St Albans Away / AFC Totten at home
After the wettest year on record, 2013 started off as a glorious sunny morning, the wind and rain that had blurred the Weymouth horizon for the past week had given way to sunshine and shadows on the seaweed decorated sandy beach. Looking out the kitchen window, early morning (for New Year’s Day anyway) walkers filled the beach likes ants scurrying about their business. Many were making the most of the dramatic transformation in weather whilst others were clearing the lungs after a night of celebration and heavy drinking.
With Weymouth FC away on New Year’s Day, I was half tempted to pop up to Dorchester to watch their game against Truro City, but ultimately another lazy day doing something close to nothing, won the day.
It was just me and Twitter, keeping an eye on how Chesham were fairing at St Albans City. I feared the worst but hoped for more. I wanted a result for Andy Leese. I wanted a result to shut up those moaners that had spoiled my Boxing Day afternoon standing behind the goal against Chippenham Town. Despite our relatively new recruits to the side, the odds were not in our favour. Since St Albans’ change of management and the reported huge cut in their budget, results had gone well for The Saints. Still, a new year, a fresh start for Chesham?
After our brisk morning walk along the beach (kids building sandcastles, on January 1st? Crazy) we settled in the flat for a lazy afternoon. The kids switched on the Xbox, Heather persisted with the challenge of completing a 1000-piece jigsaw before home time and I, with the sailing boats through the window creating a real life, moving, background picture, got on with getting this diary account up to date; checking my phone for Twitter every now and then.
To be honest, I forgot about the game at first. At about 3.10pm I checked my timeline. Wow. Chesham had scored from a penalty. Good start.
A few moments later it was 1-1. Against the run of play according to the official Chesham United Twitter link, and Ryan Woolnough – good to see that my rose-tinted glasses had not been left on the mantelpiece at home! Moments later it was 2-1 to Chesham. 3-1. 4-1.
At this point I had to send Martin Woolnough a text: “Is someone on Twitter taking the piss, is it really 4-1?”
Moments later I got the response: “No, it’s now 5-2”
Incredible, not to mention bloody typical, I was missing what must have been one of the best performances of the season…if not several seasons. I did not care, I would happily miss a game that we win comfortably, the final score was 6-2 and, based on the conversation I had with my Dad moments before writing this, the result was not in any way flattering and we could have had more.
I could tell as soon as I heard the phone ring in the Weymouth flat that it had been a good day for Chesham, Dad wanted to talk about the game, and I know he was going to settle down for the evening, have a couple of beers, and toast a fantastic start to 2013 for Chesham United. Dad and I always talk about the effect Chesham’s result has on how enjoyable Saturday evening is. It had been a while since we had a really good one. A genuine excuse for a beer.
Tonight, there is good reason for a celebratory beer. I sent Andy a congratulatory text. His reply read: “Enjoy the beer! Whisper it but we are looking strong again…”
It seemed the new players returning had had an effect…and I had missed it! Still, if Andy’s words were right, there will be plenty more days like this…
…To be honest, I thought I might have to wait more than four days four one of them!
AFC Totton have been floundering around mid-table, a bit like ourselves, not yet matching last season’s form which saw them reach the play-off finals, beating us in the semi-finals. Mid-table, but no doubt hopeful of having a second half to the season push for the play-offs. We too have suddenly started talking about the play-offs again on the back of the St Albans result.
I arrived back from Weymouth on Wednesday, returning to work on the Friday… that is always a horrible feeling, although returning on a Friday does break you back into things gently. I tried to call the Chairman a couple of times to catch up on where we are on a few things, but we seemed to keep missing each other. I was beginning to feel quite distanced from the club.
Just before heading to Weymouth the kids Xbox had started to play up, deciding to power itself off just as you were in the middle of a game. Compared to all the problems in the world, and the way you see some kids suffering from poverty and deprivation, it should be a mere minor irritation, but, on the back of all the new Christmas present games, it felt bloody annoying. I kept hoping the problem might go away on its own, but, funnily enough it never did. With the console being a present from the previous year, it seemed like another example of Sod using his law in the most vindictive of ways, the machine packing up just a few days over a year after we purchased it. Do I need to tell you how long the warranty lasts on an Xbox?
Nonetheless, I thought it best to register the product on the Xbox site to help with my diagnosis and work out how much it is. Saturday morning; a few hours to kill before heading over to the club for a midday meeting with my Dad and Mike Warrick to re-address the club’s budget forecasts for the year, now that we are six months into the financial year. Call it preparation for a half year report at the next board meeting.
Straining to read the tiny serial number on the side of the console, I got several error messages inputting the numbers. Please check your serial number and re-enter. I nearly gave up and through the computer out the window. I’m glad I didn’t, somehow, in some way it popped up: Your warranty expires 8th January 2013. I had three days left to get it fixed under warranty.
Like a madman I was following the online instructions, printing off my despatch label to send the console off for a free repair (to the Czech Republic?), wrapping it in layer upon layer of bubble wrap, then into a box, more bubble wrap, parcel tape, more bubble wrap, a layer of kraft paper, slap the label on and I was off in the car to find my local USP collection point, which happened to be in Hemel Hempstead old town. All done and delivered; within twenty minutes of uncovering the good news that the machine was under warranty.
With still a couple of hours until I needed to set off to the football club, I took the car up to Tesco for a long overdue car wash. Waiting for the guy in front of me to take his aerial off and go through what seemed a totally unnecessary pre-wash procedure, I checked my emails on my iPhone. There was one from Andy Leese. I was being copied in on the wage bill for this week being sent to the Chairman. It started with those words I used to dread when I was Chairman: “It’s a little high this week because….”
The email went on to request a meeting to discuss the playing budget. Totally understandable and justified, after all last time the Chairman and I had met with Andy we agreed that we would look at it again after the FA Trophy, which was couple of weeks ago now. I picked up the phone to call the Chairman, just as I entered the car wash and the multi-coloured brushes began banging against my windows making it almost impossible to hold a conversation. Through the din though, I think we agreed that we would try and have a meeting with Andy, before the game, in his office.
The midday meeting with Dad and Mike Warrick was pretty depressing and if it were Mike and I still carrying the ultimate responsibility for the club, I would be back to the sleepless nights. Commercial income is down. Not just on forecast, but also on last year. That was no great surprise, it has been a concern for a long time and now we have got to reach a point where somebody grabs those few rows in the company budget spreadsheet and takes responsibility for understanding what is happening and transforming it from the sorry sight it is currently.
Figures for the bar are a long way off from where I had hoped they would be. Again, there are numerous reasons why the start of the year has not got off to a flying start, but it is time for that to start changing too. After our initial meeting (when the club office began to fill up with other people) we moved to the boardroom where we had a conversation about how to carry out better analysis of the bar’s performance.
The football budget is running at about £10,000 over where we planned to be at this stage of the season, but on the flip side of that it could be argued that prize money is £10,000 over where we planned to be at this stage. Although we cannot treat any one element of the club separately when it comes to managing the club’s financial status, it is interesting to note that, were we just simply running a football team and nothing else, then we would be financially very stable. If only.
With prize money not likely to figure in the income for the second half of the financial year, it raises the question about what we need to do with the playing budget.
It was nearly 2.00pm by the time I left the boardroom meeting and started to wander for a sneaky pre-match pint. As I passed Andy was standing outside the club office so I asked Dad to order me a pint of Carlsberg and I’ll be in shortly. With Brian also making his way in the direction of the clubhouse, we took the opportunity to jointly meet with Andy in his office to discuss the playing budget and catch up with where we are on the footballing side of things.
It was an excellent meeting, and the sort that should take place more often. Not necessarily with me, but the manager needs to feel he is being communicated with by people at the club that have genuine influence.
To be honest, I think the meeting went better than Andy possibly imagined. Both the Chairman and I have resigned ourselves to accepting that, frankly, the money available for football remains very much dependent on Roger Payne. Our job is to keep Roger happy and prove that we are doing things to change the club to where we are not always relying on his wallet to keep the club running. With that in mind, and on the back of a six goal bonanza at St Albans, and with a busy January coming up, and the fact that we just might still be able to reach the play-offs; we told Andy that he can keep the budget where it is for the rest of January, but if things slip away, the cut will have to be bigger than anyone would really like to handle.
Wow, even I have given in to the fact that the playing budget only seems to have a very tenuous link to the club’s overall finances!
The meeting finished at 2.45pm. Just time to down my sneaky pint and then take up my position on the terraces. Andy had done most of his work by now and the players were under the control of the coaches, many people will not understand the way the management works, the fact that Andy was not in the dressing room twenty minutes before the game does not make him a bad manager. The hard work had already taken place – and I could tell that from the state of the whiteboard in his office.
The game itself started fairly evenly. Entertaining, but fairly even. Chesham United had a new bite and vigour about them. When we attacked we looked like scoring, defensively we seemed to cope well with the early corners won by the visitors and I just loved seeing John Kyriacou (JK) breaking down the wings providing width and options to our attacks.
One excellent break saw Inih lay the ball across for Simon Thomas to bundle the ball into the net. I question whether it was an own goal, but it was given to Thommo, and a few minutes later he was on the scoresheet again, definitely his goal this time. Before the breaq, Inih Effiong got in on the act with a goal. We were on fire.
Soon after the interval Simon Thomas completed his second successive hat-trick and moments later he had his fourth of the game; his seventh goal in two games in 2013 – you know what? I don’t even think I heard anyone on the terraces in front of the Chess Suite moaning about him this week! A deflected Dave Fotheringham effort completed a 6-0 win, even better than the result a few days earlier at St Albans City.
What a difference a week can make, suddenly, without a hint of sarcasm, everyone is back talking about the play-offs, and on the back of the past seven days, who am I to argue with that?
A good week concluded with winning a joint of gammon in George’s legendary post-match meat raffle.