Week 13 w/c 25th February 2013

It might work for the Premiership and Sky Sports – Ford Monday Night Special…but it doesn’t seem right to me, and it knocked me out of sync for the entire week. Additionally, if the intention of Hitchin was to boost crowds by playing on a Monday night, it didn’t work this particular night, 239 hardy souls making the trip out on a cold and damp evening.

It has to be said though that a short trip to somewhere like Hitchin is favourable midweek to some of the trips  we have to endure; meeting Mike Warrick at my house where my Dad was child-minding anyway, the three of us were on the road by 6.00pm, and supping on a sneaky pint in the bar by 6.45pm. It has to be said that the bar was dead, there were a couple of people playing pool and someone sitting in the corner having a drink, but it did not project a feeling of pre-match football.

It was only when we entered the ground itself that we realised quite how bitterly cold the weather was, the dampness and the wind adding to the misery. Dad and I purchased our healthy burger and chips from the food outlet and then set off in search of shelter, which we found behind the wooden perimeter fence behind the near goal – we couldn’t see the players coming out onto the pitch for the warm-up, and we missed the skipper’s tossing-up in the centre circle, but we were at least staying warmer for a few extra seconds.

What we did see was huge gaps in the fence around the ground perimeter, a local from Hitchin that did not fancy paying to get into the game would have had no problem finding a way into the ground. I actually like Hitchin’s ground, but the day is going to come when they are likely to need to spend a lot of money on upgrading and maintenance. The concrete terracing behind the far goal provides an excellent view and will be the envy of many a supporter in this league, but the main stand, whilst being traditional, is undergoing various stages of dilapidation whilst the other two sides of the ground boast some pretty unique wooden terracing.

In this health & safety mad world we live in I wonder how long it will be before this is declared a fire hazard – that is not to mention the potential irritation of dropping something between the gaps and seeing your personal belongings disappear below your feet, beyond reach…ok, yeah, I do still remember my Thomas dropping his little toy down there when we took him to a game there over a decade ago, but I still remember the tears.

For the first half I never actually made it as far as the large terracing behind the goal we were attacking, distracted in conversation with the Chairman and fellow Director Mike Dragisic; discussion dominated by the situation regarding the bar manager and the loss of ours to Wycombe Wanderers. Someone had some inside information that suggested all is not well in the financial garden of Wycombe Wanderers and their generous offer to our bar manager might actually be more than they could really afford, only time will tell.

On the pitch Chesham carried on where they left off Saturday, some great attacking football, creating chances, but failing to convert.For the first 45 minutes we were rampant, dominating the game and should have gone into the interval more than 1-0 up. The game should have been in the bag, but it wasn’t…so you can guess what followed?

After the break we were not so fluid and when the ref gave a controversial penalty against Shane Gore, converted by Frendo, the game looked to have slipped from our grasp. Everything seemed to go against us, the 50/50’s were now being lost, decisions were going against us, it was getting colder, the rain got heavier…and then fortune did a little trump in our general direction (Sorry! But that’s the best way I could think to describe it!).

On a slippery surface, Fothers drilled a ball into the box, the outstretched defender got a touch, completely wrong-footed the keeper and the ball dropped into the net. Yes! Thank you.

From that moment on there was only one winner…and Inih Effiong made sure of that with a great finish in the dying seconds to seal the match 3-1 and guarantee another 3 points.

So, since the Frome game we have reached a cup final and picked up 6 points on our travels; it is still a massive ask, but is it too early to throw in the towel? Is it just possible that we can put the needed run in during the final third of the season that could take us up into the play-offs, and into the play-offs as the form side? It is not impossible, the margins for error now are very thin and it will be quite an incredible finale to the season…but are you ready to bet against it yet? One thing is for sure, after the last few weeks, were we to reach the play-offs, there is nobody we need fear in a one-off, winner takes all match.

Another thing that is for sure, we need to continue encouraging more and more people along to the games. Playing Southern League Football is a very expensive hobby, particularly if you want to compete at the top…I’m not going to go into the boring detail again (this is an optimistic article week), but suffice to say, the more people we can get through the gate and using the clubhouse, the better it will be for all of us.

One final observation from the last couple of games – Is there something wrong with the numbers on our shirts?

After being credited with Toby Little’s goal at Leamington Steve Wales was also announced as the goalscorer when JP put it in the net on Monday night – I suppose in bad light certain numbers can be very difficult to differentiate. Now I am not saying that Wales did not have an excellent game at Leamington, but, as Mike Warrick pointed out on the drive to Hitchin: “I guess if the match reporter thought that numbers 3,6,8 and 9 were all the same player, it’s little wonder he got awarded Man of the Match!

With football being on Monday I was completely confused by Tuesday, convinced that it was Wednesday. I went to a Trade Marketing Fair at Earls Court on Tuesday, and even went as far as spending an hour sat on the floor of Earls Court typing out a programme article for Saturday’s game, thinking that it was deadline day for going to print… A whole twenty-four hours early!

On Wednesday a potential new Bar Manager visited the club and met with the current one, brought along by Paul Campion. At the same time George Adams is once again in the background coming up with a potential plan that involves one of our existing bar staff – it might just work what he is suggesting, but there is still some uncertainty as to whom, if any, from or existing bar staff will be moving over to Wycombe.

With regards to some of the other cost cutting plans from the last Board Meeting, the Chairman had sent an email to the manager of the pitch maintenance company, who is also involved in the cricket club. Again, email might not have been the best way to go about it, and certainly the lengthy response was fairly damning in the assessment of the situation. Certainly a face to face conversation is most likely needed to arrive at a sensible and agreeable conclusion. It is another tricky one, we have an excellent pitch nowadays, but we cannot afford it!

I am certain the Chairman must be hating the extra pressure that comes with the role at the moment, I sympathise, I genuinely do; but there is also another part of me that is pleased that someone else is getting to see that being Chairman is about so much more than just talking to the Manager about players on a weekly basis.

Late Tuesday night the Chairman sent me an email:

The results tonight make interesting reading. We are now 9 points behind 5thplace with 2 games in hand. WE can still do it if we maintain our present form. Cambridge City, St Albans and Hemel all lost.

 

He is spot on, but my response had to take on a slightly more glass empty stance:

Saw the results, Hemel have lost as many games as us now; only Leamington, Stourbridge, Barwell and Gosport have lost fewer games than us…

BUT…

…We can’t afford it!!

There are a lot of good things in the pipeline, but they won’t help us to find the money for the wages and help the cashflow. I totally agree with your optimism on the field, and if there was any way we could maintain the push, then I feel we must…

BUT…

…We need to find a new bar manager, PDQ. That could cost us financially and could cost our reputation
…We had a good business partners evening, we need to make sure we have followed up with those who attended, or were no-shows, with a call or at least a letter or email thanking them and seeing if they want to take anything up – keep the momentum going
…As it stands at the moment, we cannot afford the pitch maintenance. Maybe a face to face meeting  can help that, restructure payments further? My comments about a meeting was merely identifying that something needs to happen

Not wanting to be the doom-monger, but we need to face up to these realities as well as get excited by the results on the pitch!!!

…Has the idea of monthly payments starting in March gone any further? That could be a big help to cashflow? If March goes really well, gates could be up into the 600’s and… well, you know what I mean!!

Heart v Head. A constant battle, one none of us really want to face up to the reality of, and the reason why in reality supporters having the ultimate say, is a dangerous situation to be in.

On the pitch things are coming together, belief is growing that we can make a late surge up the table…but are we about to pull the rug on that one?

 

Saturday’s match v Cambridge City coincided with what we were calling Family Day, two adults and two kids could get in for £10. The idea is fairly obvious, we want to get more people through the gate, in particular the kids who I know from first-hand experience will nag and nag their parents when they want to do something, so let’s make that something coming to a Chesham game.

The idea seemed to work, there were definitely more kids present in a crowd that topped 400, there was inevitably the odd comment from the regular fan that had to pay the usual full £10; that included a comment on my Facebook page – I must be maturing as I resisted the temptation to post back what I really thought: “I do genuinely sympathise, but sometime soon people are going to have to wake up to the idea that we need to encourage more people along to these games before the club dies on its arse”.

Actually, despite the constant financial fears, Saturday was a pretty relaxed affair. My son, Ben once again accompanied me to the match and insisted on standing behind the goal again. I started the first half with him down the Cricket Ground End, and in fact we were still in the Billy Burger queue when Inih Effiong cut inside to put us 1-0 ahead within the first minute of the match. What a great start!

I soon noticed that I was not actually standing anywhere near Ben and therefore it was pointless me being behind the goal when I would much rather take up my normal position in front of the clubhouse, standing with my Dad. I could still see Ben from where I was; I was happy, Ben was happy and another triumph for non-league football over the professional game – where else would you be able to have your 9-year-old son watching from behind the goal whilst you stand on a totally different terrace?

During the second half I was introduced to the new Landlord from the Red Lion pub in the town, I was aware that they were interested in taking over the running of the clubhouse and he had been down to have a look around. It was actually a previous bar manager who introduced him to me, which was a strange mixture of ironic and awkward – the previous bar manager having been so unceremoniously dumped from the position over the summer.

There was no doubt the guy was interested, enthusiastic even. I mentioned that I was heading back over to Chesham on Monday evening for a Youth Section meeting so I would probably pop in for a pint and a chat on my way…That very soon became a date.

The match itself never really got any better than the first minute, we continued to play well and once again more than proved ourselves against a team looking for promotion themselves. Chesham hit the cross bar and created a couple more chances, but the game produced no further goals and another three points were in the bag.

Once again my post-match time in the boardroom was limited by having Ben with me, once he had eaten he just wanted to get home; which suited me as I too was quite happy to have a night at home, knowing that it should be a happy camp on the back of another win. My big worry now was to make sure that the bar situation does not become a problem that only I seem to recognize and attempt to address.

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