Posts Tagged ‘ Birmingham Hammers ’

Magic City Brigade

NOTE: I recorded a podcast with Collin Barnwell, Vice President of the Magic City Brigade, the Birmingham Hammers’ Supporters Group ahead of the Atlanta Silverbacks/Birmingham Hammers game at Silverbacks Park. The recording didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped so I transcribed it. Enjoy.

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Collin, thanks for joining me. Talk about the formation of the Birmingham Hammers.

MCB Founder Forrest Collins and Hammers Founder Morgan Copes

Photo via Magic City Brigade

The club was founded in 2013 by Morgan Copes and John Killian. They played a non league season in 2015 and then joined the NPSL in 2016. (There is a great appearance by John Killian on Flakoglost podcast)

How did last season go?

Last year we didn’t do that great, only won two games but it was our first season. We had some first year woes, and fired our coach after the season. We hired another coach Wulf Koch, who is an experienced collegiate coach and has done very well at the University of Auburn at Montgomery. We’ve got a very charismatic coach who has a great staff. This year it’s looking up.

So the team is formed and then Forrest gets involved and the Magic City Brigade come to be. Talk about that.

Forrest started it in his dorm room. He enjoyed watching the Supporter Groups of Portland and Orlando and Seattle and figured if Birmingham was going to have a team, why not have a Supporters Group like that or one that mimics that style and choreography.

I got into the party a little late so to speak. I came to the Hammers in late 2014/early 2015. When I heard about Forrest and the Magic City Brigade I started coming out and joining them at events. 

Just been a work in progress ever since. Started as a couple of guys who wanted to watch the game together and is now formed into group that goes to matches home and away. We are Hammers supporters and we enjoy football, that’s the biggest thing.

Touching on that, I came to the first official game for the Hammers when they played Chattanooga FC in Birmingham. I reached out to you guys and joined you at the tailgate. Nice big spot to tailgate, and although the Chattahooligans were there and much bigger, they have a several year head start, but you guys were there, had some pizzas and some food and some beer, just hanging out. It was great.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that you guys had a great tifo for the first game. It had a couple of stars and smokestacks from the ironworks. Talk about that and your inspirations.

The tifo was a rendition of what makes Birmingham iconic and that would be Sloss Furnaces and the iron industry at the turn of the century. It displayed the stacks of Sloss Furnace and the Birmingham city flag, which is a tri-color flag, red/white/red with a red star in the middle of it and the seal of Birmingham. It was our take on that, and we got our first tifo done and we wanted to make it about the city and not about us.

The Hammers play at Sicard Hollow. There is no rigging, there are no barriers, there are just bleachers, there is nothing to unfurl as it were. However the facility has a nice hill in one corner and you guys staked the tifo down and it was up for the whole game, which I think is better, and at halftime I was able to get some pictures.

We were talking earlier about in tifo in general. You guys have a lot of DIY flags that are hanging on the fences of the facility. Talk about tifo for a fourth division club. How do you execute that?

There’s teams to look up to in the fourth division from a creative and inspiration standpoint like Chattanooga and Detroit City. All of our tifos are homemade. We buy the fabric at supermarkets, wherever we can find it, we buy the paint at the supermarket. It’s very free hand, very do it ourselves, it looks crude, it looks rough, but that’s who we are. We’re new to this, we’re not trying to make a publication out of this. We’re just doing things our way and people seem to enjoy it.

Going back to the first game, the Chattahooligans had close to a hundred fans and you guys didn’t have as many. I did like that you were on the opposite end of the field, little give and take, and you guys just did your thing. Had a nice big drum, a couple of chants, very organized. I like your attitude: we’re new, we’re trying and we do what we can.

Photo via Magic City Brigade

That’s one of the biggest things. We are not here to please the front office, we are not here to please other people. I have had several conversations with the owner and they have told me to stop bugging them with questions/permission about this and that. Everything about our club is very grassroots and it’s very do it yourself.

My wife and I live about an hour and a half north east of Birmingham, so we are not close and can’t get 30 people together to paint a tifo, so all the tifos that are constructed at my house are done on the kitchen table or the parking lot our apartment complex. All the others are done a combination of driveways and parking lots. It’s very do it yourself, get some dirt on your knees and paint.

Talk about 2017 season for the Magic City Brigade. Do you guys plan to have watch parties.

Being that streaming has become more of a thing for lower division clubs, we’ll probably have some watch parties for some our away games.

One thing I talk about with lower division supporters is that you guys get to travel. For Atlanta United, I get to go to one game this season, but for the other 16 I’ll be at a bar or home or whatever. For NPSL, especially the Southeast Conference, it’s pretty doable if you really commit you can go to every game.

I know for me, my plan is to attend about 85% of the away matches, with two of them being a six hour drive from my apartment, so it’s not feasible. If I had more resources I would go to all the games. The format makes it ideal for travelling and they are close drives. It’s very regional. That’s what I like. If you’re willing to commit to those seven to eight hour drives, you can go to every match.

We’re planning on having someone at every game, whether it’s one person or it’s like today here in Atlanta, it’s seven to ten of us. We will have at least one member of the Brigade at each game and that speaks volumes to who we are in the fourth division.

Let’s talk about the 2017 season. Who is in your division?

Southeast Conference is split into two division–East and West. The Birmingham Hammers are in the West with Chattanooga FC, Inter Nashville FC, Memphis City FC and New Orleans Jesters.

I know you’ve started blogging, done a couple of previews. What can fans or neutrals look for from the Birmingham Hammers this season.

I run a completely fan oriented blog, https://bhamhammersblog.wordpress.com/ and it’s a 100% fan take on the experience, so it’s completely biased. We had one fan from another team who said that the blog was not an accurate reflection and I told him yeah.

This season we are in better form than last season. With a new coach and a new staff who are chomping at the bit to get started. We had one preseason match and in that match we played the Alabama ODP team and they were excellent. I don’t know how ODP teams are across the country but they were quality and we beat them 6-0. I don’t think that’s 100% comparable to the NPSL but this season I can see us making the playoffs. We have to win our home games and get some points and I think that’s doable.

Who are some players to watch out for?

Photo via Birmingham Hammers

Our keeper Bradley Louis. He’s been with us for three seasons.

Photo via Birmingham Hammers

We also have a new face, Jorge Delgado. He’s a forward who played at Mississippi College, and his career stats are impressive.

So expectations for the season? What would you be happy with?

I really don’t care what the record is. It’s bringing amateur soccer to Birmingham. I could see us winning every game but also I could see us dropping a couple.

How can readers find out more about Magic City Brigade and the blog.

We are on facebook and twitter (@MCBrigade14). You can find me on twitter (@BhamForeman) and the blog is https://bhamhammersblog.wordpress.com/.

I’ve been joined by Collin Barnwell from the Magic City Brigade and we have been tailgating before the Atlanta Silverbacks/Birmingham Hammers game. Collin, thanks for taking a couple of minutes to talk and have a great season.

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The Birmingham Hammers defeated the Atlanta Silverbacks 2-1.

Scarf Collection

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I’ve become a groundhopper, not to the extent of Paul Gerald or Peter Miles or Tony Incenzo, but I take pics, talk to people and write posts about teams, supporters and venues in the United States. But what about swag? As a big kit nerd, the obvious choice would be to get a shirt at each match, but that strategy has a couple of problems: 1) not every team has a merch store or even jerseys for sale; 2) at $55 to $100 a pop, a one stop/one shirt policy could get pricey; and 3) where would I put them all? I don’t have a mancave (yet) and as much as I would love to wear a different jersey every day, society and my workplace frown upon that.

So my solution has been to pick up a scarf at each game I attend. This strategy has paid off in several ways. Scarves are almost always available at games, and if not, readily available on club websites. Plus at $25 to $35 each, this is the better option financially. On top of that, scarves are packable and easy to display.

Here is my current collection:

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Favorite Teams

Manchester United–The club team I have been supporting for 20 years. One day I will make it to Old Trafford. C’mon you Reds!!

US Soccer–I have seen several US games over the years , and I continuing to engage my own country instead of wishing I was Croatian or Dutch or almost anything else.

Atlanta United–MLS club kicking off in 2017. I’m a season ticket holder and can’t wait for the team to launch and play their first game at Mercedes Benz Stadium.

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Groundhops

Seattle Sounders–One of my first trips and had an awesome time.

Chicago Fire–Used to watch them at Soldier Field. Saw the new home out in the middle of nowhere.

Portland TimbersStood with Timbers Army in a very unique environment.

Columbus CrewSaw one of the first games at this Soccer Specific Stadium and have been several times since.

FC DallasAnother facility out in the middle of nowhere but Dallas Beer Guardians more than made up for it.

DC UnitedGot to see DC United at RFK before they move to the new ground.

Houston DynamoAmazing venue and hopefully the team returns it past glory.

Atlanta Silverbacks–Former NASL team playing in NPSL, I have been to many games and worked for the Reserves team.

Charleston Battery–Fantastic USL team with great supporters playing an intimate venue filled with soccer memorabilia.

Lansing United–The club launched the summer before I left Lansing and is doing things right on and off the pitch.

Detroit City FC–My first taste of real supporter culture. It has been wonderful keeping an eye on this team from the first days.

Nashville FC–Vanderbilt Stadium wasn’t the greatest venue but wonderful fans.

Chattanooga FC–Love going up to Chattanooga. Real passion behind a successful NPSL club.

Birmingham Hammers–Met some fired up supporters for the Hammers’ first season. Looking forward to going back.

Georgia Revolution–Under new ownership, this club is providing players a stepping stone to next level.

Knoxville Force (Scruffy City Syndicate)–Growing club with ardent supporters, playing right in downtown Knoxville.

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Miscellaneous

Juventus–Fell in love with Alessandro Del Piero and followed the bianconeri until I decided to focus my soccer supporting efforts.

MSU Spartans–Went to many a game at DeMartin Stadium during my time in Lansing.

World Cup 2022–My wife won this in a raffle. It’s the scarf from the US 2022 World Cup bid.

American Outlaws Atlanta. I love hanging out with these passionate supporters of US Soccer.

Terminus Legion 2015–Joined this Supporter Group at the intersection of Atlanta and Soccer in 2015 after moving to Atlanta in 2014.

Terminus Legion 2016–Re-upped and run the soccer team and host the Terminus Legion podcast.

The General–Special edition summer scarf produced by Terminus Legion to celebrate the history of Atlanta.

Soccer in the Streets–An amazing organization that brings soccer to underserved youth in Atlanta. Just launched Station Soccer, a pitch on top of a transit station.

Castleberry Hill AC–An organization looking to use soccer to improve their community. Currently trying to build Old Trenholm in the shadow of Mercedes Benz Stadium.

 

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Top three scarves I have come across. . .

fire-scarf

I usually buy the team scarf at each match but when I was at the Chicago Fire tailgate, I saw people walking around this scarf and knew that I had to have it. The scarf tweaks the Chicago city flag, using navy blue bands to frame the edges instead of the sky blue and then uses the four red stars through the middle. Great looking piece.

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While standing with Timbers Army, I spotted a Battlestar Portlandia. Having just come out of my Battlestar Galactica geek phase, I really loved the merging of pop culture and sport. Doubt I will ever get my hands but one of these but a really slick design.

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A scarf from Detroit City FC’s inaugural season is one of my favorite scarves. All the design elements come together, with of color scheme of rouge and dark yellow, a clean font and the argyle print adding a wonderful touch. DCFC has absolutely crushed it from a brand and merch perspective from day one.

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If you want to see a real scarf collection, visit Kenny’s Football Scarves. He has over 2000 pieces organized by league and region.

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Read more about my groundhops and supporter group interactions at the SoccerNomad blog. Also check out the SoccerNomad podcast, which focuses on Supporter Groups and kit design. Finally follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Summer of Soccer

Another busy, wonderful, hot summer is in the books. 2016 truly was the summer of soccer with Copa America Centenario, Euro 2016, and the Olympics, plus all the levels of US Soccer in season. Here’s a quick look back at my summer.

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(photo courtesy of Forrest Collins)

May saw me check another team off of the list. I headed to Birmingham to see the Hammers first ever NPSL home game. They hosted Chattanooga FC and fell 1-0, but something special is in place both for the team and the supporters group Magic City Brigade.

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(photo courtesy of Atlanta Manchester United Supporters)

The following weekend was exhausting as I watched the FA Cup Final at Fado Midtown with the Atlanta Manchester United Supporters and Crystal Palace ATL. An amazing crowd and a thrilling victory for the Reds. Voice gone, memories made.

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(photo courtesy of Soccer in the Streets)

The next day was the Atlanta Champions League, a fundraiser for Soccer in the Streets. I played with Madridistas ATL and while the results didn’t go our way, we had a great day.

The month wrapped up with the Champions League Final, which I watched downtown at Bottle Rocket with my friends from Castleberry Hill. Real Madrid secured Una Decima on penalties with CR7 sealing the victory.

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Started June by taking in another NPSL games. Larry and I headed to Knoxville for the Force against Nashville FC. A spectacular goal won the three points for the hosts and earned them a Volunteers Shield win as well. Despite the weather, we had a great time and met some great people.

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(photo of Alex Quispe)

Big tournaments on two continents kicked off, with the United States hosting Copa America Centenario and France welcoming Euro 2016. Work got in the way and I tried to catch as much as I could. Besides watching the summer tournaments at home, I was able to catch games at Rose and Crown and even got to watch Germany v Italy at Der Biergarten with Mia San ATL. I watched the final of both competitions at Fado Buckhead with hundreds of soccer fans.

With the Euros and Copa America in full swing, Erin and I joined Terminus Legion at Wild Heaven Brewery and then went to the Georgia Revolution/Knoxville Force friendly in Conyers. It was a full day of beer, Panini sticker albums, fellowship and footy.

Saw the Revolution again the following weekend against the Atlanta Silverbacks at Silverbacks Park. The Silverbacks won the game and eventually made it all the way to the Regional Semi Finals before losing to Miami FC.

I celebrated five years of the SoccerNomad blog in July. Hard to believe it’s been that long. The blog has seen several changes in terms of frequency and topics but two topics are always on tap: memories and kits.

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(photo courtesy of Lariana Michelle Photography)

Towards the end of the month, I was lucky enough to be part of the organizing committee for the first ever #ATLSoccerCon. This event brought together soccer fans from around Atlanta andthem  a chance to look at kits, play Subbuteo and hang out. The afternoon was highlighted by a Meet and Greet with the US Paralympic National Team. Photos here.

The month ended with the MLS All Star game in San Jose. Terminus Legion got together at Rose and Crown to watch the Gunners defeat the best of MLS 2-1.

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August saw the Terminus Legion soccer team win their first ever playoff game in the Sons of Pitches Sunday Supporters League. We defeated LFC Atlanta in the quarter finals after a penalty shootout. Unfortunately we lost in the next round but another great session for the team. Later that month, European soccer started back up and I watched the Community Shield with the Manchester United Supporters of Atlanta the Brewhouse.

A great summer of footy action and looking forward to another great season. Have a couple of trips in the works so look for posts on those.

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Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.

Hammer Down

mcb post game

(Pic courtesy of Magic City Brigade)

Imagine. Imagine your first event. Imagine hosting a notable guest. Imagine a perfect night.

For the Birmingham Hammers Saturday night was another step in their journey to bring professional soccer to the Magic City. The club was founded in 2013 and after playing friendlies over the last couple of years, the club was accepted into the National Premier Soccer League, and is part of the Southeast Conference along with Chattanooga FC, Memphis City FC, Nashville FC, Knoxville Force and New Orleans Jesters.

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May 14, 2016 was their first ever NPSL game and the Hammers hosted Chattanooga FC. CFC is one of the most successful teams in the NPSL, consistently challenging for conference and league titles. On top of that, they are supported by the Chattahooligans, a group that has gained a reputation for vocal, entertaining and passionate support and must be seen to be believed.

I touched based with the Magic City Brigade, the supporters group of the Hammers, in the days leading up to the match and got the low down on the group and the tailgate. My wife and I made our way to Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex, which is a really nice facility but not the easiest to find. Tucked away in a corner of Vestavia Hills, make sure you bring your map app/device on your trip.

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The complex is quite nice with several pro turf fields. Fans are allowed to sit on a hill behind one of the goals, which is further supplemented by a walkway so that fans can stand and watch the game from a higher vantage point. Most fans sat in the stands along one side of the field and were filled with fans of all ages and bracketed by the two supporters groups. A stand alone press box allows the media an excellent view of everything and being relatively close to the action.

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(Pic courtesy of Forrest Collins)

Forrest Collins, founder and President of MCB, introduced himself once we arrived. After trading scarves, we had a quick chat ahead of the match. Everyone made their way to the field and MCB was in fine voice. Several of their number lead the cheers along with drums and a cowbell.  Small in number, they make up for it in noise and enthusiasm.

As for the match itself, Chattanooga really showed their experience. CFC took advantage of a corner midway through the first half to go up 1-0 and that’s all they needed. Hartley was rarely challenged goal as the Hammers had a difficult time finding much success in the final third. Birmingham certainly has some weapons and I thought #7 Karl Chester and #17 Kevin Francis could cause problems for future opponents. CFC were well organized and very clear and how they wanted to attack and consistently got into good positions but the Hammers’ rearguard held firm.

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In the end, the Hammers did not get the perfect ending but gave a good account of themselves and look to have a solid foundation from which to build.

Additional Resources

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Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.