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!

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

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.

Getting to 100

So, I had a realisation a few weeks back at The Kensite Stadium (home of the mighty Atherton Collieries FC) that I had been to a lot of football grounds. 94 in fact.

That’s quite a lot. Not as many as some, but a fair few, probably more than the average fan. Truth be told, the amount of football I’ve watched has dropped considerably, largely because Colwyn Bay FC have been poor the past few seasons (suffering two straight relegations after I waxed lyrical about their great escape a few years back), international football has been amazing (but there’s only a few games per year you can get to), and of course, love for the graps.

But, call me a bandwagon returner, but Colwyn Bay’s season has started…okay. We’ve looked pretty decent in parts, so I’ve turned my eye back to the old mistress that you never quite got over. But looking at the amount of grounds I’ve been to, there’s a fairly big number on the horizon.

100.

I’m currently on 94. After consulting with a friend it was decided that 5 didn’t count as I didn’t see a game there (Everton, Benfica, Bayern Munich, Anderlecht & Barcelona). As such, I’m on 89 as of time of writing.

I reckon I could hit 100 before the end of the season.

I worked out that I’m likely to hit 92 by Christmas (I’ve a wedding to go to and the day before is Chesterfield vs Morecambe, Hertha Berlin are playing in the Europa League when I visit Berlin, and a friend has invited me to New York Stadium to see Rotherham vs Shrewsbury Town). I reckon I could hit the last 8 before the end of the season.

There is one caveat to this though. Since most of England discovered that Ben Woodburn cannot play for them, Wales may qualify for the World Cup. It’d be quite nice if my 100th ground was actually in Russia seeing Wales play in a World Cup final, now, wouldn’t it?

But that’ll be known long before the end of the season. We’ll jump that hurdle when we get to it. But yes. 100 football grounds before the end of the season. Let’s go!

3 Best Video Games I’ve Played In 2017

Yes. I’m well aware that 2017 isn’t over yet, but I’m not sure what else I’m going to play this year, and in a vain hope to blog more here, I’m going to run 4 posts a year. Four posts! The first is end of September, where I share my favourite games of the previous 12 months, before the Christmas rush.

I’m not going to lie, this year has been dominated hard by Overwatch, as it’s been the game I’ve played more than any this year, but it was featured in the last rundown from the turn of the year, so that does not count. Instead I focus on games that I’ve played this year. Please note, these are games I’ve played, and not necessarily released this year, though in this list it’s only really applicable to one game.

3. Bricks Breaker Puzzle (Mobile)

Making it’s way into the third spot is this rather fun little puzzle game – Bricks Breaker.

Imagine a cross between Puzzle Bobble and Arkanoid. You control a stream of about 50 balls and you fire up to hit a number of blocks, each with a number on it. The blocks need to be hit by that number of times for them to be destroyed. There are special blocks, powerups, as well as the blocks slowly making their way down the screen. If the blocks hit the bottom, it’s game over.

This game has taken hours of my time since discovered in May, it’s so simple and yet so addictive. You can play one off games or games for an hour. It’s so much fun and so time sapping and yet so very, very simple. Well worth downloading for free.

It’s ad supported, which can get a bit annoying over time (hence it’s location on this list), but it’s so addictive you can forgive it.

You can download it now for iPhone and Android Phones.

2. Mass Effect: Andromeda (Xbox One)

Wait, hear me out on this (and there will be spoilers). Mass Effect: Andromeda is not as good as Mass Effect 2, but it is not a bad game.

I feel the original trilogy built up to a fever pitch that it was never going to live up to the hype, and I feel that it took away with something that was actually – once you got into it – a pretty decent game. It is rushed in parts, but generally if Mass Effect: Andromeda is the last Mass Effect game, I would be incredibly sad.

The actual colonisation part is average at best, and you shouldn’t do all the missions because they drag, but the characters and the actual side stories about the Ryder family, Jien Garson and the Initiative, the Archon and the relationships with the Kett, it’s actually a very solid story with strong characters. I really want to see it develop, as I feel there is things that could make a second game interesting. Couple that with decent combat, fascinating characters (I love Peebee), and some really good planets (H-047c missions are great). Also you have the Scourge, as well as the fate of the Quarian Ark. I really believe people didn’t give this game a fair chance. Skip all but the primary missions (there’s a lot of boring missions), get up to 100% viability on all planets, and you get a great game.

You can get Mass Effect: Andromeda for the Xbox One or PS4.

1. Sonic Mania (Xbox One)

Ah yes, if you want a guide as to how to revive a franchise, check out this one EA.

Sonic has been utterly utterly shit for years. Really really bad with few bright spots. It’s been rushed, it’s been buggy, and it’s been absolutely terrible. There have been some bright parts, but overall it’s been largely poor. Compared to Sonic’s Nintendo counterpart Mario, it feels like the blue hedgehog has been whored out mercilessly.

For once though, Sega listened.

Rather than build the game themselves, they handed the blue mascot back to the fans, employing PagodaWest Games and Headcannon – two huge fans of the original trilogy – to make these games.

The results, are stunning.

Sonic Mania is a game that makes me smile. It starts with a wonderful nod to the Green Hill Zone as each zone is split into 2 acts. Act 1 is generally a nod to the original level in the games, and when you realise this it’s incredible and genuinely leads to smiles. And the game goes on and on with this, the Dr. Robotnik Mean Bean Machine nod in Chemical Plant Zone, the Sonic R/CD esque Chaos Emeralds levels, genuinely remembering it’s past in this cracking release.

But all the love in the world these nods wouldn’t mean much if the game was terrible. Thankfully this is not the case. The game is excellent, it’s so well coded and you feel in control of Sonic (or Tails, or Knuckles, should you desire). It’s fast, the music is great, the graphics are great, and if you screw up, it’s you who screws up, not the game. With that said, it’s incredibly tough this game, and Titanic Monach is an incredibly tough level.

There’s so much to unlock, from classic cheats such as the debug mode, to new things including a special zone right at the end for really good players. There’s loads to get in this game, and for around £15, you cannot really go wrong. This has been my favourite game this year.

Sonic Mania is available for the PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

And You?

What are your favourite games of 2017 (so far). Please leave them in the comments!