#RoamingRed part 11 – Goa, India

After four months of spreading the CTFC gospel around the globe it was time for me to head home, but first I had the small matter of India, the last leg of my adventure. 

I spent the majority of my time in the wealthiest state of Goa and little did I know, but the place was football mad. It was reaching the business end of the Indian Super League season, with the top four teams going into a Play-Off style competition. FC Goa had finished top of the table.

I had visited the same beach bar every day on Anjuna beach called Aggies, and like the rest of the Goan bars, restaurants and cafes I went to, Aggies displayed the orange flag of FC Goa blowing in the wind above the sunbeds in front of the hut.

I became friendly with the family who owned the cafe and began speaking to Aggie himself, who told me how the introduction of the ISL had sent the state of Goa into football mania. Unlike the rest of the country where cricket dominates, football is Goa’s official sport and the blue and orange colours of the local team is branded all over the place.

I watched the semis at a local sports bar, where FC Goa overcame a 1-0 away leg deficit to win 3-0 at home to Delhi Dynamos, managed by Roberto Carlos, and book their place in the final. As soon as the whistle went there were street parties and cars driving past blaring out the FC Goa song and tooting the horn.

It was a bit like what I’d imagine England to be like if we ever won the World Cup.

Aggie had been to England before, but the only football he saw was as the home of the Premier League’s two Merseyside clubs, Liverpool and Everton. However his family have another footballing trip to England in their sites, and the plan next is to venture down south to the capital, with a stop at the Checkatrade.com Stadium to see the Reds a priority. 

That’s it for me and Roaming Red, back to rainy England to cheer on the Reds at home to Cambridge United on Saturday, COYR!


Valencic stunner ends Reds’ undefeated home form

Reds failed to turn possession into goals as they went down 1-0 to Notts County despite dominating much of Saturday’s Sky Bet League Two game at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.

County, with new manager Jamie Fullarton in charge for the first time, claimed their first away win since the opening day courtesy of Filip Valencic’s volley in the 63rd minute and did a solid job defensively on Reds who struggled to find the rhythm they had produced in the first half after the break.

Mark Yates named an unchanged starting XI from last week’s 1-0 victory over Cambridge and there was a place on the bench for new signing Chris Atkinson, the midfielder on loan from Crewe, and Josh Yorwerth, who returned from injury.

Reds, who had won seven of their last eight in the league at home, came straight out of the blocks with attacking intent as they prevented County from seeing much of the ball. It was like a repeat of last week against Cambridge in the first 45 minutes, with Reds looking most dangerous when they got the ball to the wide areas.

Gwion Edwards looked menacing as ever down the left and Lewis Young was bombing down the right, overlapping Gavin Tomlin at every opportunity.

The right-back had Reds best chance of the first half as he plucked the ball from the sky with an immaculate touch, before firing a low shot which Roy Carroll parried round the post.

From the resulting corner Sonny Bradley rose tallest to get a clean header at goal, but Ronan Murray produced some last-ditch defending to deny the Crawley captain, clearing off the line.

The fact that centre-back Haydn Hollis was seeing most of the ball for the away side showed how the game was panning out, with Reds looking the dominant force.

County failed to get out of there own half until the 20th minute and showed no threat to Reds back four. All three deliveries into Darryl Flahavan’s box were poor and didn’t make it past the first man.

Reds went into the changing room at half-time in control, but after the restart the quality of the game took a turn for the worse and both teams cancelled each other out and were unable to string together a succession of passes.

Reds fans are all to aware of George Smith’s delivery and attacking attributes, but this time the 19 year-old showed his defensive qualities, chasing back to deny Murray.  Adam Campbell then latched on to a poor clearance from Flahavan and fed Murray but the danger was cut out before he could wrap his right boot around the ball.

Reds best chance came on the hour mark when Bradley’s header back across goal found Jon Ashton, whose effort was straight at Carroll from eight yards. Three minutes later the home side were 1-0 down.  Veteran Jon Stead knocked down a long ball to the oncoming Valencic, who volleyed into the top right-hand corner from 20 yards.

Reds huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser, bringing on Atkinson and Shamir Fenelon but Carroll was well protected by his back four with County smothering Reds’ biggest threats – Matt Harrold and Edwards – as they protected their lead impressively.

Harrold strike makes it seven home wins out of eight for Reds

There were plenty of promising signs for Mark Yates as Crawley overcame Cambridge United 1-0 on a wet afternoon at the Checkatrade.com Stadium to make it seven home wins out of eight and, considering the circumstances, claim one of their best wins of the campaign.

A dominant home display was sealed when Matt Harrold’s strike separated the two sides, completing a double over their opponents for the Reds.

The boss named five changes to the defeat at Portsmouth with Jimmy Smith injured and Luke Rooney and Roarie Deacon dropping to the bench. Mitch Hancox and Josh Emmaunel returned to their parent clubs, whilst Lee Barnard, Gavin Tomlin, Ross Jenkins and Jon Ashton made starts.

There was also a place in the starting XI for Reds latest addition, George Smith, at left-back. The 19-year-old loanee has played 17 times for Barnsley in League One this season and was up against his former Tykes team-mate, Luke Berry, who returned to the U’s in the summer.

Crawley were looking to get the first three points of 2016 against the team they gathered their first win of the season against back in August.

In the opening 25 minutes the home side’s best chance of finding the net came from direct balls into the box. Deliveries from Simon Walton and the sweet left foot of Smith reached Matt Harrold on numerous occasions and the target man did well to hold up the ball. On 15 minutes he shielded the ball from the U’s defence for the oncoming Tomlin, who shot through a crowded box only to be parried by Will Norris.

Reds’ dominance paid off on 35 minutes when Lee Barnard’s low driven cross from the right met the boot of HARROLD, who slotted home passed a helpless Norris from six yards for his fifth goal of the season.

As the rain began to pour down the slippery surface made it tricky for both sets of players to judge the bounce.  The quality of football, however, showed no sign of fading, especially from the Reds. Both full-backs combined with Gavin Tomin and Gwion Edwards, but the inch-perfect final ball was proving the obstacle preventing Crawley from grabbing a second.

Reds were in trouble in the early stages of the restart as Conor Newton’s knock down was met by Berry, whose 30-yard effort swerved away from the goal, clipping Darryl Flahavan’s left-hand post.

Midway into the second half the U’s had a ten-minute spell where they were putting Reds under pressure, but the towering home defence were first to every ball and prevented Flahavan from having to produce a save.

Harrold and Barnard looked like a proven strike partnership and both put in solid performances. Harrold could have opened the scoring even earlier when he found himself in on goal with a few yards on the chasing Darnel Furlong, but the right-back recovered, sticking a toe out to deny the striker.

The addition of Smith at left-back looks to be a smart bit of business by Reds and he certainly won the battle against Berry. The newcomer didn’t put a foot wrong all game and was a threat going forward, and impressive defensively chasing back and helping the back four clear their line.

Reds looked comfortable towards the latter stages of the game and cruised through four minutes of injury time to claim a well-deserved three points which lifted them to 13th in the League Two table.


#RoamingRed part 10 – Phi Phi, Thailand

Phi Phi is known for its white sand and enclosed bays with a perfect backdrop of limestone cliffs, such as Maya Bay – the beach used in ‘The Beach’, the film starring Leonardo Di Caprio.

In reality, the island is far from its depiction in the Danny Boyle film, with hundreds of boats lining up in the crystal clear water, thousands of tourists and music pumping from sunrise until sunset.

Whilst watching West Ham fall to pieces against Spurs, I met a local Thai man called Mr. Liquor. I’m sure that’s not his real name, but that’s all he gave me! He was shouting and cheering and I asked if he supported Mauricio Pochettino’s men.

“In England, Totttenham and (Cristian) Eriksen is great, but in Thailand, Buriram United is my team” he replied.

My second encounter with Mr Liquor was at his shop by the beach, which sold football shirts, basketball jerseys, jewelry and plenty of souvenir t-shirts with elephants printed on the front.

I wore the Reds’ Puma home shirt and he started showing me each of the Buriram United kits: black, navy, white, and told me I could have one if we swapped.

Of course, I wasn’t going to give away my black and red beauty that has had so many compliments on my travels, so we came to a deal.

I bought presents for my family back home and he gave me the Buriram home shirt for half price, so I walked away with three anklets and another football shirt.

Mr. Liquor said he wanted to sell CTFC home shirt in his shop and when Reds eventually make it to the pinnacle of English football, he would have the full range in stock!

#RoamingRed part 9 – Nha Trang, Vietnam

From Cambodia I took the 15-hour bus journey to Nha Trang, on the coast of Vietnam, via Ho Chi Minh.

Nha Trang is a holiday hotspot for Russians and until my final day I still hadn’t met anyone else from the UK. Which was what made me look twice when I thought I saw a Newport County shirt stuffed in a backpack on the beach.

I waited for the owner to come back and I was right, it was the home shirt of Reds League Two rivals and I had finally met someone who wasn’t Russian.

Michael was a very friendly man who comes from the Welsh valleys, just a bit north of Newport. He came to Vietnam three years ago and has never looked back and you can’t blame him with 300-plus guaranteed days of sunshine each year.

Michael told me how County had gone out to Vietnam to coach football schools for the youngsters, but had to stop as the Vietnamese didn’t want to pay for the quality of coaching.

I managed to catch ten minutes of a local match and from what I saw they could definitely use some coaching. In the blistering heat they ran around like headless chickens, all chasing the ball leaving one solitary defender at the back. It wasn’t a problem though, as the opposition had no how idea to counter-attack and there was a swarm of 17 players around the ball all the time.

Whilst taking the photo I couldn’t help but raise three fingers in respect of Reds’ 3-0 victory earlier in the season, where Gwion Edwards controlled the game with two goals – one a thunderbolt – and provided an assist for Matt Harrold.

Michael hoped Newport County would steer clear of the basement battle with Dagenham & Redbridge, York & Yeovil, but admitted the gruelling festive period could have a bearing on the battles at both ends of the table.

#RoamingRed part 8 – Siem Reap, Cambodia

My first stop back in Asia was Cambodia – The cheapest and hottest place I have ever been. I started in Siem Reap to see what all the fuss was about Angkor Wat, unofficially the eighth wonder of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

To visit the temples I hired a Tuk-Tuk driver (for only $10) for the day to take me from place to place. My driver was called Mr Lam and was a really nice man on just $1 a day wage, which I couldn’t believe.

He hardly spoke a word of English but he was trying his best to explain to me the stories behind the temples so he could earn a good tip. After half a day of nodding and pretending that I had a clue about what he was telling me, I changed the topic to football.

Mr Lam had no TV and no internet, but told me he watches the Saturday fixtures in the lively Pub Street at 10pm local time.

After saying thanks and tipping him I pulled out the Reds shirt and his face lit up; I think he thought I was giving it to him! It’s a good job I wasn’t because, as the picture shows, the size Large would have been more like a dress on him.

“Manchester,” he said. I assumed he thought it was United’s kit, which to be fair to him the colours aren’t that far apart.

He had never heard of CTFC before and took out his pen and paper and jotted down the name and league to look out for in the future. He also asked for our location just south of the capital so he could show his friends on a map.

Another international Red recruited!

#RoamingRed part 6 – Fraser Island, Australia

After sailing around the Whitsunday Islands for 3 days, my next stop was Fraser Island. Again, this was a three day, two night experience, but instead of being stranded at sea we visited shipwrecks, champagne pools and drove off-road in 4X4s.

In my 4×4 was Ryan from Leicester, and we began talking after both asking the inevitable question “So who do you support then?”

Ryan (pictured) was a massive Manchester United fan and, as many others have, brought up the 2011 FA Cup fourth round tie between the two sides when Reds were mentioned. It seems we have stuck in a lot of people’s minds since that defeat, with many believing Crawley gave a great account of themselves and were unlucky not to come away with a replay.

Of the eight passengers, five were boys and spoke about football for the majority of the three days, while the three girls were crammed in the back and couldn’t get a word in.

One of the boys on the tour was a Leeds fan and looked distraught when I brought up the appointment of ex-Reds boss Steve Evans. He acknowledged the success he’d had at Crawley and Rotherham United, but described him as a ‘clown’ and crazy to take the job at a club who have had seven managers since June 2014.

With Massimo Cellino vowing to stay away from Elland Road and fans looking to buy a majority stake in the club, maybe Evans can try and emulate the promotions with CTFC, but it definitely won’t be in the foreseeable future.

Let’s hope Reds can prove the magic of the FA Cup is still alive and conjure up a similar cup campaign to 2011, starting with the first round at home to Luton on Saturday.

#RoamingRed part 5 – The Whitsundays, Australia

After snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef I headed south to Airlie beach to sail, swim and … more snorkelling!

I lived on a boat for three days sailing around the Whitsundays and visited Whitehaven beach, commonly in the top three beaches in the world! The boat was largely filled with South Americans all partying and speaking Spanish, but I managed to find the only other English people within two minutes of boarding.

Again, football was the conversation starter and we were immediately on to the subject of the Reds.

Zach (pictured) was 19 from Worcester, and had the closest link to Crawley Town I had come across on my travels so far. He was in the youth team at Cheltenham Town when Mark Yates had his successful five-year spell at the club, leading them to two successive play-offs finishes.

Zach supported Arsenal and after a dismal start to their Champions League campaign he was impressed with the performance against Bayern Munich and most notably the recent form of Mesut Ozil.

An idea for a January transfer swoop maybe, the German star would look good swapping red and white for red and black?

As the hours went by we started chatting to a Chilean and Argentinian who were room mates, studying in Australia. They were taunting each other about Chile’s Copa America success and how Argentina haven’t had enough bottle in the last two major competitions, losing both in the final.

When we started talking about Reds the Argentinian immediately started screaming “Sergio Torres, Sergio Torres!” He knew of the former Reds’ favourite South American from his time in his home town in Argentina.

I asked whether he’d seen much of Torres’ time in England but he’d only seen one clip, albeit probably the most important of them all – the injury time screamer against Derby in the third round of the FA Cup back in 2011.

For a League Two club, Crawley really have caught the eyes of an impressive number of people from all over the world.