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Shepherd's Shorts

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Sunday December 5th 2004   So there I was, having risen from my bed just before noon (unusually late for me), breakfasted and pots washed, dressed in shorts and SFC shirt, the family already out and about, no particular plans in place for Sunday lunch, and staring out of the window at a beautiful, sunny day. A check of the watch revealed it to be 1:30, a check of a recent SFC programme confirmed that Sheffield FC Ladies were at home to Keighley (kick off 2:00), so it was a case of grabbing the trusty rucksack and setting off across the city for Dronfield (and Trevless - he was working), knowing that I would miss only the first 10 minutes of the game, at worst.

Sure enough, I arrived with a little less than that time played, and the score at 0-0, but still in time to witness the first drama of the afternoon. Only 5 minutes after my arrival, Sheffield's current goal machine, Clare Holmes, stretched out in an effort to reach a ball played into the penalty area and went down clutching her leg; she had aggravated an injury for which she has been recently having physiotherapy. After some treatment (the old bucket and sponge is still around, folks!) and a brave attempt to carry on for a few minutes, she was forced to hobble out of the action. Did that blunt Sheffield's scoring edge? Did it billyo! Ten minutes from half time, Laura Holyer, who had been prolific in the early part of the season, latched onto a great ball played to the edge of the penalty area by substitute Hayley Roach. Although she had struggled to really get into the game up to that point, Laura shook off the attentions of one, possibly two, or maybe even six defenders and powered the ball home from 15 yards, beyond the despairing reach of the Keighley 'keeper. With no more action of note to come, that remained the score until half-time, at which point I headed for the pub and a warming cup of coffee with Vicky and Neil.

On emerging for the second half, I realised that play was already under way, and reached for the latch on the closed gate just as Sheffield's second goal went in. Unfortunately, I was still on the wrong side of the gate and missed it, but was informed that Sue Johnson had headed home a free kick. From that point, Sheffield were always in control, and the only surprise was that they only added another two to the total, with Laura Holyer getting into the game much more and completing her hat-trick. Alice Ullathorne in the home goal dealt comfortably with whatever managed to get through a sound defence, and a battling midfield, with Louise Pilley particularly outstanding, ensured that Keighley were never really at the races, with the game ending in the gathering gloom at 4-0 to our girls. And the Sheffield celebrations showed just what it meant to them, and how together they are as a squad.

Once again, splendid entertainment on a crisp, sunny afternoon, played in good spirit by all, and enjoyed by most. And I still had my shorts on!

Sunday 24th October 2004  Today has been a Sunday with a difference, thanks to Trev, Vicky and Neil at the Coach and Horses, and Sheffield FC Ladies football team.

 

It was Trev’s idea, and treat, for the final day of his holiday (he had arrived home from Germany at 3:30 a.m. the previous day) - spend a few hours of Sunday afternoon by travelling all the way to Dronfield (about 12 miles!), enjoying a leisurely lunch, and finishing with our first taste of watching Club’s ladies gracing the green, green grass of home.

 

A journey from north Sheffield that was as busy as a weekday rush hour saw us cross the border into Derbyshire and arrive, appetites akimbo, a little before 12:30 for part one of the afternoon’s entertainment.  A friendly welcome from Neil, a couple of drinks, and two hefty roast lunches (splendidly cooked and served by Vicky) saw both of us, an hour later, slumped in our chairs and barely able to move apart from raising large cups of coffee to our lips.  Fortunately, the half hour remaining before the scheduled kick-off time allowed some of the fine fare settle enough for us to eventually drag ourselves to our feet and make our way round to the ground.

 

Finding our way in via one of the gates (there was no turnstile operating and entry was free), we watched the ladies warming up before the players were called to the centre circle by the referee for a minute’s silence in memory of Adam Ainley, 11-year-old brother of Sheffield’s Andrea, who had tragically lost his life in a recent road accident.  The tribute was impeccably observed by all those present.

 

The home side were playing towards the Sheffield end in the first half, and we took up our usual position on ‘The Kop’ behind the goal, bathed in sunshine on an unbelievably barmy day, considering it was late October.  Joined by Bill Towning, we were soon to see why Sheffield had scored 19 goals in their previous two home league games; less than twenty minutes gone and a hat-trick in eight minutes from Clare Holmes, a tall and skilful striker, saw Kirklees Ladies wondering what had hit them.  The third of these reminded us of what Picko can do when he gets back to his best.  An unlucky own goal from a Kirklees defender, a fine header from Sue Johnson, and a fourth from Clare Holmes just before the break, with one solitary reply from the visitors, and half-time arrived with Sheffield leading 6-1.  And the season’s top scorer before the game, Laura Holyer, wasn’t even playing!

 

The second half was only minutes old when Clare Holmes claimed her fifth, and Sheffield’s seventh, and a double-figure rout looked a certainty.  However, wasted chances around the Kirklees goal coupled with some tenacious and brave work between the sticks by the diminutive Sheffield keeper (I believe her name was Alice, but I didn’t find out her surname) saw all scoring suspended for most of the second period before a flurry of action in the last six minutes or so saw a pair of consolation goals from the visitors sandwich a first strike of the season for Sheffield’s Hayley Roach, leaving the final score at 8-3.

 

In a brief chat with Hayley (an ex-colleague of my elder daughter) after the game, I commented that it was the first time I’d ever been to a game where the players outnumbered the spectators, of which there were probably about fifteen.  That, she told me, was their biggest crowd of the season so far!

 

All in all, it was a very enjoyable afternoon – a game played in good spirit and with plenty of goals.  Nothing like the blood-and-thunder of the men’s game that we’re used to seeing, but entertaining, nonetheless.  It proved to be a Sunday afternoon well spent, and I have no doubt that we’ll repeat the experience before the season is out.

 

Sunday 18th April 2004      Having won on the National Lottery this weekend, I took my wife to a showroom in Wombwell (a touch too close to Barnsley for my liking) to suss out a new bathroom.  Unfortunately, when the bloke asked how much I had to spend, he said he couldn't do one for 77 !!    

 

Sunday 1st February 2004      It was a beautiful, Spring-like day for a visit to the local paper shop and supermarket, but I seemed to attract some funny looks from many of my fellow shoppers.  So, please tell me  - just what is wrong with going out dressed in shorts and a t-shirt on the first day of February?

 

Sunday 4th January 2004      Undertaking one of my family duties, this morning I took my wife and younger daughter up the M1 and along the M62 for a brief and thankfully inexpensive visit to IKEA.  (Take note - it would have been neither brief nor inexpensive had my elder daughter also been with us!)  Now, I thought this particular IKEA was somewhere near Batley, but it seems not - it is actually in the Twilight Zone.  It must be - I clocked only 34 miles getting there, but 42 miles coming home again.  Mind you - rejoining the M62 and heading towards Manchester instead of Leeds doesn't exactly help!

 

Thursday 25th December 2003      A thought for Christmas Day from the female members of the Shepherd family (my only male companionship is two cats).  If the Three Wise Men had been women, they would have arrived on time, cleaned out the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.

 

Wednesday 24th December 2003      I managed to achieve a double today - traumatise another paperboy.  This time round, I emerged from our front door sporting a Santa hat, just as the lad delivering The Sheffield Star was making his way up the drive.  Not only was the poor lad himself transfixed by this awful apparition - the rest of his family, waiting in a car at the end of drive, looked equally stunned! 

 

Monday 22nd December 2003    Is it just my imagination or are the days getting longer?

 

Monday 17th November 2003      This morning, before getting properly dressed for work, I threw on a pair of shorts and a tee shirt in order to move Sammy Skoda off the drive and make way for my daughter to get her car out, as she was leaving earlier than usual.  She was loading her car with items for a bring-and-buy sale and a raffle she had organised at work for Children In Need, and asked me to hold the star raffle prize - a cuddly rabbit (not a real one!) about the size of young Liam - while she loaded the car.  So there I was, standing on the doorstep in shorts and clutching a large yellow rabbit when the paperboy walked up the drive.  The look of horror on his face said everything.  Have you ever had a Daily Mail and Daily Mirror hurled at you from several feet away?  Luckily, the rabbit took the full impact and I escaped unscathed.   I understand that the poor lad is making a slow but steady recovery.

 

Monday 25th August 2003    I woke in the middle of the night, convinced I could hear the sound of trumpets coming from somewhere in the house.  So I turned to my wife and gave her a gentle nudge.  "You'd better call the police, love," I whispered in a rather faultering voice.  "I think we've got buglers!"

    

Thursday 7th August 2003    My wife and I have just returned (in time for tonight's SFC game vs Sheffield Wednesday, you will note) from a short break in Norfolk, where we have enjoyed a sun-soaked and very relaxing time in the splendour of an out-of-the-way B&B situated in Ormesby St. Margaret, just a little way north of Caister.  GREAT ORMESBY HALL (excuse me for shouting - I just wanted to emphasise that!) is a fine Georgian residence set in eight acres of grass and woodland, which has been lovingly reclaimed, rebuilt and restored by a truly remarkable couple, Charles and Jaqueline Birch.  Sammy Skoda found his way into the grounds by way of a winding gravel drive, leading through a set of gates guarded by stone hawks, and into a car park almost the size of the one at the Coach and Horses.  But, unlike the C&H, he had this one all to himself for most of the time.  Our accommodation in a purpose-built annexe was excellent, providing comfort and tranquillity, and we took breakfast in the dining room of the Hall.  Chas and Jaqui (we became that close) were perfect hosts and made us feel most welcome.  So, peasants (revolting or otherwise), when you next meet me I expect to be treated with the deference accorded to someone who is accustomed to hobnobbing with the landed gentry. Nothing too grand, you understand - a simple doffing of the cap or tugging of the forelock should suffice.

If you require details about this 'B&B with a difference', e-mail me on john@behindtheflag.co.uk or come over and see me at a game.    Except for Dennis, of course  -  I wouldn't wish Dennis on anyone!

 

Wednesday 30th July 2003      Weather forecasters - I've shot em!      I'm on holiday this week and had promised to do a bit of gardening - not my favourite pastime, but I thought I should show willing.  After a couple of days relaxing, today dawned as the one where I was to keep my promise - but I had a cunning plan.  With the forecast predicting rain for later in the day, I found other things to occupy my time in the morning, then took a long lunch, and eventually ventured outside towards the late afternoon.  The plan was simple - after ten minutes the heavens would open, I would feign disappointment, and head back indoors through no fault of my own.  Did the rain come?  Did it buffalo!  Apart from a slight drizzle, during which my wife seemed quite happy that I was using an electric mower (somwhat worrying, that is), I was uninterrupted for two bloody hours.      Weather forecasters - I've shot em!

 

Sunday 20th July 2003      Trev and I went to watch Dinnington Town in action again yesterday, against Rotherham United.  It was very disappointing - not only were Dinny undeservedly beaten 2-1, but last week's female streaker failed to make another appearance.    And I'd taken my binoculars!

 

Sunday 13th July 2003    Yesterday brought the first pre-season game for some of us, but not for Sheffield FC.  Trev and I decided to fit in a warm-up game before Club's first appearance next Thursday, and chose a meeting between our two other teams from this area, Dinnington Town and Sheffield Wednesday.  It also presented an opportunity of meeting up with some of the other guys as Bill, Big Steve and Stu (along with his son, Liam) were also in attendance, plus Dave and Danny Marshall, who will be managing (Dave) and playing for (Danny) the Dinnington under-18's side this season.  However, the Brothers Dean chose not to join us - they may be lapsed followers of the Blades, but they still have an aversion to blue-and-white stripes!  The game, considering the very hot conditions, was a reasonably entertaining 1-1 draw with two cracking goals and a number of good saves at both ends which kept the score down.  The players did well to get through it - we were absolutely exhausted just watching them!

I must have looked pretty miserable over the past couple of months, with no football to keep me occupied.  Studying me intently one day, my wife commented, "Your forehead is covered in wrinkles."  Needless to say, I was somewhat offended by this observation.  "They're not wrinkles, they're laughter lines," I countered.  "Oh, come on now," she said, with a wicked smile.  "Nothing can be that funny!"

Beginning to feel unloved, I sought a little solace by sending my photograph to a Lonely Hearts Club.   It was returned in double quick time with the message, "We don't have any clients who are that lonely."

With desperation mounting, I decided to search for a book which would offer some advice on finding companionship, and I was absolutely thrilled when I came across a publication entitled HOW to HUG.  Only when I began to read it at home did I realise I'd bought volume seven of Encyclopaedia Britannica! 

 

Sunday 22nd June 2003        Is it just my imagination or are the days getting shorter?

This afternoon I collected Travelling Trev from Manchester Airport when he returned from a two-week stay in Germany with Jan, Tanja and Steffi, our European branch of BTF.  I shouldn't really have bothered because the rotten sod had been sending me regular text messages at work to say he was relaxing by a lake, or on top of an Alp, while I was slaving away at a hot desk!   I was hoping I might be able to make some derisory comment about him actually finding his way back, given his legendary navigating skills, but today the joke was on me.   We had left the airport and were joining the motorway when my wife called Trev's mobile - just as it was dawning on me that mine was nowhere to be seen.  Yes - I had managed to lose it in Arrivals where a kind and honest Lancastrian gentleman had found it, tracked down my home number, and called up in an effort to ensure a quick return to its rightful owner.  A minor accident on the motorway meant a delay before we could turn off at the next junction and return to the airport, but the gentleman waited for us to do so and I parked outside while Trev popped back into the terminal and retrieved the lost article.  The offer of a reward was refused, and the gentleman pointed out that there are still some honest people to be found in Lancashire.  So thank you, whoever you may be.   I've had some laughs at the other guys for leaving their mobiles in coat pockets and on kitchen tables, but I think I've topped them today!    And be warned folks - Trev's back in town!'

 

Thursday 19th June 2003    I filled up Sammy Skoda with petrol today, and was delighted to find I had managed 60 miles more than usual from a tank of fuel for the second time in the last month.  I thought perhaps the engine was finally 'run in' to its optimum efficiency after 40,000 miles - then it suddenly dawned on me.  The equivalent of the All Blacks' front row (the BTF gang) haven't been on board since the football season ended, and I've been running lighter.    Oh Sammy, how you must have suffered!   

 

Sunday 15th June 2003    The following snippet appeared on the back page of The Star last night.

                                             "Senor Beckham at Dronfield"

"DAVID Beckham, OBE, England captain and world superstar may soon be playing for Barcelona or Real Madrid at Dronfield!   The Manchester United midfielder, currently the centre of wild transfer speculation, might be back on home soil sooner than he thinks if officials of the world's oldest football club, Sheffield FC, have anything to do with it.   The Sheffield club's representatives have been invited to Barcelona next month to receive an award as the world's oldest club and although officials are keen to play down the chance of a friendly at the Coach and Horses ground, it is possible."

Congratulations to the club for attracting such tremendous overseas publicity.  I wonder if they can persuade the Spaniards to stump up a few pesetas (or is it Euros?) for a new pitch into the bargain! 

 

Sunday 1st June 2003    Chez Sheps is resounding to the patter of tiny feet - eight tiny feet, to be precise.  This week has seen the adoption from the RSPCA of two cats (with eight feet but only three eyes between them) who are now settling into the Shepherd family.  Originally named Gismo and Ginger, they lived together at their previous home and came as a 'package'.  It was felt that a new home should be marked with new names, and discussions threw up many ideas - although my suggestion of Picko and Dunc was dismissed out of hand.  The eventual choice was to name them after The Odd Couple (remember Walter Matthau/Jack Lemmon in the film, and Jack Klugman/Tony Randall on TV?).  So we now have Oscar and Felix ruling the roost.

Who says Germans have no sense of humour?  Germanys oldest man (110 years old today) is quoted as saying, "If I'd known I was going to live this long, Id have taken better care of myself." 

 

Sunday 25th May 2003    Today, I went to a programme fair with the specific aim of finding a copy of the 1977 FA Vase Final programme (Billericay Town vs Sheffield, at Wembley Stadium).  I already had a copy of the programme from the replay (at the City Ground, Nottingham) which a work colleague had found lying around in his son's old bedroom a couple of years ago, and generously passed on to me.  I'd only been at the fair a short time when I bumped into Billy Big Lens, and we had a short chat about this and that before I went off to continue my search.  I soon found the desired item, a copy in decent condition, which I eagerly snapped up for a couple of quid.  I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself when I came across Bill again.  "Well Bill, I've found what I wanted," I announced, proudly showing him my purchase.  "Oh, you should have said," chirruped Bill.  "I have a pile of those at home!"  

 
 
Ladybower Reservoir - 5th May 2003
 
By John Shepherd
 
I'm A Clubbie  -  Get Me Out Of Here
 

With both Trev and myself off work for the Bank Holiday Monday, and with no football to occupy our time, we decided to enjoy a short walk somewhere in the countryside around Sheffield, weather permitting.  We had carefully studied The Star Book of Family Walks whilst we were at the Coach and Horses for the Under-19's presentation evening on the previous Saturday, and had fallen upon an easy (3 miles - mostly level - 2 hours) amble around Ladybower Reservoir.  The choice of reference matter may seem strange, but I see more of Trev during the football season than I do of my wife, Lynne, so he is now considered to be part of the family, bless him.  With the weather forecast looking good, we made our final arrangements on Sunday evening, and I arrived outside Trev's house just after nine o'clock on a bright, fresh Monday morning.  The drive to Ladybower took no time at all, and we pulled into the largely unoccupied car park.  I spotted an empty space between two cars, close to the start of our intended route, and reversed in. Glancing over at the car on my side, I noticed a guy sat behind the wheel - funny that, as I'm sure he wasn't there when I first saw the space!  As I climbed out I glanced at the car again, only to spot the guy's female companion stretched out on the fully reclined passenger seat.  Gentlemen to the end, Trev and I averted our eyes, donned our boots, slung our rucksacks on our shoulders, and set off.

 

Now, I must point out that Trev was navigating.  I repeat, Trev was navigating - a prospect to strike terror into the hearts of those who know him well.  The omens weren't good when it became obvious within the first quarter of a mile that we had gone slightly wrong (the directions in the guidebook were a little vague, to be fair), but we were soon back on course and enjoying a stroll through pleasant surroundings along the route of an old railway.  Having reached the dam wall, as instructed in the book, we then needed to find a path veering off to the left.  I suggested this might be just a little way further on, round the next corner, but Trev was confident it was the path we could see immediately to our left, and set off determinedly, with me in pursuit.  This path soon began to climb steeply, not exactly the 'mostly level' terrain we were expecting, but we soldiered on until I felt the need for a breather, so we stopped and set up Base Camp.  I kid you not - this was like an assault on Mount Everest.

 

At this point Trev redeemed himself a little by producing a couple of ham sandwiches, which was despatched with relish.  Actually, he'd forgotten the relish, but I digress.  Trev consulted the guidebook again, and was still convinced we were on the correct route for this 'family' walk.  As it happened, a family did appear from below at that moment, and the young lad with them looked as if he'd much rather be locked away in his bedroom doing homework.  And believe me, I know just how he felt!  Some other walkers came past a little later and commented on our consumption of food at that time in the morning, but I told them we were simply killing time waiting for the Sherpas to arrive with extra supplies before we moved on.

 

Base Camp, and Trev checks the book
ladybower2.jpg
"Surely this thing must be wrong"
 

And move onwards (and upwards) we did.  Some two hours and three thousand feet later (well, that's how it seemed) we eventually reached the summit and came out onto a level path.  At this point, according to the guidebook, "The views across the reservoir are stunning".  So we turned to savour this breathtaking panorama, only to be confronted by ...... trees.  Trees to the right, trees to the left, trees in front of us - not a glimpse of water anywhere, apart from the odd puddle.  We followed the path along for a while until we reached a point that gave us a distant, but less than stunning view of the reservoir far below, then decided we were heading in a direction which was just putting increasing distance between us and the car park.  So we reversed course and started following any sign we came across that said 'Ladybower'.  Whilst we were still up on the summit a helicopter flew over, and I suggested to Trev that we should rip our shirts into strips and form the word HELP on the grass.  For some reason, he didn't think that was funny!  Eventually, we found our way down to a road that ran parallel with the reservoir, and began to head back towards the dam wall.  Although I was fairly certain that Trev had led us on the wrong trail, I was still prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, and accept that the guidebook had been misleading.  Then, just before we reached the dam wall, we spotted it.  A gently climbing path branching off to what was now our right, just round the corner from where I'd suggested it might be all those hours before!  Trev's face was a picture.  We decided to cut the rest of the walk short by taking the road over the dam wall, and we were soon back to Sammy Skoda, much to my relief.  In reality, the walk had taken little over three hours, had probably covered no more than four miles, but had been anything but the gentle stroll we had planned.

 
Sammy and Sheps - reunited at last
ladybower1.jpg
"I thought we'd never be together again"

Exhausted yet strangely fulfilled, we journeyed home to Chez Sheps where Lynne fed us while we settled down for an afternoon of sport on the telly.  Women's FA Cup Final, Champcars, British Superbikes, Conference play-offs  -  you name it, I dozed off watching it.

 

So, there you have it - undeniable proof that Trev is just as competent a navigator on foot as he is on our many travels to the four corners of the Northern Counties East Football League.

 

 

Happy travelling.

 

 

Sheps

Ward 9

Northern General Hospital