Week 9: w/c 28th January 2013

Bashley away / Hemel Hempstead Town away

The week started with a delightful message from one of our turnstile operators. I love the person involved to bits, he is an excellent source for gossip and I don’t think he actually expects me to pick the phone up every time he rings, my answer phone absorbs all the words and allows me to filter through the chatter to uncover the little gems of information that do make my life easier at the club. He was an absolute legend at the time when we were looking for a new bar manager and his little tit-bits of information have served many a purpose ahead of a board meeting, even if I do have to negotiate my way through the exaggerations before arriving at the truth (every person passing through the turnstiles has the same complaint? Really?).

You bunch of f@%king bastards” Oh good, welcome to Monday, I knew this was going to be a good message. “Not one f@%ker from your f@%king football club told me what f@%king time the f@%king coach was going to Gosport. You bunch of f@%kers. Don’t know why I f@%king bother…”

I sometimes wonder why I bother too. Did my offering to help Chesham United out with whatever I do give people the right to ring me up and hurl abuse down the phone? It certainly wasn’t the first time, I get it on days when Chesham United are playing away, apparently, I am supposed to be some sort of instant results service throughout the afternoon. Even if I am not at the game and out with the family, I have picked up messages: “Answer the phone then you bastard. People here (at the Reserve game) want to know the score. Keeping it to yourself and not answering the phone is a bit bloody rude isn’t it?”

Still not yet at work on Monday morning, and the phone goes again. This time it is fellow Director enquiring as to whether I was attending the Youth team meeting that evening…

By all accounts the Youth Section meeting went as well as hoped and we now have a number of volunteers prepared to be a part of trying to take the project forward. Monday was a manic evening for me with cubs and scout drop offs and pick-ups, when I finally arrived back from the last scout pick up at 9.45pm, my eldest and I opened the door, Mum shouts out: “You got your coat Thomas?”

She must have known. How do women do that? How did she know that we would have left his coat at Bennetts End scout hut?

We were straight back out the door, belting around the magic roundabout almost on two wheels, no time to dodge all the pot holes up towards Tesco, no respect for the speed bumps heading down Bennett’s End Road, screeching down the muddy track to the hut… We arrived just in time as they were locking up for the night. Thomas and I had not spoken a word all the way up there, that awkward silence when you know you have cocked up, and it is only 50/50 that we might be able to recover the situation without a further ear-bashing from Mum.

As we got back into the car, it was Thomas that broke the silence.

At least I will have something to write about in my Resilience homework for school now” Resilience? In school? What the bloody hell is that all about?

Resilience?”I queried.

Yeah, we needed to write about an awkward situation we found ourselves in, and how we felt at the time…”

We both laughed, and turned up the stereo, it was King Diamond, Coming Home.

During one of my many taxi service journeys I had received a call from Martin Woolnough to see if I was free for a follow-up meeting on Monday 1th February. Another Monday. I did not want to say no, so I agreed my availability and sneaked it on the family calendar at home. It’s in the diary.

 

By midweek I was really starting to look forward to football at Bashley, not the best journey to have to make midweek, but it is a drive I enjoy and I like the bar area when we get there; it is has character, that feeling of being in a pub rather than just a soulless village hall.

Unfortunately it was wet on Tuesday, very wet, and our trip was once again postponed…I’m really starting to get back into Holby City on a Tuesday night!

It was also quite disturbing to have another conversation with my Dad on Tuesday about the finances. I thought after the last Board Meeting we had a much clearer path to recovery mapped out with Roger funding the playing budget and the rest of the club hoping to wash its own face for a few weeks. There was no definitive timescale put on this arrangement, but it seems Roger is showing signs once again of resenting paying the money and leaving stinging statements hanging like “I’ve run out of money” or “This is ridiculous, I am going to have to talk to Brian…

I totally appreciate the money he is putting into the club, and a lot of what he is doing, but I just wish he, and other Board members, would take note of the financial reports that go out there and realise that this is not a game,; this is reality; this is business (and business is not good). People involved in running a football club should not be surprised that a spell of bad weather with matches and social functions postponed is going to have a pretty damaging effect on cashflow. Isn’t that obvious?

That said, the Board Meeting the other week remains the most effective we have had for a while and there are a lot of good things happening, albeit the positive effect of these will not really be felt until next season. One such thing was the follow-up to a meeting that Chairman and another official had with the Manager of Waitrose Chesham; We now have a schedule in place for four of our forthcoming home games to be themed in an attempt to increase attendances and encourage more of the people from the town along to the club.

As a result I have spent much of this week working on artwork for flyers and arranging tickets to go into schools and local community groups. It is a fantastic idea and really quite exciting that there are fresh people getting involved, not only coming up with the ideas, but helping to deliver – We have been crying out for that.

So there is a lot of positive around, but by Friday Dad’s weekly report to the Chairman is not pleasant reading. And even more concerning is that I still don’t see anyone else really caring. Here it is:

There is no point in being boringly repetitive as to why we are where we are as that has been well covered and documented in recent weeks ie. under performing commercial/bar, high players wages, weather etc. As you have said the 12 points of January emerging from the board meeting were very positive and there have been some encouraging signs since. Apart from your excellent efforts in filling the match sponsors however, I think we would all agree most of the rest is geared towards getting in decent shape for the new season/financial year and will contribute little to deal with the large hole in our cash position for the balance of this year which was reviewed at that same board meeting. In a discussion Alan and I had with Roger, he was ok with covering the player wages in the short term, which he has started to do, but I am not sure from your meeting with him earlier this week whether he is expecting to continue this week or beyond. This, obviously would make a big difference.

The here and now  shows that if the net wages this week are £2200 and the bar £2000 (bar managers’ forecast) we will go into next week with £3000 cash. Even if I ignore all the old unpaid bills on the list (being heavily chased) we are faced next week with £4,000 VAT and £4,400 brewery bills to deal with, and another week of wages (unless covered by Roger as above). I have agreed with HMRC (after three layers of inquisition) to spread payment over the next three months and with the brewery to also split theirs in three over the next 3-4 weeks. This clearly helps but is nowhere near dealing with the situation.

Roger has already put in a chunk of money this year and it is not for me to in any way to say what he should or should not be doing over the coming weeks, but it seems to me that without his further financial input the stark reality is that drastic measures are required. I would think these include with immediate effect: 

  1. Not just reduce but eliminate all player wages other than contracts. Much of this saving will be lost by lower gates/bar but what else to do?
  2. The bar amanger is told to spend no money on anything other than drinks and food, however small, unless authorised by yourself.
  3. Physio purchases no further supplies and his requests for equipment, course attendance etc cannot be met.
  4. The Groundsman does nothing other than mark the pitch in return for lower payment.
  5. No expenditure on the ground/facilities other than emergency repairs.
  6. Anything else?

Sorry to sound so glum but I am glum!

As usual I have not copied Roger as I know he is not too hot on emails and prefers things to be routed through you.

 

By Saturday it had become abundantly clear that results were going to dictate Roger’s mood, and Roger’s mood will dictate the money coming into the club. That is in no means a lack of gratitude, but it is a reality of the tenuous position that puts us in. Hemel Hempstead away is never an easy place to go, particularly with them flying high, second in the league, led by former Chesham players Dean Brennan and Stuart Maynard.

Being a real local derby for me, it was Dad’s turn to drive, picking my up on the way through, with my youngest son, Ben, also wanting to come along for the game. We were comfortably in the bar by 1.30pm having a pint and watching the Welsh demolish the Irish in the first 6 Nations rugby game of the season. Wow, how things have changed with my boy playing the game, there was a time I would only ever refer to the oval shaped ball game as egg-chasing!

When Roger arrived he came over and started chatting to my Dad about the cesspit situation, he had clearly been spending a lot of time looking into the amount of money we are spending on getting the cesspit emptied. There seemed to be some debate as to whether what is being emptied is actually the cesspit, or the overflow. I’m no expert in this department, but whatever has been being emptied has been being emptied for the last 30 odd years. The accusing tone in Roger’s voice did not adhere me to the conversation, so I left it to them.

The game itself will actually go down as a very memorable match. Despite falling a goal behind within a minute, we played some excellent football and it was somewhat scandalous that with just 5 minutes to go we were still trailing 1-0, despite the pressure we had put the home side under. With about 15 minute to go a Hemel sub that had only been on a few minutes was sent off for an incident involving Mark Lambert. It is a shame in a way as it enabled the home side to use this as an excuse for the way the game was turned on its head when Steve Wales, on as a sub, curled a shot come cross into the corner of the net with just 3 minutes of the 90 remaining.

The superb Chesham followed jumped in delight, a support boosted by a lot of the youth and mini league coaches and parents coming along to the game. A fully deserved equaliser…was there time for a winner?

Well why would I ask if there wasn’t? Michael Chennells, another sub, broke free inside the box and placed his shot perfectly into the corner to spark wild scenes of celebration. From 1-0 down just 5 minutes ago, the whistle blew to bring a remarkable game to an end. The Chesham players were applauded off the pitch, is the promotion push really back on?

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