Thursday, 28 February 2013

My Hero - My Inspiration : Alison Palmer

Our latest writer in our series of "My Hero / My Inspiration" is Alison Palmer... We asked Alison to give us a brief description of herself... These are her words.

"We all talk about how sport changes lives, well this is how it changed mine. It's personal and its been hard to write, but I felt I had to write it as there are still too many people out in the cold too scared or ashamed to ask for help which is something that simply has to change.  I am passionate about everything I do, I have been lucky enough to work as a photographer for many years which I love, I also have a love for football which goes way beyond the pitch, but my greatest love & source of inspiration will always be my daughter, friends and family."


My Hero: My Eldest Sister, 
My Inspirations? My Five Year Old Daughter & One Outstanding English International Footballer, Kelly Smith.


When I was 17, my sister went missing and our world turned upside down.

The day started like any other day, but when I got home from sixth form college, My mother said "your sister has gone missing."   I remember laughing, thinking it was a joke. But it wasn't; instead it was the start of my sister’s very distressing and long journey with schizophrenia.

My father and my two other sisters, (I’m one of four daughters) started to drive around London, trying to find her, checking train stations and cafes, libraries and shops, but there was no sign of her in the usual places she liked to go.

I think it was about midnight, when we got a call from the police saying they had found her; she had been walking into the sea at Newhaven.  We found out later that, she had gone to Victoria train station and at the ticket desk had asked to buy a ticket to Heaven.  I often think how frightened she must have been that day, not knowing where she was or what she was doing.  

Walking into the sea that day, was one of many attempts by my sister to take her own life, there have been six attempts in total since she first became unwell.  The one I remember most was her taking an overdose, because I was the person who found her.  There were pills strewn all over the kitchen floor and I knew immediately what had happened, My mother who was with me, fell to the floor as I went to my sister.

She survived, in fact survivor, is an excellent word to describe my sister.  She is my hero because I, along with the rest of the family have watched her battle with mental illness for over twenty years now.  She is one of the kindest and most gentle people I have ever known, yet she struggles on a continuous, hour by hour basis with some very overwhelming feelings caused by the illness.  She feels very detached from the world and everyone in it and describes an overwhelming blankness which she can’t penetrate no matter how much she tries, she says she just feels dead inside which is both frightening and exasperating for her and yet, she carries on fighting, hoping and believing in easier days ahead.  She doesn’t give up.

Not only does she fight on, but she now helps other people with mental health problems, running workshops with young people, or groups of nurses to help professionals gain more understanding of the illness, she also goes onto the wards of many hospitals where there are psychiatric wards, some of which she herself has spent time in, to support and talk to the patients and to try to help them with their self esteem.  I honestly do not know how she does it.

My sister has been one of the lucky ones as she has always had my parents and us sisters to try to support her and help her through it, for those with no such support; the chances of survival are slim.  This raises an interesting point as I think the families with loved ones who suffer from a mental illness can often be very over looked in the whole process.  It is exhausting and deeply upsetting caring and supporting a loved one and each family member actually also needs support of some kind.  Our family did not have any support of any kind and it can go unnoticed that in fact other family members at times can also become vulnerable & experiencing levels of stress or depression as they try to cope with the impact of the illness on the family.

This is where I believe there is a crucial link between sport and its therapeutic benefits to mental health.  It is basic biology and most people know that when you exercise, the brain releases endorphins, which has a positive impact on how that person is feeling.  My sister feels relief from her symptoms and so much better about herself if she can manage to motivate herself to go swimming or for a walk.

My father has managed to play golf twice a week for the last thirty or so years and I know it has helped him enormously to cope with caring for my sister and also for my mother (who has had two liver transplants) and is often seriously unwell.  For my father, the golf course, is his time, his sanctuary, it keeps his stress levels down and the walking has kept him physically in good shape, without his golf, there would be no release for him from full time care of both my mother & sister.

For me, I have benefited from sport all my life and feel very strongly about its therapeutic powers & role in society.  My pregnancy with our daughter, coincided with my sister experiencing a devastating relapse with her illness, where she became very unwell again was suicidal and ended up hospitalised for a year.  At eight months pregnant, my sister’s sudden deterioration hit me hard, I was very saddened by seeing her in such a painful state and struggled with the upset it also caused to the rest of the family as we witnessed our loved one again go through hell on earth. 

About six months after Rosa was born, I started to experience the signs of post-natal depression.  I ignored them and refused to accept what was happening, I told myself, that I was not the kind of person who would get depression, I felt ashamed that I could not seem to cope or manage day - to- day stuff that previously I would have taken in my stride.  I refused to accept that I might need some help.

The taboos & the stigma around mental health are still too entrenched in society, at the time I didn’t want to be judged or made to feel like I was on the fringes of society, not really a real or worthy person and so I let the stigma stand between me and help.

Kelly Smith : England International
©Olivia&Alison (2013)

It was around this time that I started to read about England International Kelly Smiths’ experiences, trials and struggles and how she faced some very difficult times.  I had a great respect for her openness and honesty as she talked about what she had been through.  I am sure she helped many people from many walks of life, she certainly helped me and was a source of inspiration for me to accept help and start the road to recovery.

I have never looked back, it was around five years ago now and in a strange way, experiencing post natal depression has strengthened my character, has given me more fire in belly to do the things I want to do in life, has given me the courage to speak openly about my families experiences and to make sure people know there is help and support on hand.  It has given me vigour for life that I carry into all areas of my life from being a mother, to a footballer, photographer and simply just being the person I am.

Playing football helped me recover from the depression.  When I would put on my boots and tie my laces, put on my kit and pull up my socks, I experienced a real sense of homecoming, calmness and a peace.  Walking on to the pitch, playground, Astroturf, indoor arena whatever the surface, I switched off from any stresses or pressures that I may have been under in other aspects of my life. As soon as I kicked a ball, I was in a zone and nothing could hurt me or distract me.  Whenever I get to play football, for me it is a sense of freedom, I get to just focus on playing the game I love.

Rosa, my daughter is my main inspiration in life because I told myself that I would show her that she could do anything she sets her mind to even if there are obstacles in her way.  I was determined that I was going to make the selection for the Futsal team last year to go and play in Portugal in the Futsal Nation’s Cup, against some very experienced teams and players.  I had to train really hard and show a lot of focus. Rosa, just five at the time, helped me with my training, told me off if I wasn’t going out running and gave me a hard time if she didn’t think I was showing enough progression!  She even had a whistle and proved to be quite a taskmaster! 

I made the squad and my family and I travelled to Portugal for the tournament.  To see Rosa on the sidelines so excited and leaping up and down cheering on our team meant the world to me and always will.

Experiencing depression was not pretty and not easy, but in some ways, it has partly made me the person I am today.  I never give up.  I see life and experience things on a very different level now.  If there are obstacles in front of me, I know I can overcome them; it has given me strength to live life with more enthusiasm, passion and determination than ever before.  

There are few things I wanted to finish by saying.  This has been hard to write as it is personal and it is the first time I have ever written about my sister’s illness, but I wanted to write it as I believe it is so important for people who may be struggling with difficult things in their own life to know that there is always hope, always help and that you can overcome testing times in life and go on to great things.

1: Never ever feel ashamed to ask for help of any kind about anything at any time in your life.

2: Dreams can be realised, you just do have to work really hard to realise them.

3: If you have always wanted to try something or do something but think it is not possible…. it is possible, but it has to become possible in your head first, then you will find a way of doing it.

4: There are some fantastic organisations out there offering all sorts of help.  For Brothers or sisters who have loved ones who are unwell and could just benefit from someone to share their feelings with & know that they are not alone, check out Sibling Support (click on red link).

There is no doubt that sport can and does change people’s lives.
The more open people are about their experiences and willing to share their thoughts with others, the stigmas and taboos will finally disappear and free people up to get the help they need.

Monday, 25 February 2013

29 January 2013 - Chesterfield v Belper Town

Competition : Derbyshire Senior Cup Quarter Final
Result : Chesterfileld 4 Belper Town 2
Attendance : 350

Belper Town Managerial Team
Peter Duffield & Mick Godber.

The Nailers : Pre-Match Warm Up

Belper Town officials take to their seats on a bitterly cold Tuesday night at The ProAct Stadium.

"Handshakes at 19.44"

Chesterfield Academy Coach, John Dungworth and Belper Town Manager, Peter Duffield in pre-match conversation amongst the bedlam of the dugouts.

Steve Warne & Jack Broadhead
with match officials

Chesterfield 0 Belper Town 1
Shaun Tuton volleys The Nailers 1-0 up in the 11th minute.

Peter Duffield (Manager : Belper Town)
Directing operations from the technical area.

The rain lashes down at The ProAct Stadium as Josh Barrington makes a great save to keep Belper Town at bay.

New Chesterfield signing Armand Gnanduillet, tees up a set piece free kick.


"Abstract At The ProAct"

Chesterfield 3 Belper Town 2 ..
Josh Harrington pulls off a great penalty save from Belper Town's Simon Harrison to keep his side 3-2 ahead.  Moments later, Chesterfield attacked and scored through Jonathan Wafula, 4-2 to The Spireites.

90 Minutes....
Chesterfield 4 Belper Town 2


"The Last Man Off The Pitch"

The ProAct Stadium - 21.45



See EvoStik Division One North/South Panel at the side.

All Photography : ©fotografica137

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Friday, 22 February 2013

My Hero - My Inspiration : Alan Biggs

Our latest writer to feature in the My Hero, My Inspiration series is Alan Biggs. 

Alan, in his own words is a football writer and broadcaster. He's worked for BBC national radio and TV plus national newspapers. Also a lecturer and an author of, "Confessions Of A Football Reporter ... another Biggs at Large",  and "Laws Of The Jungle : Surviving Football's Monkey Business" with Brian Laws. (see links at bottom of page for ordering details). You can currently hear Alan on your Saturday afternoon tv as he work's for Final Score and also writes a weekly column for the Sheffield Telegraph newspaper, among other things).


One of my earliest memories is of my dad making the odd mystery disappearance on a Saturday afternoon. He would go off to something called "football." It meant nothing to me - and my mum didn't seem all that impressed either! As a pre-school toddler, there was nothing to bring this thing called "football" into the house. Televised sport was pretty rare in those days.  Not that this mattered as we were among many families without a TV at that time. 

Leicester City 1 Manchester United 3
Later, during dad's disappearances, I would become aware of words such as "Arsenal" and "Highbury", snatched from conversations on his return. Where was this mystical place that would lure him northwards from the Kent countryside? Then, one day, a box with a glass screen arrived and was placed in the corner of the living room. Not long afterwards, Dad sat me down to watch "football" on it. This was Manchester United versus Leicester City in the FA Cup final of 1963. Dad wanted Leicester, as underdogs, to win. By the time it became obvious they wouldn't, I lost interest and left him still sitting there, engrossed in the game. 

But his persistence with me paid off - even if it took a 175 mile uprooting of the family to finally kindle the great sporting passion of my life. You see, where we lived near Sevenoaks there was no football focus for a young kid. I don't even remember it being talked about in my early days at school. All that changed very rapidly in the winter of 1963-64. It was because John Biggs's job with the Post Office transported him, my mum (Iris), younger brother (Graham) and myself all the way up to Chesterfield in North Derbyshire. The town had a league football team, albeit in the bottom division, and suddenly the game came alive for me. 

Bramall Lane : Three sided
Mind you, I'm not altogether sure Dad was thrilled with the prospect of swapping Highbury for Saltergate! But dutifully he took me to a few games in the old Fourth Division. The bug bit and just twelve miles to the north lay the great city of Sheffield boasting not one team but two. Both were in the old First Division at that time as well. Early excursions with dad to see United and Wednesday in front of what seemed to me to be vast crowds - and were in some cases - remain the most exciting football memories of my life. Bramall Lane came first, being the closest geographically, and I could only imagine this other place called Hillsborough which I'd heard was much bigger than its three-sided rival ground and had a majestic backdrop. The name "Wednesday" also had a certain charisma. 

Sheffield Wednesday 0 Manchester United 0
Dad picked a corker for one of my first Hillsborough games. This was Sheffield Wednesday versus Manchester United, complete with Best, Law and Charlton. I remember standing low down on the Kop and looking up at the vast cantilever North Stand, which was unique in its time, filled to capacity. It's majesty was such that it was hard to keep eyes on the pitch and shamefully I have to admit that, had I been reporting that day, I would have got the score wrong! The game was still 0-0 when Wednesday forced the ball into the net at the Kop as full-time approached. It was bedlam, complete uproar. I became temporarily separated from Dad in a crowd surge and only rejoined him at the final whistle. "Great win for Wednesday," I said. "What do you mean, son?" he replied. "The goal was disallowed!" 

Manchester United meant a lot to Dad actually. In 1958 he'd been at Highbury to see them play their last game on English soil before the Munich air disaster. It finished Arsenal 4 Manchester United 5 (see link below for match report). "Munich" was another word I heard frequently at home in my formative years. For all of his love for Arsenal - passed on from his own father - my dad was never less than fair in the way that he viewed the game. He was always gracious to opposing teams, showing the sort of etiquette more commonly associated with cricket, which he also loved as a supporter of Kent. I like to think that I have carried his sense of decency and fair play into my work.



Friday, 15 February 2013

My Hero - My Inspiration : Tom Johnstone

This feature for the "My Hero : My Inspiration" series is written by Tom Johnstone. A Scotsman, mad on football who supports Dunfermline Athletic, Liverpool and Lincoln Ladies. His motto .. "Say What I Mean, Mean What I Say" ... 

These are Tom's words ...

My hero whilst growing up in the 1950's and 1960's was my uncle, Tommy McDonald.  

Tommy was born into a mining family in Hill of Beath, Fife. Determined not to go down the mines, Tommy at the age of 17 joined Hibernian FC in 1947. Unable to break into the first team due to the form of Gordon Smith, who was one of "The Famous Five" attack, which consisted of Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and future Scotland manager, Willie Ormond. Tommy moved to English Football League champions Wolverhampton Wanderers in April 1954.

Tommy McDonald : Leicester City
Tommy struggled at Wolverhampton Wanderers to gain a first team place and in July 1956, was sold to Leicester City for a fee of £6,000.  It was at Filbert Street that Tommy made the most appearances of his football career, playing 113 games and scoring 27 goals in a four year spell, that included the 1956-57 promotion season to the First Division.  

Tommy McDonald -  Dunfermline FC (Front Row : First Left)
July 1960 saw Tommy return to Scotland where he was the legendary, Jock Stein's first purchase for Dunfermline Athletic at a price of £3,000.  It was during this season that Tommy missed out on a Scottish FA Cup Final appearance after helping The Pars defeat Celtic 2-0 in a replay after a 0-0 draw at Hampden Park in front of over 113,000 spectators.  Tom says, "I was at school on the Friday afternoon, the day before the Cup Final.  Our maths teacher who was also a football fan came over and told me that Tommy wouldn't be playing on Saturday, as he had been rushed into hospital with appendicitis. I was heartbroken."

The following season saw Tommy play in all six of Dunfermline's European Cup Winners Cup matches, he has the distinction of scoring in the club's first ever match in European competition in the 4-1 victory over St Patrick's Athletic from the Republic of Ireland.  Tommy though saved his best performance for the tie v Újpest Dózsa, scoring twice in a first leg 4-3 defeat.

Tommy's playing career ended at Cowdenbeath in 1964, after playing for Raith Rovers, Queen Of The South and Stirling Albion. He then went onto become the manager of Fife-based non league Oakley United.

19 January 2013 - AFC Emley v Hadleigh United

Competition : FA Vase 4
Result : P:P
Attendance : None

We'd planned on making the AFC Emley v Hadleigh United, FA Vase 4th Round clash our featured match for Saturday, 19 Januray 2013. It was to be our first ever visit to The Welfare Ground. Unfortunately, the snow fell and we were restricted in travelling on the day.  Fortunately, we were in contact with Mark Parsons, AFC Emley supporter and photographer who kindly sent these photographs to us and allowed us to show the sights and atmosphere from a desolated, wintry scene from the West Yorkshire ground.

In the distance, one mile west of Emley, the Emley Moor transmitting station standing at 1084ft tall is the UK's tallest free-standing structure. 


The Welfare Ground

The match was then rearranged to be played the following Saturday, 26 January, unfortunately this was also postponed due to an unplayable surface.  The match finally took place on Saturday 02 February, with the Suffolk based club holding onto a 1-0 victory.

Special Thanks To Mark Parsons for the use of the photographs.

Our visit to AFC Emley v Hadleigh United, which took place on the 02 February 2013, will be a forthcoming feature.



AFC Emley (Website In The NCEL Panel At The Side)

All Photographs : ©Mark Parsons

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Sunday, 10 February 2013

12 January 2013 - Thackley v Scarborough Athletic

Matchday Programme
Emily Balding (1921 - 2012)

Competition : Northern Counties East League : Premier Division
Result : Thackley 1 v Scarborough Athletic 5
Attendance : 282

Can Thackley Complete A League Double Over The League Leaders?
What stories these trees could tell of Thackley's footballing history?

"The Dog Poo Fairy"

Thackley AFC
Dennyfield, on Ainsbury Avenue, the rural heartlands of West Yorkshire

"The Next Visitors"

"Behind Bars"

The Memorial Bench
Arthur Hylton : "Mr Thackley" - Secretary of Thackley A.F.C for thirty five years.

The Men On The Gate
Turnstile Operators, Programme Sellers, Comedians, Volunteers.

Inside The Thackley AFC Clubhouse

The highest attendance of the season (so far), 282 pre-match at Dennyfield. The two highest attendances recorded up to now both feature Scarborough Athletic. The other being 202 for the FA Vase 1st Round fixture back in October.  This is also featured here (see link in red).

Frank Brown
Lifelong "Seadog" who travels from his home in Leeds to most Scarborough Athletic away fixtures. Season ticket holder at Queensgate, he first fell in love with the club back in his childhood when he and his family used to holiday at the seaside resort.  Going to his first match as a youth, he's followed Scarborough through the non league days, then onto the adventures in the Football League and back into non league.  

Thackley Tunnel Ventilation Shaft

Overlooking Dennyfield, a disused railway ventilation shaft. These shafts were built to allow the smoke to clear from passing steam trains. One of two railway tunnels at Thackley, the southern one was closed in 1968.

"Father & Son"

"Scarborough Seadogs"

"Badge Cap"

Dennyfield - January 12th 2013

Thackley AFC 1 Scarborough Athletic 5
Rudy Funk and the Scarborough Athletic players all smiles after a second half goal blitz, including a Ryan Blott hat-trick sink Thackley.  The race for promotion at the summit of the NCEL Premier Division is gearing up to be one of the most exciting in years.  Only second half performances from the men from the East Coast will help to keep them in the frame when the season ends on April 27th.

"The Lights Are On ... "



Match Reports

Video Highlights

All Photography : ©fotografica137
Website Links To Both Clubs In The NCEL Panel At The Side

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