Sunday, 27 February 2022

TLFG: 28 February - 6 March 2022

Welcome one and all to this week's TLFG.

Once again, this week has been crazily busy and as we approach 11pm I've regretfully taken the decision to cull the 'Daily Digest'.

I was expecting a quiet shift at work but it wasn't to be and I've yet to eat and have to do the school run in the morning - realistically I would need another three or four hours from this point to do a complete blog and I just haven't got it in me.

So instead of doing the digest, I'll just recount what I've been up to in one of the biggest weeks we've all faced probably since the start of the pandemic.

Although I had the week off, it was busy.

The first major activity came on Tuesday when I headed to the Premier League's new HQ in Paddington for our annual Non-League Day (NLD) planning meeting.

A lot of exciting ideas were discussed and with them and their member clubs behind us, we should have another decent year.

Non-League Day is less than 4 weeks away

On Wednesday I began a bit of awareness-raising ahead of NLD by starting to run between some of the London clubs that are hosting matches on 26 March.

I kicked things off at Wembley FC before gradually heading north east via Edgware Town and Wingate & Finchley before finishing off at Cockfosters.

It totalled 23km and it was uphill virtually all the way!

Just as I was coming to the end, a woman smiled and thanked me - I was running in a Prostate Cancer UK top so I presume she had some kind of connection.

After a day of rest, I headed out again on Friday morning but this time in the company of TLFG reader Liam who I've met a couple of times at games.

It was a beautiful morning so it was very enjoyable indeed. 

Our meanderings around west London took us to Hanwell Town, Harrow Borough, Rayners Lane and Wealdstone.

There are plans to explore some more clubs on Wednesday in possibly the south or east of London but we'll see over the next couple of days how that works out.

Liam (right) and I reach Wealdstone

Finally, on Saturday I took my three-year-old to her first-ever match.

We headed back out to Harrow Borough to watch them take on title-chasing Taunton Town in what would turn out to be an epic game.

Having met friend and club official James C at the gate, I was informed that he'd invited lots of school kids from the local area to check out the club and that 139 had turned up.

This explained the fact I could hear the crowd from some distance away as my daughter and I turned up nearly 20 minutes late.

Still 0-0 when we arrived, the kindly gateman let me in for half price because I'd missed so much and my daughter got in for free.

Sadly within about five minutes, Taunton took the lead and were 2-0 up by half-time.

Given their form, this was no great surprise and I wasn't expecting a huge amount in the second half.

However, with the children doubling the normal attendance and cheering the Boro players forward, they mounted a superb comeback and ultimately won it 3-2 with an 82nd-minute goal from star striker James Ewington who has now scored 31 goals in all competitions this season.

My daughter gets fully involved in the action

The crowd went wild and there were jubilant celebrations at the end as the hosts held on for a famous win.

It was fantastic to see the children and their families take up the offer of free tickets and also the diversity of those that did with many members of the local Asian community visiting the club for the first time.

They were given a thrilling welcome and hopefully they'll be back for more.

What my 3-year-old companion made of it I'm not sure.

The trips to the tea bar for chocolate and bread pudding probably made it worthwhile but by the end she was attempting to gouge my eyes out!

If you're wondering whether to take a youngster to their first football match, for any kids under the age of five or six, I'd say go to a non-league match.

They're not tied to their seat as they will be in most Premier League or EFL clubs and it's usually very safe to explore the ground or just hang out on the terraces.

My nine-year-old much prefers non-league games and enjoys the freedom. She often finds the big stadiums too noisy and the crowd intimidating.

Apart from anything else, if it does all go wrong and they have a meltdown, you'll have paid a fraction of the price for a ticket and going home won't be quite so painful.

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The joyous scenes at the end were very different from the far more sombre ones earlier in the day as my daughter and I paid a brief visit to the Ukrainian Embassy in Holland Park and then briefly interacted with a peace vigil at the nearby Ukrainian Social Club.

I visited Kyiv for the European Championship 10 years ago and had a great time. I also have Ukrainian colleagues who have been worrying about the situation for weeks.

Having spent some time in Georgia too, I contacted one of my oldest friends there and the alarm bells are ringing again for them as well.

Where things go from here is unclear but there won't be many winners - the whole thing seems pretty pointless.

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Back to football now and my plans for the next few days are unsure.

QPR were supposed to play an U23 match against Millwall at Wealdstone on Tuesday.

However, the Stones have had a couple of structural safety incidents during games where hoardings have given way during goal celebrations and the council have closed the stadium to fans.

Consequently, the QPR match is now behind closed doors.

On a positive note, I plan to be at Rectory Park on Sunday to see my eldest daughter do mascot duties for Actonians as they play London Seaward in a Women's National League game at 2pm.

I think that's more than enough from me - take care wherever you are and hopefully they'll be a blog to write next week.

                                                             THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the Premier League, EFL, most of our local non-league competitions and it's the Women's League Cup Final too. 

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



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





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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