Archive for December, 2016

Middlesbrough v Chelsea, Sunday 20th November 2016, 4pm

December 13, 2016


In contrast to the previous day on the terraces, my first Boro game of the season was a much more modern-day experience with Tom and I enjoying the hospitality provided in the Middlehaven Suite. The four o’clock kick-off worked nicely for us by giving us time for Sunday lunch at my Mam and Dad’s and then enabling us to be at the Riverside an hour before the start.


I’ve not much experience of hospitality suites. A reluctance to get involved in work-related entertaining as either a host or a guest has meant that I’ve almost always watched games as a regular spectator. I’ve been in lounges at Old Trafford a couple of times over the years and I’ve a vague recollection of being in a posher area than you’d have expected at a game at Peterhead, but that’s about it. Mind you, posh in Peterhead just means fewer smackheads than normal and maybe slightly less seagull shit.

I almost forgot about the 100 Club. My first two Boro games, forty-two seasons ago, were in the posh part of Ayresome Park. Alan Next-Door had a couple of season tickets in there and on the occasions when his son had other plans he very kindly took me with him.

It wasn’t hospitality in the way that it would be seen now. In fact, along with the rest of Ayresome Park, I suspect that they didn’t even serve alcohol. What I do remember was coming out of the cold at half-time to be greeted with tables covered with cups of tea and plates of pork pies that had been cut into quarters. I think a second cup of tea was served at full-time to accompany Final Score on the telly.

It was all a lot posher in the Middlehaven with a much more extensive buffet and plenty of drinking choices. Tom and I were shown to a table and watched the end of the Newcastle game on the telly whilst we had the first of a few pints of Amstel.


They have matchday hosts in these lounges and today’s turned out to be John Hendrie and Gary Pallister. I’ve never met John Hendrie but I’ve known Pally since we were kids. We grew up in the same street and played together in the same primary, secondary school and sixth-form football teams.


I overheard a few of the conversations that Pally was having with some of the other people in the lounge. Invariably they tended to focus on what it was like to play against Romario in the Nou Camp or the perils of sharing a dressing room with Roy Keane.

I’ve not much interest in those sort of things and so when we had time for a chat it soon gravitated towards the health of our respective elderly parents and the bungalow versus stair-lift dilemma. Not, I imagine, a conversation that many match-day hosts would get to have.


As for the game itself, we watched it from padded seats in the North West Corner. It was odd sitting down for a Boro game these days, although we were able to join in with a couple of the North Stand chants. We got beat, as you’d expect, but it was a decent performance that didn’t spoil what was an excellent day. I’m sure I’ll be back in a lounge before long.

Scunthorpe United v Oldham Athletic, Saturday 19th November 2016, 3pm

December 10, 2016


Jen and I don’t get to see many gigs these days. It’s one of the drawbacks of living in the middle of nowhere in countries that don’t have much of a music scene. It means that whenever we are in the UK we try to take advantage of the opportunities available.

This trip to Lincolnshire was to catch up with Billy Bragg at Lincoln Engine Works. As Lincoln City were playing away I’d originally intended to combine the gig with a visit to the even lower non-league side Lincoln United. However, when I read that Scunthorpe were leaving their Glanford Park ground at the end of this season, I changed my plans and we went there instead.

At the risk of showing my age, it doesn’t seem that long ago since Scunthorpe moved into Glanford Park and in my mind I still see it as a ‘new’ ground. It’s not though really as they’ve been there for twenty-eight years. Twenty-eight years in which I didn’t get around to attending a game, although in my defence we haven’t played there that often. Still, it’s never too late, as they say, until it really is too late I suppose. In this case it wasn’t and so I went along.


The ground is next to a business park and so Jen cleared off to do some shopping and coffee drinking and I collected my pre-booked ticket for the Doncaster Road Stand. It’s the standing section behind one of the goals and with Scunthorpe being outside of the top two divisions they get to keep it that way.

It was great being on a crowded terrace. I’d arrived early enough to bag myself a barrier to lean on and I was in a perfectly placed position, close to the goal but high enough up to get a decent view when the play was at the other end.

The atmosphere took me back to my Holgate days. It wasn’t just the standing, after all the South Stand at the Riverside is fully standing these days and I can’t remember the last time I sat at a Boro away game. It was more being part of a mass, constantly edging one way or another for a better view.

The songs were in-keeping with the old-school afternoon too with Scunthorpe having a wide variety of chants that I hadn’t heard in years and including the classic “If I had the wings of a sparrow, if I had the arse of a crow…”.


My interest in the game was enhanced by some Boro links. Scunthorpe had a couple of our ex-players on their bench in midfielder Richie Smallwood and Strachan-era wonderkid Luke Williams, whilst current Boro player Connor Ripley who is spending the season on loan at Oldham was between the sticks for the visitors.

The pre-game buzz all seemed to be about Williams, who had been out for a while with an injury and as seems the way had probably enhanced his reputation with every week that he hadn’t played. The consensus among the people around me was that Scunthorpe had missed his movement and that they were a much better team with him in it.

Play was end to end in the first half with the home keeper keeping top of the league Scunthorpe in the game. Connor Ripley had a bit less to do at the far end but he commanded his defence well and looked like a proper keeper. I sometimes think that’s half the battle.


At half time I made my way down to get a drink and was gleefully informed by a small boy in the queue that Hull were a goal down at Sunderland. As I thought it unlikely that he would kick my head in I quietly let slip that I was actually a Boro fan and I’d be a lot happier if Hull were to pull their socks up in the second half.


I was quite surprised at how small the crowd was in what is Scunthorpe’s last season at the ground and with them looking good for promotion to the Championship. Mind you, Oldham hadn’t made much of a contribution to the attendance with only a couple of hundred fans having made the relatively short journey.

The Donny Road stand was fairly well-populated, but there was plenty of space in the rest of the ground and with the 9,000 capacity stadium less than half-full it makes you wonder what’s the point of building somewhere new.


Connor Ripley had a lot more to do after the break and acquitted himself well. Luke Williams made an appearance mid-way through the second-half and always looked comfortable. If Scunthorpe do manage to clinch promotion I’m confident he could look at home in the Championship.


By the time Richie Smallwood made an appearance with a couple of minutes to go, Scunthorpe were a goal up. A shot from outside the box had left Ripley unsighted and sneaked in off the post. That was enough for the home win in what I suspect will be both my first and last visit to Glanford Park.

Family Days v Family Days, Sunday 13th November 2016, 9am

December 3, 2016


Jen and I haven’t really done any hiking since we were in England last May. The climate in Malaysia, whilst better than our last location of Darwin, Australia, is just that little bit too hot and humid to make going for a walk a tempting prospect.

That all changed when I read about the Cameron Highlands. The region is about four hours drive north of where we live and as it is a minimum of 1,500 metres above sea-level, the temperature tends to hover around sixteen degrees. That’s perfect really and so we went for the weekend.

The last hour or so of the drive took us up winding narrow roads that were flanked by stray dogs. I doubt many make it to old-age. Every now and then there would be an attraction such as a waterfall or a tea-room that would be marked by cars parked along both sides of the road for a hundred yards each way and supplemented by a few tour-buses.

We stayed in Tanah Rata. The mix of day trippers and slightly longer-term visitors, the cafes and attraction booking offices reminded me a little of some of the towns in the Lake District.


I was tired from the concentration needed to avoid running over the dogs or driving off a cliff edge and so we didn’t do much on the Saturday night. We were up early on the Sunday though and went for a walk up to a waterfall and then into the forest. It’s the rainy season in Malaysia at the moment and a combination of a wet path and fallen leaves made it quite slippy underfoot. Sufficiently so that I ended up flat on my back at one point. Fortunately there weren’t any other people around to witness my senior moment.


There wasn’t much in the way of wildlife either. A few lizards, one of those flightless birds, a chipmunk up a tree and a large red caterpillar. The highlight was probably a butterfly that when it spread its wings looked uncannily like a snake’s head.


To get back into Tanah Rata we had to pass a football pitch and as we approached I heard a whistle and some shouting. Once in sight it was clear that there was a game going on. It looked pretty low-level but I counted the players and it was 11 a side.  There was also a ref and two linesman and so by my ground hopping rules it counted as a proper match.


I took a few photos then wandered into the main and only stand. There were about fifty people watching, which isn’t a bad turnout at all. Next to the stand were a group of women in a tent. Most of them were preparing food but a couple were sorting out medals ready for a post-game presentation.

The standard of play was such that even at my age and not having kicked a ball for six years I reckon I could have shone. My Dad, at 83, would have made less of a shambles of things than both keepers were managing to do.


Five minutes after we got there, the full-time whistle blew and in that time we’d seen three goals. I didn’t ask the score but I suspect that both sides were probably into double figures by some distance.

I did have a chat with a couple of players at the end. Apparently both sides were drawn from company employees on a team building exercise. They all worked for Family Days, a company from Ipoh, some eighty kilometres away.


We chatted about Ipoh’s team Perak and, after I mentioned that I’d seen them in their Malaysian Cup game against Selangor, their excellent travelling support. At that point it was time for the medal presentation and so we left them to their team-building.