Kicking things off with a win

Starting the Football season off with 3 points is what every football supporter dreams of. But to get that win when your current manager, who used to play for you, has never won a season opener in all of his years spent at the club, means so much more.

My feelings going into Cheltenham’s opening League Two game against Dagenham and Redbridge, we’re more positive than perhaps they should have been. Seeing the talent that Yates has brought in over the summer and with the core squad still in place from last season, I was convinced that it would be a good display.

The first half is a bit hazy for me due to being on some slightly stronger than usual painkillers for a sinus problem, but the goal from Harrad just before the break was more than welcome. A chance to celebrate and with the impressive work of Deering and good work by Jombati, my positivity in the run up to the match was starting to feel a little more realistic.

I must admit to having concerns over Zebroski and Hooman, but Zebroski picked up in the second half and I’m sure they’ll both settle over the next couple of games. The second goal, on 49, by McGlashan was brilliant and he definitely put in a lot of hard work over the 90 minutes. Official match report here.

Dagenham threw everything they could at us in the second half and came close to getting a goal but our defence stayed strong enough to deny them and start us off on the right foot.

I was pleased with the turnout for the match, but appreciate that some supporters will feel disappointed with the numbers (att: 2655 with 164 away fans). Yes, we deserve more and yes it’s the opening game of the season but remember that we’re into holiday time and just past the Olympics. Many people are either not around or cannot afford to make it to a game yet, but the lads deserve more support and we do need to find our voices. They’ve proved to us (time and time again) that they’re worth it, so let’s hope that more make the effort to join us.

Finally, a point of note to any women out there who love football and want to go but aren’t sure they can go to a match alone… do it. You’ll soon find you have people chatting to you (yes, to you, not chatting you up…. Although you never know…) and you’ll make friends who’ll be around, week in week out. Yes, it can be strange for the first game but I’ve never felt out of place going to games alone, especially at Cheltenham, as everyone is so friendly. Highly recommend it.

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Finally arrived

The first day of the football season was welcomed in with glorious sunshine and warmth. With Cheltenham taking on MK Dons at home in the Capital One Cup and Forest Green Rovers opening their season at home to Cambridge United, I couldn’t help but visit the New Lawn to see my old local club visit Rovers and hopefully see FGR start the new season in style.

Forest Green finished in 10th place last season and the fans belief that they could face promotion this season was heightened.

With the new signings over the break strengthening the squad up front, it seems that the injuries to the defence were more noticeable. Missing Hodgkiss and new signing Green are both big blows to the team.

By half time yesterday, Rovers were 1-0 down to United. Elliot had put the U’s ahead with conviction and he was definitely one of the strongest players of the day. I was surprised at just how much space we afforded them. There was a lack of imagination and width in a Rovers side that I have high hopes for.

I have never based my thoughts about a squad or team on one game and certainly not on the first game of the season, but work is needed.

The change in the team when Styche came on around 80 minutes was obvious and even Norwood seemed to settle and produced some good runs and touches. Forbes had a brilliant game and there were some great touches and balls in from Rowe but it was Collins, our aerial threat, who was named Man of the Match.

On 88 minutes, Norwood was brought down on the edge of the area by Roberts to win a penalty which was swiftly converted by Klukowski. Unfortunately, Yan injured himself in the process and was left on the pitch to make up numbers for the last few minutes as we were out of subs.

Looking ahead I think we have great promise, but when faced with a tight outfit such as Cambridge, the team need to learn to utilise the wings and make the space work for us.

Off the pitch I must say that there are a few points that need improving on. I’m a perfectionist I know, but the scoreboard referring to the home side as Forets Green in the first half was a little disappointing as was our opponents being called Cambridge Uniyed in the programme!

Ignoring that, I can’t wait to get back there to cheer on a squad with so much potential. Hockaday has his work cut out (as most managers do!) but I think these players have the determination and passion to make it.

As the warm weather finally decends on the UK, it seems that we need less than 24 hours of warmth, before people start to complain that it’s too hot!

I could’ve done with it being ‘too hot’ last Wednesday. I decided to embark on my first fishing match in 4 years. Harescombe Fisheries have several lakes which are ideal for catching Carp. Well, they’re ideal if you’re not me. The 3 hour evening match had a good turn out and within 15 minutes I was already a good 5lbs behind the men pegged around me. 35 minutes in and a section of my pole smashed.

Fishing at 7 metres, the float buried, I struck, the elastic came out and the number 6 section of my pole splintered. A quick lunge forward to grab the pole before I lost the lot and a lot of very unhappy thoughts. To make matters worse, by the time we were 30 minutes from the end I was cold, hungry and the few fish I had in my swim had decided to join the rest of the shoal and emigrate to the pegs next door.
At this point, my thoughts centered around whether I should even bother weighing in and that I was dying for a nice hot cup of tea. I did decide to weigh in, just shy of 7lbs – leaving me in a really successful last place.

The latter part of last week saw the rise in temperature that we were all hoping for and a reduction in the water cascading from the sky.

With this in mind, on Thursday, we finally made a trip to Cheltenham to attend the Brewin Dolphin Cheltenham Cricket Festival. It’s been a number of years since my last visit and I was suprised at the lack of support. I can only assume that with the uncertainty of the weather, people were reluctant to visit. It was day Two of the LVCC game v Leicestershire and it was great to see Gloucestershire in action. Leicestershire were in to bat when I arrived and I didn’t move until the close of play, leaving Gloucestershire on 40/2.

Sadly I was unable to make it back to the College ground and this was probably my only live Cricket experience of 2012. Such a shame considering I had hoped to watch several Gloucestershire matches this year and make at least one England game. Maybe a plan for 2013?

Friday saw myself and three friends put on a charity gig at Cheltenham Town FC. I would like to thank everyone who took part and everyone who came along to support us. We had some people up and dancing along to the songs and successfully raised just over £200 for Help the Hospices and Cancer Research UK. Both charities are dear to me and I am thrilled that we’ve been able to help them a little. We’ve been asked to do another gig in the near future, which we will (hopefully) do and now I have a bit more of an idea on what’s involved, I’m sure we will improve!

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?

Just a game

Slightly different  to my previous posts – but I have the following little something I wanted to share during my lunch break at work!

My usual ramblings are sure to be back next week while I’m working away with tales from my travels!

——————————————

I stand and wait for you to appear
My heart is beating fast,
I hope that this could be our day
And hope it’s not our last.

Each time I’m here I look above
And pray that this will be,
Our day to shine and smile and laugh
For everyone to see.

I’m not alone, I look around,
Everyone is here,
The same as me, our colours out
Ready to sing and cheer.

You appear at last, strong and sure
It’s there within your eyes,
The passion, drive and will to win
Our support will never die.

A game they say, that’s all it is
I ask them what that means,
A game it is, but more than that
It’s life, our soul, our dreams.

A lot to think about

I’ve completed the third week in my new job and I am really enjoying it so far. I can see the following months will be busy and fast paced, but I confess, I’m really looking forward to it.

I spent three days in Stockholm in my second week to meet my new colleagues and the staff of the Sweden office. I have to admit it was more than a bit nerve racking. I have never flown anywhere on my own before and also never driven to Heathrow! I was more concerned about the drive to the airport than anything else! My alarm went off at 3am and I was on the road by 3.45.

The drive was pretty good and I arrived at 5.15 with plenty of time to drive around the car park trying to find somewhere free. Once I’d transferred to the terminal I was quickly through security (I love online check-in!) and sat awaiting my gate allocation. This was the point where the tiredness hit me. I’d managed only a few hours sleep as I listened to Cheltenham’s game the night before and now I was regretting it.

Once onboard the flight, I fell asleep pretty quickly. Waking to the sounds of breakfast arriving and then dropping off again for an hour before we landed at Arlanda.

The following days were filled with new people, new software, new languages (both computer based and of course Swedish) and new ways of working. I think my brain’s just about recovered!

At the moment, I’m feeling very frustrated as I want to be able to help, but I’m not really able to. My knowledge is probably approaching basic, but as a perfectionist I have to reign myself in.

I also have a new car, which has been a fantastic purchase. A lovely 2.0l Mazda 6 which feels like a tank after driving around in a 1.7l Ford Puma for the last 8 years! It’s brilliant on the fuel consumption and the space is amazing. I’m confident I can fit all my fishing kit (and probably my dad’s!) in it, which is great heading into the summer.

The other advantage to the car is that I can fit my bicycle in it. I’m taking part in the Cotswolds bike ride for the British Heart Foundation in May (http://www.justgiving.com/sportmadchick-cycle), so need a way of getting the bike back there! When I say I’m taking part in the bike ride, I mean I’m riding as much of the 40 miles as I can and hopeful of finishing it… if I’m lucky!

To add to the new job stress, I’m moving house in 9 weeks and I don’t know the location of my new home yet. I have two options. I would, of course, love to be back in Gloucestershire and I do have somewhere lined up near Cheltenham, but I have to be sensible about this. If I was to move within biking distance of my office, I could begin to save more money to pay off my new car and keep my debt levels at a minimum. Being close to the office would only be for year or so (unless circumstances change) and I think it would make things look a lot better when I do move back.

The thing striking me at the moment is my feelings about moving. It’s hitting me pretty hard. I always look forward, but there’s one person I would love to tell all about this and he’s not here. I know he’d be pleased about everything I’ve achieved, and he’d be thrilled to know I’m not commuting in and out of London any more. He’d also be happy to know that I was finally moving away from the East.

To be fair, at the moment, he’d be telling me to pull myself together, stop worrying so much and that I should be going fishing more! It’s been four years since I stopped match fishing, but I promise Richard, this summer, I will be going back.

That time of the year

The next few weeks are going to be really exciting.

Not just because I start a new job and begin the hunt for a new place to live (as I’ve finally got a short list of places to look at!), but because we’re on the run in to the end of the Football season and the start of the F1 season.

Two of the football teams I follow are on for top of the table clashes today. Cheltenham Town travel to Swindon and St Neots Town are at home to Slough. Both huge games. Not to mention Forest Green Rovers keeping the playoff dream alive if they can come away with 3 points at Grimsby.

Meanwhile, with the F1 season kicking off next weekend, fans everywhere will be wondering whether the dominance of Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel will continue. Can anyone come close? Personally I’m hoping that McLaren can build on last seasons form and fight back, but, with all the work the teams have done on the new aerodynamic packages I think we’re set for a turbulent season.

Relocation and dinner

My plan for this year was fairly simple. I’d be moving back to Gloucestershire and commuting to Moorgate in London every day. I’d even decided on the flat that I was going to try and get (close to Stroud train station) and then look to buy somewhere once I’d settled into the commute.

Now, I’m looking for a place in Oxfordshire, trying to establish a good commute to my new office while being within an hour or so of Gloucester. It looks like it will be possible, but I’m not very good at having so many choices.

It’s a bit like when I go out for dinner. I gaze at the menu for a while before announcing there are three possibilities. Then someone pipes up with the specials board and throws me into complete confusion over the addition of two more that I fancy. Cue a good 20 minutes of inner angst over which one to choose. Trying to work out if it will taste good and satisfy my hunger or leave me pining after everyone else’s dish and having to listen to someone in the corner say that they told me I should have gone for the Lasagne.

The upside with being indecisive with food, is that you can change your mind or order something else with the cost being minimal. You might get some odd looks or moaned at briefly but i can live with that.

A home on the other hand, tends to leave you with a hefty bill and a minimum term to live out. Slightly more complex than swapping Steak for Pizza. Although I’m not sure I’d do that… Maybe the Lasagne is the better choice… Sorry, where was I…

Now, my latest plan is centred around Witney in Oxfordshire. It’s still a fair commute to work but with more choices than the dreaded A40/M40 route. I can see a few weekend trips there coming up to see what it’s like. Can’t believe I’ve only got just two months before I need to hand my notice in at my current place. Where’s the time gone?!

Looking back to look forward

A few years ago I made the decision to leave broadcast. I’d been working in and around broadcasters since I was 16.

I remember my first job. I was answering the telephones for Sue and Pete Wilson on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. The work was fun, chatting to the regular callers and ensuring the phones were answered as promptly and politely as possible. I was just shadowing to start with, but soon I was on my own when the guy I’d been working with, Matt Peacock, moved on to present his own show in the morning.

I had the time of my life at the Radio Station. I put in a lot of hours and listened to everything that went on, learning the ropes and taking up every opportunity to try something new. I moved on to present Sport Bulletins, to help out when the Sport team of Paul Furley and Ian Randall weren’t in and I loved it.

Even better was my stint co-presenting the Summer Saturday Sport show with Richard Atkins. I provided the bulk of the Sport input, including securing an interview with the Minardi F1 team boss Paul Stoddart. Sadly it was the day both cars fell out of the 107% rule and he spent the afternoon with the Stewards!

Over time, my career moved on and with stints at BBC World Service (working for grey bars – 24 hour news) and both Audio and Newsroom Playout project teams, I found myself wondering about the world outside the newsroom.

I don’t regret taking time out. Working as a software developer in Gloucestershire was good, but I must admit I don’t miss the peak time rush of Flamingo Flowers. Working in Despatch over Valentines Peak to help the team get the pallets on to vehicles and out the door was actually a lot of fun, but don’t tell them that.

Around 19 months ago, I got the opportunity to move back into London and back into broadcast. You may have heard of Bloomberg. A Financial and Television company which broadcasts 24/7, with shows out of the US, UK and Asia. As a Broadcast Engineer it’s been almost perfect. My colleagues have been amazing and are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met.

This week, I resigned.

So what now? Well, it’s time to take a step back into software development but within Broadcast. And sport. Time will tell on the detail but needless to say, I am very excited about the coming months!

Sadly it does mean that I won’t be taking part in the Arch to Arc cycle challenge for Help the Hospices. I plan on taking part in one of their other events, but not this one.

One thing you’ll notice missing from this blog, is my time at University. I did go. Part time, for 2 weeks. I quit after I got a job travelling with the BBC as part of the training team for their digital audio playout system.

Everything I know now, has been through hardwork, determination and passion. I wouldn’t mind attending a course as you always pick up new ideas, but for me, I wouldn’t change a thing about how I got where I am now. I’ve met too many wonderful people and have too many great stories to ever want to change that.

The challenge begins

With February on our doorstep, training for my latest challenge is about to get underway.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed (via Cheltenham Town’s official Twitter feed – @CTFC_Official) that there was a challenge taking place, organised by Help The Hospices (@HelptheHospices), the Football League’s official charity for 2011/2012.

The challenge is to cycle from Wembley Stadium to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The ride is over 3 days and 244 miles (393km) in June.

Now, I should point out that I’m not a brilliant cyclist. In fact last year I had at least two accidents on the bike. One was full on, off the bike and sprawled on the pavement (I hit a kerb) while the other saw me misjudge the space between two bits of fencing on the building site of an estate that I live on. In the last incident, the fence came off slightly worse.

Has this put me off? Well, a little, but I want to do something to help this fantastic charity. The support they give to Hospices is brilliant. How many of us know someone who has spent time in one?

I’m pretty sure I will be cycle-fit enough to complete the challenge and I have the determination to raise the money so why not give it a try?

I’m hoping to put on a charity concert with a couple of friends in the next month or so (just need to organise the venue – anyone in Gloucestershire want to loan me somewhere and/or kit for free for a great cause?!) along with other ideas which are in the background, to help raise money. Which reminds me, I must setup my online sponsorship page…

The training will begin in two weeks. Need to fix one of the tyres on my road bike and plan how I’m going to approach this. Having not cycled more than 1 mile to/from the train station in the last 14 years, I’m confident this will be tough!