View from the boardroom

Late last week I spoke to a couple of Step 3-6 managers to find out their views on the quietness from the leagues and FA over what is happening to their season.

This weekend I caught up with Lee Robson, the chairman of Thurlow Nunn Premier Division leaders Wroxham FC, to ask him how the club have faired over the lockdown period, whether provisions should have been made for the scenario we’re in and what it will feel like when the Yachtsmen are back on the pitch:

TK: Have you been able to keep the club ticking over in these times without football income and more importantly ensure the club is here for the future?

LR: We were really lucky in the sense that we entered the latest lockdown on the back of our FA Vase run which gave us the cushion of cash in the bank, not every club has been that fortunate.

I think my job helped as well as I work for the local council and I could see that the pandemic was going to be severe and we were in for a long haul. We immediately took steps to make the savings that we needed to but were also on the front foot when it came to making sure we could apply for any financial help that was available.

Ironically, the series of lockdowns helped us prepare better in some ways and in fact we have taken the time to invest in parts of the ground including a new irrigation system, have upgraded the showers and we will shortly be building an extension for our catering operation.

Most of this has been funded by the Covid-19 related financial assistance and of course we don’t have any full time players that we need to keep paying nor indeed have to furlough.

The hardest part has been to try and keep people connected and occupied and our team managers have been doing a brilliant job on that, right from our six year olds through to the first team.

Longer term the worry is how many income streams we will lose from match day raffle, business sponsorship through to junior tournaments, although the evidence of this season suggests that gates will be significantly up.

TK: Do you think that there should have been almost an emergency rulebook to apply for the situation we find ourselves in now?

LR: The first time around it was understandable that people were not prepared for what was happening, whether that was leagues, players, clubs or even the FA’s themselves as even the best contingency plans were redundant from day one.

There was little option at the time other than to null and void the season as there were too many unknowns and risks. I think the second wave was predictable and maybe an emergency rulebook is a little too black and white and not able to take in the uncertainties that the whole pandemic threw up, but a series of thought out plans would have been wise.

That said I don’t believe clubs should be put in the position to make decisions as clubs are all in different situations depending on cash flow, commitments, and league position when the season was suspended this time around.

The FA nationally and locally need to show some leadership, which out of necessity will mean balancing out the interest’s and whats best for football in general.

There are bound to be some winners and losers whatever happens, it’s just a shame that these things can’t be sorted out on the pitch.

TK: How good is it going to feel when Wroxham FC take to the pitch again and football is back?

LR: It’s going to be brilliant when we get football back again. I popped down to the ground this week to help set up a new PA system and it was a hive of activity of work going on, but it’s all a bit pointless without something going on on the big green thing in the middle.

We all miss it terribly and if we just wanted to push paper around or tidy up bits of grass then we would have done something else with our spare time. It’s the beautiful game but like most beautiful things it’s also highly addictive.

Managers have their say

Adam Hinshelwood (left) and Richard Styles (right)

It’s been a little while since there has been much else to blog about apart from the National League on-going saga and the trials and tribulations of Barnet FC! It makes for some reading I agree but the non-league game we know extends further than that.

And for that reason alone I’ve asked around a couple of managers this week to get some perspective on Steps 3-6 which operate underneath the National League divisions as it feels a little bit like they’ve all been pushed to the side somewhat, not that I disagree the NL gets its limelight it’s the full time for a lot of people.

The beauty of our football pyramid is the fact we go down to so many levels beyond the top divisions and there is a lot of opportunity to progress up the ladder.

Last season of course clubs at those step levels saw their season suspended in March and finished as null and void just a few weeks later. Now less than twelve months later those same clubs find themselves in the same situation despite having completed less games this time around.

Whilst we’re in territory we hoped wasn’t going to happen, there are a lot of ways in which things can help clubs still be in existence for a new season later in the year if the null and void does instead come into force over the coming weeks. Grants have been made available for clubs at this level which should enable them all to get through until the season starts again for 2021/22.

There is reason however to believe that just maybe there will be a resumption if restrictions are lifted in March to complete something in some form in some shape, as vague as that might be, everything is still up in the air and could be for a few weeks longer.

Earlier this week I caught up with Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood whose side were for the second year running leading the Pitching In Isthmian League Premier Division and Tunbridge Wells manager Richard Styles, the Wells very much in the thick of it at the top of the Southern Counties East League Premier Division. Both managers gave me their views on what might happen over the coming months and how vital funding is to keep these clubs alive.

TK: Do you feel Steps 3-6 have disappeared a bit under the radar at the moment?

AH: Yes I do. I sympathise with the leagues and the FA as we are in difficult times right now but I did feel they jumped on their decision to null and void last season a bit hastily. Maybe a two weekly update would be good just to know what they are thinking, obviously it might not work as circumstances around the country are changing so quickly at the moment.

TK: What is your gut feeling in terms of what might happen and do you think we might see a stand off for a few weeks until the National League is resolved despite it might not having a bearing on the outcome for Steps 3-6?

AH: I can’t really see fans back for some time yet unfortunately, so this would make it impossible for us to play at Step 3 level which leads itself towards another null and void season. They may wait to see what the National League decide to do in the next couple of weeks before confirming anything but as I said already I would just like to know where we stand.

TK: How welcome is it though that Step 3-6 clubs have access to funding to help them survive and be here in the future?

AH: It’s a massive bonus to all clubs, I think so many would struggle and local clubs can be the real hub of the community and a place where the whole area can meet and socialise when safe to do so. These clubs are a big part of so many people’s lives so to keep as many of them going as possible is a massive positive.

Styles is also concerned at the lack of communication coming from above and like Hinshelwood feels null and void is the likely outcome to the season:

TK: With the National League fiasco taking centre stage, do you think the rest of non-league has been pushed to the side and almost forgotten about?

RS: The National League has gotten a lot of media attention lately which is right as they are at the top of the pyramid and have a lot of full time members in the divisions. Filtering down there hasn’t been a lot of movement nor communication recently from the FA through the league’s leading to a lot of assumptions as to what is going to happen.

Like anything we’re waiting I think for the National League to sort themselves out and it will then filter down to the leagues below.

TK: Despite the difference in what happened last time around do you think if the National League continues there is a chance Steps 3-6 will do the same or do you feel null and void is set to happen again?

RS: The National League seem to have a financial complication which is causing part of their issues in continuing or not. In terms of steps 3-6 there is already a financial grant I believe we can apply for. Given the time away clubs, staff, and managers have had away from football I can’t see anything other than null and void happening at steps 3-6 to be honest.

TK: If we do go null and void once again would you hope that there are better plans put in place should the game ever find itself in this position again?

RS: It would be helpful for everyone to have a plan or protocol in place for the future should anything like this ever happen again for sure. It’s difficult for the FA to decide how to complete the season in these situations and you’ll never please everyone.

The fairest way possible is with as much communication and guidance as they can give rather than the area of the unknown.

Whilst the National League situation is descending into a farcical situation on a daily basis the FA remain quiet on where they are up to currently, we can only presume they have all the information into them now, you can just hear the silence however……………

Chambers: The vibe around the club has been pretty positive

Photo courtesy of Brendan Kemp and Rusthall FC

Last week I caught up with Rusthall Reserves manager Lee Chambers whose side play just two divisions below their first team in the Kent County Football League Division One to find how the current situation affected their club being inside what was then a Tier 3 area:

TK: How has it been at Rusthall FC this month given the excitement of lockdown lifting tempered by Kent going into Tier 3 (at the time of interviewing) meaning no competitive football?

LC: The vibe around the club has been pretty positive as the lads were excited to return to training and have a small amount of normality back in their lives. It’s been a stop start season so far and with competitive football on hold at the moment due to the tier restrictions we had lined up a couple of friendlies to keep the lads fitness ticking over.

TK: As a club are you hopeful that football in Kent will re-start in the New Year?

LC: It’s a real difficult one in as much as a club we want football to return. It needs to be safe to do so before Xmas I think was too much of an ask but fingers crossed in early January we can all return safely.

TK: Rusthall are very much a club who are growing bigger in West Kent, how big is the club currently?

LC: The club has always been a family club with a good reputation and is definitely growing much bigger. The junior set-up has teams from Under 7 right up to Under 18 and has three close knit senior sides that work the system very well giving a great pathway right through the club.

TK: Do you feel with all the developments around the ground over the last few years makes it an easier sell to new players?

LC: The facilities now are fantastic at the Jockey Farm Stadium. All the thanks must go to the committee who work tirelessly all year round to maintain and improve the ground.

These facilities have certainly helped the club attract players and has also increased our fan base; over the last few seasons the numbers have really rocketed through the turnstiles.

TK: Do you find a lot of those also support yourself and the team at reserve level?

LC: A lot of our fans are supporting the reserve team when the first team are away. With the two teams only separated between two divisions the support has been fantastic and hopefully we have given them some entertaining football to watch.

TK: You’ve had quite a bit of success at reserve team level, have you found that it has encouraged players to push harder to make the first team?

LC: Since joining the club we set our own targets and one of those was to close the gap between the reserves and the first team to make the transition for the players an easier task.

We have been fortunate enough to gain some success along the way which has been a credit to the lads who have knuckled down to achieve what they have. We have seen players make the step up and hold their own over the last two seasons and hopefully that will continue.

TK: Has the current pandemic we’re experiencing affected the future plans for the club?

LC: The club is constantly looking to keep moving forward on and off the pitch and with the current pandemic like all clubs the lack of money coming in with no competitive football does hit you hard.

Hopefully though we are getting closer every day to a return to football and we can concentrate on moving forward.

TK: Has there been much in the way of financial help for the club as a whole?

LC: There has been support and help out there over this difficult time but I leave that side of things to the committee!

TK: Given the stop start nature to this season, do you think we will see some big changes to the footballing landscape whether we finish this current campaign or not?

LC: I really do hope that we can finish this season knowing last season had to stop in March. At all levels players have missed out on so much football and most leagues I believe will be given an extension to hopefully get games completed.

TK: Finally, how far can you yourself go ambition wise in the future?

LC: So for me I just want to keep moving forwards and improve as a coach and a manager and work up the footballing ladder. You are always learning all the time and over the last couple of years I’ve really pushed myself and will continue to do so to keep improving.

Styles: We were down to the bare bones

Earlier this week I caught up with Tunbridge Wells boss Richard Styles after the government announced the return of fans to football after the end of the lockdown on on 2nd December:

TK: How frustrating has it been to have the four week break just when Tunbridge Wells had been enjoying a good start to the season?

RS: The four week lockdown and suspension to the season was always going to be frustrating for all teams, fortunately for us we were really down to the bare bones before the lockdown came in and the squad was really stretched.

This time off we’ve been able to put a positive spin on things and allow our medical staff to work with our players carrying injuries and knocks to recover whilst at home enabling the squad to be at full strength when we return.

TK: That sounds encouraging. Do you think it might take a while for sides to get back into the groove once again?

RS: I think it’ll depend on what clubs have done with their players during the break, it’s not a pre-season type situation when we return. As staff we came together as soon as it was announced the season was being suspended, we spoke to professionals within the industry and came up with a plan to use with our boys to maintain their match fitness levels whilst recovering from any knocks and fatigue.

I feel happy with what my players have done during this period and I think it’s been effective for us. I’d expect any club at this level or above to have the same input and thought process to be honest. If they haven’t then yeah it might take a while for some to get going again.

TK: Are you concerned with a cold start there will be a lot of injuries occurring?

RS: Not really, our players played 12 league games, plus FA Vase and FA Cup since the ‘later’ start of the season so we’ve adapted well to managing the players and the times between games.

I can’t see it being any worse than it was before the lockdown. I do think teams need to utilise their squads correctly with their workload though to ensure they limit the amount that might occur.

TK: Would you be in favour of the use of 5 substitutes per game or happy with the current 3 being allowed?

RS: I’d be happy to go to 5, these players are only part time, they have jobs, families and other commitments etc. so are more inclined to pick up an injury or two or fatigue. At the same time, if it remains at 3 it’s what we know so no major complaints.

TK: What are you looking forward to most when we resume the season in the next couple of weeks?

RS: Looking forward to getting the boys back playing and training again as well as back to some sort of normality. From the football side of things I’m looking for us to hit the ground running and to gain as many points as we can in the upcoming games.

TK: Bearing in mind we’re going to see more Saturday-Tuesday combinations in the coming weeks and months do you expect yourselves or others to add to their squads?

RS: Quite possibly, those with smaller squads will certainly have to look at it. I know we have identified where we felt we could strengthen and have explored some options.

TK: Are you hopeful we could see more than 300 fans allowed into the Culverden Stadium to watch the action?

RS: Certainly, I know I speak for all the playing and management staff when I say we always want as many of our fans as possible at every game. If we are allowed more than 300 supporters safely then I’d welcome it.

NB: Since the interview in midweek, Kent have been placed in tier 3 and with it the suspension of Southern Counties East League until Saturday 26th December.

Strevens: We are quite happy with where we are squad wise for now

My final interview this week comes from Eastleigh FC boss Ben Strevens reflecting on the start to the season for the Hampshire club:

TK: An excellent start to the season after seven games, are you placed where you expected to be so far?

BS: I honestly didn’t know what to expect at the start of the season as pre-season seemed a strange time. We are happy with our points total, but we realise it’s early days. Hopefully, we will keep on improving as the season progresses.

TK: Summer recruitment seems to have gone well, how have the new players settled in?

BS: Yeah, they have settled in really well, we purposely recruited more youthful players with the hope of helping them improve themselves. They have added to the players we managed to keep and that was just as important as the new guys coming in.

TK: Although it is still very early in the season in terms of games played, are there one or two sides that have surprised you with their results?

BS: Wealdstone have started really well after their promotion from the National South. I am surprised by some of the teams towards the lower part of the table, but as you say it’s still really early to judge those teams.

TK: Do you think that the stop start scenario for some teams has played a part in where they are in the current table?

BS: I certainly don’t think it helps, but it will be the case for all of us over the course of the season, quite sure of that. We now go two weeks without a competitive game which isn’t ideal either.

TK: How challenging has it been to get the players in the right frame of mind for playing in empty stadiums?

BS: That’s been fine to be honest, I have a good group that are hungry to win and do well. We would all love fans back in the grounds but the games still matter and points are there to be won.

I am really hoping like everyone else that in the new year the fans will be back watching us live.

TK: Although the club have received grants and the Lottery bail-out to help with no income, was there any effect if any on your playing budget?

BS: Yes, we reduced things to make sure we were ready for all circumstances. But at the same time that also fitted with the profile of the player we were trying to attract to the club.

TK: If for example you felt you needed an extra player or two to keep momentum going, would these current circumstances restrict that happening or be favourable to you?

BS: We are quite happy with where we are squad wise for now. We managed to add Ryan Hill from Hampton & Richmond and Tom Blair from Dorchester a few weeks back, but if I really needed someone or had an injury to a key player I’m sure the club would back me.

TK: Finally, we touched on it earlier, how important is it that we see fans back in stadiums in 2021?

BS: I really hope they are the fans are the lifeblood of every football club. Every team is missing them being there to see the action, hopefully in the new year they will be back in and I really can’t wait for that!

Smith: We do miss having the supporters as they are so important

On Wednesday I caught up with Bromley FC boss Neil Smith via text to find out how the season has gone for him so far:

TK: It’s been a stop and start season so far, how pleased are you with how the team has played so far?

NS: It’s been difficult with so long off from last season getting this season started was great but then we picked up silly injuries and it’s been hard trying to field an unchanged team.

We are just starting to play to how I want us to play so overall it’s been ok but we need to be better.

TK: Do you think we’ll be looking at a season full of interruptions or some calmness might prevail in the New Year?

NS: I think it will be a stop, start, go kind of season until the vaccine comes in, even then I think there will still be little outbreaks in places that cause us to stop.

TK: Only seven games in so far, but are you happy with where you are currently placed in the National League table?

NS: I’d like to have a few more points but to be just outside the play-off places with games in hand isn’t bad. It will be a tough league and there are a lot of clubs that could do it this season so it is early but we want to be in and amongst it all season if we can.

TK: Are there any clubs that have surprised you so far?

NS: Maidenhead and Wealdstone have had a fantastic start to this season and this shows just how competitive it will be for us this year.

TK: Has it been tough to motivate the players to play in front of empty stadiums each week?

NS: We do miss having the supporters as they are so important and it’s so much better having them watching us but the players are trying to create their own atmosphere.

The motivation isn’t a problem as they had so long not playing that I think they missed it that much they really appreciate how lucky they are to be playing football.

As a manager and a player you still have that mentality to win every game and we are still playing for the supporters and their club. We still want them to be proud of their team even though they are not here in person.

TK: Having watched you via the stream on Saturday against Barnet it looked like everything clicked and went to plan, was it almost the complete performance?

NS: It was a great performance from all the players and apart from letting a goal in and not taking a couple more of our other chances it was more like how we can play.

We’ve had a couple of games where we have a good first half and a not so good second half and vice versa. This was a more complete ninety minutes and gives us something to build from.

TK: Do you expect the table to settle down a bit in the next four weeks and give a more balanced idea of how the season might pan out?

NS: Yes I do, but I also still believe with being disrupted with positive tests and waterlogged pitches that it’s going to be a hard season to predict.

TK: How good have the chairman and the board been in helping the club be competitive again this season?

NS: They have been amazing from the start of lockdown to where we are now. The chairman made a statement saying that the club being sustainable was our main aim during these hard times but he also made sure everybody was ok and we did some fantastic work out in the community as well.

Since the start of this season he has backed and supported myself and my management team with his experience. He wants to give me the best chance to get Bromley into the play-offs for the first time even in what are unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in.

TK: And do you think if you needed one or two extra for a final push later in the season it’s able to happen?

NS: I always keep something back myself in the budget for someone who might become available. Who knows, hopefully I’m in that situation and I’ll then find that answer out!

TK: We touched on it earlier, but how crucial is it to have the supporters back inside Hayes Lane in 2021?

NS: It’s so important for everyone, the supporters want to get back to watch live football but also to meet up with friends and family and as a club we can only survive with people coming to watch, the players also want to be playing in front of the paying public for that atmosphere. We are missing the fans as much as they are missing getting out and going to their clubs.

Currie: My love and enthusiasm for football is still beaming

Earlier this week I caught up with ex-Barnet FC boss Darren Currie to find out what he’s been up to since leaving The Hive before this season began:

TK: What’s been the life of Darren Currie since leaving Barnet at the end of the summer?

DC: It’s been very different not being around football as it’s been in my life from a child, Saturdays have not quite been the same, I’ve either been glued to the vidiprinter or walking round Sainsburys with my wife.

In a normal situation without the pandemic I would be at games 2 or 3 nights a week and visiting training grounds but that’s not a possibility, however my love and enthusiasm for football is still beaming and I can’t wait for another opportunity.

TK: Can’t get in the way of your housework! Have you kept in touch with other managers and coaches just to keep involved and in touch with the game?

DC: Of course the housework is now my job but I’ve always been the house proud type!

Yes, I’ve had lots of conversations with many people across the game at all levels, I’ve always found football debate interesting because everyone has an opinion and you can always learn something from someone, there is always something that can provoke you to think.

TK: You’ve been getting out to watch a lot of games like most of us until the beginning of this month, has it given you some food for thought on how Steps 3-6 approach the game?

DC: I’ve watched a few games, some good, some not so good but that’s football! From a recruitment point of view there are gems at all levels so always worth a watch.

There is no right or wrong way of playing, everyone does it how they see the game and their own personal values, there’s been some different styles for sure.

TK: Does it bring home the frustration a little more at times watching from behind the barrier rather than directing from the dugout?

DC: Yes and no. I’m a fan like everyone else so I do understand, it depends whats being asked of the players, fans may think someone is not doing well but the coach believes he’s doing his job that’s been asked of him that benefits the team or a team-mate but yes I can understand that it can frustrate.

TK: Have you felt quite proud that a majority of last season’s Barnet team have gone on to bigger things, a mention of course for Jack Taylor and his full Republic of Ireland call up.

DC: Yes, very proud of them all to be honest, we had a great atmosphere in the changing room last season and although I’m no longer their manager I have kept in contact with them all and speak regularly.

Part of my management style is to create relationships and invest in the person as well as the player so I will always look out for them.

JT is not surprising anyone, he’s a terrific player whose football journey will just get better and better, and many coaches can take credit for his development as can myself and Junior (Lewis) but the main credit goes to Jack himself for his attitude and drive to keep improving.

He’s on the big stage now so everyone connected to the Bees will be watching on proudly.

TK: Would you expect Harry to follow his brother up the footballing ladder in the next season or two? And how different a player is Harry to Jack?

DC: I do expect Harry to climb the ladder as well most definitely. Jack is the eye catcher with goals, assists and driving runs whereas Harry is the consistent versatile reliable player that will go a little unnoticed by some on occasion but as a manager or a coach he’s a brilliant player to have.

Both are great boys in the changing room and it was a pleasure to work with them.

TK: Have you watched anything of Barnet this season or followed things from afar?

DC: Followed from afar mostly but I watched the cup game against Burton Albion which they deserved to win, great effort from the team with 10 men. When the gates open again I will definitely get back to The Hive to watch them play.

TK: That’s because you’re buying the beer! Are Junior or any of the other staff that worked under you back in the game or like yourself waiting for an opportunity?

DC: Everyone is waiting for another opening to come. Yes I will get the beers for sure!

TK: When you see your name linked to jobs around the country as teams haven’t started as well as they’d liked to have, as bad as it might sound are you willing a chairman or two to pull the trigger?

DC: It’s the unfortunate side to the game that someone will lose their job to allow someone else the chance. That will always be the case.

TK: How have you kept yourself busy so far in this second lockdown besides hoovering and bed making?

DC: House husband, school runs, running, dog walking and reading.

And all I want is football!

TK: 2 weeks and hopefully we are back to getting out to games again. Final one from me, are you hopeful that 2021 will bring the return of fans to all stadiums once again?

DC: It’s a must, it has to be. The game needs the fans, football is nowhere near the same without them so let’s hope we get stadiums open again as early as possible and as safely as we can.

Bloor: Chances are missed and not taken in every game

This week I caught up with Eastbourne Borough boss Danny Bloor after his side’s FA Cup tie with Blackpool and a league game against Ebbsfleet on Tuesday night:

TK: How pleased were you with the players performance on Sunday?

DB: I thought they were a credit to the club and themselves against a Blackpool side who I am sure will be pushing for promotion to the Championship under Neil Critchley and Colin Calderwood.

TK: For you yourself, the experience of pitting your tactics against Football League opposition must have been something you relished doing?

DB: 100%! It was a great experience and something the whole management enjoyed throughout the afternoon.

TK: Had the early Greg Luer effort gone in, how much of a different game would that have made it?

DB: Who knows, chances are missed or not taken in every game so difficult to judge how much of an impact it would have had.

TK: Turning attention to Tuesday just 48 hours after the cup exit, was it beneficial to play so quickly after Sunday, almost with no time to reflect on the result?

DB: We were all really concerned about playing one of the favourites for the league in Ebbsfleet so soon after the cup game, especially as they hadn’t played a competitive game for ten days. We felt both physically and mentally that it could have been hard, however we asked the boys to dig deep and we were extremely pleased to get a much deserved point from the game.

TK: It looked like it took a little while for the players to get tuned into the game as Ebbsfleet hit the ground running.

DB: I’m not sure I agree with that, we had our game plan and I felt it worked perfectly, it was obvious Ebbsfleet would have been fresher than us with the extra rest.

TK: It’s still very early in the season in terms of games played, are you quite pleased with how results have gone so far?

DB: We are delighted so far, we have lost only one league in six played and have picked up eleven points, the solitary defeat coming against Dorking Wanderers who I’m sure will go very close to winning the league with the squad Marc White has assembled.

TK: Are you hopeful that in the not too distant future we finally see some movement on getting fans back into Priory Lane?

DB: Let’s hope so, we need them, they need us.

McKimm: Bradford were excellent on the day

This week I caught up with Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm after his side’s FA Cup exit to League Two Bradford City at the weekend:

TK: Looking back to the FA Cup tie on Saturday, were you a little disappointed or frustrated maybe that the boys couldn’t quite get to grips with Bradford?

SM: No, not really. I knew it would be a tough game and they would have had to have 4 or 5 players having an off day and we would have needed everyone to have a stormer. Bradford were excellent on the day but my lads never gave up.

TK: Did you see it as a compliment to yourselves that they felt they needed to field a full strength team to ensure they progressed to the next round?

SM: Most definitely, they made a host of changes against Oldham on Tuesday night and lost so maybe if they hadn’t had gone so strong on Saturday we may have had a better chance. That will always be a question that can’t be answered unfortunately.

TK: It certainly wasn’t as if Tonbridge didn’t have their chances to score at crucial times in the game, did you feel you had to go for it a bit at times which opened you up at the back?

SM: We had a couple yeah. The free kick which led to their 3rd goal, if that was given to us as it should have been right on the stroke of half time we’d have loaded the penalty area and possibly had a decent chance from that.

That was the goal which really killed off the tie for us and it seemed from then every time we went forward we left ourselves exposed and they punished us for it.

TK: A great occasion for the club, yourself and the players live on TV, but unable to have spectators inside Longmead to watch first-hand, are you hoping that after lockdown we see some progress towards their return?

SM: I hope so for everyone’s sake, supporters need their football. The players and the clubs need them back too, we want to see this happen.

TK: A mention for Bantams fan Jonnie Carrington, a fantastic gesture to set up a JustGiving page which has raised in excess of £6000 at the time of writing for your club, it just goes to show the strength of the football family.

SM: It’s something we didn’t ask for or were expecting to happen, but an unbelievable thing to do that we are grateful for. I’ve spoken to Jonnie a couple of times, he’s an absolute diamond and welcome to Longmead Stadium any time.

TK: How pleased were you to go to Chelmsford 48 hours later and return to Kent with three points give the short turnaround between games?

SM: It was great to get a positive result on Monday night and pleasing that we had a game straight away so the lads didn’t have any time to dwell on Saturday’s result, very pleased.

TK: With a lot of football still to be played this season especially midweek, do you think it’ll be a while until the league table settles down a bit?

SM: After the first ten games are done it starts to give you a bit of reflection in the way things might turn out, but with squads being stretched with a lot of games on top of each other it might take a little longer this time around.

McKimm: Let’s just say we’ll be doing our homework on them

This week I caught up with Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm ahead of the visit of Bradford City this coming weekend in the FA Cup:

TK: A bit of a mixed bag of results so far this season, are you reasonably satisfied with how things have gone so far?

SM: Yes I think so, 1st Round of the FA Cup and more points out of our first three league games than last season so it’s an improvement for sure.

TK: How have you and the players found not having fun inside to watch games?

SM: Different. I’m pleased to be playing obviously but you always love the banter, grief, and support you get from the terraces, so it does seem very strange at times. #LetFansIn

TK: I managed to get to watch you and the team in action at Chichester in one of the earlier rounds where there were fans, was that a bit surreal in a way?

SM: Most definitely it was a bit, it’s what we all love though, watching a game and we want fans back close to the action ASAP as it’s not the same without them there.

TK: How pleased were you to get the club through to the 1st Round for the first time since 1972, a long time to wait?

SM: Very proud! It’s something that myself and other managers/players have tried to do in the past and it’s finally happened. I’m so pleased for everyone involved in the club from the chairman to the board members, supporters, volunteers, absolutely everyone.

TK: And now selected for the BBC live game as well announced as we chat, do you hope the players rise to the occasion and show the watching public what Tonbridge Angels are all about?

SM: I do, but it’s all on the day. I hope and believe the players will not freeze on the occasion but we will be right up for it.

TK: Has there been a ban on any FA Cup talk until league games are out of the way?

SM: The game is actually our next one as because of less numbers in the National League South this Saturday falls as our week off so it’s worked out quite nicely.

TK: With the current restrictions have you managed to get out and scout Bradford City?

SM: Let’s just say we’ll be doing our homework on them.

TK: As a club have you felt having to play in empty stadiums that’s it’s brought you, your staff, and the players closer together?

SM: Not really, I always make sure we have a changing room that sticks together, hopefully you will see that this coming weekend. With our recruitment of new players they have to fit in with what we’re about on and off the pitch.

TK: Has the chairman promised a trip to anywhere not on the government’s quarantine list should you win?

SM: Haha! No he hasn’t, but a mate of mine, Paul, who sponsored a board around our ground this season (tables or businesses) said he’d take all the players and staff to Vegas if we get to the semi-finals!