A review of my football season 2023-24

I have resisted the temptation to start adding one-line reviews of every football match I go to, alongside the existing series of one-line gig reviews and one-line movie reviews, but as part of this blog having morphed into my outside memory spreadsheet, here is my review of my football season.

Best away day: Leyton Orient being 3-0 up at half-time against eventual League One champions Portsmouth, and singing the self-deprecating chant, “National league champions, you’ll never sing that” to a team that has won the FA Cup and top-flight titles and have never dropped into non-league football for a while like we did after the circus upstairs.

A very full Fratton Park in Portsmouth

Worst away day: Went straight from finishing my work shift on 27 December to go and see Walthamstow play Enfield. Enfield are based in Bishop’s Stortford. Who knew? Anyway, I got there at about 5pm to find that because of the Xmas-to-New-Year-interregnum, nothing was open in Bishop’s Stortford except the Wetherspoons. Match was postponed at 6.37pm, some 68 minutes before kick-off, so I basically ended up making a 52 mile round trip to have three pints of lager on my own in a random ‘spoons. I mean, there are worse ways to pass the time and I always enjoy a train journey, but still.

Weirdest match: West Essex v Stanway Rovers because Stanway Rovers appeared to bring one single away fan but he had a drum and was singing stuff like “Fuck ’em up Stanway” which was odd without a crew to back you up, but then also because the West Essex keeper got injured after about 25 minutes and had to go off, and they didn’t have a substitute keeper, so they put an outfield player in goal, then on about the 75th minute he got sent off, so they had to put a second outfield player in goal, and still somehow only lost 2-0.

One of West Essex’s three goalkeepers that day and the Stanway Rovers drum guy

Worst refereeing: A joint award for Thomas Parsons at Wycombe Wanderers v Leyton Orient sending off both our head coach Richie Wellens and assistant coach Paul Terry at the end of the game, and José María Sánchez for a bizarre performance during West Ham v Bayer 04 Leverkusen which did not go unnoticed by the players.

Best goal: Mohammed Kudus (West Ham) v SC Freiburg with a Maradona-style slalom through Freiburg’s defence after Kudus initially got the ball in his own half.

Best car park where a stand should be: Oxford United.

“You’re not driving anymore!”

Strangest view at a home match: Because I didn’t think I could go to Leyton Orient v Burton Albion I put my season tickets up for resale on the ticket exchange, and they sold. But then at the last minute I could go, so I ended up having to buy a ticket in a different stand and it was very discombobulating.

The disconcerting feeling of being at Orient but in the wrong seat

Most unfortunate debut witnessed: Kalvin Phillips at West Ham v Bournemouth. Oh boy. You know Manchester City only bought him after that brilliant season he had for Leeds United to stop him going to improve another top-flight club that wasn’t Manchester City, with very little intention of playing him, and it has ruined his career.

Player of (most) of the season: He missed the end of it due to injury but my vote goes to Theo Archibald (Leyton Orient).

Most unexpected kit change: Leyton Orient wearing white at home against Barnsley to avoid a colour-clash because Barnsley had lost most of their match kit when their coach caught fire on the way back from a game a couple of days previously.

Worst catering: I found myself in Nottingham during pre-season and Notts County were playing Nottingham Forest at Meadow Lane so it seemed churlish not to go, and it was great fun, however they had not procured enough beer and so it seemed like the whole of the stand I was in were queuing for beer through most of the second half and it ended up with people having fisticuffs trying to get hold of the last few bottles of cider which was the only alcohol left on sale. Madness.

My first match this season and people were fighting to buy bottles of cider

Best catering: When I did eventually get to see the rearranged Enfield v Walthamstow game, I had an absolutely filthy dirty burger from their burger stand and it was *chef’s kiss*.

Enfield v Walthamstow, in Bishop’s Stortford for some reason

And an honourary shoutout to the catering people at London Seaward who always look out to make sure that Willow has water when she visits.

Willow watching London Seaward in Barkingside

I went to 48 matches this season in total, and these are the number of times I saw the teams that I follow:

  1. Leyton Orient – 18
  2. Walthamstow – 13 (plus reserves once)
  3. West Ham – 7
  4. London Seaward – 4
  5. West Essex – 3
  6. Leyton Orient Women – 1

I did not manage to see England’s men or women this season, or the cursed Leeds United who will start in the Championship again next season after yet another failed play-off campaign.

I went to seven grounds I’d never been to before: Notts County’s Meadow Lane, Charlton’s The Valley, Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park stadium, Exeter City’s St James’ Park, Reading’s Madejski stadium, Enfield’s Woodside Park in Bishops Stortford, and Oxford United’s Kassam stadium.

I saw matches in the UEFA Europa League, Premier League, EFL League One, FA Cup, Isthmian League North Division, Essex Senior League, Essex Alliance Football League Senior Division Cup, FA Women’s National League and Greater London Women’s Premier League.

And I guess once the Euros are out of the way in the summer I’ll start doing it all over again. Walthamstow have got an away friendly against Woodford on the Tuesday night in July after the Euro2024 final has been on the Sunday …

Me at Wadham Lodge, where both Walthamstow and West Essex play