Starting XI: Two Men in Search of the Beautiful Game

Welcome to a continuation on the regular series on The 94th Minute, called “Starting XI”. This is where I ask various people, who are fans of football, a number of questions to get to know them better! The majority of the questions will differ for each person, but the final question will always be:

“Who would be in your all-time, favourite starting XI?”

This is a question where anyone can be put into their starting eleven, whether they are famous footballers, football legends, past or unknown players who had an impact on their childhood, or even players they have played with or coached. Anyone is acceptable in their XI providing they give a reason for their inclusion!

The twenty-sixth instalment of the series is with the excellent YouTube groundhopping channel, Two Men in Search of the Beautiful Game. The ‘two men’, Dan and Tom, travel around the lower leagues of the English football system, producing videos and blogs about their groundhopping travels, as well as introducing the clubs to new audiences. In addition, they provide great highlight packages of the games they watch.

BeautifulGame15

I wanted to know how they got started with it all concerning the groundhopping and vlogging, what have been their favourite groundhops so far, the strangest things they have encountered on their search, their plans for the future with the channel, and their all-time, favourite eleven players.

To see their latest groundhopping video, when their search led them to Long Buckby AFC against Lutterworth Athletic (great team names), the video can be seen below:

 

Q. Firstly, thanks very much for being a part of my Starting XI series! How did you guys first get into groundhopping, and then eventually branch out into blogging and vlogging?

DAN: Well thank you for having us, it’s a pleasure! As far as groundhopping, vlogging and blogging is concerned, it all happened by accident.

Five years ago, Tom & I wanted to watch some football together, other than the North London derby. I’m Spurs and Tom’s Arsenal, so something a little less stressful! We found a local team, one that neither of us had ever heard of, one we had no allegiances to, and here we are.

BeautifulGame15
Dan and Tom, the dynamic duo behind #BeautifulGame15 [IMAGE: Taken by @andythephoto, courtesy of @BeautifulGame15]

Tom’s a keen photographer, I’ve always had aspirations to write, so it really came from that. The videos were a later addition, Tom was pushing for us to do them for ages, I couldn’t believe anyone would want to watch us.

TOM: Dan is a Spurs fan, and I am an Arsenal fan, and we always complained that we never had the chance to watch football together apart from when we played each other, so we decided to find a non league team that we could support together. Then we decided we should document the journey to find one. So we started with me taking photos, and Dan writing the blog. Then over the years we decided to make videos also.

 

Q. How would you describe your excellent blogs & vlogs to anyone who have unfortunately not read or seen them yet?

DAN: Some may say fortunately! I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask. I guess we just do our best to capture the characters, the location, the people, the feel of the club we are visiting.

It’s basically two blokes struggling with a raffle and cheese burger addiction, plus a bit of football.

TOM: We try to give a ‘fly on the wall’ style look at each club we go to. From the changing rooms, to the fans, the board rooms, and to the match itself. We try to show as much of the club as possible, not just the match.

 

Q. How do you plan which grounds you intend to visit, and what is your routine when you arrive at a ground in preparation for filming a game?

TOM: Dan normally finds the games we go to. When we arrive at the ground, we always introduce ourselves to the club representatives, and find out what we can film and what we can’t. Then we always head to the changing rooms first to film the intro. From there, we explore the ground.

BeautifulGame15 - Horsing Around
Just horsing around… [IMAGE: Courtesy of @BeautifulGame15]

DAN: We are not very organised at all. Family and work really dictate when and where we can go, so it’s hard to plan to far in advance. A mixture of the Futbology App (formally Groundhopper App) and the The London Football Guide, help us find out what’s on.

When we first arrive at a club, there are a few things we always try and film, but we try and mix it up a little bit, so it’s not to repetitive for our viewers. I’m not sure how well we do at that if I’m honest, hahaha.

 

Q. From all of your journeys so far, which one has been your favourite groundhop and why?

DAN: Blimey there have been so many! It can be hard to pick just one! I think off the top on my head, and it changes daily, but I think it has to be the National League North Playoff Final in 2017 at FC Halifax Town.

BeautifulGame15 - FC Halifax Town
The atmosphere at FC Halifax Town [IMAGE: Courtesy of @BeautifulGame15]

Unreal ground and fans. Loads of flags, pyro, and a game with so many highs and lows. Unforgettable!

TOM: We have been to so many grounds that it’s hard to choose, but one of my favourites would definitely be AFC Wimbledon. We went to them a long time ago and it’s a place that I’ve always wanted to go back to. It was a really fun day out and a great game. The fans were great and the ground had that ‘old English’ feel to it.

BeautifulGame15 - AFC Wimbledon
Wombles of AFC Wimbledon [IMAGE: Courtesy of @BeautifulGame15]

Q. In your opinion, what is the oddest or strangest thing you have encountered during your journeys?

TOM: We have seen all sorts at football but we went to a game recently and there was a dog in a pram wearing clothes. That’s certainly up there.

DAN: Easy, a dog in a pram! In fact, we have seen that twice!

BeautifulGame15 - Dog in a Pram
Just a dog casually chilling out in a pram… [IMAGE: Courtesy of @BeautifulGame15]

Q. Going around the various grounds in the leagues, how do you feel the situation in the lower leagues currently is? Do you think there is reason for optimism, or are clubs really struggling out there?

TOM: This is a tricky one as it changes from club to club. We have definitely seen clubs that are really struggling, and there’s a few out there that have a rich owner and are financially very stable, but it you compare them to league teams, then they are worlds apart. I would say though that I certainly feel that each year more and more people are turning to non league football.

DAN: It’s such a mix. Some clubs are seemingly thriving, big fan bases, lots of ambition, plenty of promise for good times ahead.

On the other side of the coin though, we go to plenty of clubs and wonder, how do they carry on? The crowds are tiny, which in turn means the facilities are crumbling. We leave places saying to each other, “will there be a club here for much longer”?

BeautifulGame15 - Pyro
There’s passionate support in the lower leagues in spite the club’s situation. [IMAGE: Courtesy of @BeautifulGame15]

Q. If there was anything you could change in football, what would it be and why?

DAN: The distribution of wealth. If the big boys could just share a bit, things would be so much easier, so less fraught for so many clubs.

TOM: It has always amazed me that there is still racism in football. Luckily we haven’t witnessed any, but we do hear stories.

BeautifulGame15 - Steps
Football should be FOR EVERYONE! [Image: Courtesy of @BeautifulGame15]

Q. What grounds or fixtures you guys would love to visit in the future?

DAN: There are far too many to mention! We’d really like to go to Scotland, and having not been to a game in Europe for ages, a weekend in Germany again is long overdue.

TOM: I would love to travel the world more to watch football. We have been to a few European countries, but I would love to go watch some football in Italy.

BeautifulGame15 - German Football
Watching more European football is the plan for the gents. [IMAGE: Courtesy of @BeautifulGame15]

Q. What are the future plans for #BeautifulGame15? Will we be seeing any international groundhop vlogs?

DAN: No grand plans at the moment. Just continuing to try and produce what we are doing already, to as high as a standard as we possibly can.

TOM: We just take it one game at a time and try to keep the channel growing. So try not to plan too far into the future, but yes, definitely more international football.

 

Q. If you could give advise to anyone wanting to start groundhopping and/or blogging or vlogging, what advice would you give them?

TOM: Pick games and clubs that you are going to enjoy and have fun at. Don’t try and fit in too many games in a season. It’s very easy to get burnt out and over do it.

Know your limits! There is a lot involved with making videos and editing.

DAN: I think with things like the Futbology App, groundhopping couldn’t be easier.

Start local! The first club we ever went to, was 10 minutes from where we both grew up and neither of us even knew it was there. You will be amazed at what you can find on your doorstep, especially if you go to watch non league football.

The blogging and vlogging side of things, I think is all about finding an angle that interest you, something you are passionate about and sharing that enthusiasm.

BeautifulGame15 - Passion
There has to be passion! [IMAGE: Courtesy of @BeautifulGame15]

Q. Finally, who would be in your all-time, favourite Starting XI and the reasons for your picks?

DAN: Having both lost of our Dad’s recently, I think they would both have to play, although I’ve no idea if they were any good at football.

I imagine Tom’s Dad was, so he can be captain in central midfield, my Dad was a bit wiry and a decent middle distance runner, so he can go on the right wing.

BeautifulGame15 - 2 Dads
The gents’ dads who would make exceptional additions to the team! [IMAGE: Courtesy of @BeautifulGame15]

Considering who we follow, I’d probably go for an Arsenal/Tottenham mash up, playing 3-5-2. With a subs bench to make your eyes water.

Dan’s Starting XI (Formation: 3-5-2)

Starting XI - BeautifulGame15 - Dan
Dan’s all-time, favourite eleven players.

Goalkeeper: David Seaman

Seaman in goal, because of that penalty save against Spain at Euro 96, and forgetting that free kick against Brazil.

Defence: Tony Adams, Ledley King & Gary Mabbutt

A back three of Adams, King and Mabbutt. SOLID!

Midfield: Tom’s Dad, Luka Modrić, Dan’s Dad, David Ginola

A midfield of Tom’s Dad, a ball winning box-to-box kind of captain, and Luka Modrić. My Dad on the right wing, up and down all game, with David Ginola on the left. You’ve got to have a bit of flair!

Attacking midfield: Dennis Bergkamp

Playing just behind the forwards in the number 10 role would have to be Bergkamp.

Forwards: Harry Kane & Thierry Henry

A front two of Harry Kane & Thierry Henry.

Substitutes: Gareth Bale, Paul Gascoigne, Pat Jennings, Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira.

 

Tom’s Starting XI (Formation: 3-5-2)

Starting XI - BeautifulGame15 - Tom
Tom’s all-time, favourite eleven players.
  • Goalkeeper: David Seaman
  • Defence: Roberto Carlos
  • Defence: Tony Adams
  • Defence: Paolo Maldini
  • Central midfield: Patrick Vieira
  • Central midfield: Emmanuel Petit
  • Attacking midfield: Lionel Messi
  • Attacking midfield: Dennis Bergkamp
  • Attacking midfield: Thierry Henry
  • Forward: Diego Maradona
  • Forward: Me

 

A massive thank you to Dan and Tom for answering my questions and for being absolutely superb guest in Starting XI. They were one of the very first names on my list to interview when I first started this series, so I am glad it could finally be done in the end. I am a massive fan of their groundhopping videos! Also I am loving the choices for their teams, with the inclusion of their late fathers being a really lovely touch!

To find out more about #BeautifulGame15 and their superb videos and blogs, the links to their blogsite, YouTube channel and social media accounts can be found below:

To read or catch up on the previous Starting XI episodes, they can all be found at the following link HERE.

If there you have any feedback, comments or suggestions who I should interview next in the series, let me know either below in the comments box, tweet me @The94thMin or email me at the94thminute@gmail.com! It would be good to hear what you think about the series, and what have been your favourite episodes so far!

Finally, I am currently in the depths of doing a charity challenge of staying sober for the entirety of 2020! It’s not easy but I am hoping to raise a lot of money for the mental health charity, MIND. So if you would like to see how I am progressing in my challenge, or even be kind enough to add a donation, the link is here:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/the94thmin2020 

Diolch!

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