Tuesday, 7 August 2018

An evening out at Tamplin Towers

Daylight robbery that was.  £1.80 for a can of coke.

There is no denying that the AGP Arena is an impressive stadium for Conference South Level.  It's an excellent set-up and the club appears well run.  They could do with revising their pricing policies for food, but if you're getting over a thousand through the gate every other week, then that's probably low on their list of priorities.

Moving to the game, both sides had impressive results at the weekend, and Concord and Billericay would be keen to keep that early season momentum going.  Billericay are a good team. Pacy. Goal machines up front and a solid back four.  However this season it is a completely different Concord Rangers. Fuck me they're well coached. Every player knows his role. One presses, the rest press. I'm not saying last season the side was a ramshackled old unit, but this year it's like chalk and cheese.  Concord went to the favourite's for the title, and they stood toe to toe with them, and didn't look inferior in the slightest.

You could see the respect that each side had for the opposition, there was no quarter given or asked. If you lost the ball, you weren't getting it back for a while. Press all you like, we're keeping the ball under pressure.  I saw some local reporters called the first half uneventful.  I would have called it an exceptional standard of football for Conference South Level.

A quick word about the refereeing again sadly.  I've seen two league games at this level this season now, and the standard is shocking. I know it's a hard job to be referee, but no-one has asked these guys to be referee's, it's their own choice. Be better at your job!

As the second half wore on, Concord were frustrating their illustrious neighbours. For me Billericay rolled the dice too early with their substitutions, and this played more and more into Concord's hands.  The early withdrawal of the pacy Adam Coombes, helped Concord press higher up the pitch, and as the half wore on, Concord were applying more pressure further up the pitch.  Don't ask me what minute I lost my head, but when Alex Wall thumped home a free kick to give Concord the lead, I celebrated it more than any goal in the last five seasons.  Little Concord were rubbing Billericay's noses in it.

Billericay got a leveller in injury time. If we're being honest about it, a draw was a fair result, but I've seen a Concord that I've never seen before. It's only early days, but and I think I can speak for a number of Concord fans, Sammy Moore is building something here.  Our merry band of supporters should tell their mates to come along, as this season could bring something special.


Sunday, 5 August 2018

First Match Thoughts

Sun. Beer. Meeting with mates. A home win.  What's not to like about that?

Turning up to Concord Rangers at 2pm on Saturday afternoon, and it was already busy. I thought something's afoot here.  The enthusiasm brought to the club in the summer, from the young lads doing the club's social media, the positive messages from the Chairman and the new management team telling everyone to get behind the club had paid off. As the time moved closer to kick off, it was great to see so many young fans at the ground, it's an excellent idea to give the youth team player's free season tickets.  Hopefully many of them will be here for years to come, either as first team player's or fans.

With a couple of tricky away games coming up, talk before the game was already "this is a must win game".  It was the first game of a new season! However this had been the life of a Concord supporter over the last few seasons. Pessimism. "I can't see us winning this." "How can we beat these?" 

Looking at the match objectively before kick-off, Gloucester are a hard-working, durable side. No real stand out player's but a really hard team to break down.  We would need an early goal to ease any nerves amongst the new supporters, and the one's who had been down this road before.

An entirely new playing eleven kicked off for Concord and for the opening 15 minutes, all thoughts about Gloucester were proving correct. They were a tough side to break down.  Concord were pressing hard but struggling to create goal-scoring opportunities.  Sam Blackman was all over the midfield, but I felt as he played a little deeper, picking up the scraps and recycling the ball efficiently that Concord grew more and more on top.  A personal note about Blackman's overall performance, if he carries on playing like that week-in, week-out he will become a huge fan favourite.

There's no denying that there is more physicality about Concord this season, and the opening goal proved it.  Lee Minshull muscly winning the ball from a corner and Alex Wall using his strength and power to turn and fire the ball home.  Wall will be a huge handful for opposition defences at this level this season, and with excellent delivery from Hayes, Green and Knott he should be looking for twenty goals this season.

As the half-time whistle blew, in a match that Concord were looking very comfortable, there was an incident off the ball between Minshull and Gloucester's number 4 Hanks, Minshull was shown a red card.  The referee had not seen the incident, but took the word of his Assistant Referee who was twenty yards away.  Talk at half-time was that the sending off was very harsh.  From what was seeming a nice stroll in the Saturday afternoon sun, now had taken a twist. All those pessimistic thoughts from season's past started rearing their ugly head.

A change was made at half-time, and Ryan Hayes was substituted for centre back Arron Pollock.  Pollock apart from one early error was superb. Gloucester constantly lumped the ball forward, and Pollock time after time won the ball in the air and cleared the danger.  In fact as the 2nd half grew on, it was Concord who were looking more and more like the side with eleven men.  The second half performance reminded me of an away team in the Champions League, soaking up the opposition's pressure, not letting them having any opportunities, and then breaking on them at pace.  There was some real team performances in that 2nd half, none more so than Jack Midson who worked tirelessly down the left flank, chasing and harrying every lost cause.

The second goal when it came from Concord was no surprise, and it was no real surprise that it was that man Wall again. The Gloucester defence were terrified of him all game.  A long ball from defence a real 50/50 ball and Alex Wall turned it into his. He strode into the penalty area, and the Gloucester keeper could not keep out his firm shot from sixteen yards.  A special word for the Gloucester goalie, who despite being on the smallish side was excellent. A young player with a real good future in the game.

So that was it, despite playing with ten men for forty-five minutes Concord won the game comfortably.  There was none of last season's panic in defence.  The team are well coached, and the player's complement each other.  Pollock/Minshull winning the ball in the air at centre back, with the excellent Tyrone Sterling covering defend. Clohessy and Hayes linking up down the right.  This is a really well thought out team, and full credit must go to Sammy and Jack for having a clear idea on how they want their team to play, and getting the correct players for the side.

So we go onto Tamplin Towers on Tuesday night, and we'll be looking to lay down a real marker for the season ahead.


Friday, 3 August 2018

All Change at Concord

I won't lie, I fell out of love with Concord Rangers during the 2017/2018 season.  I would rather watch the Premier League team I support play on TV, then go and watch Concord Rangers play.  That is the battle for all non-league teams I suppose, however a football team has to offer the paying fan a reason to attend.  That's something Concord didn't offer last season.  Don't get me wrong Concord had good players, they had proved it in the past seasons, but something wasn't working last season.  It was like Concord Rangers I knew was slowly dying, it needed urgent surgery.

Adam Flanagan was a nice man, but I think he will admit himself that it wasn't working at Concord. He needed to go, for the club's sake and quite possibly for his own sake.  I hope he does well at Dartford.

I was shocked to see Sammy Moore and Jack Midson turn up during the summer, I won't say I followed their progress at Leatherhead intently, but your interest is always piqued when young ex-pros decide to have a go at non-league management.  Especially more these days when League 1 and League 2 sides are more prepared to take a gamble on younger managers.  Non League football should always be seen as a springboard for aspiring player's and manager's.  You learn lessons in non-league football which will always stand you in good stead in the professional game.

Concord I felt as mentioned above, had good player's last season.  I was not expecting 99% of them to leave during the summer.  I don't mind saying that I still think that four or five of them would still have something to offer the club this season.  Something you have to get used to in non-league football is the constant turn over of playing staff, especially if you're operating with one of the lowest budgets in the league your operating in.  However without knowing the inside track, I felt a few of last season's players were dispensed with too quickly in the summer.

It's going to be weird watching an entirely new team start for Concord Rangers.  A little bit of me was thinking in the Summer is this still Concord Rangers? This isn't the Concord Rangers I fell in love with during the 2013/2014 season, but neither was the team last season. It had stagnated, I probably wasn't the only one of the volunteers who found it hard going.

A new season brings new optimism, I've been impressed with Sammy and Jack's interaction with the supporters, both are quite happy to discuss formations and playing style with us "expert football managers" after the game, something which I felt the previous manager failed to do.  Manager's don't have to do this of course, but if the fans feel engaged, they will keep the faith more and help the team, when the team needs them.

So what can Concord supporter's hope for next season?  Personally speaking, I want the team to make it fun to go to the football again.  Results aren't everything. Just show the fans that you've given everything you can every game. Anything else is a bonus.


Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Man Who Loved Islands - Book Review

The wonders of social media are such, that you can become friends with people you've never met. Maybe that's too bold to call David Ross a friend, perhaps an enjoyable online presence. Yes David Ross is an enjoyable online presence.

Mine and David's lives became intertwined through a twitter account by the name of @bythemins and David's insistence that key events in football matches tended to happen in the 67th minute. David was adamant on this fact, he probably still is now. Anyways I digress, this little twitter account now strides across the world wide web like a behemoth (bytheminute.co if you're interested!) and mine and David's paths don't cross as much as I would like.  However. When David has the time to share his thoughts for this website, man I've got to tell you something. The page comes alive. I don't know how he does it. David Ross has a gift. The man is an excellent story-teller. To tell you the truth I'm jealous.

In David's previous two books, The Last Days of Disco and The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas he transported me back to 1980s Kilmarnock.  I've never been to Kilmarnock, nor do I want to go. But David's writing has always made me feel like I lived there.
David's story-telling has a charm.  It warms the heart. You turn the page or those of you with a kindle, press the screen, with a smile on the face eagerly anticipating the next page.

I'm not going to tell you much about The Man Who Loved Islands, because if you've read the first two books of the trilogy, then you must surely be anticipating this third one.  All I'm going to say is it's as good as you hoped, if not better.  For those of you, who have not read one of David's books. Please go and buy them, I'd even say don't wait for a 3 for 2 deal. They're that good!
I'll end this book review, well it was meant to be a book review, but it feel's like an ode to David by simply saying, I cannot wait for what David Ross decides to do next.  I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking that.

Monday, 27 March 2017

The Wide Boy Diary with Dion Sembie-Ferris

Whilst some non-league clubs splash the cash, looking for short term gain, other non-league sides are happy to give youth a chance and entrust a first team place with a young professional from a league side.

Dion Sembie-Ferris has been tearing it up for Concord Rangers since arriving on loan from Colchester United earlier in the season, but what is a normal week like for Dion? Well I spent some time with him to find out...


It's an early start on a Monday, as I go into training for 9am, so I can do some prepare myself for the session ahead with some light stretching and mobility work. If I haven't played at the weekend I will go out with the Under 23's later in the morning, but if I've had a game on Saturday, I'll just do some gym work to cool my body down.

Whilst on a Monday, the boys are quite curious on how I've got on at the weekend, and they will always ask what the game was like, as not many of them have experienced first team football. I think it's vital that as a young pro you get experience playing men's football as it is a world away from playing U23's.  However the good thing about Colchester is that they always give their own players a chance, so hopefully my opportunity isn't too far away!

After I've lunched and showered I go home from training, but my day isn't done! I go to a gym which is close to my house where I will continue to mobilise my body, which involves massaging of the muscles, dynamic stretches in a cold pool, then I will unwind with a jacuzzi and a sauna.


Training on a Tuesday would be light for me, as I have training with Concord Rangers in the evening, so I'll do the technical part and some possession based play, before stepping out before the small-sided games begin.
There isn't much difference between the training at professional and non-league level.  Both are based around technique and possession. At any level keeping the ball is vital.  However on a Thursday at Concord the emphasis changes and is geared towards our opponent on the Saturday, and we work on areas that can give us the best chance of victory, be that working on our shape or working on our attacking moves.
Tuesday is a long day for me, as I won't get home till after 10pm, and as I've done two sessions I will have a cold bath to relieve my muscles.


Is a day off at Colchester, but not for me! I always go to the gym and work on things specific to my position on the pitch.  It's key for me to always keep my explosive pace. It's one of my biggest attributes and working in the gym to maintain and better my pace is vital for me.
When I was younger I tried to base my style of play on Thierry Henry, he was my biggest idoal and I loved the way he ran with power and elegance on the ball and the affect he had on other team-mates around him.  Nowadays I don't have a specific player I look up to, but when I watch football on the TV I try to focus on the wingers to see what they do, and implement some of their good things into my game.


Today is very similar to the Tuesday, and it's very much the same routine.  As I said before Thursday evening's are focused with an eye on the game on Saturday.  Flan and Glen (Adam Flanagan and Glen Alzapeidi) are always giving me good feedback on how I'm progressing and it's a great motivator for me to go out their on a Saturday and improve on my previous performance.
I think what I need to play at the highest level is to just be positive and believe in myself sometimes, that's my biggest downfall, so any encouragement I get from the coaching staff at Colchester or Concord is really beneficial to me.
Playing regular men's football I'm now finding myself believing in myself and willing to try things on the ball! I'm always going to give 100% so when the games over I can look back and think I couldn't have given anymore.
Again I'll get home late and have a cold bath to relax my muscles (Writer's note - always in the bath this boy!)


As it's the day before a game I make sure that I train well so I'm well prepared for the game on the Saturday.  At Colchester we do small-sided games with the U23s and some of the youth team, so most of the time is spent playing inside in the dome at the training ground.
Training will finish at 130pm and then I'll go home, unwind, have a good meal and get a decent night's sleep ahead of the game tomorrow (Writer's Note .... no bath!?!)


Game Day! So I'll prepare with pasta and toast for breakfast with a smoothie and then I'll take a banana and some water for me for the journey towards the stadium as it was a long journey to Hungerford (Interview took place just after Hungerford away match) to make sure I have some small snacks to keep my energy levels for the match.
Long distance travel can affect some people, as it can cause tight muscles due to sitting down too long or even cause tiredness, but it shouldn't be used as an excuse for starting a game slowly. You can start a game slowly at your own ground! It's all down to getting in the right mindset, plus you have plenty of time shake-off any lethargy after travelling if you warm up properly before the game.
The dressing room is quite loud before a game, the music's on, Hoody is in charge of the music and it's quite decent to be fair, the boys are chatting away and it's quite relaxed beforehand, but as it get's closer to kick-off things get focused.  The Gaffa gives us our instructions and we go out onto the pitch fully prepared and ready to win the game.
After the game and on the way back home on the coach, I will wear my compression socks which will help my muscle recovery. Then once home I'll have a cold bath (Writer's Note...there it is!)


Depending on how long I've played on the Saturday, I will use the Sunday to completely rest, or I will again go to the gym and do another pool session. I'll just chill on a Sunday evening, watch some TV and get ready to go for the next week ahead!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Keeping a Diary with Bailey Vose

The non-league game is littered with young professionals from league clubs trying to make their way in the game, however you don't find many young goalkeeper's out on loan.  Bailey Vose is an exception.  Bailey trains with Brighton during the week, and on match-day's he's between the sticks for Concord Rangers in the Conference South.

So what happen's during a normal week for Bailey? I spent some time with the young goalkeeper and found out what goes on, and how he hopes to become a top-level goalkeeper...


Monday is normally a game day for Brighton Under 23's, so this involves having a pre match meal at 4pm. Then we have a team meeting around 4:30pm, just prepping us on the opposition. We would then head to the stadium to get ready for the game with kick off being at 7pm.

However as I'm now on loan at Concord, my day is different. My day starts with breakfast at 9am, from then onwards i will prepare myself for training at 10:15am. On a Monday training would be with the first team keepers unless they have a game on the Tuesday. Training would last for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, however, I would only spend 30-40 minutes with the goalkeeper coach. 
When we train with the rest of the team we normally have a small sided game. In addition to this, if any of the strikers want to of extra training then I would jump in goal for them.

There is a variety of strikers at Brighton, target men, pacey forwards, but I tell you they're all exceptionally good at finishing. They don’t whack the ball hard, but they hit the ball with enough pace to beat you, and is in the corners 99% of the time. It's all about precision. I can only improve my own performance from this additional practice, so it works for both the forwards and myself. 

After training we then have lunch which is available from 12-1pm. After lunch, I will then do a gym session for 45 minutes. My gym sessions normally work my lower body. This is because I want to improve the power in my legs, to give me a better chance to reaching the top corners. In my opinion, my strongest part of my game is my distribution. I think i am very good with the ball at my feet, as I didn’t turn a goalkeeper until I was 15 (*hang on - writer interjects*) 

"What do you mean you only starting playing in goal at 15!?" 

Well I've always liked the position, and played their occasionally growing up, it's just when the keeper for my Sunday team got badly injured, I thought yeah I'll go in goal, and it's gone on from there! Do I fancy myself out on pitch now? Haha. I don't know I love being a keeper now. But playing out on pitch for so long as a boy has definitely helped me out.


Tuesday starts exactly the same as Monday with training beginning again at 1015am. This session will start with goalkeepers working on our positioning and technical ability. This will be for around 45 minutes and will then be followed by going with the team for a game. 
After lunch I would then be able to leave the training ground to go home and recover, but I like to hang around after training to practice my kicking and other bits of my game.

On some Tuesdays the first team may have a game, for example on the 28th they're at home to Newcastle, so the whole 23 squad would attend. This is a great way to observe the first team keepers, watch them warm up and see what you have to do the reach the top level. 
Furthermore, if I play for the Under 23's on a Monday then today would be the day I sit down with my goalkeeper coach to watch through the game, as all the games are filmed. Again, looking on what I done well and what I need to improve on. 


This is a rest day.

"You're not just getting away with that! What goalkeeper do you look to as an inspiration/role model?"

For me, the keeper I would base my game on would be Joe Hart. This is because I think he is a great shot stopper, he shows that he can dominate his defence and I feel that his distribution is good as well. A good goalkeeper in my opinion is that he has to be a excellent shot stopper because that is our job you've got to keep the ball out of the net. It's that simple really.

"Some games you might only have to face one shot, so how important is it to stay focussed?"

Concentration is vital for a keeper as like you say you may not have nothing to do all game and then suddenly you are called into action and you need to deliver. Thats for me what makes a top keeper, when you are called upon you deliver. All  goalkeepers can make saves but the top keepers make the difference in games, they make the vital saves when they're needed and win their team points. 


Training would again begin at 10:15am for me, however this  would be a lighter session for me as I train with Concord in the evening. Lunch would be taken at 12pm and after that, I would head off to train at Concord.

The training at Concord follows a similar pattern as it does at Brighton, I'll spend around 30 minutes with the goalkeeper coach Andy Young, and after we have done some technical work, I would then join the full team for a game.

Training and playing at Conference South level is really helping me improve the facets of my game, which I think need improving the most and that's communication and dealing with crosses. It's vital at this level that I communicate with my defence, they need to know when I'm coming for corners etc, and where I want my wall positioned. The team are relying on me. At Conference level there are so many crosses going into the box, it's giving me plenty of chances to improve my game, which I think it steadily is in this area.


Training on a Friday would be about preparing me for the game on Saturday. This would include some handling work, shot stopping, some crossing and some kicking. After lunch I go home and unwind.  I try not to think about the game on Saturday, I like to just chill out and watch a film or some TV.  I'll then go to bed and wake up the next day with myself all refreshed.


Saturday is a game day for Concord. Pre match would be around 12pm for me, meeting at the ground for 1:30pm. There is always a member of Brighton that will come and watch me, this may be my goalkeeper coach or a Brighton scout. If my goalkeeper coach comes and watches me then we would talk through the game on what I did well and what things I need to improve on. If a Brighton scout comes and watches me then he would contact my goalkeeper coach and we would go through it later in the week. 

The main difference that I notice between non-league and the U23's is the pace of the game. The pace in the Conference is a lot quicker because the players don’t get as much time on the ball as they do compared to under 23 games. Physically, the conference is a lot stronger as your playing with men. However, U23 football is a lot more technical. 

The movement of player's at both levels is very good, however a lot of the non-league strikers like the ball into their feet as they have the physicality to defend it.  You can tell when a striker is a good player, when you see their body shape when they're striking a ball.  Sometimes I can tell where they are going to shoot through their body position, however better players know that the keeper is trying to read their body position, and try to trick us. For example, if a strike shapes up to shoot in the far corner, but in the last second changes to squeeze it in at the near post. Another key component of a striker is that movement off the ball, the best forward I've played against so far, Saido Berahino is excellent at that. He is an outstanding centre forward.

A big difference is coping mentally from the abuse you get from the opposition spectators, which you don’t get to experience at U23 football. The abuse I get behind the goal is always funny. I get called every name under the sun which is just standard. But I remember playing for Whyteleafe when I was 17 and as I’ve gone to get the ball out of the net, the opposition supporters threw all beer over me, that was probably the worse, but I’m sure it will get worse!


Sunday would again start with breakfast at 9am and training being at 10:15. As it is a day after a game, training would be light and would involve some handling and some diving. Furthermore, on a Sunday, for part of my recovery I go in the gym and do some upper body but also go in the ice baths for my muscles to recover. Then I'm all set to start again on Monday!

Friday, 27 January 2017

Concord Rangers: The Battle to Stay Up.

Let's start with a quiz question.  Look at the above picture, taken at the end of the 2015/2016 season. How many of those player's still play for Concord?  I'll answer it for you. It's four.  Therein lies the problem of Concord's current season. Yes playing at the Conference South level with the lowest budget in the league does come with difficulties, but for a team of Concord's size to constantly be losing player's through transfers, or long term injuries it's going to have an effect eventually.

Since I've followed Concord thing's have generally been on an upward curve.  The success of the Danny Cowley years, followed by an excellent first season in charge by Adam Flanagan. But this season, oh this season.  Where to begin? Let's go back to the picture. Ben Greenhalgh and Lewis Taaffe two key components in 2015/2016, spirited away by other clubs. Tom Stephen the supporter's player of the year last season - did his ACL in pre-season. Out for the season. The goalkeeper, Ben McNamara, he won the Chairman's Player of the Season in 2015/2016. Now not being horrible to Ben, but I don't know what happened to him in the Summer, it's like his twin brother turned up at Concord at the start of this season. Ben's now left the club.

Concord hover just outside the relegation zone, having played more games than their rivals, but what remains at Concord is probably the key to their survival. Whilst Concord have lost player's left, right and centre through one mean's or another. The Concord heart still remains. "I've never been involved in a situation such as the one we are in now, but I do know through speaking with others and being around football long enough what it takes to get through a period that we're experiencing at the moment" said club stalwart Steve King "We need to ensure we work hard on the training pitch firstly, and then on matchday we must be determined to win our individual battles on the pitch. If we can do that, the team has enough quality to get ourselves out of the mess we find ourselves in" confirmed Steve, when I asked him how Concord work their way out of this sticky situation.

What Concord do you have through Steve, and the captain James White are individuals who will run through walls for Concord, they're not the only two, but it's their voices you can hear loudest on a Saturday afternoon, "For me, as skipper, I've got to keep the group close and make sure your willing to help your mate out on the pitch. This is no time for individuals now." said Whitey. Now that team ethic runs deep in Concord, it always has done.  Actually from the player's on the pitch, to the people behind the bar, to the volunteers who give up their precious time on a weekend to help the club, everyone pulls in the same direction. But what about those people who pay to watch the matches, now admittedly there's not many of them, but I tell you what, they don't moan or boo at the team during the match, unlike some "bigger" teams supporters. I won't name those team's supporters here, it would be wrong (I will it's Ebbsfleet and Chelmsford). "A club the size of Concord depends on everyone, there a few that keep the club ticking over constantly, however everyone is important, we are going through a difficult phase and want the staff and supporters to keep faith that we do care about the club and the league we are in. Everything is put on to help us, so there can be no excuses from the players, we need to perform to the qualities that Concord are known for" again James White, see the skipper of the club, knows exactly what everyone feels.

Now I don't think I would be writing this blog, if it wasn't for one thing.  You see, Concord have dropped, I say dropped, lost is better.  Concord have lost 8 points from goals conceded in the 88th minute or later in games this season.  That has happened across 5 matches this term. You'd expect it happening maybe once or twice in a season as that's football, but 5 times. You're sitting there thinking of "for fucks sake". That's the fan's view, but how about the player's, again Steve King "There's no clear reason why this happens. When it starts to happen you put it down to bad luck and not having the rub of the green, but ultimately it's a desire or concentration issue. At this level you need to have 100% focus every second of the game or you will be punished. Added to that you need to want to die for the cause whether it be getting on the end of a delivery to score a goal, or throw your body on the line to block a goal bound effort defensively, which as a team we haven't been doing well enough."

Concord still have sixteen games to play this season, so there is plenty of time left for them to dig themselves out of the hole they find themselves in, but are the player's confident?  I'll leave the final word to firstly Kingy. " I'm confident, there is a lot of quality in the changing room. We just need to get the mental side of things right and once we put a couple of results together I'm certain we will be fine."

Secondly the Captain James White, boomed out this statement. It gets the heart pumping this. "Yes, being honest now if any player in the side has committed to relegation, then please leave the club. There is a lot of football to be played and I can guarantee we will all fight for the right to play in this league next season."