• Soho 3 – 2 Romans: Oranges outlast Romans in frantic game

    Guest match report, by JP Casey, Soho FC

    On a hot, windy day at Regent’s Park, Soho FC pressed and passed their way to a deserved 3-2 victory over London Romans in a hugely entertaining game to kick off their London Unity League season.

    From my perch on the Soho sideline, the oranges’ commitments to both pressing and passing were obvious, and both elements were key contributors to many of the five goals scored on Sunday afternoon. The game started ominously for the oranges, as the team tried to play out from the back under heavy pressure from the Romans forwards, leading to an overhit pass down the Soho left that gave possession back to the visitors, who were able to overrun a confused Soho backline, before Jay Lemonius could grab the lead with a smart finish after just six minutes.

    The Romans almost doubled their lead when they were able to overlap stranded wing-back Edgar, again on the Soho left, and drive into the penalty area, only for the striker to scuff his shot harmlessly into the hands of Bjørn in the Soho goal.

    However, Soho rallied, and were able to wrest control of the game in the middle of the first half. Rash, accustomed to playing in behind the strikers, was deployed as one of two central midfielders in a 3-4-1-2, and his range of passing from a deeper position stretched the Romans defence horizontally, with accurate passes to Edgar and Kevin on the flanks, and vertically, with debutant Daiki a constant threat in behind the Romans defence. Lorcan, playing as the ‘1’ in the formation, was equally adept, and hit a fine pass to Daiki behind the Romans defenders in the 16th minute, although the forward was unable to finish the move.

    Many of Soho’s attacks came down the right through defender Phil, and Kevin, whose pace, trickery and willingness to take on full-backs, was a constant menace to the Romans defence. Immediately following Daiki’s chance, he was fouled on the right wing as Soho again attempted to stretch the field laterally. Kevin swung the ball into the box from the following free kick, which was knocked down by Cameron for his strike partner Daiki to poke into net, giving him a debut goal and Soho an equaliser after 18 minutes.

    Not satisfied with levelling the score, the oranges pushed on and were immediately rewarded. Cameron and Daiki pressed the unsettled Romans defenders relentlessly – the former dominating in the air with his head and the latter seemingly trying to tackle an opponent with his head at one point – and when a loose ball fell to Kevin just inside the box on the right, he was quick to beat his hapless full-back, shift onto his left foot, and fire a shot past the Romans keeper into the back of the net.

    Much of the first half followed this pattern: of high Soho pressing complimented with neat, quick passing to exploit spaces in behind a Romans defence that was increasingly drawn out of position in search of an equaliser. Lorcan made an early bid for goal of the season by running through three Romans defenders on the left wing before firing a shot wide, and Cameron sprinted in behind the defence in pursuit of a delightful Kevin through ball, only to chip both goalkeeper and goal to leave the score at 2-1 late in the half.

    The Romans had their chances, returning Soho pressing with pressing of their own, and were it not for a smart save from Bjørn in the 31st minute, the home side would have again turned over possession in their own third and conceded. Yet it was the oranges who were more clinical, Kevin and Cameron combining to nick possession from the bewildered, and by this point thoroughly fed-up, Romans full-back, and exchange passes, before Kevin drilled in his second of the game minutes before half-time.

    With no substitutions at the break, the second half started exactly as the first had ended, Kevin finding acres of space behind the Romans left-back, who surely awoke in a cold sweat at three in the morning hours after the game, his nightmares filled with the horrifying vision of the back of an orange number seven jersey speeding away from him from a long ball from kick-off. Cameron’s shot was blocked, but Soho could have been 4-1 up within ten seconds of the restart.

    Daiki could, and perhaps should, have added more goals to his tally, catching a defender in possession before firing straight at the goalkeeper, and then receiving a neat pass from Dan in the right-hand channel, before shooting wide. The Romans responded with a period of pressure of their own, which produced a goal rather from nowhere that made for a nervy last half-hour for Soho; Jay pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the Soho penalty area and booted a shot goalwards, which dipped and swerved over a perplexed Bjørn to give the forward his second goal.

    The first hour of the game had been played at a tremendous pace, in which neither team ever seemed to have much possession. The game was instead a blistering back-and-forth of counter-attacks, wind-dragged long passes and pressing all over the pitch, and the fatigue began to show as the final quarter of the game slowed down, and became more fractured. Adam #2 was brought on, before being replaced following a head injury, and Adam and Austen found themselves introduced on the wings to stretch the pitch, as Kevin and Edgar moved into more central positions. The additional width helped to declutter a central midfield that, at times, had ten players from both sides buzzing around within its borders, and enable Soho to return to their expansive passing game.

    The latter stages of the game also swung between the sublime and the ridiculous. Charlie, the left-sided Soho centre-back who put in an excellent performance, pulled off an audacious and arguably unnecessary pirouette in central midfield to ghost past a Romans defender, before another Romans defender jumped into the back of Lorcan in central midfield, fouling him, and screaming to the winds: “I pushed you and I enjoyed it!”

    Exasperated self-defence? Attempted witty comeback? Bizarrely misplaced flirt? The defender’s meaning was unclear, but the fact that it was the very same defender who had been so relentlessly pressured by Kevin could explain his somewhat frustrated demeanour.

    Soho were now exhausted from 90 minutes of pressing in the September sun – personified by Cameron who, upon his substitution off the pitch, looked ready to collapse in a heap – and the Romans, buoyed by the fear of defeat, continued to press. They must deserve particular credit for covering as much ground as they did despite only having 12 players, one of whom was injured early in the second half, and they came close to taking a point from Regent’s Park.

    One of the Romans midfielders, seeing Lorcan’s mazy dribble in the first half and Charlie’s spin in the second, decided to one-up them all by switching play to the left wing with a rabona pass, from where the visitors pierced the Soho defence and fired a shot past Bjørn, only to have it hacked off the line by a retreating James; not quite a goal, but just as effective, as it ensured Soho kept their one-goal advantage into the final seconds.

    A few slowly-taken Soho corners later, the referee blew the final whistle, ending a frenetic game which yielded five goals, and three points for Soho.

  • LUL extends deadline for Cup competition

    Earlier this summer, the London Unity League opened up its Cup competition for the 2017/18 season to all adult clubs of a similar standard. There was a good response, but there are still some spaces in the competition. The league has now extended the deadline for clubs to enter to the end of September.

    The competition will consist of a ’round of 16′, Quarter Finals, Semi-Finals and a Final. There will be a Plate competition for those teams that are not entered into the Cup Quarter Finals.

    League Chair, Brian Silk, said, “The LUL prides itself on its inclusive and friendly approach to football, whilst still being competitive. We invite all adult teams of a similar standard to us (we can discuss this with teams), to join in what we do by entering our Cup competition. Teams can be LGBT+-friendly or mainstream clubs, and can be male, female or mixed.”

    Click on the image for the PDF version (with active links).

  • LUL is first UK LGBT+-friendly football competition to affiliate to a County Football Association

    The London Unity League will affiliate to the Amateur Football Alliance (AFA) for the 2018/19 season. This is the first time an LGBT+-friendly football competition in the UK has affiliated to a County FA.

    Brian Silk (left) and Jason Kilby

    We will continue with our current approach to adult football. This arrangement will run as a pilot for season 18/19. The league will gain access to the AFA’s support and resources, such as coaching and refereeing courses, funding opportunities and the FA’s league administration tool, Full Time.

    Brian Silk, Chair of the LUL said, “I am delighted that the LUL and AFA are taking this ground-breaking step for LGBT+-friendly football and all football. Leagues like the LUL were originally set-up partly because LGBT+ players did not feel comfortable taking part in mainstream football. And, whilst there is still work to do to combat homophobia in our national game, significant progress has been made. England’s football governing bodies and professional or semi-professional football clubs have developed increasingly closer working relationships with LGBT+-friendly football competitions and clubs. There has also been the rise of LGBT+ football club supporters’ groups in recent years.

    “This affiliation represents a major opportunity for LGBT+-friendly football and England’s football governing bodies to join together, as one, and to send out the message that football is for all. You could say ‘LGBT+-friendly football is coming home’.”

    Jason Kilby, Chief Executive of the AFA said, “We are pleased to be partnering with the London Unity League to bring the league and clubs the support and service that any other affiliated member receives. The league is forward thinking in how they operate and we are proud to be promoting Football For All.”

    Chair of the FA Inclusion Advisory Board; and, Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) Trustee, Paul Elliott CBE,said, “Following last year’s launch of CACT Invicta FC, the first LGBT-friendly team formally affiliated to a professional football club Trust, it is great to see the Amateur Football Alliance are taking such a progressive step by affiliating the London Unity League. I believe this will be the first LGBT-friendly competition in the UK to be part of a County FA. The FA and the FA Inclusion Advisory Board are working hard towards making the game more inclusive; our game is constantly evolving and we are making huge strides. This affiliation is sending out yet another significant message – ‘football is for everyone’.”

    Director of Sports Pride, Lou Englefield, said, “It’s good news for football to see a league such as London Unity League affiliating to its governing body. We know the initiative will bring benefits, not only to the league and its teams, but also to the Amateur Football Alliance; ultimately contributing to a more diverse and inclusive game.”

  • London Unity Cup 2018/19

    Click on the image for the PDF version (with active links).

     

  • The London Unity League launches new logo to celebrate Pride 2018

    From 7th July 2018, the date of London Pride 2018, the London Unity League will start using a new logo (pictured). The new identity replaces the original logo, which has served the league well since its formation in 2006.

    The rainbow-themed image was chosen through an open competition. The winner was Stonewall FC player, Daniel Boundy.

    Daniel told LUL News, “I saw that the LUL were looking to refresh their logo and thought it was something that I could help with. For the logo, I aimed for clean look that could be more easily applied whilst moving towards a more professional look.

    “The rainbow colours are representative of our wider community – the semi circle representing a football which acts as an umbrella over the name of the league. The LUL provides an encouraging and safe space to play sport and I’m pleased that I have been able to give back to something that provides so much for others.”

    Launching the new logo, LUL Chair, Brian Silk, said: “We wanted to update our identity as part of continuing to develop the league. We are proud of our role in LGBT+-friendly football in our capital city and we are very proud of our new logo. London Pride 2018 is the perfect time to bring in our new emblem.

    “The LUL is about to enter an exciting period of our existence. Our at recent annual meeting, a range of positive ideas and developments were discussed that will mean that we will increasingly reach outwards as a way of becoming even more inclusive.

    “We are already a ‘league of choice’ for any LGBT+ footballers and friends who want to play LGBT+-friendly football in the London area. We want to build on our achievements to help make football a game for all.

    “Look out for further news, over the coming weeks and months, on some of the things we will be doing during the next 12 months.”

  • Storm down to Barnes for LGBT-friendly 5-aside

    LUL News Feature

    Barnes Stormers FC

    There’s a football revolution taking place in the capital,with more LGBT football teams playing now than ever. One 5-a-side group, Barnes Stormers FC, have been playing in Barnes every Wednesday for the past five years but are looking for new players. LUL News went along to find out more…

    Anyone who is familiar with the LUL or LGBT-friendly football in the UK will know about some or all of the clubs across London. But perhaps not so many will know about a LGBT-friendly 5-aside session that is not part of one of the clubs, but has been quietly going on for many years.

    Tom

    Unlike the majority of LGBT football teams, Barnes Stormers FC host two hours of 5-a side football each week all year round (weather permitting) and have been doing so for well over 10 years now. They are unique in that they split attendees into three teams allowing for a round robin format. Games last 8 minutes meaning the action is fast and furious, one of the main attractions for regular Tom Jackson, “For me, coming back from a series of injuries, short spells of reasonably intense exercise is perfect to help me build back my fitness levels. Even better is that we still play during Summer often a dead time for football teams so it means my pre-season for 11 a side is so much easier than most of my team mates!! ”.

    It’s not just the football that keeps people coming back though, Tom added “I first started back in 2013. I’d just finished Uni, come back home looking to broaden my friendship group and hadn’t played much football since school. Barnes Stormers was the best thing I could have done to improve my footballing ability, overall fitness and making new friends too. There have been many a heavy drinking session with these guys over the years and I’d count them amongst my closest friends.”

    Daniel

    One of the regular players, Daniel, told LUL News: “I’ve been doing this about eight or nine years or more. When I first started coming, there were mainly gay players. And while I’ve been here, there’s a lot more straight people turning up, so it’s a nice good mix we’ve got.”

    When asked why Barnes Stormers has lasted so long, Daniel replied, “It’s definitely the people you play with.  “There’s a culture of going for a drink afterwards, where we talk about the matches we’ve had on the day.”

    LUL News also spoke to Darren, who said, “I’ve been coming for 10 years. It was a place for me at a time in my life when I was sure who I was, but I thought that football and my sexuality didn’t go hand in hand. So it was nice to come down and meet a sociable group of guys and it took off from there.”

    Darren

    When asked what’s kept him coming, Darren said, “It’s the great friendships I’ve made. I have great fun with these guys outside of the football pitch. The standard improves every year. It keeps me young. I don’t play 11-aside anymore, so this is my way of keeping in touch with football.”

    But not all players have been coming to Barnes Stormers FC for many years. Shane only started coming along in January. “I was looking for some football to play.  For most of the leagues, you have to commit yourself for 10 weeks. This is better as you can just come and go.”

    LUL News asked Darren what he would say to someone who is thinking of coming along? “Purely and simply, we are a group of guys that holds no prejudices – everybody’s welcome. It doesn’t matter your age, your sex your creed. We all get on great and there’s always a nice trip to the pub afterwards. From a personal perspective, from taking that leap of faith and doing it, I’ve made long-lasting friendships and that’s what this group’s got the ability to do.”

    If you want to get involved with Barnes Stormers FC or want to find out more then you can join the Facebook group on the below link or contact Tom on 07931654721.

    Barnes Stormers play every Wednesday, 7pm – 9pm, at Rocks Lane Multi Sports Centre, Barnes, SW13 0BY.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/barnesstormers/

    George, Diego and Kevin

  • Titans XXL presented with 2016/17 Fair Play Trophy

    Titans XXL Manager, Paul Wheeler, receiving the trophy from LUL Chair, Brian Silk

    This afternoon, London Titans XXL were finally presented with the Fair Play Trophy for last season.

    Before handing over the award, London Unity League Chair, Brian Silk, apologised for the delay, adding that he hoped that it was “better late than never.”

    Brian went on to say that Titans XXL received zero disciplinary points in the 2016/17 season, meaning that they were shown no cards at all in any of their matches. “You should be very proud of that achievement,” said Brian. “I hope that all the teams in the league will be inspired to aim to match your achievement next season.”

    The presentation took place at the Thames Trademan Rowing Club – Titans’ usual venue for post-home match drinks and food – after their match with East End Phoenix FC.

  • Champions Charlton Invicta FC presented with League Shield

    Charlton Invicta FC, this season’s champions, were presented with the League Shield by London Unity League Chair, Brian Silk, before their final match of the season away to Stonewall FC 3rds this afternoon. 

    LUL Chair, Brian Silk, presents the League Shield to Gary Ginnaw, Player/Manager of Charlton Invicta FC

    Before presenting the Shield, Brian apologised that the players’ medals had not arrived in time for today, meaning the league was not able to give them to the players on the day.

    Brian went on to say, “Congratulations to Charlton Invicta FC on winning the London Unity League 2017/18. This is the club’s first LUL title, either as Charlton Invicta or Bexley Invicta, so congratulations on that, too. Enjoy being the champions!

    “Most people I speak to, say the LUL is an increasingly competitive league, so all credit to Gary, Paul, the Charlton Invicta committee and of course the players, and also to the other teams in the league, for making this a hard-fought and well-deserved title.

    Brian continued, “I think it is fair to say Charlton Invicta have won the league emphatically. Even as the points stand ahead of this match, we need to go back to 2013-14 to find a club that has won the league with more points, when Romans Gladiators finished with 43.

    “And, for goal difference, notwithstanding the outcome of today’s game, we would need to go back to that 2013-14 season to see a bigger goal difference. It would take more than a few goals today to change that!”

    Brian then presented the Shield to Gary.

    L-R: Robin Lee, LUL Secretary; Brian Silk, LUL Chair; Gary Ginnaw, CIFC Player/Manger; Paul Driscoll, CIFC Chairman

     

  • Soho good

    LUL News Feature

    On the day that LUL club, Soho FC, take on LGBT-friendly football giants, Village Manchester FC, in the Gay Football Supporters’ League cup semi-final, LUL News talks to their coach Connor Natella about his background in football and what he likes about his current club.

    Connor Natella

    LUL News: Tell us about how you got involved in football. Do you do any other sport?

    Connor: I first got involved in coaching from a pretty young age. I started at my local youth club in Kent, working with an U12 team when I was 14. I was way too young and I look back now and cringe at a few things, but it certainly gave me a start point in the game and it was where I caught the coaching bug. I hadn’t been a great player as a kid and the move into coaching came at a pretty good time for me to stay in the game.

    I pursued my coaching passion at AFC Bournemouth when I was 17 as an apprentice football coach in the Community department. I was lucky in a sense that the club was in a pretty bad position when I joined. I think it meant I progressed a bit quicker than I would have somewhere else. Within a couple of years I was a full-time football development officer and working most weeknights in the Academy with games at the weekends – so pretty full on. You had to be very committed to push on there but it was an amazing learning experience for me to work with some of the coaches that have achieved so much.

    Away from the game I like to keep fit and a keen runner, although recent injuries have got in the way of that, and weekends usually involve a night out in Clapham (not before games of course…).

    When did you join Soho?

    I first joined Soho in pre-season but I’d known a bit about them beforehand. I spoke to Gez (manager) at one of the Friday sessions he runs at Coram’s Fields and he convinced me to take a few sessions as the team found its feet again following some new arrivals, and here I am still running sessions six months on! I don’t often play unfortunately due to injury (I fractured my skull last year) but when I do I like to play midfield.

    Were you involved in another club before Soho?

    Before Soho, I was the Head Coach at New Milton Town FC, who play in the Wessex League in Hampshire. We had two good seasons there and I worked with some fantastic young players. I’d say my time at the club was definitely the best time I had as a coach. It was massively challenging but I think we thrived on that. In the end the manager, Cal Brooks, got approached by Poole Town who have aspirations of playing in the league, so he had to go. I took on the manager’s role but I wasn’t suited to it at all, definitely more of a coach than a manager!

    Since then I took a year out and watched as many games as I could and recently I was working in a development centre in Hampshire to keep my hand in. I always think you can study the game as much as you like but if you aren’t out on the training pitch on a regular basis it’s tough to really improve as a coach.

    I’ve heard you used to work with Eddie Howe at Bournemouth. Could you say something about that?

    ‘Work with’ definitely goes too far, I’m afraid. Eddie was in his first stint the manager when I started my coaching journey at AFC Bournemouth and he was the club to be honest. The fans were in awe of him. He’d been a good player for the club and had stepped up to be a manager at a time when the club was looking like it was going bust, so he couldn’t do any wrong at that point. He got the club promoted to League 1 and it was amazing to be around the club at that time, it felt like it was really going places.

    At that point I hadn’t really had any interaction with him other than seeing his effect on the place. I was learning from coaches like Steve Cuss, Matty Holmes and Shaun Brooks every day which was incredible. Their passion for the sport and support for young coaches was great. I was a quick learner but probably a bit too impatient at times.

    When Eddie left for Burnley and Lee Bradbury took over, that coincided with myself going full-time, so I really felt a bit more part of the club then. I’d watch Lee’s sessions whenever I could and take notes before doing my own versions with the academy players. I was a young coach and to be around the first-team environment and learn from it was crazy when you look back. I don’t know if you’d get that now.

    When Lee left Shaun Brooks and Paul Groves took over, they were both great coaches but unfortunately their player recruitment didn’t help them. They were only given 12 games before Eddie’s comeback.

    Eddie came back when the club were in League 1. I’d known for a couple of days it was happening but it was still a great feeling to see him back in the dugout – he lifted the whole club just by turning up! I remember going into the changing room before his first game. We were playing unbeaten league-leaders Tranmere at home and seeing his message to the players was “Go and make a statement to the league” written on the tactics board. I don’t recall the score, but we won the game and the rest was history.

    I left at the end of the season after watching the club get into the Championship to pursue a career in Non-League. It was an amazing experience to watch a top-class coaching team such as Eddie’s work on a daily basis, but I’d definitely say I learned more from Steve Cuss, Matty Holmes and Callum and Shaun Brooks, as well as the other coaches around the club at the time. They were all great coaches in their own way and I like to think I’ve taken a little of each style into my own coaching.

    Coach Connor

    Why did you decide to join Soho? What was it about them that attracted you?

    To be honest, I didn’t know a huge amount about the London Unity League and I was looking for a local club to get my fitness back. My injury meant I couldn’t really play games but I was keen to train. I only moved to London nine months ago so I was still finding my feet. I came across the club on Twitter and got invited down to a Friday session. It seemed pretty relaxed from the outside so I wasn’t too worried about whether I’d be terrible after not kicking a ball in over a year!

    What would you say is good about the club?

    I think as we have gone on we have realised that we are trying to find a balance between creating a comfortable space to play football and a team that’s competitive in the league. I think everybody knows that the coaching and the competitiveness is a factor in what makes the club a great one to play for but it’s only one of many. A lot of effort goes into arranging social events and welcoming new players which contributes to the feel of the club.

    One of the best things, in my opinion, is the mixed ability nature. I’m used to coaching players who’ve played at higher levels and I think sometimes as a coach that can be a bit safe, by working with players who haven’t played much before and are just looking for somewhere to start and to feel part of something, that’s been a really positive challenge for me to adapt to. In this club it doesn’t matter about your ability or your experience of the game, everyone can take part and I think that’s a really positive thing.

    Is there anything else you want to say about you or Soho FC?

    I think this season has been a difficult one for us at times as it hasn’t happened for us in terms of results, or at least not as often as we’d have liked. I will look to go back into non-league coaching at some point but I see this team as a really worthwhile pursuit at the moment and it would be great to have another season. I trust the manager to get the balance right in terms of finding players and keeping hold of the ones we have, the committee to continue their great work off the pitch and hopefully, I can play a small part in a successful season next year.

     

    If you want to attend today’s (Saturday 24th March, 2018) Gay Football Supporters’ League cup semi-final, at 2pm, head to ‘The Hub’ in London’s Regent’s Park and either check the fixtures board for the pitch or look out for the players in orange!

  • The LUL supports FvH month of action 2018

    February 2018 is Football vs Homophobia‘s month of action. It’s a month when everyone involved in football is asked to take action to make football more safe, welcoming and inclusive for LGBTI people.

    There are various ways in which fans, professional clubs, grassroots clubs, county FAs and leagues can help.

    How you can help

    The London Unity League supports Football vs Homophobia’s month of action 2018, as league chairman, Brian Silk, explains: “The London Unity League is an amateur football league that was set-up to unite LGBT footballers and others in a competitive but friendly sporting environment. Together with organisations in London and the UK, the clubs of the LUL want to make football accessible to all.

    “Our existence, as a league and the clubs within the league, helps to make football safe, welcoming and inclusive for LGBTI people all-year-round. February is a month of focus across football and is an opportunity for us to build on the involvement we have with others throughout the year through a recognised month of activity.”