The Search Continues - 2016/17 End Of Season Review

Discussion in 'Non League News,Bloggs and Titbits' started by Two Men In Search Of The, Jun 19, 2017.

  1. [​IMG]After twenty eight games and God knows how many miles traveled or questionable burgers eaten later, the 2016/17 season was punctuated with meeting a World Cup winner, pyro, heartbreak, changing room celebrations, visits to Lisbon, Halifax, Stockport and what feels like most of Essex. Wembley finals and Wembley woes for Tottenham, wonder goals and karaoke, all that made the past ten months eventful to say the least.
    In fair Clacton is where we lay our scene, no violence or feuding families, just sun worshippers, arcades and greasy battered sausages. An FA Cup match, observed by ‘3 Old Gits’ a wandering minstrel, and plenty of squawking gulls, all while planes landed at a nearby airfield. Complete with timetables the ‘Bus Shelter’ stand at the The Rush Green Bowl, provided one of the best chants of the season, “oh I do like to be beside the seaside” - BLOG Don't Follow Me, Follow The Seasiders - FC Clacton Vs Eton Manor FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - FC Clacton Vs Eton Manor FC

    Our obligatory early season foray into the League Cup’s current incarnation, took us to what just might be the most uncomfortable ground in the whole football pyramid, Loftus Road. All enquiries of where to sit, were followed with comments about the complete lack of “leg room”, we finally opted for the Upper Loft, where Tom declined the chance to have a ‘Mums hotdog’ instead eating a pie so quickly he was in his own words reduced to looking like a “dog”. In near agony we watched Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink almost marshal QPR to a first hurdle fail against a team from two divisions below them - BLOG Making Hard Work Of It - QPR FC Vs Swindon Town FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - QPR FC Vs Swindon Town FC

    Hot, boiling, scorching, oppressive, all consuming disgusting heat is the overriding memory of our visit to the Croydon Sports Arena, for Croydon ‘The Trams’ FC’s FA Cup replay, the clubs nickname soon made clear by the constant passing of the South London mode of transport. From the vantage point of a steeplechase jump, at the athletics stadium come football ground, we hoped, just falling short of performing a rain dance, that the distant rumbles of thunder materialised, and the accompanying downpour might some some way to cooling us down - BLOG A Hurdle Too Far - Croydon FC Vs V.C.D. Athletic FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Croydon FC Vs V.C.D. Athletic FC

    Hijacking a family holiday, putting our search for the perfect Slush Puppy on hold, we made the short hop from Margate to Ramsgate, for some Bank Holiday action to see ‘The Rams’ managed by the Man From Del Monte. Having been forced into an early season substitution, Tom was out, my nine year year old son was in. We watched a match played out on a sun scorched pitch, with plenty of goals, farmyard animals and the Channel Four news theme tune, which all made for an excellent family day out - BLOG Nowhere To Hide - Ramsgate FC Vs Hythe Town FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Ramsgate FC Vs Hythe Town FC

    [​IMG]A stones throw from the financial heart of the United Kingdom, the two perhaps most exotically named teams in England go head to head in a late summer affair, where we saw four goals and heard a moment of pure poetry from the sidelines - BLOG Let Him Dance - Sporting Bengal United FC Vs London Bari FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Sporting Bengal United FC Vs London Bari FC

    My first of two miserable visits to see Spurs at Wembley, where Rachel on both occasions stood in for an apparently and conveniently always ‘busy’ Tom. First up was their assault on Champions League, as they got their supposed ‘easy’ group off to the worst possible start. After meeting an ex Spurs player, one from my youth, who looks a little bit different now, and reveling in the grandeur and spectacle of 80,000 odd fellow Spurs fans descending on the nation's stadium, for a night under the arch, looking forward to seeing our team pitch themselves against Europe's elite, well let's just say, it wasn't the outcome anyone wanted - BLOG Bless - Tottenham Hotspur FC Vs AS Monaco FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Tottenham Hotspur FC Vs AS Monaco FC

    Not our first visit to Champion Hill, however it was our first time watching Dulwich Hamlet play and seeing ‘The Rabble’, Dulwich’s vocal fan group with their giant pink and blue scarf. For all the key jangling and suggestions that “North London” is “wank, wank, wank”, the bad tempered football match took a bit of a back seat due to the divine dumplings on offer, and after chatting with Dulwich opponents Chairman, it was made clear, just how important the FA Cup is, to the clubs bank balance as well as the players pride - BLOG Dumplings - Dulwich Hamlet FC Vs Hendon FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Dulwich Hamlet FC Vs Hendon FC

    After a long bout of illness which forced Tom into a lengthy spell in bed, it was nearly a month between our visit to Dulwich and our chilly October Wednesday night under the nuclear orange hue of the Cricklefield Stadium floodlights, as we watched another Essex Senior League game surrounded by a running track. Plenty of goals, two red cards and another stop in Tom’s international culinary tour, this time the West Indies - BLOG Jerk Chicken & Tea - Ilford FC Vs Eton Manor FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Ilford FC Vs Eton Manor FC

    Another day at the seaside, another toe dipped into the FA Cup, this time the first round proper. You might think a go on the carousel on the end of Brighton pier was the highlight of the day, but you would be wrong, especially after spending forty five minutes squeezed onto the ramshackle sticker covered scaffolding of a stand, that literally rocked with the constant singing and drumming of the Whitehawk Ultras. Men in full head rubber bird of prey masks, tiny dogs in football stripes, plus a heavy, heavy dose of controversy, made our go on the gaily painted horses earlier in the day, a little insignificant - BLOG Thursday, 10 November 2016 Football For All - Whitehawk FC Vs Stourbridge FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Whitehawk FC Vs Stourbridge FC
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    A cup upset, secured in the most painful of ways. Welcomed with open arms at Chalk Lane, unfortunately it was the home side, who were on the wrong end of an unexpected defeat - BLOG That's Football - Cockfosters FC Vs Enfield Borough FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Cockfosters FC Vs Enfield Borough FC

    Hung over, wet through, in the wrong end, and lucky to get in, in the first place, just about sums up our European jaunt of the season, hijacking this time a friend's stag do to Lisbon. A dire game, elevated a little by the Super Dragons of Porto, was all made alright, after a chance run in with a World Cup winner - BLOG We are from England - Os Belenenses Vs FC Porto & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Os Belenenses Vs FC Porto

    Before heading off for his romantic Italian New Year's Eve meal with his girlfriend, and I joined my Mum and her cats for a far from romantic spag bol on my knees and Jools Holland, or some such December 31st awfulness, we paid the eventual Ryman League South champions a visit. Mistaking Beethoven for an Oompa Loompa and both agreeing that Bovril is horrible, is how we finished 2016 - BLOG Come On Allsorts - Tooting & Mitcham United FC Vs Whyteleafe FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Tooting & Mitcham United FC Vs Whyteleafe FC

    A new year, and a new ground, well when we eventually found it, and not before we avoided being run over by eager mums and dads in big cars, picking up their children from football practice. A last minute winner, meant we witnessed the continuation of one of the most remarkable of unbeaten runs - BLOG Twenty Eight Wins, Two Draws - Bridon Ropes FC Vs Crowborough Athletic FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Bridon Ropes FC Vs Crowborough Athletic FC

    What started off as an attempt to finally see Bowers & Pitsea, was soon thwarted by a frozen pitch, that no amount of heel smashing and key prodding could resolve. It meant we had to try and find a game, and quick, so the long drive to Essex wasn’t for nothing. Deeper into our most visited of counties, our non league second home, on the banks of the Thames estuary we watched a five goal annihilation of what was the first outing of the newly acquired ‘Blog Mobile’ - BLOG Bit Late For That - Canvey Island FC Vs Bognor Regis Town FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Canvey Island FC Vs Bognor Regis Town FC

    Normally associated with the impending bombardment from a Junkers Ju 390, heard from the limited safety of your homemade Anderson Shelter, it was bizarre to say the least when the fans of Harlow Town tore up the relative silence of a freezing Tuesday night, with their unique goal celebration. As well as songs about Poundland and one of Tom’s favourite burgers of the season, the addition of having a car and the ability to stretch our legs, was paying dividends already - BLOG Sometimes We Have Three - Harlow Town FC Vs Metropolitan Police FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Harlow Town FC Vs Metropolitan Police FC
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    Rain, so much rain, so much that it made Lisbon feel like a light shower. Amazingly the game went ahead, Tom spending most of the ninety minutes concerned for the mental health of the groundsman, as his beloved pitch ended up looking like some nondescript wasteland just outside Paschendale - BLOG IOU - Barking FC Vs Sporting Bengal United FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Barking FC Vs Sporting Bengal United FC

    Our first of two encounters with the much column inch filling Billericay Town, another game in yes you guessed it Essex, saw us watch the Ryman League Premier side, pre ex Premier League arrivals, almost, almost blow a four goal lead, against a team from the division below, and despite the loss of a floodlight and a player, they eventually secured their spot in the Ryman League Cup final 2017 - BLOG This Wasn't Here Last Wednesday - Billericay Town FC Vs South Park FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Billericay Town FC Vs South Park FC

    No Tom, Rachel stepping in once again, and I come to the conclusion that watching Spurs at Wembley is frankly fucking miserable. Bring back the heady days of drawing with Barcelona in the much missed Wembley Cup, because on a Thursday night against the De Buffalo's of Gent, Spurs crowned their dismal European season, crashing out to the backdrop of a ‘Thunder Clap’ or two - BLOG Where Is Gent? - Tottenham Hotspur FC Vs K.A.A. Gent & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Tottenham Hotspur FC Vs K.A.A. Gent

    Rachel & I, and with Tom now back in the fold, made it a three pronged attack on the North West's non league scene, as we hit the M1 and many signs to The North later, we were parking in a less than official car park, in the shadow of Edgeley Park. Climbing the large stand of the Cheadle End, the drums and singing of the locals, "I - O County, County I - O". made up for a less than entertaining game - BLOG You’re Coming A Long Way For Chorley - Stockport County FC Vs Chorley FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Stockport County FC Vs Chorley FC

    What might go down as our most depressing match of the season, was when we made our way to the once vibrant Valley, which no thanks to the dealings of a certain Belgian, has been reduced to a mausoleum, the tomb of a once top tier team, who are now languishing in the third tier. Not that anyone is there to see them floundering, except for a giant robin and a Knight, most have decided a boycott is the only way to force the much hated owner out. Those who were in attendance and not in fancy dress, which meant the amount of empty seats, far outweighed the full ones, with the help of an excellent drummer did not stop singing, and were even treated to a win - BLOG CAFC The Team For Me - Charlton Athletic FC Vs Scunthorpe United FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Charlton Athletic FC Vs Scunthorpe United FC

    [​IMG]The second game in what turned out to be a hat trick of ‘League Games’, was a very pleasant evening at the compact and partially terraced Griffin Park, were Tom tucked into pancakes, huge bees wandered in fear of their lives, because of the sugar filled children, and Wolves in orange coats, ruined the home supporters night right at the death - BLOG I Refuse To Boo Them - Brentford FC Vs Wolverhampton Wanderers FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Brentford FC Vs Wolverhampton Wanderers FC

    After over twenty years of visiting this Archibald Leitch palace, home of the purveyors of the most beautiful of the beautiful game, even having an Arsenal fan in tow, the constant whiff of tuna or the ill informed ramblings of two wannabe tacticians, did little to diminish, what turned out to be my very last ever visit to White Hart Lane. With what is to come imposing itself so shockingly in one corner of the ground, it was hard not to feel overly sentimental about its destruction. Meeting another ex player, not a La Liga winner this time or one who has gone through such a massive transformation since the end of his playing days, just one I made a massive tit of myself in front of. The perfect end, to a day that would not have been possible without the aforementioned Gooner - BLOG Minute By Minute - Tottenham Hotspur FC Vs Southampton FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Tottenham Hotspur FC Vs Southampton FC

    Finally no frozen pitch, train strike, or illness could get in the way of us from watching Bowers & Pitsea at the Len Salmon Stadium. Unruly mascots, giant hotdogs, the warmest of non league welcomes, many a familiar face, impending rain, a rapid player with the power to assist himself and cut price raffle tickets, as well as a well earned victory with plenty of home goals, meant we couldn't have asked for more, from our long awaited visit - BLOG China Mugs & Onion Rings - Bowers & Pitsea FC Vs Dereham Town FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Bowers & Pitsea FC Vs Dereham Town FC

    In the annals of time, will the Ryman League Cup final of 2017 be remembered for the eleven goals, the blue smoke bomb or what might go down as one of the biggest non league talking points of the season, the Billericay Town 'R Kelly' singalong - BLOG Watching ‘Ricay On A Wednesday Night - Billericay Town FC Vs Tonbridge Angels FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Ryman League Cup Final 2017

    I think my shirt still smells of Budweiser and Cava, and I still have a slight ringing in my ears, following the events at the Wallace Binder Ground, where a single goal secured Thurrock FC's promotion and set off a chain of events and celebrations of last days of Rome proportions, that will live long in the memory - BLOG Over The Moon - Maldon & Tiptree FC Vs Thurrock FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Ryman League North Play-Off Final 2017

    [​IMG]Our second visit to Champion Hill of the season, was not to see the home team, but as the venue of the London FA Senior Cup Final which did not disappoint, even with the lack of dumplings, A genuine underdog, a "little step five club" as their chairman put it, beat a sorry looking Met Police FC, not the first time we could say that about them this year. No hot food, only a Crunchie, but one of, if not the finest goals we saw all season - BLOG What A Wednesday Night - Cray Valley Paper Mills FC Vs Metropolitan Police FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - London FA Senior Cup Final 2017

    Nearly there, our penultimate game of 2016/17, we're almost able to reintroduce ourselves to our girlfriends, family, children and friends, as football is close to finishing. For the first part of our National League double header weekend, we made the four hour drive to West Yorkshire, for what might well have been the best game of the twenty eight, in fact one of the best we've been to these past two and a bit years. A play-off final which couldn't have given us much more: pyro, non stop singing, pitch invasions and nail biting endings. A truly fantastic afternoon, a long way from home, that was worth every hour behind the wheel, “we’re on our way” - BLOG Follow The Blue - FC Halifax Town Vs Chorley FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - National League North Play-Off Final 2017

    Game number twenty eight of twenty eight, at Wembley Stadium, two teams, one of which by the end of a very, very warm Sunday afternoon will no longer be a non league one. On one side a once League Cup runner up, with a long history of loftier heights and a fan base to match, on the other a relative minnow in comparison, who have never in their history carried the moniker of a football league club. A very shiny trumpet, broken chairs, Vikings, sombreros and many, many tears, and not from me this time, after the previous days high of Halifax, it just proves we can’t always call it right - BLOG Stay Up Lad - Tranmere Rovers FC Vs Forest Green Rovers FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - National League Promotion Final 2017

    Perhaps the hardest thing to do when writing an end of season round up, is summarising twenty eight games, without going on and on and on, some might say like I usually do. So much has happened from the very small, like hearing a funny comment from a fan in the stands or a song or chant that particularly resonates. To the huge like watching a team get promoted or go through the agony of missing out on it.

    One thing that is very easy though, is thanking all those that have helped and supported us, those that have shared and published what we do, allowing us to reach the wider world. Also those who one way or another have done us a favour or two this past season: @LWIMTH, @AshAndAlPodcast, @thetoughtackler, @ldnfootyguide, @ShootTheDefence, @Dispenssoccer, @BBFootballUK, @PollsNL68, @TheDaisyCutter1, @Matt_CAFC, @NonLeagueNews, @MarkNLDaily, @knockernorton1, @winkveron, @richbeedie, @LasVegasWI, @wagnerc23, @VFTAE, @ProseccoFront, @Copa90, @Gandermonium, @Phil_Football, @townsendaround .
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    We must also extend a huge amount of gratitude to all the clubs, teams and players who have been very patient and generous with their time, allowing us to wander around on match day, hopefully not getting in the way too much.

    To conclude, well all I can say is the search continues. We have got close to finding footballing Nirvana this season, in the smoke filled stands of The Shay, the singing in the Cheadle End, in a rain soaked car park in the hills of Lisbon, witnessing the defiant stance of a betrayed fan base in South London or in a Cava soaked changing room in Essex, but have we found it? I'm not sure we have. Maybe our search is even a little fruitless, what even is the 'Beautiful Game'?

    Is it noisy fans, ginormous stadiums or aging ones full of character, a flowing one touch counter attack or a forty yard cross field pass, is it all of that combined or is it simply finding the smallest of things that excites you on a cold Tuesday night in November, that makes the ninety minute shclepp worth it.

    Whatever it may be, we will continue to search for it, we will continue to share with you our findings, silly flag and all. See you next season........

    For a full photographic review of 2016/17, click HERE

    For our end of season review video, click HERE
     

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