Sunday, 30 November 2014

The FA Cup, It Still Means Something

And so there it was, the Concord Rangers FA Cup journey came to an end for another season, but what a journey it was eh? Making the first round proper of this legendary competition for the first time was something special for our small club, and we certainly made an impact didn’t we?

Having our clubs name read out on live TV in the first round draw was quite surreal, but not only for those of us involved with the club. People all over the world wondered who this team were that had been drawn away to Mansfield Town, many of them taking to social networks to ask the question “who the f**k are Concord Rangers” (I use the asterisks as this is a family publication!). With the increased net traffic, this led to our club even trending worldwide on social network site Twitter, giving our tiny club further publicity, reaching places we’d never even dreamed of.

The column inches that were then dedicated to our club continued to overwhelm and surprise us, with national publications such as The Sun and Daily Express running features on the team, along with the BBC interviewing the chairman and our players prior to the scheduled tie up north. I say scheduled of course as we all know now that this game was postponed due to the weather conditions providing Mansfield with a waterlogged pitch.

10 days later and the lads made the trip again, this time to actually get the game played. By now we all know what happened, and enough has been dedicated to the performance that was put on that night by the players and the support shown by the 100 or so travelling faithful. But the end result meant a trip back home to Thames Road a week later, and the prep work began. Club officials had to liaise with local police, the FA and the council to ensure that the ground could fit a suitable amount of people safely inside (capacity given at 3000), certain provisions needed to be made with regards to stewarding (we borrowed the Southend United stewards), and there was a long list of FA regulations we had to comply to as well (including me with the programme).

On the day it all went smoothly enough, other than the rain that didn’t seem to want to stop. But that didn’t mean we weren’t nervous about the whole thing! I can only speak for myself, but I was a bag of nerves even though I was only watching the game! From worrying about my programme being up to scratch, to making sure we as a club got everything done and set, through to my cameo interview on the BBC Essex radio show, I was shaking and struggling to process the whole thing. A fellow fan even said he could see the nerves on my face, and that I should relax! He was right of course, I play a small part in this machine, and others had a lot more on their plate than me!

The result on the night wasn’t what we were after, but everyone involved with the club should be proud of what has been achieved during this FA Cup run. Making the First Round Proper was massive, bringing a League 2 team back to Thames Road after a draw at their place was incredible, and seeing over 1500 (official attendance was 1537) people at the Aspect Arena to watch Concord Rangers was truly a sight to behold. If just 50 of those people become regular fans it would mean a boost to the club and its support.

It’s been an awesome experience, and I’m sure that there will be plenty more occasions like that in the future for our great little club. I loved being a part of it, and I hope that those of you who were there did too.

You Are My Concord!

Alan Jessup-Peacock

Fan, Programme Editor, Committee Member, Beachboy

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Feeling Tired Are We?

A controversial topic of conversation in the football world has once again reared its head over the past week or two, that of player tiredness.

The story is that a young Liverpool player (Raheem Sterling) spoke to his national team manager (Roy Hodgson) and said he was feeling too tired to start the game after having played 45 minutes in a separate game 3 days earlier. To be fair the conversation was a private one between a player and his manager, and it should never have been broadcast to the media as it has been, but the deed has been done so to speak. If nothing had been said by Hodgson, nobody would have been any wiser and there’d have been no further question or comment on the matter!

Of course, now that it’s out there, the world and his wife has an opinion on the subject, including me. Now I obviously don’t play competitive football, the closest I come to exercise is an hour on a 5-aside pitch some Wednesdays, so I don’t claim to know how the player is feeling or even that what he’s saying his rubbish, this is just my take on it from where I stand.

Sterling is a 19 year old, healthy (as far as we know), fit football player who trains for a few hours 5 days a week for his club, playing a 90 minute match once or twice a week depending on cup fixtures etc. He’s playing a sport he loves, one that millions of people love and would love to play. To me, that’s tiring stuff, I’d barely survive a training session let along a 90 minute top flight match. But that’s essentially all he does, and it’s that which has riled some of the “ordinary people” up.

You could compare it to the average person who works 60-80 hour weeks for minimal pay, who moan but still go to work every day to make sure they get their pay & are able to put food on their tables. That’s what the majority of responses have been from people on social media and even in print. But what has been forgotten is that there is another level in this that actually mix both aspects of the situation, the non league footballer.

The majority of guys that are playing out there today play football because they love the game, and enjoy the little bit of money that comes their way because of it. They train twice a week out in all weathers ready to play once, twice or even three times a week when the fixtures pile up! Of course, there’s also the fact that these guys work full time jobs as well, many Monday to Friday, some doing shifts including overnight, also taking into account they are supporting families, and yet they still manage to do it all without claiming tiredness and backing out of games/work.

You’ll never get full agreement on the subject, some top flight players have rallied behind Sterling saying what he did was brave, whilst others have condemned him, saying he shouldn’t have even dreamt of backing out of the starting line up. This will continue to divide opinions on and off the pitch for a long time to come. Of course it comes back to the only reason the subject has been brought up again, and that’s a manager breaking the trust of his player, which in my mind shouldn’t be happening. Even at international level you need a certain level of respect and trust between players and the manager/coach!

Anyway, I’ll leave you to make up your own minds, back to the football!


Sunday, 14 September 2014

Programme Perils

Its been a while since I've actually got round to writing a blog for me and about how things are going in general, but there's good reason for the break I assure you! If you are unaware, during the summer I became a member of the committee at Concord Rangers football club, and as part of that I also took over responsibility for editing the Beachboys matchday programme. At the time I thought how hard could it be? Writing bits here and there to make sure it's kept up to date, nothing too major. Of course it has turned out to be more difficult than I imagined, even though at the moment things seem to be going fairly well.

There's a lot of work that goes into these programmes that I guess I took for granted, but now after 5 home games I appreciate the effort that goes into producing them for each fixture! Obviously there's some stuff that has to go in that's required from the league (adverts mainly), but you have to ensure that your opponents details are right as well as your own. Opponents are meant to send you their club history and player info so that you can use it in your programme, but that means you're relying on others, and I've already had one team either forget or generally just be ignorant about it all. Prior to the first game of the season there's also the problem of making sure the player details are up to date for the new signings, which at first wasn't too bad due to us only having 1 or 2 new lads. That's changed now and more have to go in, so it's a key area I have to keep on top of.

There's also the content that changes each week/game, ranging from league news and statements, through to our own match reports and pictures from our fixtures. We've got a good thing at the moment with the club photographer, he provides me with new game pics for each programme, so we'll never look repetitive or too tired hopefully. Then there's the articles that I write, which has added a bit more pressure on to me. Last season when I wrote "Fans View" articles, it wasn't every week and they tended to remain in the programme for a few weeks at a time. However by doing the programme myself and having a responsibility to keep it as up to date and fresh as possible, I feel that I should have a different article in there every edition. Easy enough right? Wrong! After only 5 games I am already finding it tough to put together a brand new article each time! And with my writing focus essentially being on that, it's meant that I haven't had much of a chance to write for the sake of it

I can't complain though, the programme, as difficult as it can be at times, is part of a massive learning experience for me and I am enjoying the fact that I'm expanding my knowledge of writing and editing something that actually means something rather than just my normal blogs/ramblings. I still worry though that each game I've made a mistake, that I've made glaring errors that people will find and be able to moan about! I'm an amateur when it comes to this, but it frustrates the hell out of me when I know I've made a mistake that I really shouldn't have made (if I feel this way, how do people feel when they do this for a living and mess up?).

So how have I had a chance to sit down and type this up I hear you ask? Well the Beachboys have two weeks off, the league is running one team short thanks to the financial issues that Salisbury ran into prior to the season and their games were simply taken out of the fixture list. This left each team with 2 weekends off without a game, and our first is next weekend. Of course now I look at what I've actually written, and there's no real update there, just talking about why I haven't been talking over the past couple of months! What can I say except Concord Rangers continues to be a large part of my life, whether it be attending games, helping out prior to games, or editing the matchday programme, and honestly I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's a top club to be a part of and I look forward to being a part of it for a long time to come.

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!


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!