Wednesday, 6 June 2012

15 Shades of Graham

Hopperational Details for the 2011-12 Season
Dates & Venues
From August 2011 to May 2012, 69 games
225 goals at an average of 3.26 goals per game
31 different leagues or cup competitions.
62 new venues to take the lifetime list to 465 with four triples and one quadruple
August Bank Holiday (Sandhurst, Fleet & Kidlington)
Boxing Day (Norwich United & King’s Lynn Town)
New Year’s Eve (Bloxwich Utd & Studley)
Central Midlands League Quadruple, March 2012
(Clifton, Basford Utd, Dronfield Town & Glapwell)
Easter Saturday (Maltby Main. Stocksbridge PS & Worsbrough Bridge Athletic, overlapping the NCEL hop)
Easter Monday (Bletchley T & Buckingham T)
Maintaining the 92 & the 116
Brighton & Hove Albion
Outside England
Scotland (St Mirren, Glasgow Celtic) and Wales (Bala Town, Aberystwyth Town)

Here are fifteen shades of Graham for the 2011-12 season.  No, I am not doing fifty.
No, I haven't read it, but I am with the zeitgeist innit.  Enjoy.

Corby Press On
Corby Town 6 Bishop’s Stortford 1
17 August 2011 (Conference North)
Reason Chosen:
This was the first competitive game at Corby’s new stadium.

What’s Happened Since?
Bishop’s Stortford’s manager Ian Walker, or former England goalkeeper Ian Walker, and/or son of former Norwich City manager Mike Walker (depending on which paper you read) left the club by mutual consent (although again that depended on which paper etc etc) in December.  The club had been placed in the Conference North (where they will be staying again, it would appear) at a very late stage and player recruitment had been tough.  They recovered to finish a creditable tenth.  Meanwhile, Corby Town have been through a takeover – they finished 17th and have just appointed former Northampton Town boss Ian Sampson as manager for next season.

The Joy of Six
Shifnal Town 3 Gornal Athletic 4 aet
24 August 2011 (FA Cup)
Reason Chosen:
Completing a personal-best run of six FA Cup ties and replays in consecutive days, publishing the world’s first footage of the International Space Station passing over an FA Cup match, and a magnificent game which included an outfield player saving a penalty with his first touch as a stand-in goalkeeper.

What’s Happened Since?
Gornal Athletic went out with credit at Kidsgrove in the next round.  I was there, making a contribution to the season’s record for therealfacup.  In the league, these two served up a 4-5 in December as Gornal won their league with a game to spare.  They move up to the step 5 Alliance Midland League next season.  Shifnal Town finished in lower-mid table.

Hooky Hanging On in the Vase
Hook Norton 2 Wokingham & Emmbrook 2 aet
11 September 2011 (FA Vase)
Reason Chosen:
Non-league venues at their best – great clubhouse, wind-assisted goals, a cricket boundary line across the pitch and cows in the adjacent field chasing after a wayward ball.

What’s Happened Since?
Wokingham & Emmbrook won the replay 2-0 but lost at Winslow United in the next round.  Both teams had mid-table finishes in their respective Hellenic leagues.

Market Forces Eventually Win
Ely City 3 Needham Market 4 aet
20 September 2011 (FA Cup)
Reason Chosen:
Match-of-the-season for me.  A gripping cup-tie played in abysmal weather conditions and a credit to everyone concerned.

What’s Happened Since?
Needham Market were beaten at home by Nuneaton Town in the next round.  In their leagues, both teams had promotion near-misses.  Ely City finished runners-up behind Wroxham in the Eastern Counties League.  Needham Market reached the play-offs (again) but lost out to Enfield Town in the final.

GY Reports From GY
Great Yarmouth 0 Felixstowe & Walton United 5
24 September 2011 (Eastern Counties Premier)
Reason Chosen:
A chance to watch from the oldest stand in continuous use – the main stand at the Wellesley dates from 1892 – and an example of the randomness that often decides my hopping life.  I was here because the New Zealand All Blacks had scored exactly 37 points in their Rugby Union World Cup win over France.

What’s Happened Since?
Great Yarmouth did not win another league game until the last day of the season and they will drop to step 6 next year.  Their AGM on 11 June may be “interesting” as they say in the diplomatic corps.  The club are advertising a number of positions ranging from Treasurer to bus driver.  Felixstowe & Walton finished just above the relegation zone.

Brighton Rocking as Tigers Come for Teatime
Brighton & HA 0 Hull City 0
15 October 2011 (Championship)
Reason Chosen:
A trip to Brighton’s impressive new home was needed to keep my current lists of 92 (Premier League, Championship, Leagues One & Two) and 116 (same plus Conference National) up to date.

What’s Happened Since?
Hull City finished 8th and Brighton 10th.  As I write, the vacant managerial post at the former is being offered to Steve Bruce.

Hoops? Aye, They Did It Again
Glasgow Celtic 2 Hibernian 1
23 October 2011 (Scottish Premier League)
Reason Chosen:
By far the biggest crowd of the season, the biggest stadium and the highest-ranked club.  Hard not to ignore all that history and feel the pressure, expectation and edge that goes with it.

What’s Happened Since?
Celtic duly won the title in a season dominated by off-field issues at their city rivals Rangers.  Hibernian escaped relegation by one place and reached the Scottish FA Cup Final where they were thumped by their city rivals, Hearts.

Modus Hopper Random on Ice
Milton Keynes Lighting 2 Peterborough Phantoms 2
(Milton Keynes win after shootout)
3 December 2011 (English Premier League Ice Hockey)
Reason Chosen:
The blog’s first diversion into the crazy world of grown men with sticks trying to kill each other on ice.  Many thanks to the MK Lightning tweeters who picked up the blogpost and reacted with good humour, making this the second most-viewed post of the season.

What’s Happened Since?
I am now up to six on the rinkhopping list and the Northern Hemisphere Net Coriolis Force Zamboni Clockwise Rotation Theory remains intact.  MK made the playoffs but lost out to Slough Jets.

‘Twas the Day Before Christmas
Dorking Wanderers 3 Storrington 2
24 December 2011 (Sussex County League Division 2)
Reason Chosen:
A splendid location for a game on the morning of Christmas Eve, providing an insight into the murky world of groundhopping addiction.

What’s Happened Since?
Dorking Wanderers and Storrington finished 3rd and 9th respectively.  Box Hill is still there, as are three hoppers waiting for the programme reprint.

You Have to be a Linnet to Win It
King’s Lynn Town 1 Holbeach United 0
26 December 2011 (United Counties Premier)
Reason Chosen:
An impressive crowd of 1040 for a 1st v 2nd clash in step 5.

What’s Happened Since?
It seemed at the time that King’s Lynn had got a grip on the division after this result.  They were 12 points ahead on Easter Monday but Long Buckby reeled them in with games in hand, and beat them 2-1 at home with two games to go.  When King’s Lynn could only then draw at home to Desborough Town, Long Buckby made no mistake and won the league.  However, there is a happy ending.  King’s Lynn’s record, with 106 points, gets them a promotion after all from the step 5 pool and they join the Northern Premier League Division One South next season.  Holbeach were overtaken by teams with games in hand and finished sixth.

Star in the Descendant as Bloxwich Wake Up
Bloxwich 3 Continental Star 2
31 December 2011 (Midland Football Combination Premier)
Reason Chosen:
The ending - dramatic, controversial.  Star had been two up and cruising.  See if you agree with the referee's decision by viewing the key clip.

What’s Happened Since?
Continental Star went on to win the league by four points, and Bloxwich finished seventh.

Hertfordshire Mavericks 47 Surrey Storm 62
19 January 2012 (Netball Superleague)
Reason Chosen:
My first-ever diversion into the world of top-tier netball.

What’s Happened Since?
Both teams made the mid-season split into the top half.  Storm had been second, just behind Northern Thunder.  However, Storm beat Thunder home-and-away in winning all six post-split matches.  These two ended up facing each other in the grand final after relatively easy playoff semi-final wins.  Mavericks lost to Thunder to go out at that stage.  Thunder won the grand final by 2 points.

Lions Use Their Escape Claws at Leicester
Leicester Riders 75 Milton Keynes Lions 77
21 January 2012 (British Basketball League)
Reason Chosen:
Not the first blog diversion into courthopping, in which I have pre-blogging “previous” at any rate, but the most dramatic.  A buzzer-beating three-pointer from Adrien Sturt, captured on film, sealed a magnificent road win for the Lions.

What’s Happened Since?
Lions’ season rather ebbed away and they finished outside the playoff positions, a big disappointment for them.  Riders finished strongly, finished the regular season as runners-up  and made it all the way through to the play-off final where they lost to Newcastle Eagles.

Police Called to Shootout in Sussex
Three Bridges 2 Gresley 2 aet
(Gresley win 7-6 on penalties)
28 January 2012 (FA Vase)
Reason Chosen:
The first game, a 1-1 draw, had suggested there could be dramatic unfinished business.  The blogpost includes the world’s first simultaneous video coverage of Venus, Uranus, the Moon and a goal.

What’s Happened Since?
After all that, Gresley were thumped at St Ives in the next round.  Both teams, however, can look forward to step 4 as they ended the season as champions in their respective leagues.

Hawayday at the Bay
Whitley Bay 1 West Auckland Town 2
18 February 2012 (FA Vase)
Reason Chosen:
Having been sent on this journey by the roll of a die, this turned out to be a day dominated by hospitality and hospital.  Under normal circumstances, the teabar notice about Bovril supply would have been enough for a day.  I had not expected to witness Whitley Bay’s first defeat in this competition in four seasons, but the drama was astonishing.  I had footage of a controversial tackle that was over half-an-hour earlier than the consequent red card, delivered when the ambulance had left the pitch.  The three goals in the game were late, later and unbelievably late.  This became the most viewed Modus Hopper Random Blogpost of all time.

What’s Happened Since?
I originally published the post with Howayday in the title, but was saved from further embarrassment by prompt instruction in north-eastern vowels by several friendly correspondents.  There really should be a local version of Pygmalion, if you ask me.  (e.g “the rain in the Tyne falls mainly down the drain”)  In following rounds, West Auckland disposed of Bournemouth Poppies and Herne Bay to reach the final at Wembley, where they were runners-up to Dunston UTS.  In their very competitive league, West Auckland also finished second (to Spennymoor Town) and Whitley Bay ended up sixth.

Nearly got into the fifteen (you can pick these from the tag cloud on the right):

  • Non-League Day 2011 at Stourport Swifts
  • Good wins for Witham Town (in the league) and AFC Totton (in the FA Cup)
  • Freezing all known appendages at Curzon Ashton
  • My Three-Hop Deluxe Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape
  • The mathematics of Staveley's run of home ties in the FA Vase
  • The goalkeeper at the end of a rainbow at Dronfield Town
  • The worst ground I have ever visited - sorry, Bletchley Town, it's you
  • The location of Colwyn Bay's ground and a goal by Frank Sinclair
  • The Vosper Thornycroft Pigeon Club hut at Sholing FC
  • Theale's celebrations in winning the Reading Senior League

Thank you for all the interest and encouragement.  I hope to cross paths with more readers next season, randomness allowing, as I seek to get all the current grounds down to Step Three added to my lifetime list.  I will also pay plenty of attention to the early rounds of the FA Cup.  Have a good summer, and look out for the occasional diversion on here!

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