End of season...dribbling to a close

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The Champions League final should mark the end of the season. Actually it is still dribbling on with play-off finals for the lower leagues, pre-World Cup friendlies, and youth tournaments - that's 21 games on Tv until the end of May.

Tonight it was comfy reclining chairs in the garden. It's not often you can sit outdoors in shorts and t-shirt after dark in England. But make the most of it. Tv has the Internazionale v. Bayern final. We've just scoffed thru the mini-BBQ, done the pastis & water apéritif, now sinking the beer brewed in Poland, and we'll finish on an Italian red wine 'cos Inter won.

I was going to do an end of season review but as Manchester United only won the Carling Cup and came a creditable second in the Premiership it feels like being a runner-up. Spoilt by success, there will be millions of fans who wait in vain for years for their team to have a decent season. Inter fans waited 45 years to lift that big silver cup again.

Congratulations to Blackpool for winning the Championship play-off. I've yet to hear people say that'll be an easy 6 points from them. Just remind them United went to Burnley, early in the season and lost. Hope Blackpool stay up for longer than Burnley. It'll be nice to have a splash of tangerine kits in the Premiership and Ian Holloway being interviewed for Match of the Day.

Famous Footballers 1881 - unravelling history

UPDATED 25.05.2010
I used to think this was a group of Victorian rugby players. There is an oval ball in the picture and part of the image is used on Rugby-Pioneers a good weblog about historic rugby. But no, it is a selection of association players from Boy's Own Paper in 1881. They also issued a cricket print, and maybe other sports. Printed by Willatt & Groves, Nottingham. Don't know if that counts for the good number of Nottingham Forest red shirts in there.

The chap seated in the middle holding the ball is Norman Bailey the England captain and his shirt should be more cerise and french grey halves. But this is a hand tinted drawing and the number of colours they could process was limited. James Prinsep was the youngest player for England in 1879, then Wayne Rooney came along in 2003 and was a few months younger. Sam Widdowson invented shin pads from an old pair of cricket pads, he also played cricket for Nottinghamshire. E.C. Bambridge was also a referee of important fixtures, the 1881 Cup Final, though his team Swifts had been knocked out in the 3rd round by Clapham Rovers.

Some of the players had numerous clubs so the shirt might not reflect the team they were affliated to in 1881, and the goalkeepers (GK) don't have wear different colours.

Standing from left:
Charles Campbell (Queen's Park), C. J. Caborn (Nottingham Forest), Thomas Marshall (Darwen), Harry Swepstone (GK: Pilgrims), Jack Hunter (Sheffield Heeley), Sam Widdowson (Nottingham Forest), Edwin Luntley (Nottingham Forest), James Prinsep (Old Carthusians), Henry McNiel (Queen's Park), M. Lindsay (Royal Engineers), John Sands (GK: Nottingham Forest), Thomas Brindle (Darwen) and Billy Mosforth (Sheffield Albion).

Sitting from left to right:
Herbert Whitfield (Old Etonians), Norman Bailey (Clapham Rovers), Charles Bambridge (Swifts), Francis Sparks (Clapham Rovers), Fred Earp (Nottingham Forest)

Corrections & additions welcome.
For a better quality picture : http://www.flickr.com/photos/rugby_pioneers/473413891/sizes/l/

West Didsbury Presentation Day

West Didsbury & Chorlton 1-1 West Didsbury & Chorlton Reserves
Friendly Fixture; attendance about 60 (plus two dogs)

West Didsbury & Chorlton AFC
A bit of an end of season small celebration at my neighbouring club. There was a too early for me game of Vets v. Youth which I spotted thru the trees from the bedroom. So planned to watch the 1300h match before the FA Cup Final. First half was both teams cancelling each other out and no score. We chatted to the bloke across the road, it was cool and sunny, which made it all bearable.

Second half didn't liven up until the first team scored. Spectacular long range volley which left the Reserves keeper Ben no chance. After that the Reserves got some decent passing together and were rewarded by a scrappy goal that bobbled around a gaggle of players in the six yeard box. You know what happens if you don't clear your lines. The Reserves looked very much like last season's first team, and the firsts very much like "travellers" - that's players who hop around different clubs looking for a move up a level.

Alex Williams the Community gaffer at Manchester City, and yes he's still remembered as good goalie with a dreadful City defence in my head, came down to get on the cup photo. That's a League Cup, Murray Shield, a runners up cup and I don't know what the other pot is.

The best is that North West Counties football may be coming over the road if West Didsbury make a successful application. The likes of Irlam, Cheadle Town and AFC Liverpool being the visitors. Thinking of getting a black and white scarf. Can you support a third team? As long as they arn't in the same league, and the scarf doesn't go to see United.

Game 71; admission free, newsletter £1 (well printed in colour and quality paper).

St. Pauli v. FC United

Distance used to be magic but when a volunteer, low budget internet Tv operation can bring you live pictures from Hamburg you know broadcasting has become truely democratic - we can all join in if we have some basic technical knowledge. An excellent achievement by FCUM-TV.
This was an end of season friendly to celebrate 100 years of St. Pauli, they've got Celtic turning up on Wednesday. If you've never heard of the club you will do. They are back in the Bundesliga next season.

Watched most of the match linking the best laptop via an HDMI cable to the widescreen tv. Called it a day when Dr. Who came on at which point it was 2-2. FC looked good and apart from some fumbled attempts in the box would have been 4 up. St. Pauli fielded a team composed of former players and made substitutions about every 15 minutes. Final score was 3-3.

The result doesn't matter, the fact that football can be other than competition and be an achievement for friendly relations, supporters ownership and world peace is. Stop there, been watching too much election coverage recently and blathering rhetoric.

Friendlies on the doorstep

Really I've had my fill of friendly fixtures and try and limit myself to just two before the season. Manchester United are flying around the USA and Mexico, FC United have trips into Wales, and elsewhere - might go to the Mossley match. However there are some games a few hundred metres from home. West Didsbury & Chorlton FC play in the Manchester League and are taking on opposition higher up the pyramid. Pies and beers in July then.

85 points and Second Place

United 4-0 Stoke City
Premiership 2009/10; attendance 75,316
Radio catchup
The last fixture of the season, and my 70th game, and you wake up in Anglesey half tired, just about sober and have to get to Old Trafford for 1600h. There was no way we were going to miss it. However the big event is at Stamford Bridge were Chelsea are not expected to blow it against Wigan by losing..

Suffice to say, two taxis, two trains and a short car journey we got to the ground knowing only a major miracle would keep the title at Old Trafford. The match had that tempo of an end of season fixture. Stoke had one eye on the beach, and a couple of weeks in sunny countries. We soon heard that Chelsea were one up and the crowd knew the miracle at the Bridge was not going to happen.

Anyway United played well enough to score four goals. A lovely diving header from Park right in front of of the Stretford End for the last one. But the celebrations for it all though not exactly flat were not over exhuberant. Like being at one party too many from having been out drinking the night before.

Stoke fans took delight in Chelsea's goals. Must have been lots of little radios in their section of the crowd relaying match updates. They had nothing else to cheer about their team on the pitch. Bit pathetic really.

We stayed for Sir Alex's speech on the pitch and the parade around by the players. Coming second isn't that bad - there are supporters of sixteen other teams who would love to be in second place. Shouldn't be spoilt after a decade and more of silver cups. The surprise to me is that coming second shows how flakey the other teams are, apart from Chelsea who have bagged 107 goals. We're not that good and only a point behind the champions.

Still in the race after Sunderland

Sunderland 0-1 United
Premiership 2009/10; attendance 47,641

A 1600h date with Sky Sports - got interuptions with people coming round. But managed to clear the room for the second half. By then Nani had scored from a drilling shot in the 28 minute, which I only saw after then event.

Sky Sports are giddy that it all goes down to the last game of the season after Chelsea easily beat Liverpool. Lovely back pass from Gerrard to let Drogba score! Lets hope he plays better for England in the World Cup.

Well a win is a win but Berbatov needs to score - unlucky or lacking touch. When your No.9 is in a goal drought, and Rooney isn't looking like he needs a rest then there arn't going to be many goals.

Big Shorts Collect Trophy

Timperley Bigshorts 3-2 East Levenshulme
Altrincham & District Sunday League Division 1; attendance 23
Eventually got to see the Bigshorts, the team with the best name in football said the Daily Mirror, unbeaten in the league this season and promoted to the Premier Division of Sunday football. It was a 1100h kick off at the Timperley Recreation Ground on Grove Lane. A sharp north wind blowing down the pitch, wishing I'd put an extra layer of clothing on.

East Levy scored first, they have a couple of useful players up front, and then score again. Could this be Timperley's first defeat of the season and we're the jinx. The Biffa herself is with me, and she wishes she was wearing an extra layer of clothing too. We'd been promised a trophy presentation at half time but it was just a team talk by the side of the pitch.

East Levy score again but in their own net, a simple back whilst the goalie was on the floor bobbles into the goal. Some good saves by the Timperley keeper keeps them in the game. Lots more pressure now from Timperley and now making better use of the wings. It gets back to 2-2, and shortly before the final whistle the winner is scored. A clean, sporting and competitive match.

Frank Sidebottom turns up before the end on his bike and gets into costume. That's the big head and a pink tie over his football kit. There is a presentation on a little table by the pitch. Medals for the players, a silver cup and a bottle of champagne (it was most likely Cava) sprayed about. We take photos before wandering off to the Co-op to get warm and make some purchases.

Game 69; admission free and a free programme (it's 12 sides of colour photocopy). Bigshorts kit is sponsored by The Viking Launderette & Dry Cleaners, and East Levenshulme by Portwood Finance.

Photo Gallery

Footie as Panto

United XI 2-2 The Rivals
Charity Match United Relief; attendance estimate 18,000

Charity Game Old Trafford
The entertainment around the match was better than the football. That was music, dancing and fireworks, plus the grand old man Sir Bobby Charlton taking a few penalties at half time against that well-travelled goalkeeper Dave Beasant. Panto villain was Ian Rush who would still get into any Vets team.

The game was played at a slow pace with the old legs out there. But it was good to see Jaap Stam, Ronny Johnsen, Andy Cole, Ole Gunner and Dwight Yorke back in the red shirt once more.

Fortunately the match was only 35 minutes each half plus extra for the rolling substitutions. At 1-2 down Quentin Fortune netted a last minute penalty for the United XI to take it to penalties. It is all part the show. We went home at that point. The Rivals won 5-4 on spot kicks.

Men of the match for me was Britain’s Got Talent dance troop Flawless at half time. That's how harmless the football was. Though I did enjoy The Saturdays before hand, they struggled in big heels to get across the pitch to the stage. Eamond Holmes looks like he's been on the pies fortunately he stayed in his suit a run around the pitch would have been too much.

Game 68; admission £15.