Tuesday, 23 June 2015

End of season stuff. The future of THE66POW... and other token nonsense.

The 2014-15 season:
A factual witness statement account, as viewed through the eyes of a misanthropic cynic.
All opinions expressed herein are those of either me, myself or I, three massively contradictory and very complex alter egos.
But I know what I'm doing and where I'm coming from... and so do we.
As self indulgent, often indecipherable and long winded summarisations go, this one is self indulgent, often indecipherable and long winded.
Welcome to my cathartic narrative overview, structured around my own personal experiences and recollections, using only a sprawling and ad hoc range of mental notes for props, prompts and guidance, that I have collated whilst documenting a meandering (and almost always off the beaten track) train of thought, that plodded along at my own pace around the bumpy back roads of the 2014-15 football season.
I have attempted to chart all of the twists and turns that I encountered and navigated along the way as accurately and truthfully as is humanly possible, but if you do feel personally offended or misrepresented in any way, then let it be known; I am not unduly concerned about you or your grievances.
Likewise if you're one of those shameless, witless and myopic 'tards who think everything you read on the internet is about you, or aimed at you, then you can bristle with indignation at this juncture, because this lengthy scatterbomb barrage of bewilderment, bafflement, perplexity, puzzlement, mystification, stupefaction, disorientation, befuddlement and scepticism is all about me.
Because, face facts, I am far more interesting than you... but deep inside, you already knew that.
So, without further ado...
The origins of The 66 Parables of Wim
THE66POW:
This blog, has been severely neglected, almost to the point of extinction, for far too long now.
However, it may be on the verge of making an imminent recovery.
Only time will tell.
"Life is what happens when you're making other plans" n' all that, but I am currently, endeavouring to salvage something out of the wreckage of what once was, a prolifically tended to online journal.
The formula, appearance and template won't alter very much, but content wise, the whole thing does need some pretty serious remedial attention.
I hope to God I'm not as numb as you make out:
How will I approach the task of renovating THE66POW?
Well... "You've got to destroy, before you can create" said either Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (who by way of a totally unconnected coincidence passed away on my 17th birthday, which was quite a long time ago), or Pablo Picasso (who had already been dead for a week on the day I turned 10), or possibly even Joe Strummer from The Clash, or chief medical officer Leonard McCoy from the Starship Enterprise (AKA actor DeForest Kelley), or somebody else completely different altogether from outwith this grouping of guestimated suggestions.
But, back on subject; in order to move forward the time is right, to "Rip it up and start again" (that was definitely a quote from Edwyn Collins).
For the record, I do know Joe Strummer's real name is John Graham Mellor, and I vividly remember where I was the day he died too, but I didn't want to clog up the previous paragraph with unnecessary amounts of peripheral information.
Despite the recent lack of updated material on THE66POW, I possibly actually wrote thousands more words on the subject of football during the 2014-15 season, than I ever have done before.
But, in the main, the produce of my long winded lexicography and (often) intentionally spitefully constructed mytho-poetical word flow, all appeared elsewhere.
Because I currently have a myriad spectrum of other roles, away from the blogging kingdom, encompassing a juxtaposition of club duties and a top heavy schedule of writing for other outlets, projects and platforms, that all usurp the fruits of my viperous outpourings and occasional (forced) wit and satire.
Most of my output is ironic and tongue in cheek, but it also possibly requires the following statement to quantify it's existence: Don't ever believe anybody who peddles out the line that 'sarcasm is the lowest form of wit', because it isn't!
Underestimate the power of this beautiful and misunderstood art form at your peril.
These numerous 'pastimes' consume virtually all of the 'spare' time that I have previously utilised to fuse together a few scribbled down almost relevant observations, that formed a patchwork mismatch of materials, sewn together to record the tapestry of my life, via barely literate and semi-accurate posts scrutinizing all, or at least most, of my football travels.
Something had to give.
There are only 29 hours in a day and 9 days per week, when all is said and done.
So apologies to my staunchly loyal and faithful readership.
I thank you both from the bottom of my heart for waiting so patiently, for the pitifully few half baked crumbs of discomfort and insightful 'pearls of wisdom' that crawl out of the woodwork every once in a while via THE66POW.
Thinking on, I might from time to time, recycle some of the lovingly crafted and beautifully detailed prose that I have penned for other sources and incorporate it into this blog.
It has been said that some of my music reviews, political insights and papers on dealing with the long lasting aftermath of serious trauma, are real tearjerkers.
But football as a metaphor for life, is far more interesting than any of the above. Isn't it?
Another genuine reason for my lack of blogging over the past couple of seasons, stems from the fact that there were times, in fact many, many times, when I simply just didn't have the inclination to fanny about on my laptop, when I got in from yet another late night drive home. I'm getting old and need my three hours of sleep per night these days.
Nobody is twisting my arm, I do what I do out of choice.... no really!!!
But there really is (far) more to life than association football.
But only sometimes.

I sent you flowers, you wanted chocolates instead:
As one season grinds apologetically to an unceremonious halt, hastily slams the door shut behind it and curls up in a shady corner to slip away unceremoniously, quietly and with as much dignity as it can still possibly muster under the circumstances, the embryonic shoots of the next one are already beginning to take root and develop.
184 games in a season is an awful lot of football, or some might say, a lot of awful football.
But I would vehemently disagree with the latter.
Even when your chosen team is playing abysmally and getting turned over big time, it should always be part of a steep and never ending learning curve.
And unless you are one of those blinkered individuals (we all know a few), who actually thinks they know it all already, you'll understand exactly what I mean.
Given the value range, freezer section offal based products end of the football food chain that I circumnavigate, more often than not, when I am not on duty at Inkersall Road, Staveley, S43 3JL, one could probably expect a high percentage quota of the games I watch to be completely crap, but I was fortunate enough not to have seen too many howlers this season.
On my way to meet Charlie George.
The real final total of games I actually physically attended was 186, but my unapproved absence from work for two games needed disguising from the guy who was my boss at the time. And there was another one that I won't count, due to the fact I left after 45 minutes, because it was boring and it was bloody cold too. I couldn't find anyone to open the exit gate until half time either.
But it was never really about number crunching for me.
Swings and roundabouts:
To be truthful, some of the season that has just passed, was excellent and bordered on being (almost) spiritually rewarding for me on a personal level.
The highs and the laughs were, very occasionally, almost euphoric.
But (insert lightning crash sound effects to heighten the suspense here), there were also some other times too and, err... to be perfectly honest, they almost bordered on being soul destroying.
And I would be a big fat fibber if I didn't say, that there were a few stand out moments that saddened me and/or annoyed me in such a voluminous measure, that they counter balanced all of the good stuff and nearly tipped the scales towards an away win for the dark side.
But only nearly.
Working within a framework based around the theory, that if you don't get annoyed, or genuinely angry even, or banging a tin tray on your head style frustrated to the nth degree at times, it is because you don't care enough, then hey ho!
Count me in.
Been there, done that, got the ripped and torn t-shirt (the Dr David Banner moments are responsible for that).
I shall not dwell on that kind of thing though and will just say that, of the umpteen anger management courses that I attended over the past 12 months, I failed each and every one of them, with flying colours.
Only look forward, think positive things, smiling is good for you etc. etc.
For purposes of clarification, I want it be to put on record, that none of the aforementioned friction and confrontation, occurred between myself and anybody I work with directly, or otherwise, at Staveley.
If you're one of those people who has cottoned on to the fact that it is possible to care too much, please spare me the unwanted advice, it will go completely unheeded and I am fully aware of just how close (and how often) I get to edge of the precipice at times.
But that is how I roll.

"I thought you'd listen to my reasoning
But now I see, you don't hear a thing
Try to make you see, how it's got to be
Yes it's all, all or nothing, for me"
(Marriott/Lane) 1966
Also performed by the Cycle Paths when they played in the Clubhouse at Staveley MWFC... and a very passable version of the Small Faces hit record their take on it was too.
Give 'em enough rope:
Certain aspects of the 2014-15 campaign will remain with me as vivid memories for quite a while... and not necessarily for the right reasons.
Suffice to say, you are never too old to learn, but it is how you receive and acquire knowledge from the lessons that life presents you with, combined, more importantly, with how you deal with the aftermath, that will ultimately make or break you.
"Dodge the bullets, or carry the gun, the choice is yours!" as Jaz Coleman once said.
And he wasn't joking either.
A former sidekick of mine, I was in touch with recently, told me he had taken on a new job in football next season, despite having left his last one under a bit of a cloud, because the involvement was like a drug to him.
Actually, it is far more serious than that.
Addiction is curable, but the kind of mental illness that you catch from hanging around in close proximity to other 'football types' too often, most definitely isn't.
A few tentative steps and woosh! You're on that slippery slop and there may be trouble ahead.
But while there's moonlight and music and love and romance...
Whoops sorry, I'm wandering off on a tangent again.
Give him a ball and a yard of grass:
Personally, being the eternal cynic that I steadfastly and stubbornly always will be, I'm wont to proceed with caution at all times, wherever I have worked, be it at any given football club or place of employment, based on my deeply held belief that if something seems too good to be true, it always will be.
And of course, you've also got to consider that all clubs have a never ending turnover of staff, as they continue to evolve and/or move off in a different direction. With or without you.
What you have to condition yourself to do, is not to take any of these changes to heart, it isn't personal, 'tis merely your turn to suffer the wrath of the predictably unpredictable nature of the multi-headed beast called football.
Bear in mind that one day, possibly sooner rather than later, it will nearly always be your turn to get punted and jettisoned eventually, to make way for some internal restructure, a replacement part or new game plan.
"Enjoy yourself! It's later than you think"

For every stalwart that has been around since the beginning of time itself (and there are a fair few of these scattered around local clubs), there are hundreds more who will eternally harbor a grudge because they will believe that they have been mistreated by the suits/officialdom at one club or another. And, although a lot of them will be wholly entitled to feel that way, others would perhaps do well to observe any danger signs and take heed of the alarm bells at all times in future.
Just saying like.
He's a nice young man, with a lovely smile:
My current football vocation, involves 'jobbing' with a club that is as near as damn it, an almost complete blueprint for what, in my opinion, any Non League club should aspire to be like, if they ever get the opportunity.
Granted, there is no such thing as perfect, but it's just about as close as you're going to get.
The infrastructure, facilities and calibre of people 'doing their bit' around the club are all second to none.
My actual title at Staveley MWFC?
Don't make me laugh.
Non League people don't have one job, or need a fancy moniker to justify their worth, you just do whatever needs doing when you turn up.
I could pontificate and elaborate about the future, but it's pre-season, so I'll let people from other clubs, shout from the rooftops about their plans and new signings for the ten months ahead and keep schtum about what I'm witnessing, so as to not give any secrets away.
Suffice to say, preparations are at a very advanced stage and are going much better than some of the club I work for's detractors even dare think about.
FORZA STAVELEY!
In conclusion:
2014-15 stuff, tying up some loose ends and signing off until next season (AKA, probably some time next week).

Best goal:
Ryan Watters for Staveley MW, away v Parkgate, NCEL Groundhop Day.
Credit where it is due award:
Staveley MW, 12 game unbeaten run, 11 straight wins followed by a 1-1 draw at Bridlington Town.
A fantastic achievement. Good luck to the management team responsible, Jas & Ryan and everybody else, who have since decamped to Clipstone FC. You ****ers aren't half going to miss me!!!
Cup final glory:
It was brilliant that Staveley MW U21's won a cup final on the occasion of my last ever game as their Match Secretary, but I actually enjoyed both of their league games against Ilkeston far more.
Trophies are nice but it's all about developing young players.
Friendliest club(s):
Winterton Rangers, Cleethorpes Town, Bridlington Town and Auchinleck Talbot.
Best comeback:
Handsworth Parramore against Cleethorpes Town, in NCEL League Cup Final at Staveley MW. Genuinely happy for my pal Kieron Wells, for the massive part he played in his sides 4-3 win that day.
Best football book:
'Invincible' by Amy Lawrence, it's been out a while but I only got the opportunity to read it recently. Primarily, it is about Arsenal's unbeaten Premier League season of 2003-04, but I really enjoyed the fascinating insight into the psyche of Arsene Wenger.
Favourite ground(s):
Dalbeattie Star, Matlock Town, Frickley Athletic... and Staveley MW would look quite awesome without those Sheff Wednesdayesque stripes.
Regrets:
I've had a few, but then agian...
Best live shows:
Sleaford Mods, The Cycle Paths, Ruts DC
Best blog:
Shaun E. Smith's 'The 100 Grounds Club'. He's a nice bloke n' all.

Honourable mentions:
Ele, without whom a lot of things would never happen.
'That curmudgeonly old soak', AKA Terry Damms.
Steven Hall.
Jay, Steve and Liz.
Teresa and her mob.
Big Andy and Mrs H.
Jas Colliver & Ryan France.
The back of the stand, Cannon Park crew.
Brett Marshall, cheers for the openness and honest two way chats.
Stuart Wall.
The Davids (all three of you).
Big Dick. I am blessed to have such a large Richard, in my circle of friends.
Rich Williams.
Ian Gambles.
Stu for the prog covers.
Richard and Chris for the prog articles.
Everyone at AFC Mansfield.
My Retford Stags brethren.
Several good friends at Handsworth Parramore.
The moaning old buggers at the back of Inkersall Road terrace.
Suzi and Richard in the Grafton.
Colin & Geoff for the long distance hauls.
Andy Lake, Paul Stacey, Mark Shaw, Anne & Kev Keep.
All of my old pals at Worksop Town for always making me feel welcome, in spite of everything, and some new pals I've met there on my travels this past year or so too.
All of you lot who have now buggered off elsewhere, for one reason or another, but who've done your bit along the way. I salute you gents.
And of course, last and most definitely least... old whatsername and my family for putting up my often lengthy absences.

If all of the above has made any sense to you whatsoever, I salute your choice of medication.
If it didn't, never mind, it was all for me and about me really, nobody forced you into persevering with it until the end.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Trojans are coming!

A three part serialised opus.
A veritable tale of blood, sweat and beers, detailing why Staveley Miners Welfare FC's new nickname is 'The Trojans'.
Follow the click on links for the full story. 
You know you're very tempted.


Saturday, 20 June 2015

RETFORD TOWN FC - RIVER LANE

Cricket Field End. AKA 'the Tin Shed'
Picture taken from River Lane end goalmouth, penalty spot in foreground
Left click images to enlarge.
The decaying ruins of a once Retford Town FC's River Lane home, now demolished to make way for a Morrisons supermarket.
I took these photographs the weekend before the bulldozers moved in and levelled the site.
Old Moaners Stand.
Probably not it's real name but we called it that and it was very apt.
Slates missing from the press box roof, a facility that was never actually
used, because the building wasn't quite finished when RTFC folded
Tin Shed
End profile of Old Moaners Stand - Home team dug out to the left, which
used to double up as a goal at half time for pitch invading kids
Waterfields Side Stand.
Picture taken from home team dug out roof.
Waterfields Side Stand. (above and below)
It was almost this creaky and unstable as this when it was in use.
A family of daring explorers inside the Tin Shed.
Alas, I never saw them again after they went missing in the
Triffid farm that had taken over the Waterfields Side Stand.
Away team dug out.
The  home team one is on the right under a pile of brambles.
Arlington Way bridge over the River Idle is just visible, top left.
The best view in the ground was to be
 had from the Shamrocks club balcony.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Birds of Prey at Staveley MWFC

LEFT CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
As part of an ongoing programme of providing events, live entertainment and shows to engage and entertain the local community that our football club represents, Staveley Miners Welfare FC are delighted to be able to announce the following details:
THE BIRDS OF PREY SHOW
SUNDAY 28th JUNE 2015
9.30AM 'til 4.30PM
At STAVELEY MWFC,
INKERSALL ROAD, STAVELEY S43 3JL
Plenty of free car parking at the ground
Staveley MWFC welcome “The Birds Of Prey” show to Inkersall Road on Sunday 28th June 2015. With a mid-morning and mid afternoon flight demonstration of various Eagles and Vultures and a static demonstration of a variety of other hawks, this is going to a be a spectacular show for all the families and nature lovers in the local community.
Birds Of Prey say :-
“The flying displays and demonstrations we offer focus more on the birds being the star attraction rather than the falconry side that many people follow. 
"Our team provides two flying displays per day, of between thirty and forty-five minutes in duration.
"Whilst the birds are not flying they will be on static display throughout the day with a member of staff on hand at all times.
"Our expertly trained staff are not only fully licensed and insured, but also extremely knowledgeable and passionate, and will be available throughout the day to talk about the birds."
The turnstiles will open at 9:30AM at which time the clubhouse will be open serving breakfast cobs, hot and cold drinks and later on there will be hot roasted pork cobs for the lunchtime/afternoon session and the bar will be open from 11AM until the close of the days entertainment at around 4:30PM.
There will also be plenty of other entertainment and stalls provided during the day as we aim to provide a full day of activities to suit all ages.
This is an opportunity not to be missed to see these great birds in flight and we hope to see you on the day.
Admission prices for this event are as follows:
Adults £5.Concessions £3. Family ticket for two adults and accompanied concessions £12.
Advance tickets are available or pay on the day.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

England U21 1 v Belarus U21 0 - International Match

Thursday 11th June 2015
International Friendly
at Oakwell, Barnsley
England U21 (0) 1 Ben Gibson 83
Belarus U21 (0) 0
Admission £10. Programme £3. Attendance 15,207
England U21
Butland (Bond 69); Jenkinson, Stones (Chambers 45 ), Gibson, Garbutt, Ward-Prowse (Chalobah 69), Carroll (Forster-Caskey 69), Hughes (Loftus-Cheek 45 ), Redmond (Ings 60 ), Berahino (Kane 59), Pritchard (Lingard 69). 
Unused Subs - Keane,  Moore, Targett, Bettinelli.
Belarus U21:
Vasilyuchek; Zolatau, Ihnatsenka, Leshka (Evdokimov 45); Karpovich, Yablonskiy, Korzun (Pavlyunkovets 86), Yarotskiy (Shibun 64 sub subbed by Baiduk, 86), Poznyak, Yanchanka (Klimovich 76), Lebedzeu (Milevski 64). 
Unused Subs - Chichkan, Evdokimov.
We arrived in Barnsley around a hour before the scheduled kick off time and I managed to get a quick drink in The Mount public house, which has some tasteful 'Toby Tyke' images painted on it's windows and served a decent pint of Bitter, as you'd expect in this locality.
However, my sidekick posted on Facebook that she was in The Mount with me and that in her opinion it was one of the worst pubs she has ever been in.
So we moved on and having left a nearby chip shop without buying anything, because she didn't like the look of 'owt that had been cooked in the traditional Yorkshire way (what a snob), we ended up at the ground far too early and had to settle for overpriced, overcooked, burnt to the an extent that bordered on cremation and completely inedible pies.
A herd of very big boned people squeezed into the seats directly beside us about ten minutes before the game got underway, meaning that every time anyone wanted to scratch an itch, sneeze, look at their programme or scoff another one of the endless supply of snack food items they had bought along with them, the front row of Block EU9 turned into an undignified mosh akin to a game of Sumo Twister as we vanished under a scrum of sweaty and jiggly flesh.
Squeezed into a contorted position, that has possibly knocked at least ten years off of the life expectancy of my backbone, I was really pleased that the setting sun on the far side of the ground was now directly in my sight line and that awful Skinner & Baddiel cash in football anthem was blasting out of the tannoy at a volume that would put an aeroplane taking off to shame (for the fourth ****ing time), to distract me from the pain of numerous crush wounds and make the side effects of suffering from near asphyxiation slightly more bearable, or else I would have been thoroughly miserable.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, can you please be upstanding and respect the national anthems of both countries"... carnage!
I will carry the physical and mental scars for a very long time.
The Belarus anthem sounded very similar to our own, if Pinky and Perky had ever made a cover version of it.
Delays on the M1 meant that they didn't get to the game on time and the kick off was initially put back 30 minutes, but further hold ups meant the game finally got underway at 8.22pm.
These things can't be helped.
Having arrived late, the Belarus coach driver couldn't find anywhere to park, so he abandoned the team bus on the pitch in front of the goal England were attacking... so to speak ;-)
This was a very young Belarus side, who having failed to qualify for the tournament in the Czech Republic, are already building towards the next one, with an eager to please team, who are determined to put down there marker for a place in the forthcoming qualifying campaign.
England persevered throughout the game to try breaking down a stubborn and determined Belarus rearguard, but it proved to be a frustrating night for Gareth Southgate's highly rated side.
And though they eventually chalked up a 14th win out of 15 games, they were made to work bloody hard for it.
Belarus did venture forwards a few times, but the majority of the game was played out in the final third of whichever half the visitors were defending.
Patience is a virtue throughout the England coaching blueprint DNA, but when a team turns up with little but damage limitation and getting ten men behind the ball as a game plan, frustration will set in and several rushed chances went begging.
Around the hour mark, England introduced the 'big guns' of Danny Ings and Harry Kane, but even they were finding the defensive strategy employed by the visitors difficult to break down.
There was only slightly more room in the Belarus goalmouth as their was up in Row AA.
Luke Garbutt's forward runs from the middle of defence and Ross Jenkinson's raids down the right flank from his full back berth were providing plenty of ammunition, but Igor Kovalevich's side were having none of it.
On 82 minutes, England finally got a solitary breakthrough on a night when they were expected to win handsomely, when Mikalai Zolatou conceded a free kick and was dismissed for receiving a second yellow card.
Luke Garbutt swung the dead ball into the six yard box from out on the right, the Belarus keeper Uladzislau Vasiliuchak (who up until then was probably the main contender man of the match) failed to get hold of it and Ben Gibson was on hand to crash the loose ball into the roof of the net from close range.
FT - England U21 1 v Belarus U21 0
After tonight's narrow win over Belarus Under 21, the England Under 21 manager Gareth Southgate said:
"It was a really good test for us. They were very spirited, defensive and resilient. It was a perfect match for us.
"We moved the ball well, created chances but at times the final pass was not there. But I'm really pleased with the build-up we have had.
"We're really looking forward to the challenge. There's a huge motivation in the dressing room to do well (at the European U21 Championship Finals, in the Czech Republic next week) and we have another gear to go up to."
England's European U21 Championship 2015 fixtures
Thursday 18th June v Portugal 7.45pm
Sunday 21st June v Sweden 5.00pm
Wednesday 24th June v Italy 7.45pm
Saturday 27th June Semi Finals
Winner of Group B v 2nd place in Group A 5.00pm
Winner of Group A v 2nd place in Group B 8.00pm
Tuesday 30th June Final

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

STAVELEY MWFC PLAYER SPONSORSHIP FOR THE 2015-16 SEASON: FIRST TEAM - UNDER 21 TEAM - LADIES

STAVELEY MWFC
PLAYER SPONSORSHIP 2015-16:
FIRST TEAM - UNDER 21 TEAM - LADIES TEAM
Thank you to all of our player sponsors for the 2014-15 season, your valuable support was greatly appreciated by everyone the football club.
Next season, the cost will be the same as the it was for the one that has just finished, i.e. £25 per player/manager/physio etc.
We appreciate that supporting a football club is already expensive enough as it is and that despite what certain politicians would have us believe, especially around election time, these are still difficult times economically for a lot of people in our region and we don't want anybody overstretching themselves.
Hence no price rise.
If you are interested in sponsoring a player, or any individual at the club, please contact Rob Waite 07934 310958 (text message preferred) or via email robwaiteretford@gmail.com
Obviously we aren't able to publish a list of available players as of yet, because although we know the details of the players who are staying at the club, it is against NCEL rules for them to put pen to paper just yet ... and we aren't naming the couple of lads we are hoping to bring in, because we don't want to alert the likes of Arsene Wenger and Louis van Gaal about which desirable signings are currently available.
If the player you want to sponsor isn't available come August we can allocate you another one and as per 2014-15, if your player leaves during the season, we will provide you with a substitute.
Of course you can also pick 'any player' and we will sort one out for you.
First team, U21's and Ladies team players are all available to sponsor.
All funds raised through sponsorship will go towards ongoing projects to improve the facilities at Inkersall Road, but the sponsorship that comes in for any of the Ladies team will go directly to them, to assist with their running costs.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Staveley Miners Welfare Ladies FC - Player recruitment 2015-16 season

Staveley Miners Welfare Ladies FC...
 are now recruiting players for their forthcoming season in Division 1 of the Sheffield & Hallamshire Ladies County league. If you are selected for the team, you will need to be available for weekly training on Tuesday evenings and matches on Sunday afternoons. Please contact Teresa on 07854224932 for more details or DM the Staveley Miners Welfare Ladies FC facebook page. 

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Qatar 1 v Northern Ireland 1 - International Match

Sunday 31st May 2015
International Match
at Gresty Road, Crewe
Qatar 1 (Karim Boudiaf 70)
Northern Ireland 1 (Stuart Dallas 46)
Admission £5, No programmes (plenty of free team sheets)
Att 3,022
Qatar:
Lecomte, Traore, Kasola, Ismail, Musa, Yasser, Hatem, El Sayed, Siddiq, Mohammad (Boudiaf), Muntari.
Subs: Soufiane, Abdelkarim Hassan, Mukhtar, Muftah, Asadalla, Mohamed, Ilyas, Mohammed Abdullah, Abdulrahman Mohammed, Jeddo, Muayed Hassan, Al Sheeb.
Northern Ireland:
Carroll (McGovern), McLaughlin, Hughes (J Evans), McNair (Magennis), Danny Lafferty, Cathcart, Corry Evans, McGinn (Ward), Norwood, Dallas (McCourt), Grigg (Boyce)
Unused Subs: McCullough, Reeves, Lavery, Carson
Windsor Park is undergoing a massive facelift at the moment... and as a consequence, although the forthcoming Euro 2016 Qualifying Group game v. Romania will still take place at the Belfast arena, Northern Ireland were happy when they were invited to play a warm up game elsewhere in the UK, as part of some much needed preparation for their crunch tie.
Anybody expecting an epic encounter today (surely, if truth be told, nobody actually will have done), won't of seen Northern Ireland's recent record in friendly games, inasmuch as, the last time they actually won one, was way back on March 25th 2008, against Georgia, while Nigel Worthington was still their manager.
After today, Michael O'Neill's record in friendlies thus far reads: played ten, lost six, drawn 4, goals scored 4, goals conceded 18.
Hardly inspiring stuff.
However, just maybe O'Neill has got his priorities spot on and he actually uses these sort of games as practice matches.
Which is precisely what they are meant to be.
Exercise sessions for fine tuning his blueprint and team structure, which should and (seemingly) actually does take precedent over Northern Ireland's actual results.
The proof of the pudding recipe, will be whether they can pull off a result against Group F leaders Romania on June 13th, to give themselves a great chance of qualifying for a major tournament, for the first time since Billy Bingham took them to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where they had the misfortune of being placed in the same four team group as Brazil and Spain, along with Algeria, the only side they managed to take a point off of.
This was Uruguayan born coach Jose Daniel Carreno's first game in charge of the Qatar national team since Djamel Belmadi was relieved of his duties, following a disappointing showing in the recent Asian Cup tournament, which was staged in Australia.
Sections of the media, in need of a bit of scandal to pad out the column inches they devoted to this fixture, were in uproar because they had not been able to meet and greet Carreno in person to quiz him about the whiff of corruption and scandal surrounding Sepp Blatter and FIFA at the moment and pin him down on the issue of migrant workers being exploited in the construction industry in Qatar, where the new stadiums are being built ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
I would imagine that Carreno has played no part in any of the above, or even heard of any of the sensationalist journals he has apparently snubbed.
He was here for the football, pretty much the same as everyone else who was present at Gresty Road ... or the Alexandra Stadium as it is now more grandiosely known as.
And as a consequence was no doubt unaware of any alleged press black-out, because he was too busy doing his actual  job, to concern himself with such frivolous distractions.
The apparent 'demonstrations' against the Qatar World Cup by the Northern Ireland contingent, as reported elsewhere, amounted to little more than a couple of spontaneous and tongue in cheek football chants, the like of which you'll hear most weeks at virtually every Football League ground across the country, aimed at opposition teams and supporters.
No doubt England fans singing about Sepp Blatter financing the Republic of Ireland's new(ish) stadium next week, through alleged 'hush money' payments, will be met by a similar frenzy of forced moral indignation from the same lazy journalists and hacks.
Obviously there has been a massive amount of wrongdoing by the powers that be in World Football over a worryingly lengthy period of time, that need to be seriously and thoroughly investigated, as the credibility and integrity of the game plummets to an all time low on a global scale.
But their are many, many much plumper fish than Jose Daniel Carreno to batter and deep fry and demand all the answers from.
So, for the purposes of accurate reportage, please instill at least a modicum of accuracy, truth and perspective.
Would that be too much to ask sometimes?
Hmm, that was a rhetorical question, just in case you were wondering.
As Blake Walton, reporting for Belfast Live said, while reporting on the latter stages of the game: "As the clock counted down a few anti-Blatter/FIFA chants were heard from the Northern Irish faithful, but this was more in jest than a protest at the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar"
Fact is, the vast majority of Northern Ireland fans were just here to enjoy the party and make a racket, pretty much like they usually do.
I even heard told that there was a potential for crowd trouble on the day, around the ground, or in the pubs, between the Northern Irish 'Green White Army' and the locals... really!!???
People who have never been to an England game, a Northern Ireland game, or indeed an England v Northern Ireland game, should keep their ill informed and speculative nonsense and unfounded opinions to themselves.
But hey!
Where's the mileage in a good news story about football supporters all getting along and having a good time?
For the record, I was sat at the game with two time served England fans I know very well and a cluster of Northern Ireland supporters I have travelled to games with previously ... to our right, a few yards away at the Railway End of Alex's main stand, sat a small contingent of Qatar fans and a delegation of officials from their FA.
They were all very friendly, but waived my suggestion that we would support Qatar for the afternoon if they bunged us a few brown envelopes full of tenners.
The last bit of the preceding sentence is possibly made up, but I was feeling left out with so many other commentators telling fibs and spouting half baked untruths.
So where were we again?
Oh yes! A friendly international on neutral soil in south Cheshire, between Qatar and Northern Ireland.
Dubbed by one member of the travelling Irish in attendance as an unofficial play-off to decide which team avoids the title of worst team in the world.
A tad harsh, but like a lot of conversations surrounding today's fixture, it was mainly meant as tongue in cheek banter.
The Ulstermen had the lion's share of the ball before the break and although they were definitely advancing at a practice match pace, Qatar had to play deep and defend in numbers to thwart a wave (or to be more accurate, a trickle) of attacks from out on both flanks.
While intriguing, it was hardly enthralling, but it was evident what sort of shape O'Neill's team were adapting, in a pre-emptive dress rehearsal for 'the big one' against Romania in a fortnight.
Sadly, the last actual act of penetration was lacking at times and the game plan lacked any final thrust, but as far as retaining possession at close quarters in a packed goalmouth goes, this was a very useful workout.
Not losing will suit Romania at Windsor Park next month (and Northern Ireland if truth be told), so they are probably going to play things tight, instead of implementing a gung-ho, all out attacking approach... and crowd out all avenues of attack.
Qatar don't have the same quality as the Romanians, but their tactics and zonal presence were similar enough to provide a worthwhile contrast for the Irish to build on.
At half time the Northern Ireland fans took their noisy party atmosphere downstairs to the concourse bar, where they continued to belt out their favourite tune of the day, about going on the piss with Georgie Best, in fact some of them could still be heard raising the rafters away from the action, while Stuart Dallas broke the deadlock and netted when Will Griggs flicked on Oliver Norwood's free kick into the Brentford winger's path, in the first minute of the second half.
Norwood's dead ball prowess appeared to be Northern Ireland's best key for unlocking the tight Qatari defence and it was that very player who almost doubled their advantage when Dallas returned the favour and set him up, but Mohammed Musa made a last ditch challenge to divert the ball over his own crossbar.
The game should have been sewn up by now and probably would've been if only the Irish would have shown a bit more application, in and around the goalmouth, instead of continuing to dabble with their patient approach, which will hopefully stand them in good stead in two weeks time.
Alas, as they were seemingly nursing the game home comfortably and strolling towards the finishing line, Karim Boudiaf (one of five Qatar players on today's teamsheet who weren't actually born there) apparently offering no threat whatsoever to anyone and with his route to goal locked tightly and securely shut, stunned everyone in the ground by smashing the ball past Michael McGovern and into the top corner and bulging the net from over 25 yards out.
It was a sublime strike.
The goal gave Qatar a spring in their step and they looked much livelier than they had done at any point thus far, for the last 15 minutes or so. 
But neither side managed to find the final touch to provide a winning goal. In spite of a lot of huffing and puffing.
I'm led to believe that Northern Ireland now face another warm up game against the Republic of Ireland, behind closed doors in Dublin later this week, while Qatar face another friendly at Hibernian FC's Easter Road on Friday night against Gordon Strachan's Scotland side.
FT: Qatar 1 v Northern Ireland 1

Northern Ireland, Euro 2016, Qualifying Group F
Forthcoming Fixtures:
Saturday, 13 June 2015, v Romania (Home)
Friday, 4 September 2015, v Faroe Islands (Away)
Monday, 7 September 2015, v Hungary (Home)
Thursday, 8 October 2015, v Greece (Home)
Sunday, 11 October 2015, v Finland (Away)