‘WINDMILL WONDERLAND’ FANZINE Dragged into the the wonderful of world of t’internet due to time constraints…
So, here we are. After 65 paper issues, we’re here online. Just to clear things up – Windmill Wonderland as a fanzine is not dead – we simply don’t have the time to spare to put one together anymore. There’s only so many times you can ask for articles, and while there are a select few stalwarts we have always been able to rely on, and a few more who have churned bits out for us over the years now and then, we just seem to have hit the buffers a bit with it, which is sad in a way. Sometimes I’ll get asked at a game, ‘when’s the fanzine coming out again?’, so it hasn’t been forgotten. Zines are a dying breed though, and have been for years, mainly due to the internet and the fact that you can read about pretty much anything you want to on here these days. For me though, it was the lack of response to a request for memories of our time in the Southern League a couple of years back after we’d won the title. In the past something like that would produce a great response from the Brakes support, but this time it was lukewarm at best, which was a real shame. Perhaps it highlights the apathy that seems to fester around the club these days, though that mainly tends to come from folk who don’t come to games anymore but are happy to slate all and sundry from behind their keyboards.
It’s been 11 seasons now since Pete and myself took over the reins from Chad (Mark Chadderton, a fellow Brakes exile for those of you who don’t know). We started on Issue 23 I think, and the last one published was 65, so we’ve not done too badly really. The halcyon days were definitely between 2005-2007 and probably a bit after that too, we seemed to be able to churn zines out at will back then. The waters were somewhat calmer around the good ship Leamington FC back then of course, and much has happened since that has been documented in our pages. We’ve tried to provide something to make people laugh and provoke thought in equal measure. Sometimes it has worked.
The plan is to try and stick to the fanzine format as much as possible – the match reports might get a little longer again, and hopefully I have been able to persuade some of our erstwhile contributors to continue to provide their insight here. It may be a little sketchy to begin with – I don’t seem to have time to scratch my backside at moment, never mind do any writing, but hopefully once things have calmed down and the has season kicked off there will be plenty to get our teeth into. I may not be good at much else, but my writing is ok so I’m told, and there’s nothing better to write about than our wonderful football club.
Anyway, I digress. There may be another paper copy of WW at some point – we’ll never say never.
Finally, I bowed to the inevitable and retired last December, deciding that after 54 years of work (I would hesitate to call it a career), it was time to enjoy an uninterrupted year of sport, culture and travelling my favourite heritage railway lines.
How wrong I was.
The football season remains suspended at the top levels with a hope, rather than an expectation, that it will recommence on 1 May. Lower down the pyramid, the season has already been abandoned, declared null and void, meaning good news for those clubs facing relegation, but bad news for those in line for promotion.
With promotion to the English Football League at stake, the National League has still to make a decision but, with many professional and semi-professional clubs facing deep financial trouble from a prolonged lockdown, the situation can’t go on much longer and calling a halt must come sooner, rather than later.
To fill a few spare minutes over the weekends, I have helped the relaunched Southam United men’s team with their match reports and, having won all but one of their 17 encounters in the Hellenic League division two north, they have been denied the title that, barring the all the wheels coming off the wagon, they would have won.
Had the leagues been decided on average points per game, then Saints would still have won in a canter, but the FA decided that no result was better than a simplified version of cricket’s Duckworth/Lewis Method.
For leading scorer Levi Steele, his achievement of 36 goals in 23 league and cup matches now counts for nothing and, like everyone down in the lower reaches, he and the club have to start all over again whenever the new season gets underway.
Photo (c) Steve Green
Should the Premiership be abandoned, then Aston Villa will be reprieved, but I am not sure that will bring me joy. The season has been a testing time for fans, with poor performances and the dreadful VAR straining loyalty to the club and to football itself.
It has been good to see the best players in the country but, when your team is on the receiving end of too many beatings, the 6-1 home defeat to Manchester City being the worst so far, then it is hard to emerge from Villa Park with a smile on your face.
There is so much TV money involved, of course, that abandoning the season would be a last resort, but there will come a time when it will not be possible to complete the current one and start the next, so a difficult decision awaits someone.
Should next season have to be truncated, then allowing development sides into cup competitions as a matter of course, something that Liverpool did this time around, and abandoning replays have already been floated as ways and means to resolve fixture congestion.
The lucrative European fixtures and the Premiership itself will be protected, but everything else is up for grabs. Just don’t mention the words history and tradition, as nobody will be listening!
I am no expert on Covid-19, but one thing I am pretty sure about is that we haven’t seen the worst yet and, whatever dates are being put forward to restarting sport, we won’t be seeing anything for some time to come.
Having planned to follow as many sports and activities as I could, already two MCC members supper nights at Lord’s have bitten the dust, as well as Goodwood’s 78th Members Meeting over the historic motor racing circuit. My newly-acquired Somerset County Cricket Club season ticket isn’t going to get an early use and I am not anticipating reporting on race meetings until the autumn at the earliest.
With theatres, cinemas, art galleries and restaurants closed indefinitely, there will be no watching of The Comedy of Errors at the RSC in April but, thankfully, we did get to the members preview at Compton Verney to see their latest exhibition before it closed to the public.
This year is going to be a write-off for many people both personally and professionally and life as we knew it before will not return. We are about to enter a very different era and, when sport does return in whatever form, we will need the uplift which very few other aspects of life can give.
Responding to pleas for help is fast becoming my undoing.
I am a member of the Mini Cooper Register a club, as its name implies, dedicated to preserving the history of one of the nation’s most iconic motorcars. The first Mini rolled off the Longbridge production line in 1959 and there are celebrations world-wide for the car’s 60th birthday this year, including at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon on August 4th (get there if you can).
They were looking for a public relations officer and, having written an article or two and produced a few press releases in my time, I said I would help if nobody else came forward. The speed at which they bit my hand off should have been a warning and there hasn’t been a day since when I haven’t done something for the club.
It was on Twitter than I saw a request for WW articles and so I thought I would have a few moans and groans about the “beautiful game” as the money men and media like to call it but, from what I see, is far from that at times.
My one planned trip to a non-league match this season was scuppered by the weather when the only snow of the winter arrived in early February. Each year, I sponsor a match at Southern League Premier side Taunton Town in memory of my uncle who supported them for over 50 years and who I went with as a teenager selling programmes on the gate.
Their opponents were Swindon Supermarine, a side with a wonderful name deriving from the factory on the outskirts of the town which made the Spitfire the nation’s most famous aircraft. Now 76 years since it first flew, the fighter plane’s memory still lives on here through the Supermarine Sports Club that bears the name of the company that manufactured the aircraft in Swindon from 1941-44.
The match was called off and rearranged for later in the month, but on a midweek date that I couldn’t make. The occasion and helping the club were more important than my being there, although a 1-1 draw wasn’t the result that I had hoped to see when I checked that evening.
So, what have I got to moan about?
Well, let’s start with the offside rule which, when I was a lad, was easy to understand. You had to have two players between you and the goal when the ball was kicked and, if you didn’t, then you were offside.
Now, the match officials have to decide whether you are interfering with play although, as Bill Shankly famously said “If a player is not interfering with play or seeking to gain an advantage, then he should be”.
Even if the linesman, sorry assistant referee, has managed to keep up with play, who makes the decision and, if it falls to the referee, how does he judge interference?
Then there is the question of calling offside decisions. If I heard it correctly the other night, someone in their wisdom has decreed in Champions League matches that the assistant only flags if a goal is scored. It’s bad enough when a marginal decision goes against your side, but to get the ball in the net and then have the goal ruled out seems a bit barmy to me.
Re-naming linesmen as assistant referees implies a level of authority that they just don’t have. At throw-ins and corners, they either don’t know who should get the decision, or have been instructed by the referee not to flag until he tells them. More barmy stuff.
Then we have the continuing fuss over diving, or simulation as the professionals like to call it (that all sounds a bit risqué to me, but what do we mere mortals know?). It used be said that diving was something brought to this country from the continent; British players, of course, being above such unsporting behaviour.
But now, everyone seems to be at it with muscular, finely-trained athletes falling over at a mere nudge or, in the worst cases, no contact at all. To make it look good, it’s always advisable to clutch your head and writhe in agony on the ground whilst your team mates surround the referee demanding that the “culprit” be sent off to give your side an advantage for the rest of the match.
If the game’s rulers can tell me what’s beautiful about that, I would love to hear from them.
The Video Assistant Referee system (VAR) came into sharp focus (no pun intended) in the Paris St-Germain v. Manchester United clash recently. Whilst you couldn’t fault the drama the penalty incident evoked, there was the unanswered question as to what prompted the referee to review his decision to award a corner which United were getting ready to take and the time spent looking at the screen before he changed his mind.
In cricket, third umpire reviews are well established and there is just as much drama and tension as everyone looks up at the big screen to catch the result. It might be me, but cricket seems to get there quicker and it is someone independent of the umpire who has the call, thus saving the reaction that the referee’s decision provoked in the PSG players who were doing everything they could to challenge him and put Marcus Rashford off as he prepared to take the penalty.
A final moan about club shops where you can, in exchange for your money, become a walking billboard for the sponsor.
Manchester United fans are able to advertise an American car manufacturer for the princely sum of £69.95 although, if that is too much for their pocket, they can save £5 by having the short-sleeve version.
Looking at the club shop website, all the kit seems to be in the clearance sale right now, so I guess that a new one is in the offing for next season. Better start saving your pennies now.
At Aston Villa, I am able to advertise a bookmaker, which also sponsors another club in claret and blue so, perhaps, there are economies of scale in the kit manufacture. Being a racing correspondent, I have nothing against bookmakers as such, but they seem to be everywhere these days. I find the adverts intruding into televised football to be a nuisance with that famous actor encouraging me to have a bet as if I couldn’t possibly enjoy the match without one.
Still Stoke City fans won’t mind, as some of the bookmaker’s profits help support their club which is, at least, locally owned, a rarity in football these days.
I could have added time-wasting to my list, something that visiting clubs to Villa Park must practice, as they don’t miss an opportunity to run the clock down almost from the kick-off. Then there are the fans who stand in a stadium that was made all-seater for their safety and the chanting and shouting which goes beyond unpleasantness.
So this is “the beautiful game” as we know it. I really think someone is having a laugh at our expense, but we still keep falling for it. The question is though, for how much longer?
“The police, Premier League and TV bosses should show fans more respect, not leave them in the cold”
It’s a little while since I last put pen to paper (or, in modern parlance, fingers to keyboard) for this publication, so I thought a little rant about how football fans are being treated might be therapeutic.
One of my weekend rituals is to read Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times. My wife always knows when I have reached that part of the paper, as the laughing gets louder. Rod has two columns, one on what might be called current affairs, which has a feel of Private Eye about it, and the other on football.
It was from a recent column that the quote was taken.
Rod is an ardent Millwall fan, so his experience of watching Premier League football is rather limited. But his views usually chime with me, as he says what I believe a majority of real fans, as opposed to the prawn sandwich brigade, actually think.
He was writing the day after the so-called Beast From The East had left much of the country covered in snow. As usual, the police were warning people not to step outside their houses unless absolutely necessary and a number of lower league matches, together with much of non-league, had been postponed.
The Vanarama League had stepped in to call off Brakes match at Spennymoor Town, even though home fans had worked tirelessly to clear the pitch, because of travel problems likely to be experienced by the team coach and fans. My own trip to Villa Park was thwarted because of conditions around the ground, not the state of the pitch which, despite the winter weather, is still looking pretty good. After the Villa match was called off, the club gave all the packed lunches to homeless charities, for which the contact point was Guy Rippon. Brakes fans will remember the part he played in the club’s revival, including the winning goal in a tight match on a park somewhere in Droitwich.
The Premier League had no such qualms about Stoke fans travelling to Southampton, or West Ham supporters going to Swansea although, in the latter case, there is at least a good rail link from London when Paddington Station is open. Having been closed two days before, there was no telling what rail services were actually going to run that day.
It’s not just the weather that Rod had a go about, but also the way in which television companies dictate the match scheduling to have live football on Saturday morning and evening (how long will it be until the afternoon is added to the list?), two matches on Sunday and another on Monday.
At Villa, we have had Saturday afternoon kick-offs put back until 5.30pm for Sky and, not for the first time, the local derby against the team we don’t mention moved to Sunday.
As Rod said “Nothing gets in the way of what the broadcasters want. Over the past 15 years in the Premier League, the balance has swung decisively away from the supporters and in favour of the non-supporters, the people who watch the matches at home and in the pub.”
Television coverage has, in my opinion, increased the band of non-supporters far more than the number actually attending matches. Everyone seems to support a team although, when you ask people when they last went to a match, the answer is usually never, although they are avid watchers on Sky.
Despite the best endeavours of the broadcasters, real football fans stay loyal to their team, as evidenced by the fact that 1,621 made the trip from Villa Park to Sunderland on a Tuesday evening. I can’t claim a similar dedication to the cause, but I will put aside my feelings about the broadcasters to be in my seat at 5.30pm on a Saturday for the visit of Wolves.
‘It was a bit shit really, wasn’t it?’ Most would say that sentence is a fair way to sum up the calendar year as a whole, given that it will go down in the annuls of history as the first time Leamington FC were relegated since returning to the football field in 2000. It was always going to happen one day, but nothing really quite prepares you for the R word. It was a frustrating year, no doubt, especially the second half, with many high and low points. I started writing a long rambling piece, but then realised that it really wasn’t going anywhere, so decided to stick to the original idea to cover all the matches we played that year, as WW has always been something of a record keeping tool in that respect.
Below is our playing record in all competitions during 2015:
Conference North: P 20 W 4 D 5 L 11 F 28 A 40 Southern League: P 24 W 11 D 6 L 7 F 30 A 21
FA Cup P 2 W 0 D 1 L 1 F 2 A 3
FA Trophy P 5 W 3 D 2 L 0 F 10 A 6
Red Insure Cup P 2 W 2 D 0 L 0 F 5 A 0
B’ham Senior CupP 2 W 0 D 0 L 2 F 2 A 4
2015 began with a disappointing 3-1 defeat at high flying Oxford City. No shame in losing to a team that had been around the top six for most of the season you might think, except that we had thumped 4 past them without reply on Boxing Day.
A Sunday home fixture against Bradford Park Avenue served up a see-saw 4-3 thriller in favour of Brakes, who were at least proving that they could score goals without Stefan Moore, who hadn’t scored in 6 appearances anyway prior to his departure for the £££ on offer at Solihull Moors.
An early wind assisted strike from Simon Forsdick counted for nothing as two in reply from Birmingham City’s youngsters saw them progress to the Semi Finals of the Senior Cup. This was followed by another 2-1 defeat at home to Tamworth, who were extremely fortunate to leave with the 3 points having been second best for the majority of the game.
Then came the most eagerly anticipated away trip of the season. Apologies to any Stockport County fans who might happen to read this, but I’m sure you are used to hearing it by now. Edgeley Park is the biggest ground we have played at for a league game, and will be for quite some time to come, I think. It signified just how far we had come, and we enjoyed both visits there, despite going down 4-2 in this one. Danny Newton’s two second half goals to bring us level for a short time were the high point. Pie gate rumbled on for some time on social media sites after the game too, not that it affected me as I had ventured to the food hatch just before they ran out!!
We then finally came out on the right side of a scoreline against Solihull Moors, who kindly bought their rent a crowd with them to boost the gate. Newton netted again with 5 minutes to go.
This was followed up with a decent 1-1 draw at Harrogate Town courtesy of Newton again. For his next trick, the striker, who had been named captain by Paul Holleran after Stephan Morley shocked the club by leaving after the Solihull game to join Corby Town’s Southern League title tilt, scored a screamer to win a home clash with fellow strugglers Gainsborough Trinity.
A not unexpected 2-0 defeat at home to eventual Champions Barrow was quickly forgotten as an enjoyable booze filled caravan weekend in North Wales was accompanied by the 5-1 victory over another fellow struggler in Colwyn Bay. Little did we know it would be the last time we would celebrate 3 points that season.
It was a shame that the long midweek trip up to Chorley came so soon after that game, as it meant that very few Brakes fans made the trip, and missed out on what was probably one of our best performances of the season as we held our promotion chasing hosts to a 2-2 draw. Victory Park was like a nicer version of Stourbridge’s ground. Really friendly people up there too, one place I will be happy to go back to, should we ever get the chance.
Then came the game that was possibly the day our season collapsed around our ears. Promotion chasing AFC Fylde were the visitors, yet another bankrolled club, but one that seems to have very real designs on reaching the football league, with a new stadium being built for that purpose despite the club not really having much of a fan base to call on at present.
Brakes were matching them and playing bloody well, taking the lead with another goal from Newton before being pegged back, but it was the sending off of the skipper before half time that ultimately killed the game, the visitors going in front in the second half before two late goals rubbed it in a little more.
The more you watch the replays of the incident, you can see why the Referee sent Newton off, but the reaction of some of the Fylde players really grates, particularly Richie Allen. Unfortunately that is an ugly aspect of the modern game, players not thinking twice about using the slightest thing to try and gain their team an advantage. Sportsmanship it most certainly is not.
The following Saturday Newton was unbelievably sent off again, this time for two bookings, as Brakes lost 1-0 at Gainsborough Trinity. This one was not as clear cut, and the striker was clearly furious as he left the pitch. Inevitably the home side scored shortly afterwards, out of nothing, to win a game in which Leamington had been holding their own comfortably. This game also marked the debut of a SEVENTH goalkeeper of the season. After Neil Collett, Mats Morch, Conal Truman, Liam Maher, Ross Atkins and Lewis Fenney, came Jonny Maddison. While obviously a promising young keeper to have been taken on by Leicester City, he could do little right in his nine games for us.
A disappointing 2-0 defeat at Solihull Moors saw the debut of loan striker Ashley Worsfold, who was sent from Harrogate Town, where he was returning from a long spell on the sidelines having done well the previous season. Unfortunately it was a case of wrong place wrong time for both him and us, as he contributed virtually nowt to our plight, missing an absolute sitter late in the game at Gloucester to boot.
Chorley dealt another blow with a 3-1 win at the NWG, wiping out Jordan Goddard’s opener with two goals before half time, adding another in the second half.
A 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers Stalybridge Celtic was not really what the doctor ordered, Nathan Hicks cancelling out the visitors’ first half opener, but despite much huffing and puffing Brakes were unable to find a second goal.
The Easter weekend fixtures were to prove pivotal, Gloucester City boosting their own survival chances with a 3-1 win, a noisy travelling support including some of our friends from Germany doing their best to galvanise the team, but with only a point now separating Leamington from the relegation zone Lowestoft Town delivered a crushing blow on the Bank Holiday Monday with a late penalty and a last minute winner after Jack Edwards’ 43rd minute goal looked like handing us a vital three points.
The following Saturday we made the short trip up to Tamworth in good numbers, but in hope more than expectation. Most of us were making our way round the back of the ‘Shed’ terrace to the away end when the first goal went in inside the opening minute, while former Leamington favourite Jon Adams soon added a second. We had Danny Newton back from suspension for this game though, and he stabbed in from close range. Brakes gave it a real after this, peppering the Tamworth goal, but were left to rue the old adage that absolutely naff all goes your way when you’re down the bottom of the table, Leon Mettam’s shot hitting the post and going in off the back of the hapless Maddison.
It was scant consolation for Brakes fans that home goalkeeper James Belshaw was named man of the match, though we did laugh as Newton’s second of the game flew past him as his award was being announced over the PA.
Brakes needed to win their final two games and hope that other results went in their favour to stand any chance of avoiding what now looked inevitable. Our fate was sealed with a 2-2 at home to recent FA Trophy winners North Ferriby United. Newton had equalised an early goal from Curtis Bateson, and Nathan Hicks stabbed us ahead in the second half but Jason St Juste’s goal spelled the end.
And so to Boston. The supporters were determined to enjoy the afternoon no matter what, and did their best to demonstrate their unwavering support in a different way to normal, which was slightly hampered by the strong wind and driving rain. They were rewarded with a battling performance and a clean sheet for only the fifth time in the league, as a 0-0 draw was achieved. The long journey back from Lincolnshire was clouded by collective disappointment and fear at what the future held for us. We needn’t have worried.
The close season was probably the most difficult for anyone of a Gold and Black persuasion since the resurrection in 2000. The disastrous end to the previous campaign and subsequent relegation from the Conference North left a very empty feeling that we weren’t used to.
The Board made a swift decision that Paul Holleran was the man to get the club straight back up, something which not many clubs have managed to do since the regional arm/s of the Conference were formed back in 2004.
Hollers wasted little time in filling the one position that was arguably one of the biggest factors in our relegation – goalkeeper, bringing Tony Breeden back to the club for a third time. Now I’m not going to claim that I know the reasons why he was let go by Solihull Moors, who have developed a habit of pinching our best players over the last few years; there was talk that the supporters didn’t rate him, which is laughable really. I’m sure I’m not alone in believing that if Tony had been with us in 2014/2015, there’s a good chance we would still be in the Conference North now.
Unfortunately this was quickly followed by the disappointing news that Danny Newton had made the decision to leave the club to remain at Step 2 with Tamworth. While not particularly surprising, given that he had proved he could score goals at the level in a struggling team, many had hoped that Danny would follow his conscience and remain at the NWG, as his two consecutive red cards and subsequent 5 game ban were undoubtedly a big factor in our relegation. Personally I’ve got a lot of time for Danny.He clearly appreciated the fact that coming to Leamington helped to get his career back on track after a disappointing spell at Brackley. He always gave 100% and was proud to be our captain, and I’m pretty sure having spoken to him that our relegation hurt him more than most. He did not take the decision to leave lightly, and his goal scoring record of 30 in 59 is certainly up there with the best strikers we have seen at the NWG since the resurrection in 2000.
This was quickly tempered by the announcement that Ben Mackey was returning to the club. This was great news for two reasons – Ben is a local lad, and he was also a very popular figure in his first spell at the club, helping us to a double winning season in the Midland Alliance after signing from Racing Club Warwick in 2006, and then top scoring again in our first campaign back in the Southern League the following season, scoring in the play off final against Stourbridge, which we’ll say no more about, before leaving for Brackley Town. He did briefly return prior to the 2011/12 season after breaking his leg while at Corby Town, but went on to score plenty of goals for St Neots, Stourbridge and Hemel Hempstead before taking a break from the game at the back end of last season. Having a proven goalscorer at Southern League level was always going to be a good start.
Then came the news that Lee Chilton had decided to leave us, but we didn’t dwell on that too much as Chilly quickly realised that playing for Stourbridge was rubbish, and returned after only 7 games. Pity Matty Dodd never did the same, but never mind. Chilly has always been a popular figure at the club, another 110%-er.
Gradually the bulk of the previous season’s squad were announced as having signed back on for the new campaign, which was all good news as many of them were part of the squad that got us up back in 2013. They hadn’t become bad players just because of one relegation. Knowing your way around a league and having experience of it are always good tools to have for any club planning a promotion push.
Breeden wasn’t the only player making a welcome return to the club, as Hollers brought Jamie Hood back from Barwell to significantly strengthen the defence, while striker Will Green also returned, and a month into the season James Fry, who had spent time on loan with us while at Birmingham City, returned on a permanent basis.
New arrivals included speedy wing man Jake Jones, who had previously been with the likes of Kings Lynn after being released from Walsall having progressed through the ranks there. He was joined by Ben George, who had also trodden the same path at the Bescot Stadium, and had featured for Brakes the previous pre season before opting to take a contract at R*gby T*wn.
Rob Ogleby was another with experience of the professional game having come through at Coventry City before spells in Scotland with Hearts and Livingston, then in the Conference with Wrexham and Nuneaton. Ross Oulton arrived with a good reputation having played for numerous clubs in the local area, while defenders Kieren Westwood and Michael Williams looked decent additions but were gone as quickly as they had arrived, with little hope of dislodging the tried and trusted lieutenants in defence.
Pre Season 2015/2016
Stafford Rangers (H) – 11/07/15 – Lost 1-2
Hood, Oulton, Ogleby and Jones all started the first pre season friendly against Northern Premier League Division 1 South side Stafford, who under former Rushall Olympic boss Neil Kitching were aiming for promotion themselves as they bid to return to former glories. Signing a prolific goalscorer in Ben Haseley is always a good start, and the former Halesowen Town man opened the scoring as the players eased themselves back into match action. Jake Jones impressed those of a Leamington persuasion in the crowd of 242, and he crashed home a leveller on the half hour. Rangers won it late on when Lewis Fenney misjudged a free kick. Nobody cared.
Racing Club Warwick (A) – 14/07/15 – Won 4-1
A few of us questioned why the club would want to take part in a friendly against Racing Club after some bloke called Gary Vella, who is apparently now their Chairman, got himself in the Courier after speaking out at a local council meeting about the potential new stadium at Gallows Hill. Apparently it would be too close to Hampton Road, would have an affect on Warwick’s crowds and the FA wouldn’t be very happy about it. That’s the same FA that were happy for West Ham to move into the Olympic Stadium, a move which former Leyton Orient Chairman Barry Hearn claimed would have a detrimental effect on the O’s attendances.
Now, we know that some Brakes fans went to watch Racing Club during our enforced 12 year hiatus, as Warwick enjoyed a boom period in their history, reaching the Southern League. Maybe some continued to watch them, I don’t know, but watching another team can never compare with the buzz of watching your own. Of course, nobody could have foreseen the support Leamington would draw in when they made their return, but RCW had plenty of time to establish themselves as the premier football club in the area. The fact that they were that in status only when Brakes resurfaced back in 2000 is nobody’s fault but their own.
I am sure that Mr Vella is only looking out for the best interests of his club, but it’s difficult to take somebody seriously when they come out with statements like this:
Look forward to watching that one develop. Anyway, we pushed our way through the mahoosive crowds of home supporters at Hampton Road to watch the return of Tony Breeden and Ben Mackey to the Brakes starting XI. Jack Edwards also started, and impressed with the kind of powerful performance we are coming to expect from him this season, forcing an own goal for the equaliser after Warwick had taken an early lead. Mackey then bagged his first goal since his return while Rob Ogleby got one in each half as Leamington won a game for the first time the 5-1 win at Colwyn Bay on February 28th. Pre season it might have been, but it was significant for us nevertheless.
El gran estadio de Racing Club de Warwick….
Rushall Olympic (A) – 18/07/15 – Drew 2-2
This was a decent test against a side that has established itself in the tough Northern Premier League’s top flight over the last few seasons, and Brakes went in at half time ahead after going behind early on.
Dales Lane had certainly been tidied up a fair bit since our last visit, but the thing that caught our eye on this afternoon was the fact that the Pics seem to have acquired a small group of ‘fans’ calling themselves the Dales Lane Ultras. Oh dear. They spent the afternoon entertaining us with such utterances as ‘we’re Rushall, we’re barmy, we’re off our fuckin ‘eads’, before disappearing with about 20 minutes to go.
Birmingham City U21’s (H) – 22/07/15 – Lost 1-2
Our annual fixture against former player and coach Richard Beale’s Blues academy side ended in defeat, the youngsters scoring a late winner after Jack Edwards had equalised another early goal conceded.
Solihull Moors (H) – 25/07/15 – Lost 0-1
One perk of not being in the Conference North this season is that we don’t have to play the irratating Solihull Moors, who have constantly tea leafed our best players over the last few years. Unfortunately we still had to play them in a friendly. At least there weren’t many of their annoying band wagon jumping fans at this game, which was made more entertaining when Brakes fan Tom O’Connell had to replace one of the assistant referees in the second half, and kept annoying Stefan Moore by flagging him offside.
Coventry City XI (H) – 29/07/15 – Drew 0-0
One day Coventry City might actually do the decent thing and send a team to us for a friendly that has some first teamers in it. There are a lot of Brakes fans who also follow the Sky Blues that would love to see this, but for whatever reason they only seem to do it for Nuneaton. Having said that, the team that came down for this game contained players that have subsequently gone on to gain first team experience, mainly due to the club’s plight than anything else. One of them looked like Johnny Marschner….
Nuneaton Town (H) – 01/08/15 – Lost 1-3
Brakes went down to North Warwickshire neighbours Nuneaton in their final warm up game. These fixtures have had a bit of incident in previous years but this one did not, Richard Taundry scoring a well worked leveller after Aaron Williams had given Boro’ the lead. The visitors then scored two more in the second half. The end. Bring on the season.
2015/2016 Season – Evostik Southern League Premier Division
Chesham United (H) – 08/08/15 – Won 1-0 – Att: 493
This looked a tough start on our return to the Southern League. Games against Chesham have always been battles, but the ones played at home have nearly always ended with a Leamington win, which was a good omen.
There were second debuts for Tony Breeden, Jamie Hood and Ben Mackey, while Ben George, Rob Ogleby, Michael Williams and Kieren Westwood all made their first competitive appearance in Gold and Black. It was Mackey who marked his return with the all important goal on 28 minutes, and it was like he’d never been away, the old handstand celebration and the magic hat song getting its first airing of the season. We didn’t have things all our own way of course, but Breeden was inspired on his return and kept a well earned clean sheet to get things off to a good start.
…handstand. Sure we’ve seen this before somewhere a few times..
St Neots Town (A) – 11/08/15 – Lost 0-1 – Att: 368
This was an annoying defeat against an annoying club. St Neots made their debut in this division the season we won the title, and with their swanky new ground and their money and their tippy tappy football, thought they were going to piss through it into the Conference. Sadly for them it didn’t quite work out like that. They had come mightily close the previous season, losing out to Truro City in the play off final, but you would have thought they had won the league already the way they lorded it after edging this game. It didn’t look good on paper for Brakes, losing Joe Magunda and Jack Edwards to red cards, but it was one of the harder away games out of the way early on.
Histon (A) – 15/08/15 – Won 3-0 – Att: 294
Histon will forever be known as the home of the ‘smash and grab’. This was as straightforward a win as Brakes are likely to have all season against a club clearly on its way back down the pyramid after the highs of rising from Step 5 to the Conference. Histon had a young side and though they worked hard they barely created a worthwhile chance all afternoon, something which was born out when their video highlights were published.
Not according to their official Twitter feed though, which was clearly run by a rather touchy student who became more and more annoyed as the afternoon went on, blocking anybody from Leamington who dared to take the piss by questioning his observations on the game, which was clearly not the same one the rest of us were watching.
Lee Moore drove Brakes ahead with his first goal of the season in the first half, Rob Ogleby adding a classy maiden strike of his own in the second before James Mace rounded things off nicely with a third. Smash and grab….
Kettering Town (H) – 18/08/15 – Won 3-2 – Att: 545
A Tuesday night game under the lights against a local-ish side with a decent following. This was a good game, too. Kettering look to be on the way back up the Pyramid after dropping down to Step 4 amid dodgy ownership and ground losing shenanigans, and they certainly gave Brakes a good battle here. Jack Edwards nudged us ahead on 4 minutes following good work by Lee Moore and Richard Taundry, who bollocked a cracking free kick into the top corner on 35 to double the lead.
The Poppies fans seemed to take an instant dislike to Tony Breeden, something which probably wasn’t helped by the fact that they felt he should have been sent off for a challenge on Jevani Brown just outside his penalty area. Our new skipper thrives on such abuse however, and he had the last laugh on his new friends even though Kettering dragged themselves level with a blistering start to the second half. It was Ben Mackey who got the decisive goal, using his strength to hold off a defender as he was played in down the left inside the box before blasting a shot across the keeper into the far corner. ‘Ooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh……………Ben Mackey is magic, he wears a magic hat, he used to play for Racing, he left them cos they’re crap, he scores with his left foot, he scores with his right, and when he’s down the Windmill, he scores all fucking night! Oooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh……….’
Bideford (H) – 22/08/15 – Won 2-1 – Att: 482
Bideford will always hold a special place in the hearts of Brakes fans as it was the place where the Southern League title was won for the second time in 2013, which opened the door to a whole new set of adventures with our football club. They seemed to have gained some noisy fans since that memorable day too which was great to see, and we had some friendly banter with them in the car park terrace during the first half.
Leamington found themselves behind after only 5 minutes, but recovered to record a fourth win from their opening five fixtures thanks to strikes from Lee Moore and Rob Ogleby.
Biggleswade Town (A) – 29/08/15 – Lost 2-3 – Att: 255
Without wishing to sound arrogant or ‘big time’, it is a little difficult to get your head around having to go places with daft names such as Biggleswade after being spoilt by former football league stadiums such as Stockport County for the previous two seasons, but Biggleswade it was, and we had to get on with it. The afternoon didn’t get off to best of starts when BFG’s sat nav took us to the other Biggleswade club. Maybe we should have just knocked it on the head there and then…..
The stadium is obviously fairly new and is on quite a big site, so it was a little disappointing to see what was inside. While I appreciate that it is probably perfectly adquate to satisfy league grading requirements etc, for away fans like oursleves who like to get behind our team, when you go to stadiums with no terracing and very little covered standing, it sucks the life out of everyone, and you’re screwed before you’ve even started. It is, rather ironically, called The Carlsberg Stadium. To borrow their advertising slogan, if Carlsberg did football stadiums, hopefully they wouldn’t be anywhere near as boring as this one…..
Anyway, the game. I expect some will see the above as sour grapes because we lost, but my opinion wouldn’t change so that’s irrelevant. Jake Jones made only his second start for Brakes, and he was the main source of entertainment. Sadly his afternoon didn’t end well, and was probably the cause of his departure from the club soon after, which was a shame as he was an exciting player to watch.
Ben Mackey gave us the lead with the first shot of the afternoon from either side, and Leamington looked comfortable going in at half time, but the hosts came more and more into the game and levelled in the second half. Rob Ogleby then walked after a second yellow card before Jones set up Mackey for an unexpected second goal.
Biggleswade levelled once more before Jones was tripped inside the box to present Leamington with the chance to score a third goal. Unfortunately Mackey had been substituted, and Richard Taundry’s penalty was saved by the young Biggleswade keeper.
Jones was then sent off for an apparent stamp as it all kicked off, and the home side inevitably scored right at the death to win it. Argh.
If you were to compile a top ten of the shittest games ever seen at the NWG, this one would be pretty high up on that list, competing for the title. It really was that bad. Bedworth, newly promoted back into the division, could normally be relied on to yield the points, but on this occasion Leamington simply didn’t seem to have the nouse to break them down. Add to that their pretty blatant attempts to target Jack Edwards and get him sent off, which didn’t work, and it all added up to an instantly forgettable Bank Holiday Monday bore fest.
Just in case you’re crazy enough to want to re-live it…..
Dunstable Town (A) – 05/09/15 – Won 2-0 – Att: 177
Brakes returned to winning ways at Dunstable, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. If the Histon Twitter man was at this game he probably would have called it a massacre, an early goal and one right at the death, with the home side a tad unfortunate in between times. Still, if you doesn’t take your chances you don’t deserve to win football matches, hey.
The last time Leamington visited Creasey Park, back in our 2008/2009 Southern League Midland Division title winning season the ground looked a little, run down, shall we say. It was an absolutely rotten night and everybody took cover from the howling wind and rain in the huge old wooden grandstand, which still didn’t guarantee shelter with its leaky roof. That had gone, replaced with wide flat standing pitchside, and a modern looking building housing the dressing rooms and clubhouse. There was a small covered terrace at the car park end and a small seated stand on the far side, while a grass bank gave a nice elevated view of the action at the far end, despite the limp rope ‘barrier’ trying to stop people from standing there.
Jack Edwards scored on three minutes after Rob Ogleby’s shot was blocked, and we spent the remainder of the half engaging in friendly banter with Dunstable’s veteran keeper Paul Bastock, who, we discovered, was actually born in Leamington. It’s a shame he will probably never get to play for us.
A combination of good defending and poor finishing prevented Dunstable from levelling, and they paid dearly in injury time as Lee Moore broke forward from a punch clear by Tony Breeden, playing in substitute Will Green to finish low past Bastock.
Stamford (H) FA Cup 1st Qualyfying Round – 12/09/15 – Drew 1-1 – Att: 401
Ah, the good old FA Cup. It’s the hope that kills you. Not even starting a round further on than usual during our two seasons in the Conference North could spark Brakes into the run the fans have been dreaming of ever since we went to Layer Road back in 2005.
The visit of free scoring but also regularly conceding Northern Premier League side Stamford didn’t exactly fill anybody with confidence that this would be our year. Sure enough, Brakes were trailing from the sixth minute to a contentious penalty, it took until the 72nd for them to get level, a lovely goal from the returning Lee Chilton. Despite hammering away they were unable to get past the inspired veteran keeper Richard Knight, meaning a trip to Lincolnshire on Tuesday evening.
Stamford (A) FA Cup replay – 15/09/15 – Lost 1-2 – Att: 207
Sometimes I bloody hate football. This game turned full circle and was all set up for to win, only for us to somehow throw it away.
Another new stadium, at least there was a decent covered terrace behind one goal, but just shitty flat hard standing apart from a seated stand.
This time it was former Leamington man Nathan Hicks who gave the opposition their early lead, showing no regard for his former team mates as he celebrated wildly.
Tony Breeden forced opposite number Richard Knight to tip a free kick from the Leamington half onto the bar in the first half, and Lee Chilton crashed a shot against the bar in the second, but it was the introduction of Will Green and James Fry that helped Brakes draw level James Mace smashing in from close range with four minutes to go.
It seemed for a few glorious moments that Brakes might snatch victory from the jaws of defeat when Green was sent sprawling inside the penalty area by Lewis Carr, who was sent off, but when Taundry stepped up to try and erase the memory of his miss against Biggleswade he was denied by the veteran Knight. Stamford then broke upfield and Ryan Robbins crossed for Greg Smith to thump in a header and win the tie. Pah…..
Weymouth (H) – 19/09/15 – Drew 0-0 – Att: 454
Another boring 0-0 draw at home. That’s about all I can say really.
Relive the, erm, action……
Cambridge City (A) – 23/09/15 – Won 2-1 – Att: 151
A win was just what we needed after the previous weeks results, coupled with the departure of Liam O’Neill (which was covered at the time on this blog). And a win is what we got. Cambridge weren’t quite the same side we had faced in the past, not least because they had to leave their Milton Road home in the city, a ground which we always enjoyed visiting, to groundshare at St Ives some 15 miles up the A14. They actually took the lead in this encounter, which was as hard fought as always, before Lee Chilton set up Ben Mackey for a close range header to level things up.
Brakes were working Lilywhites keeper Zac Barrett hard as always, and Mackey snaffled up a close range finish for what turned out to be the winner just before half time.
Slough Town (H) – 29/09/15 – Won 3-0 – Att: 411
A tough game was expected against a side who were clearly better than their lowly league position, and that was exactly what we got, but some clinical finishing sent Brakes to the top of the table for the first time this season. Two goals in the first 25 minutes helped quite a lot, Jack Edwards looping in a header from Chilly’s cross, the Slough bench not happy because they wanted an offside decision. Chilly was involved once more for the second, pinging a quality ball across the pitch to find Lee Moore on the right, who teed up Ben Mackey for a finish from the edge of the box.
Jack thumped home a third with his head before half time to give us a commanding lead. Slough were decent though. Good win this.
Frome Town (A) – 03/10/15 – Drew 0-0 – Att: 209
Frome are one of those typically frustrating Southern League teams. You think your team should beat them, but they never ever make it easy for you, and why should they? It’s a long journey, a pain in the arse to get to, but their ground is ok, so are the locals, and their team isn’t bad either. They work hard and have improved year on year since moving up to Step 3 for the first time, and this game was remeniscent of previous encounters – few clear cut chances, frustrating, and they could have nicked it late on. Still, a point is a point……
Hitchin Town (A) – 05/10/15- Drew 2-2 – Att: 311
Hitchin, on a Monday night. Great game, but any game where you don’t win after being two goals up is a little disappointing. Joe Magunda was denied a rare goal when his header was flagged offside, Hitchin had two ruled out themselves, then Ben Mackey and Jack Edwards were the beneficiaries of more setting up goodness from Lee Chilton, who provided the balls into the box for them to head home.
There was no sign of the Hitchin tranny again. Where is he/she? Surely he/she would have been delighted to see John bloody Frendo back at Top Field, albeit on loan from Hemel Hempstead, as the last time we were there we were informed that ‘we’ve got the top scorer in the Southern League, John Frendoooor.’ As usual, he scored against us, and Robbie Burns equalised with 15 minutes to go. It was deserved, but either side could have won it in a frenetic end to the game. The point edged us back to the top of the table.
Merthyr Town (H) – 10/10/15 – Won 1-0 – Att: 623
Brakes finally got a home game on Non League Day, against our friends from Merthyr Tydfil, which drew a decent gate of 623. It was another tight battle, Leamington doing just enough to edge it with an 86th minute header from Ben Mackey.
Bishops Cleeve (H) – Red Insure Cup 1st Round – 13/10/15 – Won 2-0 – Att: 143
The Southern League Cup has for some reason become a lot like the Football League Cup in the professional game – a competition that nobody really wants to play in until you get to the final. Probably more to do with the fact that there is no financial gain from it, but it does present an opportunity for a bit of squad rotation, which Hollers utilised here. O O Ogleby fired in the opener, while Jamie Hood headed in a second in the second half.
King’s Lynn Town (A) – 17/10/15 – Won 1-0 – Att: 578
A trip into the unknown provided a highly satisfying three points for Brakes, but they didn’t half have to work for them. We weren’t really sure what to expect before the journey to Norfolk – depending on who you talk to King’s Lynn fans can be a bit lairy. Being stuck out there in the east on their own, not really wanted by the Southern or Northern leagues, you can kind of understand why they have a bit of a ‘no-one likes us’ mentality, but in terms of vocal support, other than a single chorus of ‘ooo the fackin ell are you?’ we got nothing aprt from a lone home fan who stood at the same end both halves, bellowing out random noise in support of his team at the top of his high pitched voice. Naturally he was christened Billy No Mates, but did he care? Not a bit! Fair play to him as he put his fellow Linnets fans to shame. We were left to hang our flags and bellow out our songs without much opposition at all barring a few comments at the end which were given the contempt they deserved. At times King’s Lynn battered us, but the defence, and Breeden and Hoody in particular, were immense.
Bedworth United (H) – Birmingham Senior Cup 1st Round – 20/10/15 – Lost 1-2 – Att: 188
Brakes did something unthinkable in this game, they lost. To Bedworth. A team that hadn’t beaten them in any kind of match for 30 years. Not even in friendlies when we were two or three steps below them in the pyramid. They put out a very young team too, and deserved to win, scoring at the end of both halves. In between times Tony Breeden got our equaliser from the penalty spot, his second goal for the club. The Bedworth keeper didn’t like it much, thinking he was taking the piss.
Unfortunately our German friends Jascha and Benni chose this game to make a trip over to England, watching Brakes lose once more, but for a crowd of only 188 the atmosphere was one of the most raucous of the season, which made the evening more enjoyable. They were presented with Brakes shirts too, after SV Eichede had been kind enough to do the same for our group when we went over there in May. One day they will see us win a game!!!
Another long haul, this time down to the village of Paulton the other side of Bristol. After picking Matt up from the station we settled at the local pub for lunch, where we were joined by our fellow travellers.
It was a shitty day, and this turned out to be a shitty game, which was not really helped by the match officials, and that’s being nice. Paulton had more cause to be pissed off with them than we did, collecting five first half bookings for nothing challenges. Brakes arrived with only half an hour to spare thanks to the traffic, which didn’t get things off to the best of starts.
In the second half, either side of Lee Moore hitting the woodwork twice Paulton took the lead with their first serious attempt on goal. Things became more frantic after this, and then got a little silly towards the end with a handbags melee. It looked as though one of the home players who had been booked in the first half got away with being sent off after he appeared to be booked again.
With the inebriated amongst our travelling support giving the Paulton players more and more stick, along with the team coach driver Pete, who was a bit of a nutter (but a great laugh!), we were finally placated with a goal right at the end of the game, and what a goal it was. The defenders may have been scared to tackle him as they were nearly all on yellow cards, but Ross Oulton ran from midway through the Paulton half past the lot of them before slotting under the keeper to send the away support crazy. A game we really should have won, but ended up being grateful for a point from.
He went on…..
Redditch United (H) – 27/10/15 – Lost 0-1 – Att: 471
File this one under ‘Frustrating’, which seems to be becoming a regular occurrance this season. Missed chances, early goal conceded, played against 10 men for virtually the entire second half but still couldn’t score. Liam O’Neill returned to watch a game for the first time since he left the club, and left suitably unimpressed. Redditch celebrated like they had won the title at the end.
Barwell (H) – FA Trophy 1st Qualifying Round – 31/10/15 – Won 6-1 – Att: 291
The last time we played Barwell at home we were thumped 6-0 in a bizarre game which we didn’t even play that badly in, so this was sweeeeeeeeet. Barwell may well have had their minds on an FA Cup 1st Round tie against Welling the following Saturday, but that was of no concern to us. Jack Edwards slotted the first in against his old club, Lee Chilton slamming home a second after Barwell keeper Liam Castle (Yes, he’s still there) kindly punched a cross straight to him. Ben Mackey, or the magic hat as Graham the PA man likes to call him, netted with a diving header from a great cross by Ross Oulton before half time, then rifled an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net after turning his defender in the second half.
Brakes conceded a soft consolation with 15 to play, but Chilly found the net once more, off a defender and the keeper, before Will Green chased a high clearance to go through and net a sixth. Always nice to thrash Barwell.
Cambridge City (H) – 03/11/15 – Lost 1-2 – Att: 251
The disappointing league form continued with another home defeat, another game in which we had plenty of chances but failed to put them away. Cambridge scored with their first serious effort on goal. Rob Ogleby levelled just before half time, but Michael Malcolm scored a last minute winner for the struggling visitors.
Cirencester Town (H) – 07/11/15 – Won 2-0 – Att: 405
Brakes may be struggling to put teams away at the moment but they still edged back to the top of the table with this hard earned win. Joe Halsall scored on his debut, bringing down a lovely cross from Richard Taundry before shinning a shot into the net. Chilly finished things off in the last minute when Will Green and Rob Ogleby combined to send him clear. Jd.
Bedworth United (H) – Red Insure Cup Round 2 – 10/11/15 – Won 3-0 – Att: 161
Every season there is a team that you end up playing a stupid amount of times. Unfortunately for us, this season Bedworth are that team. At least on this occasion we put them back in their box, just a shame it was in the nobody cares cup.
The visitors kindly scored an own goal and their keeper then blasted a clearance straight into Rob Ogleby to double the lead before 20 minutes had been played. He scored another in the second half to put the tie to bed. Young keeper Eddie Caviezel-Cox came on for the final 12 minutes or so for his debut.
Rushall Olympic (H) – FA Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round – 14/11/15 – Drew 0-0 – Att: 296
Crap game. Rushall’s ‘ultras’ turned up with their flag but we barely heard a peep out of them. Ross Oulton was harshly sent off for two shite yellow cards, and now we have to go to Rushall on a Tuesday night. Deep joy.
Histon (H) – 21/11/15 – Won 2-1 – Att: 312
While the away fixture was ‘smash and grab’ (not), this one was won by a slimmer margin but should have been more comfortable. Chilly opened the scoring on 20 minutes when Mackey pulled the ball back from the touchline for him to stab in from close range. The second was an own goal that would have been put away by Mackey had the defender not done it for him. Histon pulled one back within 60 seconds.
Rushall Olympic (A) – FA Trophy Replay – 24/11/15 – Won 3-2 – Att: 181
Well this was rather an eventful evening wasn’t it. This replay had to be rescheduled as the previous Tuesday gale force winds had forced the Referee to postpone it, AFTER we had arrived at Dales Lane. Tonight there was just rain. The first half wasn’t much to write home about, but things started to get interesting after that. Jamie Hood slammed us ahead as Lee Moore headed Ross Oulton’s corner into the centre. Rushall were awarded a penalty but Alex Reid steered it wide, but then levelled from former Brakes loanee Jake Heath’s cross. Jack Edwards grazed the bar with a header, but his run led to a free kick from which Lee Moore curled Leamington ahead once more, only for Rushall to peg them back again, Nick Wright heading home with 4 minutes left.
As the game went into extra time you feared that Rushall would have the momentum, which they did, but Brakes stunned them at the end of the first half when Mackey steered in Ogleby’s free kick. A happy milestone in this game saw James Husband come on for his 300th appearance for the club, but things began to turn sour off the pitch as the game ended. It is here that we encountered the Dales Lane ‘Ultras’, who it seems had been behaving like knobs already during the season, but the club, which struggles to get decent crowds anyway, had done nothing about it. There was no problem in the first half, with our noisy support in the stand down the side, but as soon as they moved behind the far goal where these idiots were stood, the attempts to provoke trouble began, and continued for the rest of the game. The thing is, none of our lot go to football matches to cause trouble or have a fight, it has always been like that, and provocation has always been met with laughter and wit in return. On this occasion though, as our lads celebrated the win and turned to walk away, one of these cowards decided to stick the nut on Boris, splitting his lip. Of course, all hell broke loose, some of the players rushing down to try and calm the situation. As we made our way round to the other end of the ground to complain, the Chairman managed to get hold of this lad, but with nobody from Rushall stepping in to take control he managed to wriggle free and conveniently escape out of an open gate. The way Rushall dealt with the situation both at the time and in the aftermath was very unsatisfactory. They basically weren’t interested in bringing this kid to rights. Fair enough, they need supporters, but why encourage twats like that, who are only there to see if they can cause trouble? It soured what turned out to be a great night on the pitch.
Hednesford Town (H) – FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round – 28/11/15 – Att: 308
Swiftly on to the next round, and swiftly into the next round with a highly enjoyable beating of our ‘friends’ from Hednesford, shorn of most of the annoying pricks that used to play for them. Tom James lined up against us for his 50 millionth different club though. Despite having broken our duck with two Stefan Moore inspired victories over them during our two seasons in the Conference North, this one was just as good, with them being the higher ranked side. We even let them take the lead before Rob Ogleby equalised after a spot of head tennis in the box.
The second half brought a goal that is now up there with ‘Stefan Moore, from 30 yards’ – take a bow Richard Taundry, who spanked one in on the volley to give us a new song! Magic Mackey then put us into dreamland with a third before we were promptly sent back to earth as Hednesford pulled one back. Goalscorer Ben Bailey kindly gave away a penalty though, allowing Mackey to thrash home his second of the game to put us into the 1st Round. Lovely! The young lad doing reports for Radio Cannock or some such local station didn’t know what to make of it all as he took shelter in the car park terrace among the raucous chants of ‘We all hate Hednesford!’
St Neots Town (H) – 01/12/15 – Drew 2-2 – Att: 302
Bloody St Neots. Came to frustrate us and boy did they do just that. Mooro curled in a carbon copy of his free kick at Rushall to put ahead, and leave you wondering why he doesn’t do it more often. The visitors appear to be more immersed in the dark arts of the game than the tippy tappy shite they thought would get them out of this league a couple of years ago, and levelled on 25 minutes through Lee Clarke (no, not that one). Cheating striker Ryan Hawkins got exactly what he deserved when after continuously blocking Tony Breeden as he tried to kick out of his penalty area, he received a booking for an outrageous dive as Breeden came off his line to meet him, and then another for continuing his blocking antics. Unfortunately this didn’t stop his side from earning a point, as even after Rob Ogleby’s goal put Leamington ahead once more, Mat Mitchell-King levelled 4 minutes from time.
Poole Town (A) – 05/12/15 – Lost 0-1 – Att: 382
This was a very disappointing afternoon for Brakes against the team that look to be one of our main rivals for that coveted top spot. There were positives to take from the game, particularly an outstanding performance from the skipper Tony Breeden and the defence in general, but two red cards, a rather daft one for Jack Edwards and a downright ridiculous one shown to Jamie Hood, didn’t help our cause. However, we only lost by one goal.
It is not hard to see why people have criticised Poole’s ground, but they are rather hamstrung with it being, rather strangely, inside the grounds of a school.
There is a seated stand down one side, a covered end with no terracing in it, and on the far side you can only walk down as far as the first dug out. There is hard standing behind the other goal, so in effect it is a three sided ground, which also appears to be falling to pieces. We witnessed part of one of the floodlights fall out and shatter on the hard standing just as we walked past.
Poole’s supporters club had supplied the cash for them to bring in striker Lee Wort on loan from Gosport Borough. The front man had been extremely prolific when with Shlong, I mean Sholing, and could have had a hat trick in this game were it not for Breeden.
Poole took the lead on 20 minutes, Marvin Brooks powering in a header, Breeden getting hands to it but unable to keep it out. Jack then walked for two late challenges, leaving the travelling fans fearing for the rest of the afternoon. Jamie Tank headed our only effort of the game on target just before half time.
Hoody was then the victim of an absolute joke of a red card, sent off for having the ball blasted at him from literally two yards away. Fortunately Breeden ensured that things didn’t get any worse by saving the resulting penalty. Brakes didn’t do themselves justice here at all as a whole. Very disappointing.
Brakes bridged a two division gap to earn a deserved replay. The bloody weather pushed this tie back to midweek, meaning that not so many Brakes fans were able to travel, but those who did witnessed a decent performance. It looked like it was game over with 20 minutes to play when Damian Reeves gave Alty the lead, but Hollers drew his trump card in Rob Ogleby, the substitute latching onto an accurate long clearance by Tony Breeden to equalise.
Biggleswade Town (H) – 19/12/15 – Lost 0-1 – Att: 403
Biggleswade. Again. And they deserved it too. They have the nicest keeper ever in Ian Brown. And he’s pretty good too. Inih Effiong scored the winner. When he was asked by a Brakes fan if he would like to come and play for us at the end, he said we’re not good enough. Clearly not at Biggleswade for the money then. Trouble is, today he was right. Straight red for James Mace in the closing stages wasn’t good either.
Bedworth United (A) – 26/12/15 – Lost 0-2 – Att: 347
This game summed up our year really. Losing to a bunch of bitter north warwickshire twats at the bottom of the table, who are apparently now a better club than us because they have a 3G pitch, and who called the police out for no reason whatsoever. Clearly they don’t have to employ stewards usually as nobody fucking watches them, so they just give a hi-vis jacket to any idiot. This one decided it would be a good idea to celebrate Justin Marsden’s opening goal in front of the vocal Brakes fans who were minding their own business, and then he wondered why they got annoyed. Stewards are there to watch the crowd, not provoke them.
No doubt provoked by one of the moany old locals, the other stewards then decided to start being dicks in the second half, trying to make everybody sit down in the stand. Bear in mind that our lot were in the half that was practically empty, and were not impeding anybody’s view of proceedings on the pitch. Unsurprisingly after they did nothing about what happened in the first half, nobody felt like doing as they were asked, despite being threatened with ejection from the ground. Some of our German friends were over for this game, and decided that they no longer understood English when requested to sit down!!
It was then that some clown decided to ring the police to sort the nasty Leamington hooligans out, and we were presented with the ridiculous sight of about half a dozen officers from Warwickshire Police turning up at the ground, obviously thinking they were going to be dealing with some rioting football fans, to be met with, well, nothing. Nobody was causing any trouble, nobody got thrown out. Well done to whoever it was from Bedworth that had that brainwave. You made your club look rather stupid.
On the pitch, Bedworth scored a second goal, Brakes were shit, and 2015 drew to a close in the worst possible fashion. We are 16 points behind leaders Poole, and while we continue to play like this we have no chance of an immediate return to the Conference North. Although we probably have more chance than Bedworth do of staying up.
Bremen – Hamburg – Bargteheide – Lubeck – Eichede, and far too much alcohol – Germany 2015 – The Brakes Choir’s European Excursion – Part II …………
There seems to be a popular misconception, probably stemming from those who have never visited Germany, that them and us don’t get on, but those of us who went on both of these trips can report emphatically that that is simply not true. We were treated superbly by our hosts during our time there, with the beer almost on tap for those who wanted it (Ok, everyone but me, pretty much!!).
Around 13 Brakes fans travelled, some of us going the long way round to get to our destination this time, driving to Stanstead before flying to Bremen, with a long train journey to Hamburg before another hop out to Bargteheide, a small town some 27 miles north west, which would be our base during this visit. Some of the Baby Brakes had travelled out a day early and fitted in a tour of Werder Bremen’s Weser-Stadion.
We eventually met up in Bremen and travelled out to Bargteheide where we met up with Benni, who said we only had a short walk to our hostel. What seemed like a route march later, we arrived at a rather strange looking building that looked more like a warehouse. The proprietor certainly seemed happy to greet us….
We had a game to take in that afternoon, and were picked up by minibuses which ferried us out deep into the countryside. We eventually rocked up at what I can only describe as – a pitch. Think most of the away games we played in the Midland Comb Division 2 and you’ll get the picture, except there wasn’t even any rope round it. This was the home of SV Siek, hosting a local cup final (Kreispokalfinale) between our friends’ team SV Eichede and local rivals SV Preußen Reinfeld. A large tent formed a makeshift clubhouse, and as always the beer and bratwurst were in plentiful supply. Not the most glamorous of surroundings for a cup final maybe, but it’s what you make it, and there was certainly a decent sized crowd of a few hundred present to make it an occasion.
Our flags had travelled with us and they were raised along with some impressive creations from our German friends, who have designed and handpainted many of their flags, including a new one that they had also produced in sticker form, comemorating the date of our first meeting the previous March (see above), which was really impressive. We had also one made up, and presented it to our friends prior to kick off.
Our Eichede friends the Alkatraz had set up shop at the far end of the pitch, and proceded to add to the standard raucous backing of their team by handing out red and white smoke flares to the group, which made for quite a sight.
Eichede were apparently find 150 euros for the pyro display, the lads using the excuse that we were present! It was amusing on the Sunday when on receiving a welcome over the P.A at their game, the plea of please, no more pyro! was made – we had nothing to do with it – honest!
With alcohol arriving regularly in what looked like old milk crates, the atmosphere was loud and constant as the Eichede team, wearing their yellow and black change strip in honour of our visit, eased to a 3-1 victory and we celebrated on the pitch with the players at full time.
The following day we took the train into Lübeck, where most of our friends reside, and visited their local bar before taking in another match, this time the Regionalliga Nord fixture between Vfb Lübeck and Hannover 96’s Under 23 side.
Hannover’s first team play in the Bundesliga, but the Ultras section of their support had begun following the Under 23 side after some disagreements with the clubs’ hierachy, so there was a bigger crowd for this game than perhaps there might have been. What we didn’t expect to see was the huge police presence on the streets surrounding the ground. The German police certainly look like they don’t mess around, some were even armed, and we feared the worst when some of them approached us as we made our way to the stadium, but after Jascha explained why we were there they let us continue, though keeping an eye on us.
Lübeck’s stadium was quite large, the club having played much higher up the German league system in years gone by, and the away support was segregated at the far end. The home ‘Ultras’ did their best to match them, while the two sides played out a 1-1 draw, which we observed from one of the seated stands along the side of the pitch.
Sunday saw the main event of our visit – we finally got to visit Eichede and take in a home game. We were collected from our hostel and taxied out deep into the countryside once more, to a bar (the only bar?) on the edge of the village.
It was a lovely sunny morning, and with beautiful countryside all around us it felt like we were somewhere at home. A couple of hours were spent here as a barbecue and plety of drinks were laid on, before we made the short walk across the village to the Ernst Wagener Stadion.
The stadium itself was a tidy affair with a good playing surface. Mainly uncovered bench type seating wrapped around almost half of the stadium, with the rest comprised of hard standing. The clubhouse was situated behind the near goal. PSV Union Neumünster were the visitors and we were treated to a great display from the SVE, who ran out 4-1 winners to keep their ultimately successful promotion charge on track.
We remained long after the aftenoon’s crowd had drifted away, even having a kickabout of our own out on the pitch. The hospitality shown to us by our friends was quite simply above and beyond. No drinks were paid for, and we were each given an SVE shirt as a momento of our visit, most of the lads getting the team to sign theirs.
It has begun to rain by the time we went out to wait for our taxi’s back to Bargteheide and the kebab shop which had done a roaring trade out of us over the weekend.
The following morning it was time to go home, and we left our digs with something of a flea in our ears, the owner was apparently not best pleased that some toilet roll had been thrown about during some late night hi-jinks. Never mind the fact that it had all been replaced in the toilets on a shelf, this apparently meant that we were hooligans. We’d even left the communal kitchen in a better state than it had been when we arrived. Bit of an overreaction really! Still, it didn’t tarnish what had been a great weekend, and we returned home with more great memories.
There have been return visits on both sides over the last couple of years, with Brakes even managing to record some wins for the Germans last season!
It took virtually the whole of the summer and the timing couldn’t have been worse from a Leamington perspective, but Courtney Baker-Richardson capped a remarkable 18 months since signing for the club by earning a return to the professional ranks with Premier League Swansea City.
After a long wait over the close season, Brakes fans discovered just three days before the pre season fixtures began that last season’s top scorer had agreed to remain at the club for the new campaign, which was a huge boost, given his and the rest of the squads form during the warm up, as we prepared for a return to the National League North.
Picking up from where he left off with 20 goals in 2016/17, (The last one being the extra time winner against Hitchin Town in the Play Off Final to win promotion for Brakes) Courtney was involved in every game during pre season as Brakes racked up five wins and a draw, chipping in with another 5 goals. However, just a few days after the final pre season friendly at Bromsgrove Sporting, the club reported that Leicester City had invited the 21 year old to link up with them for a few days . It was not until the opening Saturday of the season when we travelled to Gainsborough Trinity that the news broke of Swansea’s interest. Spirits were high at that point as Leamington returned from Lincolnshire with a 2-1 victory courtesey of Ahmed Obeng’s brace, but the following two games back at the Phillips 66 Community Stadium highlighted that we were desperately missing Courtney’s ability to put the ball in the net, something that he witnessed for himself as he watched the unfortunate 1-0 reverse against Southport.
Two days later it was confirmed. Having been offered a deal by both Leicester and Swansea, with the advice of his agent Lee Marsh, Courtney decided that his career would benefit more from a move to South Wales, and he signed a two year contract at the Liberty Stadium.
It is fair to say that Courtney hit the ground running after joining the club in February 2016, making his home debut as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat to Hitchin on the 13th, and marking his full debut in style two days later with two goals in the last ten minutes in a 2-1 victory at Hungerford Town that would rouse Brakes from their mid season malaise and set them on a run that would propel them back into the play off places. He then followed it up with the winner against Stratford Town three games later, the game clinching second goal in the following match at Merthyr Town, then another at Cirencester Town in the final away game of the league season. This was followed up by the dramatic injury time equaliser in the play off semi final at Redditch United which saw us go on to win on penalties. The final at Hungerford unfortunately didn’t go to plan, with a decent first half display and Courtney’s seventh goal of the season for us was followed by a poor second half that saw the hosts score twice, leaving the huge travelling support with a miserable journey back from Berkshire.
Leamington have often followed up bitter disappointment with success in their recent history though, and without that defeat at Hungerford we wouldn’t have experienced the highs of last season. Pressed on how he felt his time had gone at the club, the reply was ‘Better than expected. Definitely better than expected. I came here with ambition, and drive, passion as well, I just needed the gaffer to take full faith in me. For the first part it was a bit rocky to begin with but we got there in the end. Obviously last season I excelled and just kept it going. I didn’t want to play on the right wing but for the sake of the team sometimes you’ve just got to dig in and do your job, and it was getting results, so in that respect being at Leamington has definitely pushed my career on from where it was to where it is now.’
‘I’ve signed a two year deal at Swansea, i’ll be playing in the Under 23’s, but with a high potential of first team football. If i’m banging goals in and performing then they won’t be looking elsewhere to get loan players in, they want to promote from their Youth system.’
Leicester City, who signed Jacob Blyth from us back in 2012, were also interested, and they made the first moves.
‘Me and my agent asked the same question of both teams, Swansea and Leicester. No disrespect to Leicester as they are a class club, but they just kept saying that it was a good Under 23 system, whereas when I went down to Swansea it felt like a good decision to make. I think I will benefit from going down there, away from any potential distractions, and will be able to knuckle down and better myself.’
I ask whether there might be the chance of a pre season friendly next summer? ‘Ha ha, I’m sure I could ask my gaffer if it could be arranged!’ Talk briefly switches to when Blyth signed for Leicester and his unfortunate departure from Motherwell before Courtney stresses ‘Some guys just get lost it in don’t they, but i’ve never ever entertained drugs or anything like that. I barely even drink. I just committed to the cause, go to the gym, eat right, live right and do the right things.’
Quizzed on how he felt when he was released by Coventry, I mistakenly assume he is a fan of the Sky Blues. ‘I grew up in Coventry. I supported them cos it’s the team you play for innit, but… obviously at the time I was disappointed, because everything you’ve worked for is sort of wiped from under you, but reality hit and I had to play in non league but it’s worked out well for me. I’ve experienced the lows and now i’m about to hit the highs, and I don’t plan on stopping.
We talk about his path after Coventry. ‘I went to Torquay, didn’t get offered anything there, went to Kidderminster and they wanted to offer me something but they were releasing players for their budget and stuff. I went to Romulus, did well there, signed for Nuneaton, played two games for them I think it was, and they wanted to take me off Romulus full time but I signed for Redditch instead. Bad move that was, didn’t wanna do that. The energy there was all wrong, I felt like it was sucking the life out of me.’
It was at Kettering that Courtney first came to most people’s attention, and he started the 2015/2016 well, scoring several goals before picking up an injury. ‘I was top goalscorer but I rolled my ankle. I came back from that, I was still top goalscorer for the whole month and a half I was out, but Marcus Law felt like bringing someone else in.’
It must have been a boost for Courtney that a team higher up the table came in for him at a time when he was unable to force his way back into the Poppies side? ‘I knew the gaffer liked me from when we played at Leamington anyway. After the game he shook my hand, said I really like you, well done you, etc, so I knew coming here was a good option because I knew I was favoured, you know what I mean?’
We recall his debut double at Hungerford and the play off semi final goal at Redditch, and he smiles, ‘If you want goals, there’s only one man to call!!’ I jokingly ask if we can have him back on loan! ‘I’d like to say yeah but it’s out of my control really. I turned down other clubs in pre season to stay at Leamington because I didn’t feel they were right for me. The club has a big place in my heart now, I’m a Leamington fan! The whole club, right through to the back room, is class. Any free Saturdays I get now, I’m coming to watch Leamington!’
I catch up with Courtney again at the beginning of November to get his thoughts on his first few months at Swansea.
‘It’s been a good first few months, I’ve been a bit unfortunate with a couple of injuries caused by the daily workload, but I’m being managed well and looked after. I haven’t really been 100% but it’s being sorted and I am looking forward to feeling myself again. It’s a great environment and place to be. I think i’ve started 5-6 games, 1 goal and 4 assists but that’ll soon change.’
I guess that the transition from part time to full time training is always going to take its toll until he becomes used to it. ‘Exactly. Fortunately we have great physio’s and sports scientists that know how to manage me.’
And how has he found competing against League 2 sides Cheltenham Town, Newport County and Forest Green Rovers in the Checkatrade Trophy? He made an instant impact in his first game for the Under 23’s at Cheltenham, setting up the winning goal for Aaron Lewis in a 2-1 win, and the Swans youngsters went on to beat Newport and Forest Green to progress to the last 32.
‘It’s been a great experience. Playing in that competition shows that young lads can compete with the physical side of the game against grown men who have had years of experience and have learnt their trade in those leagues.’
Courtney also got some early involvement with the first team when he was handed a place on the bench in their Carabao Cup tie at MK Dons. ‘It came as a complete surprise to me! I was meant to have the day off that day but I got a phone call in the morning and was told I was travelling and then they transported me down. It would have been nice to stretch my legs but even so it was great to be in and around it. I’ve been called up to train with the first team several times, so I’m happy with the position I’m in.’
Although unable to learn from experienced Spanish frontman Fernando Llorente as he departed for Tottenham, being able to observe the likes of Wilfried Bony and Tammy Abraham will surely benefit Courtney in the long term.
There is always a sense of pride when a player from your club goes on to bigger and better things, something that anybody involved at a non league football would surely concur with. Brakes fans have always followed the careers of former heroes with interest – Alex Rodman was the first of the modern era to progress to the Football League after spending the first season of his senior career at the New Windmill Ground. More recently we have seen Jacob Blyth step up to the pro game with Leicester and then Motherwell, while Danny Newton got off to a storming start after stepping up from Tamworth to join League Two side Stevenage in the summer, scoring in each of his first three league games. We are proud that these players were helped in some small way by their time at Leamington Football Club, and we will all be watching Courtney’s progress with interest. You only had to take a look at the social media platforms at the good wishes being passed on to see what everybody thought of him. We will be watching your career progress with interest Courtney, good luck!
We conducted this interview over the summer months, but as it turns out Jack has returned before I had chance to get it online, so we have turned it into a celebration of his homecoming instead!
Everyone was hugely disappointed but also very supportive when Jack made what he called a ‘gut wrenching decision’ to leave Leamington and step up to the National League with Solihull Moors. The choice of club maybe wasn’t greeted with as much enthusiasm, as Solihull have swiped a number of players from us over the last few years, but having worked his way up the non league pyramid and after all he had done for us over his three seasons with us, nobody could begrudge him a move to Step 1.
‘I started playing at around the age of 8 or 9 when my Dad and others in our area decided to take their coaching badges and do their bit for the local Balsall and Berkswell teams, Balsall Hornets in particular. From there I joined the Under 16’s at Stratford Town, and also had a brief spell at Coventry City, which didn’t go very well.
‘We played in the Central Warwickshire Division and challenged for the title each year before moving to the Youth set up under managers Pete Stephens and my father Mark Edwards.’
Jack puts his football pedigree down to his Grandad Cliff Edwards, who played for Coventry City. ‘His steel toe capped football boots are in a Coventry museum somewhere. This passion was handed down to my Dad, who I have heard being referred to as a hard tackling ball winning central midfielder. You wouldn’t believe it now! He played for Coventry Sporting who were one of the strongest Coventry sides of the era, reaching the FA Cup first round. I think they played Stevenage.’ Jack’s memory is slightly out here, though as it was before his time we can let him off I think! As luck would have it I was able to chat to his Dad Mark on the coach to Darlington. He did indeed play for Coventry Sporting during the 1970’s, and was part of their side that beat Tranmere Rovers 2-1 in the 1st Round, a game which was played at Highfield Road. In the next round they drew Peterborough United at home but were knocked out by 4 goals to 2. He also played for Redditch United and Nuneaton Borough. ‘I was a better player than Jack!’, he laughs. ‘I used to hurt people, but you could get away with it back then. It was all legit!!’
A desire to make his mark as part of a footballing family has been a driving force personally for Jack.
‘I didn’t feel I was in with a chance of getting a look in with the first team at Stratford as at the time they were spending money to bring in big players in the Midland Alliance (which didn’t work! – Ed) so Dennis Mulholland, who is a legend, put in a good word for at Studley with the management team there, Glen and Lee Adams. They were in the Midland Alliance at the time, which seems so long ago now, and the two years I spent there really gave me the platform to cut my teeth in the men’s game. Without that grounding and guidance I wouldn’t have been able to build a career in non league football. Studley are a great club with genuine people who love their football.
Pressed as to whether he can recall any memorable moments from his time at The Beehive, ‘there was a volley against Loughborough University. The keeper didn’t even see it. My biggest career goal was while at Studley – my first ever goal in senior football. We were playing away, I can’t remember where, and I wasn’t due to start but there was an injury so I was thrown into the starting line up. Ian Mitchell threaded a great pass through and I got there just ahead of the keeper to slot it into the far corner from the edge of the box. I ran the entire length of the pitch to high five Dennis Mulholland and Glen Adams. That goal gave me the confidence and belief to play the men’s game.
I wondered whether Jack came up against Brakes in his early days. We had left the Midland Alliance by that stage, but he remembers a Birmingham Senior Cup game, probably around 2008 time. I remember beating Martin Hier in the air, that’s for sure!’
I mention to Jack that I came across an old newspaper article that mentioned that his brother Ali also played for Studley. His Dad was able to drag up the game from the memory banks. ‘It was an away game, at Malvern. He played left back. You can imagine what that was like, with two of them out there. He was just as feisty!’ Jack had almost forgotten this piece of family history. ‘Ha ha, I’d completely forgotten that my brother played but I do kind of recollect. A nice family moment.’
‘Most of my memories from my time at Studley are of the dressing room. Full of absolute nutters! Dennis (Mulholland), the Adams’ family and Pete Saunders I think it was, who was also known as Muffa. My next move was to Coventry Sphinx, which was in my home town so always a good move, but it was tough to leave a club like Studley.
Long time followers of Leamington will be able to remember a number of battles against both Studley and Coventry Sphinx over the Midland Combination and Midland Alliance years. From an outsider’s perspective Sphinx always looked like a good platform for local players to make their name before kicking on. And after two years at Studley that’s what Jack did.
‘I had a good time at Sphinx. Danny McSheffrey and Lee Knibbs were manager and coach. As with Studley, Sphinx was a good club and they were both good for me in terms of my career. The pitch at Sphinx Drive was always on a slant but was a carpet at the right times of year. We did ok in my first year there but in the second we had a chance of winning the Midland Alliance title, finishing third in the end, but it was off the back of that that I was signed up by Jimmy Ginnelly and Barwell. Being recommended by respected people in the game also helped, one of those was Dennis Mulholland again. I owe him a lot.’
It was around this time that Jack was studying at Nottingham Trent University, and he seems to have enjoyed being involved with the football set up during his time there. ‘There were some of the best team atmospheres and some of the biggest games I have ever experienced. The coaching and facilities were top drawer. Alessandro Barcherini is one of the best and most passionate coaches I have had the pleasure of playing under. His appetite to learn and develop players is second to none.
‘I played alongside my commitments at Barwell, which was difficult to say the least. I captained the side to Varsity, League and Cup victories. We played against other Universities and the standard was very good. The best teams in the UK are traditionally Loughborough, Bath and Durham, so we did well during my time there. A lot of money goes into them in the way of scholarships and such like, and it is a great way to get a career having left full time football.’
On to Barwell then. There seems to be a pattern emerging here with clubs that Leamington have had some scraps with over the years, some good, some bad. There was certainly an edge to our games against Barwell in the MFA days, mainly due to the fact that we thumped them 4-0 on their own patch just a few weeks before facing them in the League Cup Final at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium, in which they triumphed 3-1, and didn’t they enjoy rubbing our noses in it. Their manager at the time was Bob Steel, who was later their P.A man bizarrely. I remember him trying to taunt us during a 3-1 Boxing Day defeat there several years back. We had the last laugh on him as a manager the season after their cup win though, ripping the trophy out of their hands by knocking them out in the first round (and going on to win it), while completing the league double over them.
Jimmy Ginnelly has always seemed to be a ‘bad guy’ in the eyes of some Brakes fans, but for the life of me I can’t remember why. Looking at his managerial career he has only done good things, first with Stockingford AA in the local leagues, before rejuvenating Atherstone Town, getting them back into the Southern League where they competed fiercely with ourselves and Nuneaton back in 2008/2009 in the Midland Division, eventually losing out to Chasetown in the play offs. No doubt James Mace and Jamie Hood would have good things to say about Jimmy, having played under him at Atherstone, and Jack is no different.
‘Barwell have always been a difficult team to play against, regardless of manager or players. Jimmy was great to me. He took a gamble on a young lower league player. I played against Barwell in the year they went unbeaten on their way to the Midland Alliance title. The invincibles under Marcus Law, so I felt the pressure of joining a club like that. I remember meeting Jimmy and Martin Hier at TGI Fridays in Coventry as a spotty 20 year old, all very daunting.
‘Jimmy is a people manager and knows his players. I played under some very good coaches whilst there and that’s what Jimmy has done well, surrounded himself with good backroom staff. Guy Hadland and Richard Lavery had a massive influence over my playing style in that time. I saw their guts and determination in the twilight of their careers and wanted to replicate it.’
I ask whether anything stands out from his time at Barwell, mentioning the utterly bizarre 6-0 scoreline at the New Windmill in our Southern League title winning season of 2012/2013 as I am sure that it will be up there!
‘We couldn’t quite believe our luck. I played left back and didn’t cross the halfway line. It was a big occasion for us and me, I hadn’t been in the the team long but nervous energy and in particular Richard Lavery, won us the game. I think he scored two that day and while I played with him in his twilight he still remains one of the best players/leaders I have played with. He was one of the most fired up players who dragged his team through. Top bloke off the pitch too, believe it or not.’
‘I cannot remember a single goal in my time at Barwell. I played in defence for the majority of my time there so that was the mindset for me.’
Fast forward to the end of the following season, and Leamington have achieved Conference North safety in their first campaign at Step 2 since the mid 1980’s. (Albeit the make up of the non league pyramid has changed significantly during that time). Jack was one of the first players signed by Paul Holleran during the close season as he earned the chance to step up once more.
‘It was hard leaving Barwell because my family were fond of the club. I took a lot of direction from Guy and Jimmy and have always been quite cautious throughout my career. I am yet to decide whether the cautious approach has got me further or held me back from playing higher.
The introduction was owed to Luke Fogarty, who never let me forget how many trips he made into Leicestershire to watch me play. Thanks Foggo!’
Jack admits that he found the step up from Northern Premier League football tough to begin with, allied to the fact that it was a tumultuous season for Brakes, with us going through many players, seven goalkeepers and eventually being relegated. Not the best of starts at a new club?
‘It was frustrating to begin with. Served me well though. Life without Tony Breeden is not worth thinking about!’
Jack gradually worked his way from the substitutes bench to become a regular starter, chipping in with a few goals too, his first coming in a 1-1 draw at home to Boston United.
The following season as we adjusted to life back in the Southern League did not begin well for Jack as he was sent off along with Joe Magunda in our second game in, a 1-0 defeat at St Neots. The discipline was a problem for the whole squad in those early months to be fair, and though Jack saw red again as the season progressed, he argues that it would be detrimental to him as a player to try and change the way he approaches games.
‘I am always learning but go into every game knowing I will be playing on the edge and if I was to change that I wouldn’t be the player I am. The biggest thing I can continue to improve is my management of referees. Some of the best pro’s talk the referee through a situation and I must remember that there are times to back down from an argument. Passion is great but it needs to be channelled.’
I wonder how Jack rates his time at Leamington compared to the other clubs he has played for.
‘My career has been a steady upward curve in terms of calibre of club. When I joined I said “if I can stay here for 10 years I will be very happy with my career”. There are fantastic people at Leamington (back room and staff), and the best teammates and management.’
Unsurprisingly the last season (2016/17) comes up when I ask about highlights of his initial 3 seasons with us.
‘My memory is synonymously bad for games and goals. Fortunately Leamington has one of the best media teams around and has captured many of my finest moments on film. Thanks Nick Leek!
‘The majority of stand out moments came in the 16/17 season: Sky Sports, Soccer AM and the title of Non League Beckham superseded any expectations. I don’t think I’ll ever top that.’
And so to this summer, and Soiled Hole Bores. Jack was confident he could have a good crack at the step up, saying ‘I’ve had the ideal start to Moors life; I’m injury free, fit as I can be and playing against some very strong first teams (some players that I watched as a kid).
Leyton Orient was a great place to make my National League debut, however, not playing on the Saturday did not do us any favours. It’s important to get rid of first day nerves and the O’s were out to redeem themselves after losing their first game.’
‘I was confident before. I’m even more confident now pre season and the first game are out the way. I knew I needed to be fit and I am in the shape of my life so bodes well.’
Sadly, for one reason or another, and we’ll leave it at that, things didn’t go to plan, and after just 4 starts and 2 substitute appearances, Jack returned to Leamington where he knows he is valued and loved, to the delight of everyone. He seems pretty happy about it too!
He wasted no time in getting stuck back into life in Gold and Black, with a couple of bookings and a goal in his first three games! He will undoubtedly improve us again as a team, while still having the target of establishing himself and Leamington in the Conference North. It’s good to have you back, Jack!