I predict a diet

With half marathon training hamstrung, by well, a hamstring, it has become clear that the less there is of TLF on 11 June the better. Particularly as if the worse comes to the worse, Julie will be dragging me round by my ears.

That means calorie counting via an App has become a crucial part of the TLF regime. It was fine in theory but after a very successful first 24 hours, the first hurdle came into view…that second leg Champions League fixture against Seville and only 650 calories left to devote to the game and all associated rituals. The obvious answer of course would be to eschew (BOOM!) the lucky bacon fries, the lucky foam crocodiles (that’s very specific to Lesta not my other City) and the booze. BUT dilly ding, dilly dong, as they don’t say round these parts any more; we are in Champions League man. Initially guilt outweighed hedonism. Dinner destination was Zizzi’s on the grounds that it does a pizza under 550 calories, which washed down with a nice fizzy water would leave TLF within calorie limits and loitering on the moral high ground.

Except, the Zizzi menu does make a big thing about their very fine Argentinean Malbec. Faced with this kind of pressure, combined with the pre-match nerves I turned for support to Mummy TLF via text. She assured me that alcohol was an essential for all football and theatre related meals. And in turn, I always think it is essential to respect the views of your parents. Two Malbecs and a Stella essential to be precise.

A bit of anaesthetic was probably not a bad idea that night. You all know the story, the best atmosphere in that ground ever, an early home goal, a bit of theatre resulting in a sending off, another goal, a penalty…SAVED!!!!!!!! What you may have missed was TLF’s hand injury where the eight person celebratory bundle for Lesta’s second goal led to someone’s tooth (not sure whose) and a TLF digit coming into close contact, with slightly bloody consequences for the digit……if it hadn’t been for those extra calories I might have fainted.

And faint we nearly did when that final whistle went and we realised that the mess, contradiction and infuriating wonder that is Lesta City were in the quarter finals of the Champions League. It was time to dust off the “it’s a once in a life time experience” excuse and get TLF booked on a flight and into a Madrid hotel without consultation and within 30 minutes of the draw being made.

I predict a riot.

Happy-to-be-there-and-nothing-to-lose Fox

Yep, like a big kid, TLF really did write out that last eight list

Yep, like a big kid, TLF really did write out that last eight list

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“Now ’tis spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted; Suffer them now and they’ll o’ergrow the garden”

Manager of the Mighty Saints, Ian Allison, is clearly a man who likes to do his spring cleaning early. Don’t get me wrong, TLF likes a good vernal equinox tidy up, but tends to wait until Easter before hoovering and dusting under things rather than round things. And then of course there is the wardrobe clearout; good ruthless hour of condemning garments that haven’t been worn for the last six months to the charity shop bag. I mean how many replica football shirts and t-shirts…does…a…TLF…… nooooo not that one – that’s like from the year we went mad in Brum about the 1998 world cup…….and oh no…not that one…I know I don’t support AEK Athens but I bought it from their club shop on my 40th birthday trip to Athens……and yes I know I never wear that one anymore but it’s the year we got promoted….maybe if I fold them up smaller??

There is no such faffing and sentimentality with the aforementioned proper gaffer, who perhaps inspired by what has been a rather dismal 2017 so far for the Mighty Saints and with perhaps a nod to William Shakespeare’s bon mots, parts company with three players the week of the Ebbsfleet game. It’s a bit of a shock, three players in one go – all associated with better days – not unlike some of those t-shirts at the back of the wardrobe, that REALLY don’t get worn anymore and can’t even play the ‘football memorabilia’ card. Birmingham Uni Ents Crew long sleever anyone?

There is more to come though. The following day we are told that Louis Theophanous has been sold to Chelmsford. It feels a bit like TLF giving away the lucky (and grubby) Champions League lucky shirt.

The proof of the success of a good spring clean though is what follows. In the case of TLF’s wardrobe assault there’s a good six weeks of positivity; enough time for some new arrivals (we await the Deportivo Guadalajara Rainbow home shirt with bated breath) and the filing system:

  • Football (Lesta and St Albans)
  • Football (other)
  • Other sports
  • Fairport Convention
  • Music (other)
  • Snoopy
  • Fictional characters (other)

……..to deteriorate as TLF remembers that life is too short for tidying your t-shirts, but it was nice while it lasted.

Sadly St Albans City don’t even look tidy for a full 90 minutes. A 3-0 home defeat to Ebbsfleet isn’t unexpected – they are after all pretty much a full time team and to be fair Saints players were probably in shock at the news of Red Julie’s eschewing (BOOM!) of alcohol until after our June half-marathon (TLF is working up to this training technique….). BUT a 4-0 away defeat to Gosport, who languish in the bottom three, doesn’t leave anyone with a spring in their step.

Those who witnessed that little debacle are Mad as March Hares, and not in a good way. TLF is saved the humiliation by selflessly dedicating herself to Mr TLF’s birthday.

Persephone Fox (step AWAY from the pomegranate)



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A brazen plug

No, not of the 13 amp variety, draped in something unseemly and making eyes at you. Nor indeed a shameless foreign two pronged specimen, with a saucy manner. No, this is simply TLF in begging mode…..

I was hoping I might prevail on you for a contribution to a GOOD CAUSE. Not TLF’s Stella and bacon fries fund (charity commission registration pending), although that is not to suggest that such a destination for donations wouldn’t fall into the GOOD CAUSE bracket…

No, TLF is after a contribution from your hard earned in the interests of Stand By Your Saints. This you may remember is the supporters group striving to make our football club more accessible and welcoming for all our residents and improving links with community groups in the local area.

As any fule kno, who regularly reads this ramble, the lower echelons of the football pyramid are not all prawn sandwiches, padded seats and ambrosia on draft. Money is tight and that means the little things that aren’t essential but can make a difference as to whether the place is welcoming for young families and new fans; like a re-redecorated club house (less tatty, more friendly) or baby changing facilities (never sure what you change the baby for, but there you go), fall to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list…unless people get off their bums and do something about it.

Getting off our bums is precisely the quid pro quo you get for clicking on the link below and donating. Did I mention I was after your moolah, your dosh, your wonga, your filthy lucre? Red Julie and I will be running the St Albans half marathon in June….one of us is currently hamstrung and the other is facing her first ever 13.1 mile run, but either way we will get round.

Please, if this blog ever made you smile (or even cry) if you could donate I would be grateful. I promise none of it will go on Stella, quite the opposite in fact as I think that this challenge will require TLF to eschew (BOOM!) the regular tipple. Well once the football season is over…goals should always be achievable after all.

Farah Fox

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What has the Roman ever done for us?

I’m starting to think that it wasn’t ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’. That F and C were actually intended to give us ‘Monty Python’s Football Club’ and they were merely the silly pilot for the even more daft Lesta City FC. After a particularly surreal footballing week for TLF I have turned to their classic film, Life of Brian to try and keep looking on the bright side of life (BOOMBOOM!)

The interior of a Spanish hotel suite, possibly in Andalusia. A darkened room with a very conspiratorial atmosphere. Two men who some might think could be related be father and son are seated at a table at one end of the room. They are using their code names, Reg and Stan. Around them are five MASDRFs (masked activist senior dressing room figures), dressed in blue.

Stan: So we land at East Midlands airport, lure him away from the queue for quarantine with an offer of celebratory away goal pizza and then having grabbed Filbert Fox we inform Claudio that Filbert is in our custody and forthwith issue our demands. Any questions?

MASDRF1: What exactly are the demands?

Reg: We’re giving Claudio two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of the Roman Imperialist Miracle Workers state, reinstate chicken burgers, drop Ahmed Musa from the starting XI and if he doesn’t agree immediately we execute Filbert.

MASDRF2: Cut his furry head off?

Stan: Cut all his furry bits off, send ‘em back every hour on the hour…show him we’re not to be trifled with.

Reg: Also we are demanding a ten foot mahogany statue of Nigel Pearson with his c*ck hanging out.

MASDRF2: What? He’ll never agree to that.

Reg: That’s just a bargaining chip. And of course we point out that he and his followers bear full responsibility when Filbert gets chopped up, and…… we shall not submit to blackmail.

Omnes (Applause): No blackmail!

Reg: He’s raised our expectations, the b@stard, made us take him to our hearts. Not just us but our fathers and our fathers’ fathers.

Stan: And our fathers’ fathers’ fathers.

Reg: Yes.

Stan: And our fathers’, fathers’, fathers’ fathers.

Reg: All right Stan. Don’t labour the point. And what has the Roman ever given us in return?

MASDRF3: A modern football fairytale

Reg: Oh yeah, yeah, he gave us that. Yeah. That’s true.

MASDRF4: Champions league qualification.

Stan: Oh yes, Reg, you remember what the City used to be like; rubbish most of the time!

Reg: Alright, I’ll grant you that giving us a modern football fairytale and champions league qualification are the two things that the Roman has done…..

MASDRF4: And winning the Premier League title…

Reg: (sharply) Well yes obviously winning the premier league title…winning the premier league title goes without saying. But apart from a modern football fairytale, champions league qualification and winning the premier league title…

MASDRF5: Worldwide recognition

Other masked voices: Improved contracts……murals in the city…..BBC Sports personality Team of the year…..an over-subscribed celebratory exhibition at the City’s museum

MASDRF near the front: And dilly ding dilly dong

Omnes: Oh yes! True!

Stan: Yeah. That’s something we’d really miss if the Roman left.

MASDRF1: Andrea Bocelli singing at our final game of the season!

Reg: All right…all right…but apart from a modern football fairy tale, champions league qualification, winning the premier league title, worldwide recognition, improved contracts, murals in the city, BBC Sports personality Team of the year award, an over-subscribed celebratory exhibition at the City’s museum, dilly ding dilly dong and Andreas Bocelli singing at our final game of the season what has the Roman done for us?

MASDRF2: Bought happiness.

Reg: (very angry, he’s not having a good meeting at all) What!? Oh….
(scornfully) Happiness, yes….shut up!


Heartbroken-but-need-to-be-pragmatic Fox

Bestest Roman ever....

Bestest Roman ever….

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And another thing!

“All your teams are sh1t Soph.”

That was Ray’s cheerful assessment of TLF’s footballing fortunes prior to The Mighty Saints home game against Bath (that’s Bath without an ‘r’ remember). I didn’t have the heart to correct the “all” and point out that technically it’s ‘both your teams are sh1t Soph”, because however much I come over all TLF Pedant, the fact remains that both of them currently are…..very, very, very sh1t.

Fortunately there is with football at Clarence Park always a silver lining to the results-shaped cloud and on that particular day it came in the form of the pre-match entertainment, with 90 minutes of sweeping generalisations, putting the world to rights and some high class end to end ranting. TLF mistakenly had a little dalliance with some trivia in the pre-rant warm up. And can I say that just because I remembered the name of the previous Barton that played in the Premier League (Warren) it does not mean my head is full of the aforementioned waste product (see paras 1 and 2 above). But I guess that’s the kind of abuse you get for showboating.

After that no subject was off limits and while there is a temptation to pick a weakened side when no points are at stake there was no second string team in the club house on this occasion; the usual Saintettes line up boosted by the addition of Lisa. There did come a point when we worried we might be turning into our mums or possibly our grans, but we agreed that the musical backdrop to this would be more Prodigy than Max Bygraves and no one was in danger of ordering a house coat just yet…..In short:

The younger generation don’t know they are born.
They are also not always that canny – pleading poverty to your mum about having no money for food doesn’t work when your drink fuelled nights out are posted all over Instagram.
And we’re not surprised you can’t cook if cookery lessons aren’t like they were in our day – we didn’t get where we are today rolling out frozen pastry. We learned the rubbing in method and we were grateful!
And teachers! Well they are far too young these days. They were OLD when we were at school.

It’s a shame we had to stop and watch the game really…we were just warming up – education policy in general was just about to get a good kicking..but no we had to go and watch St Albans get a good kicking.

There was some momentary respite at half time when TLF was put in charge of the shop while our erstwhile multi-tasking shopkeeper and programme editor took a comfort break. I get the impression that TLF was not first choice in the deputy shopkeeper stakes; the look he gave me kind of said, “stand there and don’t touch anything.”

Mind you I was more solid behind that counter than City’s defence. I’d ask for my money back, but ranting of that quality was cheap at half the price.

“It didn’t happen in my day” Fox

Match stats:
St Albans 1 Bath City 4
Re-fuelling:pre-match sausage roll from Hatch, 1 pkt bacon fries, 3 pints Stella, 1 Carlsberg.
Wasted raffle and goalden goal opportunities: 12
Items sold while on shop duty: Nil

Would you  buy a used scarf from this TLF?

Would you buy a used scarf from this TLF?

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Only one team in the top 4 English Divisons has yet to score a league goal in 2017…

Nuff said

Nuff said

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Singing in the rain II

“And IIIIIIIIIIIIII will always loooooove youuuuuuuuu,” rings out in a not very melodic fashion around Clarence Park.

It was a cold and spectacularly WET evening for the visit of Welling and Whitney Houston was on trend on the terraces. Pretty much just that line. That could have been a bit dull but in the interests of variety it was interspersed with, “oooh Sammy Sammy”, a heartfelt but once again lyrically limited homage to Sam Merson to the tune of that Wilson Pickett classic, “Sugar Sugar”.

It wasn’t clear what was inspiring this new musical interlude – water on the brain? Or more likely Carlsberg on special offer? The former certainly doesn’t make winter week night football very attractive and comfort levels were further reduced by a certain lack of preparation on the part of TLF, who was armed with a very small brolly that offered minimal protection to its owner and was dwarfed by the rather more practical and companion-friendly beast of an umbrella, wielded by Julie.

Umbrella ownership may keep you dry (well ish) but it does dampen (BOOMBOOM!) your celebrations in response to your team’s goal scoring exploits. Umbrellas are an awkward shape, with spiky bits and they occupy one arm. As a result you can’t indulge in the usual manic celebrations; instead you have to make do with a small jig and a shake of the aforementioned parapluie…Gene Kelly would be turning in his grave at our lack of finesse and movement. You also can’t eat, in a very neat or satisfactory fashion, a bacon cob when holding an umbrella. Fortunately Julie is on hand (see what I did there) and able to oversee two umbrellas so TLF can be briefly undercover and yet hands free thus avoiding loss of any bacon, bread or stray onions.

The other fortunate thing about this damp Tuesday evening in Hertfordshire was that the Mighty Saints put the ball in the net three times, while the opposition could only manage it twice. There is probably a water-related joke in there about leaky defences but I don’t want to push my luck.

By the end of the game my feet are numb, my work trousers have proved to not be ideal winter terrace wear and my rucksack, which cannot fit under the protective umbrella zone, is so wet it will take 24 hours to dry out but I have just seen a first win in seven games. And that’s why a damp Tuesday evening really can be the greatest love of all. I’m not so emotional that I want to dance with somebody (I couldn’t…the brolly would get in the way) but come on, it is only one moment in time….Now what’s that about water on the brain?
Houston Fox

Match Stats
St Albans 3 Welling Utd 2
Attendance: 397
Consumption: 1 bacon cob, 2 bargain priced Carlsbergs
Losing bits of soggy paper shoved in a pocket: 10 raffle, 1 goalden goal

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A grand day in

There was a time when TLF didn’t worry about being resident in a FFZ on a weekend during the football season.

There was a time when TLF would be happily ensconced in a domestic setting; warm and toasty in front of Grandstand.

And that’s probably the giveaway really. That was a time when TLF was about 8 years old and could be kept entertained by Frank Bough, Des Lynham, old school rugby union and the vidi-printer, while domestic activities went on in the background. Fast forward 40 years and Grandstand is long gone and worse still TLF can’t sit in ignorant bliss with regard to the domestic malarkey. And last weekend was all about domesticity.

Fortunately the backdrop was none too bad there was only one City to worry about; Lesta having delayed the inevitable humiliating FA Cup defeat by scraping a draw with loathed East Midlands rivals the night before. The Mighty Saints were away at Concord and TLF has never really seen the attraction of Canvey Island if I’m honest and so it was me, the hoover and the FA Cup on FiveLive. Oh and Mr TLF of course.

First up the bedroom – hoovering and dusting doesn’t get much tougher than this. And I’m not talking about one of those wimpy flick a duster in the general direction of a shelf and run the Dyson round a bit of carpets. Noooo, this was like an epic cup battle – a replay settled by penalties, with all items moved and hoovered under, skirting boards dusted and cobwebs eliminated. Fortunately that all goes a lot quicker when accompanied by an early morning shock Cup exit. The mundane is much easier when listening to the unexpected. Sorry Jurgen but in the event that you take on the hoovering Chez Klopp I think you might just agree with me.

The kitchen is the setting for the 3pm kick offs and TLF’s Tupperware draw audit (TRUST ME, it needed doing) is rewarded with some early potential giant killing goals by Lincoln and Wycombe Wanderers. After that it’s all about the lasagne. And the football. And the Cup drama and over-excited commentators. And the wine – essential that a chef has a small accompaniment to keep them going. It might be the wine that inspires me to keep yelling football updates up the stairs to Mr TLF – well important to keep him involved.

The lasagne is a triumph. Lincoln cause a Cup upset, Wycombe have their hearts broken but for those of us employed in domestic drudgery it’s a fine distraction.

See – TLFs can do domestic Saturdays.

But they probably need to be the exception not the rule.

Homemaker and a bit late with this Fox

Bon apetit!

Bon apetit!

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Tempestuous Times

Last weekend was all about kulture. Probably for the best seeing as the Mighty Saints were defeated by the wintery conditions and had an unexpected weekend off while Lesta were yet again doing their best to be the more recognisable Lesta City (the rubbish one; rather than the premier league winning one). Fortunately TLF was Stratford bound for another look at the Tempest. It was a restricted view look (last three tickets available) but still worth it, as this production has finally sold to TLF a play that has never previously blown me away (BOOMBOOM!).

I do get a bit worried at the end though… Is Prospero being a bit too naive that it is all going to end happily ever after? If you were his best mate, you might want to ask him a few questions:
“Are you sure you want to forgive your usurping brother?
And go back to the country still ruled over by the King who helped your brother do his usurping?
And the whole breaking your magic staff thing? Dramatic yes but perhaps unwise in what are likely to be uncertain times?
Er…and maybe not the book!”

There is a big risk it won’t end well and some evidence from the word of football potentially gives you an insight into how things might go awry for Propspero in ‘The Tempest Part II, Caliban’s Revenge’. Think about it:

Last season, the magician Claudio, successfully plots revenge against those who have previously usurped or dismissed him. A man cast adrift and written off is assisted by a whole team of Ariels to turn the world order on its head and create a little bit of football magic and warm fuzzy feelings; everybody loves him and he is in receipt of honorary degrees and acknowledgement from his peers.

A season later and Claudio’s confidence is mis-placed. His bestest Ariel has been sold to the Duke of Chelsea, and those that remain are all turning a bit Caliban. The magic staff while not broken only seems to work in foreign climes and the current inhospitable climate surrounding the island that is Filbert Way is no longer within the magician’s control.
And before you think TLF has really lost the plot (well technically I have invented a new one), just remember; the name of Propspero’s usurping brother?
The name of the manager whose team currently sit top of the Premier League?

TLF rests her case.
Weathering the storm Fox

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep"

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep”

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Derby day drama

Dateline: 14 January 2017, 14:00
We are heading towards enemy territory
Worse than that, our travelling companions are the enemy.
Tension is in the air and the usually gregarious THS are monosyllabic. It is Hemel v the Mighty Saints and no one wants to contemplate defeat. Or worse, the thought of travelling home in the same car as the victors.

On the plus side it is unlikely that TLF will suffer a repeat of last week’s score line affliction. For not only is the car silent. It is also sober. This local derby is segregated so the Saints fans cannot experience the joys of Hemel hospitality. I had considered an early drink chez TLF Towers or maybe en route (admittedly a very short route) but the words in the pre-match information, ‘Temporary’, ‘Toilet’ and ‘Facilities’ (or two portaloos as I think they really meant) had rather dulled the TLF appetite for liquid refreshment.

This was TLF’s debut at Hemel and as a huge fan of Fantastic Mr Fox (or FMF as true believers know him), I really wanted Hemel to not be owned by a Boggins…but by a Boggis, Roald Dahl’s evil chicken farmer. I do think though that even with astray letter ‘n’, he would fit one of Dahl’s stories; he has the hair, stature and hi-vis jacket for it.

Local derbies are funny things. And Satday was no exception. The start though was all a bit not funny ha-ha, and more, funny WTF? The sobriety element certainly fed into that category; however it was knocked into a non-comedy cocked hat by the utterly NOT funny, NOT big and NOT clever chucking of two flares (smoking variety not pantaloon) onto the pitch in front of our stand as the players walked out onto the pitch. The two tossers (in every sense of the word), when challenged by a steward attempted first some feeble denial and then offered up a poor case for why they shouldn’t be removed from the ground. Neither strategy worked, in part no doubt to the fury of the Saints fans around them who made clear their displeasure at the sequence of events and suggested a speedy exit from the ground would be best all round. I like to think that TLF has a sense of humour and mischief but chucking a flare is dangerous, pointless, gets the club fined and let’s remember we are at a small non-league ground in Hertfordshire not the Turk Telecom Arena.

With that unwelcome distraction out of the way, our attentions turned back to the game, while of course complementing our hosts on the picturesque nature of their ground, the desirability of Hemel as a town to make your home and the intellect of its residents. We were also very generous in provision of advice to Hemel’s drummer as to options for where he or she might like to store their drumsticks. The eagle eyed will have noted last week that WE had a drum, but of course your own drum is of course a different kettle (BOOMBOOM!) of fish. (With thanks to Russell Wallman for that fine pun, which I have snared from an email he sent to me).

To return to an earlier sentence, local derbies are funny things. Particularly when your team scores a 94th minute equaliser. That makes it honours even this season as the reverse fixture in September saw the same score line but with a last minute Hemel equaliser. Déjà vu on the pitch and slightly more bonhomie in the car home.
Sober Fox

Match Stats
Hemel Hempstead 2 St Albans City 2
Attendance: 856
Refreshments: A coffee. Seriously. Oh and 2 Percy Pigs – we know how to party.

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