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….

Posted in Very random | Leave a comment

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?

Posted in Match days | Leave a comment

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

Nuff said

Nuff said

Posted in Very random | 1 Comment

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

Posted in Match days | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in Football deprived, Very random | Leave a comment

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”

Posted in Football deprived, Very random | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Match days | Leave a comment

Denialism: Refusal to accept an empirical, verifiable reality

After a barren spell of 21 days (twenty-one) without entering a football ground things were back on an even playing keel (keep up!) with last Satday’s trip to see the mighty Saints take on league leaders Maidenheadstone Utd. Those 21 days were of course largely filled with non-footballing, high end footballing fun and quality TLF & Mr TLF time, (apart from the four days at work obvs) but there are some things that only Clarence park can offer.
No one else debates the colour of raffle tickets with me like Duncan does. Actually no else debates the colour of raffle tickets with me at all. I do though hope for a bit more adventure in this area in 2017. Would it be so bad to rechristen the yellow raffle tickets, ‘lemon’?

There is also no company quite like my fellow Saintettes, particularly when we are co-ordinated in the knitwear department. TLF’s phone was also festooned with a new football app as recommended by Red Julie’s THS son – speedy updates for both TLF’s teams now a certainty!

A walking advert for the club shop's fine woollen items

A walking advert for the club shop’s fine woollen items

New for 2017 is percussion. Barry and Trevor were with drum. TLF has always been a bit suspicious of the need for musical instruments at football, unless someone came along with a Grand piano and set that up on the terraces, now that would be worth seeing. Anyway the reality is that even the hardest of hearts would melt at the glee and élan with which Barry was banging his drum. Unless the owner of the hard heart was a musician, then they might be quite traumatised. More importantly a drum can, when it isn’t being thumped, double as a beer table and so it brings an element of practicality to it.

"We'll name that tune in...Awhile"

“We’ll name that tune in…Awhile”

Sadly while all was bonhomie in the bar and on the terraces, it wasn’t like that on the pitch, as the Saints dominated the game but didn’t make it count (as they say in the sporting press). The third opposition goal put the tin lid on it for TLF. Still there was some fight left as the City pulled one back. Amid the celebration TLF did note that the app wasn’t updating – it still only said 1-2, not 1-3.

Still too much to do,’ was our verdict.
And then Merson bangs a 90th minute into the Maidenheadstone’s goal and we go wild. A bit too wild if you ask me, all we have done is make the score line more respectable. Now the app says 2-2.
“This app still isn’t updating.”
“Yeah I know. It’s weird.”
“And the twitter feed says we have just EQUALISED.”
“James, didn’t they score 3?”
“No the third was disallowed.”

Cue a rather delayed and wild celebration that to the casual observer has no cause.
TLF has mentioned the joy of the LME (last minute equaliser) before. But the LME you didn’t realise was an LME until a few minutes later, is even better.
If a little embarrassing.

Equaliser-denier TLF

Match Stats
St Albans city 2 Maidenheadstone Utd 2 (I think)
Attendance: 1,111
Lemon raffle tickets purchased: 10
Refreshments consumed: Some beer and some bacon fries (the former may explain TLF score line issues)

Posted in Match days | Leave a comment

21 days without football – delirium officially sets in

If you read a newspaper or for our younger readers an online media source during the festive and new year season it was hard not to escape a concerted doom-fest; a collective end of year gnashing of teeth about what a rubbish 2016 we had and just how bad 2017 could be. TLF however thinks there might be a cure; TLF is changing the calendar.

Mr TLF, currently masquerading as Mr SGTLF (spectacularly grumpy) has less ambition; he has merely vowed that he is ‘not doing January next year’. In the interests of kicking out against this post-truth world TLF should point out that’s nothing to do with an attempt at a dry January or any other pleasure-denying resolution. Rather a rubbish week involving a sickly car, unanswered emails, a lack of archery club action and first hand witnessing of an FA Cup humiliation (OFFICIAL teaser – more on that football debacle next week), and thus the month of January or Wulf-monath as the Saxons used to call it (FACT!) is written off.

TLF is happy to keep January on the payroll, even if it did get off to a slightly grim start with a defeat for the Mighty Saints and the inflicting of armchair torture in the form of a televised bore-athon draw for Lesta City. Rather the TLF plans are more about realignment, so that a year can be properly judged on what really matters – the football. The ‘calendar year’ will be binned and replaced by the ‘football season year’. It’s been done before – admittedly not since October 1582, but some traditions should be revived.

As a Foxes and Saints fan it is hard to completely roll my eyes about 2016 in the way that your average soppy, leftie likes to. For every USA election or referendum result, for every rise of intolerance thinly disguised as ‘telling the liberal elite where to get off’ and for every time experts were written off as irrelevant (an expert medical person to treat my illness? I don’t think so – jumped up educated fool! Bring me a snake oil salesman to nurse me back to health post-haste) there was Leicester City – Premier League Champions (no really) and St Albans City FC joyous relegation escape, led by a proper gaffer. So if you talk about 2015/16 then TLF can be nostalgic and cheery, happily burbling, “yes it was brilliant, amazing…best year ever. But look at 2016/17 – Brexit, Trump, Lesta flirting with relegation.”

Like any good theory I have just tested it. And the holes have been highlighted (everyone’s a critic these days…but NOT an expert), from a Mighty Saints perspective, 2016/17 hasn’t looked too shabby so far and a first ever foray into the Champions League is not to be snuffled at. Of course if the Saints’ slump continues and the European tour ends with abject humiliation at the hands of Sevilla then the theory might be back on…..But for now TLF will embrace the Gregorian and just accept that like every other year 2017 will have some good bits and some sh1t bits, like all years before it. And maybe some of those bits won’t even involve football.
Pope Gregory Fox XIII

Posted in Football deprived, Very random | Leave a comment

Not a new year’s message

Writing a little ramble on New Year’s Eve should in theory be easy. There’s two ways to do it; in the morning, all nice and sober quick review of the year, preview of the impending 12 months and bosh! all done. Or wait until very un-sober, take an inappropriate photo and post that, accompanied by suitably erudite missive along the lines of appynooyear. yourrrrgreaTLFlovezzzzzyou.

TLF will however be eschewing (BOOM!) this approach. Levels of high dudgeon, are so…well high, after Boxing day football results that all pronouncements are suspended until after Lesta’s last result of 2016 (31 Dec) and the Mighty Saints first result of 2017 (1 Jan).
Christmas was once again spent with the NPiDWDLFs – nice people in Dorset who don’t like football. For once their total disinterest and the speed at which they chuck the sports section of the paper in the recycling was quite welcome. No one to note wryly on Boxing Day that, “this makes two games on the trot that St Albans have conceded four goals” or that, “Lesta could go from Champions League to Championship in the blink of an eye.”

TLF was keen not to try and convert them under such circumstances either and stayed focussed on an equally pressing matter, i.e. revenge for the Xmas day girls v boys TP defeat. TP? Trivial Pursuit – do keep up. This time the boys were without their star striker who had retired to bed early and they struggled in the face of a red-wine fuelled team that were not to be denied. The 6 cheeses to 1 humiliation was helped by some atrocious defending (channel your inner Alan Hansen and say those words again) by Mr TLF who on no less than two occasions diverted the metaphorical TP ball into his own net, whimsically pondering out loud the answers to questions that the opposition were struggling with.

Let’s hope that the opponents of the Foxes and Saints are equally generous in the next 24 hours.
2016 Fox

Posted in Very random | Leave a comment