Not leaving anything to chance

I heard a quote attributed to Chris Hoy, GB’s triple gold medal winning cyclist the other day.  He was talking about preparation for the Olympics and said something to the effect that when he started his Olympic campaign he knew he couldn’t be better prepared.  He talked about not missing one single training session and that he knew that at every training session he had given 100%.  The reason for this being that (and don’t forget this is sprint cycling) if he lost a race by one tenth of a second he didn’t want to be able to blame missing even one training session.

Hoy’s desire to win and dedication to ensuring that he was as well prepared as possible proved well worth it as he became the first Briton to win three medals at one Olympic Games.

So what does any of this have to do with those of us living in the slightly less rarefied world of non league football?

Well it seems to me that how you prepare, your professionalism and your will to win are as important at our level of the game as any other.  How fit do players keep themselves, how well do they eat, do they ever miss training, do they always get to games/ meet points on time, do they have all their kit with them at all times and in good condition and so on and so on.

Our players perform pretty well I think generally in these areas and we’ve tried to help them, with the new kit, the assistance of a nutritionist and promise of support from Fitness First to name just three areas.

Chris Hoy knew that the difference between success and failure in his sport is measured in fractions of a second so he could not afford to leave anything to chance.  Finding that extra 1% from somewhere might make the crucial difference in a football match.  We will continue to search for ways to find it – but if anyone has other ideas they should let us know.

“I just like to get to the start line knowing there was nothing else I could have done, that there wasn’t a single session I didn’t give 100 per cent.

It has all worked out for one man

Well done to Richard Barnard I say.

Remember him, he started in goal for us in the Watford friendly although he got injured during the first half.

Richard was a keeper we had tracked for some time and when we agreed to sign him for a reasonable wage (for us) we were delighted.

Then events took over, he got injured and then first Luke Woods came in and then Sean Thomas returned to us.  So now we had an embarrassment of riches in last season’s problem position.

Richard got a call from John Hollins to see if he could fill in for Weymouth in a pre-season game as the Blue South Premier side’s keeper was injured.  He did well and was offered a deal though initially not a contract meaning that when the Weymouth keeper came back Richard might be quickly dispensed.

However, his performances in the Blue Square Premier impressed and he has now signed a one year contract, earning a basic wage over 3 times what he would have earned at Wealdstone – and that is not including bonuses etc.

Hopefully everyone wins.  We have two great keepers and Richard has a fantastic opportunity.

Good luck Richard.

The challenge for the FA

I wrote last night about my frustrations about the referee from yesterday’s match.

We have all heard about the difficulties the Football Association have in losing hundreds of referees at the moment, and the response that they have made through the Respect programme, which is clearly a step in the right direction.

But to me there are some fundamentals that need addressing.  I am all for encouraging refs to progress, and trying to push younger refs through – as long as they are good enough and can cope with the rigours of senior football.  I don’t see referees as any different to players, some young players can step up into senior football whereas others can’t – this is the same with referees.

That said, I do believe referees need to understand football, understand players and the way the game is played and it must be difficult for younger refs to achieve that.  The best refs have a rapport with players through a game – this is not something you can prove you have through exams.

I have always believed that ex-players might make good referees.  In cricket most umpires are ex county (or even international) professionals.  They understand the game as well as the laws.  Wouldn’t it be the same in football?

Obviously now at Premier League/Championship level with the wages in the game, ex-players probably don’t need to work once retired, but maybe the FA should be recruiting senior pros from the lower leagues/ senior non league levels so that they can stay in the game as an official which could be made as attractive an option as coaching or managing.

This might require money to train and support these people but maybe there are enough mid-30s players looking to the future wishing they could stay in the game but currently not seeing refereeing as an option.

And who can blame them?  From junior level up referees have to put up with criticism and abuse – this is part of what the Respect campaign is there is counter.

Football is a passionate game, a dodgy decision by a ref can change the course of a game, a season or cost a manager his job. Read this report of the Hemel-Chippenham game yesterday (even the report by the Hemel reporter in the NLP agreed this was a dodgy goal) – who knows if dropping these two points won’t cost Chippenham promotion at the end of the season.

In no other sport or way of life can someone be so powerful yet so unaccountable.  Whether it is technology, third umpires or tv replays officials are given additional support in most sports but only in football does the opinion of one person mean everything.

In the pro leagues cameras have highlighted how much officials ‘get wrong’ yet in the Ryman League we can’t do that so the ref’s report remains final.  And we will suffer, or our opponents will until we have officials that we can trust to get the big decisions right, every time without fail.

Disappointed…

…you’ve got to be when you are 2 up at half time and manage to lose 3-2.

I thought we were excellent in the first half.  Two great goals rounding off our best half of football so far this season.  But we couldn’t hold on and though we didn’t deserve to lose we conceded the winner 5 minutes from time.

There were some key moments in the 2nd half,  Ashey going off injured at the start of the second half as well as James Gray and Ben also having to go off during the half and Gary Burrell hitting the bar direct from a free kick which would have been 3-0 – and game over.

Normally I won’t use this column to criticise referees, but I will today.  We had one of the younger refs and I thought he did a good job in the first half, talking to the players, telling them why he was giving decisions but second half he lost it.  A number of incidents were called wrong, Marvin McCoy’s booked while James Gray and Stephen Hughes both committed fouls that were worse but not punished (consistency?), Marvin fouled before the equaliser, and then the incident at the end of the match.

Nothing much to say about the red cards except both players should ask themselves how they allowed that to happen, but I couldn’t believe it when their player threw something into the crowd in front of the ref and he didn’t take any action.  The ref said after the game that their player lobbed back a stone that had been thrown at him, causing a cut leg.  I didn’t see anything thrown at him, but whether it was or not for the ref to miss an overarm hurl – not a lob – right in front of him was a shocker.  Players know they shouldn’t react to the crowd but the Billericay player not only got away with it but was able to run to our fans at the end of the game to celebrate.

It was a shame for the game to finish that way.  They have a nice set up at Billericay.  Derek Collier who used to work with us when we were sponsored by Warwick Wright is an official there and their chairman Steve Kent has even started a blog.  But it’s good luck to them and we have to pull ourselves together for Monday and get a win on the board.

Watch out for the temporary away kit

Today at Billericay we should be wearing a temporary away kit as the yellow kit we will be playing in hasn’t completely arrived yet, so Macron have supplied us with a stand in away kit.

I haven’t seen it yet but I guess we will be the team not in blue today.

Wealdstone in the Guardian

Well at least on the Guardian football blog on their website, and you can see it here

Paul Torpey, a Wealdstone fan, got in touch just under a month ago wanting to write this article and he interviewed Don Cross, Mike Kane and myself spending a few hours at Ruislip one morning just before the season started.

Although Paul works for guardian.co.uk, he normally writes for the travel section and I think he has done a decent job.  We believe that we could fill a whole book describing our homeless years so anyone who can do it in one page (albeit on the internet one page can be as long as you need it to be) is doing pretty well.

Thanks Paul, great job – anytime you wish to contribute to the matchday programme fill free.

What new era?

I dipped into the England friendly on Setanta this evening.  I wondered whether they were showing a replay and I would find out that the England manager is still Steve McClaren – or even Sven.

This is the team:

David James, Wes Brown, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Gareth Barry, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Jermaine Defoe.

So with Barry’s possible exception, you might have seen this team play in Germany in 2006, or the Euro’s in Portugal 4 years ago.  A team full of international failures – and premiership (or US) megastars.  And in one other revolutionary announcement, replacing John Terry as England’s new permanent skipper was…John Terry.  So Capello is making his presence felt and shaking things up!

It was also announced this evening that Brian Barwick was to stand down as Chief Executive of the FA.  Now that could be significant.

Reflections on the first two games

Although there has been a bit of time to think about the results and performances from Saturday and last night I am no nearer having a clear view of whether you can draw any conclusions for the season ahead.

On Saturday we knew we had a tough match.  Tonbridge are a good side, they have bought some class players in from higher leagues particularly their centre back Leon Legge who you can see from this link is a player Lewes wanted to keep in the Blue Square Premier and clearly following on from their strong finish last season they expect to challenge this year.

I thought we started very brightly but the sending-off changed everything both our own performance and theirs.  It was frustrating not to put their stand-in keeper under more pressure but we did have enough chances to score – and in keeping with our pre-season form struggled to finish.

Still a point was not a bad performance and we would have taken it last night as well.  My feeling on last night is that we (certainly the fans) are probably guilty of underestimating Ashford.  Don’t forget they missed the play-offs by one place (2 points) last season.  Someone commented on the WFC forum that they won’t finish in the top 8 this year – I wouldn’t agree.

My guess is that unlike Tonbridge, their budget probably isn’t that different to ours but they have the benefit of a side that has been together for some time, only a couple of new players to integrate and they play a very tough uncompromising game.  I wonder if the likes of Marvin, Derek or Kieron have come across not just one Stuart Bamford but a team that seems to contain half a dozen Stuart Bamford’s constantly snapping at your heels, shutting you down and making life uncomfortable.

I think it is interesting that the general Ashford reaction to yesterday night is they felt like they have scraped a win in a game where there was nothing between the two sides and yet we are very disappointed with our performance.

This league was so tight last year and I am sure will be again.  We always knew we had a tough start and nothing has changed there.  But ultimately it will be down to Gordon to pick the right side and to those players to deliver what we know they are capable of.  Billericay will be tough – but not impossible.

Keep the faith

All systems go

The place is looking great and everyone is ready.

Just about to leave for Ruislip and the anticipation and excitement of playing our first game at our new home is palpable.

Tonbridge will want to spoil the party, and we shouldn’t forget that these three points will be as important as any others but it isn’t just about the football today.

Let’s hope for a big crowd, let’s hope the rain keeps away and let’s hope for a memorable day.

Enjoy!

ex Stones shine

The new football league season started yesterday and good to see the resurgent Aldershot team win their first game back in the league at Accrington 1-0.  The Aldershot team featured two ex Stones in Marvin Morgan and Scott Donnelly and Scott was the hero scoring the game’s only goal.  Apparently Marvin signed for Aldershot for a club record fee.

And (perhaps inevitably) Jermaine Beckford scored Leeds’ winner at Scunthorpe yesterday.

Elsewhere I notice that Peter Dean made his Bishop’s Stortford debut as they lost at Weston Super Mare.

Anyone spotted any other old boys?