Lunch Date

I’m not really sure what inspired that last post? I wanted to write something and that’s what came out. I think I was trying to be reflective in some way. Not really informative in any way, so sorry. More like I spewed some random thoughts out of the blue, just to have an excuse for a post.

However, it also acted to precede this post. The promised lunch date.

As lunch dates go they usually are not long, but they are informative and a good excuse to leave work (Ok, I don’t work per se). Anyway, I miss Chipotle, so that’s going to be where we eat. Not romantic, I know. There is a serious lack of good Mexican food here, or at least I just haven’t looked hard enough. Lot’s of Indian food and Curry though, if that interests you.

Drool!

So, aside from my lack of eating Mexican food, what have I been doing? Much of the same; football (soccer), training, searching, learning and some touristing (I know that’s not a word). Because this is a short lunch date, I won’t tell you about the learning and touristing today…which is good, because that means we’ll have to have another date soon.

FOOTBALL

Obviously I want to be playing in games, but since I haven’t been doing much of that, I have been going to quite a few. I’ve gone to a game at Huddersfield Town and 2 games at the local side Guiseley AFC. Spending time, and money, going to games is like homework…well, maybe more like a field trip. Either way its fun and educational on a number of levels. I personally enjoy going to games to experience all the different flavors that English football has to offer. This entails the crowd (cheering and jeering), the stadium, the town, and even the walk from the train to the field. It is also good for me to see the different levels of play between different divisions, as well as varying styles.

Huddersfield Town vs Wolverhampton Wanderers

The Huddersfield game was a few weeks ago. It was about an hours train ride to see the Championship (2nd division) side play. On the day, the home side were the better team and the result reflected that as they came out 2-1 winners over the recently relegated premier league side Wolverhampton Wanderers. The crowd at the Burrito Bowl…that is the John Smith Stadium (aka Galpharm Stadium) was rowdy, the traveling fans, who I ended up quite near, were also in full voice, and 2 great first half goals from Huddersfield made for an enjoyable afternoon.

Coming in from behind the away stand

To the far stand (My side was a bit bigger and had 2 tiers)

Both of Huddersfield’s goals came off of well executed crosses from the right hand side (right in front of me). The first was headed in and the 2nd was a lovely one-time side volley from Jermaine Beckford (famous for scoring this lone goal against Man Utd while playing with Leeds a few years ago to knock the Red Devils out of the FA Cup). A late bit of pressure from Wolves saw them nick a goal towards the end, but overall I thought Huddersfield were deserved victors.

One of the newer looking stadiums I’ve been too.

The atmosphere was great. It started with the walk in, where a few hundred Wolves fans were being ushered in by local police; complete with horses and all. The away fans were just to my right throughout the game and were fantastic. A few of them; however, seemed more set on instigating the fans around me and had some success. They were plenty of taunts and obscene gestures being thrown back and forth and more than 1 person from both parties would have been happy to “take it outside” so to speak. Due to the large presence of police, I doubt this occurred, but in a slightly twisted, testosterone induced sort of way hope it did.

The away stand filling up with Wolves fans in their orange kits.

Guiseley AFC vs Bradford Park Avenue

I have now been to 3 games at Guiseley AFC. The first one I already wrote about in a previous post and I will briefly tell you about the other two.

The 2nd one was a Tuesday night game vs local Bradford rival Bradford Park Avenue (BPA) in none other than the West Riding County Cup (If you don’t remember, the WRCC was the cup that I was involved in and wrote about a while back). Also, coincidentally – or not considering it is why I went to the game – BPA is the team that I have trained with a few times. Unfortunately, BPA, who I was obliged to root for, got…well there’s not a nice way to say it. The final score was 4-1 to Guiseley. The game was essentially decided in the first 10 minutes, when Guiseley scored 3 quick goals – and it could have been more. They added one more at half before BPA got a consolation goal late on. From what I have observed of both teams, it appeared both of them started “weak” teams, which shows this cup is not a big focus for them. After making a few changes though, BPA settled in and had a presentable second half. However, after the initial burst of goals from Guiseley, the final result was never in question.

Guiseley AFC vs Burrito…I mean Barrow Town

The second game was an FA CUP 1st round game vs Barrow Town (1 division above Guiseley-5th division overall). Guiseley is a favorite for promotion up to this league and will have to face this kind of competition on a weekly basis if they can make the jump this year. As opposed to the WRCC, the FA Cup is a big, BIG deal for smaller sides. Not only are their huge financial benefits for the teams (from what I hear making the 1st round alone = 60,000-80,000 pounds), it also provides an avenue (if they progress) for smaller teams to play the big premiership teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, or Liverpool.

The game ended in a 2-2 tie. This means that there will be a replay next week at Barrow Town. If their is no winner in this game, they will go to overtime and penalties if needed. Guiseley will be frustrated having to travel to Barrow after dropping an early 2-0 lead. As they say, I know it’s cliche, the 2 goal lead is the most dangerous. It doesn’t really make sense, but they say it anyway, and it has an uncanny aspect of truth to it (It’s dangerous because of the mentality it can provoke – for both sides). Anyway, it was a very good game overall, with much more intensity than the WRCC game. The small ground, Nethermoor Park, was packed – standing room only – and the away fans were in full force.

TRAINING

Yes, I continue to train on my own. The details are boring, but I feel good about my fitness, though it is hard to judge.

SEARCHING

I continue to search for opportunities. I have been adopting a more direct strategy than before, trying to go and intercept managers at training instead of going through phone calls and offices, where they seem to have a endless supply of lines to feed me when I ask to speak with the manager for a trial. The trouble of course is finding out where training is.

I watched Bradford City train last week and spoke with their manager after, asking to train with them. He said “no” in more words, essentially saying that I need to be playing somewhere and  they can scout me. Frustrating, but fair considering they get these requests daily. The day after that, Bradford City beat Wigan (a Premier League side) in the League Cup and will play Arsenal (BIG DEAL) in the next round…I’m taking some credit as a good luck charm at least.

I spent a day in the Manchester area as well, doing my thing – with some 5th and 6th tier sides – and am waiting to see if that bears any fruit.

Nagging, nagging, nagging, and if they want it to stop, I can recommend a remedy.

I won’t go away, I’ll go head-first.

Peace all,

Seano

Ground and Grounds

Ground – the word of the week

According to Webster dictionary.com these are some of the definitions for the word “Ground”.

“a : the surface of the earth
b : an area used for a particular purpose <the parade ground> <fishing grounds><football ground>
c plural : the area around and belonging to a house or other building
d : an area to be won or defended in or as if in battle”

Each one is fitting for today’s post (Essentially a review of the week).

Definition A: the surface of the earth

I usually have some interaction with the surface of the earth everyday and to be honest, I rarely think about it – unless it’s face first or something. The ground seems to become more and more significant the further I get from it. If I’m in a plane, I think about getting safely to ground. The further I go out into the ocean, the more I feel called back to land (I’m clearly a land-lubber). However, I would be willing to bet that I could name the person who thought about the “surface of the earth” most of all yesterday.

It was his worst enemy and his best friend, it could have ended him, but he couldn’t wait for it. I’d imagine that there would be a few mixed feelings speeding toward the earth at nearly 730 miles per hour. Yes, he must have been thinking all about the ground yesterday. Yes, it must have been the sweetest thing to set foot on it again, safe and sound. I wonder who felt better about having the ground under their feet again, Columbus and his men hundreds of years ago, or Felix Baumgartner yesterday? Either way, it must have felt great! Both inspiring stories of human determination and courage in the face of the unknown.

Definition C (pl): the area around and belonging to a house

I was resisting all urges to do anything at all on Sunday. However, I forced myself to go out and do something active on what was actually quite a nice day. So, I ended up taking a bike ride to the nearby Bolton Abbey and its surrounding “Grounds”. It turned out to be an excellent decision. It was about a 18 mile ride round trip along the Wharfe river, which runs through Wharfedale in Yorkshire. Not only was it a beautiful ride in and a beautiful location, I also got my lazy bum out and got some good exercise! It was also great to get out of the neighborhoods and into some good old fashioned Yorkshire countryside.

Bolton Abbey sits on a massive estate (30,000 acres) that was owned by the Duke of Devonshire. The land is now part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The Priory, which was founded by the Augustinians, is mostly ruined. However, the front (nave) of the church was preserved and is still used today by the Church of England. (I love writing a blog because I can use Wikipedia and not get in trouble with my teacher…but don’t blame me if I’m wrong!)

Here are some pictures of the lovely grounds and the surrounding area:

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By the way, bike rides are a great way to get exercise in when your body and mind are making it difficult. It’s a less harsh workout on your body than running and you feel great doing it because you make so much progress! Thanks to my cousin (1st cousin once removed if we’re going to get picky) Chris for lending me the bike.

Definition B: an area used for a particular purpose <parade ground> <fishing grounds><football ground>

I admit I added <football ground> myself, it wasn’t in the definition, but it works all the same! This is a suitable definition for me because I’ve been going to so many football grounds. This week, I attended two more games.

On Tuesday, I went to see local 6th tier team Guiseley AFC take on a Welsh side, Colwyn Bay FC (same division), in an FA Cup qualifying round replay game (The FA CUP is played by all English teams, so it’s a big chance for small teams to gain notoriety and play some bigger clubs if they do well). It was a replay because the teams tied in the first leg of the round. However, if this game ended in a tie there would be overtime and then penalties if needed. It was a good game overall and a decent level of play. Guiseley is sitting 3rd in the division and has just missed promotion the last few seasons (I’ve been trying to get into training with them). Colwyn Bay is in the lower half of the table.

Nethermoor Park – Home (Ground) of Guiseley AFC

The first half was a well fought contest and while Guiseley probably saw more of the ball, Colwyn Bay had the better opportunities and went into the half leading 1-0. The 2nd half, however, was dominated by the home side and when they eventually scored the final outcome was inevitable. Guiseley scored a 2nd soon after and added a 3rd after a Colwyn Bay player was red-carded in a tussle off the ball. The level of play is similar to the PDL in the states, although most of the players in the Conference North would probably have more overall experience, which might give them an edge.

There was a good crowd (probably around 500+) and it was a good atmosphere for a chilly Tuesday night. This is something that we are lacking considerably in US sports. Lower level teams with a decent local following. There are a few teams in the PDL who provide this kind of environment, but its few and far between. There are surely many factors that play into this, but that’s a chat for another day.

On Saturday, I went to another Bradford City game at Valley Parade (Ground). The Bradford City ground is large by league 2 standards, holding just over 25,000. This is because they were in the top tier of English Football not too long ago, before mismanagement and poor form led to a decline.  Though it is rarely filled (nearly 12,000 for this game) they still draw more fans than most other teams in this league.

Valley Parade (I think it’s officially called Coral Windows stadium) from the opposite side of the City.

It was their first Yorkshire Derby in over a decade. York City was just promoted to League 2, for the first time in years, from the Blue Square Conference Premier League and have been doing relatively well. Bradford City, sitting higher than York in the standings, is having a steady season and is surely hoping to get into playoff contention.

Yorkshire Derby kickoff: Bradford City vs. York City

It was a high-tempo game that both teams wanted to win. Both teams worked hard and played similar, straightforward football. In the end, they were both rewarded for their effort and the game ended in a 1-1 tie. It wasn’t the prettiest game to watch (aside from both the goals, which were both very good), both teams played very direct and neither team had long periods of possession; although I would say Bradford City had more of the ball overall. In this way, it was a very stereotypical “English” styled game. The ref didn’t help at all, stopping the game often and not allowing the teams to restart quickly from stoppages. I would go as far as to say the Guiseley v Colwyn Bay game was more pleasing to watch.

Definition D: an area to be won or defended in or as if in battle

If you have read this far I’m impressed, I’m sure it has been a battle! This definition is relevant for me because in my battle to find a team and play soccer, I need to make sure I am not losing any ground! On top of that, I have to continue fighting to gain more and more ground.

In anything you do, if you keep gaining ground, you will eventually win the battle and so the war.

In summary, I’ve been to nice grounds, old grounds, historical grounds, big grounds, little grounds, natural grounds and man made grounds; I’ve been fighting to gain ground and finally, no matter how high you fly, its always best to have two feet firmly on the ground.

Don’t be afraid to dive head first – even if its 730 mph like Felix!

Peace,

Seano

PS: I would also like to give an honorable mention to another type of ground: coffee grounds – always a top lad!