Last night I made the first visit of the season to Chesham United, in fact it felt like my first visit to Chesham for ages with the tail-end of last season dominated by thoroughly enjoying watching Saracens complete the League and European Cup double. Last night was just a friendly, but a very impressive performance.
In fact it seems to have been a pretty impressive pre-season all-round so far this season, with four away games seeing twenty goals scored prior to last night’s 3-2 win over Wealdstone – Not bad for a team that really struggled to score goals last season.
Off the field there seems to be a bit of a buzz as well. The long desire for new blood seems to be being fulfilled with a fresh and welcoming attitude being adopted, certainly by the Commercial Team headed up by Tina Reading. It is always going to be a slow journey, but the signs are there of things turning around with a hard-working and enthusiastic team determined to make Chesham United Football Club an inclusive part of both the business and social community.
The success of that has been shown in the season ticket sales. By putting together a good package that makes supporters feel wanted, the reaction seems to have been exceptional which is generating a great feeling of anticipation for the season ahead. With new sponsorship ideas and sensibly reduced sponsorship prices, I have no doubt that the business community will begin to embrace the club during the course of the season.
Arriving at The Meadow last night it was also good to see some parking controls in place to make sure that all of the club’s parking spaces are not taken up by gym-users by the time supporters arrive – Have we really cracked that long-standing problem? If I had a pound for every meeting I have been in discussing the issue I could have bought the club by now!
Entering through the turnstiles the paint job carried out by the working parties over the summer was clearly visible, and it was great to get a smile from George as my son and I entered the ground. Once through the turnstiles, despite the best efforts of the work parties, the place looks tired and in need of some TLC.
The Pop Stand/Ryan Moran Stand just looks like a derelict embarrassment. To think that standing over there all those years ago as a child was what I fell in love with, today it just looks like a health hazard that needs knocking down and re-building. Elsewhere it is clear that Maverick continues to pull off miracles repairing the ever deteriorating terracing and pitch perimeter, parts of the outer wall are falling down and the empty breeze block shells of unfinished turnstiles and toilets still grate me.
I know that there are supporters involved with the Trust that want to spend some of the hard-earned Trust money on improving some of these features for supporters. I get that, as a fan on the terrace it is embarrasing to bring friends or family down when this one element lets the side down despite so much positivity around on and off the pitch. And as the founder of the Supporters Trust many years ago, I still firmly believed that monies should be spent on projects for the benefit of the supporters, this would seem to tick that box (with a big black, chisel-tipped permanent marker).
Which brings us on to the big white elephant. With the state of the ground being such a spanner in the otherwise hard-working wheels of success, I will never understand why the bloody hell the plans for moving to a new ground remain so secretive; and the views of supporters remain so unconsidered. It must have been a couple of years now since the words were banded around that “we will be in a new ground within a couple of years”? Why the lack of updates for the supporters that are living and breathing the club?
I really do struggle with it. I hope by now that the Board know that I hugely appreciate what they do, what they are achieving and the time and money they are investing. They have saved the club, literally, and given us all the club that we have today, which, believe me, is so much better than it would be without them.
I guess the one thing I do not understand is why they do it? Not a stupid question, one we regularly used to ask ourselves when I was on the board. They are delivering a great club for an increasing band of supporters, yet there still seems to be so much resentment towards the supporters they are doing it for. I genuinely don’t get it.
Having clearly made an outstanding management appointment back in October when things looked doom and gloom on the pitch the Board have re-invigorated the passion for the club and created belief that good things could happen this season.
The communication via social media to supporters is a credit to those making it happen and hopefully backed by a a pro-active Supporters Trust in the season ahead…so why, oh why, would anyone not want to tap into this huge tidal wave of positivity around the club by sharing the latest thoughts, status and ideas for the still much talked about ground move?
Surely embracing supporters, the ladies, the youth and all the local businesses that are being drawn to the club, getting them onboard for the journey into a new ground, is the obvious way to go? If we are genuinely going to be a community club for the future, keeping the community positive must be better than the secretive approach that does nothing more than create doubt, cynicism and concern? That just feels like there is something to hide? Is it really just me?
I know that this website, my blogs and my opinions are not really worth a lot, but if I felt that I was being asked to sell the concept of a new ground, the security that brings, along with massive community benefits then I would love to sing and shout about it. Without that, I can’t help loving our current home and the fact that, as someone said to me just tonight, “it’s a beautiful sight on a summer evening when the sun goes down and it rolls across the fields down to the ground.”
Chesham United is an amazing club, with amazing people. Like all clubs it has had some tough times, but visiting The Meadow last night I felt a real positive vibe. A genuine united desire to succeed. To not tap into that support and enthusiasm would seem like madness…but then I’ve always though you would have to be mad to be on the board of a non-league football club!