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FANS: London Branch take on Englandfans FC

4 April 2016

Enjoyable day out hosted by Welling United FC

For the London Branch, Easter, just as with Christmas, can prove to be a relatively quiet time in the south east and London as many members will use the holiday period to make a trip north to family.  

This season the fixtures provided limited temptation to buck the trend with only the Yeovil fixture as a temptation to stay on until the weekend.  Given the Exeter game had taken place only two weeks before, many supporters decided it would be one or the other. This meant both games had only a small band making the trip to the southwest.

The Yeovil game also saw the appearance of the German supporters from ‘Thunder Hill’ and they met up with the London Branch.  As they are students they had to fit their planned trip into a holiday period and so opted for the Yeovil fixture.  Given the location they probably had as long a journey on from London as they did in getting there from Germany and so their dedication has to be admired.

However London Branch attention was being focused on the day after the Easter break when they would make their third trip to Welling this season.  The Englandfans F.C. team had offered to play the London Branch team in an effort to raise money for the Flood Relief Fund.  No need to explain England fans but they also have a football team and play fixtures, usually international games, whenever they can and had played against France and Ecuador recently.

Welling United kindly provided the ground and facilities on the afternoon of Tuesday March 29th and the two teams put in a great deal of hard work to turn this into a major event.  Through contacts the Englandfans F.C. team obtained a number of match sponsors who provided a ‘Cumbria Flood Relief Trophy’ as well as other awards on the day.  The London Branch secured the services of John Gorman and Jimmy Glass as well as providing prizes and organisation of a raffle to be held during the afternoon.  

Somehow the London Branch had two dozen players ready to play on the Tuesday afternoon.  This is a tribute to the London Branch members many of whom had extended their Easter break by a day in order to take part.  Also something of a nightmare for Chris Tembey, who organises the London Branch football squad, and usually runs the substitutions whilst he is playing.  

Normally this is a matter of juggling the extra couple of players on the touchline.  Realising he could not both play and run the team he wisely (or maybe unwisely) handed the task to me.  From past experience of managing teams I quickly realised my role was simply that of time and personnel management not creating an effective football team.

I arrived close to beginning of the opening ceremonies to find myself in a scene of chaos.  The Englandfans desire to have the national anthem played before the KO saw them arrive with a CD but not having checked that Welling could play one.  They couldn’t.  Nobody had brought with them a copy of the opening speech.  Fortunately Chris Tembey was able to pull up a draught from his i-phone to save the day.  

When finally drawn up in the middle of the pitch for the national anthem, again down to the magic of an i-phone, the England team roared out the first verse with great gusto only to find they finished just in time to hear the first verse over the speaker system having sung over the introduction.  You couldn’t knock their enthusiasm.

After the Belgian anthem and another line up with pink moustaches (?!!?) it was 15 minutes after the kick-off time before the referee got things under way.  The London Branch started with a line-up of regulars with the addition of Jimmy Glass up front.  As was expected the pace of the game took a heavy toll on some of the regulars and some were gasping, hands on knees, after 15 minutes when the first substitutions started.  The England team were dominant and Chris Newsome in goal was doing a great job keeping them out with a series of saves.

However the introduction of fitter players brought about a change in the game and it was the London Branch who began to have the upper hand as the half wore on.  John Gorman was giving good advice in the London Branch technical area and just as we started to operate our “cunning plan” the referee blew for half time.  I questioned his timing as I made it only 40 minutes.  I was then told that the Englandfans had told him to play only 40 minutes as we had started late.  No consultation.  Did not even tell us they had done it!

This put even more pressure on the plan to get 24 players on and off the field particularly given that nobody was offering to play in goal.  Not even Jimmy Glass.  Instead he gave a rousing speech at half time urging us to go out and build on the great first half performance.  So we went out and conceded five goals over the next 20 minutes.  Most of the damage coming from two teenagers who had come on at half time for Englandfans.  With 10 minutes to go the goalkeeper's 12 year old son Ivan came on for the London Branch and almost immediately played Jimmy Glass the through ball he had been waiting for which he put away with some skill.

After the match there was a presentation ceremony with John Gorman handing over the trophy.  He also awarded the two ‘Player of the Match’ trophies to one of the teenage terrors on the Englandfans team and Jack Casey who had worked like a demon in the London Branch midfield.  All the players were awarded certificates to mark the occasion.  The London Branch presented both Jimmy Glass and John Gorman with gifts to say thank you for their support and help on the day.

A great deal of hard work was put into this event by Chris Tembey and Jamie Grubb who not only organised the London Branch side of things but desperately tried to organise the England fans too.  Many thanks to them and all the players who turned up on the day even if they only saw a few minutes of action on the actual pitch.  Everyone enjoyed it and we raised a great deal of money.

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