Monthly Archives: February 2015

Gorlovka by John Moyes

A friend of WSBs, John Moyes (Merde Tete on the BBS) recently sent us this wonderful piece discussing the impact the current Ukranian conflict is having on our twinned Town, Gorlovka.

He’s under real pressure now.

Surely to god we can’t put up with any more of this?

That was an absolute disaster.

I can’t put my feelings into words.

They’ve pulled one back, the next five minutes are going to be unbearable!

My weekend has just been ruined. Again.

These are words and phrases that we often hear bandied about by fans and pundits alike when the team is struggling. But let’s take a step back for a minute. What does it really mean to have your weekend “ruined”? What is it like to be “under pressure”? How bad does a certain event in your life have to get in order to be considered a “disaster”?

Tuesday 10 February was spent in front of a computer, in a large apartment in a green and leafy district of St Petersburg, with my family beside me, and the snow falling peacefully outside. Despite the considerable chill on the street, we were warm and snug, primarily because we have very efficient central heating in Russia. We all felt nice and full as well, as we’d had a hearty dinner after I’d returned from work. I can’t remember what it was, but what I can say with complete certainty is that whatever we ate will have been not just something to fill our bellies, but will have actually been comprised of whatever ingredients we chose to buy on that particular day. It will certainly have consisted of a lot of fresh, out of season vegetables. Expensive of course, but readily available if you’re willing to pay, even after Putin’s notorious “anti sanctions” which banned the import of various foodstuffs into Russia from the EU. My little girl had just gone to bed, having had a bath. The water that came out of the taps was hot and clean. I was about to start following the Barnsley v Fleetwood game from afar, with the benefit of course of a high speed internet connection.

You may be wondering where this is going, and why I have painted a picture of my very comfortable, yet very typical modern existence. Well, all of the things that I mentioned that make my life – and I would hazard a guess at yours – so comfortable: hot water, heating, high speed internet, the choice of what to eat no matter what the season, and most crucially of all, a feeling of personal safety and security – these are all things that in our modern, peacetime lives, we absolutely take for granted.

So, back to Tuesday night. Tuesday night was spent, shall we say, multi-tasking. As not only was I following the “disaster” unfolding at Oakwell, but my wife and I were also making frantic arrangements to evacuate her relatives from their small farm in the Donbass area of Ukraine. Now, many of you will have heard about the conflict in Ukraine, presumably without really taking very much on board other than the statistics. 5,500 killed and 13,000 wounded. Five million people living in a combat zone, and nearly a million already displaced. Taking a cursory glance at some numbers on a computer screen before getting back to our sheltered, everyday lives is something that I am sure we have all done. I certainly have. But what does it actually mean if you are one of those affected? Once you are more than just a statistic? For our family, a couple in their mid 50s who live just outside Donetsk, it has meant prolonged periods without water, gas and electricity. Sporadic pension payments, if they are even paid at all at all. Unreliable internet and telephone signals which is especially alarming for all of us wishing to keep in touch with them, for obvious reasons. For a while, it seemed like they were some of the luckier ones. Indeed, with their lives and property still intact, and their utilities restored to a more or less functioning level, their lives are better than many people’s. However, the run-up to last week’s ceasefire agreement led to a renewed push for territory on both sides. They are located on Ukrainian controlled territory, but only just. Currently the Ukrainian army are lined up around a mile behind their farm, leaving them in the direct line of fire if open hostilities should resume. Their choice is a stark one. Leave their home in the beautiful Ukrainian countryside, along with their land and animals, the place which they purchased only two years ago to retire to – knowing that if they do it will almost certainly have been looted or occupied by the time they return. Or, stay there and run the risk of waking up one morning with a hole in their garden, or roof, or worse.

If you think all of this sounds grim, then you’d be quite right. However, compared with the residents of a nearby town located in rebel-held territory, they have got off lightly, so far. The town in question had quite a lot written about it in the British press last year, when it was being pounded by artillery fire, but you would be forgiven for giving it a cursory glance as just another war-torn town in Eastern Ukraine. It is almost always referred to in the British media by its Ukrainian name of “Horlivka”. Ring any bells? Well, unless you are proficient in the subtleties of Russian and Ukrainian transliteration, probably not. However, in the Donbass region itself, you will never hear it called by its Ukrainian name, as nobody actually speaks Ukrainian there. The locals all use the Russian name – Gorlovka. Starting to sound familiar? Yes, one of the key flashpoints in the Ukrainian war is Barnsley’s twin town. The fighting in Gorlovka was particularly intense from July 2014, until September of last year when the first shaky ceasefire was agreed. Many residential areas came under artillery fire during the “Battle of Horlivka” as it is now known, with the civilian dead running into the hundreds, and the numbers wounded and made homeless running into the thousands. The rebels accused the Ukrainian government forces of indiscriminate shelling of populated areas, whereas the Ukrainian government line is that the rebels were shooting directly out of residential areas, thus using local civilians as a human shield. Whichever version of events contains more truth hardly matters in practical terms. The dead are still dead, and the displaced are still displaced. Since the September truce, things have been calmer, but Gorlovka’s position right on the edge of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ leaves it particularly vulnerable as a key strategic point. As recently as February 2nd, one of the rebel commanders in the New York Times was quoted as saying “if we lose Gorlovka, we lose the war”.

As the conflict has developed and moved away from Gorlovka to other towns, they have become the focus of the media – as I write, Debaltseve, the railway junction between the two main cities in the rebel held territory, Donetsk and Lugansk, is the scene of a violent battle, despite yet another ‘ceasefire’ agreement in Minsk last week. Gorlovka has already been forgotten. Just another bombed out town in a war zone far from home. But Gorlovka is home to real people, a lot of them. Nearly 300,000 in fact, which makes it as populous as Cardiff, and considerably bigger than Newcastle, Nottingham, Leicester and Brighton. A sobering thought, as the people there are left to rebuild their lives. A difficult enough task in any circumstances, but made immensely more complicated by the fact that Gorlovka is currently located in a state – the Donetsk People’s Republic – that does not officially exist. It doesn’t take much to work out the detrimental effect that this has on even the most basic of public services.

Although I personally have not visited Gorlovka, I spent a lot of time in the Donbass region and particularly Donetsk during the summer of 2012 when the European Championships were taking place in Ukraine. What struck me immediately was how similar the area is to South Yorkshire in so many ways. Flying in, the landscape reminded me of the area as I remember it from being a child – rolling countryside punctuated by coal mines and slag heaps, and the air has a red tinge in the morning. Gorlovka, the old mining town is twinned with Barnsley, and Donetsk, the regional capital famed for its coal and metal industries is twinned with Sheffield.

insidedonbassarenaenglandukraine2012

‘John & his wife Sasha at the 2012 Euro Championships’

Many twin town arrangements begin and end on paper, but that is clearly not the case with Donbass and South Yorkshire. The local people here are really proud of their links with their industrial brethren in Great Britain. Donetsk itself was founded by a Welsh industrialist, John Hughes, who is credited with bringing both the mining industry and football to the area. He is still a celebrated figure in the area today. Shakhtar Donetsk, roughly translated actually means ‘The Donetsk Miners’ in English. The Colliers, if you will. Gorlovka has a restaurant called Barnsley, and the Russian speaking branch of the Barnsley Supporters Club (yes, it does exist) appears to be run by somebody from Gorlovka. The page on the Russian version of Facebook (vk.com) is still active and regularly updated – http://vk.com/barnsley . As far as I am aware from scanning the news sites for the town, cultural exchanges between Barnsley and Gorlovka have taken place at a council level, although what the level of connection is now I’m not sure. I would hazard a guess at not very high, considering it is currently under the control of pro-Russian separatists, who are not recognised by central government in Kiev. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the current political situation in Eastern Ukraine, it is without doubt a humanitarian catastrophe of the highest order. If something of a similar magnitude were to happen in South Yorkshire, whether it was a war in Wakefield, a tsunami in Barnsley, or Sheffield turned out to have been built on an active volcano, I am absolutely sure that the people of Donbass would be doing every little thing they could to help the people of their twin towns. It’s just how they are. I’m also quite sure that many people in the South Yorkshire area would really like to be able to lend their help to the ordinary people of Donbass, caught up in an atrocious civil war. However, it seems that actually very few people are aware of the full extent of what has been happening there. How to help is another matter entirely, especially given the fractious nature of the political situation in the region. Whilst it would be nice to think that money, clothes and canned food could be sent there and would help improve people’s lives, their reality is that the chances of any aid being misappropriated are extremely high. That, unfortunately, is the reality of war. It is also the reality of life in Ukraine in general, on both sides of the political divide.

barnsleycafe

‘The Barnsley Cafe – Gorlovka’

Donbass is an area of Europe, not so very different from our own home in England. An area that people are proud to call their home, just like we are forever proud to say that we are from Yorkshire, no matter where we find ourselves in the world. Without wishing to generalise or stereotype, I found the people of Donbass endearingly similar to South Yorkshire folk, right down to the fact that they speak in a rather peculiar dialect of their native language (Russian, not Ukrainian). They’re unpretentious, incredibly warm and welcoming, and have a love of the simple pleasures in life – fishing, football, delicious foods from their local farms, and a beer in the summer sun. They’re people just like you and me. Except these are people who live in fear of a bomb dropping on their house at any moment. It’s enough to ruin anyone’s weekend.

The Votes are in…and the winner is…

We are very pleased to announce that our upcoming walk to Bradford will benefit the fantastic Jaxon’s Gift. All details on the walk including a route etc will be available soon.

In the meantime, you can get more info on the wonderful work they do here:

https://www.facebook.com/JaxonsGift

https://www.justgiving.com/remember/43963/Jaxon-Fretwell

Thanks to all who nominated & voted. We’ll be looking to support some of the nominated charities with future events.

Cheers!

The morning after…

First off – thanks must go to Patrick & Ben for offering to join us last night. Whilst I’ve seen that many weren’t happy with some of their responses (and to seemingly the vast majority of my questions) you can’t knock the men for standing up to give their point of view.

Last night was the start of something. In the 13 years that Mr Cryne has been our ‘custodian’ as he put it, I’ve never once heard him speak. 13 years. Yet last night he stood up in front of 50 blokes with us in a lowly league position and just sacking a manager and gave his point of view, his reasons & some insight into his thinking.

I disagreed with much of what was said. I disagree that it’s almost impossible for my club to be successful without additional cash investment & I disagree that we were looking at a relegation battle to name but two. But I can’t fault a man for standing up and explaining why he made a decision.

I made a conscious decision last night not to ask questions such as ‘who’s the next manager going to be?’ because, really, what’s the point? We had a limited amount of time with the man in charge and I wanted context and insight into what goes on in his head to drive his decision making process. Whilst I could sit and talk to him all day, we had to focus on something and I think for that, last night was a success.

I won’t pour over the transcript or the questions that were or weren’t asked – you can do that yourself when we release the audio. I won’t get into a slanging match with folk who think I didn’t press hard enough on certain issues. What I will say is that I hope this gives us a chance to at least start communicating with the man that is really in charge and brings about an opportunity for us all to work towards something in the future.

You reds.

PS – buy WSB7

Ben Mansford & Patrick Cryne Q&A – Thurs 19th February

I’m very pleased to say that on Thursday 19th February, Ben Mansford & Patrick Cryne will be joining us for a Q&A session at the Old Number 7, Barnsley at 7.30PM.

We’ve been speaking to Ben recently about the opportunity for an interview in a forthcoming issue of WSB. Today, Ben contacted us and asked whether it would be possible for he and Mr Cryne to join us so both sides can debate and discuss recent events. After discussions, we are very happy to give them such an opportunity.

The evening will run as below:

  • Mr Mansford & Mr Cryne will join us and the Q&A will begin at 7.30pm.
  • We are restricting attendance to only 50 or so supporters because of the venue size. If you’d like to attend, email weststandbogs@gmail.com but places are very limited.
  • Donations will be taken on the door for WSB charities.
  • We’re working hard to make sure we can record the event – be it video or audio – so all supporters can be involved but can’t promise. We will though be documenting each question & looking to summarise the key talking points.
  • If you’d like to submit a question, we’ll endeavour (I love Keith) to ask them on your behalf. Again, email us.

We think this is a great opportunity for us to understand the logic of decisions & events not only over the last few weeks but years & thank Mr Mansford & Cryne for their willingness to be involved.

Any other questions, get in touch. Cheers.

So, the cycle continues…

Barnsley Football Club has always been different. We’ve always been sneered at, laughed about & ridiculed. We’ve always had the flat caps and whippets jokes, the images of the pit head whenever we’re on SKY and the old Battling Barnsley headlines. We’ve always been us. However, I’m now convinced we’re not us anymore – we’re just another football club. And I hate football.

Throughout our history we’ve fought against the odds, beat bigger clubs with higher wage budgets and all with small crowds bar the odd season here and there – my club has mirrored my Town’s attitude and for that, I’ve loved it. But the more I hear now, the more I see I’m starting to realise it’s just not us anymore.

Yesterday brought all this to a head. On paper, I understand Danny’s sacking. In a very black and white World we’ve spent a decent amount of money and we’re not doing too well – I’m not an idiot, I’ve not enjoyed watching us these last couple of months but I’ve not enjoyed watching us for the last 15 years so it’s of no surprise. What really hit home to me yesterday was the way that we treated a man. A good, honest, decent man. A man who came in and worked with a group that were fiercely loyal to the previous incumbent – not only players but the back room staff. A man willing to ignore the recent records of sackings. A man willing to stay here for ten years if we’d let him. A man who wasn’t able to bring in players until the end of July. A man who had done everything he’d been asked of him – consolidating in League One, playing our young lads & building for the future and yet we found excuses to sack him because it suited ‘the suits’ in charge.

When it suited us in the Championship, money didn’t matter. We’d always punched above our weight so why couldn’t we do it now we had the lowest wage bill? Using that justification we spent hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of pounds sacking managers & backroom staff. Yet suddenly, when it suited as a reason to sack another manager, we’ve started trundling out business models, dropping attendances (which aren’t) & the fact that we deserved better as one of the best supported clubs in this League. They’re absolutely right on one thing, we do deserve better. We deserve better from the suits in charge who give out the same old lines when it suits but don’t have the bottle to do what’s right. I kind of understood the attitude in the Championship – the fear of relegation, what it would do to us and all that. But it’s happened. As it stands we’re equidistant from relegation as we are the play offs. We’re not going to get relegated and we’re not going to get promoted. That’s called consolidation – exactly what we needed this year. We’ve just signed another 3 players on permanent deals – young lads that we seemed to want to give time and build teams around and less than 2 weeks after the January window closed, we’d got shut of the manager. Timing’s wonderful, innit?

Mr Cryne is a very intelligent man. You do not have his success in business by being stupid. If Mr Cryne’s business had been failing, he’d get to the bottom of it. No doubt there’d be plenty of buzzwords about root & branch, strategies etc and he’d find the problem & change it. Either change the personnel or support them to change the way they work.

From where I’m sitting, after at least 5 years of constant decline & wasted cash there remains just two constants – Mr Cryne & Mr Barry Taylor. Mr Mansford has been here less than two years – he’s not seen us win 25 games of football. We’ve been relegated, increased the wage bill & are still shite. When do they start to take responsibility rather than blaming football managers? Isn’t it their job to create an environment and conditions that football managers can thrive? Either they change their decision making process & actually show some mettle to do what’s right or they go. When are we as supporters going to start holding those responsible?

The simple problem is we can’t. 15 years ago no single man owned my football club. It was owned by supporters and local business men. My club owned acres of land & a stadium. It was an example of years of prudent planning & a real success story. Then, for various reasons & mainly ITV digital, we got into some trouble and the bank withdrew our overdraft yet our assets outweighed our debts – we were absolutely fine. Fast forward a couple of years and suddenly we’re owned by just one man who also now owns half of the assets along with the council, my club owns nothing other than a few contracts for players & staff. We have fuck all to our name other than the loyalty of us idiots who keep going, regardless of what happens. We listen to the suits, we think they’re right, they say the right things and we hand over the cash again. Well, I’m sick of it.

Now don’t get me wrong – Mr Cryne has stumped up a hell of a lot of cash to become the owner of Barnsley Football Club and I don’t doubt for a second that he’s done it for no other reason than why most of us would do the same – because we’re stupidly in love with Barnsley Football Club. I’m appreciative of his support but I’m not appreciative of what I feel my club has become under his watch.

I want my club back but sadly, deep down, I know it’ll never be the same again.

Charity vote

Now then

So – we’ve got a couple of events lined up over the next few months & we wanted to let you lot choose where a proportion of profits should be donated to. We’ve taken nominations of charities on our Facebook page and now you’ve got until Friday 20th February at 4pm to register your vote for who should be the lucky charity to receive cash from the Darren Sheridan evening & the as yet not organised but we definitely will do it Bradford walk.

Sithi.

Barnsley players crowd referee Gary Willard as he sends off Darren Sheridan

The Shotton Gentlemen’s Club – 17th April – Darren Sheridan

Gentlemen (and ladies) – roll up, for this is an opportunity too good to miss.

WSB, in partnership with The Shotton Gentlemen’s club are proud to present an evening of good music, ale, growlers, company & charity fundraising in the presence of Barnsley greatness.

It is my eternal pleasure to announce that on Friday 17th April at Opium Number 10 we will be joined for a Q&A with the hero that is Darren Sheridan.

Untitled-1 Untitled-1 copy 2 Untitled-1 copy 4

Tickets will be £4 in advance & £5 on the door and will include a talk from the man himself, growlers, black pudding, an auction and raffle to raise funds for the WSB chosen charities. All cash raised on the evening will be donated back out to Barnsley causes.

Get your ticket here

Doors will open from 7pm and the event will run until around 10.30 when it’ll then be followed by a knees up until the early hours playing the best music in Town. We’ll all then end up in Wildcats at 5am with Shez on the pool table.

Barnsley players crowd referee Gary Willard as he sends off Darren Sheridan Untitled-1 copy 3

Tickets are strictly limited – get yours whilst you can. We’ll be keeping names on the door so no tickets will be sent out because Royal Mail are robbing Tory Bastards.

If you can donate any raffle or auction prizes, please get in touch at weststandbogs@gmail.com.

WSB – STAND article

I wrote this a little while ago for the fantastic STAND fanzine about WSB and what we stand for.

I love Barnsley. I love it’s history of brave fights and hard graft. I love it’s people, their self depreciating nature, their sense of humour, their lack of awareness of what talent they have and how strong they can be. And it’s for all those reasons that I set up West Stand Bogs.

Brief history lesson – 30 years ago this Town was the centre of the political World. The NUM and it’s members were at war with the State in an effort to not only protect their livelihoods but their communities and the future hopes/opportunities of their children. That brave year long fight ended in defeat and Maggie got her way. That defeat paved the way for the ills we see around us today – zero hour contracts, low wages, lack of union representation & most of all a lack of community spirit and feeling. She was selfish and wanted everyone else to be. And she succeeded.

30 years on my Town is still dealing with that war. It has the lowest secondary school GCSE attainment rates in the country. It’s one of the most economically deprived areas in the UK. It’s people have little to no opportunities available to them and need help.

And that’s where we come in.

WSB is a Barnsley FC fanzine in name. In our 4 issues a year you get the usual bollocks and piss taking mixed in with proper writers displaying their talents in our pages. However, the key about WSB is that it was set up with the sole intention to help Barnsley and it’s people. We’re here to raise money for local causes with a long term aim of becoming a charity to provide opportunities for the young people of my Town. In the last 18 months we’ve raised over £15,000 through magazine and merchandise sales & events. Money going to local hospices, cancer charities, food banks, drop in centres, soup kitchens and local youth clubs and football teams.

Also, everything we buy is bought in Barnsley. It’s all designed & printed in independent Barnsley businesses. It benefits our own people at a time when those in power look to push us to one side and ignore us.

Besides all that, we think our mag is alright. But what we know is that every mag we sell helps someone. Every mag you buy helps someone. And right now, my Town needs some help.

The people united will never be defeated.

WSB in STAND

I was lucky enough to be asked to write a few lines on WSB for the fantastic STAND fanzine. I thought I’d share it here.

I love Barnsley. I love it’s history of brave fights and hard graft. I love it’s people, their self depreciating nature, their sense of humour, their lack of awareness of what talent they have and how strong they can be. And it’s for all those reasons that I set up West Stand Bogs.

Brief history lesson – 30 years ago this Town was the centre of the political World. The NUM and it’s members were at war with the State in an effort to not only protect their livelihoods but their communities and the future hopes/opportunities of their children. That brave year long fight ended in defeat and Maggie got her way. That defeat paved the way for the ills we see around us today – zero hour contracts, low wages, lack of union representation & most of all a lack of community spirit and feeling. She was selfish and wanted everyone else to be. And she succeeded.

30 years on my Town is still dealing with that war. It has the lowest secondary school GCSE attainment rates in the country. It’s one of the most economically deprived areas in the UK. It’s people have little to no opportunities available to them and need help.

And that’s where we come in.

WSB is a Barnsley FC fanzine in name. In our 4 issues a year you get the usual bollocks and piss taking mixed in with proper writers displaying their talents in our pages. However, the key about WSB is that it was set up with the sole intention to help Barnsley and it’s people. We’re here to raise money for local causes with a long term aim of becoming a charity to provide opportunities for the young people of my Town. In the last 18 months we’ve raised around £15,000 through magazine and merchandise sales & events. Money going to local hospices, cancer charities, food banks, drop in centres, soup kitchens and local youth clubs and football teams.

Also, everything we buy is bought in Barnsley. It’s all designed & printed in independent Barnsley businesses. It benefits our own people at a time when those in power look to push us to one side and ignore us.

Besides all that, we think our mag is alright. But what we know is that every mag we sell helps someone. Every mag you buy helps someone. And right now, my Town needs some help.

The people united will never be defeated.