Saturday, 5 March 2022

New S-Pulse Stadium - Ready for 2026


Time to crack those party poppers! News broke on Friday of plans for a new 25k+ stadium in the heart of Shimizu. Should all go according to plan, it's to cost ¥20 000 000 000 (£131,615,810, €159,448,413, US$174,210,148) will be financed by the city, prefecture, local business and donations, and be ready by 2026.

For comparison, G. Osaka's Panasonic Stadium, seating 40k and opened in 2015, cost ¥14 000 000 000. Noevir Stadium Kobe cost more at ¥23 000 000 000, seats 30k, but has a retracable roof. Kyoto's new stadium holds 21k, and cost a shade under ¥17 000 000 000. All are modern, comfortable stadia, around our budget.

Proposed site - slap bang next to Shimizu station
I've long said it: build it and they will come. We do well to get the crowds we do at our current home (which I love, Love, LOVE), but were we to have something more akin to those above, and easier to get to, our crowds would near double. It seems that time has come.


At least so far as serious consideration goes, a new home has been a point of discussion for the last decade. When I spoke to Ghotbi in 2011, he explained then of plans to leave Nihondaira. The topic has resurfaced from time to time (see Januray 2014, when Higashi Shizuoka station was mooted), but Friday's news was the first solid indication that things are in motion.


If you've not yet had the pleasure, you may look at Nihondaira and wonder why we'd ever want to leave. It's beautiful! The pitch is always immaculate, and the views across Suruga Bay - wow! 

If you're new here, I've talked about this plenty, and anyone else who has been will also tell you. It's a beautiful location. Once you get there. It's a great place to watch football. When the weather's nice.  

Nihondaira is home. Always has been, always will be, but you can easily point to issues limiting the club's ambitions. To name a few biggies: poor access, no roof coverage for most the ground, a lack of sufficient hospitality facilities.

Then there's tight concourses which quickly fill when busy, and especially so when it's raining. A capacity which, while not tested too often, for big games isn't enough; an issue that extends to media capacity and the like.

Finally, little things like cup holders on seat backs. Heck, seats in many areas don't even have backs, and some are just benches. Shizuoka may be football mad, but an afternoon at the match is still competing with a lot. Expectations for stadia have come a long way since the early 90s, and casual punters want all the above, and more. 

Despite its shortcomings, we'd not leave Nihondaira unless it was for something special. We've got reason to think Shimizu station will be just that.


Many of my readers will know, but if you've not yet visited Shimizu a scan over these pictures will show why the new location is too good to pass up.

Nihondaira is off the beaten track

There's a number of stadia around Japan within walking distance of a station, but by no means all. Nihondaira stretches "walking distance" to the extreme. It's possible, and we've all done it in the past, but are in no hurry to repeat the feat.

You're far better off getting a shuttle bus. But then there's the wait times, and the traffic jams after the game... 1st world problems these may be, but if there's the option to step off the train and be inside the ground in five minutes, it's a no brainer. To put it another way, you'll get off the train at Shimizu, and covered walkways (many of which already exist) will take you all the way to the ground.

View from Shimizu Station
Any discussion of a new stadium location always came with an asterisk attached. Mt Fuji is inextricably linked with the culture and identity of Shizuokans, and nowhere more so than those who follow Shimizu. The top of our badge is even modelled after Japan's famous peak.

The famous view of Mt Fuji from Nihondaira is not something S-Pulse fans want to give up lightly. Or at all, in fact. A stadium next door to Shimizu station will tick this box, and is a reason this location is so feted.


Aside from an ACL specification-meeting capacity of 25k+, no concept art or details are so far public. This is where we, for now, speculate.

Will it be a dome? Will it have a retractable roof? Will it retain Nihondaira's small distance to the pitch? Will there be landscaped gardens with cherry blossom lined pathways? For this last one, most certainly.

It will look nothing like this
Until we get some official art or details, the rest is very much unknown. Given where it is, we have space for something well-planned, beautiful, which fits in with the area, the character of our club and Shimizu itself.

The one previous artist impression we've seen was for the tiny site next to Higashi Shizuoka station. Aside from the transport links, I was never fully convinced by this location. By waiting we've landed a perfect spot, with limitless potential. It's going to be exciting seeing what they choose to do. I'm confident of the care and attention which will be behind this project. Whatever emerges over the coming months and years is going to be worth the wait.


With two major roads, the local Shizutetsu line, the Tōmei Expressway just over a mile away, and the interchange to the Shin-Tōmei Expressway a short distance east, even without Shimizu station next door, it's already far better served than Nihondaira.

The area around the station has undergone considerable development over recent years and, with a new ward office proposed to name one, more major work is expected. Not forgetting the shops, izakaya, karaoke and restaurants already ouside the station, or Shimizu Fish Market (GO!! The sashimi is incredible) over the road. A short ten minute walk south you also find S-Pulse Dream Plaza and Shimizu international port.

It's an area which is already doing well, but which will boom every other week should 20k+ fans descend for the footer, or for gigs, exhibitions etc. And picture the thousands of annual cruise ship visitors to Shimizu being greeted by a shiny new orange stadium bearing our name. Way to stamp our brand on their consciousness! 

The space around this brownfield site has plenty of potential for connected developments; commercial, residential or even just stadium parking for non matchday use. From an economical standpoint, it's easy to see why both the city and prefecture would back the plan.


I've seen Jubilo fans questioning the prefecture's involvement, but there's not much to justify here. You have to remember Ecopa was built by the prefecture, and it's Iwata who have gained far more from that venue. It's a 7 minute train ride from Iwata to Fukuroi (home of Ecopa), whereas it's over an hour from Shimizu. 

When locations for the stadium that would become Ecopa were shortlisted, Shizuoka City was a possibility. It wasn't chosen, and Iwata fans no doubt rejoiced at getting a brand new 50k stadium on their doorstep for free. Our proposed new ground is being funded only in part by the prefecture, and given what we've talked about, it's not hard to see why they would be behind it. The majority of the tab will still be picked up locally.


This is the announcement I've been waiting for since, honestly, I can't remember. To leave Nihondaira would be a huge wrench. We're lucky to call it home, and should we move to a new home down by the sea, that grand old lady will remain sat up in the foothills of the moutain range from which she takes her name. It would never be forgotten, and I'm certain we would continue to used it in some capacity. 

To grow as a club, to achieve our aims on the pitch, to keep new fans coming, and to make sure they stick around when they do, a beautiful new home with all modcons is the only way to go. If we've got the chance of one right in the heart of Shimizu, we have to grab it.

Tuesday, 1 March 2022

Shimizu Impulse? Falling for the J. League


This is a piece I wrote back in 2013 for a football website. A lot has changed since then, in the J. League, for S-Pulse, and for myself (and I'm sure for you!).  That website is no longer around, so I'm posting it here to make sure it's not lost to time.


November 2003, and I’m propping up a bar in downtown Shizuoka city.

- “Shimizu Impulse?”

Getting my team’s name wrong. An inauspicious start to my career as a J. League fan.

- “No, mate. Shimizu S-Pulse” my fellow Brit corrected me.  

- “Fair enough, but what the hell's an S-Pulse?”

- “No idea.”

Having moved abroad, the first thing I did – like any Englishman in need of football – was seek out my new local team – just something to fill in the Saturday afternoons while I was separated from my “proper” team. What followed wasn’t part of the plan. Thoroughly seduced by the J. League’s charms, the last decade has seen a vaguely interested punter evolve into a fanatical Shimizu supporter, replete with a minor level of celebrity at their Nihondaira home as “that foreign guy”. What was meant to be one quick year in Asia has extended to over a decade, down in no small part to that irresistible team in orange: Shimizu S-Pulse*.

Yesterday and Today

Think of the J. League and, if you’re Italian or Brazilian, you may think of Jubilo Iwata, the club Toto Schillaci and Dunga helped to claim several titles in the late Nineties. With Ossie Ardiles having been in charge during one of S-Pulse’s more successful spells, the Argentines amongst you might think of my own adopted team. As an Englishman, I always recalled Gary Lineker running around in the garish red and yellow of Nagoya Grampus Eight.

When I first stepped off the plane, the J. League was still only in its 12th year, but times had changed. The above image of Japanese football, one of ageing Western stars picking up a fat pay cheque in their twilight years, was already outdated. The reality is that few, if any, teams can currently afford the inflated wage demands of ready-to-retire superstars. You’ll find them more likely to head to China’s booming Super League or Australian’s A. League. The most recent big name to try out J. was Freddie Ljungberg in 2011. Life in Japan failed to meet his expectations and he was gone within six months.

The league soon passed beyond the initial boom, with economic conditions reaching a nadir in the late Nineties. The low after the high was sufficiently severe to see one team unceremoniously merged with another (I use the term loosely because, as any fan will tell you, Yokohama Flügels was effectively dissolved). However, boosted by the 2002 World Cup, the situation recovered and stabilized, and currently the J. League operates on a solid business plan, within the present financial realities. Slow and steady expansion has seen the number of teams reach 40, and a third tier is due to kick off next year.

These days, the biggest names are the returning heroes from abroad. Shunsuke Nakamura single-handedly added hundreds to the average Yokohama F. Marinos gate, and Shinji Ono shifted merchandise to rival that of any overseas star when he moved home from Germany. The time will eventually come for Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda to return, and whichever team shells out for their wages will rake in millions via merchandising appeal.

Up Nihondaira Way

Shimizu S-Pulse never had been one of the big players at bringing in foreign stars. Unlike the remaining nine of the original 10 clubs, S-Pulse was not an ex-company team turned pro. This meant lacking the clout of a multinational’s backing. Mitsubishi? Nissan? Yamaha? All spawned readymade teams for the new league, complete with multimillion yen backers. S-Pulse was established by local companies and people, never quite enjoying the same financial advantages. Rather than players, their most well-known names would come from within the managerial record. Ardiles, for example, was succeeded by former Spurs team mate Steve Perryman.

Unaware of any of this in April 2004, when I was heading up to Nihondaira Stadium for the first time, my naive images of former Serie A and Premier League names flooding the pitch were blasted out the water. But as it turned out, my first game – Shimizu S-Pulse vs Urawa Red Diamonds – was a corker. 2-0 down at half time, S-Pulse rode out 4-3 winners. The boys in orange had staged a fightback after which it would have been perverse not to fall in love with them.

Nihondaira, in common with many of Japan’s stadia, lacks adequate protection from the elements, so my next game was spent huddled under a plastic 100 yen umbrella, attempting in vain to avoid the effects of a raging typhoon. To top off that soggy evening, visitors Cerezo Osaka poked home a late winner. It mattered not. The seeds of a love affair had been planted at that seven-goal thriller.

UK Ultras?

I was instantly hooked on the huge flags and unrelenting samba, but above all it was the sense of freshness that was most captivating; a new team and a clean slate, a world away from my native Brighton’s third-tier struggles. New stadia to explore (including some which had been burnt into England’s consciousness during the Japan/South Korea World Cup), some wonderfully named opponents, and a refreshingly laid back attitude to alcohol – it proved an irresistible combination. Discovering it acceptable to bring your own drinks, I began arriving at the stadium earlier and earlier. The couple of hours before a game usually spent down the pub got transplanted inside the stand, with a six pack and a pack of cards. After all, the season largely avoids winter by running from March to December, providing no shortage of long summer evenings.

For the next few years I would drag not-especially-interested friends up Nihondaira to enjoy the sunshine, beer and football. The UK Ultras website and accompanying books and t-shirts have all come about more recently, and for that you can thank the hospitality of one young fellow named Takumi. His innocent greeting lit the fuse which ultimately led to a well controlled habit exploding into full-blown obsession. Foreign faces are not uncommon at Japan’s soccer stadia, but my repeated presence would lead locals to strike up conversation, curious to know what kept bringing me back. In 2008 it went a step further as Takumi-san insisted I join his group nearby. As luck would have it they were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and over the coming months we developed into a loose gang, calling ourselves the UK Ultras.

A website to document our adventures followed, but with Shimizu depressingly disinterested in global marketing, it became a window for the world into S-Pulse. With that in mind, the focus has shifted more onto publicizing the team worldwide. Now into our sixth year, the UKU fly the flag all over the country, trying to have some laughs while we’re at it. Not always easy when in those six seasons we’ve seen zero silverware and witnessed four cup semi final and three cup final defeats.

The idea of our own ultras troop was always tongue in cheek, but soon developed a serious edge. We’ve covered thousands of miles and spent countless games together, endured numerous no-score draws, occasional on-field heroics and enjoyed some unforgettable away days.  Having been absorbed into a group of regular fans, I’ve been permitted to experience the J. League from the inside. The experience has ensured my affiliation for S-Pulse strengthened beyond anything that went before. 10 years ago I wouldn’t have believed that my support for Brighton could face competition, but fortunately, barring an unlikely Club World Cup meeting, I’ll never have to choose between the two.

It may be the dynamic nature of football in Japan – new teams joining the league, extra divisions being added, the continued strides made by national team – but 10 years have passed in a heartbeat.  The longer I stay, and the more I travel the country with my horde, the stronger my affinity to my club and home city becomes. Trekking eight hundred miles to Sapporo to stand and shout for Shimizu is these days as much about representing my home town as it is supporting the team. It’s become much the same as following my team around England. The same, but different.

The J. League is worlds apart from football in England. The fans are different. Very different.  Yes, they do spend the whole 90 minutes singing, not even pausing for breath when they concede a goal. Yes, there is a lot of arm-waving and scarf-twirling, and yes there is a far greater mix of women and children in the crowd. Banter between home and away ends may be largely lacking – anathema to most European fans – but with three points for a win and one for a draw, ultimately how different can football really be?

Since the league began, a lot has happened. What was once an ageing stars’ retirement home now couldn’t be further from it. This is a fascinating league, with good and improving native players. The limits placed on non-Japanese playing staff are unlike anything that could exist within the EU, but they guarantee the protection and development of local talent. Japan reaching the last 16 in South Africa was anything but luck, and the complaints about a lack of competitiveness leveled at some top leagues cannot be directed at J1; in the last 10 years, seven different teams have claimed the title.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

When I first learnt of Shimizu, I’d have been incredulous at the idea of growing so wrapped up in their fortunes. It’s been a pleasure, but becoming involved to this degree brings with it an accompanying dilemma.  As time passes and the pull of my homeland grows stronger, at some point I will be forced to make a decision. Do I one day leave the team behind, deserting my brothers in orange, or do I elect to never regularly watch my old team again? This may well be the cause of sleepless nights to come.

As tough a quandary as it is, the UK Ultras are not about to fold up their flag any time soon. For starters there is the second half of 2013 to worry about. Right now we’re focused on enjoying the home games, covering as many away miles as possible and maybe, just maybe, someday seeing Shimizu claim their first J. League title. Recent finishes of ninth and 10th may not suggest it is coming soon, but an undeniable charm point of J1 is its unpredictability. Recent champions Nagoya, Kashiwa and Hiroshima can all be said to have emerged from relative obscurity to claim the title.

Early in my first season following Shimizu, I brazenly swore to stay in the country until I saw them lift the championship trophy. I may yet be here a while. But joking aside, S-Pulse have moved far beyond the point of novelty, and my life as a supporter in Shimizu has largely become football as usual, just in Japan. It’s an ongoing journey, and long may it continue.

*In case you’re wondering, S-Pulse is a combination of the ‘S’ from Soccer, Supporter and Shimizu, and the ‘Pulse’ of the city, beating to the samba rhythm of exciting football. Simple.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Jubilo Iwata 1-2 S-Pulse (Shizuoka Derby 1, 2022)



It's been a whiiiiiiile. 18 months. Time flies! It was inevitable that this site's usage would fall off as Twitter took over, but it's still a bit of a shame. Reviews of random games over the years are a great little time capsule (that crazy Kashima 4-3, having gone 2 down after 6 minutes? Don't mind if I do!), and you just don't get that scanning old tweets. Twitter is of course fantastic for real-time connections, and I can't now imagine watching games without following along with my S-Pulse brothers and sisters around the world. Love you all!

Certain occasions require a good old fashioned blog post though, and today's match is well worth remembering in a bit more depth. So here we go!

Attendance still limited to 20k and no singing

After Iwata's (2nd) extended break in J2, they returned this season to reignite one of the oldest, and best, rivalries in the J. League. We've missed it, and I'm sure they've missed it. A rivaly can be fierce, rough, and hard-fought, yet still be respectful and good natured. I mentioned this on Twitter, but it's worth expanding on. I see people getting upset when they see banter flying around, saying it's stoking hatred, not in the spirit of fair play. I'm not going to flat out tell someone they're wrong, but I wholeheartedly disagree. 

I know plenty of S-Pulse and Jubilo fans who love winding each other up and talking shit about their rivals, but they're the same people who will share a drink after, and work together when the chips are down. Yes, you get knobheads who use football as an excuse to be shitty people, but Derby Day banter is not the same thing. I only labour the point because while it may seem obvious to most people here, anybody else reading this will hopefully understand I'm not just some arsehole fanning the flames. Understand, even if they don't agree.

So what a fucking derby that was!!! Booooooom!!!!! Honestly, I may have been 7000 miles away, watching in silence (as much as humanly possible) at 4:30am, but I felt every moment of it. 

Suzuki's 9th minute belter had echos of his finish in last week's season opener. Placing the ball high over the keeper, while under pressure from a defender? He makes it look easy. Most would have shot low, or tried to go round, but Suzuki (Yuito) has a confidence he can back up with results. Top goal.

Nakayama uttaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Not to be outdone, Nakayama's winner was something special. I could waffle, but just check it out above. Before that, Iwata had drawn level more though luck than judgement. As the saying goes, you often make your own. When their Suzuki (Yuto) stretched out his leg to get on a long ball, it could have gone anywhere. It went in, over a wrong-footed, flapping Gonda. That took us to the break all square, which on balance was probably fair.

By the end of the second 45, we were deservedly in front, and had even blown a couple of chances to put the game to bed. Not that we needed to really worry. What the game will be remembered for after those two fine strikes and the S-Pulse win, will be Jubilo spectacularly imploding following Nakayama's goal.

Having calmed down from the in-game fervour, the first red (a second yellow) does seem a tad (quite a bit) harsh. Yamamoto clearly slipped, and his studs weren't facing Taki or owt like that. Jubilo fans will point to it as a turning point, but 4 minutes later Gonzalez saw a straight red for swinging his arm into the face of Suzuki (Yoshinori). Calling it 'clumsy' would be too polite.
After that we really should have scored a couple more, while Iwata for their part just got more frustrated and fouly. We'd been pressing them all game, and you could see their tension rising, even before the double red. It was all perfect Derby Day fodder, and another page in the growing Shizuoka Derby lore. They'll want revenge on October 1st, and so on it goes. For now, we're the only team in Shizuoka, and everyone in Orange is going to be smiling all week!
With that, Putin go fuck yourself, everyone else, happy S-Pulse Derby Day!

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Kawasaki Five-O


Let's not beat ourselves up too much about this one. As a Brighton fan, when we play away at Liverpool or Man City we know we're often on a hiding to nothing. The wealth and power gap of some leagues fortunately doesn't exist in Japan, but that's not to say some teams aren't a lot better than others. Kawasaki are currently very good, and we're currently one of the others. 

That said, this was still pretty poor in places.
Two of our goals were the direct result of farting about and making silly mistakes. Towards the end we threatened to switch off entirely. This really has to be addressed. 

We should have a scored a couple of times but didn't. Would it have changed the result? Probably not. Had it not been for Okubo in goal the score would have been higher earlier, so I guess he was a bright point.

Not going to dwell on this, because that's the boss's job. On Saturday we welcome Sun Kings, Kashiwa Reysol. I've always wondered how Kashiwa and Chiba, neighbours and rivals, both ended up wearing yellow. Answers on a postcard. Speaking of sunshine, it's a lovely morning, so I'm off to get me some some vitamin D.

Onwards and upwards! 

Thursday, 27 August 2020

So long, Tese (and the Yokohamas)


All things considered, Tese joining Niigata on loan was not a huge shock, but it's sad to see him go. It's no exaggeration to say in his time with us, the Korean has become one of S-Pulse's best. He's strong, he's a goal scorer, he's a leader, he's principled, and he's passionate. He's also one charming mofo. When I was lucky enough to receive a video greeting from players and staff on my wedding day, Tese's message was heartfelt, and genuinely funny.

He was a steamroller in his golden boot J2 season, and without him we'd have probably missed out on promotion. We were lucky to get him when we did, and retain him after that. You won't find me waxing lyrical about too many players, but Tese was an S-Pulse great, and he'll be missed.

As for the whys, it's easy to see the logic in Cklamovski's actions. We're in a transitional season, that's obvious. Nobody wants to lose matches, but if you're building for the following year and have the luxury of not worrying about relegation, why would you fall back on older players? Give the youngsters minutes, try things out, and create the team you want. Makes total sense.

Tese was never going to be happy warming the bench, so you can't blame him for wanting out. He loves Shizuoka and S-Pulse, and probably wanted to see out his career with us, but that's football. I doubt we'll see his return as a player, but he's up there with Okazaki, and will always be welcome. Good luck, fella!

S-Pulse 3-4 Yokohama FM / 2-3 Yokohama FC

Didn't see any of the YFC game, as we were driving back from deepest, darkest Suffolk (which was actually very nice). The unbeaten run is very much over, but if the YFM match was anything to go by, there's no need to panic. It's a transitional year after all, not a transitional few months.

The YFM game I watched with friends on location at our mini get-away, which included a mate's son. 

He's been an S-Pulse fan for the last few years, but Wednesday was the first time he got to watch us live. It echoed my first S-Pulse game, also a 4-3, but on that occasion we won. Wednesday may not have had the result we wanted, but if there was a choice between that and a 0-0 bore draw, I'm glad he got some excitement. It was entertaining, and up to the last few minutes really could have gone either way. Against the champions, can't really argue too much. 

Next up, away at Kawasaki, who are threatening to run away with it this year. We've discovered our scoring boots a bit more of late, but our leaky defence will be sure to get tested. What's the worst that could happen? Bring it on. :)

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

What Arano Said


If you read our previous post, you'll know I was far from enamoured with the way Arano carried on. I've been watching football a long time, but was genuinely surprised at his behaviour. Rough challenges and a bit of needle is one thing, but there's a level of fair play than generally underpins professional sport. What the Sapporo man did was ugly and childish.

Kaneko did have a joke with him after, and they were both all smiles, but things wouldn’t have been so chummy if the keeper had gone the right way. Kaneko tweeted the gist of the exchange:

“Lots of people have been asking what Arano said to me before the penalty. He was like “You’re putting it in the bottom right, aren’t you?” “Kaneko-kun’s* taking it?” “If you score this, how many's that for the season?” for up to a minute. LOL We’re not particularly acquaintances or anything, but after I scored he said “nice goal”.

*kun being an affectionate suffix usually reserved for young boys, or close male mates.

So appearances weren’t deceiving. He was trying to get under his skin and put him off. That's unsportsmanlike conduct, and that's against the rules. I’m not naive enough to think snide comments and distraction tactics don’t go on, but not as flagrant and bare-faced as this. Come on J. League. Crush this before it becomes a regular occurrence.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Urawa 1-1 S-Pulse 3-1 Sapporo - Back of the Net!


Urawa 1-1 S-Pulse
It's getting better man! Away at Urawa (speaking from memory now - it was a week ago) was a game of two halves. We may easily have gone in at half time with the lead, but didn't. Wastefulness in front of goal has been a bit of an issue this season, and it almost cost us another game. Almost, but didn't! We've been pretty great from set plays, and so it was from one that our deserved equaliser came. Valdo headed it home late on to send the empty away end crazy, and make it three unbeaten. No small potatoes given our start to the season.

We're not talking about the midweek League Cup game. 
S-Pulse 3-1 Sapporo
It's worth noting that while we lost our opening five, four of those teams currently sit in the top six. So the new-boss factor was, as it turns out, not made any easier by playing teams who begun the year strongly. We may not have realised it, but we were dealt a tricky starting hand. While we've seen results improve against more mid-table teams, that's not to take away from the better performances and the strides we've made. Simply put, we're playing better football.
Continuing in that vein, yesterday we welcomed Urawa's ex-boss Petrović and his Sapporo side to town, and rode out clear victors. Dodgy start to 2020 no doubt, but this is much more like it, and what we had shown flashes of earlier in the year.
Our 1st half stoppage time penalty was dispatched well, and done so despite some Consadole numpty (Arano, was it?) giving it more rabbit than Sainsbury's in Kanako's earhole beforehand. Not satisfied with that, he then got right in his face as he lined up to take it, and bellowed something as he struck it. Bloke needs to get a grip. An embarrassment to his team mates, who were actually doing their job by trying to defend the penalty.
1-0 at half time, and that cup of Bovril tasted a little bit sweeter. Second half continued as the first ended: open and balanced. Annoyingly a stonking freekick from Suzuki levelled things up 7 minutes after the restart. You may question Umeda's positioning, but the strike itself was quality, and annoying or not, 1-1 certainly wasn't unjust.
Tanaka's second yellow (one of seven for Sapporo) less than 20 minutes after coming on at half time certainly helped matters. The extra man showed, and as the game went on we had a number of good chances to regain the lead. Alas, it was a familiar, frustrating story. For our decent build up work or speedy countering, we just couldn't manage to breach the Hokkaido goal. Enter Renato, stage right. You've probably already seen it, but if not, here's the highlights. Renato's belter is at 5:08:

It was one of those you think that, with the strength he's cracked it, it's heading for the car park. Next thing you know though, the keeper's on the floor, his fingers stinging, the ball's in the goal, and your neighbours are wondering what the hell's so exciting at 12:30 in the afternoon. I hear the net's still receiving trauma counselling.
Carlinho's goal deep in injury time was the icing, and great for confidence. 2-1's a win, but 3-1's that bit more convincing. Deserved win. Four unbeaten. Better stuff from Pete's Dragons!

So yeah, things are getting there. I was sure we had potential despite the wonky start, and we're starting to show it. Work to be done of course, but there are reasons to be cheerful. Next up Kashima in the cup, but I think we're already out of that. Far more pressing is away at Sendai on Saturday who sit one spot above us in 13th. I'll be in the car, so won't be able to watch that one. Bit of a bugger, but there you go.

As the Consadole match was billed as the Thai Derby, if you think I can I sign off without completing a Partridge trifecta, you are sorely mistaken.
Have a smashing week!