4 November 2014

THE TELFORD TIGER RETURNS

Tonight we have the pleasure of watching Elliott Bennett in the blue and white of the Albion for the first time at Falmer. Back in our monochrome days in April 2010 - the fanzine’s second season - TSLR019 spoke to The Telford Tiger after he had just been awarded our coveted player of the season prize. That interview is replicated below for your general amusement. It should be noted that one of our favourite TSLRites - @fragglemiller had the pleasure of meeting Mr Bennett.

You’re TSLR’s Player of the Season. Is this the greatest moment of your life?
Yeah, one of them, it’s a good achievement. I didn’t even know. Thank you.

Do you know if you’ve won any other awards this season yet?
Not this season, but I won Young Player of the Year at Wolves two seasons ago and then I won Young Player of the Season at Bury when I was on loan last year.

Does it feel like a long way from the dark days at the start of the season when you first arrived?
Yeah definitely, everything’s changed a lot. The new gaffer’s come in and he’s really stamped a way of football he wants us to play. We’re starting to play that way now. The fans seem to be enjoying the style of football we’re playing, and hopefully we can get the three points we need against Carlisle now to be safe.

At the training ground at Poyet’s first session, several players said they could see the impact he had straight away. Was that true for you?
Definitely. He’d obviously watched a few games before he got the job and found out what we needed to do to get better. We weren’t defending well as a team at all.

How does that translate in terms of training sessions?
Training’s just training really, but I think he’s instilled more of a confidence in the boys to pass the ball to each other and not be afraid if someone’s marked to give it to them. It’s just knowing your players really - some players are technically better than others, so if you’re in certain situations you can give it to them.

After the game on Monday, Hartlepool’s Chris Turner said we play in a continental style. Are Poyet’s methods very different to the ones you’ve experienced in the English game?
Yeah, with a lot of the training sessions I’ve experienced it’s all in and you can take as many touches as you want - you know, it’s very rare that the gaffer asks you to play three-touch football. That encourages you to pass the ball and move to create an angle to get the ball back.

You were signed by Russell Slade, who presumably didn’t sell the club to you on a passing game and total football…
He just said that he wanted me to come and play. I’d been on loan for a year and a half with Crewe. I just needed to break away and become my own person. I’d been there all that time as a young lad and I needed to become a man I think. I was miles away from breaking into the first team there. In pre-season I knew I wasn’t going to play but I didn’t feel detached, I just focussed on staying professional, not causing trouble about the place and staying fit for a loan or permanent move, so I could take it when it came. I didn’t think I’d play as many games as I have done to be honest, but Russell said that I’d play some games and I’m obviously delighted to have played as many as I have. I’ve had to move away from what I’ve known - it’s a completely new place, I’ve had to grow up on and off the pitch so it’s helped me personally.

What do you remember about Poyet’s first game in charge at Southampton? That was the first game where we saw you really playing defensively and helping double mark men.
It was a bit different, but I’d played right-back before Gus came in with Russell Slade. I played half a game when we had someone sent off against Stockport. I don’t mind doing my fair share of defending. But the Southampton game was a weird one for me because it was one of those games where we were on the telly and I had my family and friends watching, so you want to show what you can do. It was weird really because we hadn’t had much time with Gus so that was a bit strange. He just told us to go and play, that’s what he’s done all season, to be confident. It’s really worked, because some players weren’t feeling confident before games.

Had it been quite a heavy time for you all before that, with the end of Russell Slade’s time here?
It was just disappointing. The last game he was here we battered Hartlepool but didn’t win. That’s the way it was happening. Gus has come in and that’s what he’s changed - if we score a goal and go 1-0 up, go two or 3-0, keep going.

Did you have a lack of confidence before Russell Slade left?
Personally I didn’t, I try to stay as confident as I can. When you lose that you’re struggling. I think it was more that as a team we were thinking ‘if a team scores, we’re not getting back in it’. Obviously that’s not a good way to think, but that was the sort of mentality really.

How do you find playing with Calderon? Did you know anything about him before he signed?
Very good - he’s a top player. I’d never seen him, never heard of him, I’d just seen his locks coming into the changing room. He’s had to learn the language while he’s been over here as well and his English is getting a lot better. He knows the game, he’s played at a good level in Spain. He’s a joy to watch for the fans and a joy to play with as well.

We’ve all noticed that you switch wings during games. Did you do that much before Gus came in?
Not really, but I like it. The gaffer says if you’re not beating your man on one side and you’re both not getting the ball just choose between yourselves. It gives us the responsibility to know when and when not to change.

You looked like you didn’t have a celebration for that goal at Oldham.
That’s ‘cos I don’t score very often, so when it went in I didn’t know what to do. I tried to run around in circles.

What do you remember about the Charlton game?
It was great - maybe not our best performance, because I think the Southampton game here was very good, but there we played well, passed them off the park at their place, won the game, scored goals and they only scored in the 90th minute I think. That was a great day, the fans were brilliant as well.

If you had to pick a Player of the Season for yourself…
…who would I pick? Since Gus has come in I’d say Calde, but for the whole season, just for consistency and what he brings to the team I’d say Crofty. People might say Gary Dicker takes people on and looks glamorous in the centre of the field, but I think what Crofty does is brilliant for the team. He keeps the ball, tackles, scores goals and allows others to play as well.

All the players were very confident about this season…
(Laughs) Yeah…

Are you cautious about being confident for next season? When you came here we were still talking about making the play-offs…
I’m not cautious, no, because I think you should always be confident when you start the season, otherwise there’s no point in playing. I think if we believe in the brand of football the gaffer wants us to play and we play the way we know we can, the play-offs and automatic promotion are not unrealistic at all, especially given the performance against Southampton [at Withdean]. It was top drawer.

It’s fair to say that we’ve been outclassed by a few of the top teams like Leeds. What do you think we have to do to get up to their standard, or do you think we’re really approaching that now?
I think it’s all about confidence. I know I keep saying that, but when they came here Leeds had been on a good run, they were at the top of the league, flying. Things change – people would say they’re not that good now.

Have you felt a kind of momentum building since January?
Definitely, I think our results have shown that as well. We haven’t been losing many games and there’s a steady confidence growing within the team for next season.

31 October 2014

NIGHTMARE AT FALMER

This headline could be pretty much be following any match played at our swanky home ground this season. Don’t worry, it’s not - it's much worse than that. After reading Carter’s hilarious Halloween Albion XI of November 2010 we posted yesterday, what better time to do an updated version? Be warned, it lacks the witticism of Carter and some puns are spookily bad. But it is up to date...

So we start with two relics - or stalwarts - from November 2010. In goal we have Casper (the friendly ghost) Ankergren, smoking Marlborough Lights. In fact, seeing as he is a friendly ghost and this is Halloween, a time for fear, he is more of a scary proposition should he fall asleep with a fag in his mouth - that’s how fires start. At right back is Iñigo Cauldron. The King of the Basque country is routinely known to boil an eye of newt with a toe of frog, a scale of dragon and a tooth of wolf for dinner. Kazombie LuaLua isn’t convinced by his vice captain’s dinner choices - he opts for Nando’s - and, as a result, is on the bench.

At right back, Boo-no Saltor, who will demonstrate his deadly touch and fearless shooting. He is the one player who certainly gets the heart racing, and not always in a good way. The centre backs include captain Gordon Fear, who certainly put his surname into Robert Lewandowski when playing for Scotland against Poland the other week. The other centre back is Lewis Dunk - either on the basis that everyone dunks their heads for apple bobbing this time of year or for his brief association with the voyeurism trial (in which several Albion players put the fear into that poor woman).

Moving into midfield now and Rohan Wince will start as the holding player, the new Liam Throatcutt if you like. After Rohan smashed in that screamer at Swindon earlier this season, Wes ‘Anderson’ Foderingham winces at the thought. Jake Forster-Casket sits in the middle of midfield. In his spare time he hangs out with Ian Hart, gaining tips on the best ways to make wooden coffins. As we have started to run out of strikers for this exercise (or do I mean the season?), alongside Foster-Casket, is Danny Horror, the Dutchman who recently signed from ADO Den Haag. Did you know that ADO stands for the All Death Occult?

What kind of blog post would this be without mentioning Phantom McCourt? This ghostlike figure seemingly only appears for the last ten minutes of matches and floats around like a majestic ballerina who’s been given permission to play football. If only he would float around for 90 minutes rather than when the game is already lost. McCourt can play right wing for this Halloween match. On the left, we’d have to play Kemy Disgusting, which is either his Halloween name or what all Albionites should refer to him for the disgusting amount of wages he’s blagged for his 13 games a season.

It’s certainly scary with Chris Ooooo’Grady leading the front line. But, surely the whole point of this team would be to scare the opposition, not the home fans. He may never get a goal, but he is sure to find a ghoul this Halloween.

Oh no, I’ve just realised that, like Sami Hyypiä, I’ve forgotten about Nzuzi Tombstone. Stick him on the bench.

And, of course, they would be presided over by interim manager Nathan Moans, who has the job after Sami’s head went on the block and he got hanged out to dry. On the bench we could have David Stockdowl, Adam Chicken and Sam Bulldog. Oh hang on, this is the Albion animal XI now. That reminds me, I once did a gardening XI simply because of Perry Digweed - where on earth was Gary Gardner then?

30 October 2014

HALLOWEEN NOSTALGIA FROM HAPPIER TIMES

The November 2010 issue of TSLR (034) was rather jolly - Albion were remarkably eight points clear at the top of Division 3 and the fanzine was shifting a few copies. Ever present contributor, Carter penned a column which he sent to us for that issue four years ago now. In this exclusive rib-tickling extract from that issue, Carter came up with his Albion themed Albion XI. Sit back, relax and enjoy this hilarious bit of nostalgia from happier times. Happy Halloween kids.

A recent sales meeting revealed to me that TSLR is thriving at the moment; well, I say 'sales meeting, but it was more a case of a certain co-editor bellowing 'we've almost run out' across London Road as I queued for the bus after the Yeovil game
 
But it's not merely rising attendances and scintillating form that are feeding interest in this fanzine. I firmly believe it's the ever-increasing quality of writing, up-to-the minute reporting and gripping genre-defining exposés...and here's my Halloween themed Albion XI:
 
Ironically, as I embark on this piece of belated spooky nonsense, there is nothing at all horrific about the Albion's form at the moment. In fact, with no gay puns intended, the team are seemingly putting the willies up all challengers lately. But are they as frightening as this following bunch of Withdean occult heroes?

An easy choice between the sticks is Casper Ankergren. Albion's number 16, is named after a cartoon ghost. Too busy being a decent 'keeper means Casper has no time to cut eye-holes in duvet covers and attend fancy dress parties, thus keeping plenty of clean sheets.
 
Casper is protected by a back three, starting with Joel Lynch, an 18th century hangman, who's apparition is sometimes seen in Nottingham Forest. Keith Mc'Fear'son is also included just for pun reasons. These two are joined by Colin Hawkins - for four minutes at least - who could be included or a number of reasons. His name being an anagram of 'Ha! I skin clown' , which is reminiscent of a circus based serial killer, will do for now.
 
The flesh-eating duo of 'Helliott' Bennett and Charlie Oatway start in midfield. Whilst Charlie is busy biting the ears of Chesterfield players, Bennett prefers to attack the opposition down the right flank. Steve Melton makes the team owing to featuring in the Wizard of Oz; as the Witch of the West is heard to say after Dorothy throws water at her: 'I'm Melton!...Melton!'. I heard an old chap in the North Stand recently comment that he had left his trannie at home. As such, I'll have Darren 'Tim' Currie vamping up the midfield dressed as Frank-N-Furter. Anything I can do to help.

Of course, Currie is currently at the hotbed of paranormal activity, Dagenham, alongside Bas Savage, the first in a horrific forward line. Savage could describe the level of gore and violence in one of my favourite horror films, Saw. In celebration of this, I've also given the nod up-front to Nicky Forster To Retrieve A Key Out Of Her Unconscious Room Mate's Stomach Before The Timer On The Bear Trap Clamped on Her Head Runs Out. This creepy, and altogether tenuously linked, team is completed by ex-loan signing Daniel Webb, merely for the spider connotation. Although it is rather chilling that Webb is one of what can only be a small list of those to have played for the Albion and played in the Champions League - he appeared in a qualifying round match for Maltese side, Marsaxlokk - this sounds like a testicular related complaint rather than a football club. Rather appropriately, considering the whole spider bit, Webb is now plying his footballing trade in Bath.
 
Okay, none of this is very scary or relevant, but maybe the pre-match performance by Gully's Ghouls will be better? Anyway, I've got to go as I'm alone babysitting and the phone is ringing.

Don't have Dick Knight-mares.

28 October 2014

HE WORE AN ORANGE JACKET

I have a terrible confession to make.

I love the new third kit. The orange one. The one that looks like a hideous highlighter pen, yet is somehow brighter. The one that makes the green and black highlighter pen kit from yesterseason pretty dull on reflection. The one that costs a whopping £45, which means buying all three shirts this season would cost £135. The shirt that I should hate. One that is probably manufactured by poverty-stricken Indonesian children who should be at school (Nike’s PR team, of course, these days claim this is not the case). The shirt that makes you look like a steward. The one that is a third kit we don't need That orange one.

I know I shouldn’t but the more I saw of people wearing it on Saturday the more excited I became. I want one and I will buy one once I have saved up my pennies. I know the arguments against (I have just listed them) and yet I still love it. Is it the identification of football orange and the Dutch, Total Football and Rinus Michels? Is it because the football on the pitch isn’t quite so bright at the moment? Is it so I won’t get lost in amongst the crowds this winter? Is it because it’s Halloween this week and I want to look like a pumpkin? Or is it quite simply that I’m colour blind?
I genuinely don’t know why I love it so. This orange Nike identikit that you can purchase for just £19 online without the Albion and American Express logo stuck on. I will buy one and hang my head in shame for looking like a wannabe steward. To be honest, I like it like I like Rick Astley - I know I really shouldn’t. But, honestly, I’m going to buy one. And I’m never going to give it up.

20 October 2014

KEMY AND THE CHARITY SHOP

After last week’s miserable blog about how all Albionite writers have lost their humour, a funny little short story arrived in our post-box. It came in the old fashioned way, courtesy of a letter that must have giggled its way through the postal service to TSLR Towers. If it had been on a postcard, the postman would have stolen it. The humour is still there, it looks like we just have to ask for it…

Maureen had worked in the Worthing Scope charity shop since 1975. Of course, in 1975 it wasn’t known as Scope. She had begun working for the Worthing, Littlehampton and District Society which was affiliated to the national body. Many changes had happened to her, the charity and the shop down the years but she was always happy working for something she truly believed in. Maureen would always arrive to the shop on Chapel Road early to prepare for the day ahead and today was no different.

It was a spring Thursday in June, and Maureen was excited. That morning she was expecting a celebrity at the shop. And celebrities didn’t come to Worthing’s Chapel Road every day. A professional footballer had run into trouble with the law for repeated driving offences and was due at Scope to carry out some community service. At Maureen’s shop! She didn’t exactly like footballers - they were prima donnas, earning too much money and treating the law with contempt. But Maureen was prepared to give this one a chance. And she was a little bit excited.

A larger man than expected walked through the door, sporting an unshaven chin, and dressed in a leather jacket. “I’m here for my community service punishment”, he told Maureen. “You don’t look slim enough to be a footballer”, said the shop assistant, “are you really Kemy Agustien?” “Yes, I’m Kemy,” said Kemy, “I’m here for my shift. And I am a footballer!”

Maureen ushered the big man into the back room. Kemy’s first job was to sort through the bin bags left on the doorstep overnight. By lunchtime he’d sorted through them all as Maureen and her assistant, Susan, did little but chat at the front counter. As a prize for his good work, in the afternoon he would be allowed behind the counter. Maureen distributed cucumber sandwiches and cups of tea for lunch. Kemy was surprised at how he was actually enjoying himself. He had spent about as many hours in the shop as he had played for Albion now.

Maureen was pleased with the time and effort Kemy had put into her shop, though she still doubted whether he was an actual footballer. Maybe the community service team had meant to tell her they were sending someone who sold pies at the football rather than an actual footballer. Though he was dressed expensively enough to be a footballer, she thought. Maureen had been particularly pleased with the way Kemy had conducted himself in the afternoon. They had never sold so many Ruth Rendell Mysteries. And it was all because the strapping Kemy had convinced a gaggle of old ladies that they should buy them.

But all good things come to an end, and at 5pm Maureen reluctantly shut the shop. “Thanks for all your hard work today, Kemy. Seeing as you’re banned from driving, can I call you a taxi?”

“No it’s alright, Maureen. I’ve got my BMW X6 parked in Union Place.”

17 October 2014

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

The BBC has done a rather good job the last couple of years of telling us football supporters how badly we’re being ripped off. They're latest iteration basically tells us what we already know, that the cost of football increases ever more, despite the continued stagnation in most people's wages. Yet the latest set of figures has thrown up some interesting observations specifically about the Albion, and the costliness of going to Falmer. In this article, the BBC sport team tell us the ten things they have learnt from the exercise. In this TSLR article, we look at the five things we have.

Our cheapest season ticket is the third most expensive in the league

This is all about context. I’ve always thought that £465 to watch all 23 Albion home games (about £20.22 per match) is pretty cheap. But in the context of other Division 2 teams, it certainly now looks pricey. To think, only Norwich (£499.50) and Bournemouth (£480) are more expensive to go to. It is quite odd we’re so expensive compared to these two - Bournemouth are obviously hampered by a small ground (capacity of 12,000 apparently - a rather convenient round number, don’t you think?) and Norwich have recently been paying top flight prices (and top flight wages).

The BBC handily tell us: “The cheapest season ticket at Brighton and Hove Albion is 36% more than the average comparable cost for the Championship of £343.” So where would you pay just £343? Slap bang in the middle is Brentford (£343) though don’t expect this to be the case at their new ground. It could stay that cheap I suppose, as they need to compete with seemingly hundreds of other London clubs. Both Fulham and Charlton season tickets are significantly less. Personally, as a resident of London, and if football clubs could be chosen by cost alone, Charlton looks cracking value. Their season tickets - the cheapest in the second tier - are just £150. And they don’t think much of P****e.

Talking of the Selhurst scummers, yes they’re home ground is a health and safety nightmarish mess - and their cheapest match tickets are a whopping £30 - but they’re cheapest season ticket is just £420. Half of top flight clubs have cheaper tickets than Albion: Everton (£444); Swansea (£429); Sunderland (£400); Leicester (£365); West Bromwich Albion (£349); Stoke (£344); Aston Villa (£335); Burnley (£329) and Manchester City (£299) all join P****e as cheaper than Albion. The head honchos at Falmer can hide behind the usual arguments - these are clubs in less affluent areas (all of them) or these are clubs with huge grounds they can’t fill (Villa, Manchester City). The former argument works better with me, play-offs aside, it’s not like we’ve ever filled Falmer.

We are the most expensive in the league for ‘cheapest day out’

This isn’t the fault of Brighton being an expensive place to visit, this is all to do with Falmer being an expensive place to visit. The BBC states that for a ‘day out’ they have added together the price of a match-day ticket, pie, cup of tea and a programme. Albion are the most expensive for this of all 24 tier two sides, at £34.70. Sheffield Wednesday is the cheapest - basically half that, costing just £17.80. Factor in the fact that really a day out also includes plenty of Harveys and possibly a second pie offering from Piglet’s, then you are looking at nearer £50. Luckily we’ve got that season ticket to bring the match-day ticket price down by £4.78 a match. That’s at least another Harveys for the Saturday afternoon stomach collection.

Tea costs a hideous amount wherever you are

At Falmer you pay £2.10 for a cup of tea apparently. I’d never know because the only interaction I have with tea drinkers is the sneer I give them as they hold up the beer queue at half time (dedicated hot drink lanes please). The cheapest cup of tea in the league is at Brentford and that costs £1.50 FFSMurray. The rising price of tea has infuriated me outside of football in recent times - I paid an outrageous £1.20 for a hangover chasing caffeine boost this very morning. There should be some sort of law - I mean, it’s a tea bag, hot water and long life milk, how much can it be? At Southampton (the most expensive in the country) a tea costs £2.50. Four clubs in Division 4 share the distinction of having the cheapest tea in the league - Newport County, Portsmouth, Accrington Stanley and Stevenage charge £1. Or the price of a fanzine.

The cost of the Albion shirt is £2.21 more than the average cost of £42.79 in the Championship

Does £2.21 really matter? Probably not. Would £2.21 get you another pie? Or a Harveys? No, it’d get you a cup of tea. And 11 pence change!

Piglet’s Pantry pies are the most expensive in the division

And worth every penny.

The most worrying thing about this compilation of data from the BBC is that the clubs who aren’t charging the most get a jolly easy way of seeing what they can get away with. It’s almost free market research for them, and they’re all making enough money to carry that out for themselves. It’s hard to properly draw conclusions though as the BBC’s figures come from different parts of the country with different micro-economies and different circumstances. Yes, the Albion is more expensive than London clubs in our league, but Fulham, Charlton and Brentford have never been particularly popular clubs. Yes, we’re more expensive than some northern clubs in the top flight, but they don’t necessarily have a swanky new stadium or supporters who can afford any more. The real analysis is the value for money chart the BBC hasn’t compiled. It reads like this, if we’re winning, we’ll pay whatever they want!