Grimsby – Ownership transformation.

(This will be going into the Squires Gate programme for my National League piece).

In my initial National League article for the club’s matchday programme I spoke about the ownership changes that some clubs have undergone throughout the past few months. One of these being Grimsby Town as John Fenty was replaced by Jason Stockwood and Andrew Pettit who are looking to transform the atmosphere around Blundell Park, in turn getting the Mariners back to the Football League following their relegation after a devastating 2020/21 campaign.

I spoke to Grimsby supporter Aaron Rattray to get a fan’s perspective on the changes they’ve completed thus far, before they went on to beat Eastleigh 2-0 on Saturday afternoon.

First of all, what were your initial thoughts when the new owners came in and could you tell us a little bit about their business and sporting background?

I think everybody was very happy, relieved and excited when after what seemed an eternity John Fenty finally sold up, John Fenty has presided over the club during its darkest days and there was no light at the end of the tunnel under him, in fact the dark tunnel was getting even longer! John and his mates successfully managed to alienate over 90% of the fan base and the vast majority of fans can and will never forgive Fenty for the damage he caused the club. 

Jason Stockwood is a very successful businessman having held senior positions at, and Skyscanner, and more recently Simply Business, an insurance company in London, Jason has been voted the best boss to work for for 2 years in a row, which provides evidence he knows how to treat people unlike Fenty who only knew how to alienate people.

Andrew Pettit like Jason, is from Grimsby but made their name outside of Grimsby, Andrew is a founding partner of Revcap, a private equity real estate business, Neither of them has any sporting background and neither has claimed to be experts in sport, their approach is very much let Paul Hurst be in charge of the football stuff and they take care of the business away from football with the help of newly appointed CEO Debbie Cook.

What did you really want them to change and what have they changed in the first few months that they’ve been here? How has this impacted the atmosphere around the club?

The entire club needed a total reset from top to bottom, we had an amateur set-up with a ticketing system which was so far behind the times it was not fit for any purpose, we had a training ground which was basically a few porta cabins and a piece of grass which was never cared for, a rotten match day experience which was a bad experience more than anything, terrible food, terrible drink, literally everything to do with the club was rotten. The new owners has been in post for just 5 months but already in that time we have an up to date ticketing system on par with what other professional clubs offer, the training ground has been totally revamped and actually looks like a professional football club’s training ground now which it did not before, the match day experience is much better now with the introduction of a fan zone, and vastly improved catering facilities which are provided by local businesses on a rotational basis so you are guaranteed a different menu every match!

It was obviously gutting to be back in the National League. However, how important was it to have a successful summer to gain some positive momentum before the new campaign started?

It is always imperative to have a successful summer, especially after relegation, the new owners immediately set about making vast improvements, a few of which I have mentioned above. Within a week of them taking over we had a totally new board of directors with everybody who was part of Fenty’s board leaving. The deeply unpopular stadium manager Nick Dale who was also Fenty’s mate departed the club shortly after the takeover was complete, we have a new CEO and new COO on top of this, so it really is a total change off the pitch and on it! In the 3 home games so far, attendances have more than doubled from what they were pre-covid, evidence that the New owners has got the rest of the fanbase onside.

What was the new owners first summer of transfer recruitment like? Was there a lot that needed to be done and would you have liked much more to have happened?

We needed an entire change off the pitch and on the pitch, off the pitch I have already spoken about but on the pitch has been a summer of recruitment with Paul Hurst making 15 signings so far, and we still have the number 9 shirt vacant so more to come at some point!

In our last piece together, you told me about how much you’d like Paul Hurst to be given what he wants within reason. What are your thoughts on the new returning manager thus far and are you excited about the upcoming months? 

I have always thought that if he is given the tools to do the job then Paul Hurst will do the job, he got us promoted last time when Fenty was trying to hold him back, so what can he do now that he has greater backing from the new owners? he also achieved success at Shrewsbury, they were bottom of the league when he took over and he took them from bottom to mid table, and the following season he defied expectations and made the league 1 play off final. He then went onto Ipswich in the Championship where he was admittedly very much out of his depth, he then went on to a manage Scunthorpe who are in disarray, although he was sacked by Scunthorpe, the majority of Scunthorpe fans do believe he was harshly sacked. Now in the national league I do believe Hurst is more than capable of getting us back into the football league.

Currently Grimsby are in the top four and they’ve beaten good sides in the form of Wrexham and Torquay etc. What are your thoughts on the new squad and their footballing ability? Do you believe that it’s greatly important to have a good start and could you tell us a bit about the attitude of the players through games as they’ve now won three consecutive league games whilst conceding first?

If you look at many of the predictions from pundits and other fans alike you will see not many of them had Grimsby down as promotion contenders, most of them predicted mid table on the basis we have not made any “big” signings like Chesterfield, Wrexham and Stockport has, we have gone about our business quietly under the radar, which is how Hurst works, he quietly puts together a quality squad, Hurst’s teams has always been heavily focused on character and attitude, at the time of writing we have won 3 consecutive games despite falling behind in all of those games, evidence that the squad does have a lot of the character and never say die attitude Hurst prides himself on. Early days still of course but it is that attitude and character which has helped raise optimism and hopes among the fans, one hopes that this continues and let’s see if it can end up in promotion! I have no doubt Paul Hurst is more than capable of delivering that!

All in all, how much have the owners changed the club and do you believe there is a chance of a promotion back to the football league at first time of asking? 

I have spoken heavily about the changes on and off the pitch in the answers above, to put it simply, the club is totally unrecognisable now compared to what it was under Fenty. is Promotion achievable? yes of course it is!

And touching on the national league for a second, what clubs do you expect to be up there come May and who has been your standout opponents this far?

8, You would certainly expect to see Wrexham, Stockport, Chesterfield etc being up there judging by the money they have spent, but despite spending a fraction of what they have spent, why can’t we be up there also come the end of season?

Other National League results this weekend –

Bromley 2 Barnet 0, Halifax 3 Stockport 0, Notts County 1 Maidenhead 0, Solihull Moors 3 Boreham Wood 1, Torquay United 1 Southend United 0, Wealdstone 2 Aldershot Town 2, Wrexham 1 Dagenham 0, Yeovil Town 0 Chesterfield 2, Weymouth 1 Dover Athletic 1.

Birkenhead Venture Boxing Club, an interview.

Birkenhead Venture Boxing Club. A conversation with Sean Trodden.

As I’m about to start my Sports Journalism course at John Moores University, something that I really wanted to do this summer was get into more sports as I live for football. Tennis is one I’ve picked up through the success of Emma Radacanu and Novak Djokovic the past few months, F1 has got me gripped and I also can’t wait for the great Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury fights. 

On Thursday afternoon, I had the great pleasure of meeting the owner of Birkenhead’s Venture boxing club in Sean Trodden. He showed me around the gym, including the seven extensions he’s been building! We then spoke about a range of boxing subjects, before we had some time to talk about the club we both support in Tranmere Rovers.

Just to start our conversation off, could you tell us what your role at Birkenhead Venture boxing club is and what responsibilities your role entails?

I’m the head coach, the competition secretary and the founder of Birkenhead Venture since it’s rebirth in the early 2000’s. I oversee everything and do my best to ensure that everything is being run properly. I’m the electrician, the cleaner but my main responsibility is to ensure that all classes run smoothly, making sure all the boxers are ready to fight and making the matches for them also. The matches have to be even so it’s safe and that’s why you get boxers that fall into different categories. I oversee everything really.

How would you describe your history with boxing, how did you first fall in love with the sport?

My dad ran the club from 1979, I used to come down as a small boy with my brother and him. He used to do the coaching, it was a good break for my mum as she was able to get us out of the house! I used to play rugby at Birkenhead Park, in the same team as Austin Healey who has since became a star for England. He was a good mate of mine really. So, I was just coming down to get fit for rugby but then I got the bug from being in the gym with my dad. I had my first boxing competition when I was 14, in 1987. I had three or four contests in school. I went from being nervous to wanting more through training with other boxers in the gym and building up my confidence. So, I had ten contests over fifteen years. It all morphed from there. 

Was being a boxing coach something that you ever really wanted to do?

I didn’t really want to be a coach but when my dad opened it with me there were a few other coaches that came over from the original club who weren’t up to much, I felt that it would all soon fall flat on its face. So, I took the bull by the horns and caught the bug for it. I went through all of my coaching badges, I couldn’t think of doing anything else now. 

How long does it take to get those badges? What do you need if you want to undertake them?

The first step is level 1, ‘England boxing coach’. You’ve got to be registered for that as you’ve got to have your DBS, be trained in child protection and have your first aid course. Once you’ve got those in place you can then start the course. Then you’ve got to be in the gym, working for so long until you can move on to level 2, 3, 4 and so on. It takes a few years to get up to a good standard but your learning on the job, so to speak.

To touch on exercise and the importance it plays on mental health etc, you take a look around the boxing club and you’ll see people of all ages and genders. So how important do you believe having a good fitness session is for everyone?

I think it’s vitally important because mental health is getting noticed a lot more now. Personally, I don’t suffer from anything too bad mentally but I think exercise plays a part in that. I had keyhole surgery in November on a hernia, I couldn’t train so I was feeling a bit low but when I got back into it I started to feel more upbeat. My hernia then popped again so I had to get an open surgery. I’m at the end now of a 15 week lay-off. I feel ratty and lethargic and have put 2 stone back on from the original 4 stone that I lost. So, it all adds to the negativity. Whereas I know next week that I’m back on it again next week and I’m looking forward to that. So, from my own experience and those of people that I socialise with I know there’s a massive link between exercise and feeling more positive, confident and upbeat.

Who are your favourite boxers and what are some of the greatest fights that you’ve had the pleasure of watching live?

It’s like groundhog day for me as I’m all boxing shows all the time, the season’s just kicked off so we’re out four/five nights a week. We’ve got championships coming up. I love Mike Tyson, I loved his style and I think that if a peak Mike Tyson had stayed on it mentally then he’d have been the greatest ever. I still believe that he is because I loved his style and his character. There’s so many great fights spanning a lot of eras, I just love exciting and evenly matched fights as they’re always good to watch.

If someone is hearing about this boxing club for the first time through this interview, how would you convince them to come here?

I may be slightly biased but I think that this club is a hidden gem, I think that you’ll agree with that as I know you were taken aback by the size of the club when you came walking through the doors. We’ve got a full size boxing gym, with three full size boxing rings in. We’ve got all the changing facilities, for male, female and the disabled. We’ve got a full strength conditioning room. There’s a big cardiovascular suite and a treatment room with saunas in. I think a lot of people just don’t know we’re here because of the location, even though we’re slightly popular I’d still say that we’re relatively unknown. We’re bursting out of the property really and that’s a testament to the work that I and others have put in, I’m really proud of the place.

What are the sessions here, in terms of the numbers that are on and the coaches that you have helping out. How would you say that you adapt to the different skill ranges that people have?

There’s a session from Monday-Saturday, 7am-1pm, which is an open gym so you can come in and do your own thing. It’s quite an easy mellow place to train, there’s no show offs and no people with massive muscles in vest tops! On an evening, Monday, Wednesday, Friday we’ve got a junior class from 7 years onwards at 6pm which has proved to be very very popular. The other day there was 84 at this session and we had 70-odd last night. It’s a fun-based introduction to the sport, anyone with potential will move up to the squad class which are on the same days. It’s tough but everyone’s free to join in, through that people will move on to Championships etc. For females, Monday and Thursday evenings 7.30pm-8.30pm with Darren Hanley. There’s a ladies circuit class on Sunday’s at 10.30am-11.30am.

Talking about Tranmere for a little moment, as we’re both Rovers fans. What impact do you think Mellon will have upon his return and what have you made of the current squad so far?

Last season wasn’t great, I wasn’t Keith Hill’s biggest fan. I’m no football expert but I know what it’s like to be entertained, he promised us free-flowing football and we got something which was far from it. I’ve been looking forward to this season, I go to all the home games but I’ve only been to Rochdale away this season in terms of away games. There were so many fans there, 1500/1600, whom I felt that the team let down a tiny bit. I think that we should start playing more attacking football. I think the recruitment has been relatively poor but I think we’ve brought in a few good players so I can see the season improving if we manage to build up some positive momentum. Nicky Maynard looks sharp, he’ll score goals in this league. I love Micky Mellon but there’s something that hasn’t clicked thus far.

Micky Mellon is someone who knows and buys into this area which I think stands him in good stead with the fanbase, similar to yourself and what this boxing club stands for.

He knows it. He feels it. He’s one of us even though he’s from Scotland but I believe that he could probably attack more games than he does.

Are there any current success stories from people within this gym that we should keep an eye out on?

Within the lockdown period I had more time to reassess everything, I felt that some things had stagnated so I came up with a roadmap. I put some points down that we had to improve on and more or less everyone bought into the ideas that I had. The coaching team that we have now has a really good ethos and is very tight knit. It’s almost like a wand of fate has been spread as everyone is on fire, it’s very encouraging. At the moment, we’ve got lads in the schoolboy championships. Three are in the quarters and another via a bye has progressed into the semis. All of these fights will be happening in Croxteth on Saturday, there’s a 70-seater bus going from Birkenhead North and there’s a great buzz around the place. We’ve got Ben Burnham making his pro-debut a week on Friday, and things are getting exciting again. You only need to look at the walls for photos of Birkenhead’s boxing history and all of our coaches buy into that.

To finish our conversation, what is your ultimate goal, is there a boxing legacy that you’d like to create which stems from those early stories that your dad would tell you?

I just want to make sure that when I ‘pop my clogs’ there’s a legacy for not only what we’ve done here but for anyone that wants to study Birkenhead boxing and they click the website and it’s all there for them. I used to get stories told to me by my dad, unfortunately he passed away in 2015 and I’m passing my knowledge on so for in many, many years a greatly respected club is passed on to safe, careful hands. 

Birkenhead Venture Boxing Club. You can find more about them via

Salford City F.C – Meeting the opposition.

Salford City – Meeting the opposition.

It’s fair to say that Tranmere’s season has started in a frustrating manner, it would also be fair to use those same words when talking about the upcoming visitors to Prenton Park in Salford City. Thus, Saturday brings an encounter in which both sides will fight for the three points up for stake as they will be wanting to be in and around the promotion places come next Summer.

I spoke to Ammies supporter Adam Franks about the club whose fortunes have been well documented via Sky Sports documentaries, he also gave his thoughts on Tranmere and the way in which he expects the ninety minutes to pan out.

How long have you been a Salford supporter and how did you first come across the club?

I’ve supported the club since 2007 and I first came across the club when my Nana’s next door neighbour, Matty Burke, played for the club. 

What are your best and worst experiences through being an Ammies fan?

Best experience has been seeing the club climb up the leagues and also visiting all the different grounds across the country. 

Worse experience has got to be losing to Halifax in the National League North play-offs semi final back in 2016/17. 

Random fact about the club/the area?

Random fact of mine about the club is that my stepdad used to manage Salford years back.

We’re currently a month into the 2021/22 campaign but what are your expectations and hopes for the season ahead and how do they compare to those that you had this time last year?

We’ve had a slow and sloppy start this season but I believe the lads have the experience to fight on and climb the table as the season progresses. 

Who is the Salford manager, what are your thoughts on him and how does he normally approach games from a tactical perspective?

Gary Bowyer is our manager and I believe he’s got what it takes to take us up this season. He came in last season after our bad run with Ritchie Wellens and he transformed the squad morale. 

The Class of 92 are the Salford owner’s and have been for a few years now, with Gary Neville heavily involved in particular. What are your thoughts on the way the club is run and are there any current off field plans that are exciting supporters?

The club is run the way every other club is run, obviously Gary is very passionate in whatever he does and he is the main face of our development but you can’t knock the club committee. Yes they’re not as talked about as much as Gary but they do everything they can to keep the club going. The club is very much a family club. They want to get the fans involved more with what they do so it’s exciting to see what they’ve got up their sleeves.

Who are your key players and danger men?

Danger men for us this season has got to be Josh Morris, one of the best signings of the window for us. Experienced football league player who had heaps of goals and assists under his belt so hoping he can push the squad on to greater things this season. Another is in fact a loanee that I’ve been really impressed with and that’s Corrie Ndaba, a young centre half who’s come from Ipswich. On his debut he showed calmness and it’s good to see a young player coming through the ranks who’s already confident in his own ability.

If we are to look at this summer’s transfer recruitment, what are your thoughts on the business that the club was able to do and would you have liked anything more to have happened?

I think we had a decent transfer window, we replaced and strengthened in areas that were needed and hopefully things can click quickly.

What are your thoughts on Tranmere as a club in general and who do you believe are their ones to watch?

Tranmere are a club full of history and we’re unfortunate not to go up last season, they’re yet to kick off this season but they’ve got what it takes to be up there challenging for promotion. 

Score prediction for Saturday?

My score prediction for Saturday is a 3-1 win for Salford, Josh Morris, Henderson & Touray with the goals. 

‘Josh Morris is definitely one of our danger men and has proved to be a very good piece of recruitment that we were able to do this summer’.

Rochdale – Meeting The Opposition

This weekend, Micky Mellon’s Rovers will look to add another victory to the three points that they picked up last Saturday at Prenton Park. Standing in their way? Robbie Stockdale’s Rochdale. Thus, it’s a tie between two teams of a great League Two standard with players capable of nicking a winner for either side.

I spoke to @RochdaleFan who told me all about the Spotland Park outfit’s on and off pitch positions, he also gave his thoughts on Tranmere. 

How long have you been a Rochdale supporter and how did you first come across the club?

I first started to watch Dale in the 2007/08 season, going to games with my dad and ever since I have fell in love with the club.

What are your best and worst experiences of supporting Dale?

I have had some great experiences watching Dale. Ones that in particular stand out to me are the two promotion seasons from League 2. Also, some of the cup ties we have had, have been a great experience – Man United away where we took them to penalties , beating Leeds , getting replays out of Newcastle and Tottenham.

Worst experiences of supporting Dale – One season in particular that stands out too me is when Steve Eyre was manager. It was horrid to watch. 

Random fact about the club/the area?

Rochdale played 36 consecutive seasons in the football leagues bottom division from 1974 to 2010. This is the longest any team has been in the bottom division. That’s why they call it the Rochdale division. 

We’re currently a month into the 2021-22 league campaign but what are your thoughts and expectations for the remainder of the season and how do they compare to those that you had at this stage last season?

Before the season started, I feared we would not have enough quality and squad depth, which made me think we would have enough to stay up but we will be around lower mid table. But so far I have been pleasantly surprised how our young team have adopted to life back in League 2. It’s a team that seems to be getting better every week they play together and I feel it’s a team that could surprise a few this year. This season was all about stabilising ourselves so I would settle for a mid table finish but I’m optimistic that we could clinch a play-offs place.

Who is the Rochdale manager, what are your thoughts on him and how does he normally approach games from a tactical perspective?

Robbie Stockdale. Since he came in late pre-season he has been a breath of fresh air and in a way revived a lot of Dale fans hopes. For his first proper stint in a management position, he has been great on and off the pitch. He has got us playing fast attacking possession based football and there is an emphasis on making sure we play in the right areas and not just passing sideways and backwards for the sake of things. He has also reinforced plenty of times that to be successful in this league at times we have to have an ugly side to our game, which we are starting to see signs of. Also, off the pitch he has been class. Refreshingly honest in his interviews and if he is not happy about something he will make sure the players know about it.

Who are the Dale owners, what are your thoughts on them and are there any current off field projects that are exciting you and other supporters?

It can’t be put into words how thankful our supporters are for our new chairman (Simon Gauge) and board of directors (Andrew Kelly, Richard Knight, Tony Pockney, Jamie Sarsfield, Murray Knight – Supporters Trust Representative), who all have shares in the club. They all played a pivotal role in the saving the club from the hostile takeover and it’s good to know we have a set of people running our club who are all supporters and have the best interests at heart. We never will be the richest of clubs but with our new ownership regime things are looking exciting off the pitch. It’s a young ambitious ownership regime that has often spoken about how they want to get our club back to the stable club it once was.

Who are your key players and danger men?

A player that the majority of Dale fans have fallen in love with since his arrival on loan from Mansfield is Corey O’Keeffe. How the hell Mansfield let us have him on loan I don’t have a clue as he has been absolutely superb in that RWB position. He gets forward well, can score goals, has got a dangerous cross and also he can do the defensive side of the game well too.

Another few players to watch out for are our front three of Abraham Odoh, Jake Beesley and Alex Newby. That front 3 has a bit of everything and would scare any defenders in this league on their day. Beesley holds the ball up well and never stops closing defenders down, whilst Newby and Odoh are tricky pacy inverted forwards who have so far linked up very well with Beesley.

If we are to look at this summers transfer recruitment, what are your thoughts on the business your club was able to do and would you have liked anything more to have happened?

First of all we lost quite a few key players (Stephen Humphrys, Matty Lund, Ollie Rathbone) but this was expected as we have just dropped down a division. I was quite surprised to see us keep as many key players as we did tbh. Getting the likes of Eoghan O’Connell, Aaron Morley and Jimmy Keohane all to stay was great business from the club.

Even with us keeping them players just named it still left us very short and needing signings. And in such a short space of time Robbie Stockdale had to make signings it was unbelievable the numbers of players and the calibre of the players he brought in before the season. There was a good mixture of young players as well as him bringing in much needed experience too. So overall I have been very happy with our summer transfer business and are quite happy with the squad we have built. Happy enough that I wasn’t bothered that we didn’t do any more business on the deadline day. 

What are your thoughts on Tranmere, as a club in general and who do you believe are their ones to watch?

I don’t particularly have too much thoughts on Tranmere to be honest. However, Tranmere is a club with a lot of history that has kind of lost its way in recent years (I think it’s fair to say). Spending three seasons in the National League and three in League Two since 2014. 

One player that seems to always stand out against us is Jay Spearing. In fact he is probably the type of player that I would say we are missing in our squad. Someone that sits in front of the defence, that’s a tough tackler and is able to dictate games.

Score prediction for Saturday?

Dale seem to play better away than they do at home, but we are currently finding some very good form. Tranmere won’t be easy opponents, so I’m going to go with a 1-1 draw. I think it will be a tight game and we will both cancel each other out.

Robbie Stockdale ‘has been a breath of fresh air’ since his appointment this pre-season. 

Paul Curtis – Inside the mind of an artist.

Paul Curtis artwork.

Taking a look around Prenton Park and Merseyside in general you may be taken aback by the quality of paintings that are dotted around different areas and mostly are painted by the fantastic Paul Curtis.

He joined me at ‘’ to tell readers a little bit about himself and the upcoming projects that he has in store, there is plenty that you certainly wouldn’t want to miss out on.

Hello Paul, to start the conversation off. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, your education and upbringing with football. What subjects inspired you in school and what were you like growing up, is artwork something that has always kept you busy? What other aspirations and hobbies did you have and enjoy?

I’ll be honest, I only had a passing interest in art throughout my childhood, it certainly wasn’t something that I spent too much of my time on.  I knew I was ok at drawing, but not amazing.  I did get an A in GCSE Art though!

My football youth was pretty similar.  I was ok, but an unremarkable journeyman!  

When did your talent first become known about and what were your first public paintings? How were they seen by others? Does word quickly pass around when you have done something that catches the eyes of someone?

I’d say that my ‘talent’ first became evident when I was painting niece’s bedroom with a bambi themed mural. I took a photo of what I had done and a few of my mates suggested that I should probably take it further. So, as I was unemployed at the time I created a little portfolio of the work that I could do and I tried (unsuccesfully) cold calling bars and restaurants looking for work . My big break through was “For All Liverpool’s Liverbirds” in Liverpool’s city centre.  That was a very successful piece of street art that allowed me to go professional

How does the industry that you work in operate? Say for a project like Tranmere’s most recent one, the amazing awaydays photo on the outside of the ground, did the club contact you about this saying that they would like it done etc or did you approach them first?

Well with the Tranmere work it’s Ben Harrison from the Trust that will tell me what sprt pf thing he’d like to see done around the stadium or Birkenhead. Some are of course harder than others to paint. For example, with the  Pat Nevin, Warwick Rimmer, Ian Goodison and Micky Mellon mural, we had to use players from the youth team as body doubles and switch heads as obviously no such photo exists for that mural.  This plays havoc with lighting, source image quality, ergonomics, scale etc.  However, with the general paintings such as the AwayDays trainers, I had a high quality photograph to work from, so I can produce a much better piece. 

Prenton Park is a place full of your great paintings and very rightly so considering the quality of them and the messages that they’ve been able to portray. What is it like painting for a football club in comparison to painting for the general public, for example what are the differences between the awaydays painting and the Liver Bird wings painting in the city centre?

I suppose it differs as football supporters have an element of bias so if the painting is good and gives attention to the club in a positive manner, then they will appreciate it that bit more as they feel a connection. With more general paintings, people may like the artwork, the subject and the composition, but they wouldn’t necessarily feel as much pride and emotion as a football painting would have for thousands of fans.  

On the flipside though, it’s really important that you get football paintings spot on as you don’t want to let down or embarrass a football club or its supporters. I recall a Neville Southall mural someone did a few years back that was ridiculed and wasn’t appreciated too highly by Everton fans, no-one wants to be the painter in that sort of situation!

One case of a painting which you made that had a negative reception is of course the painting of the old club crest in Oxton. How did the idea for that particular piece of artwork come about, how long did it take you to complete and how do you believe it had been perceived by the majority of the local public? Did you think that it would be perceived as negatively, by some, how it was? On a personal note, I loved it!

To be honest, I didn’t worry too much about the criticism that it received as the club crest is not designed by me and I was just hired to do a job.  I hadn’t conceived of the project.  I think the people who objected to it just had a problem with where the painting is located and the fact it is linked to football.  I actually think that badge has quite a historic, heraldic feel and didn’t look that out of place. 

I suppose if it was a design that I’d come up with myself then I would’ve taken the criticism to heart a little bit more.  That said, the objections publicly voiced by the Oxton Society actually ended up promoting me massively on the Wirral, so they did me a big favour.   

I also think that it’s been given compliments by Tranmere supporters so I know that there is a contrast in emotions about it all.  The SWA really took to my defence when I was getting online agro at that time so I thank them for that!

I’m an aspiring sports journalist, I will be starting university in September to gain a degree in that line of work. However, I’ve just finished a creative media college course at Wirral Met where I had many people who loved art and graphics etc in my class. If you could give them a message as they embark on their own journeys, what would you say to them?

One piece of advice that I’d give to anyone really, regardless of what journeys they’re about to embark on, is that it’s always important to try your hardest and to learn from any mistakes that you may make. The best and most talented don’t always succeed, but those who work hardest doing what they love will succeed in some way or another. 

I spoke earlier about building a portfolio of paintings for myself so I could show them to people and businesses who would potentially want some work done for them and I think the more effort you put into anything the greater the outcome is likely to be.

Moving on to a personal topic that touches on the work that you have done around the Wirral. Are you a Tranmere Rovers fan or a football fan in general and what is it about football and a football club that you love the most? Do you enjoy the sense of belonging and unification to a certain cause and how do you believe that Micky Mellon will bring a sense of that for the campaign ahead? How do you think the Rovers will do in season 2021-22 and how do you think we did last year?

I never say what football club I support for professional reasons really, nice to keep people guessing!  However, I do think that it’s great to have fans back at the game and its good that this coincides with the return of Mellon as he has obviously been successful at Tranmere before thus the fans love him and will always get behind him. He’s been able to bring a few good players in as well across the course of the summer, some really good attacking players in Callum McManaman and Paul Glatzel so I’d tip the club for promotion this year really.  Moving back to your question about unity though, I think that is really good to have within any area of working and sporting life really as when everyone’s pulling in the same direction then the group’s will to succeed will eventually lead to the right results. 

To finish off our conversation which I’m so grateful to be having, What’s next for Paul Curtis in terms of the work that you have coming up? Are there any more Tranmere ideas in the pipeline?

There are quite a few projects that I’m working on at the moment. I’m always busy! The biggest being the mural that I’m doing in Ainsdale, which will be the second biggest mural in the country. That’s absolutely massive in comparison to the biggest one I’ve done to date so I’d say that it’s probably the most pressure I’ve had on myself whilst working in this industry. I’ve got a few other great projects to complete lined up such as a Hillsborough painting in Anfield, it’s always important to do something like that to the best of your abilities considering how the tragedy changed the lives of many. However, I’ve not got much to do at Tranmere at this moment, but I am due to do a mural of Birkenhead favourite, Charlie Landsborough, in North Birkenhead soon.  I look forward to getting everything done and seeing how they all look.

The Oldham Lemsagam situation.

‘What is that all about? There’s no need for it’ I turned and said to my mate after a Carabao Cup defeat in mid August. Oldham Athletic had beaten Tranmere at Boundary Park and I believed that their pitch invasion was a way of celebrating, when nothing had been won. However, it’s since emerged that these pitch invasions are a demonstration of Latics frustrations at their owner. Thus, I really wanted to pick the brain of someone who knew all about the club’s on and off pitch matters from a fans perspective.

@PaddyNoWheels agreed to answer five questions on the club he supports for ‘’ and left no stone unturned as he gave a passionately scaving review.

How long have you been an Oldham Athletic supporter and how was you first introduced to the club?

I’ve been a Latics fan since birth, my first real memories are the season we were relegated from the Premier League in the 93/94 season.

What are the greatest and lowest moments that you’ve experienced following the Latics? 

The greatest moments I have had since following the Latics have been in the FA Cup; beating Man City (2005), Everton (2008), Forest (2013), Liverpool (2013) and Fulham (2019). The lowest moments seem to happen on an almost weekly moment these days, although I have to say losing 3-0 at home to Barrow in a Division Four match is about as bleak as it has ever been.

From a distance, the club seems to be in a poor position at the moment considering the problems that you are facing with the ownership. How long has he been in charge of Oldham and why are fans against him and what he has done thus far?

He officially took over in January 2018 but, in reality, he was involved with the club since the previous August. Oldham fans are against him because his whole reign at the football club has been a disaster. We were relegated in his first season, he has appointed his brother as a Sporting Director despite a revolving door of dreadful signings, all of which his brother has been involved in. We have had disputes with key players since he took over; Jack Byrne, Anthony Gerrard, Craig Davies, David Wheater, Gary Woods, Ousmane Fane, Danny Gardner immediately come to mind. We have been through 9 managers, including one (Pete Wild) who turned it down to go to Halifax because he didn’t want to work under these guys. We are one of only three teams in our division under a transfer embargo due to taking out an EFL loan, which means we can only sign players on one year deals; something which the club forgot when they tried to sign Jayson Leutwiler on a two year deal and then were completely aghast when the EFL wouldn’t approve it. The protests this season have really helped in terms of bringing the situation into the media spotlight; the reality is that nothing is particularly going on now that hasn’t been going on for three years, but the Athleticos (group of young Oldham fans) have done a brilliant job getting it highlighted in the media. We have had directors of the club come out on the radio recently and accuse fans of trying to kill the club and this evening we have been treated to a very wordy open letter from Mr Lemsagam in which he does his usual thing of blaming the previous owners, previous staff, the fans (even hinting at there being a racist element to the fans dislike of him). There was a previous 5 year plan, which has clearly been ripped up as he says he is putting together another three year plan to be published soon. The whole football club will benefit from him putting it up for sale and taking his brother with him.

What are your thoughts on the pitch invasions as the fans aim to stir up attention against the way that their club is being run and do you think that fans could do more to get him out of the club? In the long term, if he does leave, would you be able to give a description of the person/company that you’d like to see as owner? 

All for it. It’s not for me as I’m 32 years old now, but I completely applaud these young lads for making a stand. As for a new owner, I’d just be quite happy not to have Abdallah Lemsagam involved anymore; any potential new owner has to be a better option than what we have at the moment. Ideally, we would be looking at someone who has the interests of the football club and town at heart. Oldham Athletic is a big part of the borough and, if Latics are doing well, then the town thrives. The last time it happened really was during the cup run in 2013.

How would you describe the current Oldham squad and what are your hopes for the campaign ahead from a footballing perspective? 

They are absolutely rubbish, easily the worst squad I have seen in my lifetime. I am a bit of a football snob and genuinely think we should brush aside any team in Division Four but, after seeing us this season, we are a lot worse than I initially thought we would be. We have lost last season’s goal threat of Conor McAleny and failed to shore up the defence, despite Curle signing some defenders over the summer (who have spent more time on the treatment table than the pitch). We will probably have enough to keep ourselves out of the relegation spots at the end of the season, but it is going to be a lot closer than I initially realised. We are fortunate that only two teams go down and there are some absolutely rubbish sides in this division, but it will be tight…… especially if we end up with a points deduction at any point.

Abdallah Lemsagan pictured at the home of Oldham Athletic. 

In conversation with Matt Jones.

Matt Jones talks about the Play-offs of 2005 and 2009, two games that shaped his successful books and the fortunes of Tranmere’s very recent history.

‘I was there as a fan in 2009 and that was quite an incredible season, Tranmere had built a brilliant team. Obviously they had got to the Play-offs in 2005 under Brian Little, with an eleven that runs off the tongue with the names of John Achteberg and Eugene Dadi. However, the side that nearly reached the Play-offs four years later was so different in that there were no real superstar players. Yes, you had Ian Thomas-Moore who had been brought by a club for a £1million in the past but it was more full of proper work-horses, they had lots of ability but they had worked so hard to reach the stage that they were able to get to. Players such as Anthony Kay, Ben Chorley and Steve Jennings etc’

John Achteberg, the current Liverpool goalkeeper coach, was at Rovers for 11 years of his playing career between 1998 and 2009. He played in the 2005 game at Prenton Park against Hartlepool United.

‘Tranmere were phenomenal that year at home, wiping the floor with the likes of Leicester but they built momentum up at the end of the season which brought a win or lose all tie. Throughout the game, Tranmere were fantastic but they just ran out of a little bit of steam come the end, Gareth Edds being sent off and the man who scored the goal for Scunthorpe would’ve been marked by him’

‘One of my pet hates in football is fans who enjoy celebrating the misfortune of the team playing against more than the fortune of their own team’s success and at the end of the game quite a few fans ran towards the Tranmere supporters and at Steve Jennings who was on the floor’.

‘It just wasn’t really to be and we lost out by the skin of our teeth. We’ve since been able to talk to at least half of that 2009 squad and they say the same, that it was sad to not reach the play-offs as they had given their all throughout the season. That was the start of Tranmere’s demise really, you look at the team that started the game against Scunthorpe and a lot of players went on to leave in the summer for pastures new’

Ronnie Moore was the manager for the 2008/09 campaign but was dismissed following the frustrating result at Scunthorpe. This brought the start of Rovers demise.

Hartlepool United F.C – meeting the opposition

Hartlepool United – meeting the opposition.

Ahead of Hartlepool United’s trip to Merseyside this weekend @StottyHUFC spoke to me about all things Pools. We delve into on and off pitch matters amongst a range of other relevant subjects including his experiences as a fan.

How long have you been a Hartlepool United supporter and how did you first come across the club?

Supported them all my life, so nearly 18 years due to it being my Dad and Grandad’s local club.

What are your best and worst experiences during your time supporting ‘Pool?

The best has to be the playoff final of last season, there’s no doubt about that. The roar when the pen got saved was unbelievable and I’ll probably never get a feeling like it again. The worst? Probably relegation back in 2017, although when the Torquay keeper scored last min that comes very very close.

Random fact about the club/the area?

I’ve only just found this out myself but American singer Meatloaf is a Hartlepool fan!

We’re currently a month into the 2021-22 league campaign but what are your thoughts and expectations for your club in the season ahead and how do they compare to those that you had at the start of last season?

Last season I expected us to get to the playoffs, maybe like 6th or 7th but to not win it. We were brilliant throughout the last campaign, especially the second half of the season. I expect and think we will get a mid-table finish maybe 10-13th although we have started very strongly and with Challinor in charge who knows, the man is magic. 

Dave Challinor is the current gaffer and has been since 2019. What are your thoughts on him and how does he normally approach games from a tactical perspective?

In my opinion Dave’s the best manager we have ever had, certainly the best I can remember. In my opinion, he’s the best in league two due to the fact he took us from a bottom half national league club to playoffs in league two however early it may be. This proves how good he actually is. We usually play with a back three and our captain Nicky Featherstone is the one who keeps us ticking and most of the play goes through him. As a team, we like to play football and not hoof it often. 

Who are the owners of Hartlepool United and what are your thoughts on them? Are there any current off-field projects that are exciting you and other supporters?

Our owner is Raj Singh, a local businessman and I loved him last season when he was backing Dave bringing in players like Luke Armstrong and Jamie Sterry which massively contributed to our promotion. However, he doesn’t seem to be giving Dave what he wants contract wise which is frustrating considering what he’s done for this club and apparently. In terms of off field projects, we are going to be starting on a new modernised stadium soon which brings an element of excitement.

Who are your key players and danger men?

Tyler Burey has to be the man, 3 goals 1 assist in 3 league starts. He has electric pace and his ability to get past a man is second to none. He has been quality, but you also can’t look past Gavan Holohan after his worldie last weekend and overall goal scoring prowess from midfield. 

If we are to take a look at this summer’s transfer recruitment, what are Challinor’s big pieces of business and would you have liked anything else to be done?

This summer we lost our two top scorers from last season who combined got 32 goals which is a big loss, we also lost our best centre back. However, Dave has done well with his recruitment bringing in the likes of Neil Bryne and Tyler Burey who have been brilliant. I still feel like another experienced forward could have been a useful addition, someone who’s good in the air ideally. 

What are your thoughts on Tranmere, as a club in general and who do you believe are their ones to watch?

Tranmere are a good club with great fans and a good side which probably shouldn’t be in this league, considering the way they were demoted. As for ‘ones to watch’ you can’t really look past Liam Feeney and Callum McManaman, both players who are surely too good for this league as they have played much higher in the pyramid. I’m also worried about new recruit Josh Hawkes as ex-players always seem to score against us.

Score prediction for Saturday afternoon’s encounter between Tranmere and Hartlepool at Prenton Park?

I’ll go with a 2-1 Pools win with Luke Molyneux scoring the winner.

20-year-old Tyler Burey is Hartlepool United’s danger man with three goals and one assist in his first three league starts for the club. 

Scunthorpe United – meeting the opposition.

Scunthorpe United – ‘meeting the opposition’.

This Saturday afternoon Tranmere revisit Glanford Park for another ninety minutes of League Two action. Ahead of the clash in North Lincolnshire, I caught up with Iron supporter @tobyskelt0n

Last season I spoke to Toby for his first ‘meeting the opposition’ feature with myself and his love for Scunthorpe United shone. He has been watching the Iron for as long as he can remember and the greatest moment he has experienced with them so far? Winning promotion to the Championship via the Play-offs in 2009. This time round I asked him about his current thoughts on the club’s manager and owner, the upcoming game and the threats to watch for either side. 

Having a look back at last season, how would you say it went in terms of expected success and how will the upcoming campaign be different? What are your expectations/predictions/ambitions for the next ten months?

Last season we ended up precariously close to relegation, barely clinging onto our football league status. Securing our place in the league was always the main target though, so it wasn’t too much of a shock seeing us down at the bottom end of the table. I’d expect a similar sort of season this time around, as many of our more gifted players have moved on. If we once again manage to stay in League Two for another season, it will be a success for the club.

What are your thoughts on gaffer Neil Cox? He has held this role now for just over twelve months and was Neal Ardley’s respective assistant at AFC Wimbledon and Notts County.

Neil Cox has always had a tough time at the club, presiding over long periods of poor results and things generally going against him. One of these was the transfer embargo placed on us this summer, which has limited the number of players we can sign. Cox has, however, managed to bring in a set of players who, so far, look far more committed than the last set of players, and I believe that now he has finally been allowed to bring in his own players, the team will gradually improve.

What are your thoughts on the way that the club is run? The owners in particular, who are they and how long have they been at the club?

Peter Swann is the chairman, having been at the Iron since the summer of 2013. Under his tenure, the club has enjoyed relative success as promotion contenders at the top end in League One, but now it faces perhaps its most perilous period in its 122 year history. Finances have been slashed, even before the pandemic as a result of overspending and now it appears the club is paying the price for those halcyon League One days. Swann has taken away all of the club’s assets, so naturally there is a hesitancy from the club’s supporters to fully trust the chairman at the moment.

What players will pose the greatest threats to Tranmere at Glanford Park?

I’d say Devarn Green poses the biggest threat. He’s started the season brightly, demonstrating electric pace and a determination to run at any defence. His final pass or touch seems to be lacking however, and is something he needs to work on to become to complete package. We are short on attacking options at the moment, but loan striker Jake Scrimshaw scored on his debut last week, and seems to be a real talent already. He works hard off the ball and showed great agility with his goal against Sutton.

In general, what are your thoughts on Tranmere as a club and where do you think they will finish come May? Who do you believe are their key men?

Tranmere have had a tough start to the season, but I do see them challenging for a playoff spot. They’re a big club at this level, and I’m sure promotion will be the club’s aim, especially after losing in the play offs last season. I’d say their key men would be the experienced players like Jay Spearing and Callum McManaman. Having that experience is invaluable at League Two level, and both players have played at a far higher level.

What is your score prediction and how do you think Cox will address this game from a tactical perspective?

My score prediction is 0-0. I’m going for that as Scunthorpe look much improved defensively, but rather blunt up top. Tranmere themselves have only scored once in the league this season, so I’m not expecting a high scoring match. I think Cox will focus on defensive stability, and if we are to have any success in this match, I’d like to see Scrimshaw given better support around him, rather than endless punts up towards him.

The game may see a return of a familiar face for Rovers in United forward Devarn Green. However, what are your thoughts on him and the transfer business Scunthorpe have been able to complete thus far across the course of the summer?

Green is probably the most exciting player in our squad at the moment. With the departures of Abo Eisa and Kevin van Veen in the summer, Green is largely perceived to be the flair player in the squad, the one who can get the fans off of their seats. Our transfer business has been hampered by the embargo, but the players we have brought in all seem to have put in very good effort levels, even if sometimes their quality can be slightly lacking.

If you could change one thing or sign one player in the next few days, what would that change or transfer be at the club?

Tough question! The one thing I would change would be the embargo. Currently, we have 23 “professional” players in the squad, which fills the limit. This means that in order to sign anyone, we have to get rid of players first. The squad is already rather thin, with injuries and covid cases decimating the squad in recent weeks. Removing the embargo would mean we could finally have that strength in depth which we so desperately require. The one player I would sign would be Jem Karacan. We had him at the end of last season and it was clear to see that he was a cut above the rest. He was a calming presence in the centre of the park, and was exactly the experienced, cool character we needed in the squad.

Former Rovers forward Devarn Green is now one of the hosts main attacking threats. ‘Green is probably the most exciting player in our squad’.

Heswall v Mersey Royal: Match Report

Heswall 2 Mersey Royale 3

Wednesday 25th August 2021


West Cheshire League 

After picking up a great three points on the weekend, Heswall FC fell to defeat against table topping Mersey Royal at Gayton Park in a five goal thriller on Wednesday evening.

Talking to people around the club pre-match, including the players, it was obvious that the visitors had quality in abundance. It didn’t take too long for visiting individuals to show varying signs of brilliance with pace and trickery to beat the hosts’ defensive shape. However, there were few chances in the opening stages for either side. In truth, the best opportunity arrived in this period of the game when Heswall keeper Fin Collins rushed off his line to collect the ball from the toes of a surging Royal forward.

The first half was probably typified by a five minute passage of play just after the 20minute mark, a Mersey Royal defender being shown the first yellow card of the evening for kicking out on a fast forward who was closing in on their box before a stray backwards ball from a host defender was nicked as the forward ran towards the goal before seeing his inevitable effort being blocked on the line.

It was the hosts that went into the lead, on the half hour mark, after a beautiful volley from the edge of the box flew into the top corner of the Royal net. Shay was the goalscorer, leaving the keeper hopelessly stranded as the reserve graduate’s effort flew over his head. 

The visitors ended the half in better form and most probably should’ve gone into halftime as leaders. Their equaliser came after a cross from the left was misjudged by the young keeper who was beaten to the ball by a forward who leaped high to leave the net empty and without much to do to get his side back into the game. However, they were probably kicking themselves come the halftime team talk as a shot was over hit by a forward in the box. The goal looked relatively impossible to miss but the ball sailed into the trees.

The visitors came out of the blocks in the opening stages of the second half as they started in dominant fashion, the first great opportunity to get themselves in front in these stages being an unmarked shot from inside the box which went agonisingly wide of the post.

However, the hosts soon evened the momentum out with a good shot as they hit the post from a volley outside of the box. With some of the players in acres of space though, the visitors were able to counter-attack with speed from their number 7 and this resulted in a questionable and dubois penalty.  

The early stages of second half domination would be rewarded when Royal got themselves in front from the spot, an effort which slotted into the right-side of the net sent the keeper the wrong way as he dived to his left.

Considering that the penalty was questionable, it was relatively just that the hosts managed to pull the game even with another moment of excellence from young forward Shay. Netting his second goal of the game, another one of his efforts from outside the box reached into the top corner yet again leaving the visiting keeper with little chance of saving it.

However, you could argue that Royal had the best opportunities of the second half and after a Heswall man was booked for a late kick on a surging forward they were able to take all three points from Gayton Park as the ball fell to the foot of a Royal forward following a scramble in the box. The effort was fired into the bottom corner, another strike in which either keeper would have very little chance of saving. It was to be the visitors that were the happiest come the full time whistle.

Heswall are next in action in the West Cheshire League at Gayton Park on Saturday at 3pm.