Friday, 22 February 2019


Hello everyone, welcome back to Getting To The Game.
Thanks for all the clicks and likes etc, It's been a really busy month so far.
A trip to The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany for three games at Brugge, Roda JC and Schalke 04 and a few beers with some old friends, the main highlight. But you'll hear all about that soon.

First up was a Thursday night, under the lights at the Jan Breydelstadion, for Club Brugge vs Red Bull Salzburg in the UEFA Europa League.

The Club

Founded in 1891, Club Brugge Koninklijke Voetbalvereniging, or just Club Brugge to you and I, are the second most Successful side in Belgian football.
Having not played outside the top flight since 1959 they have enjoyed consistent success, winning fifteen league titles and eleven national cups.

Arguably their greatest ever moment came in 1978 whilst under the leadership of the great Ernst Happel when they faced holders Liverpool in the European Cup Final.. 
 Panathinaikos, Atlético Madrid and Juventus were beaten en route to Wembely where they were finally defeated 1-0 by the English champions.
Unfortunately for the Belgians, this was second time in three seasons Liverpool had beaten them in a European final.
In 1976 it was the UEFA Cup that Liverpool defeated the Blauw-Zwart 4-3 over two legs. 

Bruges hold Matricule number 3, (Matricule numbers are basically a huge list of clubs in Belgium, ranked in order of when they first registered with the football association) which is a proud boast for all clubs in the country. (Specially if like Brugge they are in the single figures)

‘Club’ share a bitter rivalry with Brussels based R.S.C. Anderlecht, often challenging each other for for the league title.
The “Derby of Belgium” is fiercely contested with each side winning two, drawing two and losing two of the last six matches.

The heated rivalry has been know to spill off the pitch too, with violence marring some of the clashes between the big two.
The hatred from the Brugge fans towards 'Les mauve' is usually aimed at their history of cheating (in 1984 Nottingham Forest fell foul of Anderlecht bribing the referee to ensure a win in Europe) on top of a whole host of other allegations that surround the Brussels team.

On top of that, it’s believed by their fans that Brugge are a team of the people and Anderlecht are a team for the well off, bourgeoisie.
Similar to Manchester’s blue and red divide or in Greece between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos.

They play their home games the the 29,000 seater Jan Breydel Stadium which they share with rivals Cercle Brugge.
Built in 1975 it resembles the brutalist architecture of Portsmouth’s Tricorn Centre or the Trinity Centre in Gateshead, if it’s time but unfortunately that time has long since gone.

The blue and blacks have a proud tradition of plucking players from relative obscurity and turning them into players ready to take on Europe’s top five league’s.
In the past few seasons they have seen Thomas Meunier, Carlos Bacca, Ivan Perišić, Matty Ryan and Jose Izquierdo all pass through the club and on to bigger things.

Talking of the last few seasons, they’ve been kind to Bruges, the Flanders side have been Jupiler Pro League champions twice and runners up twice in the past four years.
Add to that their performances in the Cup, (one win and two finals out of four) and it has become a pretty dominating period for the side.

This season has been a mixed bag though, embarrassing league defeats at the likes of Zulte Waregem and Mouscron have left Club eleven points behind leaders Genk with five games to play before the League splits for the play offs.

In Europe though, fantastic performances in the Champions League against Monaco, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid gained them six points, enough to set up this tie with Red Bull Salzburg.

The trip

As mentioned earlier, this was the start of three games in three days across three countries so early starts after late nights was an on running theme over the weekend.

I left my house at 07:30 Thursday morning to get the Eurostar to Brussels, met my good friend and Bruges fan Roy.
Arrived in Brussels, Train to Berchem, Car to Wuustwezel for dinner and it’s like a click of a finger it's 17:30.
Luckily it’s 21:00 kick off, or so I thought...
A crash on the main motorway through Antwerp meant we missed the Coach and had to drive another two hour to Brugge, arriving with about ten minutes to spare!

The build up to a European night at the Jan Breydelstadion is quite special, much like some of the more famous stadia around the continent.
You see the vast floodlights from miles around, and can feel the drums beating a constant rhythm as you get closer to entering the turnstile.
But more than that, you can feel the buzz of expectation and hope of the home fans.

The game starts after a rendition of You’ll never walk alone (which I hate, but that’s just a personal preference) followed by the Europa League’s second rate version of the champions League song.

Blood was pumping, atmosphere was buzzing and so were Salzburg who got off to much the better start, keeping the ball well and looking dangerous down the flanks.

Defensive frailty seemed to be the theme of the night as the Bruges back line look dodgy at best.
Red Bull’s Zlatko Junuzovic took full advantage of a defensive mix up between the Brugge stand-in right back Sofyan Amrabat and keeper Ethan Horvath.
Amrabat stood appealing for offside whilst Horvath simultaneously slipped over, leaving the Austrian an golden opportunity to dink over the stranded keeper.
1-0 Salzburg.

From them on it was case of “game management” for Red Bull, who used every chance to waste time and get brugge players in the book.

Halftime came as a welcome break for the home team as they’d been struggling to contain the counter attack, specially in wide areas.

Half Time:
Club Brugge K.V. 0-1 RB Salzburg 

A halftime trip to the bar, that served real alcoholic beer! Which I thought wasn’t allowed anymore on UEFA match nights, but was a pleasant surprise.
(Hopefully I’ve not just landed them in trouble, there’s probably no UEFA cronies reading anyway).

Halftime drinks turned into staying well into the second period (I missed the equaliser as I was meeting up with Tim, another friend) but did catch it on the big screen in the bar.

A header from Stefano Denswil that looked not to of crossed the line but was given by the referees watch.

As a side note, my major gripe with football in Europe is the Token/Card system to buy anything at the game!

You have to queue to load a card, then queue to get a beer after.
Then if you have money left on the card when you leave, you need to queue again to get it back!
Anyone with a good theory on this, answers at the bottom in the comments section please.

Luckily Tim has a season card and he and Roy kept me well stocked in Jupiler.

I arrived back in the stand in perfect time for the winner, a deflected cross from the right hand side headed home by Brazilian striker Wesley.

The stadium erupted, then proceeded to bite their nails for the remaining ten minutes.
The Bruges defence stayed strong until full time to give Club a 2-1 to take to Austria the following week.
All in all it was a hard fought victory for the home team, against a well drilled Salzburg side that dominated possession and had more clear cut chances.

The famous "We Are Bruges"

Maybe against the run of play, but that’s football!

After the game our friend Joren drove me, Roy, Sander and Bart back to the Antwerp region of Northern Belgium for a well earned rest, as I had to go to the Netherlands the following day.

You can listen to all the interviews I did on the way back in the videos.
There’s even one in which they all take turns at explaining the Playoff system!

Hope you enjoyed it, next time up it’s Roda JC.


Saturday, 2 February 2019


Hello all, welcome back to Getting To The Game.

A big thank you if you’ve been reading from the start, it’s steadily progressing with more readers each month.
This month is the last one before it gets truly international for the next few editions so I decided to stay close to home.

If you’re fairly au fait with the lower reaches of the English game you will know all about this club, and their story.
If you aren’t however, I’m about to introduce you to probably the most historically and culturally rich football club you’ve never heard of...

Corinthian-Casuals F.C.

Founded in 1939 as a merger between two clubs, Corinthian F.C. (originally founded in 1882) and Casuals F.C. (1883).
I’m going to attempt to give a brief history of both clubs and how they came together to form the side they are today, if you’re more interested though, dig a little deeper as it really is a fascinating story!

Corinthian F.C.

Founded in 1882 by Assistant Secretary of the Football Association‘Pa’ Jackson, in an attempt to form a side capable of challenging the dominance of the Scottish national team. (The dominant force in British football at the time).
The Corinthians side, consisting entirely of amateur players went on to challenge, and beat the best professional sides of the time.
They once inflicted an 11-3 defeat on Manchester United, still their record loss.

On two separate occasions the England team was composed entirely of Corinthian players and in total they amassed 86 England internationals.

As a side note, one of those 86 internationals was the great C.B Fry who represented England at football, cricket and held a world record for long jump.
Additionally, the first black player ever to play international football ‘Andrew Watson’played for Corinthians too.

Bottom left C.B Fry, Top left Andrew Watson and on the right is Charles Miller.

Was it not for the clubs constitution, disallowing them from entering competitive competitions they would almost definitely have collected a number of F.A Cup wins.
At the turn of the 20th Century they were football superstars of their time.
Famous for taking football all over the world, touring Europe, Africa and the Americas.

One time Corinthians player Charles Miller is famed for introducing football to Brazil.
He left for São Paulo in 1894 with two footballs and the Hampshire FA rule book in his suitcase, not knowing he would change the course of football forever.

In 1910 whilst on a South American tour, the Corinthians visited São Paulo to play local club sides, locals were so impressed by the way they played the game they formed their own club and named themselves SC Corinthians Paulista.
Corinthians Paulista would go on to be one of the most famous sides in Brazil, winning seven national leagues, two FIFA World Club Cups and countless other trophies.

In the summer of 1914 the Corinthians embarked on yet another tour of South America, this time though it was never to be fulfilled.
 Whilst en route to Brazil, war broke out in Europe and the players decided to return to England immediately to do their duty in France and Belgium.

Casualties at the Somme and Ypres would go on to tear the club apart and the Corinthians lost more men in World War I than any other football club of the time.

In 1920's the squad was rebuilt and the club moved into the Crystal Palace.(the national stadium of the time).
Things, though, were on the decline. The team had started to lose it's place at footballs top table and crowds to watch the amateur game were down.

More tragedy struck in 1936 when the Crystal Palace burned down, leaving the club homeless and without much money in the bank.
Like a phoenix from the flames though the club would rise again as they sought to merge with fellow amateur club 'Casuals'.

Casuals F.C.

The Casuals, of whom the fantastic pink, chocolate and blue kit comes from, were founded in 1883 and again made up exclusively of public school boys from Eton, Westminster and Charterhouse schools.
They were primarily a touring side, playing up to five matches a week to keep up with the crowds that wanted to see them.
Like Corinthians, the Casuals had a number of England internationals and their success culminated in winning the 1936 Amateur Cup at West Ham's Boleyn Ground.

   Before the match a medal from that 1936 cup final was gifted back to the club by the family of a former player.

Corinthian-Casuals F.C.

It wasn't until after World War II that the club got a chance to play football again, joining the Isthmian League for the 1945-46 season.
Whilst still not paying players they made steady progress after the war, getting to the final of the Amateur Cup in 1956 and ten years later the club reached the First round of the F.A Cup, losing to Watford 5-1.

The Sixties and Seventies were lean years for Corinthians, suffering a number of relegation's and leaving them languishing in the Spartan League by the time the eighties had arrived.
The main highlight of that era was another merger, this time with Tolworth, giving the Casuals their own ground again.
After a number of barren years the "Chocolate & Pinks" returned to the Isthmian League in 1997 where they have been fluctuating between the two divisions until recent years.

Fast forward to 2015 and current manager James Bracken took over at the helm and the Amateurs have been on the up and up ever since, leading the club to successive play off finals and finally gaining promotion to the Isthmian League Premier Division (level 7 of the English league system) last season.

Corinthians sat just two wins from the play offs when I went to visit (26/01/19) and had just won two on the bounce, they currently occupied the highest position of any amateur team in England and the highest in their history.

The Brazilian Connection

As you would have already seen, Corinthian-Casuals are the reason the Brazilian Corinthians Paulista are named.

Throughout their rich histories there have been numerous meetings between the two sides, in 1988 Casuals were invited to Brazil to mark the Centenary of  São Paulo Athletic Club (former side of Charles Miller) and whilst on this tour they played a Corinthians Paulista XI side that included greats such as Rivelino and Socrates. The latter even played a half for the Amateurs.

In 2014 the club once again undertook a tour of Brazil, in honour of the 1914 tour that was never finished.
The Tolworth club faced SC Corinthians Paulista at 'The Arena' in front of nearly 50,000 fans and  the game was beamed round the world on television. Furthermore they managed to keep the score down to 3-0.

The two teams continue to have a special bond, many Brazilians regularly make the pilgrimage to Tolworth to take in a match at King George's Field.

Brazilian Caipirinha cocktails and feijoada bean stew available at the ground.

The Day

So, you've heard all about this magical club's history, but what of my trip?

Well it started in what is now typical Getting To The Game fashion, I drove to the train station, attempted to check the times on my phone and realised I'd left it at home!
A quick dash home, then back to the station meant I'd missed my train and due to the complex nature of the Saturday train service, I'd now have to change trains twice if I was going to make it to Tolworth before 2pm.
Thankfully though, everything else went to plan (unlike on the way home) and I arrived at King George's Field on time.

The ground itself is a well hidden gem of a stadium, you have to cross under a large railway arch to get to the entrance.
Once inside, it opens up to be a sort of giant patio area that's sheltered by the back of the main stand and the clubhouse on either side. Had it not been -1° I think it would of make a great area for beers and a barbecue.

 The 'Mega' Store also located in the patio area.

After a quick beer in the clubhouse I went to find Dan, Billy or Stuart to chat to them about football, the club and the history.
When I finally found Dan and Billy (working on the pitch, like all good groundsmen) we were joined by Jack and Tich, two other Casuals fans, and here's what they had to say..

For the game itself I took up position behind the goal that the home team were attacking. (as is traditional at non-league grounds throughout England)
The boys I had met earlier were in full voice as the game began, a colourful array flags and songs filled the air.
Corinthians started the game like a team possessed, frantically attacking the Bognor goal wave after wave and corner after corner.
The deadlock was broken just eleven minutes in as Hamilton Antonio poked home a lovely through ball from the Casuals right back.

Casuals pressure from a corner.

The rest of the first half was just as entertaining as the first ten minutes, and even when there's a lull in the game, the crowd keep themselves entertained with songs about cheesy chips and trains!
The home side really should have capitalised on their possession and chances but went into the break only one goal ahead.

Half time: Corinthian-Casuals F.C. 1-0 Bognor Regis Town F.C.

The second half lacked a little intensity until club stalwart Danny Bracken let a tame shot slip through his hands and allowed Bognor to draw level.
Five minutes later Bognor had a penalty which was duly dispatched, the game had turned on its head in ten crazy minutes.

A clash of heads in the 77th minute suspended the game for around twenty minutes while an ambulance arrived to take Casuals Max Oldham to hospital (thankfully he's fine now).
So back to the clubhouse to escape the cold...and have another beer.
After the break in play I couldn't force myself to stand out on the cold terraces anymore so I opted for the equally cold main stand.

It was there that I first encountered Brazilian fan Mauricio Franco.
(You can listen to what Mauricio thought of the game, and England in general in the videos below.)

The rest of the game was played out much how it began, with Corinthians pressing for a goal.
Unfortunately for them though it was Bognor who snatched the final goal of the game as the Chocolate and Pinks were caught on the counter in the dying seconds of the game.

Full time: Corinthian-Casuals F.C. 1-3 Bognor Regis Town F.C.

The game ended with little bit of "Handbags At Dawn" after the final whistle.

After the match, I retired back to the warmth of the clubhouse and talked to Mauricio about Corinthians, Football and life in Brazil.

Part One of interview with Mauricio

Part Two of interview with Mauricio

Mauricio and I finally left Tolworth (after being introduced to the Corinthian club president) at around 6pm, Four trains, two cancellations and a few missed buses, I arrived home four hours later.

Corinthians-Casuals is a fantastic club, with fantastic history, but more importantly fantastic people to carry on their rich traditions.
It's well worth a visit if you get a chance.

So... nearly at the end, wanted to say thanks to Dan, Billy, Titch, Jack and Mauricio for being interviewed.
Stuart Tree for pointing me in the right direction (even if he is the busiest man in non-league).

 Lee Roberts who was commentating on the game for Rocks Radio, with whom I did a live interview with just before kick off.
That's Lee with former England cricket captain Alec Stewart who was also at the game

  Last but not least, Tommy Macmillan the Bognor club photographer of whom I stole some action pictures from for the blog,
 So thanks chaps.

See you all next month,


If you're interested in The Corinthians story watch the B.T Sport documentary "Brothers in Football" it's a great watch.


Hi everyone, it's time for part two of last months trip to the continent, this time across the border into The Netherlands to visit...