Category Archives: Sport

First Football Away Trip

This Saturday me and my friends Chris & Steve continued the traditional attendance to watch our teams Leeds and Birmingham play each other. This time around it was slightly more special as both Oli and Luke (Chris and Steves sons) were attending their first ever away match to watch their team Birmingham play.

After the previous meeting this season in Birmingham, which saw our sides battle out a 1-1 draw both our sides have had differing seasons. My beloved Leeds United just can’t buy a win and find ourselves one place above the relegation zone. Birmingham City on the other hand are the “form side” and with a new management team in place are up to the dizzy heights of 12th. Not bad considering they were all set to struggle yet again after their dramatic last day escape act at Bolton last season.

We met up at Leicester services and despite arriving safely had the first drama of the day. I’d sat in the car far too long with the heating and radio on and because of this drained the battery. What followed were comical scenes as we tried to jump start a power steered car around a car park on the M1. At the second time of trying we got there and were all relieved as my car whirred into action.

The drive up was equally dramatic with various periods of black skies throwing down sleet and snow as we got further North. At one point we saw the clearest rainbow and almost passed the end of it. It was so clear you could even make out the Indigo band, sadly no gold pot was to be seen.

With the car finally Parked up we wandered down a familiar path to me with some new additions, each footstep closer the buzz of anticipation grew. A quick stop at Greigs provided us with cheap food and hot drinks to keep us going.

As we arrived at Elland Road I showed Oli and Luke around our club shop which in comparison to Birminghams is about ten times the size. We had a walk around the outside of the ground, saw the Billy Bremner statue and had our photo taken outside the stand of the ground.

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As we peered through the gap from inside out to the ground the snow was hammering down. A bitter cold swirl of air felt as we pondered finding our seats. We were welcomed by wet seats despite being under cover, the wind can be cruel. A quick dry with our hats and coats and we were ready. The anticipation evident with just under 24,000 fans sat down following their prematch ritual be it a beer or a pie, or both.

The game was frantic from the off and despite an early penalty given to Birmingham which was duly converted by Caddis, Leeds were always dangerous. As the first half came to an end Leeds were knocking on the door and a cross looked to have been bundled in by Belusci only to see it somehow clawed away off the line by Randalph. Oli and Luke did well, I know how difficult it is not cheering when my team has scored, they were unmoved.

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The second half saw both sides hit the woodwork and debatable decisions not go the right way. Three penalty calls were all turned away as the tension grew. As the game headed into the last five minutes Luke Murphy was the saviour. He maintained his cool and steered the ball home on the half volley from just inside the penalty area.

A draw was a fair result and one that keeps Leeds United unbeaten against Birmingham City over the last two seasons. Everybody enjoyed themselves which at the end of the day is what it’s all about.

Luke and Oli both ticked off a big achievement from the life list and I look forward to having them both back next season. That is if we can hang onto our status in the Championship this season!

MOT

Mark

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Leeds United battle Blues

Saturday 13th September saw the first live football match of the season for me. Leeds United have had what some would call an eventful season both on and off the pitch. The die hard supporters like myself would argue that this is quite simply the norm. The away trip to St Andrews is always a pleasure if not solely for the fact that Birmingham City seem to be treading on similar grounds to us.

The sun was out for what turned into a pleasant trip to the ground as me and my friends who are all blue noses greeted the lunch time kick off with similar uneasy expectations. The Sky cameras had their typically unwelcome effect by keeping some fans on their sofas at home. This however is not the problem for Leeds United as we managed to easily sell out our allocation of 2,600.

I was once again undercover sitting in the Home end with my friends and an uninspiring first half saw Birmingham take a deserved lead as the game headed into the last 10 minutes of the first half. The most entertaining moment to come from this dire situation was the fact the shot broke the post holding the net up. After almost 9 minutes the net was repaired and we were put through the torture of 9 minutes of fruitless injury time.
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The traditional half time Bovril couldn’t lift my mood as Birmingham City’s fans around me were talking positively of their first half exploits. I wasn’t exactly sure if it was because they were playing amazingly or more likely it was the fact that we were piss awful.

As the second half started our caretaker manager Neil Redfearn who is more commonly known on Twitter as #doitforredders threw an extra man in midfield which immediately put Birmingham on the back foot. A couple of changes at around the hour mark saw Doukara and Austin introduced to add muscle to the side.

It worked immediately and the slim line fuel efficient Austin seized control in the middle of the park. Doukara oozed power and purpose and the hard working Antenucci never gave up. Ironically it was a mistake my Birmingham that presented my man of the match Alex Mowatt with the opportunity to burst into the box and slot the ball past their keeper. This was a neat finish and a deserved equalizer.

As the game headed into the final ten minutes it became an end to end battle with Birmingham going the closest to snatch the win. A penalty call that bizarrely went our way prevented the opportunity to lose a hard fought point. It wasn’t a penalty but you just don’t expect those decisions to go your way when you are the away side. Another late chance saw a header flash wide and a superb goal line clearance by Warnock.

The whistle brought the game to a well deserved share of the spoils. Birmingham have certainly improved on last season whilst Leeds United displayed some fantastic quick passing moves which resulted in some positive attacking moves. Overall I was very happy with the point and am now very excited about the prospect of visiting Elland Road for the first time this season on Saturday against Huddersfield.

Leeds managed to follow this draw up with a splendid 3-1 at Bournemouth which saw caretaker boss Redfearn earn his 7th point from 9. Leeds United find themselves in the lofty position of 13th heading into this fierce Yorkshire Derby, it will be one titanic battle for sure!

MOT
DarcyB

The new season is finally here

Last season it lasted approximately 12 minutes before Ulloa silenced the Elland Road faithful on the opening day. All the expectation, anticipation, excitement and faith extinguished quickly before most fans had even sat on their seats and familiarized themselves with the new players. Fortunately last season we turned it around and one of last seasons successes Luke Murphy scored an injury time winner to see Leeds win 2-1. Those same feelings extinguished after 12 minutes returning for at least until the next game.
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This blog isn’t about the criticism of last seasons debacle but to highlight what most people in this country are feeling this morning as we sip our morning coffees and teas. It is the first Saturday of the new season and how bloody exciting is it?

We have been pretty fortunate to have a World Cup to keep us entertained during this break, one that for best parts kept our football fix satisfied despite England’s expected early failures. I for one am gutted that the magic disappearing spray (the World Cup highlight for me) won’t be gracing the Football League this season. Mind you knowing our luck it’ll probably end up destroying the sacred grass on Elland Road, let the Premiership boys try it out first on our Non Brazilian Grasses!

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Leeds United fans are used to football dramas on and off the field and despite the change of ownership at Elland Road nobody could’ve scripted the latest change around. In a Summer that’s seen our new Italian owner Cellino dramatically change every detail possible in a bid to stop the club rotting away, every day has had it’s fresh challenges.

An unknown coaching team have been put in place to replace the failed Reverend McDermott and sidekick Gibbs. Thorp Arch was closed during the off season in a bid to reduce running costs and the players asked to take packed lunches on their pre season tour. Back room staff and old Leeds greats slashed off the wage bills. These things have managed to take a chink out of the rediculous running costs that had drained our club of any chance of survival. Of course the trashy tabloids found it hilarious and in an attempt to rile the majority of Leeds fans by reporting on every minor event happening.

In a summer that saw us release the dead wood, prevent previously agreed deals from going through, seeing our captain sold to a rival championship club and since announced they are the biggest club he’s played for, we have seen it all. Many fans have been vocal in support for the new regime, I’m certainly one of them.

Cellino has been a breath of fresh air and now after 3 months of hard work we find ourselves here, waiting for 3pm to arrive. On most days a trip to Millwall would engulf passion based purely on our rivalry and quite extreme hatred for each other, today it’s got an almost calming and surreal feeling to the seasons curtain raiser.

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Marco Silvestri, Gaetano Berardi, Stuart Taylor, Tommaso Bianchi, Nicky Ajose, Steve Morison, Souleymane Doukara and Zan Benedicic welcome to Leeds United. Embrace the opportunity you have to play for our club. The first day of a new season awaits and you guys all have the chance to be part of something big. This feeling is amazing and one that just sits there and becomes even more prominent as the clock ticks ever closer to 3pm.

To all fans around the country feeling the same about their own clubs it doesn’t need me to tell you to savior the moment. We all have our own expectations and targets for this new season and I’m pretty sure they all start with 3 points on the opening day and the hope the new signings prove to be as exciting as we’d all hoped.

Let’s hope for Leeds fans today the expectation and excitement lasts longer than 12 minutes!

MOT

My Blog is 1 Year Old – Happy Birthday

A year ago I decided to start my blog, over 80 posts, 5,000 views and 70 followers later I have never felt more accomplished than I do right now.

I must once again place my thanks on record to my friend Jaki Jelley whose similar minded approach to her blog gave me the final push I needed to start my own. So what has happened this year and have my random ramblings really entertained my readers or drove you to despair? I’d personally like to think it’s been a mixed ride with many different topics covered.

So what have been my highlights? Well this year I’ve written about Leeds United on quite a few occasions, I am still hopeful that I will get a piece published by one of the fans pages this season. I’ve had some fun adventures and holiday trips with my awesome fiancé, mainly involving the tent.

I’ve written about my travels, gardening and nature stories including our ever so near attempts to get a blue tit nesting in our garden right through to creating a hotel for our bee to lay it’s eggs in. I’ve cooked pickled Beetroot, attempted to grow tomatoes and even written up a couple of my favourite recipes.

I’ve managed to get an article on the Autumn Towcester Beer Festival published on the about my area website and have written further blogs about my love for local ales. There have been some exciting pieces on Music Festivals including the surreal In The Woods Festival.

I’d like to thank you all for taking that little bit of time out of your busy days to read my blog and I promise that this second year will see even more stories from my crazy world and the life I lead.

On one final note I’d like to share some awesome news with you all. I secured my promotion at work and have finally become a Branch Manager. This is something I’ve wanted these last three years and from the beginning of August I’ll finally be there. This is a big deal for me and I am so proud of myself and also would like to place on record my thanks for the support my fiancé has given me throughout my career.

So as we embark on another adventure this weekend in Snowdonia, I can already feel my next piece formulating together in my head. Here is to the future and the exciting times it promises to bring.

Thank you.

DarcyB

I’m still in love with Leeds United Ross

So it has finally happened, Ross McCormack today engineered his well publicized move away from Leeds United. Ever since the curtains drew down on last seasons debacle and Cellino started to make his changes to the money leaking ship LUFC, poor old Ross has fallen out of love with the club he declared himself in love with.

I had already accepted this fate well before the news came out confirming his £11m move to Fulham this morning. Initially I was full of praise for how Ross conducted himself over these last four seasons. I couldn’t have said a bad word against our Captain who single handedly kept us up last year (see my post – without Ross McCormacks goals, from 15th to Bottom) http://wp.me/p3Nw2L-8K

The memories of his performances from last season filled my head, he was surely pushed out of the club by Cellino, surely…?
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This was until Ross came out with a typically Ill timed and misjudged statement. In a report published online Ross explained that he had to leave the club, he cited it because Leeds United were no longer the club he fell in love with. Sadly when the Capital city comes a calling and they offer the money it’s easy to fall out of love with anyone or anything.

Ross I would like to put on record my disappointment in this statement. If anything It also confirms the one big difference between players and fans other than the ridiculous salaries. A player will never truly love a football club, unless you are Steven Gerrard who knows only of Liverpool. A player should never say this, the fans love a club, hearing a player say that will always sound out their critics, it’s safe to say you now have plenty of your own.

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Obviously there are two sides to every story, however I’m not really concerned about what you will say now the truth has come out about your feelings. Fans will never leave their club, if we all adopted the same approach we wouldn’t have a club. Going back to my previous point, no player can or will ever love LUFC, that’s the fans job. The ones who do will either stay for their entire career aka Gary Kelly or leave to save the club they love aka Alan Smith. Sadly Ross you have done neither, it’s at this point I’d like to say goodbye to you.

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Fulham FC you are welcome to Ross, he will probably score you some goals and you will probably go back up to the Premiership. One things for sure, the mighty Leeds United will carry on doing what we always do. We will plug on endlessly selling out every away game and singing the boys who play for us week in week out. Cellino is the man who wants what we all want, passion, values, belief and a hard days work for an honest days pay.

The world will never stop turning around, but the love for a club is a fickle word used by many, sadly Ross that includes you.

MOT
DarcyB

Colombia demonstrate belief through adversity

Like many I was disappointed yet not really surprised by England’s exit at this years World Cup. The manner of which we went out was slightly bizarre despite some encouraging signs against both Italy and Uruguay. The final match against Costa Rica gave our future and past a chance to sign off the group on a high, the bizarre bit was that nobody really wanted that chance to shine.

Rio 2014 is proving to be a carnival of goals and never say die attitude, it is hardly a surprise that England failed. There have been some pretty amazing moments, Brazil have managed to cling on amongst the consistent belief and pressure put on them by their home crowd. Last nights dramatic penalty shoot out success against Chile being the latest chapter in their fairytale story. All teams that win a World Cup will inevitably have to get through a shoot out, the earlier the better for Brazil.

The standout country for me so far is not one of the glamorous ones, sure Holland, Germany and France have dazzled where many European teams have failed like England. Argentina, Nigeria and Algeria have either stumbled through or have exceeded their own expectations. For me, the stand out country is Colombia.
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Colombia have been an absolute delight to watch, last nights professional disposal of a Uruguay side with no bite (excuse the Suarez pun) was executed in style. Fast flowing football and a never say die attitude has seen them reach their first ever Quarter Final. Brazil will be thinking that their pathway to World Cup glory couldn’t get any harder.

Their stand out player was without a doubt James Rodríguez. Already a contender for World Cup goal of the tournament, the way he made space and executed his volley in off the crossbar was class. So how have Colombia done this and is this surge into the last eight really that much of a shock?

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From the UK sitting down watching I really can’t answer that question as I’m not that close to South American football. Colombia have had a checkered past and after the 1994 campaign in the USA and the shocking murder of Escobar, they have been away from the worlds main stage. One thing I would say, is that I have never been so drawn to another country in the way Colombia has drawn me in. I genuinely love watching them play and have made sure I have seen all 4 of their games so far.

So for the remainder of Rio 2014 I will be cheering for Colombia. It may only last one more game but unlike my Sweepstake side The Ivory Coast it has lasted longer. Well done you have certainly made this guy in the UK take note, I’m pretty sure it’s not just me that has!

DarcyB

Yorkshire Phoenix Blast Away The Steelbacks

Friday 13th was the day I went to watch my first live 20/20 cricket match. Not one for the cricket purists, 20/20 cricket is designed for those who enjoy attacking cricket. The promise of big shots, high risks and fast ticking score boards it certainly promised to be entertaining. The game was between my local side and defending champions the Northampton Steelbacks and my home team the Yorkshire Phoenix. As soon as I got into the ground my Yorkshire roots took control and there was nothing stopping me from cheering on Yorkshire.
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The atmosphere was good and before the game started we walked down to the end where Yorkshire were preparing and spoke to a couple of our players. Had it not been for someone’s inability to take a photo correctly, I would have had my photo taken with Ryan Sidebottom who is one of my favourite Yorkshire players. I am still hopeful that another opportunity will present itself before it’s too late. Disappointment aside, I was very much looking forward to the game.

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Yorkshire batted first and after losing 3 early wickets, a 90 run partnership between Jonny Bairstow and Adam Lyth saw The Vikings post an impressive 181-3 off their 20 overs. Some lovely bit hits saw the crowd subdued and me going crazy applauding each one with as much enthusiasm as the last. It was at this moment I realised there was probably only a handful of Yorkshire supporters in the ground.

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Northampton needed to start fast and despite also losing 3 wickets early their South African batsman Levi was in fine form. He hit numerous boundaries including a couple of long sixes before a breathtaking catch deep on the boundary by Lyth ended his innings and with it Northampton’s chances of chasing down the runs needed. Rightly applauded for his 76, the Steelbacks regularly lost wickets and fell short on 165-9.

It was a fantastic nights entertainment which looked visually stunning in the dark under the floodlights. I was extremely happy and it showed what a fantastic effort it was by the Vikings. I will be back again for sure!!

DarcyB

Saints victorious at Twickenham

Northampton Saints won their first ever Premiership Trophy after a titanic battle against Saracens. This was an amazing experience, one that I don’t think could ever be bettered.

I left Milton Keynes at 9am for destination London. Despite numerous delays including the part closure of the District Line, we were not to be denied reaching our destination of Richmond. I met some other Saints fans on the way as we descended upon our first pub The Orange Tree. The party atmosphere was unrivaled as Northampton Saints painted a picture of Green and Gold.

Twickenham village was full of fun packed activities including the opportunity to hold the Aviva Premiership Trophy. We met Lawrence Dellaghio and saw Claire Baldwin amongst others who gathered in anticipation for Rugby Unions showpiece of the season. The sunshine was providing a cheerful backdrop as just under 82,000 fans gathered together. There were fans from other clubs including Leicester Tigers and Bath who had hoped to be taking part in the final.

Saracens were the local team and after a terrific season finished top of the league campaign. Northampton Saints finished 2nd and were here not just to make up the numbers. After the breathtaking last minute Semi Final win against local rivals Leicester Tigers, Saints backed it up with their first trophy of the season beating Bath in the Amlin European Cup Final in Cardiff last week.

Saints edged the first half 7-6 and found themselves winning 14-9 with ten minutes to go thanks to George Psisi touching down in the corner. A game full of controversial moments saw a Saracens try disallowed by the Video Referee for a forward pass in the build up that ironically saw Farrell injure himself kicking the ball away in celebration just before it was scratched off.

Saracens did get their first try to tie the game but we couldn’t believe it when the simple conversion striked the post and bounced clear. The game headed into Extra Time and both sides exchanged penalties in the first half at 17-17. Saracens regained the lead up until the final seconds before the dramatic end. Trailing 17-20 with the clock on zero, Saints forced Saracens back and with one final push Alex Waller drove the ball over under a defensive wall. The referee referred back to the video official who after 4 replays awarded the winning try.

The party atmosphere was immense as the final whistle went and Saints clinched their first ever Premiership Crown. The whole experience was hard to describe but it’s one I will never forget. Come on You Saints!!

Some photos from the day:-
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DarcyB

Saints stun Tigers in Epic Semi-Final

Friday night rugby is something I’ve discovered since moving to Towcester and being fifteen minutes away from Franklin’s Gardens makes it even more accessible. I was one of the 13,491 lucky people to be in the ground this Friday just gone (16th May 2014) to view an amazing spectacle of full blooded fierce rugby union between two massive East Midlands Rivals.

Leicester Tigers are a modern day giant and the success they have had this last decade is a true testament to what has been built at the club. Northampton Saints are a team who are coming good, a side who tasted defeat to this Tigers side in last seasons Premiership Final. Some will argue that if it wasn’t for some poor discipline on the day, then it could very well have been Saints taking last seasons show piece. One thing is for sure, Northampton Saints can make the big finals, they just need to start winning some, to start what could be a period of success.

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Northampton Saints headed into this Semi Final with home advantage after finishing 2nd in the seasons campaign. Leicester Tigers were 3rd after another typical strong finish after the 6 Nations campaign which strips them of their internationals for 6 weeks of the season. Leicester had beaten the Saints in the previous 9 contests, so it was going to take something extremely special to win this battle.

The game was played in a passionate atmosphere with both teams in full voice. Chants of TIGERS were returned with choruses of “when the Saints go marching in” it was a vocal bombardment from the sell out crowd. Leicester took control in the first half and scored a couple of tries in the process. A couple of sin bins were also dealt out as both sides demonstrated full bloodied play. The Saints could only score a couple of penalties as they went into the break 6-17 down to a Tigers side in control, it was going to take something special to turn this around.

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The second half continued with the hard plays and Leicester had another player sin binned to which Saints tried to take advantage of. It became apparent after the break that the Saints had found another gear and suddenly possession was being kept into phases of over ten plays. A penalty brought the game back to 9-17 as Saints kept plugging away.

A tangle between Tom Youngs and Salesi Maafu saw Youngs sin binned but Maafu red carded. The Saints were suddenly down to fourteen men with memories of last years final back in everyone’s minds. The crowd were feeling it and as the game headed into the final quarter, George North found a way over the Tigers line to bring Saints back to within a score at 16-17.

The Saints didn’t let the numerical disadvantage put them off despite a penalty giving the Tigers a 20-16 lead. As the clock headed into the last five minutes, Saints kept turning the possessions into plays and were knocking on the Tigers line, asking their defense a lot of different questions.

Heading into the final 2 minutes, Tom Wood found a way over and the solid Tigers defense was breached again. Franklin’s Gardens was celebrating, everyone both on and off the pitch in Green and Gold jubilant. As the clock ticked into the final minute the conversion hit the post, Saints had 20 seconds to hold onto a 21-20 lead, their first lead of the night.

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And hold onto it they did, as the clock ticked past 80 minutes the ball was kicked out in front of us as the referee brought the game to an end. Northampton Saints are going to Twickenham and boy did they deserve it, there is now a real opportunity to end this season in style, starting next weekend in Cardiff in the European Final against Bath.

Well done Saints! We are all extremely proud of you.

DarcyB

Tragedy at Valley Parade

I am a fan of Leeds United and if there is one thing that’s built into fans of our club, it’s the passion and tenacity to keep on going. There are also times in Football when the majority of supporters regardless of their teams colours stand together in support of each other when that time comes around.

Today (11th May) marks the 29th anniversary of the tragedy at Valley Parade. 56 supporters who were enjoying the match between Bradford City and Lincoln City never returned home. If ever there was a more poignant and harrowing reminder of how fortunate we are when we return home after each game we watch, this is sadly it.

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This blog post is not for the sake of going into all the details or how, what and why it happened. This is to serve the purpose of remembering the tragic event and to make sure all people (fans of football or not) who didn’t know about it do so.

Watching the video footage of this event still brings tears to my eyes as what started as a small fire in the stand quickly erupted into a fiery inferno. Police and fans united in helping those frantically escape from the heat, flames and black smoke. Within a couple of minutes the stand was fully engulfed in flames with the stand starting to collapse.

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The 56 who lost their lives included children and elderly people, normal everyday fans watching their team. Where the publicity of Hillsborough is always in the press for those determined to get the justice they deserve, it’s also important that we remember this disaster at Valley Parade. So please join me in taking a moment today to remember those who lost their lives in the most tragic way, just doing what the majority of us football fans do, watching their team.

Thank you.

DarcyB