Crawley Town meeting the opposition.

Crawley Town F.C meeting the opposition.

Tranmere’s FA Cup journey begins this Weekend as they face Crawley Town in the first round away from home. The two sides are both struggling for form, Town failing to win their last four league games whereas Rovers have struggled to get a point from their last two. 

Ahead of the Cup encounter, I spoke to Crawley fan Stephen Dimmock who gave his thoughts on the way the hosts have started their league season amongst the many more subjects that we touched on. 

How long have you been a Crawley Town supporter and when did you first come across the club?

I went to my first Crawley game back in 2007 and have been a fan since, although I got a lot more into the club around 2017 as my dad and I started to make more of an effort to go, even though I was at uni at the time. Nowadays though I worry about my obsession for the team, as I’ve got a season ticket and also have started going to other club events which have been very nice.

What are your best and worst experiences of the FA Cup throughout your time supporting them?

I’d personally say the best experience for me in the FA Cup was the Leeds United win last season, as despite not being able to attend for obvious reasons, it was just such a great moment and was exactly the kind of thing I needed considering how bad things were with Covid at the time. Also, seeing Nick Tsaroulla score such a great goal was fantastic to see considering what he had been through and how hard he’s worked to get back into professional football. Luckily we’ve both become good mates recently, although I do tease him a bit for his music choices that he revealed in an interview the other week!

Random fact about the club/the area?

Legendary alternative/gothic rock band The Cure were formed in Crawley as most of the members, including Robert Smith, grew up in the area. However, Bob Geldof’s ‘The Boomtown Rats’ are sponsoring the team for this weekend, as their recording studio is nearby!

Saturday is the start of Crawley and Tranmere FA Cup journeys in 2021/22, with League Two clubs joining the competition in the first round. How highly do you value the Cup and what it can bring to clubs in the lower leagues?

For me, the FA Cup is my favourite cup competition in the world because of its history, how important it is to English culture and the way in which it can make dreams come true for footballers up and down the country. For example, imagine what Marine’s players would have felt about getting the chance to play against a Spurs team containing Gareth Bale, Lucas Moura, Dele Alli and managed by Jose Mourinho back in January!  As for Crawley it could well be the thing that could salvage our season and I’d personally love to be able to get to the third round and play a Premier League club again just so that the fans can back the lads in person. We’ve got to win two matches for that to potentially happen though of course!

Who do you believe has the individual ability to win the game on the Weekend, thinking about the key players for either side? 

I’d say we have a few players that can definitely do something special, for example Kwesi Appiah is on a really good goalscoring run currently and Nick Tsaroulla is capable of coming up with a great goal when we need it (such as vs Carlisle back in September). The main issue I’ve been having is that I really don’t think we have any kind of system in which we can get the best out of our players and some of the substitutions have just been utterly bizarre and lack common sense (such as bringing on a centre back when losing 2-1 or waiting until the 85th minute before bringing any strikers on, as well as taking off our most threatening player regularly). I do worry as well that our forwards might not be able to handle players like Peter Clarke at the back too, although I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams make changes for this game.

Finishing our conversation off. Your score prediction?

I reckon it will be a boring 1-1 to be honest, with Crawley being woefully out of form and Tranmere struggling to score goals. If we lose this though I really think we need to change the manager as soon as possible, as I can’t trust John Yems to turn the form around. He always blames everyone other than himself for mistakes and losses, plus I don’t really know what the tactics even are most of the time and think there are much better managers available that would get more out of this squad! 

Crawley Town manager John Yems is losing the confidence of some supporters following a poor run of league form. 

Stockport County Q+A

Stockport County Q+A 

Stockport County have had a brilliant week in terms of who they’ve been able to bring in to the club, they are now looking like promotion candidates with the managerial appointment of Dave Challinor and the signing of one of Bolton’s greatest attacking threats Antoni Sarvecic. 

County face Bolton in the FA Cup this Weekend so amidst all of this positivity, I thought it was only just that I spoke to a fan with great knowledge on the club, Dave Philbin was the man that spoke to me.

Hello Dave, first of all can we learn a little bit about yourself? How long have you been supporting Stockport County, how did that come about and what are your best/worst experiences following the club throughout this time? 

I first started going to County back in the late 90’s, so I’ve seen the demise from the Championship to part time regional football in full! My first away game was at Man City in 1999 is definitely up there with my best experience. We went 1-0 down early on and completed the 2-1 win with the iconic Tony Dinning penalty in front of the packed away end. Winning the National League North at Nuneaton in 2019 was another great moment, thousands of County fans took over that day! I took my 3 year old daughter to her first game recently too, that was special for different reasons. The negatives, where do I start? I’ve seen more relegations than I care to remember and the administration in 2009/10 was tough.

County were relegated to the National League in 2013, being relegated to League Two on the final day of the 2010-11 season at home to Tranmere. Could you give a brief description of the goings on since then? What were County like around the early 2010s?

It’s been a roller coaster since then! The general consensus amongst County fans was that, although things were bad, we will surely get back into League Two at the first attempt. A comedy of errors ensued though. In 2011 we were going to be bought by a consortium headed up by a Scouser called Tony Evans who brought in Dietmar Hamann as manager. Hamann left 19 games and 3 wins later and Evans and his mates didn’t manage to complete the takeover. That’s when Jim Gannon came back for his second spell and he managed to steady the ship and prevent relegation that year. Gannon’s second tenure ended in 2013 as we were at the wrong end of mid table – then two managers between January and the end of the season (Kalezic and Bogie) saw us relegated into the North. Experience wouldn’t teach us though, because of course we’d get out of there at the first time of asking… wrong! 6 years and another Gannon return saw us win the league that year. Although the level was abysmal, it definitely ranks as one of my favourite seasons.

How would you describe the club at the moment? Who are Stockport’s owners and what is the atmosphere like around Edgeley Park?

The owner is a local business man called Mark Stott and he’s made plenty of investment on and off the pitch. He came in just before Covid hit so it was a bad time to buy a football club but a great time to be bought! He has brought The Cheadle End into the 21st Century while keeping its history, put a lovely new scoreboard in, moved us to a top level training complex at Carrington and even got good beer in the ground! He got rid of Jim Gannon in February this year which wasn’t popular with the fans but other than that, he’s done wonders. In terms of the atmosphere, if you’d have asked me a week ago I would have said we have no identity, the fans are divided and Edgeley Park was turning very toxic very quickly. Understandably so, with the investments that have been made and the players we’ve signed, we shouldn’t be sitting in 9th after 13 games. After an embarrassing defeat at home to Barnet last week, manager Simon Rusk got sacked and we’ve just this evening announced Dave Challinor. If Twitter is anything to go by, Edgeley Park will be rocking! We’ve also sold 5,000 tickets for Bolton this weekend in the first round of the cup, so that tells you everything you need to know about the fans. We may not like what we see, and we may not agree with everything they do, but we’ll be there in numbers whatever happens.

Touching on the signings that were made in the summer and the very recent past, can you see an upwards trajectory of quality in the squad and how impressed were you with the club’s signing of Bolton’s Sarvecic?

We signed top quality in the summer which of course has been topped up recently with Sarcevic. Quality that he’ll be playing the team he was captain of two weeks ago on Sunday by the way! The problem we have had is, we’ve signed players for positions that we weren’t using. For example, we signed the league’s best winger from last season in Ben Whitfield and we didn’t play with wingers for the first 8 or 9 games, so he was rotting at left wing back. Scott Quigley has been injured for most of the season but has recently come back into the side and has scored a couple of goals. He’s the striker we’ve been crying out for who does the dirty work up top and I can see him and Paddy Madden forming a dangerous partnership. Special mention to Ethan Ross as well, not one of the bigger names we’ve signed but definitely the biggest bloke! He’s a keeper and since coming into the side you can just see he gets the club and fans.

Another change in quality has come recently with the club’s appointment of Dave Challinor. How excited are you about his time back in Manchester and do you think this will take County closer to promotion to the Football League than they have been for some time?

Firstly, Dave Challinor has come back to Stockport not Manchester! I’m really excited to see him here and I know the rest of the fans are too. It was tough to see Simon Rusk struggling. He seemed like a really nice guy and I wanted him to succeed, but ultimately the gamble of signing a very good under 23’s coach didn’t pay off. We’ve now got a guy who has been there and done it at this level – knocking us out in the playoffs last season to go to the play off final and win that! It also helps that he was once our captain as well. I’d be lying if I said he did particularly well as a player here but he knows what Stockport County means to so many people and he will make sure the players know as well. His experience of promotions and play off campaigns is vital and with 31 games still left to play there are still chances of a title challenge yet. We were 12th coming up to Christmas in 2018/19 and we already know what happened there!

To finish our conversation off, ahead of the game on the weekend, how important do you believe the FA Cup is for lower league clubs in particular and can we expect Stockport to cause an ‘upset’ when they take on Bolton away from home?

Cup games are incredibly important for lower league clubs. You only have to look at Lincoln’s incredible run in 2016/17 – the money made from that sent them up to League One from non league. Bringing it back to County, we got to the second round in 2018/19, and the money from that meant we could strengthen around Christmas time to kick on and win the title. That’s just the finances, but as a fan there’s nothing better. In terms of glamorous ties, we haven’t seen many this century. The 90’s was special for us when we got to the semi-finals of the League Cup beating West Ham with a famous Iain Dowie own goal. Last season in lockdown we welcomed West Ham to a wet Edgeley Park, and we lost very late on but it wasn’t the same watching it on tele. This weekend will be massively different though. 5,000 travelling fans, a new manager, Bolton’s ex captain in midfield, Bolton struggling for form… all the ingredients required for the Hatters to storm into the second round! 

Antoni Sarvecic returns to the home of his former club this weekend as Stockport face Bolton at the UniBol Stadium. 

Mansfield Town 2 Tranmere Rovers 0 – Match report.

Mansfield Town 2 v Tranmere Rovers 0 

Saturday 30th October 2021, 3pm KO

English Football League 2

@FieldMill

It was a frustrating afternoon in Nottinghamshire for Tranmere as the Whites aimed to put all worries to bed, following a home defeat to Northampton.

The hosts, Mansfield Town, showed their attacking intent from the off as they were awarded a penalty within the opening few minutes. However, the effort was fired over the bar much to the Rovers keeper’s delight.

Tranmere thought that they had put themselves in front on the five minute mark but due to the final touch coming from a man in an offside position, the goal was eventually ruled out to bring an ecstatic away end back down to earth.

Two of Town’s shining lights throughout this performance were Rhys Oates and Danny Johnson, Oates opening the scoreline halfway through the first half as the 26-year-old forward slotted home calmly after a great threaded ball into the box by Stephen Quinn.

Micky Mellon’s chosen eleven tried to get themselves back into the game. However, their crossing efforts weren’t enough, bringing an element of frustration not too long afterwards. Jay Spearing being booked for a late challenge.

Town went into the half 1-0 up, Rovers coming back out with two substitutions made. Mark Duffy and Paul Glatzel on for Calum McManaman and Liam Feeney.

It would be twenty minutes later that the hosts made their first change, Kellan Gordon on for Stephen McLaughlin as the Irish defender received his team’s first booking of the game.

However, the booking didn’t mean that the hosts had backed down and were on the ropes of conceding an equaliser. Johnson doubled the scoreline, Oates showing his brilliance once again with a run and a pass into his fellow forward’s direction leaving little work left to do. 

A goal that would’ve been of great frustration to Mellon as a sub was on it’s way of being completed, Elliott Nevitt for Mani Dieseruvwe up top.

Similar to the closing stages of the first half, there wasn’t much to comment on in the last few moments other than the hosts completing their allocated substitute count. Tyrese Sinclair coming on for goalscorer Johnson, John-Joe O’Toole replacing Oates to a round of applause following a great afternoon’s work.

Mansfield Town: Bishop, Hewitt, Rawson, Hawkins, McLaughlin, Maris, Charsley, Quinn, Clarke, Johnson, Oates. Subs used: Gordon, Sinclair, O’Toole.

Tranmere Rovers: Doohan, Cogley, Davies, Clarke, McDonald, Morris, Spearing, Foley, Feeney, Dieseruvwe, McManaman. Subs used: Glatzel, Nevitt, Duffy.

Attendance: 3,381 (630 Tranmere).

Officials: Referee – James Bell. Assistants – Robert Atkin and Lisa Rashid. Fourth Official: Lee Freeman.

Rovers are next in action next Saturday as they travel south to face Crawley Town in the FA Cup 1st round. 

Mansfield Town – meeting the opposition.

Mansfield Town meeting the opposition.

Tranmere, looking to get back to winning ways after a Prenton Park defeat to Northampton Town, travel to the Field Mill this Saturday afternoon where they will come up against Mansfield Town in a League Two encounter.

Mansfield have had a really frustrating start to the campaign, currently placed in the relegation zone. However, the games between these two sides tend to always be close encounters. To find out more about the hosts including their current on and off pitch situations, I spoke to @MarkerStag1897 who also gave his thoughts on the visitors.

How long have you been a Mansfield Town supporter and how did you first come across the club?
I first started supporting Mansfield Town, at the age of 8 years old. My Dad took me to my first game, and I have been hooked since.

What are your best and worst experiences through watching the Stags?

Best experience was when we got promoted back into the Football League, the worst was relegation a few seasons back. 

Random fact about the club/the area?

Our stadium, Field Mill, is the world’s oldest professional football Stadium.

We’re a fair bit of games into the current campaign but what are your thoughts and expectations on the months ahead? How do they compare to those that you

had this time last year?
At the time of writing, it is hard to see where a win is coming from. I am hoping we can improve, when our injured players come back, as well as sign some players in January that are hopefully effective. 

Compared to last year, we are in a worse position now, in the League.

Nigel Clough is the current Town manager and has been since his appointment last year. What are your thoughts on him and the style of play that his team

plays at Field Mill, as well as away from home?
When we first appointed him, I along with many Stags fans, was happy that he dropped down this level, to try and turn our fortunes around. 

From his time so far, I think he has been unlucky, with the amount of injuries/ suspensions we have had, having said that, I haven’t been impressed by his recruitment, as we don’t seem to have improved, as well as we would have liked to. He likes to play the Diamond formation a lot, which I don’t think we can do well, as I don’t think some of the players are the best at, in my opinion. 

The Stags are owned by Carolyn and John Radford, what are your thoughts on what they’ve brought to the club? Are there any current plans that are building

a sense of excitement?
They are the best owners we could have asked for, John is a local lad, who knows what it means to be a Stag, and Carolyn is as equally passionate about the club. They have gotten us back promoted to the Football League, as well as save the club from extinction. They have plans to build a hotel at the side of the stadium, as well as fix Bishop Street Stand.

Who are your key players and danger men?

At this moment in time, Oli Hawkins, who has scored 4, who has had to play centre half, due to injuries. George Lapslie, Stephen Quinn, and Harry Charsley are workhorses in midfield. Also Nathan Bishop, on loan from Manchester United, has been a good addition. 

If we are to take a look at this summer’s transfer recruitment, what are your thoughts on the completed incomings and outgoings? Would you have wanted much

more to have happened?

The one area that we haven’t properly addressed is the defence, since James Perch has been ruled out for the season, we have leaked too many goals, only keeping 2 clean sheets. Another area would be up front, as apart from Hawkins, none of the other strikers have been clinical enough.

What do you make of the visitors, Tranmere, as a club in general and what are your thoughts on their team and the man they’re managed by?

Tranmere have had a good start, from what I’ve seen so far, so I would expect them to be in the playoffs. You’re another side that has another experienced manager, who will no doubt want to take you that extra step this time. 

To finish our conversation off, what is your score prediction for the game on Saturday afternoon in Nottinghamshire?

It’ll be a very tough game and in truth I’m not feeling optimistic to be honest, so I will say 1-1.

Field Mill, the home of Mansfield Town, is the oldest professional football stadium in the world.

Northampton Town – meeting the opposition.

Tranmere, after picking up four points in two games on the road, return home this Saturday where they will come up against Northampton Town.

Town have had a successful start to the new campaign, currently placed in the play-offs one point away from their upcoming hosts. They’ve won their last two games convincingly and Sam Hoskins has proved a threat with five goal involvements in 14 games. 

To find out more about the Cobblers, I spoke to @CobblersToMe about the club they support, Micky Mellon’s Whites and the upcoming game.

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

My Dad first took me to watch The Cobblers in the early 90’s. I don’t remember much from back then other than the odd good result here or there. It was the 96/97 season that we became regulars, getting our first season ticket in 98/99 after we had our back to back Play-Off final appearances.

What are your best and worst experiences while watching Town?

The promotions have to be the best experiences I’ve had. The 2015/16 League Two Champions season will live long in the memory for sure. So will the night we beat Liverpool on penalties in the League Cup at Anfield in 2011. We might have been soaked to the bone but what a game!

As for worst, there’s been loads! Too many to mention probably. We’ve come close to going out of the league on many occasions and it’s those seasons where I’ve found myself not enjoying the experience.

Random fact about the club / the area?

Entertainer and British legend, Des O’Connor used to play for us.

We’re a fair bit of games into the league campaign but what are your thoughts and expectations for the months ahead and how do they compare to those that you had this time last season?

On a personal level, my expectations for this season are to be pushing for promotion. We should be a top end League Two, lower League One club at the moment, anything less is not good enough. That’s not meant to be arrogant, it’s purely our expectation as a fanbase.

Last year was a dreadful season. We should have stayed in League One but we played dire football and our recruitment was awful after losing players like Charlie Goode and Vadaine Oliver to a higher level. Lessons need to have been learned from that and I think we’re at the start of a new era at Northampton with Jon Brady and Colin Calderwood in charge.

Former U16s and U18s manager Jon Brady was given the senior role in the summer. What are your thoughts on him and his style of play so far?

Jon Brady has instilled a lot of passion back into the club. There was a disconnect between the club and the fans under Keith Curle. It wasn’t entirely Keith’s fault, lockdown had a large part to play but the players we had were awful and the style of play was turgid. Brady has promised to get us playing football again and we’re now starting to see that now the lads have a bit of confidence in themselves. I don’t think we’ll see the best of what Jon is wanting to do this season. There are still some holes in the squad that need filling to really get the “bums off seats” exciting football Brady promised us over the summer.

Who is the owner of the club, what are your thoughts on them and are there any current projects that are bringing upon some excitement?

Oh now you’re opening a can of worms! David Bower is the owner of the club. He is a retired lawyer who lives in Dubai. He’s been to watch the Cobblers about 6 times in the nearly 6 years he has owned the club. Some fans aren’t convinced he has the best interests of the club at heart because of this. The frontman for the ownership is Chairman Kelvin Thomas. Thomas was previously at Oxford and Torquay. There is a lot to go into here but the long and short of it is that they came to the club in 2015 when we nearly went bust after the previous owner “lost” £10.25 million that was loaned to the club by the council to redevelop the stadium. The one stand that this redevelopment centred around is still not complete despite many discussions between the club and council. The most recent development on that front was some CGI pictures of how the stand will look when completed, being unveiled back in the summer. We’ve not heard much about it since then but the Supporters’ Trust have stated they no longer back the deal the club have put on the table to the council. It’s all one big, complicated issue.

Who are your key players and danger men?

Kion Etete is one to watch for sure. The on-loan front man from Spurs is a handful and finally got off the mark on Tuesday against Stevenage. He will terrorise any defender but can be a bit weak and gets lots of fouls given against him. He’s a raw and exciting talent.

If we are to take a look at the recruitment the Cobblers did this summer, what are your thoughts on the completed incomings and outgoings? Would you have wanted much more to have happened?

I’m fairly happy with this season’s recruitment. Our biggest issue last year was our goalkeeper and we have more than rectified that problem with the addition of Liam Roberts from Walsall. He has been immense between the sticks so far and it’s obvious that the rest of the team have full confidence in him.

Jon Guthrie has also been another stand-out addition to the side. The defender has scored a fair few goals from set pieces already and formed a great partnership with Fraser Horsfall.

Our attacking recruitment could have been better but it’s beginning to come good with the likes of Mitch Pinnock becoming a big threat on the wing.

The only players who left at the end of last year that Cobblers fans would have liked to have stayed are Lloyd Jones (Cambridge) and Ryan Watson. Watto was a favourite, having spent two spells at Sixfields and scoring the opening goal in the Play Off Final against Exeter. We haven’t missed either of them though.

What do you think of the hosts, Tranmere, as a club in general and what are your thoughts on the team and the Scotsman they’re managed by?

Being in my late 30’s I remember Tranmere being a big, Division 1 club. I haven’t been for a while but I always enjoy going to Prenton Park. It feels like a proper stadium and the fans can get right behind their team.

I don’t know much about Micky Mellon other than he has done well for Tranmere in his previous spell. Perhaps his move to Dundee United was a bit of a step up too far and it’s nice to see him back at Tranmere where he had some success.

To finish our conversation off, what is your score prediction for the upcoming League Two encounter at Prenton Park?

I think it’s going to be a good challenge for both teams this game. It’s 5th vs 6th and we’ve played some right old rubbish teams lately so it will be good to see where we’re at.

I’m feeling positive after our last two results. The players look confident and we’ve found a formation and starting eleven which seems to have clicked into gear. I’m going for a 2-1 Cobblers win but I’ll be happy with a draw. 

Tranmere signed Ryan Watson this summer, the attacker having spent two years and two loan spells at Sixfields.

Carlisle United – Meeting The Opposition.

Carlisle United meeting the opposition.

Ahead of Tranmere’s trip to Brunton Park on Saturday afternoon, I spoke to someone with a great knowledge of Carlisle United in the form of UcLan student Ben Pitkeathly. 

The upcoming encounter is one that will ask much of either side due to the qualities that both sides possess, the Rovers are currently on a roll but the managerless hosts will want to impress.

How long have you been a Carlisle United supporter? How did you first come across the club? 

I have supported Carlisle since moving down from Aberdeen in 2007, I went to my first game not long after and have been hooked ever since. 

What are your best and worst experiences through following United?

The best experience following United has to be winning the Johnstone Paint Trophy at Wembley in 2011, with Peter Murphy scoring a volley. The worst experience was definitely Jack Stacey’s goal against us for Exeter City in the playoffs, it was a gut-wrenching feeling when that went in after coming back from two goals down.

Random fact about the club/the area?

Carlisle is the biggest city in England by landmass, 1,039.97 square kilometres.

We’re currently two months into the new campaign. However, what are your thoughts and expectations for the eight months ahead and how do they compare to those that you held at this stage last season?

Hopes are now for survival after a disastrous start, whereas at this point last season we were approaching our good run of form, which I cannot see us doing this season.

Something which happened very recently is the departure of manager Chris Beech. What were your thoughts on his dismissal and going forward, who would you like to see in the managerial seat?

No one likes to see someone lose their job but unfortunately for Chris Beech it has been in the offing for a while. Poor results and lack of a plan B has led to his dismissal. There were good times, saving us from relegation when he first arrived and a spell at the top of the table last January, but he’s been unable to stop the recent rut. I’d quite like to see Andy Morrison given the job after being very effective at Connah’s Quay, Zigor Aranalde is another who should be targeted having coached at a very high level and has brilliant contacts in the game.

Who are/is the current owner of United and what are your thoughts on them? Are there any existing off-field plans that are exciting supporters?

The less said the better really, we have three custodians who’ve been in charge for 13 years, but behind the scenes, a succession plan is supposedly being worked on so there is hope for the future.

Who are your key players and danger men?

Jon Mellish, who scored 16 times last season, is our biggest goal threat. Joe Riley has been our most impressive player this season, but his level of influence will depend on whether he plays right-back or central midfielder.

If we are to take a look at his summer transfer recruitment, what are your thoughts on the incomings and outgoings? Also, would you have wanted more to have happened?

Our recruitment was incredibly poor losing several first-team regulars and the replacements don’t seem to have the same quality or are yet to show it. Many would’ve liked to see a target man brought in as the strikers we have do not suit the managers direct style of play.

What do you think of Tranmere as a club in general and who do you believe are their danger men?

I admire Tranmere and its fans standing independently and proudly away from the other clubs across the river. Callum McManaman stands out as a player who could cause problems for us and I’ve heard good reviews of Elliot Nevitt.

To finish our conversation off, what is your score prediction for the upcoming encounter at Brunton Park? 

Unfortunately, I can’t see anything but a loss for us. 3-0 Tranmere, Hawkes, Nevitt, Maynard.

‘Joe Riley has been our most impressive player this season, his level of influence depending on what position he plays in’

Thoughts on a betting documentary.

The Big Step’s thoughts on The Paul Merson Documentary.

As soon as Paul Merson’s documentary was released I couldn’t wait to watch it due to the significance of the subject it encaptures. I’d spoken to ‘The Big Step’ about gambling before but I wanted to find out exactly what the trouble is like through the eyes of an Arsenal great. I personally thought the documentary was enlightening and it touched on more than I could’ve asked it to. However, to hear more about the show and how it had been received by those with more knowledge than myself about the industry, I spoke to ‘The Big Step’ once again.

When the show first got media attention, when it was first announced that the show was going to be released, what were your thoughts and how important do you believe it is that attention is given to the problem of gambling?

Gambling with Lives (of which The Big Step is a part of) was contacted by the production company when the show was being planned, as they wanted to feature some of the families that we support and have bereaved by gambling-related suicide (referenced in question 5). From the off, we were confident that this programme was going to be a positive thing and look constructively at how the gambling industry operates. We were very pleased that it was given a prime time slot at 9pm too, which shows how important the issue is becoming.

With Paul Merson’s experience in the game, how significant do you believe that it is his voice that is speaking out on a topic as hard-hitting as this? Does it surprise you in some way that people of such sporting experience can be trapped in a world of sport betting and what surrounds that?

It’s really great that Paul has been so open about his experiences. His standing within the game makes him an important role model, so it’s really helpful that he’s been so candid about his experiences with addiction. It doesn’t surprise us at all that people in the sports world are affected by gambling disorder – as Paul mentioned in the programme, they are often far from home, with time and money on their hands and surrounded by a rampant betting culture.

Through watching the show, how interesting did you find certain aspects of it? For example, when they were showing the brain activity through a scan and it showed how engrossed Merson’s brain was to gambling in comparison to that of a healthy person who would be attracted to family bonding and nature. Was this a test that had ever crossed your mind before?

We thought the brain scan part was very interesting, but what really stuck with us was how the gambling industry cultivates and sustains addiction. In Matt Zarb-Cousin’s part, he explains how the industry hold all the data necessary to stop gambling addiction and harm, but instead of using it to help people, they use it to make more money and cause more harm. He also explained that 60% of the industry’s profits (£14bn plus a year) come from just 5% of gamblers. As Matt himself put it: “Your gambling addiction is their business model.”

Do you believe that anything was missing from the show that you may have wanted to be included in or do you think that the hour covered everything greatly? 

There was quite a bit of footage that was cut from the section near the end with the families, specifically talking about the language of addiction that we would have liked included. Language is very key in framing the debate. For example, ‘problem gambler’ (widely used term to refer to someone with gambling disorder) suggests that the problem is with the individual and that they are somehow faulty. Gambling addiction is a classified mental health disorder – called gambling disorder – and can affect anyone. It works in the industry’s favour to push the ‘problem gambler’ narrative, as it frames the debate as a few ‘weak’ people who have a problem with gambling, and deflects attention away from an industry that are deliberating, encouraging and sustaining addiction.

Paul Merson sat around a table with others talking about the way that gambling companies entice people to place money with them for a bet. What were your thoughts on the adverts that included music such as ‘Sweet Caroline’ etc to make it seem like you have to gamble to enjoy yourselves? What are your overall thoughts on gambling adverts?

The gambling industry makes a lot of money and they are very good at doing it. Sweet Caroline is a good example as the song was adopted by England fans during Euro 2020, which was obviously a good tournament for us, so Ladbrokes knew exactly what they were doing when they used it. They wanted to evoke those feelings of happiness and associate them with their brand. Much like smoking, gambling is a dangerous product that we believe shouldn’t be advertised. We don’t think gambling should be banned at all, but it needs to be subject to much tougher regulation, which would include banning advertising. Important to note that this won’t stop those who want to from gambling – I haven’t seen a cigarette advert in 20 years but I know where to buy them from. What it will do is stop gambling from permeating mainstream culture and ensure children don’t grow up thinking gambling is a normal, safe and fun activity.   

What were your thoughts on the company’s messages at the end of the show and do you believe that the Gambling Commission could do much more than they currently are? The Betting and Gambling Council said that they completely reject any suggestion that the industry targets vulnerable customers whilst William Hill stated that 20% of their advertising is about time-outs and how people can bet responsibly and safely.

Frankly, we thought these messages were insulting. It shows how out of touch the industry is and that they are unwilling to engage and acknowledge the harm they are causing. With regards to player controls and responsible gambling messages, there’s absolutely no evidence to show that these have any effect whatsoever, which is actually why they use them, as it sustains their profits. It demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of addiction too: someone who is addicted to anything is robbed of their ability to think and act rationally – it’s a bit like advertising heroin with a ‘please use responsibly’ message!

Where does the future of ‘The Big Step’ lie in terms of plans and projects that the group is currently completing or about to start? How could people find out more or get involved if they wanted to?

We’ve recently partnered with Dulwich Hamlet FC and held a walking event before their game last weekend, and then had a fantastic reception at the game itself. We’ll continue partnering with clubs and asking them to say no to gambling sponsorship money. For the latest news and content, keep an eye on our twitter (@the_bigstep).

‘For the latest news and content, keep an eye on our twitter, ‘@the_bigstep’

ColU – meeting the opposition.

Colchester United – meeting the opposition.

This Friday night, Tranmere will be aiming to extend their unbeaten home streak on the back of a 2-0 win at Salford City in midweek. However, they will have to get past a keeper in great form as ex-Rovers shot-stopper Shamal George returns to Merseyside. 

To understand more about Colchester United I spoke to @viewsontheu about a range of United topics, including their on and off pitch situations before taking a look at the upcoming encounter.

How long have you been a Colchester United supporter? How did you first come across the club? 

I remember my first game at the Old Wembley in 1998 at the age of 6, it was the Third Division playoff final, I guess I’d have to say that’s when my Col U fandom started. I’m born and raised in Colchester. My Dad is a big Col U fan so I’ve been around the club from a very early age. 

What are your best and worst experiences through following United? 

Best – When we finished 10th in the championship was unbelievable, we were in the playoff hunt for so long. But I’d go with the Carabao Cup run a few years ago, beating Palace and Spurs, then playing Man Utd at Old Trafford was amazing. 

Worst – Last season was pretty terrible, we were on the brink of going out of the football league for most of the season, before we rallied at the end. I’d also have to say the 2015/16 season when we were relegated from League 1, only winning 9 games and conceding 100 goals wasn’t fun to watch!

Random fact about the club/the area? 

Britain’s oldest recorded town, no matter what way you enter Colchester you’ll see a sign letting you know!

We’re currently two months into the new campaign. However, what are your thoughts and expectations for the eight months ahead and how do they compare to those that you held at this stage last season? 

Expectations for the start of the season for most U’s fans was that we were dark horses for the playoffs, 9 games in we certainly don’t look like that. Whilst we look defensively solid, goals win you games and we’ve only scored 7 in 9. We seemed to have flooded the team with players with great experience but all are in their mid 30’s, we look like a slow team that struggles to score and create. I don’t think this season will be as bad as last but I think it’s looking like a bottom half finish. Still a long way to go though!

Who is the current Colchester gaffer? What are your thoughts on him and the way he approaches games? 

Current gaffer is Hayden Mullins, it’s still early days in Mullins’ reign but it’s been pretty uninspiring. We had Paul Tisdale assist him towards the end of last year and we looked good. Tisdale left and I think it’s clear to see he was the main reason why we were playing well. In terms of approach we’ve tried a few formations, I don’t think Mullins knows his best formation or his best 11 and it shows on the pitch.

Who is the current owner of United and what are your thoughts on them? Are there any existing off-field plans that are exciting supporters? 

Current owner is Robbie Cowling, I think a lot of U’s fans would say they aren’t Cowling’s biggest fan. He deserves credit but only for what he’s done off the field, we’re financially a well run club, which when you see what happens to other clubs that’s always reassuring. However, since he’s been the owner, on the pitch the club has been in a slow decline. It used to be a great community club but it doesn’t feel that way anymore, we’re only averaging 2500 at home games which I think says it all. It’s also “jobs for the boys” at Col U under Cowling, we’ve got ex managers (who were awful) still at the club. One is head of recruitment and one director of football which is mind boggling. People will say to be careful what you wish for and they might be right. I’m not necessarily wanting Cowling out but it does need a shake up in terms of personnel and his on field decision making needs vast improvement.

Who are your key players and danger men? 

Our key players are our goalkeeper Shamal George and Brendan Wiredu. It’s George’s first year as the true number 1 and he’s been sensational, by far our best player so far this season. Wiredu is an all action midfield player, he does everything in there. He’s way too good for league 2, us U’s fans need to make the most of him as I don’t think he’ll be with us for long. As for danger men, we’re fairly toothless up front but in Alan Judge we have arguably one of the best players in the league. On his day he can create and score goals with ease, I’d also mention Noah Chilvers who has come through our academy. He’s a player that has the ability to come up with the magic required to win a game.

If we are to take a look at his summers transfer recruitment, what are your thoughts on the incomings and outgoings? Also, would you have wanted more to have happened? 

Our transfer recruitment was a short trip up the A12 to Portman Road to sign almost all of their released players. We signed 4 and have 1 on loan, they got mixed reviews. They’re good players with bags of experience which is great but also in their mid 30’s and all signed 2 year deals. They’ve been ok so far but we’ve always been a club that brings players through the academy or plucks a player from non-league or a player that has been released from higher up the division. It looks a much older side this year. We were desperate to sign a striker as we don’t really have that true number 9 but that didn’t happen and it shows so far this season how badly we need one!

What do you think of Tranmere as a club in general and who do you believe are their danger men? 

Tranmere is a big club, with a good old school ground. Always well supported wherever they go, I remember the last time you were at our ground and you sang the tequila song for 90 minutes, it was great! As for your danger men, Nicky Maynard and Callum McManaman are good players for this division.

To finish our conversation off, what is your score prediction for the upcoming encounter at Prenton Park? 

I’ve got the nickname Mystic Max, I seem to do quite well when it comes to predictions. These are two teams who are defensively solid and don’t score a lot of goals. We’re much better away from home but Tranmere is a tough place to go, I’m going for a 1-1 draw.

‘Shamal George has been sensational since becoming our regular number one’. Shamal signed for Colchester in the summer of 2020, on a two year deal, following a loan spell at Tranmere in the 2018-19 season.

Rover and Out F.C, a conversation with Adam Siddorn.

If you take a look around Prenton Park or Merseyside in general. If you take a look at Tranmere supporter groups and have a chat to people who understand what the area stands for, or even if you understand what the majority of the modern world is all about then you will understand how key unity and a sense of belonging really is as more people choose to be and to behave with a greater sense of freedom.

This is something that Tranmere have done greatly over the past few years with the introduction of the Rover and Out team, bringing together those who could feel unaccepted in any other walk of life into being a part of a collective team and group. 

This summer, the group has branched out and there has been a new football team founded which reflects all of this. Thus, I spoke to Adam Siddorn who is the Rover and Out football manager to understand more about the team, their plans for the future and much more.

Could we open our conversation by you telling me a bit about the club? What was the search for players and a place to play like? 

It was quite difficult to start off with. We’re a branch off the Rover and Out supporter group and we basically started as a five-a-side team as we couldn’t get ten players but over time we put out invites for people to come down and train with us. It’s a really good group and its got people from all different backgrounds and genders. There’s an element of fun and competitiveness and we’ve gone from there to having a squad of over 15 different players to choose from.

Where are the games and where does the team train?

At the moment, we’re just moving to play on Friday nights at Solar Campus which is obviously Tranmere’s training ground. However, over the summer we’ve been playing at Birkenhead Park. We’ve so far had games in Chester, Wales, Liverpool, Ashville as well as being invited to international cup competitions up and down England even in Glasgow. This has given the squad the chance to have a good weekend away so a more enhanced social life as well as some football competitiveness.

You’re the manager of Wirral Radio’s football team and that is something you have great fun doing. However, what are the differences between that and Rover and Out? Also, what are the ideas that you want to project to the players?

It’s important that we don’t try to emulate what I’ve done with Wirral Radio as they’re a Sunday league team. Yes, we want some parts of it as in just doing things correctly and getting in the right people etc. However, we want to invite people of all different abilities and backgrounds to come down to this new team. I want this to be fun and I want this to be enjoyable. We’ve had someone aged 15 playing for us, we’ve had someone in their 50s playing for us and we’ve got a woman now who drives down from Manchester to access our club, from this she’s made a team in her area whilst commentating on the Women’s Premier League for a local radio station.

So would you say that the social aspect of this club means a little bit more than the results?

Well, obviously it’s nice to win but the social aspects are huge and we do our best to raise money for local charities when we have a game. Our chosen charity is the Martin Gallier Foundation in New Ferry, which is a suicide awareness charity. You’ve got to have a serious side but regardless of the level you’re playing at you need that social side, whether that be a night out or some time together and to add in raising some money for charity makes it even better.

In terms of challenges, if we can bring it back to your work with the Wirral Radio team. How does managing Wirral Radio compare to Rover and Out?

In terms of challenges they’re roughly the same but we have a range of abilities between those two squads. Something which I do though is get a player from the Radio team to come down to Rover and Out to train with them so they can learn, with no disrespect intended, from a higher quality player so they can potentially get better opportunities in the future. 

The games that Rover and Out have, are they in a league? Also, how would you describe the standard of opposition in comparison with your team?

We’ve been playing friendlies against teams such as the Chester Hospice Charity Team who have many Chester fans playing for them, we’ve made great friends there. We’re currently in negotiations to start a North West inclusion league which is very exciting. The standard is very mixed but there’s been many opportunities for games so far through various competitions, leagues or friendlies.

It sounds like you have many opportunities and pathways for the future, there is a lot of things that you can do going forwards.

Yeah there is. We’ve touched on the social side of things and the games that we’ve played so far but it’s also important to say that people have made friends for life within this team. Peter Case and Paul Davies, alongside myself, do a really good job of running the club and without them we’d be buggered but they’re men who maybe wouldn’t have the opportunities to run teams elsewhere.

If anyone is hearing about the Rover and Out football team for the first time through this interview and want to show their support in some way, how could they go about doing this?

Well that’s the thing, you don’t even need to play! We’ve got a fan who’s a Tranmere fan and comes to every game and comes for a pint afterwards. You can find us on Twitter and Facebook. Anyone is welcome down, to come and play or to come and watch and socialise. Come down and enjoy a bit of football, semi non-competitive football and be a part of a family.

‘It’s more than a football match, it’s more than a team and it’s more than a club. That’s what makes it so good’. You can find Rover and Out on Twitter @roverandout.

Crawley Town – Best and Worst.

The best and worst of ‘some’* Crawley Town subjects.

Ahead of the encounter between Tranmere Rovers and Crawley Town in League Two action this Saturday, I spoke to Stephen Dimmock about some of the best and worst moments, players and managers that he’s had the pleasure and displeasure of enduring.

Best team: GK- Glenn Morris, RB- Lewis Young, CB- Kyle McFadzean, CB- Jordan Tunnicliffe, LB- Nick Tsaroulla, RM- Sergio Torres, CM- Dannie Bulman, CM- Hope Akpan, LM- Billy Clarke, ST- Matt Tubbs, ST- Max Watters.

Best player: Matt Tubbs – Top scorer in 2010/11 season, absolute goal machine.

Worst player: Dominic Poleon – Had a decent reputation when first signed, but didn’t score many, wasn’t trying hard and mocked the club on social media.

Best moment/game: Penalty shootout win vs Stoke in 2019-20 League Cup.

Worst moment/game: 2015 relegation or loss v Colchester in 2019-20 League Cup.

Best haircut: Sergio Torres.

Worst Haircut: Jordan Tunnicliffe when he dyed it blonde in the summer, obviously trying to copy Phil Foden when he is a defender.

Best season: 2010/11 for promotion to the Football League and legendary cup run.

Worst season: 2014/15 (as it resulted in relegation) although 2015/16 and 2018/19 were close.

Best goal: Nick Tsaroulla vs Leeds in 2021.

Best kit: The away one in 2020/21, only time I’ve been tempted to buy one.

Worst kit: 2012-13 home, 2015-16 home and both of this season’s kits.

Best chant: Must admit I don’t think the chants are anything special or original, but one for Bez Lubala a couple of years ago was alright.

Best manager: Statistically Steve Evans but didn’t take to him much and to be honest most managers would have done well with the squad we had in the early 2010s. From my time I’d say John Yems but that’s mainly because all of the others have been rubbish.

Worst manager: Harry Kewell without a doubt (and we have had some bad managers in recent years). The guy thought he was much bigger than the club, had an argument with fans at Wycombe Wanderers and then two weeks into the second season ran off to Notts County. We cannot stand the bloke and seeing his managerial career tank has made me laugh.

Best cult hero: Sergio Torres, for late winner vs Derby in 2011 plus a great background story. Was also a core member of our team for the first few years as a league club and even had a film made about him a few years ago.

Best hard man: I’d say probably Kyle McFadzean, although we did have quite a few of them in that era seeing that Steve Evans was managing at the time. 

Worst hard man: Ashley Nadesan is trying to be one at the moment but is coming across as a League Two version of Granit Xhaka and many fans criticised him for his behavior vs Harrogate last week.

Matt Tubbs, Crawley Town striker between the years of 2010 and 2012, was an ‘absolute goal machine’.