A royal welcome

A few notes from my visit to Leeds last weekend.

Let me set the scene.  I was going away with Katie for a rare weekend with no children.  We have a friend in North Yorkshire so thought we would go and see them and therefore take the opportunity to try to see Jermaine at Leeds, as they were at home too.

So I wrote to Shaun Harvey, the Leeds CEO, and asked whether we would be able to take up the offer of a pair of tickets for a match.  My expectations therefore were for a couple of tickets and maybe access to a lounge to possibly meet up with Mr Beckford – who subsequently got suspended after this widely publicised elbow incident.

We did indeed get two tickets but actually for whatever reason, Leeds rolled out the red (or should that be white) carpet for us.   We were invited to be guests of the Chairman, Ken Bates, to have lunch before the game with him (as well as hospitality at half time and after the match), a prime car parking space and two seats in the directors box.

When we turned up at 12.30 we still didn’t know what to expect.  We were greeted by the familiar face of Ken Bates and introduced to his wife, to Shaun Harvey and some others.  Our table for lunch included Ken and Susannah Bates, who couldn’t have done more to make Katie feel welcome, and also the Earl of Harewood, the 86 year old President of Leeds United together with his wife – it turns out he is a member of the Royal Family (1st cousin to the Queen), and other people we met included Gwyn Williams, Leeds’ technical director (a former teacher of Gordon Bartlett) and Leslie Silver a previous Leeds Chairman.

Our seats were in the second row of the directors box and Shaun Harvey gave Katie and I a tour of the stadium including the LUTV studios and a walk down the tunnel onto the pitch, all the time looking for Jermaine who unfortunately was nowhere to be found.

I was so impressed that they went to so much trouble for us, it was both unexpected and a fantastic experience, soured only by the texts coming in from Carshalton around the time Ashey missed the second penalty.

The pre-season friendly is very much on – date to be confirmed fairly soon – and discussions with Ken Bates, who let’s face it is known as one of the most controversial characters the game has ever known – were very interesting.  My take is that he is a guy who knows what he wants, says what he wants and typically gets what he wants – and doesn’t worry about what others think about it.  Ken is only in the UK 90 days a year and although I expect it is unlikely I hope that one of them will be at Ruislip for the pre-season game.

As for Jermaine, let’s hope he continues to score lots of goals.  Had he played on Saturday I am sure Leeds would have won by more than the 2-0 result.

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Missing games

It’s never easy to miss games.  No matter where you are or what you are doing your mind is always on whether we are playing well or not.

On Thursday night I had to miss the County Cup game to struggle round the M25 to attend a Ryman League meeting at Dartford FC.  Given the only goal in our game was scored late in the game the text messages were hardly buzzing through but at least a good end to the night.

The league meeting was interesting with lots of updates on various things the Ryman League are doing, over stuff like insurance, pitch maintenance, ground grading requirements, Ryman Youth League and the current economic situation.  Also we had a presentation from Ryman on what we are going to need to do to support Red Nose Day, which Ryman themselves are getting very involved in.

As well as things like bucket collections (Wobs may be getting a new red bucket) and press releases, we are also going to use special red footballs for the match v Heybridge on 14 March.  I think it is good the league make a stand to support the wider community – it is so easy to be wrapped up in our own issues – and it is true that Ryman have been an excellent sponsor so on the odd occasion they ask us to support them then we should be happy to help.  If you would like to raise some money for Red Nose Day and send it in through the Club please let me know.

I’ll be missing another game today.  I can tell you it is a beautiful morning up in Leeds and I’m looking forward to going to Elland Road to see them play Cheltenham Town.  Of course half an eye will be on my phone waiting for news from Carshalton and if there is any interesting Jermaine news I’ll post it later.

Timing is everything

Forgive this slightly self-indulgent post but it is WFC related.

Together with my good wife we are having a weekend away next week (so will be missing the Carshalton game) and we have decided to go to Yorkshire for the weekend.

As this coincides with a Leeds United home game (v Cheltenham) I dropped Shaun Harvey the Leeds United CEO a line to see if I could take advantage of his offer of two tickets for a game when if I was ever up in that part of the world.  My letter went off on Monday morning before we got to enjoy Jermaine’s double on Monday night’s live game.

Of course as most readers will know, Jermaine has also subsequently picked up a three match ban for an elbow in that match with the referee saying he actually gave a yellow card for the initial altercation with a defender.  So when Leeds’ response arrived confirming we would be guests in the Chairman’s Suite with lunch before the game and seats in the Directors Box (dress code jacket and tie – nothing new for me there then), there were mixed feelings given Jermaine won’t be playing.

Only mixed feelings mind.  I remain extremely impressed in all my dealings with Leeds, with their speed of response and apparent desire  to work with us on anything we have asked over the past few months.  We are talking to them about the friendly match we plan to play in the coming pre-season so I am looking forward to meeting some of the people we have been in contact with and enjoying their hospitality.

So rather than see Richard Jolly, I’ll hopefully still get to see Jermaine next week.  It’d be good to talk to him about life as a pro and his expectations etc. Maybe try to persuade him to come down and visit us some time.  But I’m certainly looking forward to the experience of being a guest of Ken Bates although the phone will be on to hear the hoped for good news from Colston Avenue.

And another line on timing I’m due to go to a Ryman League meeting next Thursday evening at Dartford FC (if no one goes we get fined) but this will now mean missing the rearranged Hampton game!

How local do we need to be?

An interesting debate going on about the Ruislip Gazette and whether or not we are a Harrow or Ruislip club.

We have been having this discussion for some time and trying hard to persuade the Gazette that they should include us within their patch.  After all the simple fact is that we are playing senior non league football in Ruislip – not just this year but for the forseeable future.   So let’s get this straight – WE ARE A RUISLIP CLUB – now and until further notice but we are also a club with strong roots/connections in Harrow.

Most of our fans originate from Harrow although many don’t live there anymore.  Given our move to Ruislip we have no option but to try and attract support in Ruislip/Hillingdon whilst not forgetting our links to Harrow.  That is why we were delighted to host John Nickolay, Mayor of Harrow at the Harrow Borough game at Christmas and Brian Crowe, the Mayor of Hillingdon, who was due to attend a game in January (which was postponed) but still visited us to see the facilities and draw our New Year’s raffle.

I find the sports editor’s argument confusing mainly because he is refusing to report what is happening in Ruislip to people of Ruislip.  As a result he is not allowing the growing number of local people who are new supporters or linked to our growing junior club to keep in touch with club unless they buy a local paper for which the entire rest of the content will be irrelevant.

Our attendances are up nearly 50% this season and that is not from people coming from Harrow but because we are reaching out to local Ruislip kids and families through Ruislip schools and the local community and because we are also able to back up that offer with good, entertaining and exciting football and decent facilities.

I also don’t accept that the relevance of the issue around how other fans might feel if we took some of their space.  Surely the duty of a local paper is to report on the events happening within their locality.  It seems to me that the transformation of Grosvenor Vale and the inclusive way we are reaching into the community is deserving of some local coverage.   Hayes FM are covering us as well don’t forget (live reports every week), we are working with the local chamber of commerce as well as other Ruislip based community websites.

We are also attracting Hillingdon based businesses as sponsors and potential sponsors as well as Harrow based businesses.  Feedback I have had confirms that it will not help us in the long run commercially if we cannot get local Ruislip press coverage as these businesses expect that coming to us will be good for their publicity and rightly so.

So what can we do?  We’ve seen the arguments and we will continue to do our best to try and persuade the Gazette that we are worth covering.  We will invite the sports reporter and his editor to be our guests at a forthcoming match to continue this debate as well – I hope they accept our invite.

I certainly encourage local residents to write to the editor and ask why they should have to buy a paper covering another borough to find out the latest WFC news.

Nick Dugard continues to do a tremendous job (no surprise there) leading our media efforts and I don’t for one moment take for granted the coverage that Tim Edwards is giving us with the Harrow Observer.  I would like to think that part of this is because we have made a great effort to be set up so that he can get all the Wealdstone news he needs for his audience.  But given we merit coverage in the Kilburn Times as well we will just have to keep on trying to convince our most local paper that we are worthy of coverage there too.

Another blank Saturday

Not altogether surprising and not our fault or the fault of the pitch at Ruislip.  But we are being hit hard by the weather this winter and it is costing us.

It costs us (and the social club) in terms of lost revenue (we would expect larger crowds on a Saturday than for the rearranged midweek games), it costs us in terms of losing the various Juniors/kids based activities that we have planned and it costs us in terms of keeping the momentum going on the pitch – especially after the past two exciting Saturdays.

The pitch will be tested over the coming weeks though – with the 1st team, reserves and U18s there are plenty of games that Fingers, Lesley and Alan Couch are all trying to get played.  At Christmas we were well up with our fixtures and whilst we are hardly the only club to be losing games at this time, we could do with the weather clearing up now.

I suppose another blank Saturday should keep wives/girlfriends (or husbands/boyfriends) happy at least.

Response from Staines

When I returned home tonight having been away since Wednesday morning there was a letter from Alan Boon, the Chairman of Staines Town FC, waiting for me.  I am grateful to Alan for the letter and as he has asked me to share the contents with our supporters, I have provided the salient points of  the letter below:

It reads as follows:

“Further to our recent discussions and following some postings on our website with respect to possible racial abuse as discussed I asked a member of our club Mr Bob Sherwood who is an Ex Policeman to give me a report on the so called incident.

I have to say that I tend to ignore most of the comments [on unofficial forums] as probably you do and was somewhat shocked at the accusations posted against your supporters.

After a full investigation I can confirm that there was absolutely NO substance in the accusation of racial abuse and I must apologise in no uncertain terms to your club and your supporters about the comment.

I have with the investigation located the forum posters and advised them at my anger that our club could be involved in these type of comments.

I would ask you to make your supporters aware of our clubs dismay at the postings and confirm to you that we will do our best to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

On a side issue good luck with your efforts to reach the playoffs as I would suggest you are clearly one of the best teams we have played this season.”

So I am grateful to Alan for clearing this matter up.  Many people know my views on this whole episode and I am sure that both Alan and I would agree that there are many more important things going on at both clubs which we ought to be focusing on.

Anyhow, now, hopefully, we can put this to rest, and, when we play Staines again next month I hope all our supporters will show that we are there to support and protect the good name of Wealdstone FC in a positive way rather than seek any further action against Staines supporters.

Match postponed

Actually tonight it was our board meeting that was postponed and we had to hastily arrange a conference call instead.  Warmer and quicker to do it on the phone – but you don’t get through as much.

One of our big discussions (as always) concerned finances and there is plenty to discuss at the forthcoming Club AGM coming up in just 3 weeks time on 23 February at Ruislip.  Letters are going out this week.

Please try and be there – if you want to know what’s going on and want to join in the discussion then please do all you can to attend.

Does the transfer window matter to us?

…not really, other than keeping people interested in whether Jermaine was on his way or not.

I can see the good and bad about it and for a ‘selling’ club it must be a worrying time in so far as will all our good players go – but I can’t really see where that happened.  For others it is an opportunity to strengthen or tinker – or in Spurs’ case (and Harry loves a deal doesn’t he?) buying back nearly all the players they sold in the previous 12 months.  Should we expect to see Berbatov going back to Spurs in the summer?

Talking of Spurs’ transfers, one thing that interested me was that Robbie Keane apparently has dropped in value from over £20million in the summer to apparently only £12 million plus various add ons half a season later.  I know he has struggled at Liverpool but surely his value hasn’t dropped that much – or is that the credit crunch impacting in high football finance?

The only thing that really affected us during the transfer window was a technicality over whether or not we are going to sign Davis Haule given his contract status with Staines – but even here there are other ways of sorting out the future with Davis and as his loan spell continues for another couple of weeks we have not had to confirm one way or another just yet.

One final thought about transfers.  I was interested to read as a subtext to the Kaka – Manchester City stories how Robinho was roundly criticised for going to Manchester City for money, with the undertone being how we should be pleased owners can’t simply buy up all the best players to guarantee success, and that a player who can be described as ‘a  mercenary’ – in other words who plays for the highest bidder – should in some way be criticised and despised for his greed rather than his will to win.

So does that mean that players should only sign for clubs in the top 4 in England?  Or that new owners with big bank balances are really unwelcome?  Aren’t Manchester City simply doing what Abramovich has done at Chelsea, and Jack Walker at Blackburn previously in terms of trying to fast track success – only with an extra 0 on the price tag?

I don’t know if, at this late hour I am making any sense but it is always good to see the grand hypocrisy alive and kicking in the pro game – give me the Ryman Premier any day.

Forgive me but isn’t that what Chelsea did?  Isn’t that what

Things do even out

Earlier on this season we were bemoaning the late goals that cost us valuable points, Billericay, Canvey and Ramsgate come immediately to mind – but our last three results show that this type of thing seems to be evened up as the season progresses.

Sean saving last minute penalties at Ramsgate and against Hendon last week and Spendy’s goal yesterday, in the 93rd minute, are the difference between taking 2 points and 7 points from the last three games.  It certainly has been fun!

What is impressive is the spirit and desire in the current squad.  Can anyone remember the last time we won a game in injury time?  Last week we won coming from behind for the first time this season, yesterday we were twice behind.

We are down to the bare bones as well, with injuries and suspensions taking their toll.  This was bound to happen at some stage though we are hopeful that Carl and Darren may be back next week, and Jimmy Gray will also be back, though we lose Greg for three games and have four players one game away from a ban.

We also saw Luke Woods depart to Hitchin Town last week and he made his debut yesterday. It was always going to be tough keeping two quality keepers and ultimately one fully understands Luke’s desire to play regular football – we wish him well.  Luke going is further good news for the budget – though we may well need to bring 1-2 players in over the coming weeks.

At least this year we haven’t experienced the post Harrow Borough hangover that affected us last season – let’s hope the run continues for a while yet.  The way I’m looking at it is we are 3-4 wins away from survival.  What happens after that will be interesting but for now let’s enjoy the ride.