendly against Marseille the day after - tickets for both are still available. If you have only got time for this one then the early kick-off time means there are trains back to London after if that's you preferred mode of transport
Brighton & Hove Albion v FC Nantes @745pm - if you don't want to go that far, then there's some more seaside fun to be had less than an hour from London. The Seagulls' Amex Stadium is well worth a visit and adult tickets, if bought in advance, are £15
Reading v Derby County @8pm - ALERT ALERT the first competitive match of the season in the EFL takes place at the Madejski Stadium on Friday night as the Championship kicks off with this televised game. Frank Lampard will make his management debut in charge of the Rams


Saturday 4 August

Crystal Palace v Toulouse @4pm - unbeaten in four and scoring 15 times in the process, the Eagles have had a pretty decent pre-season thus far. They conclude their preparations against a side who just about clung on to their French top-flight status after winning a play-off so you'd like to think they'd see them off too
Fulham v Celta Vigo @3pm - unlike Palace, Fulham's pre-season results have been disappointing with only one win over League Two Crawley, they've failed to win their other three and haven't scored in any of them. Celta managed a midtable finish in Spain last year so aren't a huge draw, I therefore find it quite surprising that adult tickets on the day will be £25 (£21 in advance)
Watford v Sampdoria @3pm - in terms of overseas opposition I would say this famous club from Genoa are the best on offer in the capital on Saturday - it's definitely the game out of the three I would go to. It's also 'The Graham Taylor Matchday' where the Hornets will pay tribute to their 'greatest ever manager' who sadly died last year - a statue of the great man is set to be unveiled. Adult tickets are a far more reasonable £12

A bit further afield
AFC Bournemouth v Marseille @3pm - as mentioned above, the Cherries will be hosting French giants Marseille less than 18 hours after playing Real Betis. If the weather's good, get yourself down to the south coast for this one
Southampton v Borussia Monchengladbach @3pm - a little closer to home, and on the same train line, you could get to see the Saints take on one of the longest and hence most recognisable names in European football. The Foals finished a creditable ninth in the Bundesliga last year so should provide a stern test

Brentford v Rotherham United @3pm - if none of the fluff above floats your boat and you want some meaningful action then look no further as the EFL season gets underway in London at Griffin Park. The Bees are one of the smallest clubs in the division but have more than held their own since coming up from League One in 2014. They made the play-offs in their first season and came close last time too. On paper you'd expect them to beat The Millers but they arrive in London having just been promoted and should be full of optimism. As a side note, this is set to be Brentford's last full season at Griffin Park so don't delay if you've never been - I don't know a football fan who doesn't love it
Millwall v Middlesbrough @3pm - the only other game in the EFL in London this weekend takes place at The Den where the Lions will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of their move to the ground after many years at Cold Blow Lane. This is definitely a bigger match than the one above as it features two sides who chased a play-off spot last season and at least one of them should do so again

National League
Boreham Wood v Dagenham & Redbridge @3pm - the National League season also begins on Saturday and we've got a London derby to enjoy at Meadow Park. The Wood were the smallest club in the division last season in terms of attendance and yet still made it to the play-off final at Wembley. Despite playing 89 minutes against a Tranmere side with 10 men, they still contrived to lose 2-1 and blow perhaps the best chance they will ever have of getting into the EFL. The Daggers have spent many seasons in the third and fourth tiers and at first glance you would favour them to win but financial problems have rocked them over the last few months and this could be close

National League South
Welling United v Dulwich Hamlet @3pm - one of the best atmospheres of the day, particularly at non-league level, should be found at Park View Road where Welling host Dulwich in this derby. After years of choking in the play-offs, the Hamlet finally made up after a dramatic final win against Hendon in front of around 3,500 fans at Imperial Fields. Still without a ground of their own, supporters of Gavin Rose's side will no doubt turn out in their hundreds for this highly significant game. By recent standards, the Wings had a decent season last time out and weren't far off the play-offs. Pre-season has gone pretty well and they'll fancy themselves to give the upstarts from SE22 a baptism of fire at the higher level 

Essex Senior League
Walthamstow v Hoddesdon Town @3pm - with all the seventh and eighth tier clubs engaged in friendlies until next weekend when their seasons begin, the focus now falls on the ninth tier where one of the most notable games is the newly renamed Walthamstow FC (formerly Waltham Forest) playing their first ever competitive game. They're up against Hoddesdon who now find themselves in the ESL having been moved over from the Spartan South Midlands League as part of the FA's major summer restructuring of non-league football

Eastern Senior League Division 1 South
Frenford v Newbury Forest @3pm - one product of the restructure is the creation of this entirely new division at 10th tier level. There's only one game in it in London this weekend and it's between these two local rivals over in Ilford

Spartan South Midlands League Division 1
Harefield United v Winslow United @3pm - it's a huge day at Preston Park where the hosts celebrate their 150th anniversary which makes them one of the oldest clubs in the world. They want you to join them in marking the day and have made it free entry to all


Sunday 5 August

FA Community Shield
Chelsea v Manchester City @3pm - the FA Cup winners take on the Premier League champions in the annual curtain raiser to the new season. Wembley plays host as always and the good news is, that at the time of writing, tickets are still available to non-members from both participating clubs and at very decent prices so get on to their websites as soon as possible if you want to go

Arsenal Women v Juventus Women @2pm - if women's football is more your thing then this friendly at Boreham Wood looks like a great alternative

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.

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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