Welcome back, I hope you enjoyed my first blog. It was very well received and I really appreciate your feedback so guess what, I am back for a September blog!
It was a slow start to the month compared to August with it being the international break for most clubs in England. Fleetwood Town were due to play Wigan Athletic at Highbury on Saturday 4 August, but due to both clubs having players away with their respected countries, the English Football League (EFL) had allowed the clubs to reschedule the match, which will now take Tuesday 2 November 2021 at 7:45pm.
With no match on the opening weekend of the month, I decided to reach out to local grassroots team on the Fylde Coast to see if they wanted their own designated photographer for a match. This is something I want to explore more as it's great for the club, their players and the players' families to have memories of their sons or daughters playing the beautiful game. I was down at Thornton YMCA covering the newly formed Thornton Cleveleys U9s Cobras in a mini-tournament, which they went onto win. Congratulations to the Cobras!
It was very different I must say from a photographers point of view as you aren't being as picky with the images that you are taking and then sharing with the club and national media outlets. It was more relaxed, it was more accessible in terms of getting close-ups of the team talks, focusing on players and coaches, whilst also making sure the key moments in matches were shot. Below are two images from the game, the first being a team photo, the second being an action shot from one of the three games.
Ola - who is the young footballer in the new Blackpool FC Third Kit - played her first match for the Cobras that weekend and scored 12 goals in just three matches. She also plays and trains with Blackburn Rovers Ladies team and what was great was to see her and another young girl play football with boys their own age. Women's football continues to grow and it's just great to see many play with a smile on their faces and play the beautiful game. Well done Ola and to all those who played matches across the United Kingdom this weekend. The future is bright for Women's football that's for sure.
Saturday 11 September came around quickly after the international break, and it was a trip to the AESSEAL New York Stadium for Fleetwood Town as they faced Rotherham United in Sky Bet League One. Again it was a day on the road, but thank god it didn't take 8-9 hours to get there like it did to Plymouth on the Bank Holiday Weekend. I arrived at the stadium at midday, and as part of my routine, I captured the atmosphere around the stadium, with shots inside and outside of the ground, as well as the number of fans who were wandering around waiting for the players to arrive on the official coach.
However, just as I arrived I received a phone call from my family. With our family dog Ollie at the vets due to not feeling himself, I had to hear the dreaded sentence that we were going to have to put him down. I didn't know how to react, I didn't know what to say, but all I could think about was how happy he made the family feel from the first time we saw him, right until his last breath. He will never be forgotten that's for sure and I want to dedicate this game to him - Sleep well Buddy, see you soon my furry friend!
Where do I start with the game? After what was a difficult first half for Fleetwood Town against Rotherham, I wasn't sure what to expect in the second 45 minutes, but wasn't I and the travel fans behind me in for a real treat. Having been 2-1 down at half-time, three goals were scored from Simon Grayson's team to seal a vital three points on the road against a side who are considers to be promotion contenders come May 2022.
Ged Garner, Danny Andrew and Callum Camps scored the second half goals after Callum Morton bagged one in the first half. Andrew celebrated right in front of me after scoring his second free-kick of the season, and it's fair to say it was a photographers dream to capture the pure emotion from the players and the fans in the away end. Below are a handful of images from the free-kick.
From what was a personally tough day for myself and my family, I was pleased to be in the right place at the right time to capture these frames from what I am sure will be an away game to remember for the club and the fans who made the trip across the Pennines.
Seven days later, I was packed and ready for a return to Highbury Stadium - the home of Fleetwood Town. Sunderland were the visitors this time round, and with one win over the Fylde Coast team, Lee Johnson - Sunderland's manager - wanted to make history by picking up their first away win at Fleetwood. But if you don't know already, it didn't quite go to plan for the Black Cats.
After 76 minutes when Sunderland playmaker Aiden McGeady converted from the penalty spot to make it 2-0, you'd have thought the former Premier League side would have seen the game out, but credit where credit is due, Fleetwood put their foot on the gas and made it a nervous last 10 minutes after Callum Morton scored from a tight angle inside the penalty area (first image in the gallery below). But that wasn't it. In the 95th minute, Morton was deemed to have been fouled inside the penalty area and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot. Could the Cod Army equalise with the last kick of the game and share the points? You guessed right, Ged Garner found the calmness and composure to send the goalkeeper the wrong way and send the home ends into euphoria with the celebrations you're about to see.
Having worked with some players whilst I worked at the club, and then now working from a photography perspective, the players seem to know where I am and it's important to have that relationship with the players and staff as you will get rewarded, and I felt these celebrations were a reward. Here's too many more celebrations like this in the future.
On the 25th September, it was a day trip to Cambridge United. The Abbey Stadium was a new ground for myself with it being the 68th out of the current 92 - which one day I hope to complete. I had just bought a new lens - the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM - and with the nifty fifty lens being my widest lens up to date, this was an eye opener and will now going forward give me more room for photos not just for football stadiums, but also for family / wedding events in the upcoming months. Here's one shot from the home of Cambridge United.
The game saw four goals all together, with Fleetwood taking the lead through highly rated defender, James Hill. I owe Hilly an apology as having switched ends at kick-off, I wasn't fully set up and only had my 300mm lens at hand so I missed his flip - I promised him next time I would be ready on hand to capture the whole celebration.
Cambridge scored two goals to take the lead, but it was left until just over ten minutes before the end for Paddy Lane - formerly at non-league side Hyde United - to curl one around the U's back line and place it into the top corner where no goalkeeper would have saved it. Congratulations to Hilly and Paddy for their first ever goals for the Club - here's to many more.
MK Dons was the last games of the month, and this saw the Cod Army back on the road. A four hour coach journey with the Fleetwood fans was an eye opener for sure but what a great time we had from start to finish. The (and I quote) "BEST MEDIA TEAM IN THE LEAGUE" had to do an initiation song, and I belted out a great rendition of 'Sweet Caroline' which I have to say got the whole coach singing and waving their arms around - We shall see if the Cod Army want another song sung on the next trip haha!
Let's not talk about the weather in Milton Keynes, but I got drenched. The first game in just under a year of doing photography that I have been like that. Despite all the covers and waterproofs, I looked like a drowned rat. Let's be honest, the weather didn't affect the quality on the pitch. Ged Garner bagged a brace in the first half with two wonderful close range finishes, however with the hosts winning 3-2 with moments to spare thanks to a Scott Twine hat-trick, it was time for one man to salvage a well earned point for Simon Grayson's men.
Dan Batty - formerly of Hull City - was brought on late in the game and scored his first goal for the Cods with a low driven effort just inside of the Dons 18-yard box. Dan did what all players should do and run towards the club photographer. It was a great way to end the match and made the journey back with the noisy cods an enjoyable one. Here's one images of the celebrations (and you can see on my 1/1250th of a second shutter how much the rain was pouring down!
I just want to say a big thank you for those who have read the first blog, and also those who have read through this monthly blog on my personal journey and also the matches that I was photographing for the club.
Here's to October and another month where I hope there are goals and more celebrations in my direction.
Sam Fielding / SLF-Studios
Photos owned by PRiME Media Images