Countdown

It’s that time of year when people like myself start to count the days til the new Football season begins. Although it’s been good to still be able to watch games (or work them in my case), in the form of Euro 2012, I think most fans will agree that there’s nothing better than standing on the Terraces supporting your club.

Fellow Cheltenham Town fans will, I hope, agree that last season was amazing for us. A trip to White Hart Lane and Wembley were the obvious highlights, but there are other less ‘glamourous’ times that I look back on more fondly.

Standing in the Speedy Skips stand with friends while the rain fell heavily (after trying to convince ourselves that it wasn’t going to rain) and refusing to leave or stand under cover. The banter in the Nest pre (and post) match, meeting some of the brilliant people working at the club and best of all meeting fellow Cheltenham fans and feeling like I’d never been away. Getting back in touch with an old friend and standing in the Kemble discussing our chances against Hereford and another time in the Kemble with a friend who supports Port Vale and meeting the Port Vale mascot.

The times I look back on less fondly are those where the fans turn against the players. I’m not referring to slating a player on their performance in the heat of the moment, I think we’ve all been there and anyone who claims otherwise is lying (or in denial!).

I’m referring to the times where Scott Brown was blamed for everything going wrong over a long period of time (yes he made mistakes, but I’m pretty sure a team’s defence isn’t supposed to be one man) and then, when loan periods end, ‘fans’ slating a player for going back to their parent club.

In all honesty, I have no idea what makes someone come out against players when overall they have been brilliant servants of the club and given their all.

Looking back over the years and some of the players (and management!) we’ve had, I would have thought that our fans would be a bit more tolerant. Passion for your club is something I am a big fan of, but sometimes people take things a bit too far.

Anyway, I refuse to end by moaning. On the whole we have amazing fans and I’m proud to be part of that. Next season is on it’s way and I for one can’t wait to be back there cheering on our team.

What will the season bring? Will Fleetwood do a Stevenage/Crawley and power their way straight into League One? As for us, who knows if we are strong enough to make it to an automatic place next year. I don’t really think my heart would cope with playoffs again, but I wouldn’t say no to auto’s or playoffs. In fact, I’ll be happy if we play good football and get our attendance up to where it deserves to be – come on people of Cheltenham!

No matter what, I can’t wait for Saturday 18th August. Bring on 3pm and Dagenham & Redbridge. Will we get to witness Dave Hogan come on again? Those at St Neots Town FC will appreciate that thought… 5th February 2011 v Kings Lynn Town FC anyone?

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Euro 2012 – Warsaw

I am sat in the office doing some prep and waiting for Group C to kick off. I am boiling. There is a breeze through the square but we’re not getting the benefit in our room. The servers are doing their best to battle any cooling that might be floating around… Anyway, as I guess those of you currently in the cold and wet parts of the UK will be starting to wish me ill, I’ll stop there.

My latest blog offering follows Poland’s exit the other night…

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The passion rings throughout the square
All colours flying proud
Countries together for one event
Their chants and cheers so loud

The atmosphere builds and pressure mounts
To see the victor rise
The smiles and cheers I’ll not forget
The memory will never die

More fly in as others leave
But one thing stays behind
The hopes and dreams of all who pass
Their colours flying high

The whistle blows, the pain is clear
You feel it all around
Those chants and dreams now locked away
I miss that cheerful sound

Still what we have is plain to see
Some great games will be played
A shock or two, you never know
Who’ll be at the Final day

Euro’s – early thoughts

There has been a lot of concern over the last couple of months, regarding the holding of the Euro’s in Poland and Ukraine. I stayed away from a lot of the coverage prior to travelling out to Poland for work. I didn’t want my attitude to be coloured in any way by the media reports. For me, as long as there are no recommendations by the government to not travel somewhere, then it’s alright.

In the time since I have arrived, there has only been one day in Warsaw which has been ‘bad’ – Poland v Russia held in the capital. Other than this, there has been generally a great atmosphere with fans outside chanting, singing and generally being in good spirits. I don’t want to dwell on the behaviour of the isolated few on Tuesday, but it was impressive to see the number of police vans and the water cannon that appeared in the square where we are based, after the game.

So, back to the important stuff… the Football.

So far, I have been impressed by the games I’ve seen. Yes, even England. For me, they started brighter than they have done in a far few years. the second half (particularly toward the end) was slightly less impressive, but they started out chasing the ball and having that hunger that has been missing for so long. Even if they’re flying home next week, I think the squad is looking better and with time will come together. It all depends on whether they given the break they desperately need and deserve from the English public and press. Sorry, don’t care how poor the England team been in the past, they are not the same people, give them a chance.

The disorganisation of the Netherlands team has been a surprise, but I’m still hoping the last games in group B will throw it wide open and possibly give them the chance to qualify. You never know. This is a tournament, not a season. One good/bad performance will make or break it.

As for Republic of Ireland, I hope that they will get something back. So long out of the competition, I love to see them get a win. Or at least a point!

I’m not sure on a winner just yet, but Germany and Portugal are looking strongest for me. Croatia may be one to watch, but sadly Ireland’s performance wasn’t the strongest so I think we’ll need to wait to judge them.

Nearly a week in

I arrived in Poland last Sunday and since then I just haven’t stopped. Unless you count ending most nights with a beer in the bar, usually at 1am after a long day in the office.

Each day has had its own highs and lows and some of the characters we’ve met so far have been entertaining. Including the costumed men and women who practically drag you to their restaurant and a very drunk, smiling man who, to be honest was very scary.

The team I’ve been closest too have been great. We’re in a small room near the main studio, with a view over the square toward the Warsaw stadium and various musicians outside the window. At this moment in time, it’s the turn of the Xylophone players again. Slightly better than the drummers.

We’ve had our own music going and complete with some interesting singing out of all three of us! There’s been the suggestion of starting our own band. A, would be our lead singer, myself on Guitar and M on the tambourine… we’re not sure we could let him loose on anything else… he’s not the most musical.

The strange thing about this kind of work is how much those around you become like family. We’ve fallen out (although nothing major yet), had laughs and got seriously stressed. I leave in just over a week and a bit… I’m already wondering where the time is going.

Start of the Poland adventure

The trip to Poland was supposed to fairly simple. Get on plane, get off plane, get cab to studio. For me, this entailed getting stuck for an hour in passport control and then nearly getting left behind by my cab.  Passport control was basically my fault. If you’re ever behind me in a queue in a supermarket, pick another queue. No matter how long it is, do it. The queue I’m in will always take the longest.

Have to say that things have improved since then.  The biggest thing for me since I arrived is how quiet it is here in Warsaw. Other than the IBC (International Broadcast Centre) there’s very little around Warsaw which promotes Euro 2012. There have been a few people/cars with flags begin to appear, so I’m assuming it might ramp up a bit in the coming days.

Despite only being on my third day, I feel like I’ve been here weeks. The Polish have been very welcoming but I’m still scared to attempt to use any of my limited Polish language skills… I think it’s safer not to try. I know I’ll only end up getting stuck/confused/offending someone/everyone.