Decision ratified, but still uneasy times

The FA

Originally the blog I was going to put up tonight is already written and has been for some days, I’ve managed to get into the art of getting these written which is handy considering I’m posting more often.

This post could’ve gone up two days ago, but the FA Council meeting to rubberstamp the decision to null and void the season for Steps 3-7 was postponed until today, Thursday. Not surprisingly the decision was ratified today despite opposition from nearly 200 of it’s member clubs and some backing from Football League clubs.

As per usual as I’ve stated in these blogs, the health of the nation and it’s people outweighs the moral compass of football, no change to this being a delicate situation and won’t be for some time. Despite this afternoon’s decision this story is going to rumble and it would be silly not to pass comment or imply my opinion, after all we all have one. I have no official affiliation to any club so there is no bias, I may ‘support’ one or two and follow a bunch load more, which will appear in a future blog (nice little plug there!), but merely my reaction to things.

So, as we stand we’re done from Steps 3-7 in non-league football for 2019/20 and soon after the FA released their statement the National League board also came out and reported they’ve asked their three divisions of member clubs to vote on whether the season ends or plays on, there is no guideline yet as to when that decision will be announced.

After Easter is put away for another year, I would expect to see what direction those clubs who disagree with the decision are going to take. That at least gives them three or four days to discuss amongst themselves if they plan to pursue the matter or ultimately accept the FA decision and press onwards. I would be surprised if they didn’t take it through the courts, they’ve already started a process and aren’t in agreement with the FA.

The biggest gripe I feel the football family has is the almost sheer bloody-mindedness of the PL and EFL to want to complete this season whenever they are allowed to, the National League are currently halfway between this. The cost of voiding their season and no recognition from UEFA if they do coupled with TV payments potentially being withheld could mean clubs in the Football League will buckle under the financial pressures. Should football void itself from top to bottom then we’re all in agreement even though there are clubs promoted and well set for promotion when games were suspended.

You only have to look at the likes of Jersey Bulls, Littlehampton Town, Stowmarket Town, Worthing Women to name a few, all unbeaten and two of those four having actually secured promotion before the suspension of games. The FA also stated today at clubs at Steps 3-7 will remain as per the constitution at the beginning of the season, but already since mid March ten clubs have resigned from their leagues and I’m pretty sure more will follow as the issues become more widespread over the coming weeks and months, so who replaces those ten clubs as a minimum? Do they promote ten clubs? Do they run each league short of one club? Has that been thought through and what if more clubs follow those first ten? I would hope some forward planning has already been done, but with the FA I’m loathe to believe so.

There is no doubt the footballing landscape can not look like it does now and survive after this crisis has passed. For years I’ve been wanting the game to go bust effectively, to re-set, redress from poor financial issues and look healthy again, it’s sad that it’s taken a life sapping virus to possibly achieve it. Having had my own involvement in grassroots football as a Secretary and a Treasurer over the past couple of years I’ve seen all too well how difficult it is to get money into that level and keep a club afloat whilst the game itself is awash with more money that it has ever seen.

Now is the time it has to change for us to have a pyramid of football for the next 100 years and beyond, this might be the only chance for the game to take a long hard good look at itself and stop the greed and look after the smaller cousins, we know the game is going to look different once it returns it’s how it looks which can be determined, but only if everyone plays their part…………

Guest blog 1: Why Ebbsfleet Utd is my team

Ebbsfleet

(Ebbsfleet vs Barnet Sept ’19)

I’m always looking for different things to put on the blog especially at the moment to keep people entertained and occupied during these difficult circumstances. So this one is the first of three people I’ve asked for a piece and there are a couple of other two or three part series to come over the next few weeks or months and I’m always open to different ideas if I can find a source to get the information from.

In the last couple of weeks you’ve found out why I am a Barnet fan and in this piece you will find out why Natalie is an Ebbsfleet fan, we all have a story this is hers:

As a 33 year old mother of two it is not very stereotypical to have such a huge interest in football but unfortunately for my family and close friends I would class myself as a huge football fan, let me tell you where it all began and the reasons behind my love for my local team Ebbsfleet United Football Club

Growing up in Gravesend with my Mum and Dad I never really had an interest in football till I was 9 years old. My Dad would go and watch our local team Gravesend and Northfleet Football Club (GNFC) and I always thought he was crazy to be standing there in the cold on a Saturday afternoon.

During the 95/96 season GNFC got through to the third round of the FA Cup, a home tie against Aston Villa which was later changed to an away day for us, I was asked to go and reluctantly agreed. It seemed like the whole of Gravesend was there that day to see us lose 3-0 but what an amazing day! I was hooked! Every weekend I would spend my Saturdays watching the team either home or away and met some great friends who we would travel to away games with. One of my earliest memories was having my hands thawed out by Jimmy Jackson’s Mum at an away game as I was so cold, I soon learnt to layer up after that! I grew to know the players and their families, even doing a piece on the club for my media GCSE homework

Watching the club has got me through many important times in my life from my parent’s divorce and difficult teenage years to starting a family of my own, it has always been a structured part of my life. Every Boxing Day me and my dad will always go to a game together home or away much to the delight of my family!

I have seen many different changes at the club, promotions, relegations, FA trophy wins, various managers and even a change of name to Ebbsfleet United Football Club.

I have witnessed some great players at the Fleet, Mickey Cotter, (my first crush!) Steve Portway, Jimmy Jackson and a very young Jimmy Bullard to name a few.

The highlight for me has to be watching us get promoted in the 2002 season, seeing Jimmy Jackson lifting the trophy and celebrating after in the club bar with the players. Watching Andy Ford our then manager dancing on the snooker table will be something I will never forget!

As a female football fan I have had some strange looks from some of the male fans especially when they realise I know what I am talking about! But I just take it on the chin, it won’t stop me going to games, even away games on my own.

I have made some great friends at the club from Harry that sells the programmes, (who I now have to call Grandad!) to some of our past players. You can always guarantee I will know someone when going to Stonebridge Road, my 8 year old daughter even attends some games with me and loves giving the team high fives warming up, exactly what I used to do at her age!

24 years later I have travelled far and wide to watch my team, Morecambe, Chester and Burton Albion are examples of the away games I have attended. This season I have travelled to Halifax and Stockport to support the boys even though we were in a relegation battle as I feel it is important to show your support when times are tough, and I am sure the team appreciates it! Plus I love an away day, the early starts, coming together as fans and even the long drive home buzzing if we have won and gloomy if we have lost, its all part of it.

Ebbsfleet was in the news with the late payment of wages last season which I try to stay away from and continue to show my support, however now we have a great director and new CEO who I know both want what is best for the club. We have probably lost one of the best teams in a while at the end of the 18/19 with the likes of Luke Coulson, Myles Weston and Dean Rance to name a couple that have left the team as well as Gary Hill the manager. I do have full faith in our new manager Kevin Watson though as he came in when times were tough and is proving himself to be a great manager.

Whatever the future at Ebbsfleet United Football Club you can be sure of one thing, I will be there………..

 

 

 

The non-league physio

Ally 4

(Picture courtesy of HilligerPix)

This was a blog that came as a suggestion and me being me of course had a Twitter contact only too happy to help. Step forward Ally Maloney, physio at Isthmian Premier Division side Cray Wanderers and providing me with a wonderful insight into how a full time day job can have football fitted around it.

So sit down, grab a drink and have a read of what it’s like to be a physio and what it takes to be one…………….

TK: Was physiotherapy something you always wanted to get into?

AM: When I was really young, I wanted to be an archaeologist (I was heavily influenced by Indiana Jones) but at 15 years old I decided physiotherapy was a better option, my only regret was I don’t get a cool hat!

TK: How much studying went into getting your qualifications?

AM: It was a lot of studying in fairness. Without the A-level based work it was a 3 year degree with clinical placements in hospitals. It’s 5 days a week and a lot of studying around anatomy, injury, psychology and exercise prescription amongst other things, I really got my money’s worth on that student loan!

It’s a hard degree but it gets you ready for a career where you never stop learning. I think I’ve studied more since leaving university than when I was there!

TK: Where did the job take you first?

AM: Football wise I started at Greenwich Borough about 10-11 years ago. My mentor Alex sent me down to a training session and the rest, as they say, is history. I spent a few seasons there with the team in the Kent League.

TK: And how did you find from a female perspective being involved in men’s football? What obstacles if any did you encounter?

AM: It’s going to be a cliché, but I’ve never really paid it a huge amount of thought. There’s always going to be a bit of banter flying around about it. 99.9% of the time it’s good hearted and I try to roll with that. If I was too sensitive, then physiotherapy in general isn’t a great career choice.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely a few ‘dinosaurs’ still out there but I’m lucky that I haven’t had to work closely with anyone like that, to be honest I wouldn’t work with anyone still holding those views.

I used to hit a few obstacles when I first started, it was hard to break into football and then I had to work hard to prove I could work with men. In non-league terms, it’s never held me back, any comments just made me more determined and you learn to be a bit more thick-skinned. Nowadays its really common to see female therapists at clubs so I’m not that special anymore haha!

Ally 5

(Picture courtesy of HilligerPix)

TK: Indeed you’re not! It’s great to see so many female physios up and down the country. How long have u been at Cray Wanderers and how did you end up at Hayes Lane?

AM: I’ve been with Cray about five seasons now, I had joined VCD Athletic with Tony Russell (the current Cray first team manager) and won the league with them. He got the opportunity to go to Cray and took his team, including me, with him. He’s a great manager to work for so I jumped at the chance to tag along. In hindsight, it’s been a great decision as Cray are one of the best clubs out there. It’s not an amazingly exciting story.

TK: It doesn’t have to be, but it’s your story and everyone has one. So, talk me through a normal week as Cray Wanderers physio.

AM: A normal week would involve twice a week training on Mondays and Wednesdays, they involve a bit of injury assessment from any matches we’ve played to basically establish who is and isn’t going to be available for the forthcoming matches. It’ll also involve a fair amount of rehab and injury prevention work to keep the players individually in good condition.

Cray also have yoga sessions which are led by an instructor to help with the conditioning for the players benefit. I also like to watch training taking place when I get a chance as you can see more functionality with football based activity, and you get to understand the management team’s game plan and also the individual way each players moves.

Then at the weekend, I have a full day on matchdays. I get to the ground as early as I can to set up and complete any fitness tests/pre-match rubs and any treatment that’s required. Then I check my bag is ready (make sure there is a pack of Haribo in there or I’ll get a lot of sulking all around me) and its game time!

It wouldn’t be a football week however without my weekly story from our 86 year old goalkeeping coach Bill Lappage plus the dad jokes from the management team!

TK: 86! That’s fantastic to see someone of that age so involved on matchdays.

AM: He’s amazing, honestly one of my favourite people in football and probably in general as well.

TK: How does the football fit around the day job? (And what is the day job)

AM: By day I am an NHS physio, I work in the specialist rehabilitation unit from Monday – Friday. Luckily, I don’t work on call or weekends anymore, so it doesn’t impact on my football work too much. There are times when it can be a hard graft to fit them in together, especially when a Guernsey away midweek trip comes up! It’s a chore of love, my annual leave is often booked up in August as soon as those fixtures come out!

But there is an important balance to be maintained but honestly, I don’t think there are many people in non-league who have similar stories of commitment, but I do see that at Cray.

TK: Of course I have to touch on the current situation at the moment, have you or the club managed to do anything for the players such as fitness plans prior to the announcement to null and void the season?

AM: It’s still a massively unreal situation isn’t it, we had a couple of training sessions prior to the restrictions setting in. But then it became clear the league couldn’t continue which is sad but very necessary.

A few players have their individual work, a great opportunity to sort out those niggling little injuries. I sense as a club we will wait for the outcome of when football can start again, I hope it will be sooner rather than later.

TK: I’m hoping for the same but all we can do is wait. Is there a personal ambition to move higher up the football ladder or does mixing full time work with the football side work better for you?

AM: I would be lying about my ambition that I wouldn’t jump at a chance to give a higher level a try. I think I may have missed the boat on working in professional football now (I’m getting on a bit now and can’t see myself abandoning my non-league roots).

I really love my NHS work and I hold great value in what I do, and non-league gives me the opportunity to keep up that work alongside my passion in football. It’s a good balance and in terms of happiness I couldn’t be much better with my current set up.

TK: One last question, what one thing would you change about non-league football if you could?

AM: Oooo, that’s a hard one! I would love for crowds to be bigger! There is some class football and teams across the pyramid (cough, cough Cray are top of those lists) but it’s always a shame that it’s so difficult to tempt people away from the bigger league clubs.

My selfish request would be for compulsory use of golf carts for physios to get on the pitch, that would definitely up my Insta game!

 

My thanks to Ally for a great little interview, please go follow her on Twitter, @Little_Physio

Taking on the FA

NLP (2)

 

This weekend’s Non-League paper was full of great debate over the decision by the FA to null and void the season for Steps 3-6. Now I know I covered this over the past few days but since the news has been digested by clubs, there has been some big reactions coming out.

As I’ve said before and always will when writing these delicate articles, the health of everyone in this nation MUST come first and we must beat this virus. Football however is turning up some interesting talking points despite there being no games going on.

The latest we see and hear coming out of this decision made last week is a number of things, if the decision has been made too early, were all clubs consulted in a fair amount of time, is there a right of appeal for one club or every club, some of the things I will look at below.

I still believe the points per game ratio would be the correct way to go forward, had we been talking that most clubs hadn’t completed 75% of their games, then that’s not my thinking. I can totally understand the issues with players and contracts slightly higher up the pyramid from Step 4 and above, there are a lot of complications that would need to be ironed out, but were they ever even considered?

PPG would go against those starting to turn the tide which some clubs invariably do at this stage of the season, but that option makes you draw the line somewhere. There would be opposition to this I know, but is it a better scenario than just declaring this whole season never happened?

I’ve seen people call the decision ‘lazy’ and ‘easy’, a cop-out for not needing to go into detail and find the right conclusion, make the decision early without understanding where all clubs sit on the matter. I know full well some are already struggling and for them clarity is better sooner rather than later, it’s difficult whatever way this goes, such an unprecedented situation.

Null and void has now caught the attention of clubs unhappy with this decision. I listened on Sunday evening to the Worthing Supporters Association podcast, Rebel Yell, for more research with guests including Rebels chairman Barry Hunter, Hastings Utd CEO Billy Wood and South Shields chairman Geoff Thompson and it was interesting to listen to their views. Granted they are all clubs who have a vested interest as all three were winning their respective leagues.

To ask those clubs who have stayed unbeaten until the suspension and those who got themselves into great title winning positions to repeat that all over again is hard to take, the likelihood of it happening again is low, people also talk about the volunteer hours put in at every game and the money clubs have spent to get themselves in position and shape.

As I put this article together, the letter to the FA has been made public which I have read and is signed by 64 clubs, the outcome of that will surely be known within a few days and I await to see the response.

Whatever decision of the three options that was decided upon would have caused conflict. If the FA follow protocol across all levels then the National League and EFL should be made to follow suit and void themselves of 2019-20, the Premier League should really be the same as the integrity of the promotion and relegation scenarios are impacted at all levels. If nothing existed, then we are all level and re-set ready to go whenever that might be.

Of course at the top level it’s not simple either with added commercial and tv revenues etc, but with the wealth there that end of the game will survive, now imagine how the game could look if a percentage of that wealth drops down to secures the future of 100-200 clubs. Some don’t deserve it for gambling and living outside their means you can argue, and this is now the perfect time for the game to get itself back to reality when play continues.

By the time this goes to print the National League will have met again and there should be clarity for those clubs, again some will be against and some will be for the decision, whatever happens this will rumble on for a while, great column inches for me…………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Barnet?

Underhill Stadium

We all have a reason why we support the teams we do and they vary so much in their origin. Family ties, dragged along by friends, an attachment of colours, you name it everyone will have one and this is mine!

I grew up a Tottenham fan, after my late father brought me back both home and away shirts from the ’81 FA Cup Final, not that he was a Spurs fan, West Ham for him. I grew up in a multi-supporting house, Newcastle for my mum, Chelsea for my middle brother and the youngest brother also attaching himself to the Hammers. The love for non-league football came in 1986 and a trip to London Road, the then home of Maidstone Utd.

My first taste of floodlit non-league football, a 2-0 win over Nuneaton Borough courtesy of goals from Steve Butler and George Torrance. I can’t remember exactly how many times I went that season but I was there for the final game at the stadium before the move to groundshare at Dartford, it was also to be the first time I was to encounter John Still.

So from there I enjoyed watching Maidstone in Dartford, but a Football League club after one season, my first taste of league football, but in that time my dad would take me anywhere to watch a game, Dartford themselves where I first encountered Peter Taylor and Andy Hessenthaler, Welling Utd which was a first encounter with Lee Harrison and Terry Robbins, but also Kent League clubs, Darenth, Tonbridge and plenty of others, non-league kept it coming.

As it was Maidstone become the first Football League side to resign from the competition since the 1960’s and with it no club for me to support in 1992. I went months without watching a live game, until I suggested to my brother and one of his mates about going to watch Barnet who were doing well and looking good for promotion. I looked up our journey, one train into London and then a direct tube to High Barnet, nice and easy!

So off we went one Saturday afternoon in April, sun shining ready for football once more. Scarborough were the visitors to Underhill that day. When we got there, had absolutely no idea where to head for, so I asked the first person we saw, a chap selling a fanzine who turned out to be a certain John Cosgrove, became a friend and ended up on my stag do and at my wedding reception and not the only one.

We ended up on the popular West Bank behind the goal, which was to become our standing place until it was taken down and replaced with temporary seats. Anyway, back to the game, which Barnet won 3-1, the first a bullet header from former Maidstone Utd midfielder Tony Sorrell, being that he was one of my favourite last few players to appear in a Stones shirt I felt quite at home! Further goals from Brian Stein and Paul Showler secured the points for the home side and that was it, I was hooked on the Bees! I went again on my own to watch the penultimate game of the season, a 1-1 draw against Lincoln which featured another ex-Stone in Darren Oxbrow.

My first full season, well that fateful one where we survived expulsion from the Football League, the cobbled together side, all ticket games, FA Cup ties against Chelsea and a football boot away from victory, the arrival of Ray Clemence as joint manager alongside Gary Phillips and some great moments in what was a very troubled season, the only season the club has spent in what now is League One.

The Hive 1

Thats some twenty-seven years now in total, I’ve seen two promotions from the non-league game into the Football League, but three relegations in that time. I’ve made countless friends in that time alongside Cosgrove, mentions for Pete Williamson, Janet Matthewson, Tony Reckless Hammond, Michael Hanley, Nik Myles, Lucy Waldon to name a few, I’ve sponsored the likes of Nicky Bailey, Ashley Carew, Neal Bishop, Edgar Davids and Darren Currie.

I’ve seen some fantastic players in that time, some that went forward and made their name higher up in the games, some on the way down, Maik Taylor, Dougie Freedman, Jack Taylor, Jason Puncheon, Albert Adomah, Nicky Bailey are a few who went up, Paul Warhurst, Paul Furlong, Gary Breen, Andy Hessenthaler, Eddie Newton, David Hillier at the other end of the scale, there are many more I’m sure and everyone has a different set that mean something to them or spring to mind.

I can pick out goal-scorers in Freedman, Guiliano Grazioli, John Akinde, I could be here all day picking out players from here, players from there.

It’s not just the players, the ones in the dugout, Ray Clemence already mentioned, Alan Mullery, Gary Sumo Phillips, Edgar Davids, Paul Fairclough, Martin Allen and now the turn of Ruby Currie to make a mark on this club.

Whatever your team, there’s a story like mine about how you got there and where it’s at today, one thing I’ve always been able to say it’s never dull following Barnet FC…….

 

2019/20 is over

The FA

So here comes the second blog of the evening and on the back of the FA’s announcement on Thursday afternoon that the season for Step 3-6 was declared null and void, you can feel a whole range of emotions, rage, common sense, hard done by, reprieved, you name it and people are feeling it across the non-league game.

Where do you start? To be honest, I don’t really know! Having been asked by leagues around the country to help them come to a decision the FA granted the one which means 2019/20 season never existed. From a personal point of view, I’ve stated in many articles I’ve done on the current situation in the past 2-3 weeks football is on the back burner, irrelevant against the coronavirus fight, and having spoken to a Step 5 chairman in Lee Robson from Wroxham FC this week, he believes 2020/21 could easily have a delayed start.

There were originally three options available, firstly to continue the suspension to the season, secondly to abandon the season and use points per games to calculate final tables and thirdly to decide the whole season to be null and void.

Many across social media have said the decision has come too quickly to be made, another couple of weeks wouldn’t have made any difference given the season should be ending in exactly four weeks for league games. Unlike the professional game and the top level of non-league in the National League, there is a possibility those seasons could finish across the summer or even slightly later than that, but getting down below that level where clubs suffered for near on three months from endless weather postponements and in the case of Arundel near me, they had one game short of half their season to fit in by the end of April, other clubs around the country in quite dire straits as well, how could those games have been fitted in after the end of April? There’s no guarantee at all as to when games would be able to resume, would that have been the fair solution?

The second option is my preferred way of settling it, but again this still isn’t the best way to go. A points per game ratio may still have left sides sitting in promotion places when play was suspended lose out to those who had games in hand, no guarantee they would have won those games and ended up promoted.

The final option which proved to be the decision today extinguishes the season from the record books, a season which was just 6-7 weeks away from league completion. Months where clubs have spent money, supporters have enjoyed and despaired throughout this time and in the case of many weeks away from promotion and league titles. You only have to look at Stowmarket Town, Littlehampton Town and Jersey Bulls to name just three who are currently unbeaten, are they going to replicate that again in 2020/21?

Worthing, seven points clear at the top of the Isthmian League Premier Division, couldn’t be caught by those with games in hand if they rounded up the games to a level number played by the team in first place, hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll speak to both George Dowell and Adam Hinshelwood for their views on the matter.

I believe and this is my opinion only is had they gone down the points per game option the FA may well have opened themselves up to legal challenges against their system, rumours are already circulating some clubs will still go down this route after the decision this afternoon.

It doesn’t only affect the men’s game with the women’s side also suffering the same fate. Going back to Worthing again, their women’s team won 14 out of 14 games, secured promotion but now denied, the club investing hard this season in diversity and the development of the women’s team.

This evening I spoke to former Worthing chairman Pete Stone, a profound supporter of non-league football who said, ‘Firstly, given the macro health environment we are all operating in, we all have to preserve the wellbeing of everyone involved in the game we love, no matter the level or the role we play.’

‘Let me then take the announcement today by the FA and the evening announcement by the Chairman of the Isthmian League, I have these questions:

-why has the FA with the alleged approval of Steps 3-6 clubs decided to make a move that is contrary to that of the National League, the EFL and the PL?

-how does this decision contribute to the integrity of football competition in England and the pyramid? To what extent does the FA believe the pyramid now stops at the National League?

-why has the Chairman of the Isthmian League has come out and said:

‘There were still a quarter of fixtures left to play in the four divisions when football was halted. We thought it would be very wrong to award promotion or punish relegation when their were so many matches left’

-will the league in conjunction with the FA refund all registration and affiliation fees for 2019/20?

-will the Isthmian League refund all fines to clubs associated with the 2019/20 season?

-will the league lobby the FA on behalf of Isthmian clubs to refund all FA fines associated with the 2019/20 season?

‘Or will the Isthmian League and the FA sit on all the income they have made from this season and leave the clubs to take the hit?’

Sources say that particular league are sitting on nearly £300,000,  most of which has come from fines and registration money and at a time when clubs are going to fall over, disappear completely from the landscape, shouldn’t some or all of this money be going back to help their member clubs?

A lot have mentioned on social media that fines occurred for bookings and sending’s off should be returned to the clubs and discounts given on next season subscription fees, after all this season doesn’t exist, neither did that goal you scored or celebrated, so that card should be refunded. Should the sending off carry over until the next game is played? Where will that player be in the country by the time things kick off again? Will that County FA have it listed against his/her name? Another can of worms to be opened!

A lot of time and effort has gone into this season across the country for it to end as per the announcement, but unless there is a very big U-turn which I don’t expect we are where we are for the foreseeable future…….

 

Wroxham FC Chairman Lee Robson: An interview with……..

 

Wroxham FC

Earlier this week I spoke to Wroxham FC Chairman Lee Robson to get his views on the current situation involving non-league clubs before Thursday’s announcement of  a complete abandonment of football from Step 3-6 (Wroxham reside at Step 5):

TK: A superb season for Wroxham up until the stoppage, how proud has it made you building this club back up?

LR: It’s been a really, really good season on a number of fronts, not just for the first team. I’ve been very proud to have played a leading role in helping the club after some difficult years.

It was important the club had a sound basis from which to work from with some great volunteers, a great history and a great story to tell. Also its great to be able to sell it to new people who wanted to help bring the good times back to Wroxham.

TK: And on the back of that how good was it to see so many supporters watching that fantastic FA Vase run?

LR: It was fantastic! To get 1000 turn out to see us twice was beyond what I thought was possible at this stage. Gates have been rising consistently over the past three seasons and of course we have also attracted some noise in the form of the Blue Wave, but the Stowmarket game really caught the imagination. To win that one and get to do it all over again was better than anything I’ve experienced in football.

 

Lee Robson

TK: You can sense there is now a more community feel to the club, how important is it for clubs of Wroxham’s size to be that heartbeat in their local area?

LR: I think it’s really important, football clubs thrive best when they represent something about the area, the workplace, the town, the village, the city. A recent development is that they represent a set of values. I think we can do all of those things, people know we’re a club with standards and values. It’s a little bit of tradition with a quirky twist, it’s honest. When the football’s not great we can still be sustainable it’s a great day out because it just matters.

TK: What impact do the likes of Grant Holt, Simon Lappin and Adam Drury have on the club?

LR: Simon and Adam arrived when we appointed Jordan (Southgate) and the three of them made an immediate impression at first team level creating the professional environment that young players needed to thrive. It also ensured a bit of stability after a couple of years (and more) of almost all the players leaving at the end of the season and a whole new squad arriving.

Holty brings the stardust to add to the real humility but the foundations have been equally laid by young players becoming more mature like Harley Black and Shaun Taylor – club stalwarts after only three seasons. I wouldn’t underestimate the impact that Ollie Sutton (son of ex Norwich striker Chris) has made either – but the three ex-Canaries have certainly added to the lure of a Saturday afternoon at Trafford Park.

TK: Given the current situation we find ourselves in as people and a country, football is very much on the back burner as it should be. Stepping aside from that how do you feel the authorities should proceed to complete the season or abandon it as of now? (written before the news today of complete abandonment at Steps 3-6)

LR: There is simply no chance of any football between now and at least August, even then it will be a slow recovery. People will be very safety conscious of my guess is they’ll be wary of crowds whatever size. Many will have lost family, friends and colleagues, I don’t want to sound bleak but that’s the harsh reality. It’s delusional to think we can finish this season even if we get a downward curve. I’d go so far as to say that 2020/21 could also be under threat too.

TK: Once we get beyond what we’re experiencing now, would you hope the game is in a more sensible and sound financial shape?

LR: Define sustainable! The football business model at pretty much every level is based on guesswork and hope rather than expectation. At the very top money is no object but the new world that will emerge after this I think it’s going to be a very different picture all the way down the pyramid

I am an eternal optimist, but I think we’ll be starting from a very low base, clubs will need to run outwards now to their communities. It’s simply not right that a facility like a football ground stands idle for most weekdays in the middle of a community.

We’ve started that process, in 2017 we had four teams and 70 players, now we have 17 teams and 365 players and that’s done in just two years. That goes some way to making sure the club washes its own face now and in the future. We can always do more, and we must, it may be no less a task of reinventing the purpose of your local football club.

TK: When you decide the time is right to pass the reins of the club onto someone else, what do you hope to have left behind?

LR: Well I get elected every year so it may not be my decision! There is a great All Black motto which says, ‘You should always leave the (all Black) shirt in a better place’. I’d like to think we will be challenging for the things we used to like the Senior Cup, be operating at Step 4 at least, to get to a Vase Final (next year) and have better facilities which after spending close on £100,000 on our floodlights, well we can tick that box.

Also to have a steady stream of local youngsters like 16 year old Travis Dodsworth breaking through into the first team, but possibly most of all that we are well run, progressive and people who see us and experience everything we do have a lot of fun. Believe it or not, this is supposed to be enjoyable! #ahoy

My thanks to Lee for spending some time sending these back and forth across Twitter, fingers crossed I will a second blog up tonight after the FA announcement on Thursday afternoon.