Sunday, 24 July 2022

TLFG: 25-31 July 2022

Earlier on Sunday evening I ended up contributing to a debate of BBC Radio 5 Live's famous 606 football phone-in show.

They were debating the perceived downward trend in fan behaviour at stadiums in the post-covid era, citing the appalling scenes at last summer's Euro 2020 final at Wembley and all the violent pitch invasions which took place towards the end of last season.

They wanted to know if listeners saw this as a problem, if it affected them and whether it had changed their attitudes to watching football.

People who have been reading this blog for a few months might remember me writing about my disillusionment with the match-day experience at QPR.

Fulham, Brentford and Arsenal all host La Liga clubs this weekend

The last time I went with my nine-year-old daughter in March, we were surrounded by people booing the players who took the knee, others who screamed obscenities at poorly performing players in a way that seemed far more unhinged than normal and the away fans chanting "Paedo" at one of our more senior fans who joyously wears a sombrero to games, has an old school football rattle and a horn which he blows occasionally to spur on the team.

She was understandably a bit freaked out and in no hurry to return.

On Saturday we had a chance to go back as the R's welcomed Crystal Palace to Loftus Road for their final pre-season friendly.

We didn't go.

It was close. I opened the app to buy tickets but then felt myself becoming very mildly anxious and gave up.

Will I go again this season? At full price (around £50 for my daughter and I), no way.

I might consider going alone to a cup game for a tenner but this could be a watershed moment for me.

Contrast all this with our experience at another UEFA Womens Euro 2022 game on Thursday night where the two of us headed to Brentford again for the big quarter-final derby between Germany and Austria.

There was no menace in the air at all, at any point.

Rival fans sat together, sang their anthems, waved their flags and enjoyed their night.

Regular watchers of men's football who I took to the game were struck by the difference as were families I know who wouldn't dream of going to a men's game and absolutely loved it.

I know this is entirely my problem and many people reading this will think I'm a soppy snowflake and you're probably right.

As recently as 10 years ago I would've almost certainly agreed with you, would've relished the edgier atmosphere and tribal hostility but not now.

I'm at a different point in my life, I have two young kids and the cost of living is starting to escalate fast.

I can afford to go to watch QPR but it doesn't represent good value and as a dull middle-aged Dad, I have to find value in everything!

So this season it's going to be mainly non-league, women's and QPR Reserves for me.

Despite the doom and gloom here, we all want different things out of football.

Some friends of mine took a young American relative to Loftus Road on Saturday and he loved it and I'm sure you will too but it's just not right for me at the moment.

THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 final, some high profile pre-season games featuring Premier League and European teams, the opening weekend of games in the EFL and some of our local non-league competitions, plus many other friendlies.

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





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 25 July

Friendly
Carshalton Athletic v Hampton & Richmond Borough @745pm - after a goalless draw at Sutton Common Rovers on Saturday, the Robins welcome opponents from the division above. Hampton suffered a 3-1 defeat at home to QPR U23s in their last game

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Tuesday 26 July

Friendlies
Barnet v Portsmouth @730pm - the Bees lost 3-1 to MK Dons at The Hive on Saturday and face an equally tough visit from Pompey on Tuesday. Tickets
Hanwell Town v QPR U23 @745pm - the R's based their women's team at the Powerday Stadium last season and have a great relationship with their geographically closest non-league club. For collectors, the Geordies have produced a programme for this game ahead of their first season in the seventh tier for many years. Tickets
Wingate & Finchley v Norwich City U23 @745pm - despite being one of the smallest clubs in the seventh tier, it's great to see W&F starting another season at that level. I'm not sure what their relationship is with the Canaries but this is a great game for them to have brought to Summers Lane. Tickets
Walthamstow v Leyton Orient @745pm - the Stow are about to begin life in the eighth tier after winning promotion to the Southern League. The O's have this listed as a first-team game on their website so should be bringing a strong squad. Tickets

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Wednesday 27 July

Friendlies
Bromley v Arsenal U21 @745pm - the Ravens won the FA Trophy last season and will hope to challenge for a play-off spot this time. After narrowly losing 3-2 to Sutton United on Saturday, they next welcome a young Gunners side. Tickets
Enfield Town Ladies v West Ham United Women @745pm - the Towners suffered relegation to the fifth tier of the women's pyramid last season but have landed this high-profile game against WSL opposition. The Hammers thrashed third-tier Billericay 5-1 on Saturday so you fear for Enfield here

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Thursday 28 July

Friendly
Dulwich Hamlet Women v AFC Wimbledon Women @8pm - the pick of the action for me is this women's friendly at Champion Hill. The Hamlet start as underdogs against the Dons who should be one of the favourites in the fourth tier. Tickets

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Friday 29 July

Friendlies
Boreham Wood v Arsenal U23 @7pm - the Wood conclude their impressive pre-season programme with this friendly. The Gunners play most of their U23 and women's games at Meadow Park so they always send a side at this time of year. For reference, the Gunners are also fielding an XI at Slough Town the same evening. Tickets

SCEFL Premier
Erith Town v Phoenix Sports @730pm - elsewhere, in south-east London, the new season gets underway in the ninth tier. The Dockers managed a respectable seventh-place finish last year and may well start as favourites against a Phoenix side who got relegated from the Isthmian League

ECL Division 1 South
May & Baker v Cannons Wood @745pm - the hosts, who play at Aveley, begin their season in this 10th-tier division, with an interesting game against a newly promoted and re-named side who won the Essex Alliance League as DTFC
NW London v Barkingside @8pm - up at Haringey Borough's ground, NW London begin their first ever season in the 10th tier with a challenging game against the 'Side
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Saturday 30 July

Friendlies
Arsenal v Sevilla @1230pm - the Gunners' big pre-season home game this year is against the side who finished fourth in Spain last year. The six-time Europa League winners are proving to be quite a draw, with the 60,000-capacity Emirates Stadium already sold out
Brentford v Real Betis @3pm - over on the west side of town, the Bees welcome the other Seville club who managed a top-five finish and won the Spanish Cup last season. With a capacity of only 17,000, it's really hard to get tickets for most of Brentford's home games so if you want to tick this ground off your list, then take your chance now as this one is on general sale
Crystal Palace v Montpellier @3pm - the Eagles conclude their pre-season by welcoming French club Montpellier. Palace finished 12th in the Premier League last season while their opponents came 13th in Ligue 1 so they should be fairly well matched. Like Brentford, tickets for Palace home games are very hard to get without membership but this is on general sale so anyone can go
Bromley v Chelsea U23 @3pm - the Ravens bring their pre-season to a close with another eye catching fixture. Having already played sides from Spurs and Arsenal, the fifth-tier club finish off with a visit from the Blues. Tickets
Dagenham & Redbridge v West Ham United U23 @3pm - we've got an east London derby to look forward to at the Chigwell Construction Stadium where the Daggers also conclude their preparations for the new National League season with a game against the Hammers. Tickets

Championship
Millwall v Stoke City @3pm - if you want some proper competitive football then the EFL kicks-off on Saturday. The Lions had a great 2021/22, finishing ninth despite having one of the smallest budgets in the division. Former Premier League club Stoke have been stuck in the Championship doldrums for four years now and missed a play-off spot by 13 points last season. The Den is never a nice place to go for a visiting team and I predict a tough afternoon for the Potters. Tickets

League Two
AFC Wimbledon v Gillingham @3pm - after a couple of years of flirting with relegation, the Dons suffered a dreadful winless run which saw them finally lose their place in League One. The Gills finished three points above them but suffered a similar fate so this season opener should be interesting. I went to the new Plough Lane a few weeks ago for an awards do and was very impressed by the stadium so I'd recommend a visit if you haven't already been. Tickets
Leyton Orient v Grimsby Town @3pm - the O's finished slap bang in the middle of the table, pretty much equidistant from the play-off and relegation zones. No doubt they'll hope for better this time. On Saturday they welcome the Mariners who won last season's National League play-off final at the nearby London Stadium. Tickets
Sutton United v Newport County @3pm - a busy day of fourth-tier action is completed by this game at Gander Green Lane. The U's missed the play-offs by just one point last season and would probably be more than happy with a repeat of the 1-0 win they managed over the Welsh club here in April. Tickets

Essex Senior League
Buckhurst Hill v Romford @3pm - this will be the newly promoted hosts' first ever game in the ninth tier following their promotion from the Eastern Counties League. It will be against Romford who've just come down from the Isthmian League so it will be interesting to see how both clubs fare in this one
Redbridge v FC Clacton @3pm - the Motormen finished third last season and missed a play-off place by two points. The former Isthmian League club must be keen to return to the eighth tier but face a tricky opponent who finished seventh 
West Essex v Woodford Town @3pm - it's derby day at Wadham Lodge where Walthamstow-based club West Essex welcome their near neighbours. The hosts finished one place above Woodford last year so it should be close

SCEFL Premier
Stansfeld v Bearsted @3pm - without a ground of their own, Stansfeld finished nine points clear at the top of Division 1 to step up to the ninth tier for the first time since taking over Eltham Palace FC back in 2016. Bearsted recorded a solid midtable finish in the Premier Division so should provide a good yardstick of the level of teams the Chislehurst club will come up against this year

Women's friendly
Actonians v Corrib Rangers @11am - fancy a women's game featuring European opposition with an early kick-off which allows you to do a double? Then look no further than this game at Rectory Park in Northolt where Women's National League club Actonians welcome a side from Galway in Ireland
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Sunday 31 July

UEFA Women's Euro 2022 Final
England v Germany @5pm - this highly successful tournament reaches its climax at Wembley on Sunday evening. After demolishing Sweden, the highest-ranked team in the tournament, the Lionesses will play old rivals Germany who have won this title more times than any other country. The last time the sides played in February, England won 3-1 to win the Arnold Clark Cup. Tickets have officially sold out but some will probably become available towards the end of the week

Friendly
Fulham v Villarreal @3pm - if men's football is more your thing, Premier League returnees Fulham welcome one of last season's Champions League semi-finalists from Spain. Managed by former Arsenal boss Unai Emery they also finished seventh in La Liga so should provide formidable opposition. Tickets

Women's friendly
Fulham v QPR @1045am - it's possible to get a double-helping of Cottagers action on Sunday as their women's team welcome local rivals QPR to Motspur Park


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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