Monday, 30 September 2013

Camping Out For A Chester Away Win

"I fancy a weekend away in the campervan", my wife said some weeks ago. "Where are Chester playing?". You can't fault that sort of pro-active thinking from a wife who has no real interest in football nor pretends to understand her husband's addiction to following a team playing at a level of football that she'd never heard of until we started going out with each other. As we'd already decided to travel to Salisbury by train, Halifax became the unlikely destination so, after much surfing on t'internet, we found ourselves driving the short distance over the M62 on the Friday night to Hipperholme to set up base camp ahead of the Blues match at the Shay.

Hipperholme may not be the most obvious place to go camping (being just 3 miles outside the former mill town of Halifax) but it is conveniently located on a regular bus route plus we'd bagged the last of the 5 pitches on the campsite and, oh yes, it is also home to the Halifax Steam Brewing Co which is housed in the same large portacabin as the Good Beer Guide listed Cock o' the North pub - you'll do me! A few beers and a cracking curry at the down to earth and very friendly Home Indian takeaway/café and that was Friday night sorted.

Saturday - match day and a short 10 minutes bus ride into Halifax to meet up with fellow Chester fans. However, the usual posse had opted for a pre-match real ale crawl around Huddersfield but fortunately Chester's exiled Cork correspondent was in town as part of a round the country in as short a time as possible visit - he'd flown in for the Gateshead away game and between the 2 matches had managed to visit Inverness, John o' Groats, Wick, London, Birmingham, London (again), Leeds & Bradford.

A short pub crawl ensued taking in both Wetherspoons, the Duke of Wellington, Dirty Dick's Ale Emporium and the Shears Inn, with the briefest of visits to the ever excellent Three Pigeons which was wedged with a mixture of home fans mingling with a good away following.

And so to the game ......

Sadly the Chester fans were confined to the stand rather than enjoying the sunlit away terrace but this did allow for an excellent atmosphere where the 450+ Chester fans totally outsung a very poor 1,350 home following.

As for the match, the Blues fell behind within the first 5 minutes with another calamitous defensive mix-up but this only served to pull the lads together and they then admirably took the game to Halifax in an excellent first half display which saw Seddon put clean through only for former Blue keeper Glennon to make a good save but Seddon was to make amends when a well worked corner went out to Higginbotham on the edge of the area and his goalbound header was flicked on by the former Shayman to deservedly equalise for the Blues.

Chester grew in confidence and continued to press but Glennon was equal to the challenge and made an excellent double save from Lindfield then Heath helped Chester maintain parity with a cracking tackle as Gregory was about to fire on goal.

The second half was an anti-climax in comparison with Chester unable to continue their first half good work and on 64 minutes the Shaymen scored the winning goal with a header from yet another corner. In a rare second half bid to stay in the game, the lively Titchiner found Lewis Turner but his effort cleared the bar.

At the end of the match I managed a quick pint in the Three Pigeons prior to meeting up with the usual posse for a post-match autopsy in the Duke of Wellington, after which myself and Mrs J headed back to Hipperholme via the Shoulder of Mutton in Southowram then the Red Rooster and Richard Oastler in Brighouse.

Another top curry in the Home Indian curry café was followed by last orders at our on-site pub. All in all, a good weekend despite the Blues result although I could've done without the raging hangover on the Sunday!

By Howard Jolley

Keyboard Warrior

Nothing beats being at the match but there are other ways for Exiles to get their Chester ‘fix’.

Peter Jones gives his take on the Halifax game, which he followed on Blues Live and the BBC, and reflects on the poor start to the season.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

One Exile's trip to Gateshead

Nobody can possibly look forward to a Tuesday night away fixture at Gateshead. Apart from a) people from Gateshead and b) me. That's because I'm a Chester fan, but for the past 15 years I've been living in the North East.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Best and Worst - Number 2

In the next of our 'best and worst' away days feature, Max Bailey nominates his top two.

BEST:  Whitby v Chester 12th Nov 2011

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Away Games – Local Knowledge and Building Support

It would be great to if those with local knowledge could provide the blog with information on great, good value accommodation, directions on how to get to the ground, and the best places to meet and drink before and after the game.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Land of the Giants

Friendly locals, freedom to wander unrestricted around the pitch, and a pre-match pint in the club bar. What’s not to like?

After all the fuss over the Wrexham fixture, the trip to Salisbury was like stepping back in time.

The stadium, on the outskirts of the city, and sub-1000 crowd was reminiscent of some of our away-days as we progressed up through the leagues. For Blues fans who enjoy the grass-roots experience and expect to “go where they want” this was a day to savour.

Yet there was also something missing. Atmosphere.

After visits to Barnet, Kidderminster and the Racecourse I’d got a taste for the bigger grounds of former football league clubs.

It’s all very nice and touchy-feely being able to mingle with opposition fans, exchanging nods as we change ends at half time, but give me a proper away terrace or stand every day.

It doesn’t take many Blues to create an atmosphere – and there were about 150 of us at Salisbury – but spread them thinly around the ground and it’s gone. Nothing against the place, but for me Salisbury summed up exactly why it’s so important that we keep the momentum going.

It looks like it’s going to be a struggle. Salisbury, promoted from Conference South last season, thoroughly deserved the 3-1 win. They were bigger, faster and more purposeful and tore us apart at times.

The Salisbury back four looked as if they’d all been cloned from American football quarterbacks. They even seemed to have the same haircuts. But these giants could also play a bit and my only consolation from this game is the hope that Salisbury will turn over a few other teams this season with their brand of power play.

It would be easy to knock it but they have clearly adapted better to life in the Conference and, although it’s still early days, got the formula for this division spot-on.

Despite the Blues taking the lead the writing was on the wall before the home side’s equaliser. John Danby take a bow – some of the saves he pulled off to keep the game alive were breathtaking.

There was a good spell from Chester after the break but in a depressingly familiar theme nothing came of it. We don’t seem to have the answer to quick-breaking sides and it wasn’t much of a shock when a second goal was shipped. The third didn’t make much difference because a few heads seemed to have dropped by then.

The final minutes will be remembered for the sending off of debutant Shaquille McDonald and a moment of pure farce.

Frankly if the loanee from Peterborough was going to take a swing at one of their hulks, he should have brought a chair. It simply rubbed in the feeling that this was men against boys.

The late, unscheduled appearance of a sky-diver, who landed on the pitch, at least provided some light relief.

Adrian Lee

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Best and Worst

We want to hear about Exiles' best and worst away games, which sum up the ecstasy and the agony of being a Chester fan on the road. Your choices needn't be all about the result - perhaps a funny incident or disaster en-route makes them memorable. Send yours by email to:

Monday, 9 September 2013

New look for APFSCIL website

The Exiles are long-standing members of The Association of Provincial Football Supporters' Clubs in London (APFSCIL), which was set up in the mid-1970s and has grown from a handful of fans' groups to a 42-member body representing more than 8,000 football supporters.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

In the Bubble

Any thoughts of being part of history are far from my mind when the alarm clock goes off at 4.45am.

In a few hours, along with 887 other Chester fans, I will be part of the first non-league ‘bubble’ fixture. At the behest of North Wales Police every away supporter must travel by official coach from Chester.

It’s a controversial move, which has dissuaded hundreds of fans from attending. But for the rest of us, this game has been three years in the making. The return of the derby is all part of what we’ve been striving for since the club reformed. There’s no way I’m missing it.

One hold up and we’re done for but a bonus is that the roads are clear at this ridiculous time of day. After picking up two more exiles en route from Sussex we’re at the Deva by 10am, in plenty of time for the scheduled 11am departure. The bacon butties on sale at the kiosk in the Harry Mac are an inspired idea.

There’s also the opportunity to mingle with the players as they arrive in dribs and drabs, including new signing Danny Higginbotham who’s played in the Tyne-Wear derby but is left in no doubt that the cross-border fixture is much more important!

Next we earwig on a police briefing for the coach drivers who, rather ominously, are warned that they are “on their own” if they slip out of the convoy or take a wrong turning. Are we heading into Wales or Afghanistan?

A few minutes late, 18 packed coaches roll out of the car park - not surprisingly travelling nose to tail. It all feels a bit like heading off to a Cup Final and only adds to the memorable experience. On board coach J it’s already getting lively and we’re only on Sealand Road.

The convoy is an impressive sight and we attract lots of attention. Police outriders speed past every few minutes, going ahead to close junctions so our journey is not impeded. At red lights and roundabouts we’re waved through. The police helicopter hovering above seems a bit over the top.

Despite the circuitous route we’re at the Racecourse Ground well before kick off and the singing begins as the ground begins to fill. The racket from the Blues doesn’t stop for the next two hours. The roof helps but it’s the best atmosphere I’ve ever encountered at a Chester game.

On the road north earlier there was agreement that we’d settle for a decent performance. All we asked was that we weren’t two goals down inside the first 20 minutes, with nothing to do but sit there and endure the taunts of the Wrexham fans. Well, that’s what 30-plus years of following Chester does to you.

Yet, incredibly, Linny powers in a header within the first five minutes and the away end goes ballistic. Then Nathan Turner somehow wriggles through on the left and his twin, Lewis, is on the end of the cross to poke home the second. Forget the Futchers.  

No-one can quite believe what is happening. “You’re getting beat by a pub team” rings round the ground. We’re jumping now. 20 minutes gone, 2-0 up. I’d still take a draw.

At half time we prepare for an onslaught, but it never materialises. Higginbotham goes off. Surely now we will crumble. If anything we look more comfortable. Any chance of a goal down our end lads?

It’s all over. After losing our first five games we’ve beaten Wrexham in an away league game for the first time since 1978. You only have to look at the surrounding faces to see what it means - and I can say I was there. Get the T-shirts printed.

The journey back to Chester is uneventful. There’s been sporadic trouble in the ground but around me the general opinion is that the bubble worked well, removing the threat of random, unprovoked violence outside the stadium. Despite my fears that there would be a monumental cock-up it’s been well-organised.

Apart from anything else there’s no need to worry about parking, while some might argue that anything that reduces the time spent in Wrexham can only be commended. The result has also helped but I’m a convert.

Whether we like it or not, this arrangement is probably here to stay for the derby, although we can lobby for a return to 3pm kick offs and a way must be found to make the ticketing arrangements more slick.

The party continues in the Blues Bar and we’ve still got the prospect of a five-hour journey home. But who cares? I am a Cestrian, I am a Chester fan and it doesn’t get any better than this.

Yet for some reason there’s an old Beach Boys tune running on a loop inside my head.

Adrian Lee

Pictures © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

Monday, 2 September 2013

Neil Young’s Capital Encounter with the Exiles

Chester manager Neil Young travelled to London to meet more than 30 exiled fans gathered for a special ‘Question and Answer’ session.

With Chester fan and BBC pundit Jonathan Legard acting as question master, the Conference North-winning manager talked for more than three hours about the past season and his plans for the future.

Fans gathered for the meeting, which followed the AGM of the Chester Exiles, also had the chance to have their photo taken with the Conference North trophy, buy some merchandise and even have a sneak preview of next season’s away shirt.

It was standing room only in the Side Room of the Parcel Yard pub in Kings Cross station as Jonathan Legard put the questions to Neil Young. There was plenty of opportunity for fans to ask their own questions as well.

Young talked about his aim to get into the Football League in the next 10 years, and how full-time football was an essential part of that process.

“This football club needs to get to full-time status, and we need to increase revenue streams to do that. It also needs to be sustainable, so it carries on into forthcoming seasons,” he said.

He revealed how the Squad Builder scheme had enabled him to fund the signing of Alex Titchener. And he said that money through the turnstiles alone would not cover the team’s wage bill, so similar fund-raising schemes were essential for the club to progress.

“My target is to win this League, and the group of players I’ve got now are bonding really well. But the Conference is stronger each year and we’ll need an uptake in the budget,” he said.

Still, the inspirational manager left the exiled fans excited for the season to come, and looking forward to the team travelling south to play Barnet on season’s opening day on Saturday, August 10.

Sue Choularton