And The Circus Leaves Town

So the third and final year of the Welsh Alliance League Groundhop proved to be a fitting finale to what has been a fantastic series of weekends in some of the most scenic locations in Britain.

Friday August 28th 2015

6.30pm – Division Two

Mochdre Sports (0) 1 (Owen 63)

Prestatyn Sports (0) 0

Att: 313 (at Swan Road)

The weekend opened with a tight encounter between two of leagues newest incumbents. The football ground shares with a mightily impressive cricket ground and adjacent hills provide an attractive backdrop, which is somewhat unexpected having reached the ground walking through an industrial estate. Mochdre have done very well from nearly having to fold in the summer of 2012 to gaining promotion to the Welsh Alliance for the 2014/15 season and they win this encounter with a fine free kick from the left boot of Niall Owen.

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Saturday August 29th 2015

10.45am– Division Two

Amlwch Town (1) 1 (Griffiths 45)

Nantlle Vale (2) 2 (A.Hughes 2, S.Williams 40)

Att: 318 (at Lôn Bach)

A reverse fixture from last season’s groundhop sees the visitors win the points in another close game. Prior to kick off a frankly moving speech sees the unveiling of the new stand at Lon Bach, shoehorned into the only available space at the ground, with the widow of former club stalwart John Thomas cutting the ribbon. The club had played in the second tier Cymru Alliance in 2002/03 but after a disastrous campaign they regrouped in the Anglesey League.

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13.30pm– Division Two

Llanerch-y-medd (2) 3 (J.Jones 5, M.Jones 29,47)

Blaenau Ffestiniog Amateurs (2) 2 (Bradley 35,45)

Att: 317 (at Cae Tan Parc)

A steep climb up into the hills and a real surprise to find a super ground at Tan Parc complete with a seated stand on the far side of this exposed venue. A cracking end-to-end match culminated with just about the right result.

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16.45pm– Division One

Trearddur Bay United (3) 4 (Murphy 6, Thomas 17,28, C.Williams 46)

St.Asaph City (0) 3 (J.Jones 48,86, Johns 74)

Att: 304 (at Lôn Issalt)

A real seaside location on Holy Island sees Trearddur Bay’s narrow Lon Issalt packed for this encounter. The boundary wall does makeshift service as a grandstand and many take the hike up the adjacent hill to really appreciate the natural beauty of this fine venue. The home side look hugely impressive in the first half before seemingly running out of puff as the visitors almost clawed back a huge deficit.

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19.45pm– Division One

Llangefni Town (0) 4 (Evans 58, Hughes 65, I.Jones 74, S.Jones 79)

Llanfairpwll (0) 0

Att: 409 (at Cae Bob Parry)

The best appointed ground of the weekend as you would expect given the club’s former tenure in the Welsh Premier League. Cover on all four sides and plastic seating with no little provenance having been acquired from both Gay Meadow and Maine Road. A close first half is followed by the complete opposite in the first half as the hosts threatened to run riot.

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Sunday August 30th 2015

11.30am– Division One

Llanberis (0) 1 (R.Parry 68)

Pwllheli (0) 1 (M.Jones 76)

Att: 333 (at Fforde Padarn)

In the shadow of mighty Snowdon you would expect a scenic ground and Fforde Padern certainly didn’t disappoint. Mountains prevail all around and Llyn Padarn glistens in the early morning sun. A tight encounter is frequently punctuated by the whistles and expelling of steam from the nearby mountain railway. Glorious.

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14.30pm– Division One

Llanrug United (0) 2 (Palmer 63, D.Williams 86)

Llanrwst United (0) 1 (Jenkins 79)

Att:324 (at Eithin Duon)

A short drive out of Llanberis finds a lovely little football ground which is dwarfed by a pylon in the adjacent field. The club have played here since 1968 when the village team was re-established after a nine year hiatus caused by numerous problems trying to find a suitable home ground. Prior to that the club had also been in trouble with the North Wales Coast Football Association, for staging several illegal matches outside of the official football season! The two sides really slug this one out and the hosts secure the points with a goal from David Williams.

18.00pm– Division Two

Mynydd Llandegai (1) 3 (Hughes 6, pen 70, Whitmore 74)

Meliden (1) 2 (Szabo 21, Buckley 76)

Att: 305 (at Cae Peldroed)

Wow. Just wow. A steep ascent into the mountains again to some 1,200 feet above sea level.  This tiny village’s playing field is nearer the moon than any ground in England including the fabled grounds of Buxton and Tow Law. The scenery is breathtaking, from heather covered mountains to a derelict stone built dwelling, from a stone monument to a planted garden it’s a very attractive place to watch a football match. It’s a very decent encounter too, just shaded by the hosts.

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Sunday August 31st 2015

11.30am– Division Two

Pentreath (4) 10 (McGonigle 1,19, 55, 56, R.Roberts 14, Monument 37, 53, C.Jones 57, 89, D.Owen 73)

Gaerwen (2) 2 (McGuiness 21, Leuthwaite 27)

Att: 376 (at Bryniau Field)

Back onto Anglesey for this match at a typical small village playing field. Minor consternation occurs when one of the coaches reverses perilously close to the local war memorial. The ground also features a set of medieval stocks, punishment for a bad performance maybe? A very one sided game saw the hosts score at will in the second half. It will certainly be a long season for poor old Gaerwen.

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14.45pm- League Cup 1st Round

Llanllyfni (1) 4 (A.Owen 3,90, C.Parry 49, Daniels 57)

Trearddur Bay United (1) 1 (Moore 42)

Att: 307 (at Cae Brenin Sior V)

The game that nearly wasn’t following the pull outs of both Bethesda Athletic and Halkyn United. Fortunately Trearddur Bay came to the rescue and sent a side to contest this League Cup tie. So late was the re-arranged game you can certainly forgive five of their players turning up late for the game. The home side, new to the league following their triumph in the Gwynedd League, look very impressive and the result was never in any doubt.

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18.15pm– Division Two

Penmaenmawr Phoenix (2) 3 (A.Caldecott 21, Davies 44, T.Paddock 90)

Greenfield (1) 4 (Pritchard 39, Shaun Beck 56, G.Henley 59,80)

Att: 431 (at Cae Sling)

A packed Cae Sling provides the perfect coda to this wonderful weekend of football and the two combatants produce a goal feast as well with Greenfield just doing enough to win the points. You almost get blasé about the scenery of these grounds but Cae Sling is a really stunning place to see a game.

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Tastes and Smells of the Weekend

Lobscows (Llanerch-y-medd)

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Chicken, leek and potato stew – Trearddur Bay United

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Fish Finger baps – Llanrug United

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Corned Beef hash – Penmaenmawr Phoenix

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I for one felt a little sad at the end of this fabulous weekend of football as the league is now completed and the Groundhop circus will roll up elsewhere next August bank holiday.

This is Sclessin (Standard de Liège)

Royal Standard de Liège are one of the great names in Belgian fooball although they are sometimes known by the Dutch or German spelling of Luik or Lüttich. The club was formed in September 1898 by pupils of the Collège Saint-Servais the club has the matricule number of 16.

Progress was rapid and by 1909 Standard were in the top flight of Belgian football. This was also the year the club settled in the Liège suburb of Sclessin having initially played on a hillside at Cointe. At the turn of the century Standard moved to the velodrome at Boverie which sat along the banks of the River Meuse and had been used at one point by arch rivals FC Liège. In 1904 the club were given notice that the velodrome would become part of the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1905 Universal Exhibition, forcing the club to move again this time to Grivegnée. Again it was a short-lived arrangement when the owner kicked the club out of the field in 1909 the club were forced to look elsewhere yet again. They settled on a meadow on the banks of the Meuse which they initially rented for 300 francs a year. They have remained there ever since.

Standard were relegated from the top flight but by 1921 had returned to the elite and have never since been relegated, the longest unbroken run in the top tier of any Belgian club.

By 1925 the Stade de Sclessin already had a capacity of 25,000 and underwent expansion both in 1940 when a new tribune added 10,000 places and in 1973 when capacity was increased to 43,000. In 1999 the stadium was substantially upgraded for Euro 2000 and became all-seater for the first time with capacity for 27,500. Since then the club has experimented with “safe standing” in Tribune 4. This takes the current capacity to a shade over 30,000. There are plans to increase capacity once again to 50,000 to obtain UEFA’s prestigious five star rating.

Standard are a hugely successful club domestically. The Reds have won ten Belgian championships (the first in 1957/58 and most recent in 2008/09) and six Belgian cups. They also have a strong history in European competitions with their best performance coming in 1981/82 under coach Raymond Goethels. Playing a brand of football that had been dubbed “Raymond Science” the club had beaten Floriana (12-2 on aggregate), Vasas Budapest (4-1), Porto (4-2) and Dinamo Tblisi (2-0) on the way to the final of the Cup Winners Cup. In the final at Camp Nou, Standard took an early lead through Guy Vandersmissen but eventually lost 2-1 to Barcelona.

The Goethels period at Standard had yielded two League titles and two Belgian Supercups. However, his tenure at the club ended in shame and scandal when it was discovered that Standard players had bribed the Waterschei team to throw the last game of the 1981/82 season. The bribe meant Standard won the league two points ahead of Anderlecht. The deceit wasn’t discovered until 1984 when many players were banned and Goethels fled to Portugal to avoid a similar fate.

The Waterschei affair was deeply damaging and it was 25 years until Standard won the league again under former international goalkeeper Michel Preud’homme. They retained the title the following season under the Romanian László Bölöni.

In June 2011 the club was bought by Roland Duchâtelet, a billionaire micro electronics mogul. He has also bought other clubs in recent years including Charlton Athletic, AD Alcorćon and Carl Zeiss Jena. Duchâtelet recently sold his majority shareholding in Standard in order to concentrate on the other Belgian club in his portfolio, Sint-Truiden. Notably since the sale to Duchâtelet, Standard has had seven managers, the latest incumbent being the Serb, Slavoljub Muslin.

Tonight’s match is something of an attritional affair, Standard as you would expect dominate possession but in centre forward Mohamed Yattara they seem to have an inadequate replacement for recent goalscoring heroes like Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi. Poor of touch and profligate with chances with an alarming frequency, Yattara has his work cut out if he is to truly win over the Sclessin faithful.

Ah Sclessin. You can give this stadium any name you like but it will always be the Stade de Sclessin, the very heartbeat of this heavily industrial area. The stadium is officially known as the Stade Maurice Dufranse after the Standard chairman who bought the club to Sclessin in 1909.

Doughty defending and helpful woodwork keep Waasland Beveren in the game although they do not look like scoring themselves. The decisive break came just after the hour when a scrappy bundled goal from Ricardo Faty settled the game.

In truth it’s not a gripping spectacle on the field, but the partizan and noisy home support made for a great occasion. The unrelenting support in galvanising the team was fully recognised by the Standard players as legendary skipper Jelle Van Damme led his troops over to the ultras section in Tribune 3 at the final whistle. The players joined in the chanting and showed great respect to the paying supporters.

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Jupiler Pro League – 09/08/2015

Standard Liège 1 (Faty 63)
Wassland-Beveren 0

Att: 23,232 (at Stade Maurice Dufranse)

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Freefalling (KFC Uerdingen)

The Grotenburg-Stadion has a long history having first been opened in 1927 when athletics and handball held sway over football. Although an early football match between a combined Krefeld team and Dukla Prague had taken place at the Grotenburg, Uerdingen did not play regularly at the stadium until they joined the Regionalliga West for the first time in 1971. The stadium was completely rebuilt between 1980 and 1986, with the main West Stand being the built in just eight weeks at a cost in excess of six million Deutschmarks. Both current sides and the two ends date from this period as the rebuild saw the removal of the athletics track. In fact the oldest part of the stadium are the magnificent floodlights which first saw service in 1976. The most recent addition to the Grotenburg was the huge and impressive scoreboard at the Zoo end.

FC Uerdingen 05 had been a relatively modest club before World War II and it was a merger of convenience during the war years with VfB 1910 Uerdingen that pre-empted a rise to prominence. The two clubs went their own ways after fielding the combined team in the war leagues but in 1953 FC Uerdingen would merge once again. This time they merged with Werkssportgruppe Bayer AG Uerdingen, the sports wing of the hugely successful chemical company Bayer AG.

Having spent their entire existence in the amateur league the newly renamed FC Bayer Uerdingen 05 quickly rose to the then third tier Amateurliga Niederrhein. By 1971 they were promoted to the second tier which saw them leave Uerdingen for the Grotenburg in nearby Krefeld. Four years later Uerdingen were in the top flight for the first time. However, it was the 1980’s that proved to be Uerdingen’s halcyon period. First came a DFB-Pokal final victory when Bayern Munich were beaten 2-1 in Berlin in 1985. The following season saw a best ever third place finish in the Bundesliga and a run to the semi-final of the European Cup-Winners-Cup. After beating Zurrieq (12-0 on aggregate) and Galatasaray (3-1), Uerdingen were drawn against Dynamo Dresden in the quarter final. The first leg in East Germany had been lost 0-2 and Uerdingen found themselves 3-1 down at half time at the Grotenburg. Manager Karl-Heinz Feldkamp must have performed some sort of miracle at half time as his troops rattled in six goals in the second half to win 7-3. The game was described by top German football magazine 11 Freunde as the greatest match ever played. Sadly the glory ended there as Atlético Madrid beat them 4-2 on aggregate in the semi-final. The 1980’s success was reflected in the club’s youth teams, in 1987 the under 19’s and under 17’s both won their respective championships, Uerdingen becoming the first club to achieve this feat.

The turn of the 1990’s saw an end to the success, the club flitted between the first and second tier and, crucially, at the end of the 1994/95 season Bayer withdrew their funding completely. 1995/96 was the clubs’ first as Krefelder Football Club Uerdingen 05, and their last as a Bundesliga. The club has been pretty much in freefall ever since, consumed by financial problems. With German football restructured in 2008 to create 3.Liga, Uerdingen found themselves in level six, the Verbandsliga, where they stayed for three seasons. Having climbed briefly back to the Regionalliga the club will compete this season in the fifth level Oberliga Niederrhein.

Today’s game was one of those strange early season regional Verbandspokal that randomly pitches the tiniest of Kreisliga clubs, who often play on nothing more than clay or cinder pitches, against pretty heavyweight opposition. In this case a tiny club from a Krefelder suburb, Bockum, got to play at the town’s biggest stadium, the 34,500 capacity Grotenburg-Stadion. The bigger clubs generally will use this sort of game as shooting practice in a competitive scenario rather than a friendly. It is very much a case of not if Uerdingen would win but by how many. With all of three minutes on the clock Kai Schmidt opened the scoring and would go on to score five before being substituted.

A near 2,000 crowd looking a little lost in this cavernous venue, but the gathering enjoyed twelve unanswered goals in probably the most one sided game I have ever seen. The Uerdingen goalkeeper, Daniel Schwabke, touched the ball just five times in the 90 minutes, four of those merely to field back passes from team mates given in order to insure he hadn’t dozed off from prolonged inactivity.

What happened to Uerdingen when Bayer pulled the plug is a really salutary lesson in relying so heavily on one backer. The Grotenberg is a huge and wonderful arena built in far more prosperous times, sadly its vast stands and melancholically empty swathes of monstrous terracing are never likely to creak to anywhere near capacity. And that is the real tragedy of Uerdingen.

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Niederrheinpokal 1st Round – 09/08/2015

KFC Uerdingen 12 (Schmidt 3, 42, pen 45, 50, 51, Sekkour 20, Fahrian 31, Gerstmann 34, Hirsch 53, Ellguth 71, Kubo 80, 81)

TSV Bockum 0

Att: 1,930 (at Grotenburg-Stadion)

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Uerdingen ticket

 

 

The Little Tank (KVC Westerlo)

Football in the small Antwerpen town of Westerlo dates back to 1917 although initial attempts to build a proper town club floundered. The first club of note was SK De Bist Westerlo who were gone within five years of their formation. The next club on the map was Westerlo Football Club, formed in 1924 and given the matricule 379. Sadly their lifespan was only marginally longer than their predecessor, by March 1930 they too had disbanded.

The modern day club can trace its roots back to 1933. Two years previously the village had seen a team called Bist Sport Westerloo formed. In 1933 Westerloo Sport were founded and the two clubs enjoyed many local derbies in the provincial league. By 1942 Westerloo Sport had become Voetball Club Westerlo and Bist Sport, now known as Sportkring Westerlo had sadly folded, leaving VC Westerlo as the pre-eminent club in the town.

Westerlo eventually climbed to the top division of the Antwerpen provincial league and enjoyed derby matches against nearby KFC Heulje. After winning the Promotion B group in 1968/69 Westerlo joined the national league for the first time, although their first tilt at Division 3 was to last only two seasons. The club returned to the third tier for the 1985/86 season and after eight seasons left it through the right end, winning the league and gaining promotion to Division 2. In 1996/97 the club won promotion via the last round play-offs, to take their place in the First Division for the first time in their history. Remarkably they spent fifteen seasons in the top flight and won the Belgian Cup in 2001, beating Lommel in the final. The Cup win saw Westerlo qualify for the UEFA Cup but the yellows were handed a really tough tie and were eliminated by Hertha Berlin. In 2010/11 the club again reached the final of the Belgian Cup and although defeated this time by Standard, Westerlo again qualified for the Europa League. The Kempeneers defeated TPS Turku of Finland before bowing out at the third preliminary round stage to Swiss side Young Boys.

It seemed that the sortie into Europe proved a distraction to Westerlo they struggled all season and were relegated at the end of the 2011/12 season. They almost achieved an immediate return to the top flight but missed out in the final round play-offs. Promotion was only a season away though when Westerlo won the Second Division, four points clear of AS Eupen.

The club have played at Het Kuipje since their formation in 1933 although the ground was completely rebuilt in 2008 and 2009 adjacent to the old field which is now a training pitch. The club became only the third Belgian club, after Genk and Standard, to install undersoil heating to help deal with harsh winter weather. Het Kuipje translates as the “little tank” which folklore has it that it is a nod to the legendary Feyenoord stadium De Kuip, the tank. The current venue is very compact with cover on all four sides and a capacity a shade over 8,000.

The club finished eleventh last season in the sixteen team Pro League and will be looking to improve in this campaign. Tonight’s game is against Oud-Heverlee Leuven, themselves enjoying a quick return to the top flight. The first half is pretty poor fare with Leuven taking the lead mid way through when Macedonian striker Jovan Kostovski’s shot cannoned down off the bar and over the line. How do I know? I was dead in line with it, unlike the linesman who was frantically trying to catch up with play before guessing that the ball had indeed crossed the line. It was a lucky correct guess. The half ended when Westerlo’s full back Mitch Apau rifled in an unstoppable shot.

The quality of the second half improved immeasurably, Serb defender Nikola Petković gave the hosts the lead before their striker from Benin, Frédéric Gounongbe, cleverly bundled the ball in despite the cross being played behind him. Kostovski pulled one back for Leuven but the hosts held on to the three points which they just about deserved. The attendance given was 6,500 which looked a little over the top, but a decent crowd witnessed a good start to the season for Westerlo.

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Jupiler Pro League – 08/08/2015

KVC Westerlo 3 (Apau 45, Petrovic 50, Gounongbe 68)

Oud-Heverlee Leuven 2 (Kostovski 22,78)

Att: 6,500 (at Het Kuipje)

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Gelb und Geld (TSV Alemannia Aachen)

Back in 2006 it was all going so well for Alemannia, the major club representing the beautiful city of Aachen. They had regained a precious place in the elite of 1.Bundesliga and construction had started on the 33,000 capacity Neuer Tivoli an ultra modern venue to replace the ageing but much loved Tivoli. The new venue was to cost €50 million, much of it financed by an interest bond scheme among the club’s supporters.

The catalyst for Alemannia’s recovery had been a run to the DFB Pokal final of 2004, and although they lost the final to Werder Bremen at the Berlin Olympiastadion, it bought qualification for the UEFA Cup. Having overcome FH Harfnarfjordur, Lille OSC and AEK Athens, Aachen qualified for the round of 32. Despite losing narrowly over two legs to AZ Alkmaar the clubs coffers were sufficiently refreshed to mount an ultimately successful tilt at promotion to the Bundesliga in 2005/06.

Alemannia’s first stint in the top tier since 1967 sadly only lasted one season, a 17th place finish meaning an immediate return to 2.Bundesliga. The new stadium, constructed by the Hellmich Group, however, generated some unforeseen costs and placed the club under severe financial strain. However, the Neuer Tivoli was inaugurated on August 12th 2009 with a match against Belgians SK Lierse.

The club suffered two relegations and found themselves in the fourth tier Regionalliga. The financial impact to the club was crushing and insolvency proceedings were considered. The commune of Aachen came to the clubs rescue when the club looked likely to lose their professional licence. Debts continued to mount and in January 2015 Alemannia were left with no choice but to sell the Neuer Tivoli to the City of Aachen for just one euro.

Despite entering a third season in the Regionalliga West, Aachen are still getting some great support at the ground. Last season the club finished second in the table, missing out on promotion, but their home game against Rot-Weiss Essen attracted a sell out 33,000 crowd to the Neuer Tivoli.

Alemannia started life in 1900 and initially played at the Velodrome which was situated in the Zoological Garden. Today this venue is known as Aachener Westpark. In 1904, the club moved to Waldspielplatz, a venue that still exists as the Aachener Waldstadion, primarily an athletics. After only three years there the club were on the move again this time to the Sportplatz Siegel, another venue still in use, most recently as home to Burtscheider Turnverein 1873.

However, when the City of Aachen acquired the land formerly occupied by the villa known as the Tivoli, Alemannia immediately moved in. The new venue became known as the Sportplatz Tivoli and was Alemannia’s home between 1908 and 1928.

By then a proper stadium, holding 11,000 spectators was opened close to the Sportsplatz. The Tivoli was inaugurated in June 1928 and fans flocked to the new venue. The club became so popular in the pre World War II period that bigger matches had to be moved to the Waldstadion as the capacity there was some 25,000.

Much needed expansion started in 1953 when the new grandstand, known as the Würselener Wall was opened. Four years later a new covered seated stand was opened and then came floodlights, at the time the brightest in Germany, inaugurated by a visit from Spanish side Espanyol.

The stadium had been sold to the commune in the 1960’s and periodic improvements occurred. However, it was telling that when European competition came to Aachen in 2004, the old stadium did not meet UEFA’s strict criteria. All Aachen’s home games were staged in Koln after the club’s request to use the much closer stadium of Dutch club Roda Kerkrade was rejected.

The old stadium was demolished soon after the Neuer Tivoli opened. The new stadium is a magnificent venue, superbly designed and with substantial terracing behind one goal, known as the “Bitburger Wall”. This is where the majority of the fans gather for today’s match against the second team of Borussia Mönchengladbach. The support is noisy and constant and very impressive. On the field, Aachen fail to build on a first half lead given to them by Basti Müller, and the visitors steal a point right at the end against the run of play.

This fantastic stadium is clearly fit for top flight football, whether Aachen can overcome their financial woes and start the long climb back remains to be seen.

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Regionalliga West – 08/08/2015

TSV Alemannia Aachen 1 (Müller 29)

Borussia Mönchengladbach II 1 (Rodriguez 87)

Att: 13,000 (at Neuer Tivoli)

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Aachen ticket

 

Still Top in Oss? (FC Oss)

“No one likes Oss and we don’t care”, so says a cleverly worded banner at the rear of the stand populated by the ultras of FC Oss. For this is the current name of the club far better known by their previous name of Top Oss. Formed in 1928 as KMD (Klein Maar Dapper, which means Small But Brave) however the club soon changed their name as many other clubs already had the name KMD. The new name was TOP (Tot Plezier Ons, which means For Our Pleasure).  The club became TOP Oss in 1994 to more clearly identify with the town they represented. Sadly six years in 2009 the club dropped the “TOP” altogether and became FC Oss. Looking at the ultras flags though many of them still refer to the club as TOP Oss.

The club were briefly professional in the 1950’s when they competed in the Tweede Divisie but rejoined the amateur ranks in 1957. They only turned professional again as recently as 1991, after three amateur championship wins, and have mainly competed at the second level Eerste Divisie. A brief one season spell in the third level Topklasse in 2010/11 resulted in the club returning to the Eerste as Topklasse champions.

In 1996 the club were granted permission to renovate the old Top Oss Stadion, and work on the new grandstand started a year later. The north and west stands were completed by the end of the 1998/99 season with the North stand providing changing facilities for the amateur wing of the club. The remaining end has a “Talentencampus” opened in 2008 to house young players. Unusually FC Oss and near neighbours NEC Nijmegen have a combined youth academy system.

Oss had a reasonable season last campaign, finishing ninth, but have recently sold a number of players including goalkeeper Luuk Koopmans to PSV and back in January  Kevin van Veen  went to Scunthorpe United for 300,000 Euros. Tonight’s visitors are FC Emmen who finished fourth in last seasons table but lost out in the play-offs. The visitors look like they could be strong contenders again this campaign as their breezed to a very comfortable win, celebrated wildly by their small band of travelling supporters.

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Eerste Divisie – 07/08/2015

FC Oss 0
FC Emmen 3 (Deul 27, Kolder pen 53, Danso 72)

Att: 1,987 (at Frans Heesen Stadion)

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Here We Go Again (Vitesse Arnhem)

Vitesse Arnhem is the name the club is known by on the international stage but their proper name is Stichting Betaald Voetbal Vitesse. The club were formed in May 1892 and were originally a cricket club. Vitesse won their regional Football Championship (there was no national championship at the time) five times before the First World War. However, the club have never won the national title.

At times Vitesse’s existence has been threatened with financial issues. In the late 1980’s the club restructured its professional and amateur boards to reduce costs, but by 2003 the club were in severe trouble again. It was the local council that came to the ailing club’s rescue with financial assistance. In 2010 the Georgian businessman Merab Jordania bought the club and his personal friendship with Roman Abramovich saw a link up between Vitesse and Chelsea for player development. With the sale to Jordania, Vitesse became the first Dutch club in foreign ownership. In 2013 ownership of the club moved to the Russian billionaire Aleksandr Tsjigirinski.

In the late 1990’s it was agreed that in order to challenge the domination of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord the club should build a new stadium and pitch for hosting rights for Euro 2000. The Gelredome was opened in 1998 and was essentially a combined concert venue with retractable roof and football stadium which uniquely featured a slide in pitch. The idea being the pitch would be stored outside the stadium to gain more access to sunlight. The new venue staged three group games in Euro 2000 and has an all seated capacity of 25,000 for football.

Previously Vitesse had played at the much loved Nieuw Monnikenhuize which had been home since 1950. It was demolished and the land sold for a housing development. The club’s first ground had been called Paaschwei onder Elden but this proved inadequate and a move was made in 1896 to the velodrome in Klarenbeek. This ground had extensive banking and was bordered by the expensive villas on the Velperweg. On September 26th 1915 the club opened a new ground called Monnikenhuize. The club stayed here until the land was needed for redevelopment. The club moved to the opposite side of Monnikensteeg to what was to become their spiritual home at Nieuw Monnikenhuize. In recent seasons Vitesse have become regular qualifiers in the Europa League but their record is somewhat uninspiring. Defeats in recent seasons to the likes of Anzhi Makhachkala and Petrolul Ploiești didn’t auger well for a draw against Southampton in this season’s competition. Effectively the tie was over in the first leg with Southampton, managed by former Vitesse coach Ronald Koeman, cantering to a 3-0 victory.

Vitesse fans gathered in decent numbers to the Gelredome for the second leg hopeful of at least regaining a little pride. However, with just four minutes gone a cleverly worked goal from Graziano Pelle put the English team in an unassailable lead. The hosts huffed and puffed but seemed to lack incisiveness up front. This was a stark contrast to the Saints when their other striker Sadio Mané tapped in a second just before the end.

I have to admit to being undecided about the Gelredome, it looks a bit too warehouse like externally and the Vitesse branding is restricted to a sole badge above the officials entrance. Internally it catches the eye with multi coloured seating but one does wonder if the Vitesse fans truly feel at home here.

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Europa League 3rd Qualifying Round, 2nd leg – 06/07/2015

Vitesse Arnhem 0

Southampton 2 (Pelle 4, Mané 89)

Attendance: 20,550 (at the Gelredome)

Gallery

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Vitesse ticket