Clubs on Corsica – Part One

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The flag of the island of Corsica which also doubles up as the islands coat of arms.

After recently writing about a former footballer from Corsica by the name of Claude Papi who played for SC Bastia, for my One Club Men Series, I thought that it would be interesting to take a look at other football clubs on the island of Corsica in a three part blog series.

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Claude Papi pictured above

As regular readers of my blogs will note, I love writing about football players and football clubs that, well let’s say are not too widely known in the football world. To be honest, until writing about Claude Papi I had not even had one thought about football clubs on the island of Corsica, but after carrying out some research I have come to realise that there was quite a lot to learn and indeed to write about.

Before I start talking about ‘Clubs on Corsica’ I thought that it would be worthwhile providing a brief piece of information on the island itself.

Corsica

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Location of Corsica shown in red

Corsica is an island that is situated in the Mediterranean Sea, southeast of the French mainland and to the west of the Italian peninsula. Although the Italian island of Sardinia is the nearest land mass to the island, Corsica is one of the eighteen regions that France comprises of. It was recorded during the 2016 census that Corsica had a population of 330,455 inhabitants spread across an area of nearly 3,500 Square miles.

Corsica is divided into two administrative departments by the names of Haute-Corse and Corse-du-sud whilst the islands regional capital is Ajaccio.

From 1284 to 1755, Corsica was ruled by the Republic of Genoa when it became a Italian speaking Republic. In 1768, the Republic of Genoa ceded Corsica to Louis XV of France, one year later the French annexed the island by force.

Probably the most famous person to be born on the island was born the same year in Ajaccio, his name, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Due to the islands historical links to Italy, Corsica continues to retain many Italian cultural elements.

OK, that is just a brief piece of information regarding Corsica, let’s now take a look at the Football clubs on the island.

My research has shown that there are ten main football clubs based in Corsica and competing at many different levels within the French football system. These clubs are as follows:

Athletic Club Ajaccien

Gazélec Football Club Ajaccio

Sporting Club Bastiais

Football Club Bastia-Borgo

Football Club Aregno Calvi

Union Sportive des Clubs du Cortenais

Étoile Filante Bastiaise

Football Club Bastelicaccia

Association Sportive de Furiani-Agliani

FB Balagne

For part one of ‘Clubs on Corsica’ I will be taking a look at Athletic Club Ajaccien, Gazélec Football Club Ajaccio and Sporting Club Bastiais. The remaining clubs on the list will be the focus of parts two and three of this mini series.

Athletic Club Ajaccien

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Nicknamed L’ours (the Bears) Athletic

Club Ajaccien or AC Ajaccio for short are a club based in the capital of Corsica, Ajaccio. The club was founded in 1910 and are known as one of ‘the big three’ football clubs on the island along with Gazélec Football Club Ajaccio and Sporting Club Bastiais, of whom more later.

The club’s home stadium is the near 10,500 capacity Stade François Coty. Last season the club finished in 3rd place in tier two of French football – Ligue 2.

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Stade François Coty

AC Ajaccio have been crowned Corsican champions on no fewer than eight occasions. Firstly in 1920 and most recently in 1964. As previously mentioned, the club is considered to be one of ‘the big three’ on the island of Corsica along with Gazélec Football Club Ajaccio and Sporting Club Bastiais. A strong rivalry has been held between the three Corsican giants for many years. In the 1946 Corsican Cup Final between AC Ajaccio and Sporting Club Bastiais, the match was abandoned following violence between the two sets of supporters who used umbrellas to both fight their counterparts and to shield themselves with – quite a sight I’m sure!

In 1965 the club decided to turn professional and in 1967 became the first club from Corsica to play in the French top tier – Ligue 1. Most recently they were in Ligue 1 in the 2013/2014 season but sadly for them they were to finish in last place and were relegated to Ligue 2.

The club is currently managed by their former player, Olivier Pantaloni – his third spell as manager. After narrowly missing out on promotion to Ligue 1 last season, AC Ajaccio will be looking to secure a return to the top flight next time out.

Gazélec Football Club Ajaccio

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Gazélec Football Club Ajaccio who are also reffered too as GFC Ajaccio or simply Gazélec are a Corsican football club based in Ajaccio. The club was founded in 1910 and currently compete in The Championnat National 2, the 4th tier of football in France. The clubs home stadium is the beautifully named Stade Ange Casanova which has a capacity of 8,000. Quite uniquely the club has a total of four nicknames – Le Gaz (The Gas) Le Bistrot (The Bistro) I diavuli rossi (The Reds Devils) and Les Gaziers (The Gasmen) – which one is your favourite? Personally speaking I like the sound of I diavuli rossi. 

In terms of recent history, Gazélec made the headlines during the 2011/2012 French Cup Semi-Finals when they were in the French third tier – Championnat de France National. An amazing achievement considering that they started the competition in the regional qualifying rounds – their route to the semi-finals was as follows.

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Gazélec 3-0 Calvi

Gazélec 1-0 Toulouse

Gazélec 1-0 Troyes

Gazélec 2-0 Drancy 

Gazélec 1-0 Montpellier 

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As you can see that seasons cup run for Gazélec was an amazing journey which culminated in their defeat against French footballing giants Lyon by 4 goals to 0 after being level at the break. Lyon went onto lift the 2011/2012 French Cup by beating US Quevilly 1-0 in the final.

On 15th May 2015, Gazélec made history by gaining promotion to the French top tier – Ligue 1 for the first time in their long history. Sadly for Gazélec that’s where their success story ends as not only were they relegated from Ligue 1 in their inaugural season at that level, the club also suffered further relegations which will see them starting next season in the French fourth tier – a real fall from the great heights that they once were at.

Gazélec have recently appointed their former player, David Ducourtioux as their new manager. No doubt that the new man in charge will be wanting to bring a brighter future to the club as soon as possible.

Sporting Club Bastiais

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Sporting Club Bastiais as you can see from their club badge, were founded in 1905 and are probably the most famous club on the island of Corsica. SC Bastia as they are more widely known as play their home games at their 16,048 capacity Stade Armand-Cesari which opened in 1932.

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Stade Armand-Cesari.

The club, based in the Corsican commune of Bastia, the second biggest on the island. The club like Gazélec have several nicknames which are as follows: I Turchini (The Blues) I Lioni di Furiani (The Lions of Furiani) and Les Bleus (The Blues)

The club was founded in 1905 by a Swiss school teacher by the name of Hans Ruesch who was teaching German at a school in Bastia at the time. SC Bastia turned professional in 1965 and by 1968 they found themselves in Ligue 1 for the first time in their history. The club managed to consolidate in Ligue 1 and in 1972 they reached their first ever French Cup Final only to lose by 2 goals to 1 against Olympique de Marseille. Although they lost that final it still meant that they qualified for the following seasons European Cup Winners Cup. In that competition they were narrowly beaten 2-1 on aggregate in the first round by Club Atlético de Madrid.

SC Bastia finished 1977 in 3rd place in Ligue 1 which earned them a place in the following seasons UEFA Cup – and what a run they enjoyed in the UEFA Cup that season. During that seasons competition they beat Sporting Lisbon, Newcastle United, Torino, Carl Zeiss Jena and Grasshoppers Zurich on their way to the final which they lost 3-0 on aggregate against PSV Eindhoven. The first leg of the final at Stade Armand-Cesari  was even made into a short documentary film called Forza Bastia, directed by Jacques Tati.

SC Bastia won the French Cup for the first time in their history in the 1980/1981 season by beating a St Etienne side which had the great Michel Platini in their team by 2 goals to 1. The winning goal in that final was scored by Cameroon’s Roger Milla – he went onto to have a fairly decent 1990 World Cup didn’t he!

After enjoying eighteen consecutive years in the French top flight, the club were relegated at the culmination of the 1985/1986 season to Ligue 2. Tragedy was to strike a few seasons later when in their home French Cup semi-final against the then Kings of French football – Olympique de Marseille, 2,300 people were injured and 18 people were killed after a temporary stand constructed to cater for more supporters to attend the big game collapsed.

The 1994/1995 season saw the return of the club back in Ligue 1, later in that same season they also reached the final of the league Cup. The 1996/1997 season a 7th place finish in Ligue 1 which earned them a place in the Intertoto Cup (remember that folks?) for the following season. Bastia won the Intertoto Cup which gave them a place in the UEFA Cup and although they beat Benfica they were knocked out in the early stages by Steaua Bucharest.

The 2000/2001 season saw them reach the French Cup final only to lose the showpiece game against FC Lorient by 1 goal 0. The same season saw the emergence of Michael Essien who went onto have an excellent career with the likes of Lyon and notably Chelsea.

After eleven consecutive years in Ligue 1, the 2004/2005 season saw Bastia being relegated to Ligue 2. A further relegation was to come in 2010 which meant that Bastia would now be in the French third tier – Championnat de France National. More misery was to follow in July 2010 when the club was placed into administration and paid the penalty by being relegated to the French fourth tier – Championnat National 2.

Although the club managed to climb all the way back to Ligue 1 after numerous promotions, in 2017 they again fell into financial difficulties and were demoted all the way down to the French fifth tier – Championat National 3. Two successive promotions since then will see SC Bastia compete in Championnat National, third tier for the 2020/2021 season.

This brings us to the end of Part 1 of Clubs on Corsica. Part 2 of the series will see me talking about Football Club Bastia-Borgo, Football Club Aregno Calvi, Union Sportive des Clubs du Cortenais and Étoile Filante Bastiaise.

I hope you have enjoyed the first part of Clubs on Corsica as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing about it. I hope you can join me for the second part which will be on my blog in the not too distant future, until then – Addiu ora (Corsican for goodbye for now)

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Programme Review – Hillingdon Borough

13th October 1981
Hillingdon Borough v Welling Utd
Southern League – Southern Division
Programme Price 20p

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This 16 page programme from front to back cover has everything one would need from any football programme.

As you can see the Programme starts with a match action photograph whilst page 2 advises that for the first time ever, the Southern League would be handing out manager of the month awards.

Page 3 welcomes all to the home of Hillingdon Borough, The Leas Stadium. Page 4 provides an article all about different football programmes issued by various clubs in the Southern League and what great value for money they are – all together now “and so say all of us”

Pages 5 and 6 are adverts whilst page 7 shows a player profile of Hillingdon’ Steve Perrin. The Paddington born player counted Wycombe, Crystal Palace, Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth as his former clubs.

Page 8 provides a brief history of Welling Utd who were founded in 1963 and spent their first eight years of existence playing in Sunday youth football.

Page 9 provides Welling Pen Profiles – two names stand out for me. Andy Townsend who went onto play for Aston Villa and Chelsea amongst others, and Tony Agana who also went onto to have a career in the professional game, playing for the likes of Sheffield Utd and Notts County.

Page 10 takes a look at how the youth team at Hillingdon Borough was performing, pages 11 – 12 are adverts with page 13 providing an article on QPR and in particular their choice to play on an artificial surface.

Page 14 shows the Southern League – Southern Division league table. At the time of writing Hillingdon were in 8th position with Welling in 2nd place in the 24 team league.

The Programme ends on the back cover with the team line ups (see picture) I’ve already mentioned two Welling players who were to have professional careers but look who’s in the Hillingdon line up – Paul Canoville, who went onto play in the professional game for Chelsea and Reading.

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One Club Men # 35

For this edition of One Club Men I will be taking a look at a player who is considered to be the greatest of all time to play for the French club, SC Bastia. 

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Claude Papi was born on the 16th April 1949 in Porto-Vecchio on the French Island of Corsica. In 1967 he signed for the Corsican based club SC Bastia and remained with the club for the whole of his career.

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Porto-Vecchio

Papi was a midfielder and played a total of 479 league and Cup games for SC Bastia, scoring 134 goals in the process – an excellent record for a midfield player which today still see’s him as Bastia’s all time record goal scorer.

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Claude Papi

During his time with the Corsican based club he was a member of the Bastia team that won the 1967/1968 Ligue 2 (France’s Second tier) title. In 1972 he helped his team to lift the Trophée des Champions and in 1978 he and his Bastia team finished runners up in the UEFA Cup final. In that 1978 final Bastia were beaten 3-0 on aggregate by Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven. One further triumph was to come by the way of winning the 1980/1981 Coupe de France with Bastia beating AS Saint-Étienne 2-1 in the final.

With regards to Papi’s International career, he played for France on three occasions, one appearance coming in the 1978 World Cup in a 3-1 win against Hungary.

Tragically, Claude Papi had his career and life cut short when he suffered a ruptured anyeresum and died at the far too young age of 33 on the 28th January 1983.

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Player Profile #20 Lewis Brass

Welcome to the 20th installment of my Player Profile Interview Series. The last time I did one of these interviews was back in February when I talked to the Llangefni Town reserve team manager, Gafyn Buckland. 

With plenty of spare time on my hands at the moment due to the current global crisis, I decided it was high time that I rekindled this series. My guest today is the current Goalkeeper for Connah’s Quay Nomads – Lewis Brass. I talk to Lewis about his career to date, from a six year old starting out in the game to last seasons amazing triumph’s with Connah’s Quay Nomads. 

Name: Lewis Brass

Age: 23

Home Town: Newcastle

Current Club: Connah’s Quay Nomads

Previous Clubs: Darlington, Carlisle Utd, Gateshead, Chesterfield and St Louis University, Missouri

Position: Goalkeeper

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Lewis pictured during a team huddle whilst he was playing for St. Louis University.

GT. Lewis, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for my player profile blog series. At what age did you start playing football and what are your early memories from playing the game?

LB. I started playing football at 6 years old for my local boys club Cleveland Hall. I started playing basically just to be with my friends and just to try it out. My fondest memories are going on an away tournament in the summer and spending a weekend their, my favourite ever was in Southport on a resort site. There were thousands of teams from all over the country and at all different age groups, it was like every young footballers dream.

GT. Sounds like an excellent time for you. Did you play in goal from the start of your football journey?

LB. I started off as a striker and was pretty good but we needed a goalkeeper for training and I decided to give it a go and I’ve never looked back from there.

GT. That sounds very similar to the path that took myself into being a Goalkeeper too. Us Goalkeepers are obviously fantastic outfield players too aren’t we! Who were your favourite goalkeepers when you were growing up?

LB. My favourite Goalkeeper growing up was Shay Given, Newcastle’s number one.

GT. Did you always play for Cleveland Hall as a youngster or did you play for any other junior football clubs?

LB. I signed for a club called Beamish Blues who were the best in my area at my age, once I signed for them we went onto be unbeaten for just over two years!

GT. Was it during your time at Beamish Blues that you started to attract the attention of the likes of Carlisle United?

LB. So, from Beamish I joined the Darlington fc academy when the current club was based in the football league. I went from the u13’s all the way to being offered my scholarship. Unfortunately the club went bust and no longer exists and was restarted by the fans. However, Craig Liddle worked very hard to find me a club and I trained with Carlisle United, after two training sessions I was offered my scholarship.

GT. For those of us who have never experienced training with a football league club at any age, can you describe what your time was like with both Darlington and Carlisle?

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LB. Darlington was amazing, I loved the place but it was because we were told to have fun with what we’ve learned and put it into practice come game day. However the change over to Carlisle was much different as we were around the first team everyday and had started to be paid to play football so it became very serious very quickly and you realise mistakes can’t happen. The intensity had to be highe, the desire and hunger had to be higher because you were either going to make it or get released. My time at Carlisle had it’s ups and downs but overall an amazing two years of my life, the first time living away from home, moving out at 15 and just finishing year 11 of school.

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GT. Sounds like you had some amazing experiences. What happened at the end of your two years with Carlisle?

LB. They were relegated and said that they couldn’t take on a third Goalkeeper, so I went to Gateshead. I started with the u19’s and ended up in the first team after pre season.

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GT. So what was a negative turned out to be a positive for you by making it into the first team at Gateshead. What were your highlights from your time with the club?

LB. If I’m honest Gareth, I don’t have any really positive memories, I wasn’t there long enough. Around October I was asked to trial at Chesterfield and was offered a contract to join their u21’s team which was all a shambles. Chesterfield was my worst experience with a club they caused a serious injury to me by over training me and after 6 month with the club I asked to terminate my contract. After that I started working in a factory and had toquit football for around two years before deciding to give it another go, which is when I went to university in America on a football scholarship.

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GT. That must have been a really tough time for you with what went on at Chesterfield and having to temporarily quit the game. OK, let’s talk about your time in America, what was it like to train and play football in a foreign country? Did you benefit from your time spent there?

LB. Where do I start, it’s a different animal in itself. 5 a.m. Start, 5 mile run and each mile had to be 6 minute miles. We would then do circuit training with tyre sleds and hill sprints. Then we used to do a 90 sprint challenge which was 30 yards apart and you’d go there and back 3 times and have to make it in 30 seconds. You would do this until you reached 90 sprints, we would then go back to bed. We would then train in the afternoon which was just normal training sessions, we would do this for a month before school started. We then used to play around 25 games in 3 months whilst fitting in all of our uni work which was very challenging but rewarding at the same time.

GT. Blimey Lewis, I feel tired just by reading your description of your schedule out in America. What was the standard of football like compared to what you had already experienced in England?

LB. The standard was not good at all but my team was full of internationals from all over the world so we helped the American boys out. They got better each day and we ended up with a good team. I was awarded Division 1 goalkeeper of the week, NJCAA team of the season and NJCAA Divison 1 goalkeeper of the season.

GT. Sounds like you did very well for yourself over there. What happened at the end of your time in America?

LB. So, I still had two years left of my degree but I was back home for the Christmas break. A goalkeeping coach asked me if I wanted to go on trial at Connah’s  Quay as they were looking for a Goalkeeper at the time. I trained once and was offered an 18 month deal so I took it in order to get my foot back on the ladder and I’m still at the club today.

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GT. And talking about your time to date with Connah’s Quay, I think it’s fair to say that you and the club enjoyed an excellent time last season! What, with the club’s exploits in Europe and winning the Cymru Premier league too, can you tell me about your own experiences last season. Many highs for you I guess?

LB. Amazing highs! Europa League was the most amazing feeling, everyone doubted us, everyone didn’t give us a chance and we pulled off the biggest result in welsh history in the competition, it was unreal! (GT. Connah’s Quay beat Kilmarnock in the first qualifying round and went onto play FK Partizan from Serbia)

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Lining up before the second leg at Kilmarnock and below before the game in Serbia against FK Partizan.

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We also won the league for the first time in the clubs history and it was a great season for me. I played 42 games, keeping 20 clean sheets and only conceding 28 goals in the whole season. I was voted supporters player of the season and named in the Cymru League team of the season so it’s been amazing for me and I can’t wait to go again in the league and champions league this season.

GT. I remember sitting at home and listening to your games against Kilmarnock on the radio. I remember really getting engrossed with the second leg and actually cheered when you won the tie. I see that the qualifying rounds for the UEFA Champions League is due to be drawn soon, how far do you realistically think the club could go in the competition?

LB. With it only being one leg instead of two, anything could happen. It’s 11 men v 11 men so hopefully we can get through a couple of the rounds.

GT. It would be great for the club and for Welsh football as a whole if indeed you did get through a couple of rounds. What are your own personal ambitions for next season and also what are your longer term ambitions?

LB. My ambitions for next season are to keep the most clean sheets in the league again and beat my own record of 20 for the season and to also make the team of the season again. Long term ambitions are to play as high professionally as possible.

GT. Lewis, you have been a great guest for my player profile blog series, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions. To finish, if I could ask you the following three quick fire questions.

Best Ground Played at?

Best Player Played against?

Best player played with?

LB. Best Ground – St James Park.

Best player – Tosic from FK Partizan

Best player played with – Junior Hoilet

I am sure that for those of you who are reading this, you would agree that Lewis has had some amazing experiences throughout his career thus far. With him being only 23 years old I am sure he has a great future ahead of him too. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Foreign Fields – CS Constantine

So after talking about two clubs from the former Soviet Union for the previous two installments of this series, I am today going to talk about a club from North Africa and in particular – Algeria.

Club Sportif Constantinois who are also known as CS Constantine or simply as CSC for short are a football club based in the city of Constantine in Eastern Algeria.

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The club was founded in June 1926 under the name as they are known today. However, from 1977 to 1987 the club was called Chabab Mécanique de Constantine before reverting back to their original name.

In terms of domestic honours, the club has six Ligue Professionnelle 2 titles (2nd tier of football in Algeria) to their name, the first of which was won in the 1969/1970 season with their most recent triumph coming in the 2010/2011 season. CSC have also won the Algerian Ligue Professionnelle 1 title (top tier of football in Algeria) on two occasions. First in the 1996/1997 season and secondly as recently as the 2017/2018 season. The club won their second top tier Algerian title by three points from their nearest challengers, JS Saoura.

The clubs best performance in African Club football came in the 2018/2019 CAF Champions League when they reached the quarter finals. Their only other appearance in this competition came in the 1997/1998 season when they were knocked out in the first round.

The clubs home stadium is the 50,000 capacity Stade Mohamed Hamlaoui. The stadium is named as such in the memory of Mohamed Hamlaoui, a freedom fighter in the Algerian war. CSC share the stadium with their city rivals Mouloudia Olympic of Constantine.

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The clubs current playing squad is predominantly made up of Algerian players with the exception of two, namely Zakaria Alharaish and Abdallah Imhamed Al-Orfi from Libya.

The current manager of CSC is Abdelkader Amrani, with one of their former managers being the former France, Morocco and Tunisia manager – Roger Lemerre.

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One Club Men #34

Its been far too long since I wrote an installment of this series, so with a quiet Sunday evening on my hands I am taking the opportunity to write this particular edition. The one club man that I will be looking at this evening is by the name of Hans-Jürgen Kreische.

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Hans-Jürgen Kreische was born on 19th July 1947 in the then Soviet Occupied Zone of Dresden, by 1949 in the former East Germany, now Germany.
“Hansi” as he was nicknamed, signed for Dynamo Dresden as a ten year old in 1957 and stayed with the club until 1978. The Dresden born striker made his way into the Dynamo first team in 1964 and ended up playing 256 games for the club with an excellent goals return of 143.

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Kreische was a key member of Dresden’s glory years between 1969-1978 and with his home town club he won five DDR Oberliga’s and two FDGB-Pokal knockout cups.
Kreische had the honour of being the top scorer in East Germany in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1976 and was also voted as the East German player of the year in 1973.
As an international player Kreische won 50 caps for East Germany and scored a total of 25 goals. He was a member of the 1974 World Cup squad and also of the East German Olympic team that won the bronze medal in the 1972 Olympic Games.
After hanging up his boots in 1978, Kreische spent his time working as a coach with the Dynamo Dresden Youth team and then had a brief spell as the clubs first team manager between 1995-1996. In the 2000/2001 season he was the coach of Dresdner SC and latterly worked as a scout for RB Leipzig.

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Programme Review Bath City Reserves

 

7th October 2000
Bath City Reserves v Clyst Rovers
Screwfix Direct Western League Division One
Programme Price. Not stated

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This programme consists of 16 pages excluding the front and back cover – a nicely put together programme it is too.

Page 1 gives information on the forthcoming away fixtures for Bath City Reserves. The first of which would be a trip to Worle St John’s followed by a game at Exmouth Town.

Page 2 provides a welcome to the game piece written by the programme editor, Terry Mullan. He also looks back at Bath’s first team’s recent FA Cup win at Twerton Park against Basingstoke.

Page 4 is titled ‘back in time with Les Bingham’ In this section, the writer looks back at games played by Bath City Reserves in October 1979. Games included a 4-1 win at Yeovil Reserves and a 3-1 win at Shepton Mallet Reserves.

Page 5 advertises a club quiz night whilst page 6 provides information from around the Screwfix Direct League.

Page 7 provides a list of previous results and forthcoming fixtures for Bath Reserves. Their previous game to the Clyst Rovers game was a 2-2 draw at home against Chard Town.

Pages 8-9 show the team line ups (see picture) with the referee named as Adrian Faulkener from Ringwood.

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Page 10 shows the Screwfix Direct Western League Division One standings at the time of writing. Bath City Reserves were in 11th place in the 20 team league whilst Clyst Rovers were in 13th position.

Page 11 provides further news from around the Screwfix Direct League whilst page 12 provides a brief match report from Bath’s recent 2-2 draw with Chard Town.

Page 13 gives the preliminary round and first round draws for the Les Phillips Challenge Cup, page 14 is full of adverts before the programme ends with a quiz called ‘The Twerton Teaser’ the first question is a great groundhopping question and reads as follows. Which Western League club plays at Zembard Lane? Is anybody reading this review willing to provide the answer to this question?

A really nice little programme indeed.

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Foreign Fields – Keshla FK

Those of you who read the previous installment of Foreign Fields may remember that I talked about a club by the name of FC Zaria Balti from Moldova, well for this edition of the series I will again be talking about a club from the former Soviet Union in the form of Keshla FK from Azerbaijan.

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Keshla FK were founded in 2004 and are based in the settlement of Keshla in the capital city of Azerbaijan, Baku. The club competes in the Azerbaijan Premier League and play their home games at the 5,300 capacity A S K Stadium.

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As I have already mentioned, the club as it is known today was founded in 2004 but it has actually been functioning since 1997 when it was an amateur club and shared its name with the Khazar University. The University club began to play in the Azerbaijan Premier League in 1999 and in their first season at that level they finished in 11th position. In the 2003/2004 season the club finished in 4th place and duly qualified for the intertoto Cup to be played the following season, reaching the second round of that competition.

During the summer of 2004 all rights of the Khazar University Club were transfered to the newly formed Inter Baku Professional Football Club. Later in the same year the clubs name changed to the Inter Professional Club with the club finishing the 2004/2005 Azerbaijan Premier League campaign in 7th place.

Inter won the Azerbaijan Premier League in the 2007/2008 season and qualified for the following seasons UEFA Champions League, reaching the 2nd Qualifying Round. The club retained their domestic league title in the 2008/2009 season and again qualified for the following seasons Champions League but on that occasion were knocked out at the first qualifying round stage.

Unfortunately at the beginning of the 2015/2016 season, Inter were experiencing financial difficulties. Due to these monitery problems the club were banned from participating in the next UEFA club competitions if they indeed qualified for over the next three seasons. The financial difficulties continued which resulted in the club losing their main sponsor. The club very nearly ceased to exsist but thankfully a new sponsor was found and they were able to continue.

In 2017, Inter officially changed their name to Keshla FK and changed the clubs kit colours and logo. In the first game as Keshla FK they lost 2-0 against Kapaz.

Keshla finished the 2019/2020 Azerbaijan Premier League in 3rd position and reached the quarter finals of the Azerbaijan Cup. The club is currently managed by the former Azerbaijan defender and captain, Tarland Ahmadov. The squad at Keshla is predominantly made up of players from Azerbaijan with other squad members coming from Moldova, Paraguay, Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Uzbekistan and Angola.

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Programme Review 1992/93 FA Sunday Cup Semi Final

FA Sunday Cup Semi Final.
Venue: Queen Street-Bilston Town FC
Marston Sports v Bedfont Sunday
21st March 1993
Programme Price: None Stated

This programme consists of 28 pages from front to back with one of the best front covers of a programme that I have ever seen. I mean, just look at it, absolutely brilliant! I wonder what the score was?

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Page 3 provides a list of club officials for the host club of this Sunday Cup Semi Final – Bilston Town. The same page also lists club honours, the 1968/69 season saw Bilston reaching the FA Cup First Round. In the 1972/73 season they went one better by reaching the Second Round.
Page 5 provides the two squads (see picture) for Marston Sports and Bedfont Sunday. The referee for the game is named as Mr M. Carrington from Shepshed.

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Page 6 sees a welcome to the game piece with page 7 providing a history of Marston Sports FC. The Wolverhampton based club were founded in 1962.
Pages 8,9 and 10 provide pen portraits for the Marston Sports squad. Defender Russel Watson started his career at West Bromwich Albion whilst 21 year old forward, Steve Cookson had a brief spell with Torquay United. Experienced forward, Roy Green was at the time playing his Saturday football for Telford United and was a former England schoolboy International.
Pages 11,12 and 13 are adverts whilst page 14 provides a history of Bedford Sunday FC. The club were founded in 1962 and first played in the Middlesex Sunday Football League.
The clubs pen portraits start on page 15 and finish on page 20 with a few pages of adverts inbetween. Midfielder George Lloyd is the son of former Chelsea and Fulham player Barry Lloyd whilst Jason Santos’s Father, Mario played for Benica as a youth player.
Pages 21 – 22 gives a spotlight on the Marathon Sunday Football League which at the time of writing was the league that Bedford Sunday played in.
Pages 23,24 and 25 show all the results from the third round onwards for the 1992/93 FA Sunday Cup. Looking through the results I see that some of the games attracted some decent attendances. For example, the fourth round tie between Seymour v Oakenshaw which resulted in a 5-1 win for Seymour attracted a crowd of 200.
Page 25 also lists all of the previous winners of the FA Sunday Cup. The first winners of the competition were London who beat Staffordshire 6-2 in the 1965 final. Marston Sports were runners up in the 1990 final losing to Humbledon Plains Farm by 3 goals to 1. They were again runners up in the 1992 final, this time losing by 3 goals to 2 against Theale FC. This more than adequate programme then ends with three pages of adverts.
A very informative read.

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My Groundhopping Aims For Next Season

As the title states, this blog will detail my groundhopping aims for next season, but with the current global situation, when will the season start? I have seen some suggestions on social media and in the wider media that we are possibly looking at a September start for football at non league level in England. I’m no expert on global pandemics so I will keep an open mind as to when the non league game will commence but for the purpose of this blog let’s go with that suggestion of a September start.

As I live in the beautiful county of Shropshire (this is my view from my garden as I write this – not bad is it) I will firstly detail three clubs in England’s largest inland county that I would like to visit for the first ever time next season.

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Dawley Town FC

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Until very recently Dawley Town FC were known as Telford Juniors FC but to coincide with the clubs 50th birthday, the club have decided to change their name to Dawley Town which reflects the town that the club has played in for the last 50 years. The clubs home ground is Doseley Road in Dawley which is also the town that I grew up in. Indeed, I used to attend the Dawley Church of England Primary School just a stones throw away from the ground. I can remember enjoying taking part in many successful sports days on the football pitch at Doseley Road and one less happy occasion when I managed to hit myself in the eye with a rounders bat as a 6 year old! Sorry for wittering on……… back onto the subject again – now, although I have watched matches in the past at Doseley Road (mostly as a child) I have no record or recollection of the teams involved and scores, etc. Therefore when I do go and watch Dawley Town I will also be counting Doseley Road as a new ground tick. Remember – in groundhopping there are no rules.

Market Drayton Town FC

20200625_172315The second club from Shropshire on my list of clubs to visit next season is Market Drayton FC. To be quite honest I can’t really explain why I haven’t made a visit to their ground before. I have heard many good reports about the facilities at the club and look forward to seeing them for myself in the very near future. Market Drayton Town are the third highest ranked football club in Shropshire behind Shrewsbury Town and AFC Telford United respectively.

Clee Hill United FC

Clee Hill United are based in the village of Clee Hill in South Shropshire, playing their home games at the Knowle Sports Ground. The village lies between 340m – 380m above sea level and is one of the highest settlements in Shropshire. The village is only a 19 mile drive from my HQ and for that very reason the football club is one I want to make a visit too. I have previously watched Clee Hill United play but that was a game played at Pegasus Juniors in the Herefordshire County Cup.

OK, so that’s the three clubs in Shropshire that I would like to visit for the first time next season but my wish list is not confined to my home county. There are several other clubs that I would like to visit in other parts of the UK too. One such club is Llandudno FC in North Wales.

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The beautiful seaside town of Llandudno is very close to my heart as I have fond memories of holidays spent there as a child. I have also had some great times in the town during my adult life too and for this reason I really want to make a visit to the town’s football club in the near future. Maybe incorporating a couple of nights away with my family in the process.

Another Welsh club on my to visit list is Conwy Borough FC. My wife and I enjoyed a two night stay in nearby Deganwy earlier this year and whilst we were in the area we checked out the football club. The photograph below is one I took of my brief visit to the ground. I think it’s easy to see why I want to make a proper groundhopping visit to this particular club.

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Whilst on the subject of Welsh football clubs, another club in Wales that I would like to visit is Pentraeth FC on the island of Anglesey.

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Again, this is another club I paid a whistle stop visit too earlier this year during our mini break in Wales. My main reason for wanting to visit the club is because I was first informed about it after interviewing a goalkeeper by the name of Johnny Sweetser-Hawkes for my interview blog series, ‘Player Profile’ Johnny is the current goalkeeper at Pentraeth and it would be nice to see him play sometime soon.

Moving north of the English border and into Scotland, one club that I would really like to visit is Inverurie Locos. The reason for this is that one of my best and oldest friends lives in a nearby village by the name of Kemnay and to combine a visit to my friend with a visit too Inverurie Locos would be superb. It would also be my second ever visit to a Scottish club having visited Heston Rovers for their South of Scotland league win over Lochmaben in 2018.

Whilst writing this blog I have realised that my wish list could go on and on and on. There are so many superb football clubs to visit in the UK that the list could be endless. I think my aims for next season should be achievable, especially my planned visits to Shropshire clubs. One thing is for sure when football is up and running again next season I will be jumping at the chance to go groundhopping again, as I am sure many of you reading this will do too – until then stay safe everyone.

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