Sunday, 16 May 2021

TLFG: 17-23 May 2021

Three, two, one... and we're back!

After another break of almost five months where football below the fifth tier was once again brought to an early end, fans are being allowed in for - well who knows how long???

With a new Covid-19 strain beginning to manifest itself in the UK, another lockdown could be on the horizon.

In other words football fans, it's time to make hay while the sun shines and get out there while you can.

The loosening of restrictions means you'll be able to start going back to games from tomorrow (Monday) and there are games every day this week although several are sold out already.

Despite this, there are a number of options still open to you so no-one need miss out.

So what have you been up to over the last 20 weeks or so?

I was honoured to pick up this award last week
    

For me, my free time has mostly been filled with running and lots of it!

Early in January I had a week off and started it with an early morning run with a friend which turned into a half marathon. 

With nothing better to do, I did another one the day after and the day after that until I ended up doing seven in seven days!

The sixth one on the Saturday saw me run the streets surrounding QPR's ground about 26 times whilst they were playing Fulham in the FA Cup. 

I did it with a couple of friends and we drew a good amount of support from the stewards and police as we toiled away - we were even brought beer and water at one stage! This feat saw me end up having a chat with Phil Parry on BBC London Sport when I finished. 

The next big challenge arrived in March when I captained a team of 23 QPR fans in a virtual race around the Euro 2021 venues against teams from all the other clubs in London.

Over the course of the month we managed to run, walk and in some cases cross country ski over 5,000 miles to end up as champions in the non-cycling event!

At lunchtime on the final day we were over 100 miles behind West Ham but somehow turned it around in the final hours to win by 27 miles - it was possibly the greatest sporting achievement of my life.

As a result of this and the earlier 7 in 7, I was nominated by my team-mates to be named 'QPR Supporter of the Year' and last Friday I received a breakfast call from the R's chief executive Lee Hoos to say I'd won alongside a young supporter who had overcome a brain tumour.

What an honour - when fans are back in, I'm invited to be Mr Hoos' guest at a future game.

The other big thing of note on the football front was, of course, the disastrous attempt to set up a European Super League a few weeks ago.

The backlash caused by this and limited capacities at the big clubs will hopefully lead to a significant increase in crowds at non-league games over the next couple of weeks and at the start of next season.

Anyway, that's it from me. Hopefully you'll find this week's guide useful - enjoy!


THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the Premier League,  EFL, National League and a number of cup matches in various competitions.

As there are a limited number of games, I've also included a few games just outside London which can be reached with relative ease on public transport. Some matches are still to be arranged so there could be one or two additions before the weekend.

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 or youth matches. 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. However, capacity restrictions are currently in place at all grounds because of Covid-19 meaning only clubs from the seventh tier and below can currently admit spectators.

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 - blue 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 17 May

Premier League 2
Crystal Palace v Wolverhampton Wanderers @7pm - the big return to football in the capital begins with this U23 match at Selhurst Park. Fair play to Palace for opening up the ground for this one and allowing fans and neutrals alike to visit before the end of the season. Adult tickets are only £5 but must be bought online by noon on Monday - none will be on sale on the night

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Tuesday 18 May

Premier League
Chelsea v Leicester City @815pm - the biggest game of the day is this instant repeat of Saturday's FA Cup final. Although the Foxes took the silverware at Wembley, a win in this one will almost guarantee them a far more lucrative place in the Champions League. With the Blues just behind them in the table and also desperate to clinch a top-four finish the stakes are huge. Several thousand fans are being allowed in but your chances of getting a ticket are virtually zero

Len Cordell Memorial Cup Quarter-Final 
Barking v Holland @745pm - there are number of matches in some regional cup competitions on Tuesday. Barking are the highest ranked team in action and their new artificial pitch will guarantee the game gets played whatever the weather. Tickets are £5 and can be bought online in advance. I'm not sure if it's all-ticket but with only small attendance limits I would buy one before to make sure

A bit further afield

National League
Aldershot Town v Eastleigh @745pm - the Shots' hopes of promotion are now over but Eastleigh, with games in hand, can still make it into the play-offs. Aldershot can be reached in just 44 minutes by train from Waterloo (if you catch the 1825) and the ground is a short walk from the station. Tickets for this must be purchased in advance by 23.59 on Monday night - no sales on the day. Strictly speaking, no away fans are being allowed so don't wear Eastleigh colours! 

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Wednesday 19 May

Premier League
Crystal Palace v Arsenal @7pm - the Eagles' last home match of the season sees them entertain the Gunners in a London derby. The hosts' season effectively finished a while ago with relegation comfortably averted. Arsenal have had another disappointing year and although a European place is still mathematically within their grasp it looks highly unlikely. If you're not a Palace season-ticket holder, then your chances of getting in also look unlikely
Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa @6pm - earlier in the evening, Spurs will need a win to keep their chances of a European place alive. With Villa still in with a good chance of a top 10 or possibly even higher finish, they can't afford to be complacent. Once again, unless you're a diehard Spurs fan, you'll struggle to get a ticket for this

Middlesex Senior Cup Final
Hanwell Town v Harefield United @745pm - if you're not a member of any of the big clubs above, then this match is the next best thing. Covid-19 has seen the entry list for this competition significantly cut back from normal years with National League South side Hampton & Richmond Borough the highest ranked team to take part. They fell at the first hurdle leaving the way open for smaller clubs to take centre stage. Eighth tier Hanwell had made a reasonable start to their campaign in the Isthmian League and were expected to do well before the season got curtailed. Harefield play a level below their opponents so will start as underdogs. This match will be all-ticket and will probably sell out. Once the clubs have taken their share, any remaining tickets will go on general sale on Monday morning. Follow the Middlesex FA on Twitter for updates. The match is being played at Bedfont Sports, a short walk from Hatton Cross Tube station near Heathrow Airport

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Thursday 20 May

Women's FA Cup Fifth Round
Chelsea v Everton @7pm - the Blues have had a season to remember. Having won the Women's Super League and League Cup, they could win the Champions League tonight (Sunday) and also go on to bag the FA Cup and a quadruple if they can get past Everton here. The following round is being delayed until next season so this will be Chelsea's final match of the current campaign. At the time of writing, I haven't been able to find any ticket details but given how well they've done, they'll probably be in very short supply. Keep checking their Twitter feed for updates
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Friday 21 May

Sellebrity Soccer @730pm
If you've never been to QPR's Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium then now's your chance as two teams of celebs, peppered with a few R's legends and Lee Trundle will be taking to the hallowed turf to raise funds for 'Just 4 Children'. More info via the organisers' Twitter feed. It could be a giggle or maybe not...

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Saturday 22 May

Championship play-off semi-final second leg
Brentford v AFC Bournemouth @1230pm - the game of the day is this hugely important match at the Bees' new ground. Although they've played there all year, most of their fans have yet to visit and sadly only a very limited number will be allowed in for this. Brentford have a terrible knack of losing in the play-offs at various levels with last year's defeat to Fulham in the final being only the latest example. Of all the teams in this year's Championship play-offs, their form is the best by some margin with Bournemouth losing their last three regular season games. The first leg is on Monday night in Dorset. Tickets will not be going on general sale to neutrals  

National League
Wealdstone v Solihull Moors @3pm - Covid-19 means there's no relegation from the National League this season, therefore the Stones are safe and can't go down. Solihull are 12th but have a couple of games in hand and could just squeak into the play-offs with a very strong following wind. At the time of writing, I've seen no ticketing details but it's likely to be all-ticket

Non-League Finals Day
Usually the non-league showpiece event of the year gets a healthy aggregate crowd of around 40,000+ travelling to Wembley. This year, capacity has been severely restricted for the FA Vase/FA Trophy doubleheader and you'll do very well to get one. TLFG club Hornchurch have defied all the odds and caused a number of upsets along the way to make the Trophy final against Hereford so the very best of luck to them. In the Vase, Binfield take on Warrington Rylands

London Senior Cup Quarter-Finals
Tooting & Mitcham United v Erith Town @3pm - one cup match you should be able to get tickets to is this county cup game at Imperial Fields which has some of the best facilities at non-league level. The Terrors play a level above their opponents so will start as favourites. Tickets are available in advance and given capacity is limited, I would buy one ASAP
Fisher v Hanwell Town @3pm - over in Rotherhithe in the other tie of the day, the Fish welcome the Geordies in the battle of the black and white stripes. This time, Hanwell play a level above so should be expected to progress. Tickets for this are £8 and appear to be available on the gate with no advance booking available

Middlesex Super 6 League
Clapton CFC v Sporting Hackney @2pm - with the MCFL curtailed, these clubs plus AEK London, Cricklewood Wanderers, NW London and Stonewall set up their own mini league to end the season. All six clubs play on the same afternoon at Wadham Lodge in three back-to-back matches. The running order has changed to the one I saw so I can't give you the full details but the biggest game of the three is this one at 2pm. Although the Tons play down in the 11th tier they are very well supported and have had to limit tickets to 500 for this. At the time of writing, about 100 remain so get in quick - it's pay what you want

Conifa International Exhibition game
Kernow v Cascadia @3pm - three years ago Conifa brought their World Football Cup to London providing the locals with a feast of action featuring sides from parts of the world that aren't officially recognised as independent countries. Ultimately it was won by a team representing a Hungarian minority based within Ukraine after they beat Northern Cyprus on penalties. Sadly the winners were thrown in jail on their return home and faced all kinds of sanctions for daring to take part. This friendly match, which is being played at Northwood, is far less controversial as Kernow (Cornwall) take on Cascadia, a side hailing from the Pacific north west area that straddles the Canada/USA border. Adult tickets are £10 and can be bought in advance

A bit further afield

National League
There are three fifth tier matches within 80 minutes train ride of London with varying degrees of significance. Aldershot Town, Eastleigh and Maidenhead United all have matches where either themselves or their opponents will be chasing a play-off spot. Tickets are available to home fans only and must be bought in advance. Only 600 are being made available at Maidenhead with general sale starting at 9am on Monday. Eastleigh are selling tickets for their match against Boreham Wood now. Tickets for Aldershot v Bromley are also currently on sale

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Sunday 23 May

Premier League
The final three Premier League matches in London this season aren't hugely significant. Arsenal might still have a slim chance of European football going into their match with Brighton who have nothing to play for. Fulham are already down and face a Newcastle side who are just enjoying themselves. The most important of the three is likely to be at the London Stadium where West Ham entertain Southampton. As it stands, the Hammers are still very much in contention for a European place so they'll need all three points to make sure. There might be a very slim chance of tickets for the match at Fulham but the others have all gone

National League
Sutton United v Hartlepool United @1245pm - if the matches above are the biggest of the day, then this isn't far behind. If Torquay and Stockport drop points on Saturday, a win here will give Sutton the title and take them into the EFL. In other words, it could be arguably the most important match in the club's history. The visitors are also well in the hunt for a top-three finish so it's absolutely massive for all concerned. Capacity is being limited to just 1,050 and general sale will commence at 9pm on Wednesday

Charity match
South Western Railway v SouthEastern Railway @2pm - your most realistic chance of seeing any action will be this big railway derby that's being played on one of the 3G pitches at Tooting & Mitcham United's ground. It's free to attend, the bar will be open and donations are being sought for the mental health charity MIND as both sides have lost a number of colleagues to suicide in recent months


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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