Race to 100 err…103 grounds complete

Bloody England.

And Bloody Wales.

And Bloody Worcester City.

So I have been embarking on a trip to see as many football teams play in as many stadiums as possible. I had hoped to reach 100 by the end of the season, and I did! I thought I’d did it on a Tuesday in mid April when I went through the turnstiles at Deepdale (home of Preston North End), ticking off my 100th ground.

Or so I thought.

Turns out, like all brilliant minds do every now and again, I had miscalculated. I had seen 100 different teams playing at various stadiums. However, I’d actually ticked off a fair few already.

Let me explain using my beloved Wales.

Ask me if I seen Wales play at home, then I would say “Yes”. I had. However I’d seen them play in two different venues that they call “Home”: The Millenium Stadium & Cardiff City Stadium. Same applies to England (Old Trafford & Wembley) and Worcester City (St George’s Lane & Aggborough). Like Phineas Fogg, I’d well and truly screwed up my calculations and actually achieved more than I thought.

So in actual fact, my 100th ground – Ramsbottom United vs Colwyn Bay – was completed on a cold Spring evening in Late March, making Preston, Blackpool, and my trip to bloody Genoa rather redundant.

Oh well.

All in all, I feel a weird sense of pride with my achievement. It’s means nothing, didn’t make me healthier, didn’t raise money for a charity or even do something for somebody. It was selfish, it was selfish bloody minded stubbornness for something that impressed only me and a few other people. I don’t think I’d even put it on my Tinder bio.

But I don’t care, as for this journey, there has been a weird solace for me within a WhatsApp group. Two of my friends from university heard about the challenge and decided to go for their own challenge related to it. One of which was to hit 100, another was to hit 50. If absolutely nothing else, as I hurtle to my mid 30’s, I’m glad that I’ve managed to reclaim and spend some quality time with two great friends. That has been what has made the last 6 or so month’s special.

I’ve not decided if I’m continuing to 200, or 250, or whatever. This isn’t swimming: the next 100 will probably be harder, but I’ve paired with one of my friends and we’ve started a little instagram account for groundhopping. You can see it here at @ystbah. Please give us a follow!

Anyway, now onto some stats!

  • Most Northerly ground – Firhill, Glasgow (Partick Thistle)
  • Most Easterly & Southerly ground – GSP Stadium, Nicosia (Cyprus)
  • Most Westerly ground – Giants Stadium, New York (New York Red Bulls)
  • I’ve watched football matches in 13 different countries: Andorra, Belgium, Cyprus, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, United States and Wales.
  • I’ve watched football at 59% of the teams in the Evostik Divison 1 North, my most populous league.
  • I’ve seen football played in 23 competitions: European Championships, World Cup Qualifications, European Championship Qualifications, Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, Championship, League 1, League 2, Conference North, Evostik Premiership, Evostik Division 1 North, Evostik Division 1 South, North West Counties Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, FA Trophy, League of Wales, Cymru Alliance, League of Ireland, Scottish Premiership, Bundesliga & Serie A.

Anyway, here’s a map!

Anyway, if you have any questions or anything, I’m opening the comments up to an unofficial AMA, if you have any questions for my escapades, leave them in the comments!

The Genova Project

As the developer of a popular email list building plugin for WordPress, I usually spout how email marketing works really well, it was just before Christmas that I experienced it first hand.

I was feeling a bit down before Christmas. I had used up all my holiday and it was wet, cold and miserable. An easyjet email said "We're now flying from Manchester to Genoa in late March". "Au contraire!", I said, "am flying from Manchester to Genoa in late March". Bish bash bosh, done. I've something to look forward to, and come late March (last week), I was ready for my trip to Genoa. Much, much needed.

I arrived in Genoa late on Thursday on a comfortable flight, and whilst I arrived successfully, I had a problem with the ticket machine. First tip: The ticket machine didn't take €20 notes and the cash machine only dispenses in €20 notes. I ended up changing the €6 bus to the centre to a €40 taxi unfortunately, and I only realised after getting into the taxi I that there was a shop there, d'oh! I could have changed €20 for a €1 bottle of water and change for the bus. Ah well. Live and learn.

Rest of the short break was incredible though, and my thoughts (obviously) quickly turned to food. I ended up going to the wonderful Pasta Street, a reasonably priced eatery with a Carbonara to die for. After deliberately getting lost on the way back to the hotel and finding a wine bar for a nightcap I had a relatively early night.

I'm so glad I had an early night as on my second day I was off to Portofino, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. It's an hour or so away by train or 20 minutes by boat….I didn't have a boat. Leaving early was a great idea as I arrived just before lunch, and the clouds were beginning to turn a deep dark grey. I managed to avoid the weather though and walked to the lighthouse and back. My only regret? I wish I done it 10 years ago, when I still lived in Wales and hill walks were a normal occurrance.

Lunch was Pasta and Pesto (one of the Genovan specialities, along with Foccaccia) at Ristorante da I Gemelli di Paolo & Matteo Portofino. Food was okay but the view more than made up for it, overlooking the touristy harbour and the waves cooly rocking the shore.

After an ice cream and souvenir shopping I headed to Santa Margherita Ligure, a larger port and fishing town about 15 minutes away. I headed there for a leisurely stroll along the promenade (the rain was still holding out but threatening), and a cheeky Peroni. It was a pretty place but I wouldn't drive here – the bus from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino was borderline lethal, and I apologised to a small lass who's head met my shoulder after a hard brake.

The evening out was spent having a decent meal (surprise surprise) before relaxing in a funky little dive bar called Alla Goccia Chupiteria. It wasn't a late one, as my Saturday was huge.

Saturday was meant to be a day spent worshipping the Italian religion of football, but unfortunately it wasn't to be. My original plan was to go to the Genoa Football Museum, Genova vs SPAL in Serie A, and then Juventus vs Milan on the telly box. Unfortunately, the Genoa Football Museum was shut. Instead I consoled myself by going to Galeone Neptune – which is a huge Galleon Pirate Ship (replica) used on films. I had a great time, even if Trip Advisor says it's not worth it. I feel it is probably my love for Sea of Thieves which what appealed to me, but I had a great hour or so dicking about on the boat like I was a child again.

I then went to eat in Eataly, which was a decent group of restaurants located on the harbour. I had Clam Spaghetti which was amazing, and then headed to Genoa vs SPAL for the football – which you can read about here on my football instagram account – You're Supposed to Be At Home. Give it a follow!

The evening was spent trying to find somewhere that showed the Juventus/AC Milan game, but I was surprised very few bars had TV's with football on. It was strange. Instead I ended up at the wonderful 28 Erbe, chatting to the locals, people watching, having a few beers and ruing the fact I found my favourite bar on the last day of my holiday.

The final day was spent back in Eataly having some more gorgeous fish, as well as spending a short while walking around the pretty Palazzi dei Rolli, before getting a flight back home.

So what of Genoa then? Well, I loved the food and drink, I don't think I ate a bad meal in 3 days. I wish I had one more day to visit – 4 days I feel is enough to see all the wonderful city had to offer, and I wish I had been a bit quicker on the uptake of various attractions such as the massive aquarium. I also now fly up stairs and hills after dealing with the hilly nature of the city for a few days, but I had a great time. I was on the first flight to the city from Manchester, but if you're on one of the later ones – do it.

Thirty-Four

This weekend I turn thirty-four.

It’s been quite a weird year. Thirty-three wasn’t a great year, starting off incredibly rubbish due to losing Bonnie and going through a breakup. July was when things started improving, thanks to some cool people coming into my life, and also reconnecting with some old ones (mainly the Manchester SEO crowd thanks to events like Media Poker), and although since about October 2017 I was pretty much waiting for the year to be over.

2018 has started well, I feel more focused, and more driven. I think the waiting for the year to end wasn’t necessarily the best course of action, but I’ve definitely got a plan for 2018 going forward. It’s going well so far too. Yes, this is vagueblogging. More will hopefully be revealed soon.

Regarding the things I love, I travelled to a new country for the first time whilst being 33 (Ireland). My Germanophile nature was fed further as a long weekend in Köln was spent following my love of professional wrestling, as well as falling in love with Berlin in November. I also took my main holiday in the UK for the first time since 2012 with a week spent in London and Brighton. I played a bunch of new games and my time playing video games has creeped up. Gym has taken a hit, but I’m walking a lot more these days. I also think I drink less, and eat slightly better.

Now, suggested by Nichola Stott, here is the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series, here is my life-by-life comparison with Reese Witherspoon.


Rhys (With a Spoon)
Rhys (With a Spoon)

Reese Witherspoon
Age Nearly 34 Nearly 42
Oscars (Nominated) 0 1
Books Written 1 0
Marriages 0 2
Children 0 3
WordPress Plugins Written 10 0

I'm not sure how much further I can compare my life to Reese Witherspoon, so if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments!

Previous Versions: 30

3 Favourite Wrestling Matches (I Saw Live) in 2017

So last Sunday (at the time of writing) I saw my last wrestling card of 2017 – with PROGRESS Chapter 59: Whatever People Say We Are, That’s What We’re Not in Sheffield crowning off a year in which I’ve seen 14 shows over 6 companies (though, to be fair, technically was 13, as one show I was a roster member for). It seems a lot less than I thought I’d seen, but turns out I didn’t do much at the beginning of the year.

Interestingly, as a year for a whole, it’s been – strange. First off, the most shocking moment was when “The Word” Rudy Wynne made his long await, chubby bearded arse comeback at Britannia Wrestling’s Against the Odds 2. Considering the length of time since I last stepped foot in a ring, I didn’t embarrass myself I don’t think, and I was welcomed back with open arms by the very friendly and talented roster. I hope I didn’t stink up the joint!

Also, looking back, the match quality has been good. Great in fact. Better than last year. But I feel that to actually pick 3 matches that made me go crazy or jump out of a seat, with a few notable exceptions. The matches I list below are matches that I – as a jaded wrestling fan – enjoyed and became unglued to at certain points during 2017. My goal is to actually become a fan again, rather than rate on workrate or some sort of points scoring for artistic impression, the top 3 matches listed below are matches that all had me smiling, cheering and generally going crazy over at certain points during the match.

First off the Honourable Mentions though. These are matches that I thought that were good, and stood out on their respective cards. I’d highly recommend checking these out: South Pacific Power Trip vs. British Strong Style (PROGRESS Chapter 45: Galvanize), Soner Durson vs. Marc Morgan (BWP: Against The Odds), Mike Bird vs. WALTER (PROGRESS: Cologne), Laura Di Matteo vs. Toni Storm (PROGRESS Chapter 52: Vote Pies), The Band vs. Dan Evans & Natalie Wild (BWP: Summer Break) and literally the entire of PROGRESS Chapter 57: Enter Smiling.

Very, Very, VERY Honourable Mention Trent Seven vs. Wolfgang: ICW Fight Club on Tour – Manchester

If I was to be asked who my favourite wrestler is in 2017, I’d probably say Trent Seven. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him had a bad match, and probably PROGRESS Trent Seven is my favourite wrestler – the beard, the dad bod, he just seems – so achievable. Plus he’s older than me too so it gives me hope that there’s still a run left in me. His “Yeah, I’m basically WWE, deal with it” is brilliantly played, especially as a good guy, has me in stitches.

Up until recently, the main event of the first show of the year (and first ICW show) was in the top 3. The reason I enjoyed it? The match was so much different to what we are used to seeing in Manchester – a kind of Hybrid British Strong Style (no pun intended) of people being hit hard and dropped on their heads. This was more of a hardcore match, that was brutal for what was effectively a house show taping in Manchester in front of a smallish crowd on a Sunday night. This was very watchable and I suppose also being front row and having two big bastards fighting above you was an incredible sight. It was a very good match and an end to a decent show.

3. Adam Chase vs. Chris Ridgeway – PROGRESS Chapter 59:Whatever People Say We Are, That’s What We’re Not

Last year, I picked James Drake vs. Fabien Aichner as my third favourite match of the year, beating Adam Cole vs. Will Ospreay at PROGRESS Chapter 40: Intercepted Angel. The reason being is that it was so unexpected. A match that comes out of nowhere to impress me kind of engrosses me more than when two seasoned veterans put on a match.

So fast forward to PROGRESS Sheffield, and some background. First off, Britain was in the middle of a snowstorm that engulfed pretty much half the country. This meant that people couldn’t get to Sheffield, including some of the wrestlers. This included the entire of British Strong Style, Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster. 4 WWE UK guys and a participant in PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles. So quite a few heavy hitters.

A few wrestlers though stepped up, and one that did was a Spanish wrestler by the name of Adam Chase. He stepped in against Chris Ridgeway at such short notice and had an incredible match. To go from a lukewarm polite applause to having the entire of the o2 Academy in Sheffield on their feet in 5 minutes was very impressive, and after 10 or so minutes of cracking action Ridgeway won. This match was so unexpected, but announced that Adam Chase belonged in PROGRESS. It was great, and I enjoyed it immensely.

You can see this match on Demand Progress.

2. Travis Banks vs. Matt Riddle – PROGRESS Chapter 52: Vote Pies

A lot of PROGRESS has been the Travis Banks show this year, his rise to the World Championship has (for right or wrong reasons) dominated a large amount of the stories surrounding PROGRESS. This was after his Super Strong Style 16 victory for Banks and the story was Banks and PROGRESS Champion Pete Dunne putting together each others matches. Whilst Banks gave opportunities to Dunne’s opponents, Pete Dunne usually put Banks in difficult matches. This I believe was the first or second match for this.

What followed was two of PROGRESS’ brightest stars of the year that weren’t in British Strong Style legitimately beating the living bejesus out of each other. This was simple, and even though it had a screwy finish the first 10 minutes of the match which had me jumping and screaming made it my favourite singles match of 2017.

You can see this match on Demand Progress.

1. wXw – Shortcut To the Top Match

It is hard to do Royal Rumbles. I should know, I bloody agented one not a million years ago. Having 30 men queued up, keeping an eye on cues and generally making sure everything goes well (clue: it usually doesn’t) is hard work. So I have a lot of respect even for the terrible Rumbles WWE put on occasionally.

But when it goes right, oh does it go right.

I travelled to Cologne for the PROGRESS/wXw double header, but whilst I went for the PROGRESS, the better show was the wXw one. The weekend culminated with a cracking rumble that had 30 top stars from all over Europe, a few surprises, a few fun eliminations, and a genuinely brilliant story told from #1 all the way through to the end. Furthermore, it was the culmination of a great weekend, where I met some great people, and whilst it may not be at the top of many lists, everything about that weekend was perfect. After all, wrestling is meant to be fun.

wXw Shortcut To the Top is available on wXwNOW.de.

Those are my three top matches for 2017, what are yours? Please leave them in the comments below!

PROGRESS Wrestling Events Calendar for Google Calendar (and others)

So I was…volunteered…recently to create a PROGRESS Wrestling Event Calendar to showcase all the events on Google Calendar (similar to how football teams have done). The hope is that once a year it’s updated with the show dates once known, that way if you’re planning holidays or less important things such as weddings you don’t book on the date of a PROGRESS show. It isn’t perfect (I’m sure I switch between 2 or 3 different times, and I haven’t included the shows for the end of 2017 I don’t think), but it should give you a rough idea of when PROGRESS have shows.

How to Install

Click here to download the ics file

Here’s how I’ve installed it in the systems I’ve used and tested with. Of course, I’m testing with systems I own.

Google Calendar

Click to download the file, and then go to Google Calendar, click “Settings” and then the “Calendars” tab. Create an empty calendar (call it PROGRESS Wrestling or something). Click Import Calendar. Browse to the file downloaded, upload it into the empty calendar created, and it should sync.

Android Phones

Download it and it should sync with your chosen Calendar App.

Apple Mac

Click to download the ics file. The file is downloaded, click to open it and it opens in Calendar for Apple Mac.

Questions?

I’m going to try and keep it up to date, but this is more of a labour of love rather than anything more than that, so please be patient (I run a business and have a day job too). But any questions (as well as any corrections) feel free to drop me an email and I’ll try and get back to you. Though to be honest I’m utterly crap at answering emails at the best of times. But yeah, this is a fan project, be sure to check out PROGRESS’ stuff as it’s mint.

Also if you want to buy me a drink (a few people have suggested it). Yeah, sure! Cheers! Mine’s usually a Tuborg. I don’t go to Camden Shows but usually in the shows up north.