Politically Charged Footballers

Following Lokomotiv Moscow player Dmitri Tarasov’s show of support for Vladimir Putin on Tuesday night, here are some more examples of politically charged footballers.

By Ed Wade.

There was an air of shock and disbelief in Turkey on Tuesday night, when Lokomtiv Moscow’s Dmitri Tarasov took off his shirt to reveal a pro Vladimir Putin shirt following their Europa League defeat to Fenerbahçe. Along with the picture of Putin wearing a Navy hat, were the Russian words ‘the most polite president.’

The match was the first that paired a Russian and Turkish team after a Russian war plane was shot down for violating Turkish airspace over Syria. It was a highly charged game which saw three Fenerbahçe fans arrested before kick-off.

It will go down as one of the most politically controversial moves in football, but it is not the first time it has happened. So who are the other football stars to have involved the beautiful game within political matters.

  1. Paolo Di Canio

The former West Ham player and Sunderland manager was a talisman on the pitch, and a full on headline in the making on the sidelines.

He’s made the headlines for the right reasons numerous times in the past, and everyone will remember ‘that volley’ against Wimbledon.

However, the Italian was full of controversy and was famously a big fan of former Italian Fascist Prime Minister, Benito Mussolini. He mentioned in his autobiography that he is ‘fascinated’ with the controversial political figure.

He made several fascist salutes whilst playing for Lazio in 2005 and was suspended and fined after a game against AS Roma. As a result of his right-wing views, the Italian was almost sacked from Sunderland before he had even managed a game.

  1. Josip Simunic

The former Croatian captain famously lead fascist chants after a 2-0 win over Iceland in a World Cup qualifying match in 2013.

The chants were in support of the former pro-Nazi Ustase regime during World War II and were met with the response of ‘ready’ by supporters.

After the match, Simunic said: “I’m not afraid. I’m supporting my Croatia, my homeland. If someone has something against it, that’s their problem.”

The then Dinamo Zagreb player was banned for 10 matches and missed the World cup in 2014.

  1. Nicolas Anelka

The Frenchman is known for being an European football journeyman of sorts, playing for 10 separate clubs across the continent.

The striker caused a stir when celebrating with a quenelle salute after scoring in a match for West Brom in 2014.

He denied all accusations of being a fascist and said it was in support of French comedian Dieudonne M’bala who used it as an expression of hatred towards Jews.

Anelka was banned for five games and fined £80,000 despite saying after the game that it was ‘misunderstood.

  1. Diego Maradona

The magical Argentine is known for his incredible exploits on the field, not to mention his two goals against England in the world cup. He has never been far from controversy after being tested positive for drug use.

A well-known left wing supporter, he voiced his thoughts on America when appearing on former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez TV programme.

He said: “I hate everything that comes from the United States. I hate it with all my strength.”

He was also against George Bush’s visit to Argentina, it seems: “I think Bush is a murderer. I’m going to head the march against him stepping foot on Argentine soil.”

  1. Christian Abbiati

The only active professional player on the list, Christian Abbiati has been used as a cup goalkeeper trying to help Milan claim the TIM cup of late.

The AC goalkeeper may not be as high profile or have been quite so loud in voicing his opinions, but the Italian goalkeeper has not been quiet about it either.

He said: “I am not ashamed to proclaim my political beliefs. I share ideals of fascism, such as the fatherland and the values of the Catholic religion.”



Groundhopper: Eastleigh F.C’s Silverlake Stadium

Here is Tommie Collins with a review of his latest groundhopping outing to Easleigh FC’s Silverlake Stadium.

By Tommie Collins.

As far as groundhoppping goes, certain grounds are on the radar, but Eastleigh F.C’s Silverlake Stadium definitely wasn’t one of them. Nevertheless, Wrexham were due to play there and plans were made to make the long trek to deepest Hampshire.

I’ll be honest, I’d never really taken notice of where, or even who they were, until their excellent FA Cup run this season.

Eastleigh F.C. are riding high in the National Conference and they recently lost out to Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup 3rd round after a replay.

Another passing interest is a distinct Welsh connection with former Swansea City and Newport County defender Chris Todd at the helm, former Welsh U21 captain Joe Partington [who’s mother hails from Flint] and the Nomad Kaid Mohamed who started this season at Port Talbot.

They were facing a Wrexham side who were enduring another poor run having lost to Braintree four days earlier on what many commented was a very poor pitch.

The Silverlake Stadium, otherwise known as Ten Acres, has a very impressive shallow all-seated stand behind one goal – where the away fans were situated. Running the length of the pitch was a relatively new terrace and this was also behind the other goal where the home fans congregated in an attempt to create an atmosphere.

Running along the other side of the pitch was a tall stand situated mainly in the centre, similar to Bristol Rovers’ Memorial ground. The boardroom and manager’s office was situated by the stand, whilst the executive lounge was in the corner – both housed in matching portakabins.

Upon discussions with some of the fans, I understand that they have plans to upgrade the stadium and garner ambitions to gain promotion to the Football League in the near future.

The match was in doubt until nearly kick off time; despite the presence of my mate Dermot Gallagher the ex Premier League referee. I’d previously met Dermot at a Barnet  – Wrexham match, and the young looking referee seemed hesitant to give the game the go-ahead.

Both managers wanted the game to start and Gary Mills, the Wrexham manager, insisted that the Braintree pitch from the previous game was in worse condition. The Eastleigh officials agreed and were adamant that the pitch was in a worst state when they played Bolton in the FA Cup.

The fresh faced official wanted more sand on the boggy areas so that the players could turn and not get injured. I agree that player safety is paramount; all present were surprised that he left it so late to give the green light for the match to go ahead.

The match itself was enlivened by Eastleigh’s Andy Drury who scored with a spectacular strike from outside the box. Wrexham then drew level through Sean Newton’s shot, also from long range.

Over the course of the game, the standard of play deteriorated just like the pitch did, but Wrexham blew a great late opportunity to claim three valuable points when captain Connor Jennings failed to convert a penalty.

Overall, the draw was a fair result.

I made the long drive back to North Wales in 4hours 20 minutes, with my usual pin badge purchased.

Upon reflection on the drive home, I realised that ticking Eastleigh F.C’s Silverlake Stadium off my groundhopping list was an unexpected, but delightful treat.

Admission £15 on the day – £12 in advance

Badge – £2.50

Programme – £3

Tea – £1.50 hot

See more Groundhopper reports here –

Burton Albion’s Prielli Stadium Scouts

The Final Frontier, Carlisle United’s Brunton Park

Euro 2016: Loyalty Counts For Nothing

When it comes to Euro 2016 tickets; Loyalty counts for nothing.

By Tommie Collins.

Thousands of Welsh fans have been bouncing around in excitement ever since that unforgettable October night in Zenica, Bosnia when the national football team qualified for the forthcoming UEFA Euro 2016 finals in France.

This week has seen many face disappointment or ecstasy when ticket application emails  arrived with the best or worst news of the year.

For the loyal fans that had travelled the length and breadth of Europe for many years; they thought – unwittingly – that the FAW [Football Association of Wales] Points system would have been enough for them to gain the tickets they had requested.

Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Firstly, the main problem is the paltry allocation that individual countries were given for the matches. The same happens in the UK for the biggest sporting occasions. Tickets are set aside for hospitality and sponsors which results in tickets being taken away from those that deserve them most.

You could argue that stadiums for the championships should have more capacity, as only two in France hold over 60,000 – The Stade de France at St Denis holds 80,000 and Marseille’s Stade Velodrome holds 67,000.

Welsh fans applied for 52,160 tickets with an initial allocation of 17,700 that was then increased to 21,177.

As in any instance when a team does well, it attracts people who possibly have rarely attended a match. It happens with numerous football clubs when they reach a final. A ticketing system is put in place that ends up only satisfying a fraction of the demand.

But, it seems that UEFA’s system was flawed. There were various ticket categories and there were two different systems. One was buying individual tickets for matches for all categories 1,2,3 and 4 – with 4 being the cheapest.

This category was heavily subscribed. The other choice was a ‘follow my team’. This was only for cat 3 or 1. It now seems that there wasn’t enough tickets in this scheme to satisfy all that applied, and many loyal fans went down this route.

The FAW’s stance is that UEFA should have informed them of this. As a bit of constructive criticism, its worth remembering this was a learning curve for all, possibly more points should have been awarded for the away games.

Therefore, many fans that recently joined the Welsh Supporters Club or bought tournament or half season tickets went for single tickets and were successful, it seems.

With allocations of 8,969 for Wales v Slovakia (Bordeaux) – 5,202 for England v Wales (Lens) and 7,002 for Russia v Wales (Toulouse) respectively, it’s plainly obvious it wasn’t enough to satisfy the demand. In an ideal world, participating countries would get half the stadium allocation.

However, them days are sadly gone.

Some of the unfortunate, but loyal, Welsh fans that are without tickets for France will be attending the forthcoming friendly match against Ukraine in Kiev on March 28th.


This ultimately proves that loyalty certainly counts for nothing.


See also –

Increased Europa League Ticket Prices. Why The Surprise?

3G Pitches Report

Athletic Bilbao – Deep In Their Roots, But All Flowers See The Light


Increased Europa League ticket prices, Why the surprise?

Danish champions FC Midtjylland are charging Manchester United fans 710 kroner (£71.00) for next month’s Europa League tie – three times what they asked Southampton fans to pay during the qualifying stage back in August. Here we take a look at the reason why.

By Danny Wyn Griffith.

Danish champions FC Midtjylland are charging Manchester United fans 710 kroner (£71.00) for next month’s Europa League tie – three times what they asked Southampton fans to pay during the qualifying stage back in August.

Manchester United fans and the British media have since rightly cried foul over the excessive-looking increase in price. However, this shouldn’t be any kind of surprise to the fans who are used to following the club along Europe’s shores.

February 23rd 2012, Manchester United scraped past Ajax 3-2 on aggregate in the Europa League last 32 round, despite being defeated 2-1 by the Dutch giants at Old Trafford. The same night, Athletic Club Bilbao beat FC Lokomotiv Moscow on away goals at La Catedral after the tie finished 2-2 on aggregate.

Both victorious sides were drawn together for the next round in what would prove to be their first meeting since the famous 1957 European Cup Quarter-final. That tie has forever been embedded in European Football history having seen Los Leones beat the Busby Babes 5-3 in the first leg at home in Bilbao, before heading out of the competition to a 3-0 defeat at United’s temporary home at Maine Road, with late-greats Dennis Viollet and Tommy Taylor scoring in both legs.

The 2011-12 UEFA Champions League campaign had gone much the same as this term’s; having seen United finishing third behind FC Basel and S.L Benfica in their much-fancied group.

Whilst no United fan would have been overjoyed at the demotion, many were quietly licking their lips in taboo-like manner at the European cities, grounds and bars that were potentially waiting for them in the Europa League – much like this year.

Having first of all visited The ‘Dam, United drew the Basque side and many a Red were glad to be looking at a Spanish euro-away that didn’t include the usual suspects of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Villarreal etc.

The Basques were also well known for their love of red wine and hospitality off the pitch – whilst being renowned for their la furia never-say-die attitude on it – all of which made the tie a standout amidst the draw.

What wasn’t to be expected was the eye-watering increase in ticket price that saw Athletic Club charge United fans €90.00 for the second-leg at the Old San Mamés.

FullSizeRender (1)
Second leg stub from the San Mamés

Whilst I and many other a Red never begrudged paying the fee demanded, it was a hard one to swallow due to it being a 350% increase on the €20 fee the visiting Lokomotiv Moscow fans were asked to pay in the previous round.

Given this, we really shouldn’t be surprised at the £71.00 being asked of us for the upcoming FC Midtjylland tie in Denmark. Especially given the ground’s capacity is a mere 11,800 and we were only given a marginal 800-ticket allocation.

“I can understand that it’s expensive for a Manchester United fan to see FC Midtjylland and that they are angry, but that’s how it is,” explained Jacob Jørgensen, the club’s commercial director, on the Danish club’s website.

He continued: “We are in competition with Manchester United to move forward, and their huge turnover and amounts of TV money are so much greater than ours. I think we put up a very fair price, as we could easily sell out even if we made it 1,500-2,000 kroner (£150+) per ticket.”

To be honest, you can’t actually blame these smaller continental sides in increasing the prices when they draw United, due to the ever-recycled line of ‘We’re Manchester United, the world’s biggest club and we have 659million fans worldwide’ that is spouted by Ed Woodward and the marketing department to lure our next commercial partner in Mongolian dumpling manufacturing.

I’m just surprised Paul Scholes hasn’t come round to calling that particular line boring yet.

Nevertheless, opponents have now realised that if the regular match-goers aren’t willing to pay the going-price, many more will supposedly be waiting in the wings to do so.

One only needs looking back a couple of months to remember the away-end at CSKA Moscow being full of Moscow Reds – no disrespect meant towards them.

We are now that global brand the club vowed to become over the last decade or so. With that comes the burden of foreign clubs hiking prices for their Cup Finals against us and it’s the supporters picking up the tab once again.

This isn’t the first time, and certainly won’t be the last time we do so either.


First published in Red News Issue 231 on 23/01/2016.

The Third Clásico

Here we have Luke Rees with his preview of this Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash between Atlético and Barça at the Vicente Calderón Stadium.

By Ed Wade.

Although Atlético Madrid v Barcelona may not hold the same glamour as the official El Clásico, it is now a game which some consider a title decider due to the form shown by both sides this season.

Barcelona were victorious in the reverse fixture having claimed a 1-0 victory and could go six points clear at the top – if they win their game in hand.

The contest on 30th January is one neither team want to lose, but even more so for Atlético Madrid as this will be a serious test for their title credentials come the end of the season.

Atlético were last crowned champions of Spain in 2013-14 by earning a point on the last day of the season in a crunch-match against Barcelona as well as reaching the UEFA Champions League Final.

Many thought that Atlético’s success would be a one season wonder. However, they are currently level at the top of La Liga – behind Barcelona only on goal difference with Diego Simeone being applauded for some shrewd investments in the squad.

The club continued their steady progress following the title win despite the loss of major players, such as Diego Costa to Chelsea and the recent departure of Arda Turan to upcoming opponents Barcelona.

Arda Turan
Arda Turan in his new colours.

The return of Los Colchoneros favourite Felipe Luis from Chelsea has been a big boost and he’s been a constant threat down the left.

Despite suffering from the cliché slow start following his move from Villarreal, Luciano Vietto looks a promising young player who could be vital for the future – or sooner if any of Atlético’s stars move on in the summer.

Last year, they finished the league campaign in third place and managed to make it into the last eight of the UEFA Champions League. However, this time around they look more like the old battle-hardened Atlético that Diego Simeone’s sides have become renowned for.

They are capable of grinding out results when they need to, having won 1-0 seven times and scored a relatively mediocre 30 league goals so far this season.

Incredibly, this amounts to fifteen less goals than Messi, Neymar and Suarez’s combined total.

Catalan giants Barcelona on the other hand had a contrast in fortune. Having lost out on the title in 2014, the club invested heavily the following summer. They brought in Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and the less successful Thomas Vermaelen, which resulted in them winning the treble for the second time in their history.

The trident of attacking prowess through the likes of Messi, Suarez and Neymar was enough to blow most opposition out of the water – registering an astonishing 122 goals in all comps last season.

Barça have coped admirably despite not being able to play their two major summer signings Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal until January due to the much-publicised transfer ban. Both players could give them that edge during the run-in – something Luis Enrique seems to agree with.

“Arda can play in the middle or out wide, and I dare say Aleix Vidal could play in any of three positions, either at full-back, centre-back or even out on the wing.” Said Luis Enrique early in December whilst discussing what each player would bring to the current fold.

With only two defeats all season, they’ve built on their successful 2014-15 by displaying some impressive form and winning the FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup and they look in fine-shape heading into the latter stages of the campaign.

Whilst there have been a number of classic meetings between both sides in the past; the last five games have been very tight with the winning team having won by more than one goal, on only one occasion.

Diego Godin has been a real leader at the back for Atlético once again this season, having seen him command a defence that has only conceded a mere eight league goals. On top of this, he normally seems to relish the challenge of keeping out his compatriot and close friend Luis Suarez.

Suarez Godin
Suarez and Godin during international duty.

On a sour note, Diego Simeone had to admit this week that they could lose their prized-possession in Frenchman Antione Griezmann.

He said: “Of course he’s a very important player for us, but we can’t hold him here with chains.”

The cultured left-footer remains the most focal point of attack for the Madrid outfit and the forward will want to justify any potential big money move with a showing at the Vicente Calderón Stadium.

On the other hand, newly crowned Ballon D’or winner Lionel Messi has pledged his future to Barça by stating his desire to end his career with the club and continue winning trophies:

“My idea is I want to finish at home, and my home is Barca.” He said.

The Argentine captain is starting to get back to full fitness after scoring his 11th league goal of an injury-hit campaign and will surely lead the line for Barcelona on Saturday.

It remains to be seen if ‘The Third Clásico’ will ever be as big as the original, but there is no doubt that Saturday afternoon’s top-of-the table clash will prove to be the biggest European football has to offer this weekend.

Groundhopper: Pirelli Stadium Scouts

Here we have Tommie Collins’ account of his recent groundhopping outing to Burtion Albion’s Pirelli Stadium – as a scout.

By Tommie Collins.

Groundhopping is a growing sensation that involves attending matches at as many different stadiums or grounds as possible. Participants are known as groundhoppers, hoppers or travellers. The craze has seen a sharp rise in popularity of late due to the rising costs of watching Premier League football.

Personally, one ground stuck out like a sore thumb in my quest to visit as many grounds as possible: Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium.

I’d planned to go there numerous times but, but it just never materialised. Then, I kindly asked one of my numerous contacts for some complimentary tickets a few weeks back and two tickets with a parking space were reserved for me for the home game against Shrewsbury Town.

Nevertheless, there was a slight catch. Officially, we were classed as scouts.

Believe it or not, I do know a half-decent footballer when I see one. I visited Aldershot in the early 90’s for a match against Blackpool and one player stood out that night: Trevor Sinclair. On another groundhopping outing, I visited Crewe’s Gresty Road for a match against Swansea City and former Juventus and Arsenal midfielder David Platt shined that night. So, who would be the one to make an impression today?

Burton is synonymous as a town known for producing beer; I remembered the days when I used to drink Double Diamond which was actually brewed in Burton upon Trent – leading to its football team being nicknamed the Brewers.

The ground was neat and tidy, or as per usual for the ubiquitous new stadia [opened 2005] – a four-sided concrete breeze-block building. Nevertheless, the reception area which housed the main stand was nice and extremely modern. The other three sides were terraced.

We were allowed into the Albion Suite where the sponsors and their guests were tucking into their fine looking meals and downing pint after pint.

There was certainly no dry January here.

After a quick mingle, we entered the stadium and received our official team-sheets.  The pre-match refreshments was a let-down, however, and not a patch on some Welsh Premier League sides hospitality. There was a tea and coffee area but no one was serving – although this was rectified half time.

We sat with our pretend-lot for the night. One scout was representing Sheffield United and he was kitted out in official club clobber. We chatted briefly and we seemed to be fitting in well.

We were missing a few essential things compared to the rest, though – a pen and note pad.

The match itself was seemingly a home banker, with Burton Albion flying high in the upper echelons of League One, whilst the visitors had recently received a 7-1 battering at Chesterfield.

Given I cover many a Welsh Premier League match in a season, I immediately noticed that the pace of a League One match was much quicker and to use an old cliché; both teams tried to play football.

Up front for Shrewsbury Town was Andy Mangan, who is known as the rascal in the eye of many a Wrexham F.C. fan having never forgiven Mangan for upping sticks and leaving for Fleetwood Town in 2011.

There was a decent atmosphere in the ground with approximately 400-500 fans having made the journey. The visitors only seemed to have the single chant in their armoury and took every opportunity to emphasise they are from Salop. The Burton fans behind the other goal had plenty of flags to make for a colourful afternoon.

Sitting next to us whilst scouting for an unnamed agency was former Leicester City and most recently manager of Irish side Sligo Rovers: Mickey Adams.

We left on 80 minutes – as scouts do – with the score at 1-1 and to ruin many a betting man’s afternoon, Shrewsbury Town scored at the death to record a 2-1 away win – a real coupon buster.

One thing that drew my attention in the official programme was the price of tickets in League One. Burton Albion are away to Peterborough next with the price of admission set at £23. Watching football at any level is an expensive business nowadays, it seems.

Unless you’re a scout.

Admission -£0
Programme – £2.50
Obligatory pin badge – £2.50
Chips – £1.80
Tea (very hot) – £1.30

See more Groundhopper reports here –

Eastleigh F.C’s Silverlake Stadium

The Final Frontier, Carlisle United’s Brunton Park

GroundHopper: The Final Frontier, Brunton Park

Here is Football Foyer’s first GroundHopper feature courtesy of Ian Bradshaw as he recalls his recent visit to Carlisle United’s Brunton Park.

By Ian Bradshaw.

For many English football fans, Carlisle United’s Brunton Park is amongst the furthest domestic away game you could anticipate.

Simon Inglis in his book ‘The Football Grounds of Great Britain’ quotes Daily Mail football writer Brian James in ‘Journey to Wembley’ in a fitting assessment of Brunton Park:

A frontier post of football indeed, guarded only by sheep. Nothing moves out there. And the notion that a ball kicked over the wall would go bouncing until it dropped off the end of the world is hard to shake off.’

They are the last of Cumbria’s three football league clubs with Barrow still being in Lancashire when they failed a re-election to the league in 1972 and Workington Town giving way to Wimbledon in 1977.

The Brunton Park pitch is perilously close to the River Eden and Petteril, which are susceptible to flooding on an annual basis.

The ground is also renowned for the downward slope it possesses towards the River Eden. This recently threatened the staging of an FA Youth Cup game against Doncaster Rovers.

Nevertheless, the ground staff – given their vast experience in dealing with such weather – managed to pump the pitch clear of floodwater and mow it in the intervening twenty-four hours prior to the game.


Personally, Carlisle United’s Brunton Park is a real favourite of mine.

It holds a quirky charm, exacerbated only by the odd-looking additional wings to the main stand. These were hastily added in preparation for the club’s promotion to the old Division 1 in 1974.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the ground, think of how you added additional terracing to the Subbuteo stand system by raiding your Lego box.

Having first stood with the locals in 1988 to watch games in the then 4th Division, you can’t help but warm affectionately to their outlook on life, football and their beloved Carlisle United.

During that period, I regularly visited the city due to my girlfriend being in attendance at the Cumbria Art College. These weekend visits presented me with the perfect opportunity to attend the odd match at Brunton Park.

That season saw Carlisle United play Liverpool in an FA Cup 3rd Round tie during which I stood in the away section since I was a season ticket holder at Anfield.

The match ticket cost me a mere £4.00.


The following week however, saw a standing ticket for a home game with York City reduced from the usual £3 to £2 so that regular match goers weren’t out of pocket over both games. This further emphasised their close affiliation with the local community.

I’ve got to admit, I was mawkishly drawn to a few games last season as the Blues flirted seriously – nigh on conducted a full-blown affair – with relegation.

I chalked off Accrington Stanley’s Crown Ground in my ground-hopping diary for a fixture on Easter Monday, which saw black humour aplenty amongst a travelling mass in excess of 1,000 in a total crowd of 2,100.

The match ended in an abject 3-1 defeat.

The next fixture I made it to was a home tie with Plymouth Argyle that concluded in a 2-0 victory that saw Carlisle United stave off relegation.

Thankfully, there was no need for a late Jimmy Glass volley this time around.

A few weeks back, I spotted a free weekend for myself at the end of November. A quick check of the fixtures saw an entrance fee reduction to a £10 standing ticket for the Football League Two game against Crawley Town – if bought in advance. This would be under the covered Warwick Road End terrace.


With a 180-mile round-trip journey, diabolical weather saw me plump for the car as opposed to a Virgin Train from Preston.

This service has a nasty habit of falling prey to the Westmoreland wilds of Shap Fell – the highest point of the English railway network – with slow running or even cancelled trains aplenty.

Brunton Park is situated very close to Junction 43 of the M6 and having parked the car readily positioned for a swift post-match exit, I made the brisk half-mile walk to the ground.

Along the way, I consumed the obligatory burger – priced at £3.40 – and leaned on a barrier for the perfect vantage point.

No finer way to watch a match, may I add.

A great game ensued as Carlisle took the lead within the first two minutes following tidy wing play by a talented young player called Alex Gilliead. The Newcastle United loanee produced a fine cross for Charlie Wyke, whose header nestled in the back of the net.

Further wing-wizardry from Gilliead on 28mins saw a low cross reach Jason Kennedy, who flicked it into the path of the oncoming Wyke for his and Carlisle’s second.

Crawley Town – in their black Puma kit quite akin to the away strip of Fortuna Dusseldorf – clawed a goal back on 33mins as the game opened up in intermittently rainy conditions.

However, Carlisle put the game out of sight just three minutes into the second-half through their striker, Jabo Ibehre, who slotted into the top left hand corner of the net.

Numerous chances occurred for Carlisle beyond that, but neither team were able to add to the score line as the game finished at 3-1.

It turned out to be a productive week for the club as they pushed on from the 4-3 midweek victory at Luton Town. This sees the Cumbrian Fox sitting healthily in 6th place and looking upwards at possible promotion.


Highlight – For me, the heckling of referees at lower level games is brilliantly audible. Following a free-kick award to the visitors, the referee offered his whistle to the local who had vocalised his discontent with the decision.

Half-time result:

Carlisle United 2 – 1 Crawley Town

Full time result:

Carlisle United 3 – 1 Crawley Town

Official attendance:



Typically Cumbrian

See more Groundhopper reports here –

Eastleigh F.C’s Silverlake Stadium

Pirelli Stadium Scouts 

3G Pitches Show The Way Forward

With the wintery weather tightening it’s grip on European Football, Third Generation (3G) pitches is becoming a keen conversation topic once again. Here we look at the increase in their uses within the football pyramid.

By Tommie Collins.

With the wintery weather tightening it’s grip on European Football, Third Generation (3G) pitches is a popular conversation topic once again.

We all remember the plastic pitches at Oldham’s Boundary Park, Luton’s Kenilworth Road and QPR’s Loftus Road.

Those were the forerunners for a new generation of artificial pitches now used throughout world football.

These new surfaces are supposedly the closest thing to grass, but why are the clubs turning to 3G?

Recently, measures were taken following an inquiry by the Welsh government into ways of developing their domestic league. It was decided that installing 3G artificial pitches could help clubs become ‘community hubs’.

The FAW part-funded the implementation of this latest technology. It was felt that clubs were losing potential income during the winter due to many games falling foul of the weather .

Google 3G Weather
Football falls victim to the weather once again.

The Welsh Premier League currently has four clubs with 3G artificial pitches. These include Airbus UK Broughton, The New Saints, Newtown AFC and Llandudno FC.

Bangor City and Connah’s Quay decided on installing 3G pitches for training and community purposes. Other clubs such as Aberystwyth and Porthmadog have future ambitions to install this latest technology.

This phenomenon is now trickling down to the Welsh League Division One.

One of these include the 9 x Welsh Premier League champions, Barry Town, who are steadily re-climbing their way through the leagues towards the higher tier.

Ian Johnson, a life-long Barry Town supporter, believes that this implementation is key to the future development of the domestic game.

He said: “Making Jenner Park a 3G surface over the summer has hopefully solved long-term drainage problems at the ground and means that fans can be fairly sure that matches won’t be called off.

“Although it will still require care and attention, the new surface makes the ground available for other age-groups and sections at the club, and for other local clubs to use for training and occasional games.

“The aim is to turn the ground into a real community hub through its regular use, creating a buzz around the ground – something added to by the re-opening of the club house.

“Hopefully the club will be able to use this as a stepping stone to future success, and it would be nice to be hosting representative and international matches at Jenner Park in the future.”

Jonny Drury, Newtown AFC Press Officer, agreed with this view and praised it’s impact at the club. He also pushed for non-league English sides to be given the right to implement this latest technology.

He said: “Since we have had the 3G, it has been commended by people inside and outside the club. The first team lads love it and say it is the best in the league.

“Players from both semi-professional and amateur opposition teams have praised it, and it is in use all the time which shows it is well liked.

Final phase of the 3G artificial turf pitch at Latham Park.RD299_2014-3
Final phase of the 3G artificial implementation at Latham Park. 

“In an ideal world, we would all play on grass pitches that were like carpets, but that isn’t the case at this standard, and I would recommend them for any side.

“In England I think it would be beneficial for sides from the National League (Conference) down to be allowed to use them; that could pose a problem with cup competitions, but I think it is the best way, because for me the Welsh Premier League is on par with teams from mid-table Conference, downwards.”

Welsh football fans will never forget the awful surface that Wales played on in the Euro 2016 qualifier in Andorra last year.

Gareth Bale slammed the artificial pitch at Andorra’s Estadi Nacional as ‘by far the worst pitch’ he had ever played on after his late free-kick gave Wales a narrow 2-1 win over the minnows.

Therefore, it must be a case of getting the surface to a standard – something the Andorrans failed to achieve that night.

Many Welsh fans had visited the stadium the previous day and couldn’t believe the bounce of the ball whilst watching the players train. Their fears were later compounded during the match when clusters of black rubber pellets sprayed into the air with each landing of the ball.

Elsewhere in Europe, Russia’s Luzhniki Stadium is one of the few major European stadia to use an artificial pitch, having installed a FIFA-approved artificial pitch in 2002.

One must understand that it is necessary because regular grass pitches cannot withstand the harsh Russian winters and must be replaced yearly at high cost.

In 2008 however, a temporary natural grass pitch was installed at the Luzhniki for the UEFA Champions League Final between Chelsea and Manchester United.

Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

The stadium is also used for various other events and concerts throughout the sporting calendar – further emphasising it’s flexibility.

The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) has 12 clubs with artificial pitches to date.

Stirling Albion were the first to have it installed at their old Annfield ground between 1987 and 1992.

Hamilton Academicals, Kilmarnock, Alloa Athletic, Falkirk, Airdrieonians, Forfar Athletic, Stenhousemuir, Annan Athletic, Clyde, East Stirlingshire, Montrose and Queen of the South’s Palmerston Park all have it installed nowadays.

Sammy Clingan, a fervent Queen of the South supporter, believed it was the only way forward for some of Scottish Football’s lower league sides.

He said “The general consensus was that it had to be the way forward for smaller clubs who could generate much needed income from hiring the pitch out 7 days a week.

“Queens have two local teams, reserves and youth teams who play all their home games at Palmerston now. When youngsters are needed to complement the first team they are used to playing there which helps straight away. Training is also held there occasionally without any worry of wearing out the pitch for match days.

“We also had a Status Quo concert there over the summer which brought in good money for the club to keep things ticking over during the close season.”

As one can see, clubs are utilising their stadiums and attempting to make them available to the community.

Simon Clingan added, :“I would also say that the quality of football has improved with Queens certainly using the pitch to their advantage by adapting a fast flowing passing game with much more emphasis on keeping the ball on the deck. To generalise, I believe there are more positives than negatives to the concept. Yes, we still have the traditionalists who feel that football should be played on grass but most realise that it was a necessary evil. ”

For grassroots teams, it seems like this necessary evil is worth having.


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