The real excitement on Saturday was here…and here

Saturday was the last day of the regular season but two games stood out as containing more incident than you might see in the previous 41. Check out the video from the Tonbridge – Dover game here. The first half didn’t finish until nearly 4.30 and included two red cards for players (including the Tonbridge keeper who was sent off at our place in the first game of the season), both managers being sent off for squaring up to each other, a Dover player swallowing his tongue after taking a ball flush in the face (fortunately he was fine after) and two goals.

However this game was nothing compared to the Ryman Div One North title decider between East Thurrock and Aveley, well worth reading the report here (probably more than once).  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a title being won in such dramatic style (Michael Thomas doesn’t hold a candle to this one) and perhaps this is even more dramatic than our Div 3 title win at Northwood a few years ago.

Wow!

Letting their hair down

Letting their hair down

That’s all folks

A satisfactory end to a season full of promise yesterday with one final victory confirming us in a creditable 7th place in the Ryman Premier.  Rather than rewrite lot’s of thank you’s below is a copy of what I wrote for yesterday’s match day programme.

Look back with pride, look forward with confidence

Welcome today to the final match of our 2008/9 season, and we welcome our friends from Hastings United to the last game of our first year in our new home.

We’ve had a great year and I think it is important we acknowledge how far the Club has come over the past year or so.

Let’s step back a moment. In 2005 with Edgware crumbling around us Northwood offered us a workable alternative but the three years there were marked by continual struggles on the pitch and a lack of momentum off it.

Late in 2007 an opportunity arose to move to Ruislip Manor; to take over and try and reinvigorate the fading stadium and the failing social club. Through 2008 the regular work parties worked tirelessly and often without too much recognition to make Grosvenor Vale ready for Ryman Premier League football, and the matches against Watford and Tonbridge marked memorable landmarks for the Club, with the first and first competitive game on our own ground since 1991. The early days of the season represented a massive learning curve but gradually we began to remember and relearn what was required to run our own stadium.

Just outside the ground with a massive effort that continues to this day, the social club began to transform into a welcoming, warm and increasingly popular environment. There is more to do there and (of course) some considerable challenges to overcome but I am confident we are on the right road.

Whether it was the new Macron kit, or the welcome and much valued West One sponsorship or the cosy physio room, we strove to deliver a professional club that looked and felt the part. Promotions to attract kids or local residents helped as we reached out to the local community and made it clear that we are an inclusive and welcoming club with a proposition worthy of support.

And support it people have, with crowds bucking the clear trend rising by over 40%, spurred on of course by a team that have matured during the season and have sensed the upturn in the Club’s fortunes by performing so well and leaving us all with dreams and heightened expectations of what next season will bring.

So many people have contributed to our success this season, and I apologise in advance for missing anyone out but I do want to mention a few individuals. My board colleagues continue to give hours and hours to this Club offering direction, deeds and inspiration. This season we have been joined by Andrew Lane who has stepped up as well as taking on the role of Company Secretary, and we are ably supported by Barry Benveniste, Mark Lloyd and Gordon McKay.

Many people take on important roles on matchdays as a matter of course, including Alan Hill, Andy Burrows, Graham and Pauline Smith, Drew Worby (and others who have helped on the gate), Roy Couch, Nick Dugard and that is not to mention the supporters club who have arisen magnificently this season under David Albert’s expert direction, with an excellent Club Shop and most enjoyable Barry Fry dinner and all the regular support we look for from them.

Tony Waugh as a newcomer to the Club has done a fantastic role as kitman this season adding to the professionalism we offer and Sateesh Khanna has taken on the challenge of running the catering facilities with so much imagination and success. Let’s not forget Adam and Minnie Gloor who continue to produce such a fascinating and enjoyable programme.

Who else? Well perhaps not so much in the public glare Phil Ralston and John Moran have done a great job with the reserves, Phil in his first year with us has made a great impression retaining the Middlesex Premier Cup, as has Micky Johnson and the Under 18s / Pinnacle side who stand on the verge of winning the Allied Counties League in their first season.

We made a big decision last summer when inviting the Ruislip Manor juniors to merge with the Wealdstone junior club. Progress towards a full merger was always going to take time but I am very encouraged by the where we are and I remain convinced that this relationship will become increasingly important to the Club in the future, as are the relationships we are forging under Mark Lloyd’s direction with Ruislip Rangers, Pinner United and Ruislip High School.

Finally in terms of saying thanks I wanted to thank the playing staff – let’s never forget we are a football after all. It has been a most enjoyable and successful season. Travelling back on the coach from Dover last week the spirit and belief the players had was palpable. They want to play for Wealdstone FC and they want to be successful with Wealdstone FC.

But as most people know we have some challenges immediately ahead of us. From now on we have to live within our means and that has meant we have attached a lot of importance to our current fundraising drive 100:400, a drive designed to ensure we can keep as many of this season’s squad as possible. At the time of writing we have just passed the 75% mark in terms of money pledged. If you haven’t come forward thus far – please do now and help us up to, and past our target.

As well as 100:400 we are trying to give Dennis all the support he needs to make our commercial operation more successful. It is not easy in this current economic climate and any leads or suggestions will be most welcome. Leo Morris has been recruited to work with Dennis and we expect more news on our commercial structure in the coming weeks.

So we end a memorable season and we have much to look forward to, including, all being well, our long awaited pre-season game against Leeds United FC here at the Vale. Details will follow soon but I am desperate for the Vale to look at its best, with every ticket sold for that game.

I suspect the non league football world will go through a summer with plenty of turmoil, but although our own financial issues are no secret, cash aside we are fundamentally in the best shape we have been in for many years. I hope many of you will try and come to the presentation evening on 9 May and be involved when the call comes for new work parties to take on the various tasks that are needed around the ground. In the meantime let me wish all Wealdstone (and Hastings) people a great summer and see you back here in just a few short months time.

Season over? Looking ahead

Ok so we fell at the penultimate hurdle, which was disappointing given that with better finishing we could have got something from the game, but what a great season the boys have given us – and there is much to look forward to.

I travelled on the coach yesterday and it is clear that as a group the players are very together, and that they love playing for Wealdstone FC.  So forgive me for harping on but I don’t want anyone to be under any misconceptions about next season.

It does come down to money.  For all the players love playing for the club they won’t do so for free, and nor should we expect them to do so.  We need to be in a position to agree satisfactory terms with them – and we will need to do that sooner rather than later.

100:400 has gone well but has stalled in the last week.  I am a little surprised that there wasn’t more of a positive reaction after the Harrow game but that’s as may be.  We have pledges covering two thirds of target but we need that other third (and more) – in the next few weeks if we can.

Gordon’s comments to Tim Parks and the subsequent follow up remarks on the Forum make the situation clear.

So if you have signed up, ask the person you stand with, or the friend you’ve known for years whether they are going to.  Don’t leave everything up to Jeremy or Nick D to sort.  We all want what we hope this money is going to buy – and if we acheive what we hope next season then I’m sure you will consider it money well spent.

A great day

The sun shone and we enjoyed another comfortable win over our local rivals.  6-0 at home and 3-0 at Earlsmead isn’t a bad return for this season.

It occurs to me that for many years we couldn’t beat Borough so while we are in the ascendancy, as we have been for a little while, let’s make sure we enjoy it because no doubt, like everything in football, it will change.  But hats off to the players, and especially to Greg Ngoyi for a great hat trick for the two performances this season.

I must also say how fantastic the Wealdstone support looked today, with more and more old faces appearing.  Steve Edwards’ pictures capture it well.   Our home crowds are up 40% this season and we can maintain that sort of improvement next year it really will make a big difference.

In recent years we have been used to the season going down to the penultimate or last game.  The difference this year is we are challenging at the right end of the table.  Looking at the current positions and games remaining I still think it is unlikely we will end up in the play-offs – but it is not impossible.  Of course we have to win at Dover on Saturday which will be a very tall order as they showed their aberration on Saturday against Boreham Wood was only temporary by today winning at Maidstone.  Hornchurch’s game in hand could also prove important but don’t forget our goal difference is almost worth an extra point.  Whatever happens on Saturday to be in with a shout in the 41st game of the season is a tremendous achievement.

So of course that leads me onto next season and the importance of hitting the targets we have set for 100:400.  So far we are 2/3 of the way there – not including anything from today.  We need to get the other third – and then some if we can – if possible by the end of the season so we can give Gordon enough to keep this side together so we can compete at the level we aspire to next season.  We are going well but we need the extra – so please come forward if you have not already done so.  If you needed persuading why, hopefully today provided that persuasion.

Enjoy today, and together, we can enjoy many more days like it.

A summer of discontent?

I was listening to the non league show podcast yesterday and taken by the rumours about the number of clubs supposedly on the brink of going out of business.  Will this be a summer where clubs fall by the wayside or will it be one with many rumours with no substance?

One chairman said to me at a recent home game that he had heard up to seven clubs in our division were in some sort of financial trouble.  Did he include those in constant trouble or those hit now by the credit crunch, sponsors withdrawing, crowds getting smaller and income decreasing?

I don’t know how it will all pan out but it will be interesting.  We know of Weymouth’s problems, the Non League Daily website have been reporting on Maidenhead’s significant budget cuts, rumours now about Team Bath and Fisher’s travails are also well reported.  We also read in Saturday’s programme about Maidstone’s problems.  Our own issues are well known but our problems are manageable at present – crucially we don’t owe any money and we are used to budgeting at a comparatively low level.  I do wonder when some clubs are cutting budgets from what lofted perch they start cutting from – remember a 30% cut for some clubs will still give them considerably more than us.

This is why I believe it is a great opportunity for us if we come up with the money to support our players now because our budget would become more competitive and we know we get excellent value for money anyway.

The other side to this is that players will also have to manage their own expectations – many might be surprised that the market at Ryman Premier and Conference South level won’t support the same level of wages that they’ve been used to, meaning there could be some bargains about.

Some interesting times ahead.

100:400 passes major milestone

Great news – we are 50% of the way there towards the 100:400 target.

In other words pledges are past £20,000 thanks to the Supporters Club confirming a substantial weekly donation for next season.  The hard work now gets even harder, the first 50% should be the easiest but now we will double our efforts to double the total.  When we get past the £40,000 total we will need to work even harder to generate more money – remember this is directly related to what you will see on the pitch next season.

Terry Stern left a message on the blog last night about the best way to donate.  Two things to say, firstly for those that can get down to Ruislip tomorrow evening from 8.00pm we have a session where Gordon and some of the players will be “meeting the supporters”.  I will be there to answer any questions on this scheme as well (and to take any pledges – or money).

The second thing to say is that Barry advises me that the most tax efficient way for the club to receive this money is through a share purchase.  So if people (as many are) wish this money to be for shares then that is fine.  Teamdraw is another popular route, with the benefit that the more we get signed into Team Draw the more the prize money can rise.

Two weeks in from launching tomorrow and half way to the headline target – let’s keep it going.

April fool?

I’m sitting in an office in Madrid this morning staring at the league table wondering if this is an April fool or not?

It is painful missing games at the best of times but it’s getting serious now and whilst we have five tough games left this season who could have believed we would go into April in a play-off position?

It brings the 100:400 scheme into even sharper focus of course.  If our budget is stretched for the Ryman League imagine what it will be for the Blue Square South.  More people pledging last night which was great – we need many more yet.

Next Thursday (9 April) we are holding an event at Ruislip which we are calling Meet the Supporters.  Actually this is a twist on the normal Meet the Manager event but Gordon was very keen to have the opportunity to talk to supporters and we will get some players to come down too after training.  I understand the Reserves may also be at home that evening so another chance to see them too.  Please try and attend if you can.

On to Maidstone on Saturday.  See you there.