The usual weekend, with an unusual ending

If you do a lot of driving, you’ll know that (out of rush hour) it can be one of the most relaxing things in the world. You, the stereo and the open road. My trip to Gloucestershire on Saturday was nearly stopped by the less than enthusiastic response from my parents to my impending arrival. So, while driving down the A1 enjoying 5 Live’s Fighting Talk, I was struck with a decision. Do I continue 2 hours down the road to watch Cheltenham Town or turn around, go back to bed for 2 hours and then head 30 minutes down the road to Arlesey to watch Forest Green in the FA Cup?

Cheltenham won and Forest Green lost. Both in terms of my attendance and the result.

I turned up at the ABS very early and headed to pick up my ticket. Plymouth Argyle, currently bottom of League Two, were the days visitors to Whaddon Road. The fans were all in good spirits and the staff at Cheltenham spent their time redirecting those new to the ground, Plymouth and Cheltenham fans alike, to their respective stands/seats. After a short while I made my way into the ground to take up my position in the same seat I’d had for the Hereford game. Surrounded by the same enthusiastic men and with a great view of the away end, packed to the rafters with Plymouth fans.

I sat next to two men I didn’t recognise from my last visit and they both introduced themselves to me. One was a Cheltenham supporter of 40 years, the other a newcomer to the ground. After I had assured the new supporter that although I work in the financial district in London, I am not a Banker, we started to get on well. Which is better than Cheltenham seemed to manage in the first half.

Argyle never stopped in a fast paced game, hassling the Robins into making mistakes and playing the long ball. Going 1-0 down in the first half had hearts sink in the unusually quiet home end and fuelled the passion of the visitors, singing load and proud for their team.

It all changed in the second half. Plymouth conceeded a penalty to take to it 1-1, went down to 10 men and then had 6 minutes of injury time to survive. They couldn’t. An injury time winner by Duffy secured a vital win and most of all 3 points for the Gloucestershire side.

My new found friend Dave and I parted company and I headed out to await my lift home. While waiting in the car park I witnessed a number of different conversations. Including one poor man on the phone to, I assume, his other half explaining why he was late. Most of the conversations around me were Robins fans commenting on how much they hoped Argyle would stay up, complementing the away fans on their support and passion for their side. I have to agree. Plymouth you should be proud of your supporters. Match report.

As for Forest Green… I’ve no idea what happened. Playing a team from the Evo Stik Southern League Premier Division (Step 3), they led in the first half before losing 2-1 and sending themselves out of the FA Cup. Match report.

Sunday was a quieter day, although I decided to get out and take some photo’s around the Forest of Dean. My father and I headed out knowing that we had just 2 hours to take photos, get the shopping and be home before he had to be back in the car to pick up family members for a hospital visit.

Needless to say, we failed.

Our timekeeping as rubbish as ever, left me having to throw all my things into any bag I could find and get into my car just 5 minutes after walking through the door. Sat in my car on the drive and waving them goodbye I felt a bit lost. With nowhere to go and no-one to see, I started a gentle drive back, during which I decided to go to the local pub for the Karaoke night.

My local, The Bulls Head in St Neots, is a fantastic little pub. Friendly, warm and inviting, I had a great time, even inflicting my own version of Whitney Houston’s One Moment in Time on the poor unsuspecting regulars. Eventually and with a heavy heart, I made my way home with the realisation I had to be up in 7 hours for work.

How wrong I was. Just 4 hours after I’d got to sleep (and 2 hours after I’d woken up thinking about work!) the phone rang. It was work with a problem. Through a cloud of sleep and confusion my colleague and I got a workaround in place for the UK to go live (the joys of working on live TV) and in the space of 20 minutes, I was showered, dressed and on my way to the train station.

As I write this now, it’s nearly 6pm and I’m on the train heading home. I’m pretty sure that I’ve been about as much use as a chocolate teapot from about 2pm this afternoon. Plans for this evening? Dinner, DVD and sleep.… Zzzz

Love, Lust and Forgiveness

It’s a well known fact that when things are going well, they are brilliant. Everything looks wonderful and the world is filled with only the good and beautiful things. At the start of a relationship, it’s known as the honeymoon period. But, when it goes wrong, even once, we pick it to pieces. Concluding that it’s not just one slip up but that it’s no longer working and should be abandoned.

In this case, I’m referring to Sport. In particular, Football. When your team is on a winning streak, the fans come out in force. The ‘fair weather supporters’ who jump on the bandwagon enjoying ‘their’ teams successes. As soon as that team shows that they are human and impart a poor display of their abilities or, god forbid, a defeat, it starts.

In your job, if you were told you should be fired for having an ‘off’ day (unless this leads to killing someone or a serious breach of contract!), how would you feel? What if those around you began calling for your resignation…?

It’s my belief, as a supporter you should be helping to lift the team and cheer them on at the next match to help them back to winning ways. Don’t get me wrong, I think a constructive display of disappointment or measured response to the poor game(s) is more than warranted, but not an all out attack.

An example of the ‘right’ kind of support and publicity of this, has been Cheltenham Town. The team had a run of 5 wins in a row, lifting them to 3rd in the League 2 table, boosting the spirit of fans (and no doubt the players/staff) and awakening the belief that they could be candidates for promotion this season.

Tuesday night they played Crewe Alexandra at home. And the run came to an end .

After the game I was watching the comments going around Twitter. There were the usual disappointed people who felt that it had been a poor game, which it most likely was, but the biggest thing for me was that these were coupled with comments on how they were happy at the progress made so far and that Cheltenham could bounce back against Plymouth on Saturday. It’s this side of the fans that needs to be promoted. There are ones that come out of the woodwork and only complain about the result, but all they do is bring the players down and put the team on the defensive.

We’ve had this experience at St Neots Town. After last years promotion winning season from Step 5 (United Counties Premier League), the team have been backed for promotion again this year. The pressure applied from all corners, quickly showed in the first few games of the season. The team lacked cohesion and the results reflected this. The management and staff worked hard on pulling the players together, but on the forums, the back biting and put downs were numerous. Every football supporter has their views on the best formation for a team but game after game so-called ‘supporters’ were calling the management’s abilities into question and would openly lay claim that players were useless. The number in support of the team were minimal. Most of them were supporters who are active volunteers at the club. Constructive? I think not.

St Neots are sitting third in the table at the moment, equal on points with league leaders Biggleswade Town. Is this something that supporters can really claim to be poor, in a league which promotes two teams, one automatically and one via the playoffs?

As a person on the inside of that particular club, I can honestly say that it can really bring you down when you think that fans are going to jump all over the slightest mistake. Yes we have to strive for promotion and yes we are all passionate about going forward, but you have to be sensible in the approach to criticising players, management and staff.

Forest Green, like many other clubs, suffer at the hands of the non-believers. With a poor run of results, numerous draws at home and two consecutive losses (Hayes & Yeading away followed by Kettering Town at home) , the players found themselves subject to derogatory comments about their abilities.

Don’t get me wrong, when my team loses I’m disappointed and if it’s an ongoing situation then questions have to be asked, but is it right to come out in force against a team straight away?

Surely in this life, we can all accept that people have bad days, forgive them and give them the love and support they need to go on and return to winning ways.

The England football team are a good example of how the media helps to fuel the worst response to defeat. They insist on building them up as the next big thing ahead of all international games. Putting them on a pedestal for the sole reason, it seems, of knocking them off as hard as possible at the first sign of a poor game. And when they lose? Well they might as well be on the Coconut Shy at a Funfair for everyone to take a pot shot at.

Commuter 0 – Train and Tube Utd 1

Tuesday evening didn’t start in the best way. I left work at 17:50, determined to make it the 15 minutes across London and still make my 18:10 departure. Navigating my way past a few protesters on their way to/from Moorgate (from the Finsbury Square protest), I made it on to the platform to see the next Tube was 3 minutes away. Resigned to the fact that I’d be half an hour late home, I relaxed and tuned into my iPod.

When the train arrived (4 minutes later) I duly got on and fixed myself near the rear doors in order to be first off at Kings Cross. Little did I know, that the driver had other ideas. To explain, Barbican and Farringdon are short platforms. This means that the Metropolitan Line trains leave their rear doors closed. This is not the case at Kings Cross.

Until today.

Bags, laptop cases and several commuters went flying through the carriage as we headed to the second to last set of doors, all anxious to get off the train before the hoards of passengers tried to get on. I powered off the train and up the stairs as fast as, well, the man in front would allow.

I made it on to the concourse, running as fast as I could to the platform where the train was waiting to leave. The best part of being a seasoned commuter is the ability to see oncoming traffic (tourists) and gracefully avoid them. I can only assume that the young child holding on to his mother’s hand had less faith in my ability than I did. I ran, coat flowing behind me, heading for the gap developing between him and the person to his right. As he saw me approach, he jumped to his mother’s side and promptly screamed. I swiftly turned, apologised to both him and his mother and arrived on the platform with less than 3 minutes to spare.

My usual 12 carriage train is a packed commuter service. Tonight, it was an 8 carriage cattle truck. It never ceases to amaze me that they will allow people to travel in conditions deemed unsuitable for animals. Especially, as most of us pay in excess of £4000 a year for the privilege. To say I feel let down by the entire railway network at the moment, is an understatement.

I ran to the front of the train and spied a 3 man gap down the middle of the carriage. Squeezing myself on to the train, I promptly instructed the man in front to shout at the people in the carriage to move down. As I expected everyone ignored him. Eventually two of the gentleman around me explained to those further down the carriage that if the guy in front wasn’t listening, a tap on the shoulder should make him aware of you, then you can request that he move. Give or take 5 minutes into our trip, the people in question moved, allowing us all a little more room.

The journey was painful but the entertainment from the passengers around me was brilliant. Soon many of my fellow commuters got off and I made a bee-line for a seat for the last part of my journey. It’s at this point that I realised how much I actually enjoy commuting. I’d made a new friend with one of the men who’d been stood next to me. We spent the remainder of the journey discussing Chelsea, Liverpool, Cheltenham Town and St Neots Town before I started demonstrating Twitter to him on my phone.

As it was Tuesday I decided it was time for another trip dancing. Yet again, I decided to wear a football shirt. My reason being that they allow ease of movement, are very comfy for classes and it’s what I want to wear. As they were at home to Crewe, it had to be Cheltenham Town this week (match report).

To say that the dancing men of St Neots have no clue on football, would be an understatement. One looked at me as if I’d verbally abused him and another just stared. The women looked just as confused.

It’s times like this that highlight just how society perceives us. A man could turn up to anything (which didn’t have a dress code) in a football shirt and trousers and be greeted in a normal manner. A woman turning up in a football shirt, to anything other than football, however, causes people to stare, whisper (with some pointing) and then to be approached with caution. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t offend or bother me and I’m not about to jump on some sexist bandwagon, but I am finding people’s approaches to me somewhat confusing.

In another way, this may be an understandable reason why I don’t tend to get approached by member’s of the opposite sex. I guess I need to be on the look out for a guy who has no concerns on being around someone who goes through her days reluctant to be bothered on other people’s views on her life. Not to say that I don’t get bothered by people’s opinions, comments or actions towards me. I’ve not perfected the ‘water off a ducks back’ attitude yet, but I won’t conform with society just to appease those around me.

I’ll dress the way I want and live my life to make me, my friends and family happy. Most of all… I won’t apologise for it.

A late addition to my weekend

Friday finished with a bit of a whimper. After a long week I had great plans on a Friday night of comfort food, a glass of wine and listening to the Cheltenham game online. When I arrived home, I ensured I had everything packed for Saturday’s trip to Gloucestershire and then retrieved my laptop from it’s case.

While waiting for the commentary to start, I started cooking, grabbed a Friday night treat of a glass of Cab Sav, courtesy of Jacobs Creek and played a few tunes on my guitar to help me to relax for the weekend ahead.

About 15 minutes into the match, I received a phone call from a friend at my Rowing club asking if I was free in the morning as they needed a Cox for racing in the Huntingdon Head of the River. To be honest, my first thoughts were that I would miss my lie-in (had to be at the club for 0730), but I agreed enthusiastically, realising this was a good chance to be back in a boat.

The rest of my evening consisted of shouting encouragement for Cheltenham as they secured another win against Accrington Stanley (match report) and looking up the course map for the race. At this point I should point out that, as I live in a top floor flat, my neighbours are very understanding.

Saturday morning’s start was painfully early. The alarm going off just an hour later than in the normal working week, left me with dark thoughts toward the cheery way I’d agreed to be part of the squad for the race.

I reluctantly left the warm confines of my flat and drove to the rowing club in St Neots. We left in convoy to Huntingdon to meet the boat trailer.

When we arrived it was beautiful. Not a breath of wind, the air crisp and full of anticipation of the day ahead. The sun was streaming through the tree’s and the reflection from the water was magical. People started to arrive and the barbecue was fired up next to the boat house.

St Neots had all four crews racing in the first division, two men’s and two women’s fours. There had been a late crew change for our Novice women which required a status change, but once that was all finalised and the boats rigged, the crews began their warmup and the coxwains began the process of putting on as many layers as we could find! Although not as cold as the Cambridge Winter League in March, it was still bitterly cold.

The division started at 1000 and as such we had to be on the water and heading for the start by 0900. The 4km course has a number of difficult bends and is very narrow in several places. I made a mental note of where I would need to make calls to drive the crew on and sections I would need to be careful on, when taking the bends. One crew member’s tip to me was to take the bends like ‘a racing driver would’. An interesting way of looking at steering a 4+ along a river.

When the race got underway, my nerves evaporated. I had a very unsuccessful attempt at parking the boat at the start but this was where I come into my own. The crew went off fast and at a good rating, quickly catching and over taking the single scull ahead of us.

Then, at the narrowest part of the river and on the sharpest bend, a mens coxless Quad attempted an overtake. I positioned the boat as best I could and with full lock on the rudder I had to get stroke side to pull on as hard as they could, while bow side lightened off to ensure we missed the moored boat, the bank and the other crew. We had inches to spare. Straightening up, I was determined to not let the Quad leave us behind. The crew pushed on and we were still in sight of them at the finish.

Crossing the finish line, we came alongside the Quad and the men thanked us and complimented us on how we’d given them a good race. I was thrilled. The crew however, had an almost disappointed air about them. It hadn’t been the best row, but the worst stroke of the race was taken literally on the finish line and for a scratch crew, I thought they did brilliantly.

Trying to land the boat turned into a logistical nightmare. One landing stage, 30+ boats and a marina to navigate around. We were holding on to two boats when trying to land and when I jumped out of the boat, I nearly careered straight over the landing area and into a small section of river the other side!

Once we’d retrieved the boat from the water, we all caught up with the other crews to hear how they’d got on. My near miss with the Quad seemed tame compared to the other men’s crew. They’d had two accidents on the way down the course! Sadly despite this, they were still 25 seconds faster than my crew. After 10 minutes or so, I gathered my things together as I needed to get going back to Gloucestershire. As I was saying my goodbye’s and wishing everyone the best of luck for the rest of the day, one of my crew came over with a smile on his face. It looked like we were the fastest IM3 4+ in the first division! Later in the day I had a text to confirm that we’d won and I had a Pot. My first ever Pot for a race. I always felt I wanted to get that first Pot for a race I’d actually rowed in. But you know what? As a cox, the work you have to do to concentrate and get those lines right, is just as hard as rowing flat out for 4000 metres.

Hopefully, come sprint season I’ll have another Pot to add to it, this time for the work I do with an Oar, rather than the rudder.

I should be dancing… Yeh….

Tuesday nights are normally sport nights. They’re one’s I spend training at the rowing club or watching the Football at St Neots Town.

But this week, I decided to venture to the local Ceroc class. This wasn’t my first time, but it’s been a while since I visited this venue and even longer since I managed to spend more than 15 minutes on the dancefloor due to injury.

I crept in, 45 minutes late (not unusual for me!) and found myself faced with a crowd of people dancing to ‘Hungry Eyes’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a typical girl and love the film Dirty Dancing, but had never heard that track at a Ceroc class before.

I placed my coat and bag at the side of the dancefloor and did my usual trick of hiding in the corner trying to work out the guys to avoid. This particular tactic is one to help prevent me from looking like a complete idiot when dancing. Some of the guys are very good and I would stand a high chance of injuring them (standing on feet, hitting them with a wayward arm etc).

When the intermediate class started, I began to get a lot of questions from the guys I was dancing with. All of them intrigued at the shirt I was wearing. It had the Forest Green Rovers emblem on it. Most were confused, others asked if I played for them and one just went ‘Oh’ and said nothing to me for the rest of the class.

I’m guessing there aren’t many women who turn up at a Ceroc class in a Football top, Salsa skirt and heels.

To top it off, I found out Forest Green won their match v Telford before I had one of my last dances. This prompted me to wander around with a smile on my face and then happily chatted to my partner about the club and their result. I’ve never seen a guy disappear so fast. A new record, even for me.

Next Tuesday, Cheltenham Town are playing… I think I may have to show my support by wearing my shirt at Ceroc. It’s only fair. Right…?

The clubs we grow fond of

I’ve been in and around the world of Sport and the media for a number of years now. It’s something I love. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t eat sleep and breathe sport… But I’m pretty close.

My full time job is in TV as an Engineer and I commute everyday from Cambridgeshire to London. In the evenings and at weekends, I find myself watching or listening to sport or planning where I can next get my fix of sporting action.

Most of the time it’s Football, but being from Gloucester, Rugby is in my blood. My Grandfather played for Gloucester and England and I feel bad at times when I realise I haven’t been to a match in a while. Must do something about that soon.

In fact, guilt on matches I haven’t been too has been playing on my mind for the last couple of months.

Finally, thanks to encouragement from a person I met on Twitter, I made my way back to Whaddon Road and the ABS, to see my first Cheltenham Town match in 9 years. For that, I will always be grateful to them – you know who you are, so thank you!

The trip was not without a lot of emotion behind it. The last time I’d set foot in the stand, I had been there for BBC Radio Gloucestershire and assisting with the coverage for a Tuesday evening match. This time, the sun was shining, it was warm and the beautiful sight of the Gloucestershire hills and countryside pouring over the In2Print Stand made me more than a bit emotional. Normally, I’m very good (too good perhaps?) at keeping my feelings hidden. But from the look on the face of the steward in front of me, I’d say I must have looked a bit of a sight. He kindly suggested I sit in one of the closest seats to the entrance and I settled in to watch, what would be a slightly disappointing game, drawing 0-0 with Hereford. However, being there was something very special for me. The atmosphere was electric and the gentlemen around me were animated in their support of the lads. The only disappointment, the result. However, even that couldn’t overshadow just how happy I was to be back in the county and at a ground that has always meant so much to me. Match Report – CTFC v Hereford

The following week I made it to Forest Green Rovers to watch them play Mansfield and it’s probably the only time I will ever be at the New Lawn and boil! I couldn’t get over the heat and even after we had confirmation it was 31 degrees pitchside, I just couldn’t believe I’d finally been to a match there and I hadn’t frozen. Again, it wasn’t a brilliant match. 1-1 but as Rovers had gone 1-0 down after just 18 seconds, I thought a draw was fantastic! There were slight moments of brilliance from an otherwise out of sorts Rovers side. At times, it pains me to say, they looked like strangers having a kick about in the park on a Sunday. Match Report – FGR v Mansfield

Then, finally, last week I took myself back to Whaddon Road and watched a match which would leave me smiling for days afterwards (excluding the last 15 minutes where I was on the edge of my seat!). 2-1 against Dagenham and Redbridge was brilliant. The passing and space Cheltenham created made it look easy at times however, Cheltenham being Cheltenham, would never allow it to be easy. After Dagenham equalised just before half time to take it to 1-1, I was left wondering whether this was the third week in a row I would witness a poor show… and dare I think it, a defeat? But they came out in the second half fighting and Spencer confirmed their intent by slotting in the second on 49 minutes. Yes the last 15 were nervous, but will I go back? Too right. Match Report – CTFC v Dagenham

There is one thing I couldn’t understand from the last Cheltenham match… Dagenham and Redbridge still have Dave Hogan on their books. To explain, I help at St Neots Town FC, a small club in the Evo Stik Southern League Central division, promoted last season from the UCL Premier division. On 5th February 2011, St Neots took on Kings Lynn in a match declared as the one to decide the season. St Neots’ manager brought in a goal keeper whom he felt could handle the pressure of 1,500 fans and a need to win. It was Dave Hogan. St Neots lost 4-2, with some of the worst goalkeeping I have ever seen. In fact, at times it made Gomes’ failures look good. How the man is still on the books at Dagenham escapes me. Good luck with that one!