Week 12 w/c 18th February 2013

All is still quiet on the Western Front. No word from Andy, no word from the Chairman. Still not sure if that is good or bad news.

This week’s football matters  involve the Business Partners Evening on Tuesday at a Berks & Bucks Cup game to which we have invited local businesses to attend the game and receive hospitality. It is funny, the thought of this Business Partners Evening always reminds me of when Luther Blissett was manager. A Chesham supporter at a Meet The Manager evening dared to question the success of the season and Luther replied by declaring it a success on the back of reaching the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup semi-final. After overcoming Abingdon United and Chalfont St Peter we were once again in the semi-finals, is this another successful season?

The Business Partners Evening is something I introduced to the clubs calendar many years ago, along with the Corporate Patron Scheme. Over the past couple of years I have handed over the responsibility for organising the evening as I look to step back from my roles, but if I’m honest, last year was diabolical.

Monday morning I sent an email, but I don’t think it should have been my job to:

Hi All,

If anyone else has any of this in hand – please feel free to ignore; but just as a back-up, there are a number of things we need to get in order, so I thought I’d share a checklist – please let me know if anything is wrongly assumed:

Food/Waitrose– Len has in hand?

Drinks– We discussed at the board meeting, but with no real conclusion? I think it was going to depend on numbers? Could Neil/Len/Nev liaise as to what is best to offer in addition to Waitrose provision?

Attendees/Badges– I should have the badges today (can sort out what to do with them once received) – Do we now have a definitive list? I should be able to get names printed

Presentations– DJ has put together some Powerpoint slides on the club, the community and other sections within the club, we will also have some slides on the CPS and Ten Generals…I will bring a Projector along with me. Do we have/can we have a laptop at the club that can be used, or should I bring mine along?

The Chairman will also do introductions and welcomes and a few words…

Meet & Greet / Set-Up– With guests welcome from 6.00pm, we need to make sure that there are enough people on hand to meet, greet and mingle… Would suggest a smart dress code as well.

In previous years we have used the screen to make the BPE separate from the normal hosting of match officials…I personally think that has worked well in the past, but open to suggestions.

Nev – Would you be able to, perhaps in conjunction with anyone else who can be around earlier in the day, get the room set up so that it looks presentable and practical for what we want to do (need a clear wall to project onto – I don’t believe we have an actual screen down there?)

Literature– We need to have some talking points around. Could we make sure the following are available (I think most will be in the office):

5 Ways to sponsor the Club – NEW

Corporate Patron Scheme leaflets – NEW

Themed Days Leaflet – NEW

Copies of the February Sponsors newsletter – May need printing out?

Open Invite to join Ten Generals – I will print copies and bring them along

Programmes – Not heard how many have been ordered, but imagine we have over-ordered!

First Goalscorer – We can look to make a bit of money from running a first goalscorer competition as Salisbury do, I believe Giles said he still has them from last year?

Apologies as it sounds like a list of delegating and apologies again if all is in hand and I have trodden on any toes…but it is important we get this right, I am unlikely to be able to get there much before 5.45pm so the more we can get sorted in advance the better it will look!!

Let me know if any issues!!

 

I got a few responses. One of the responses, totally understandably, came from the Bar Manager:

Hi Alan,

I have arranged with Robin to pick up the food from Waitrose at 4.30pm. Was going to use paper plates and use plastic cutlery, got one of my staff cooking from 5pm.

As usual this is the first I have heard of supplying drinks, I have cans of soft drinks and could do red and white wine and a selection of bottled lager, how about a barrel of Hobgoblin on a table in the boardroom?

I just don’t understand why all this is left to the last minute when it’s imperative to promote the club in a GREAT light.I will prepare after match food as usual for boardroom, players and officials?

Still no wage slips for me or my staff after 26 weeks working!!!!!

If there is anything else you need me to do for tomorrow give me a call anytime.

 

He is right. Absolutely right. And I was in no mood to bullshit him anymore:

Hi,

I share your despair, but have run out of excuses…

In the past boardroom drinks on the night have been kept separate – it used to be an issue boardroom drinks being supplied from the bar and it just became too much hassle…

…My understanding is that Len has drinks in hand via Waitrose, but I have not heard anything since Tuesday – so cannot be sure, hence including it on the checklist.

Unfortunately, we still suffer from people having full-time jobs, but they are also not handling time well…Having you on board this year should have made things so much smoother, but I’m guessing that all your communication has come from Len? As a Board/Club I don’t think we have involved you in the way that we should have done….

I know my communication with you has not been the best either, but, to be honest I’m a little annoyed that – please, take this the right way – overseeing the bar and hospitality manager has become my responsibility…just because I was the only one who bothered to try to do something last summer!!! Sorry… that sounds awful, but others ought to be working with you regularly, and the Chairman should be in touch much more to understand the requirements of the bar.

(I bought up the floor material at the meeting, there was interest, but nobody managed to arrive at any suggestion as to how we might be able to afford it…so it just got left hanging).

Sorry I haven’t been in touch last week, I have deliberately stayed out of things since the end of last week when the club was taking up far too much of my time and I was at the point of screaming… At the Board Meeting it was raised that we are in a cashflow crisis, I spent a couple of hours watching people stare at Roger with no possible suggestion of a resolution…

…In the end I put forward my suggestions that involve cutting players wage, groundsman, taking a loan repayment holiday, turning some debt into equity/shares – and on the back of my suggesting other cuts, we got another £10k out of Roger.

But, it is comical – the Board is too weak, and unless things change this problem will never go away…I am trying to influence some changes, but it is like pushing water up hill. I know I can seem as guilty as the rest when I criticise, but if people really knew half of truth about what I do it would be enlightening e.g. I spent about 7 hours a day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday doing the Chairman’s job of talking to the manager about the budget….

Sorry, I’ve turned this into a rant back – very unprofessional, but I too am at a breaking point at the moment…

Sorry.

Yes, I believe food is needed as normal or after the game tomorrow…

 

I hate getting intrusive phone calls so never answer my phone unless I recognize the number. If it is important they will leave a message, and in the case of George Adams, most the time I think he prefers to leave a message.

At about 6.00pm Monday I deliberately missed a call from a mobile. Moments later I had an email from Steve Turner saying that he had a call from Aylesbury police, they were concerned about George and if we knew anything could we call this number…it was the same number. Later Monday evening I logged on to my emails and saw one from Paul Campion – George has gone missing.

Shit. Dave Pembroke has a heart attack, George has gone missing. Is it worth it?

 

Tuesday starts with some good news, George has been found and is being tested for his mental state. I just hope they don’t lock him up thinking that he has tourretes – I might have to go along and bail him out on the basis that he is always a swearing old bugger. Great to know he is safe.

Knowing that George was ok enabled focus to turn back to the Business Partners Evening and the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup semi-final tie against Maidenhead. The Business Partners Evening showed signs of being promising, a number of new businesses were coming along and everyone seemed to be behind it, everyone seemed to appreciate its importance; Len had done a cracking job of going around cold calling and doing what we desperately need, getting local businesses interested in what we are doing, or, at the very least, aware of what we are up to.

Last year’s business partners evening was a shocker, embarrassing – no presentations and, basically, no preparation. For this one I had asked DJ if he could help with some Powerpoint slides about the other sections of the club and the club’s involvement in the community, I added some slides of my own to launch next season’s Corporate Patron Scheme and also a new attempt at fundraising – The Ten Generals.

I have to say that Dave’s slides were brilliant, and really hit home how far the club has progressed within the community, and how many people do get involved in the club. Presenting it was very easy, but it also made me very proud to be a leading figure in the club I was talking about.

A few weeks back Stuart Wandrag had come up with a slogan: One Club. Chesham. United.

Dave had put the words on the bottom of most slides, half way through the presentation I felt like a vicar doing Sunday prayers with the audience joining in at the end of each slide, repeating the words in unison: ” One Club. Chesham. United”. It was brilliant. The whole presentation went down really well and went a long way to bringing the love back into my relationship with Chesham United.

The match itself almost played second fiddle for the evening, certainly in my mind I know I was not concentrating on the game as much as I normally would; partly thinking about the Business Partners Evening, partly as I spent most of the evening chatting to a contact from Fellowes UK that I had invited along to the evening, he was a work contact that loved football, but was never going to be a source of income!

There were a number of changes to the team for the match, certainly if it was a side that we. were we to put out every week it would be a lot cheaper, and, guess what? It wouldn’t let us down. The football was good, the spirit was excellent and the result matched both – a 1-0 win, courtesy of a Simon Thomas goal. There was a glaring chance for Maidenhead to take the game to extra-time in the dying seconds, but on a freezing cold night we were all delighted to see the chance scuppered.

In the boardroom after the game I noticed one well known supporter taking the Chairman to one side and starting a conversation. The supporter is one of our loyal fans, his business sponsors the club…but he, for whatever reason, hates Andy Leese and has had a number of visible rows with the manager, typically catching him at a time when he knows he will be at his most temperamental.

I was talking to a guy from Topps Tiles, but confess that one ear was trying to listen to what was being plotted – a plan to get rid of the manager perhaps?

The conversation went on long, Roger Payne was called over, and then the Chairman came over and explained what was going on. Wow.

The supporter had identified that The Chess Suite was not fulfilling its full potential and he was effectively, well, actually, giving us £20,000 to smarten the place up to improve the reputation of it as a local function venue (in particular the toilets). I repeat: Wow.

At this point the bar manager came into the boardroom clearing up, we told him the good news. He looked pleased (but not ecstatic). Later that evening I went into the bar and spoke with him and he informed me that he had already heard about the £20k being given to the club for The Chess Suite…Oh how I love Chesham for the way that nothing can stay a secret for more than two minutes!

He also updated me on a situation that he had previously made me aware of – there was a chance that Wycombe Wanderers were going to be offering him a job, on more money than we can ever afford. He has a meeting on Thursday which will either be them making him an offer, or saying thanks, but no thanks.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings. He has done a great job at improving the cleanliness and we now have a much better understanding of the finances of the club; but, selfishly, I was a bit miffed at the way that it had evolved with me effectively becoming his line manager. The only reason for this is because nobody else seemed to be doing anything about getting us a bar manager, except myself with the help of George Adams. When the full-time bar manager option became realistic, again, because it is me that looks at all the budgets and finances and thought it possible, it was me who sorted out his contract, and effectively became his boss – Not anything I ever wanted, but it just seemed to come about. That is not an easy position to fulfill when finances are tight, certainly not a role I enjoy, particularly – let’s not forget – when it is only my leisure time activity – do I really want to be a people manager to a role notoriously difficult and habitually criticised?

On the whole, I left the club pretty happy on Tuesday. The happiest I have been for a long time. The £20k for the clubhouse was a huge boost, but again, it is something to help with next season – cashflow will remain an issue for the remainder of the season.

I spoke to George on Wednesday evening, it was really sad to hear how he had sunk into such a low state in such a short space of time, but by the end of the conversation he was back to the George we know and love.

Friday morning I came down stairs to make the early morning cup of tea, I checked my email to see if there was a note from the bar manager. There was:

This is hard to put in writing but with heavy heart I have to resign my full- time position at Chesham. One Club. United.

 Wycombe want me to start ASAP and have offered me a much higher basic + a  bonus scheme to get the turnover and margins up on their Bars.  I envisage finishing on the 24th March – 4 weeks notice, if agreeable with yourself, the package offered was too good an opportunity to miss. Can we have a chat tonight as I have a few ideas to keep the Chess Suite operating efficiently for the foreseeable future. Also, we need to sort out my pay, bonus and holiday pay due. 

Here we go again. Let the search for a bar manager commence.

That evening I was at The Chess Suite for my first attendance at a Comedy Night for a couple of years, there were 12 of us in my party in total, and we had a cracking evening – with one of my favourite comedians, Bob Mills, as headliner, the enjoyment factor was never going to be in doubt.

I had a brief chat with the bar manager but wanted to keep it a social evening with my friends. Although I confess to getting some self-satisfaction out of one toilet visit (no – not like that!) when I bumped into someone from the youth section who asked about how the previous week’s meeting had gone and offered his thanks and appreciation for all that I was doing to help the club. Wow (again – three in a week), someone actually appreciating something that is being done for the club – someone call the taxidermist, a satisfied customer – we should get him stuffed!!

On Saturday morning we awoke to snow, only light, but it lasted for several hours – when will this winter end? It was never enough to put the match at Leamington in doubt though.

Meeting Dad and Mike Warrick at The Stag in Chorleywood at midday, the journey up the M40 is not a bad one at all and with their New Windmill Ground less than 4 miles from junction 13, we were settled in the bar by 1.30pm; the topic of conversation still very similar to that which it had been all the way up – how we have never had a good away day at Leamington, and never picked up so much as a point. With The Brakes running away at the top of the league (despite a crazy recent 0-6 home reverse against Barwell), the likelihood of us coming away with anything from this match seemed pretty unlikely.

You can guess what is coming now, can’t you?

Attacking the Harbury Lane End in the first half (as opposed to the North End which was basically a few steps of terrace that backed onto flat, open fields as far as the eye could see), Chesham started lively. It is always easy to say, but a stranger walking into the match would genuinely have struggled to identify which was the team running away with the league.

0-0at the break, and it was bloody freezing.

For the second half we again stood behind the goal, this time much more open to the cold, but the football from Chesham was offering some warmth, and when Toby Little scuffed home what proved to be the winner, for a few moments we all forgot about the cold and started concentrating on not panicking. On the field we maintained composure, continued to attack, and dominated proceedings…but that does not make the squeaky bum moments any easier when the home side had their attacks…one in particular when the ball came pinging off the post when the striker seemed to have an empty net to aim at.

In the corner from where we stood, across several tons of wood chippings that surrounded the terraces stood a scoreboard. At first I mocked the idea of a scoreboard at a ground that, despite its tidiness, lacked so many other footballing basics…like covered terraces and toilets; however with my hands wrapped in gloves and gloves tucked into my coat, it was very handy to have a clock showing how long is left without having to get your hands out of the pockets. However, somewhat optimistically the scoreboard was showing the score as 1-1. Was the operator jumping the gun for the inevitable? Not on your nelly sunshine, Chesham saw the game out brilliantly and recorded a very memorable, and thoroughly deserved, victory at table-topping Leamington.

On the drive home Dad asked: “Do you think if we won the next few games, Roger will change his mind and continue to fund the club?

I don’t know” I replied laughingly “but, you know what, it wouldn’t surprise me.”

The likelihood is we will not get to find out, although today was a stunning result, we have an away trip to Hitchin on Monday and then it is promotion chasing Cambridge City at home on Saturday followed by…Leamington at home.

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