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

Snowdonia Long Weekend

Following on from my blog written 1085 Metres above sea level on the summit of Mount Snowdon, I have been gathering my thoughts. On what was a truly amazing adventure we had the pleasure of enjoying one of the most picturesque of places visited to date.

The drive to our campsite was beautiful. As soon as we passed the Welsh border, we were greeted with winding roads offering some beautiful views. Mountains, open rivers, streams and fields full of nature on show setting a lovely background story to what lay waiting for us.
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Cae Du is a beautiful campsite, very neatly presented within a border of the Snowdonia Mountains. This campsite offered spacious pitches and a well stocked shop. The prices were good value considering the remoteness of this site. The facilities on this well maintained site included basic toilets open 24 hours with more modern and newer washing facilities open between 7am-10pm. The views all around the site were breathtaking and there were some lovely parts we walked around on the site including a secluded mountain stream.

Saturday was our judgement day as we climbed Mount Snowdon. Following on from my previous blog, I can confirm the decent was far more demanding than I thought it would be. My fiancé had to strap a heat pack to my calf and help me carry our numerous stretches to aid my tight calfs and sore ankles. Despite the aches I am still feeling, I wouldn’t have swapped this experience for anything.

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On Sunday we headed to the local village called Beddgelert. This village was so beautiful and the walk from our campsite took around ten minutes. This is a very lovely place and the walk into the village took us along a rocky river which was overlooked by some very attractive houses. One snap shot of this walk seemed to take us back to Greece, this picture is below.

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We had a walk around the shops and bought a couple of pieces from a craft shop. There was a lovely ice cream parlor where we sampled some delightful flavours. I had a strawberry, melon and Cointreau Ice cream which was amazing. We spent some time chilling at one of the local pubs and watched the world pass by as we rested our achy legs and bodies.

There is a sad local story to this village which played a huge part in the naming of Beddgelert. My story is very rough and if I’ve missed anything I do apologise. A prince dating back to the 1300s lived in this village and he had a loyal dog as his pet. One day he came home to find his empty sons cot covered in blood, the prince feared the worst and slayed his faithful companion Gelert. The prince frantic over the death of his air to the throne was in despair. It wasn’t until he searched the house that he found his son unscathed and the blood was from a wolf that had tried to attack him. The wolf was killed by his loyal dog Gelert. It is said that after this event the prince never smiled again. Gelerts grave remains to be seen today, the photo below shows his grave as well as a statue of Gelert.

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We had a couple of meals in Beddgelert which were decent and enjoyed the lovely feeling this village gave us. The streams were beautiful and the sunshine lit up all the flowers and bright colours around the streets. This is a place we will visit again and one little treat we didn’t expect to find. The final night at our campsite was chilled and we played a couple of games of Scrabble before settling down. The rain was heavy and kept us awake but by the time it settled it gave us time to get some sleep ahead of our journey home tomorrow.

Before we got on our way home we decided to visit a place called Portmeirion to have a walk around the coastlines or that’s what we thought it would entail. Our adventurous streak got the better of us and once we walked around the streets with brightly coloured painted houses and pools filled with piercing blue water we found ourselves thrown into our own adventure.

Portmeirion is spanned over 70 acres and whilst most of it is mapped, we decided the sign pointing to a Ghost Garden was too much of a temptation to resist. Off the map and past the Dog Cemetery we were trying to find, we found ourselves clambering through Rainforests filled with bright plants, loud wildlife and areas that not even the most local of residents had passed.

We finally got stuck as we were presented with a steep sandy bank down around 30 feet of cliffs. We managed to clamber down safely and the walk led us down to the beach. Fortunately the sea was out and we could enjoy a lovely albeit lengthy walk back to the village centre. It was one adventure, one we didn’t expect to participate in, however it was bloody good fun.

Portmeirion turns out to be quite a famous place with many tv programs filmed there. These include The Prisoner and Doctor Who. It certainly offers a lot and we did enjoy some lovely cake in their cafe. It is very quaint and a strange thing is that some of the buildings have windows painted on them, now that is weird!

The drive back was pretty boring in comparison to the amazing long weekend we experienced. Snowdonia we will be back. Thank you!!

DarcyB

1085 Metres Later

As I sit here sipping my coffee on the summit of Snowdon I find myself reflecting. This challenge we set ourselves has been one amazing journey, one that through strength, determination and togetherness we managed to navigate.

1085 Metres altitude over rocky terrain and hazardous pathways behind us it’s certainly a sense of achievement. It’s far too early to even think about the return journey back down the route we have taken, one thing is for sure it will be a bit less demanding on the body and my legs.

The views have been truly breathtaking as the climb gradually saw us see the world from different heights and views. Great Lakes turning into puddles the further we headed upwards to the summit. The weather has been kind to us, some moments when the sun peeked around the clouds it became too hot, the overcast conditions for most of the climb a welcome present.

This is one of those moments you need to savor and I will certainly do so, it is when you do something as epic as this you begin to wake up the adventurous monster that lurks within my soul. This has certainly reminded me of the Grampians that I climbed in Australia but it is nowhere near comparable. This has been one awesome adventure, another one to the long list I am lucky to be compiling with my fiancé. Life is good!

DarcyB

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

Cellino revolution gathers pace

This week I listened to the latest interview with eccentric Italian owner Massimo Cellino. Chronic hay fever put aside it was one of the most passionate and exciting interviews I’ve heard since the Champions League years. With Cellino in charge we most certainly seem to be going in the right direction. We have heard many people spout out words in the past with very little substance, ever since Cellino fought the football league to take control he has backed up everything with action. A well known saying actions speak louder than words, Cellino certainly delivers both which is quite exciting in all honesty.
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On our Italian tour Leeds United played their first preseason friendly against a local amateur side FC Gheirdeina. The scoreline of 16-0 certainly raised a few eyebrows and the photo above confirmed that United were dominant from start to finish. Most encouraging moments included a first half hat trick for Noel Hunt and a second half double hat trick for Matt Smith. The latter has been subject to a bid from Millwall which Cellino dismissed immediately by saying I like Matt Smith, he is one we can build a team around. Let’s see where this one goes.

Cellino followed up by saying that he would like to build a stronger team spirit and can’t believe that the squad turns up to home games from their own homes. A team coach is the next purchase on his list and he has also made it clear that he expects all players to live in Leeds. This is music to my ears, I love the passion that our owner is expressing, it all makes complete sense. Massimo also confirmed in one of the most encouraging snippets of his interview that Leeds are nearly debt free pending a deal with GHFC, it’s all positive.

Despite selling Ross McCormack the squad has seen three permanent new signings who are now training and involved in our Italian preseason tour. There are also a couple of loan deals that have options to extend if their season proves to be successful which is a shrewd move. Cellino has sold the dream to the Italian players and stipulated that they must learn English to be part of Leeds United. This is a special project and they want to be part of it. One things for sure we are potentially attracting better players on lower salaries. The overpriced UK market was confirmed by the £11m that Fulham paid for McCormack, I still find it laughable but I’m not complaining.

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Above we have Tommaso Bianchi and Souleymane Doukara who have joined on a 3 year deal and 12 month loan respectively. These are in addition to Matt Taylor and Marco Silvestri who have joined on 2 year and 4 year Deals.

I will repeat myself by saying it’s very exciting right now with Leeds United and I’m hoping the small number of negative twitter trolls get on board and move along, this is the best option for us suffering fans. It’s never dull at our club, let’s see what this week brings.

MOT
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

BBQ Beer Chicken

One of my bucket list items were checked off last week when we had the sunny weather that seems to have deserted us in recent days. I have always wanted to BBQ a whole chicken and since the purchase of the Jamie Oliver kettle BBQ I couldn’t wait to try it.

There is a handy device that I purchased from B&Q for cooking chicken on a BBQ. It allows you to place a can of beer on a metal plate which is under some metal arms. The chicken slides over the arms which allows the can of beer to sit inside the chicken. As the chicken is cooking on the BBQ the can of beer allows the chicken to maintain it’s moisture preventing a dry chicken.

The beauty is it allows the chicken to crisp up nicely on the outside whilst giving the chicken an amazing flavour. I used a can of Hobgoblin which is a favourite Ruby Ale of mine. The medium sized chicken took just over 2 hours to BBQ cook and the smells coming from the Kettle BBQ were delightful.

I used a couple of bags of self lighting charcoal to create a white hot base which heated up to a suitable temperature after 30 mins. The photos below show the stages explained above. The beauty cooking with the can of Ruby Ale is the chicken melted away from the bone when carving it. This is the best way to cook chicken and it is certainly something I’ll be doing again.

1. The chicken in place on device with Hobgoblin can sat under it.
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2. The chicken after an hour on the Kettle BBQ, it’s starting to brown.

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3. Just over two hours later and it’s ready to come off the BBQ.

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4. Carved up and ready to eat.

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This is an amazing way to cook chicken and one that could be replicated when entertaining a group of friends. It’s certainly more cost effective than that of burgers and sausages.

DarcyB

Midsummer Music 2014 in Towcester

Towcester hosted it’s annual Midsummer Music event this weekend. The town was transformed into a showcase of local musical talent as various buildings, pubs and restaurants became stages for the acts to perform in. The weather was delightful once again as a sunny Saturday evening provided the perfect backdrop for this popular event.
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We started our musical adventure at The Saracens Head where Krissy Matthews and his three piece band performed in the courtyard. All of the tables were full as locals enjoyed his mixed playlist of self written and covered blues inspired tracks. Krissy was very vocal and despite joking that he had smoked something he shouldn’t have, he produced a set which kept the crowd going and opened up the event with punchy energy and style.

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We headed to the town square to see the Mayor officially open the festival at 7.15pm before quickly heading to St Lawrence’s Church to watch the Towcester Choral Society perform. This was truly breathtaking as the Choral Society performed famous songs from the movies which included Raindrops keep falling on my head (Burt Cassidy & The Sundance Kid) Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera and a selection of songs from Mama Mia. St Lawrence’s Church is a beautiful building and the tall ceilings and open halls created an acoustic delight.

As there were many acts performing in the evening it became apparent that we would be rushing around nipping in to see various parts of acts. We quickly made our way back to The Saracens Head to watch the Giocoso Concert Band in the Pickwick Room. From Swanbourne in Buckingham we heard them play the theme from Star Trek before they took a break. Once again we were back on foot to The Dolphin Cafe to watch Nathan & Katrina.

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Katrina Harris certainly delivered with her powerful vocals including a pitch perfect cover of Katie Tunstalls classic Black Horse & A Cherry Tree. Nathan Digby & Nial Hoggarth completed the three piece act who went down extremely well. Their songs were original, exciting and fresh with a mixture of classic and modern blues, soul, pop and rock pieces.

The next destination was Towcester Mill to watch Craig sing and play acoustic guitar. Craig was extremely quirky and delivered a high energy filled performance which included a couple of amazing covers including Crowded House – Weather with you and Queens – Don’t stop me now.

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We spoke to Craig after his performance and found him to be extremely pleasant and slightly humbled by the compliments we paid him for a fantastic show.

The Midsummer Music Festival then held it’s Firework Display on the Mount which lasted around half an hour and was typically exciting and didn’t disappoint.

The music didn’t stop there as we headed to The Brave Old Oak to watch The Band Isabelle. This six piece edgy pop and rock band are from Bedford and were the highlight of an amazing day/night. With a twist of funk and soul the lead singer ended a high temp medley of music with a flawless performance of the hit by Moloko – Sing it back. The place was filled with people enjoying the fresh vibes produced as the music went on past midnight.

It certainly was a success and I can’t wait for Midsummer Music to return in 2015.

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