30th April 2017

Toon up, macams down. It was always going to be hard for Sunderland without the guaranteed six points they got by beating Newcastle home and away and I’m a Newcastle supporter. They will probably come straight back up and will enjoy an easier season next year.

For the toon, unless Newcastle strengthen with about six first team players, we will be heading back the other way again.

For me, only Ritchie, Lascelles, Gayle, Atsu, Mbemba, Diame and Shelvey cut the mustard in the Premiership although Diame and Mbemba didn’t play every week this season, which I was surprised by. If Rafa couldn’t play them in the Championship every week he will probably look to sell these players and replace them.

Ayoze, Dummett, Colback, Darlow and Yedlin are ok but probably only as squad players in a club that has genuine aspirations to stay in the Premiership.

We may as well sell Mitrovic, who hardly featured this season and should have lit up the division, Haidara, Hanley, Clark, Lazaar, Gouffran, Hayden and Murphy. These players cannot hope to influence the Premiership very much or at least didn’t in the past. Hanley and Clark will probably stay though.

Rolando Aarons hardly got a game so will struggle with the step up to the highest level this season and will probably be loaned out again. It’s a big step up for Adam Armstrong so he will probably head back out on loan too, although I’d like to see him be given a chance alongside Gayle for a pacey front line. Pace hurts defenders at every level and with service from Ritchie and Shelvey, it might work.

The reality is Newcastle need a lot of new players who are proven Premier League grinders. If not, it might be a tough year for us.

27th April 2017

There is lots of alleged indiscretion hitting the football newswires this week.

Sylvain Marveaux is one of the players arrested in the Newcastle/West Ham tax things. Not for ever have the audacity to claim a wage whilst posing as a professional footballer at Newcastle Utd, but for something else. Innocent until guilty and all that, but they earn far too much. Northern League players never seem to run into tax issues with their £50 a week. There is a lesson in there somewhere for those that need it.

Joey Barton has been banned for 18 months and fined £30,000 for betting on football. In reality that’s about half a weeks wages, but clearly it is the ban that will hurt him much more. He has admitted breaching the betting rules, which are clear by the way, saying he is addicted to betting.

Whenever I hear someone talk about having a gambling problem, I remember the somewhat glib quote that no-one has a gambling problem, only a losing problem. Barton has the money and the time and he’s not the first to fall into that trap. But look carefully and you realise he was betting a fraction of what he earned, so was probably in control of things throughout.

Mind you, the rules are clear. Footballers cannot bet on football. Period. Barton did and therefore when you get done for the rules breach, it’s difficult to complain about it in my opinion and quite how people can admit to breaking a rule then complain about the punishment remains a mystery to me.

23rd April 2017

I had a rare win on a football bet today, turning £3 into £74 picking out 6 winners on an accumulator. I win so rarely it’s really worth blogging about!

You can spot a bad gambler a mile off by when you hear them say “I wish I’d put more on” when they win, but in my case my usual wager is £5 – £10 but I only had £3 on me. Anyway, a win’s a win.

I’ve always liked a small bet here and there on Football. A decent bet to place is finding three away teams priced at around EVENS and backing your three selections in a trixie bet, which contains 3 double bets and 1 treble bet. This means placing a £5 trixie would cost you £20 in total, but you can pick any unit stake you like.

The logic behind the bet is you get much better odds for the favourite team playing away from home, despite the squad strength being the same most of the time. If you get 2 out of 3 matches right, you win 1 of the double bets but lose the rest and the treble. Because the odds of the selections are EVENS or better, this means your double wins you back almost exactly your wager, thus acting as insurance. Getting 0 or 1 matches right loses your entire stake and getting all three results right pays out much more.

Here is how it works. You pick Team A, Team B and Team C at EVENS. Therefore your four bets are AB, AC, BC and ABC for the treble. Each of the four bets is £5, so you pay £20 to the bookie. Your bet is placed.

Let’s say two of your selections are incorrect. You therefore lose all the bets as you had doubles and trebles. Your return is zero so you lose your £20 stake.

Let’s say Team A and B are correct but Team C loses. You win the double AB which you had £5 on but you lose the rest of the doubles and the treble as they contain Team C, which you got wrong. Your return for the winning double is £20. You lose the rest of the bets so your return from the bookie is £20. You get your money back as that equals your stake.

Now let’s say you get all three bets right. You win £20 for each of your three double bets netting you £60. Your £5 treble is also a winner so you win another £40 for that part of the trixie. Your total returns are therefore £100 including your stake with a profit of £80.

I like this bet as you get a nice 4/1 return for picking out three teams that were favourites to win the match and priced better because they are playing away. This bet gives you a bit of insurance if 1 team lets you down. Be careful though as away teams do slip up more often.

If you do have a bet remember to never bet more than you are happy and can afford to lose. I like to find that balance between actually liking what I win but not hating it too much when I lose.

Consett AFC start their season on 5th August in the FA Cup and there will be plenty of friendlies planned to sharpen the lads up in preparation for that important match. Consett take the cup competitions very seriously, particularly the FA Vase.

22nd April 2017

Consett AFC ended their season on a sour note getting well-beaten by Sunderland RCA 0-5 at Belle View Stadium.

Going in 0-2 down at half-time, second best but at least with some hope, things went from bad to worse in the second half when a clear offside decision went against Consett, with even the RCA bench being honest enough to admit the attacker was clearly offside. The linesman disagreed and Consett even got a booking for dissent to add to their woes.

A penalty decision against Consett a few moments later, where the defender got the ball but also the player, was one of those decisions you fear when the game is going against you. A big appeal saw the referee think for a moment then point to the spot. It was a close call.

By the time the final whistle went it was a case of “thank goodness” although the fans still gave the players a good cheer as they left the pitch.

Consett should do better next season and hope for a strong league position. I think top 4 is not impossible if the right signings are made. The Manager Mark Eccles and Chairman Frank Bell are already looking ahead towards strengthening the squad to build a team that can challenge for trophies next season.

Like most other Northern League fans I’m now counting the weeks towards the friendly matches restarting.

21st April 2017

Like most Football fans I was shocked to learn of the passing of former Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and England defender Ugo Ehiogu aged 44. By all accounts his stock as an up-and-coming coach was rising season upon season. Ehiogu leaves behind and wife and two children. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

Readers old enough to remember football in the mid to late 1990s and early 2000s will remember Ehiogu as a solid Premier League centre back who earned four England caps, scoring one goal.

When you had the likes of Gareth Southgate, Tony Adams, Sol Campbell and a young Rio Ferdinand competing for the starting spots at the heart of England’s defence, you know he was good to even to be spoken of as a possible starter. And he was good.

But that really doesn’t matter. All deaths from what appears to be natural causes are a tragedy when the person involved seems to have decades ahead of them, whatever the cause. In some ways natural causes is worse because it was just the body coming to a stop.

Enjoy everyday. No matter how fit or unfit you are we are all designed to fail in the end. The middle bit is called life and we should be choosing how to make it more amazing everyday. Keep the good stuff and get rid of the bad. Constantly review and adjust and then what’s left should be worth doing. That should really be our only goal.

In Ugo Ehiogu’s life, short as it was, I hope he enjoyed it all. Many people enjoyed watching him live it.

20th April 2017

I’ve realised I won’t be able to maintain my momentum with daily posts in all likelihood during the summer although I’ll do my best when the friendly season restarts.

The announced General Election clearly has a big impact on me and is causing me to think hard about my future. I won’t bore you with the gory details here, but it’s something for me to work through.

19th April 2017

Congratulations to South Shields who have finally fulfilled what looked their likely destiny all season, which was to lift the Northern League Division 1 title. Whether their 33 match winning run is a record or not, it’s still amazingly impressive.

Whenever a team is promoted to the first division there is speculation as to whether they will be able to cut it at the highest Northern League level as, admittedly, it’s a big jump.

No-one really saw this as a problem for Shields when they came up from Division 2 last season. With with the talents of Peter Jamieson (GK), Alex Nicholson, Louis Storey, Darren Lough, Michael Richardson, Julio Arca, David Foley and Gavin Cogden in their ranks, amongst others, they are a match for any non-league side.

I think it is obvious that these players, providing they are up for the additional travel involved in playing a league higher, will be fine moving up a level. Most of them have played professionally and were close to making it at the very highest level.

I expect Shields to go close to promotion again next season in the Northern Premier First Division. The sky is the limit for them if their backers stick around. The interesting time will be when they don’t get promoted, what will the reaction be at that point.

But for now, congratulations and let the good times roll.

18th April 2017

Not much Football in today’s post I’m afraid.

I’ve had a weird day. I work for an MP who announced some time ago that she will retire at the next election, whenever that came about. The PM’s shock announcement means that I might well be out of work come June 8th. It depends who is selected as the new Labour candidate and a, if they win the seat and b, if they want me.

I’m overqualified for poorly paid jobs and competition is high for jobs I actually want! I’m lucky I’ve had a good seven years where I am and a good 12 years since moving back to the North East in mid-2005.

I wish I was successful enough where paid employment was a choice rather than a necessity. I am never jealous of anyone but I know how much better I’d feel right now if I had secure income moving forward where I could sit back and enjoy life on my terms. That dream seems very far away right now, but enough of my problems.

Perhaps professional footballers nearing the end of the season and the end of their contract feels the same way. For some, the end of the season is the end of the road and imagine how hard it will be to get a ‘proper job’ after football? It must be hard!

17th April 2017

Since Consett FC moved to Belle View Stadium I have been the programme and raffle ticket seller for the club. It’s been over three and a half years now, which has flown by. Saturday marks the end of four seasons where I’ve been the seller.

The 90 minutes before the match starts is my favourite part. I like watching the teams warming up, I like predicting who the Manager will select to play and I enjoy saying hello to the regulars as we urge them to part with £1.50 for a programme and £1 for a strip of raffle tickets.

Unfortunately my colleague Joe telephoned me to let me know he was too ill to attend. Judging by how ill he sounded on the phone he made the wise choice to play it safe. Hopefully he will be well enough to attend Consett’s final home match of the season this coming Saturday.

Penrith had travelled a long way today and it was a tough afternoon for them. Consett were up for it right from the off and were great from start to finish winning 4-0, showing the kind of form Chairman Frank Bell will hope appears every week  next season.

It could well have been worse for Penrith but they hung in well under what was a non-stop onslaught. It was good to watch from the home fans perspective, but the final whistle must have been a relief for Penrith.

The benefit of playing on bank holiday Monday was at the end of the match by “football body clock” felt like it should be 5.30pm but it was actually only 3pm. Winner.

16th April 2017

Writing this blog ensured I made it to the Football yesterday when otherwise I might not have got there. Travelling to Esh through Cornsay Colliery, a Police car was blocking the road into Esh Winning near the Hamsteels estate. I’m not sure what caused the blockage, but there was no way past.

I sat for 5 minutes in the queue of cars and nothing happened. Other cars started turning back so I followed suit giving a fleeting thought to just heading home. But knowing I wanted to write about something in today’s blog post, I persevered, turning left at Cornsay, heading over the hill into Waterhouses, turning left at The Black Horse and left again into the ground.

Once there the nice weather, good clubhouse and friendly welcome ensured I did not regret it for one second. The club is well looked after by their Chairman, who has been associated with the club for decades and Matthew Burdess who was, perhaps still is, the youngest club secretary in the Northern League. All their committee do a great job.

Billingham Town were good value for their 2-0 lead heading towards half-time when Esh were awarded a penalty. It was one of those decisions referees hate. There was contact but the attacker got his shot off. I’ve seen much worse not given, but I was fine with the referee’s decision. Esh duly converted the penalty and headed into half-time back in the match trailing by 1-2.

It was a spectator friendly second half with few, if any, nasty challenges. Late in the game Kai Hewitson broke clear and neatly finished a counter attack from a poor Billingham corner to level the scores. It could be argued Esh did not deserve it, but Billingham had not finished them off. It turned out to be the final goal of the match and it ended 2-2.

Billingham will feel it was two points lost and Esh, despite a quiet 85 minutes, did finish strongly and might feel the unlikely win was there for the taking late on. It was that type of game.

Congratulations to Stockton Town FC who wrapped up the Northern League Division 2 title yesterday. They will do well in Division 1. Consett vs Penrith for me tomorrow.

Happy Easter!

15th April 2017

Lincoln City are now very close to their goal of promotion to League Two as National League champions. Manager Danny Cowley has done wonders for the Lincoln as he did at his previous clubs. He is one to watch for the future, although Lincoln will be clinging onto his services for dear life!

I went to University in Lincoln so the club is special to me. In 1999 I remember watching Lincoln vs Peterborough and recall excellent performances by two very young Peterborough players, both who went on to have great Premiership careers.

Simon Davies, best known for his successful spell at Spurs and Matthew Etherington, who joined Spurs in the same deal were excellent that day. Etherington was later sold to West Ham and then Stoke City, making over 150 appearances for each club before retiring in December 2014.

Etherington’s well-documented gambling problems are arguably as well-known as what he did on the pitch. Davies had an excellent career with Spurs and Wales and was a lynchpin of the Spurs midfield for many years.

But back to Lincoln. After university and a brief spell back in the North East I returned to Lincoln and lived there from February 2003 to July 2005. Lincoln made the League Two playoffs in both 2003 and 2005, unfortunately losing on both occasions. I made the trip to Cardiff International Stadium for both finals. Despite the results, I loved the experience.

Fast forward 15 years and it’s been great to see Lincoln finally enjoying some success and featuring on BT Sport on many occasions. Coupled with their historic run to the FA Cup quarter finals it is little wonder they are pulling in record crowds and almost filling Sincil Bank every match. They even gave Arsenal a scare in the biggest match of their history.

The good news for the club is their FA Cup fairytale did have a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to the tune of £2.5 million from prize money and TV revenue. Their many appearances on BT Sport as they attempt to wrap up the National League title will be earning them yet more still.

It’s all a far cry from when I lived in Lincoln when the club was the first to go into administration in early 2002, just a few months before I graduated. I remember marching through the city centre with a bucket to collect money for the club along with hundreds of supporters who travelled from across the country wearing their own club shirts in a real show of sporting solidarity.

I recall creating a poster with my friend Mark criticising ITV Digital. ITV had pulled their sponsorship money which was the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of Lincoln staying out of administration, which they formally entered on 3rd May 2002, three weeks before I left University.

As our group and banner was photographed by journalists, a lady stood next to me and asked if she could be in the photo. I said yes but didn’t really look to see who it was. It was only when I saw the photo in the Lincolnshire Echo the following day that I noticed it was the local MP, Gillian Merron.

Many football clubs have since followed Lincoln into administration, accepting the penalties that now come with it, which are severe.

Not many clubs rebound from the financial mire as Lincoln have now done, but for Lincoln it’s taken a great Manager, a successful season, a historic cup run and 15 years. Who knows what the future holds for them, but in football you enjoy the success right now and that’s what the fans are doing.

It’s up to the board to get the strategy right behind the scenes to safeguard the clubs future for as long as possible and make the most from this opportunity.

Good luck to them.

14th April 2017

Use it or lose it was the message to Hebburn Town fans earlier in the season when their officials realised the numbers did not add up and the club faced closure. Money talks even at the lower reaches of the footballing pyramid even if only to survive rather than thrive.

It was good to see the Northern League tweeting to encourage fans to “break the attendance record” for Hebburn Town yesterday to help generate some vital gate money for the club, if nothing else to give a boost to their dedicated committee to keep plugging on.

When Consett play away I like to visit other clubs if the weather is not too horrific. My natural tendency to avoid travelling usually sees me rock up to Esh Winning or Tow Law Town. If I fancy travelling a bit further I love the facilities at Willington FC and if all the above are playing away, which seems to happen quite often, I am happy to watch Brandon.

There is something about Esh Winning FC that I just like, so I’m thinking about heading there to watch them fight it out against Billingham Town tomorrow at 3pm. You can’t go wrong for a fiver entry. I was all for heading there today, until I realised it was Friday.