The day Chesham lose 7-0 at Beaconsfield is very sad. When that comes just a few weeks after the humiliation of losing at home to an Aylesbury United struggling in the league below us, and a defeat at Kings Langley, it feels bad. And then when you look at the league table and see that we have four points from eleven games. We have scored just four goals in eleven games. Conceded 33 goals in those eleven games. Someone needs to shout, “what the hell is going on? Enough is enough. Please.”Fortunately at this point I had the good sense to not publish my original words immediately after the game, instead leaving it a week or so to all sink in, and a chance to calm down…
Well, if you only follow what is going on via this blog, you will have missed a lot from recent weeks. The good news is that someone has said “enough is enough” and we have gone for a new manager, appointed just last week, picking up a good point in his first game at home to Tiverton (now five points from twelve games!). After Jon Meakes we did actually win a game at Farnborough as well, it must have left Jon wondering why they couldn’t do that before, but the reality is that the football was still not good and the change needed to happen.
Like Andy Leese I have known Jon for a long time and have huge respect – Nobody will understand or appreciate how much he put into Chesham United as much as I do. We all saw what he did with and without Andy on the pitch and we can all have opinions on that, the fact is that this season it has simply not been good enough. I personally think Jon should have left when Andy went 18 months ago – The issues that Andy handled with anger were still always going to be there, Jon and the Board were never going to see eye to eye, and that niggle will always be at the back of everything we look to achieve.
Away from the dugout Jon put in countless hours trying to help to create a new sustainable future for our club. In my time he was fundamental in bringing ideas, new proposals and contacts to the club for installing a 3G pitch at The Meadow; and he also introduced potential fresh new faces to the Boardroom that gave the club the option of carrying on as they are, or being brave and trying something new and fresh. That all ended rather abruptly with the never to be forgotten mind-blowing experience of witnessing “a supporter” acting on behalf of the Board to tell these people to go away, we are ok on our own thank you. That whole period in the clubs history still blows my mind when I think back, it effectively ended my relationship at Board level once and for all.
I subsequently went through a period of not really caring, and i’ve been happy with that. There is still a loud voice in my head saying “why care? You’ve done your bit, let someone else have a go.” And most the time I let that voice rule my thoughts and actions, it certainly makes life easier and less stressful…but then sometimes the passion, frustration, anger and despair bubbles to the surface. Even taking me by surprise.
The latest vent of frustration took place at Beaconsfield last Tuesday night, half way through what was without a shadow of doubt the most diabolical, disrespectful and embarrassing heap of shit ever served up by a Chesham United team in my years of watching. There are plenty of excuses that I understand, but none of those excuses forgive what supporters paid to watch and the complete lack of empathy about how supporters feel watching a SEVEN-nil defeat against Beaconsfield. It just pushes the GGGRRRRR button all over again.
The football was crap. We all know that and in fairness the club is doing something about that, has done something about it. They have every right to feel aggrieved at the wages they are paying to watch a performance like that. It would be nice if they looked bothered by it at times, but everyone reacts different. Hey, they could have done that increasingly popular gesture of refunding travelling supporters their entrance fee – It wouldn’t cost more than a couple of hundred quid and you would like to think the players wouldn’t have minded that coming out of their own over-weighty wage packets. I don’t normally condone not paying the players their wages, but if there was an ounce of caring in the dressing room, I’d like to think there might be the odd one that refused to take their money on the Saturday after the Beaconsfield debacle.
So the football is crap. we know that. And you probably know from the many blogs, fanzines and rants that it is not the football that bothers me. It’s the other stuff. I know the Board want to get it, and I know the majority of them really do want to get it right. They see the need to communicate, they want to be transparent with the fans and create this utopia of “One Club. Chesham. United.” But it is not happening. Yet. They must be frustrated themselves. Some of them. But the reality is that there are some very different views around as to how the club operates and proceeds. That is a good thing. It is healthy to have differing opinions, different skills and contacts in the Boardroom. Fresh ideas and old traditions; youthful energy and wise head experience. A perfect blend.
The problems comes when the listening stops and only one view becomes important. That only attracts like-minded views. And suddenly your diversification and ability to appeal to all, to unite, goes out the window.
So the half-time whistle has gone at Beaconsfield and as I walk to buy my son a half-time drink I’m called over by the Owner (somehow not naming makes it sound better!) who wants to discuss how I know who the new manager was going to be. I did know. Although it was not common knowledge ( I had not told anyone), the majority of people seemed to have some idea (a possible, if unacceptable, reason for us being so completely crap that evening). R…The Owner…wanted to know how I knew, and the fact that I knew seemed to be the biggest of all issues at Chesham United.
Something I disagreed with. And I let him know.
The argument was nothing new. Over the years the Owner and I have had many disagreements, many of them culminating in a loud dispute and me walking out, but at the end of it all I think…well I like to think…that we both know where the other is coming from. The sad reality is that he is a million miles away from me. He knows that. I know that, and in a way it is healthy that we can have such frank conversations without falling out in a silly, long term, way.
In short, he reminded me how much it cost him to keep Chesham United going. I agreed that I understood how much it cost. I told him that it pissed me off that he was spending so much and not seeing the true potential benefits. I told him that it pissed me off that I knew better than him as to where the money he put in was going. I also told him that it pissed me off that when I was Chairman we won no FA Prize Money, yet the following year we won over £100k. I told him that the truth is that I would have been scared to be responsible for so much money were I Chairman still. I told him again that it pisses me off how much money he is still putting in after that cup run. He told me I, of all people, should know how much it costs. I told him again it pisses me off that I know more than him where his money goes. I told him that pisses me off. I told him that I was pissed off. I am pissed off.
We then talked about income. I told him that it pissed me off that he was only interested in people that could bring direct money to the club. Cash is far better than input. That pissed me off.
I explained the dreadful scenario he faced. I told him, frankly, I, or anyone, could look to raise money for the club, but the reality is that whatever I do at the moment will not make the club better. It could save the Owner money, which I understand as being desirable to him and if kind-hearted that is what I and other supporters should look to do, but when treated with such disdain, why would we bother? The money we raise will not be extra income to the club; which is a ludicrous position to have got ourselves into.
it has been my point all along, it is impossible to manage the club when you do not know how much money is coming in. We can forecast most things, but there are two variables that are difficult to predict, and they tend to be the most significant ones – Prize money and donations from Roger (or are they loans? A very important factor to consider). Between the two of them I would hazard a well-educated guess that they still contribute at least a third of the clubs overall income. However, they are not independent of each other. The more prize money we receive, the less contribution is needed from the Owner. It makes sense, but makes budgeting a complete nightmare as you are effectively left with a deficit in the plan that is to be filled by these two items – Both volatile in that we could easily have a bad FA Cup day, and we could easily have a bad response (toys flying out of prams) from the Owner, and suddenly filling that deficit becomes a very real worry.
I have long wished that the Owner would say at the start of the season for certain exactly what money he will contribute, whatever that is; be it zero, £5k, £10k, £50k, or £100k; at least then you have something that the rest of the club can work with, plan around, and then identify other areas where things like additional sponsors and supporters activities could truly make a difference. Or maybe another way of doing it is, a bit of a gamble, ask the Owner to commit to a contribution for the season that will enable the club to budget with a certain degree of certainty, and then any prize money from cup runs goes directly to repaying the Owner? He might even end up better off, and who would begrudge him that? In truth…plenty of people!
Its a conundrum, and not one that is my problem anymore, but, as the conversation went over at Beaconsfield, I think I made it perfectly clear that the whole thing still pissed me off. I got it off my chest, and in fairness to the Owner, he got a few things off his chest, to which you have to have a certain degree of sympathy. And this is where we end, as we always do, a million miles apart in our understanding of the club.
Justifiably the Owner feels that supporters could be contributing more to the running of the club. Not just money, but effort, support and involvement. Volunteers…The very thing I am still pulling my hair out to explain why they are not getting the backing he would want, and expect. Of course, on the surface, he is absolutely right that a club our size, in our position, should have so many more people involved…The conversation finished with me responding to every statement with “why do you think that is?”, “ask yourself why that is?”…”only you can do anything about it…” It is true, the lead needs to come from the top. I get that. I don’t think he does. That pisses me off.
What will come from it all, I don’t know. We now have a new manager in place and there is a buzz about the place again. We have some new signings for the FA Trophy game tomorrow and I genuinely hope this can spark the beginning of a new era. I know the Board want that, albeit maybe not as united as we might all hope, but ultimately we all want the same thing. Since starting my rants on this blog site I have actually become more engaged with the club and the Board, offered my support where I can and sensed a genuine desire to deliver what we all want and expect as supporters.
It won’t happen overnight, and there will always be differences of opinion. That is healthy, as long as people are prepared to accept that, and listen to that. I think the Board are ready to do that. But they can’t do it alone. They are starting to make the effort, albeit that it does not always come naturally. If they are prepared to make the effort, they are going to need to see a response from supporters. And now, with a new manager in place, and the opportunity for a fresh start, it is time for supporters to decide how they want to go forward – Carry on fighting and resisting, or getting onboard and starting to work together to restore the pride we all once had in Chesham United.
The answer should be a no-brainer. We all know where we stand. We all want the same outcome. We just have slightly different views of the way we get there, but that shouldn’t stop us trying. The Supporters’ Trust has now announced a date for the AGM. Possibly the most crucial meeting in the Trust’s history, and it has been through some moments that is for sure, as, in my opinion, they are our best hopes of unifying the club and getting supporters back on track with backing the Board and their ambitions (Unless anyone has a genuine interest in planning a takeover?). Having a voice, fighting to be listened to, and making sure the Board understand they are here to help the cause, and if treated with the respect that is now being promised (by some), and not just seen as a source of slave labour (twats & minions), they can make a difference. A real difference.
I hope that happens. I really do.