Monday, 26 September 2016

Through Thick & Thin

When you choose to follow a sport, or more specifically a team, you enter into some weird messed up kind of contract, one that allows you to be with them throughout a number of highs, but also condemns you to a lifetime of dealing with the lows, the struggles and the emotional frustrations of when things go wrong.

Me, I have a few sporting interests, and have 3 key teams that play a big part in the television I watch, the places I go, and the emotions I feel! It’s rare though that all three can leave you deflated at the same time, usually the benefit of having so many interests is that there’s usually one that will pick you back up!

This past weekend though it all happened at once, a tough loss for Concord Rangers on Saturday, a very poor defensive performance from West Ham leading to a 3-0 defeat at home on Sunday afternoon, then the weekend was topped off by probably the worst performance by a quarterback I’ve seen in my years following the Jets and the NFL as New York lost to Kansas City, turning the ball over 8 times, 6 of those being Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions!

That last bit won’t mean much to those who don’t follow American football,  but those that do will know that it’s incredibly frustrating and understand my pain in that respect!

Anyway, as tough/disappointing/frustrating (delete as applicable) as the results this weekend have been for me, and as low as our teams can make us feel after a bad day/result, we keep going, we still cheer them on and back them in every way possible. We go again next week, wearing our replica kits/jerseys, singing the songs, cheering every kick, pass and score, and will continue to do so every week win lose or draw, as ultimately even at the lowest of lows, these teams that we pour our hearts into can give us the highest of highs at a moment’s notice.

For now, I’m waiting for that next high as every supporter is, but even through the lowest of the lows, those are still my teams, I may moan and whinge at the struggles, but I’ll back them through thick and thin!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Uprising 2016, An RPW Experience!

Over the last 3 & a half years I got back into watching wrestling, the main stuff like WWE, and more recently the independent UK stuff such as Southside Wrestling which were holding shows at the Circus Tavern in Purfleet. Sadly it appears that Southside won’t be coming back to this part of Essex, so I had to look elsewhere for my local(ish) wrestling fix.

That’s where this blog comes in, my brother Stephen bought him & I tickets to Uprising 2016, a show at Bethnal Greens York Hall run by a relatively big UK promotion called Revolution Pro Wrestling. This company have their own extensive roster, but bring in guests from the international promotions like Lucha Underground & NJPW for shows.

The opening match of the night was between two guys I wasn’t familiar with, but it happened to be a fantastic opener with a lot of high spots. New Zealander Jay White who wrestles in New Japan Pro Wrestling took on and beat UK cruiserweight Josh Bodom, although the match looked to be going the way of Bodom. Of course that’s part of the showcase of pro wrestling, being able to tell a story and sell it going a certain way, and then switching it round. Another example was the second match, Sha Samuels (with a picture of Dot Cotton on his trunks), took on Big Damo, who was a huge hairy bastard. Samuels, although an “East London bloke” was the heel, and took a beating for most of the match, but in typical heel fashion he won by nefarious means, choking out Damo with a scarf.

The next match wasn’t on the pre-announced card, as a tag team called the British Young Bloods came to the ring. Their first opponent was a guy called Ryan Smile, who I’d seen at Southside before. Back then Smile was in a stable called The Second City Collective (alongside Damien & Pete Dunne) and has been my favourite UK heel as a result, but tonight (and clearly recently) he was a babyface. His tag partner was a guest from the US in PJ Black, currently of Lucha Underground and previously of the WWE as Justin Gabriel.

Match of the night, and one of the best matches I’ve seen live, was next, as veteran Chris Hero took on “The Villain” Marty Scurll. York Hall was full of Villain shirts, highlighting his popularity amongst the UK fanbase. This match was back and forth, with some huge impact moves, clearly they had the crowd in the palm of their hands, the mark of a fantastic match. Hero took the victory after a piledriver form the top rope, but both guys can be proud of what they achieved in that ring.

The previously mentioned Pete Dunne then took on King Ricochet, who is known to most as Prince Puma from Lucha Underground. Heel vs Face, solid match that the fans enjoyed after a slow start, with Ricochet going over at the end. The Lucha Underground influence continued in the next match, as Jeff Cobb (known as “The Monster” Matanza in LU) took on Zack Sabre Jr (who WWE fans may have seen in the ongoing Cruiserweight Classic). Given the difference in styles this was a cracking match, which saw a bit of a heel turn for the usually over Sabre Jr. Whether it was planned or not, the crowd turned sharply on him as it neared the end of the match, as ZSJ was slapping Cobb desperate to put him down. I loved that though, the fans turning so quickly through something so simple.

The main event was Essex lad Will Ospreay vs Vader (from the old WCW/WWE days), which had some history behind the booking. Vader had been critical of Ospreay & Ricochet for their recent NJPW match which won plaudits across the world, saying it was ruining wrestling. So RPW booked the match, and there we were! The match was obviously limited by the very old Vader, but the crowd were on fire, Vader was booed from start to finish, and won after being the typical heel, smashing Ospreay through a table prior to the match starting, and getting help from Pete Dunne during the match (who wants the title Ospreay holds). Big things are coming for Ospreay though, I’ve seen him wrestle a few times now & he has star written all over him.

Some didn’t like the end of the match, didn’t like the booking, I get that, but much like my brother I get it and have no issue with it. Ultimately it was a fantastic event well put together by the guys at Revolution Pro Wrestling, and I will be going to an event of theirs again without hesitation.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

A Great British Beer Experience

Anyone that knows me is aware that I am a big whisky fan, it's my tipple of choice so to speak and I attend a number of tasting events over the year. But what you may not know is that I do love a good ale too, not to the level of my whisky fascination but I do enjoy tasting a range of beers that I've not tried before.

On that note, each year in August the Great British Beer Festival takes place at London's Olympia (Kensington), and I like to attend most years, think I've done 6 or 7 now. This past Wednesday I attended the 2016 event, and this is my run down of what I saw through the day. There are people much more seriously into beer/ale than me, so I am not trying to say that this blog will be incredibly detailed, but it's my usual waffle so you know what's coming in general!

When I go to the GBBF, I have a system that works for me, which straight away may sound odd but from talking to other people that attend the show there are a number of people who have their own ways of trying the range of beers. I'll visit every beer stand (I'm not there for the ciders & perrys) in no particular order, and at each stand I'll choose a beer to drink that has a name which stands out. The name may mean something to me (friends name, reference to a sports team etc), or it just may stand out as being totally out there and weird, either way that is how I select my drinks. Eventually I run out of standout names, but by then I've usually drunk a fair amount and there wont be long left in the day!

One of the strangest names I saw through the day was “Pressed Rat & Warthog”, from the Triple fff brewery. It was a 3.9% dark ale, went down a treat and stood out as the maddest name of the day! There was one that I think everyone could relate to as well called “Bad Day At The Office Pale Ale”, 4.5% and a cracking beer from a brewery up in Scotland. The Tiny Rebel brewery had their own little stand there, and had a range of beers that all stood out name-wise, but I had to pick just one. Names like Hadouken, Fugg Life and Loki all were on the list, but ultimately I went with a dark stout which had a taste of marshmallows in there, which was called Stay Puft (for those that don't know, it's a Ghostbusters reference) and was 5.2%.

Other ales that helped pass the day were Drunken Duck (I had to try it, my best friends mum has her own little bar in their place & she calls it the Drunken Duck), Hop Goes The Beagle, My Darling Lemontime, and Due South (I loved that old tv show). One stand had a beer called “Good Spanking”, but by the time I realised it was there, they'd run out. I was looking forward to asking the woman behind the bar for a Good Spanking, but in the end I tried Detention, another ale on the same stand which was decent enough.

Away from the drinking I spent a bit of time on the other stands, eating hotdogs and homemade sausage rolls, and spending money on the games like shut the box, tombola and skittles. I won a t-shirt and a couple of free beers, oh and I bought a whisky tumbler & a hip flask at the auction too (they hold 2 or 3 a day with alcohol related memorabilia etc).

The Great British Beer Festival is a great event, one I love attending and always enjoy, I would recommend it to anyone who likes a beer, I go on my own but most people go in a group & clearly have a great time! There's always people to talk to as well, I caught up with a guy I've not seen in 12 years (Simon Teece that's you pal), a whisky buddy & more, along with having conversations with a number of NFL fans who clocked my New York Jets jersey that I was wearing with pride.
Thanks for reading, if you've made it this far!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Words Well Written About Writing!

So it's been a while since I got typing out a blog, I've been podcasting with the guys on The SmarkCast, and verbalising a blog type thing on soundcloud (which some of you may have listened to over the past few weeks). But earlier this week I was on another one of my holidays/trips, this time to Mallorca doing nothing except sit by the pool and chill out, I thought it was about time I got back to writing again.

The thing is, I'm going to be writing a hell of lot again over the coming months as football season is getting under way, so of course that means the matchday programme will be back in full swing. In each issue I always write a page worth of “editors notes”, pretty much the same as one of these blogs, but given that I've tried to make some improvements to the programme this year, I've given myself even more to write and get in it. Add that to the newsletter that we're now producing as a club every month (with additional ones in between) then I am not making it easy for myself on the writing front!

I still enjoy it though, getting my thoughts down on paper (or a computer screen as is the case here) is kind of therapeutic, much like the spoken stuff I do as well, just different ways to clear the mind of things, serious or not. I guess the only worry I have, and it's more of a passing concern than something I would actually fret over, is duplication, I don't want to spend loads of time writing something that I've already gone over in my spoken stuff over on soundcloud. Now I know those that read this may not listen to that, or vice versa, but I think on a personal level it's important not to be too repetitive. I mean, it's important not to be too repetitive........

That was too easy, and I know that leaving it in there when I publish this blog will actually leave me wishing I had taken it out, most of you know what I am like when it comes to the written word! If I make mistakes I want to be told, so that I can correct them, I hate making a mess of these things, even though I do them for free and for my own enjoyment/benefit. If I'm this bad now, imagine how I would be if I was writing something that I was actually paid for that went out to thousands of people!

Now my first bit of writing in a while has pretty much been about my writing, a fairly bland topic, almost a self-obsessed piece of writing if you will. But I see it as a way to ease myself back into the long and boring stuff, the detailed blogs that will undoubtedly be sprung your way over the coming months, and for that I warn you and apologise also in advance! Whilst there isn't much substance to this particular entry, I thank you for reading, those that have, and look forward to presenting more of my wares to you all!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Madrid in a word, Magnificent

So it’s been just over a week since I returned from Madrid, another beautiful city I had the pleasure of ticking off of my ever changing and expending mental list of places I want to visit!

When I booked this trip up, I’d not quite realised that a) I was travelling out on a bank holiday so it would be busy, and b) it was the half term holidays so it would be busy. Heathrow was certainly busy when I got going, but it wasn’t an issue, as the time had got closer I’d come to terms with the fact it’d be chaos! What I didn’t bank on though was the flight out being incredibly uncomfortable and probably the worst I’ve had so far. Don’t get me wrong, I know the more I fly, the more likely I’ll encounter problems, but damn it was the bumpiest and most nail-biting take-off I’ve ever been a part of! I didn’t let that bring me down though, once I’d got off the plane and stretched my body back into shape all was well again!

I’ll be honest (as ever), I didn’t have much of a plan as to what to see in Madrid, I was purely playing it by ear, whereas in Rome & Bruges I had an idea of what I wanted to see. But things started to fall into place after I’d checked in and got on the metro to a station that I thought would be the right place to go to get food. It wasn’t, but after looking at Google Maps on my phone I realised that the Bernab—źu was literally just down the road, so off I went to see what it was like. I got there about 18:00, with an hour to go till the tours stopped, so I thought sod it, use the time effectively and get a tour in now. What a stadium it was!?! The tour was cheap, and you could walk round without a guide which was cool, taking in the presidents area, the dressing rooms, press area, pitch side area and the seemingly endless stream of trophies on show (including the Champions League that they’d won that past weekend).

After that it got me thinking that there was a second team in Madrid and that it’d be worth doing a tour round their stadium too if I could. And that was what I did, first thing the next day, smothered in suntan lotion as the sun was shining brightly, and wearing my West Ham shirt with pride (us English either choose our club or an England shirt on holiday without fail). Another great football stadium, but from what I learnt on the tour (this one guided), Atletico only have another season or so there before they move and it’s torn down, so I was glad I got to see it now.
The rest of the day (and the following one) I quite literally walked everywhere I could before my feet began to ache too much! There was so many palaces and historical buildings around the city that me and my camera were in our element! The food was beautiful too, along with incredible weather, it was another couple of days away that allowed me to switch off and get swept up in the enjoyment of it all.

I was walking through Parque de El Retiro (a beautiful place with a boating lake in the middle of it), and I got a little taste of home. I had stopped to look at my map, then I heard "Come on you Irons!".
A cheerful old chap & his wife had spotted me looking at the map & asked if I was lost (after the Irons shout). They were Essex raised but now reside in North London (and still go games), was a great little conversation about the club & the OS when it wasn't expected! A taste of home so far away

Anyway, Madrid was a lovely trip, I enjoyed wandering around the city and seeing the sites. It is a beautiful little city, not one I’d go to again though as I feel like I’ve seen most of what I can, but I would also recommend visiting it yourself if you get a chance. Next up for me is a switch off trip to Palma, Mallorca, to soak up the sun!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Waving Goodbye To The Boleyn

There has been, and will be over the coming weeks, a number of articles and blogs written about the last game at the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, and the majority of them will be written by people much more experienced than I, and written in a much more professional style too. But I wanted to get my words down on paper, or at least the internet, as I know when that final whistle blows and the curtain comes down on that historic stadium, a part of me and every other West Ham fan will be gone forever.

Many people will write about their first visit to the stadium, about how they remember exactly who they saw and who they were with. Some will write about the legacy of the club, about the academy and the seemingly endless line of young England internationals that have walked through that tunnel to the pitch. Whilst others will simply bemoan the fact that we as a club are moving to a new stadium and leaving our home of 112 years behind. Me, well I do have plenty of memories of Upton Park, many that will live with me forever, and far too many to fit in one blog, but I wanted to share a couple of things that mean a lot to me.

My first visit to Upton Park wasn’t actually for a match surprisingly enough; I was late in the attendance stakes, no my first trip was with my dad, who drove me to the ground just so I could look at the place from the outside for the first time in person. I had my picture taken outside the East & West stands, and loved every moment of it. I still have those photos, and I’m wearing a dodgy old basketball jersey as the visit was a bit of a surprise as we were originally visiting my Nan who lived down the road, I’ll have to scan one or two so I can share them online.

I do still remember the first game I went to, I had been given a ticket one Christmas for the game a few days later (28th December 1998) and I went on my own (as generally became the norm for me over the years). West Ham at home to Coventry City, I remember it well as I was in the lower part of the Centenary Stand (now the Trevor Brooking stand) and saw Ian Wright and John Hartson score to give us a 2-0 win.

That was the first of many, and the following season I actually had a season ticket which was awesome. That year we went through the whole Manny Omoyinmi issue (cheers Harry), the emergence of Di Canio & his wonder goal (scored in front of the centenary stand where I was at the time) against Wimbledon. I’ve seen incredible victories and heartbreaking losses, shed tears and cheered so loud I got a bit light headed, and sung I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles countless times. I’ve met some superb people thanks to that club, some of which will remain a part of my life for a long time to come, I’ve met an idol (Julian Dicks) and shared in some special moments for people in my life at Upton Park.

I won’t be there for the last game, my final visit was a stadium tour just last week which sent chills down my spine, especially when walking out the tunnel to the pitch. I am glad I had the chance to say goodbye to the place, somewhere that holds countless memories for me and so many others. Some may think this is an overreaction, but any football fan who has seen their club move home will know the feelings West Ham fans have right now.

Thank you Upton Park, thank you Boleyn Ground, thank you West Ham United. It is the end of an era, but the beginning of a new and exciting chapter down the road at Stratford. It’s certainly been emotional, and watching that final game tonight won’t be easy, but I’ll belt out bubbles at home in honour of the Boleyn Ground tonight for sure. Come On You Irons!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Family, New York, And Talking About It

Last weekend I, along with my brothers and dad, went to Newcastle for my cousins wedding, it was an emotional occasion as it would be the first time all this side of the family would be together in one place since my Nans funeral last February.

It was a great celebration for Claire & Stevie on the day, even though our southern clan struggled at times to understand a word Stevie and his side were saying (the Geordie accent can be a tough one to get round). I enjoyed catching up with the family again, it gets said all the time but it’s sad really that a lot of the times we catch up are at weddings and funerals. There were a few standout moments of the weekend though for sure, the grooms speech got a lot of us choked up as he’d lost his mum recently, and also mentioned our Nan, so tears flowed from my aunts & a few of us. Speaking of my Nan, about 10 years ago we had a family photo taken for her, one of which was all the cousins together. The wedding was the perfect opportunity to get another one done, the professional one will come soon but my aunt captured one too, felt like a good touch and nod to Nan, and we know she’d have loved the photo.

Of course, you know what families are like at weddings, one of my aunts was on my case, why aren’t you with someone, why aren’t you married and having kids, you should have someone etc. Thankfully there’s not many weddings in this family so I don’t get that very often, but it’s not exactly easy explaining that actually you don’t need to find someone, and marriage isn’t something I want in life. Maybe there was a moment when I thought I’d do that for the right person if that’s what they really wanted, but that’s a once in a blue moon thing, even when you say it’s not something you want, there’s still too many people that think you have to have someone, get married, have kids etc to be happy in life!

Anyway, enough of that for now. Summer is coming, which means that the NFL schedule has been released ready for the start of the season at the end of August. With the schedule comes my plan for my next NY trip, and I’ve already gone through the guys at Sports Travel Tours and put my deposit down! It didn’t take long to get sorted, so a week after my 33rd birthday this year I’ll be back off to New York to see the Jets take on the LA Rams (formerly of St Louis)! These NY trips are fast becoming a tradition and a year wouldn’t be the same now without a jaunt over to the US for a game and a bit of touristy sight-seeing.

Sports on this side of the pond have been entertaining too, the lads at Concord Rangers won the Essex Senior Cup for the third time in as many seasons, and West Ham are fighting for a European spot as they it 6th in the league. Following the teams I do, being able to get along to the games I do, it’s because I’ve got the time, freedom, and money to do so, one of the reasons I am continuing to enjoy life and embrace the opportunities that are provided for me!

What’s next? Well the wrestling podcast continues to go well, still having a laugh each & every time we put it together. Actually that has prompted me to record my own little snippets and stick them online, almost verbalising a mini version of my blog (on Soundcloud, as BullJet, original I know). I sound like an idiot when I’m doing it, hence why I’ve not really publicised it, but it’s kind of cathartic, much like writing these are. Work is going well, usual blips but it could be worse. Other than that, life is life, I’m still smiling, hopefully you are too!