Thursday, 15 May 2014

Opportunity Knocks, or Maybe It Tweets

About 4 years ago I was talking to a mate on twitter who at the time (and remains so at present) was a member of the backroom staff at Concord Rangers, and during our conversation it was suggested that I come down to Thames Road and take in a Beachboys game. After not much thought I said yes and a few weeks later I went down there to see Concord in action & catch up with said mate.

A seemingly innocuous decision with no long lasting results or issues stemming from it, or at least that’s what you would think on first glance. Little did I realise when I said I’d go that it would lead to so many things, including memorable events, great friendships, and most recently a number of responsibilities as part of the club.

For example, Concord Rangers second season in the Ryman Premier came to an end with an away trip to Wealdstone, home of the now infamous Wealdstone Raider. I had been around the club for a while by this point, and had got to know the coaches & a few of the players, so I was able to go on the away trip on the players coach, which also contained the committee. I remember it well as prior to the game West Ham were on the tv in the pub, which was a game that solidified their place in the Championship playoffs. The Concord game wasn’t the greatest, and we came away with a loss, but it was the coach trip back to the club and the following presentation night that made a lasting (and positive) impression on this fan.

As you probably understand, writing blogs has been one of my things, and it was thanks to this that I really met the chairman etc at the club. The first one that was widely read focused on the derby match between Concord & Canvey, this was shared by friends on Facebook & Twitter and as such was read by a number of people involved with the club. Eventually it was suggested that these blogs (which were a fairly regular occurrence by that time) be placed on the Concord website. On they went, and I have been honoured to receive positive feedback from players & fans about what I write about the club. The key, I believe, has always been to write what I would say, put it how I would speak to the reader in person, and not say anything I wouldn’t say to them in person.

Helping out with the website & match day programme, along with the regular blogs, earned me the title of “Concord Rangers Supporters Association Chairman”, which has stuck with me to this very day. But I may have to give that title up, as another opportunity has presented itself. This coming season, the clubs second in the Conference South, I will be editing the club match day programme, and as a part of that I was asked to join the club committee. I was over the moon to be asked, and it highlights the fact that it is so easy to get caught up in a club like this, form bonds with people and have it become a large part of your life. I just hope that I can do the duties I’m asked to perform justice.

There’s plenty of friendships that have been built around the club, good mates that I spend time with & ones that will always hold a memory. Some of these guys are as good as family, who hold my trust and respect, even if their banter at times can be shocking! I’m grateful for all that Concord Rangers has given me over these past four years, and look forward to continuing to contribute to it in my own way over the coming years.

It’s clubs like this that make football what it is, the small clubs in non league that form the building blocks of the sport across the country. They are family orientated, run by people who genuinely love the club and want it to succeed, and being a part of it is something that I wouldn’t trade for the world right now. Thank you to all at Concord Rangers, and long may it continue!

#YAMC

Thursday, 24 April 2014

One More Game

Welcome to Thames Road for what is Concord Rangers final game of our inaugural Skrill Conference South season. I don’t think anyone could have expected this season to play out as it has, we all had dreams sure, but breaking as many barriers as we have as a club has surprised plenty of teams, experts & fans alike.

From earning the teams first victory in this league away at Dover back in August, securing our 50 point target away to Farnborough back in March through to confirming a top 10 finish with a victory away (find a theme here?) to Basingstoke this past week, it’s been one hell of a season! I could sit here and write about how well Danny & Glenn managed the side, how well each of the players performed, how loudly the fans cheered at some of our most exciting moments, but that would be singling out one aspect of many. It’s been a club effort to reach this level of success, dedication, blood, sweat & tears at every level has contributed to the Beach Boys having a spectacular first season in the Skrill South.

From my perspective the team has over performed, broke records and made history at every turn as the season wore on. Being a part of that as a fan, and a part of the Concord family has been an experience I will never forget, and one I hope you, my fellow fan, have enjoyed as much as I have!

There is still more to come though, after todays game against Bath City we travel to Dagenham & Redbridge to face Skrill Premier side Braintree in the Essex Senior Cup final. Given our recent history in finals it will certainly be an event to be part of! The game is due to kick off at 19:45 on Tuesday 29th April, and it would be fantastic to see as many fellow Concord fans there as possible to cheer the lads on and hopefully end this historic season on a high. A quick warning though, get there early if using the train, tube strikes are due to take place and will undoubtedly cause grief to those using public transport!

I’ve been writing these articles for some time now, and whether you read them in the programme or on the website, I hope they provide you with some enjoyment and a decent take on how I see things being a part of this special little non league club. Let’s cheer on the lads today and on Tuesday, and I hope to see you all here again next season.

You Are My Concord

Alan Jessup-Peacock

Concord Supporters Association Chairman

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Race To 50? No Problem!

Concord Rangers in the Skrill Conference South, a sentence that still didn’t quite sound right when promotion was won last summer, but what is even more astounding is the fact we’ll be saying that for at least another season yet. Ok so maybe Concord Rangers are still not quite mathematically safe, but sitting in 8th (as I type) on 54 points I believe it’s safe to say we’re staying up.

At the start of the season I remember Danny Cowley saying he just wanted us to be competitive in the league, not be the whipping boys that everyone else expected us to be. He also set a target of 50 points which would probably be enough to ensure safety in this league, and with 32 games gone an away win at Farnborough got the lads to that magical number.

So what now? Our main objective for the season has been achieved, there is no longer any pressure on the lads to survive, and there’s a cup final to look to at the end of the season. But what of the remaining league games (8 as I type)? Now is a chance to play with a little more freedom, look at our position in the league and try to achieve something extra special, the playoffs. Now when promotion to this league was achieved last summer, would anyone have suggested we’d be chasing a playoff spot with 8 games to go? No chance, even knowing this team as I do there were no expectations in that respect!

The opportunity is within the teams grasp, no question about that, and with the way they keep surprising opponents with these results it is very possible. Whether we get there or not though I will be able to say I have been a part of one of the most enthralling and exciting seasons in Concord Rangers history.

You Are My Concord

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Whisky Live 2014

Whisky Live is a whisky tasting festival which occurs around the world every year in locations such as Tokyo, New York, Melbourne and London. I attended my first Whisky Live event in 2008, already the 8th to be held in London. I was just getting into whisky at the time, starting to try different brands of scotch which to me were the only ones out there. My girlfriend at the time spotted an advert for the show in Timeout, and as such suggested that we should go. The show was held in the Royal Horticultural Halls near Westminster, and was my first real look into what was (& still is) a huge world of whisky.

I remember trying Glen Grant and Bowmore whiskies for the first time at the show, but it also allowed me to broaden my horizons as such, and sample what has become one of my favourites, Yamazaki, a single malt whisky from Japan. I also was able to try Four Roses bourbon, which I have returned to with fair regularity over the years!

With my first Whisky Live experience a positive one, I continued to attend the shows as and when they came to London. The following year though the location was changed, as was the company I took with me. Whisky Live was held at the rather posh Hurlingham Club near Putney, and I dragged along two mates from work with me, both of whom became repeat attendees as the years went on! The stand out memory from that show was a Ben Nevis 10yr single cask whisky that we tried, it had a beautiful red colour after spending its last 14 months in a port cask, and there was only 697 bottles made. Me & one of my mates both bought a bottle (£40 each), and mine lasted 5 years before I had the guts to actually open it!

Since 2011 the London event has been held at the Honourable Artillery Company near Old Street, a venue which has felt rather small compared to the previous ones attended. 5 successive years I had attended Whisky Live London, but last year I fell ill on the morning of the show and never managed to get there. So when the dates were announced for this year, it was clear that I had to get back in to the routine of attending this great little event.

I use the term little as once again the event was held at the HAC, and it felt as though there were fewer exhibitors than my previous visits. However the reason I go to these is to try new drams, ones I may not get the chance to anywhere else and ones I simply wouldn’t be able to afford! Thankfully Whisky Live 2014 didn’t let me down.

This was the first occasion I was able to taste a range of whisky from Taiwan, produced by the Kavalan distillery. Their “classic” expression was the better of the 3 I tried, at least in my opinion, offering a smooth, oily taste with a light floral aroma. I also tried their port cask “Concertmaster” and the sherry cask finished expression of Solist, but neither really set me on fire. Of course, you have to remember that there is no such thing as a bad whisky, just a whisky you don’t like!

One dram I did enjoy was the single grain whiskey (note the spelling) from Teeling, the standard expression was excellent, so much so that it had sold out before I could buy a bottle at the show! Their “Small Batch” was also top quality, so I bought myself a bottle of that instead! Another single grain whisky was on show, the Girvan Patent Still 25yr, which at £250 a bottle isn’t one I will be buying any time soon, although it did taste wonderful when sampling! Japanese whisky is always something I look to try, and this time I found a 10yr Miyagikyo which was worth a second look.

I also went back to drams I’d had before, ones I’ve enjoyed and will keep going back to for years to come! Those included the excellent range of corn whisky from Balcones, Four Roses bourbon and the Glenrothes. It felt good to be back at a whisky tasting after missing the big ones last year, and already I’m looking forward to the different events lined up for the rest of the year. The whisky world is a large one, and it’s great being able to explore all the corners of it!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Cup Final Countdown

Last season Concord Rangers acheived some incredible successes, winning promotion via the playoffs and taking home the Ryman League Cup. Coming into this season though we all knew it’d be tough to even come close to replicating that level of success given the tougher competitions we are now a part of.

But come close we have, as after beating Colchester United a few weeks ago Concord Rangers are now in the Essex Senior Cup Final, due to take place on Tuesday 29th April. The Beachboys will face Skrill Premier side Braintree Town at The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium, home of Dagenham & Redbridge FC. The ground played host to the last Essex Senior Cup Final Concord were a part of, but we’ll be hoping for better fortunes after losing in 2008/09 to Chelmsford City.

Our journey to the final has been an interesting one, with a 5-0 victory over Waltham Abbey in the 3rd round getting things started. The 4th round saw old enemies Chelmsford City visit the Aspect Arena, but they met the same fate as the previous 2 years as Concord sent them packing (on penalties for the second year in a row). This set up a mouth-watering quarter final fixture against neighbours Canvey Island. The surface was sodden & weather pretty poor, but it failed to stop the result from being more than emphatic as the Beachboys won 4-0 over their island rivals.

The semi final draw saw Concord Rangers have to travel to Colchester United, however as the United playing surface was in need of respite the fixture was relocated to Thames Road. It also suffered a late postponement, but when the game finally got under way on 6th March, Concord secured their place in the final with a special strike from Gary Ogilvie.

I for one am really looking forward to the match, as we’ll be heading there as underdogs, just like our last two final appearances (Ryman Cup & Playoff). The Beachboys have proven over the years that they never know when they are beat, and I have a firm feeling that this belief will be rife amongst the players on the day. Reaching the final is a massive achievement in itself, but if we were to come away from there with our third bit of silverware in 2 years? Well that would be something very special indeed.

To be honest, whatever happens on that Tuesday evening in April it will be a fantastic night for everyone involved with Concord Rangers. It’s at a venue close to home (just up the A13 or less than 30 minutes on a train) and hopefully we’ll have a big Beachboy following to cheer the lads on to what could be a memorable victory!

You Are My Concord!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Beachboy Football is Back!

There’s not been much to talk about recently concerning Concord Rangers thanks to the seemingly endless torrents of recent rainfall. Thankfully though things have started to clear up & dry out a bit, allowing football to get going again!

After the Beachboys Boxing Day victory over Boreham Wood, there were plenty of fixtures scheduled through January to let the lads build a run together, but as we all know the weather stopped any chance of that. A total of just 3 games were able to be played during the first month of the year, including victories at home to Hayes & Yeading and away to league leaders Bromley. The weather was still poor though, and after a Saturday fixture was called off Concord hosted Chelmsford City on a Tuesday night that proved to be the last game for over a month.

The Chelmsford game had already been reorganised due to a power issue the first time round, but thanks to a lot of work on the pitch it was able to go ahead on Tuesday 21st January. I had a few complaints about the game, thought we could have done better and that some decisions were a bit dubious, but that didn’t change the end result. Chelmsford exacted revenge for being knocked out of the Essex Senior Cup by beating Concord Rangers 1-3. At the time there was hope that a response could be made fairly quickly, but as the days went on it was clear that wouldn’t be the case.

The weather picked up, albeit slightly, and hopes were high that the Essex Senior Cup Semi Final at home (moved to Thames Road from Colchester’s ground) to Colchester United would go ahead on Tuesday 18th February. The fans entered the ground, players were warming up on the pitch, programmes were being sold and burgers were being eaten, but this idyllic picture soon changed. With just 10 minutes to go till kick off, the referee finally inspected the pitch (something that is usually done by officials as soon as they arrive, nearly 90 minutes before kick off) and decided that the game would not go ahead due to an unsafe area of the pitch. Now, if the official had checked the pitch upon arrival then maybe some work could have been done on the area to make it playable, but that just wasn’t the case. I made my views on the official clear on the night, as did many other fans & people present, but nothing was changing the mind of the referee.

So another fixture had to be rearranged, and more time had to pass before competitive football could be experienced by the Beachboys. The lads didn’t have to wait much longer though, as Thames Road saw a Skrill South fixture take place for the first time in 32 days as Concord hosted Bishops Stortford. It wasn’t the best return to action though, as a reportedly (I wasn’t there) poor performance saw Stortford win 2-0 after spending the majority of the game with only 10 men on the pitch, & a striker keeping goal.

Changes were made, and an immediate response was sought as Concord had their second home game in 4 days, taking on Staines Town. Concord remain the only team to win at Staines this season, and this fixture provided the opportunity for more history to be made by doing the double over the Swans. A determined, hard fought and at times dominant performance saw Rangers do just that, surviving a shaky last 15 minutes to win 2-1 and claim their first Skrill South double.

There’s been some personnel changes recently that are worth noting, Sam Higgins has returned to East Thurrock, whilst Joe Gardner has signed from Maldon & Tiptree, and both Taylor Miles & Rob Girdlestone have signed on loan from West Ham United.

To be honest it feels like the season has started all over again after that month break! Now we just hope that the weather holds and the rest of the season goes on without a hitch, especially given the amount of rearranged games we have to go! It should be a great, if busy, second half of the season and I for one cannot wait to see how it unfolds!

You Are My Concord!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Pro Wrestling Is Real, People Are Fake

Pro wrestling and I have had an interesting on & off relationship over the years, but it seems as though it’s something I keep coming back to even after staying clear for long periods of time!

As a kid I watched what many others did, wrestling on ITV on a Saturday afternoon, seeing guys like Ric Flair, the British Bulldogs, Bret Hart and the Ultimate Warrior. This was early on in my life, so I’ll be honest and say I don’t remember many of the finer details, only that I recall watching professional wrestling! Then the early 90s hit and it really took off, and thanks to satellite TV I was able to become a fan of guys like Flyin’ Brian Pillman, The Rockers and the British Bulldog. Probably my most prominent memory of this period was watching the WWF Summerslam PPV which was held in London in 1992. The main event was when The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith (RIP) defeated Bret Hart for the Intercontinental Title. At the end Bret’s sister (Davey’s wife) and the rest of the Hart family hit the ring to celebrate in what was an emotional moment!

I don’t remember much after then, but I’m pretty sure we stopped getting Sky and as such lost access to the regular wrestling shows that were being shown. So another few years go by, and the home TV situation changed again, with us once again getting satellite and being able to watch the WWF shows (and WCW). I know that this was around 1995/96, as again there’s one PPV event that really stands out in my memory, Wrestlemania 12 in March 1996. The Ultimate Warrior made his WWF return, beating Hunter Hearst Helmsley in double quick time (the guy who runs things as HHH now) to a massive crowd reaction. The showpiece of the event though was a 60 minute Iron Man match between Shawn Michaels & Bret “The Hitman” Hart, my two favourite wrestlers at the time (and they remain so to this day).

Being kids, myself & my brothers naturally began to act out these wrestling moves on each other, and in time our mother put a ban on us watching it, leading to another period where nothing was seen. We missed a big part of what was the most popular time in pro wrestling, WCW were beating WWF in (what was to become known as) the Monday Night Wars, the NWO faction was running wild in WCW & DX was getting started in WWF.

Then our dad came to our rescue by recording both WCW Nitro & WWF Raw and letting us watch it when round his house (our parents had split a few years earlier). We got right back into it, following both companies and the storylines that they produced. We caught a lot of great moments during that time, the unbeaten streak of Goldberg along with the NWO angle in WCW, the Corporation/Ministry/Austin angles in WWF, and the various personnel switches that took place (Jarrett, Benoit, Malenko, Guerrero, Jericho, Wight etc). Then there was the demise of WCW and ECW, which I had begun to watch, which changed the shape of the business forever.

WWE (as it was now know) thankfully wasn’t the only one left, independent companies like ROH came to the forefront, and soon NWA:TNA was created as well (now just TNA). A digital channel cunningly titled The Wrestling Channel allowed people like me to get into these companies & the product they produced. I was thankful as it introduced me to talent that was original compared to the WWE (which had become very predictable) such as AJ Styles, Low Ki, CM Punk, The Fallen Angel Christopher Daniels & Samoa Joe. About 2/3 years after an excellent trip to NY to see Wrestlemania XX at Madison Square Garden, I drifted away from watching it.

That was until last year, when after moving into a flat with my youngest brother I noticed a WWE show on Sky Sports. I thought I’d give it a go and see how it was 6 years on. Not much had changed, there were still the same old faces, but it didn’t take long to get right back into it! So once again pro wrestling is back in my life, watching both the WWE & TNA shows every week and letting it provide me with both entertainment and frustration. It’s something that I can rely on I guess, sports entertainment, the soap opera for blokes, still provoking a reaction when something unexpected happens. No matter how I try, it keeps coming back! I enjoy it, as do my brothers, and so do millions of people worldwide, the business is almost like an addiction.