Cup of dreams or nightmares?

Interesting watching the FA Cup draw live yesterday and seeing the contrasting fortunes of our Middlesex friends Harrow and Hendon.

If you are a Harrow fan (ok if you are the Harrow fan) then you had every reason to be excited, much like us last year, getting drawn at home against Chesterfield. Standby for plenty of media coverage of Rocky Baptiste especially; and it is Harrow’s turn to enjoy their moment in the sun.

However, if you are a Hendon fan the draw must have been a huge disappointment. Remember this is the draw we would have got had we still been in the competition, away v Chelmsford City. Of course they will talk about it being a “winnable tie”, and though unlikely, perhaps it is. But having got into the First Round draw the one thing you don’t want is to be drawn away to another non league club, especially one riding high in the Conference South. Mind you Hendon still have to get through a replay at Met Police tomorrow night and as we know that won’t be easy.

Local rivalries aside though, we have to say well done to Harrow, an amazing result at Eastbourne and whatever the draw I know I’d much rather still be in the FA Cup than not.

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Play-offs are the target!

Steady on, bet that made a few people do a double take!

Actually we are just delighted to win a league game and isn’t it funny that you can’t beat the bottom club but could beat the team top of the table. A funny old game as someone once said.

Standing with some of the players in the bar after the game what was noticeable was the realisation that they had played a lot better tonight. No one could really put their finger on why but the togetherness and pride was far more evident tonight on and off the pitch.

Now one game does not constitute a recovery. But the performance, the desire and the will to win throughout the team was a return to what we need if we are to start climbing the table.

Nice for all of us to savour a win tonight, but again on Sunday please lads.

Rumours

I thought I would respond to the rumours that are around at present that Gordon offered his resignation after the game last Monday night, given the people either asking me or discussing this on the Forum.

Let’s get this clear. Gordon did not offer his resignation last Monday. What was said to me and one other Director, in the emotion that flows immediately after such a game, was “is it time for me to go?” which is quite different from actually offering to go. My response was that we were not going to make any snap decisions there and then. We agreed that Gordon and I would meet and two nights later (last Wednesday) we had a full, frank and honest discussion covering all aspects of the Club.

Part of our discussion was about how we to involve others. So tomorrow evening (Monday 18th) Gordon will meet with the Board and the Supporters Club Committee to discuss where we are. Also tomorrow, when we are at the Club we will pick a date to hold a ‘Meet the Manager’ / ‘Meet the Chairman’ evening for the following week (w/c 25 Oct).

Football is all about opinions. We know that. Some people will feel Gordon should go now and others that he should stay. I have no doubts that he is fully aware of our strengths and our shortcomings and also what needs to be done. My view remains what I posted recently that he remains our best chance of turning things around.

One thing that Gordon and I agree on is that any decisions we make are based on what we think is right for Wealdstone FC, not for any other reason.  To that end and to those who think that we as a Board are not capable of making tough decisions Gordon knows that the Board will not blindly follow him for ever. However, as I’ve written before, not only has he earned the right to be given our trust he remains our best hope of turning things around.

The financial situation hasn’t changed because of the FA Cup exit. We don’t budget for much prize money so anything we receive is a bonus. There will need to be some decisions made with the budget in mind, though this was always going to be the case when we reached this part of the season.

As ever when we go through a difficult spell, difficult questions are asked, of all of us. Gordon is having to answer his fair share of questions now and both he and I will be happy to do so next week for those who want to pose them.

Rumours can be close to the truth or they can be a long way off. In this case the rumour of a resignation offered is simply incorrect.

Mixing business with pleasure

A slightly self indulgent post but hopefully interesting all the same.

I was asked to mix my professional life (in corporate communications) with my football life by the good people at Simply Communicate, by speaking on their latest monthly webinars, Simply Live on the subject of social media and sport.

To help prep I wrote a small article which I’ve reproduced below. A fascinating area, one where its good to see Wealdstone FC at the forefront of change. Anyone have any views on this?

Are sports and social media easy companions?

As the Ryder Cup squelches into a 4th day, one debate set to run and run is whether players should be allowed to tweet, with both captains asking, or was that telling their star players that Twitter was banned for the duration of the competition.

In the UK this is not the first time we’ve heard these discussions. Recently top English cricketer Kevin Pietersen was fined and reprimanded after tweeting his displeasure about being left out the English team and England footballer Darren Bent sparked controversy when he used Twitter to publically demand a move from his then club Tottenham Hotspur.

Not surprisingly perhaps sporting bodies and the clubs themselves have tried to clamp down, to ‘muzzle’ their sports stars and exert their authority.  But increasingly it becomes more obvious that they are struggling in vain and as in every other walk of life are having less and less control of the message.

The answer is simple, join the conversation – don’t try and control it.

I am Chairman of the Wealdstone Football Club, a club who play at the 7th level of English football in the Ryman Premier League, and a Club with an avid and involved fanbase. Even at our relatively modest level social media plays is playing an ever increasing part in making sure there are many conversations ongoing at any time with the official voice of the club under constant pressure to define and redefine its role.

When I became Chairman in May 2007, with my corporate communications background I decided we had to embrace what was happening in the communications world. I started a Chairman’s blog, The Electric Chair https://howiejk.wordpress.com/.

This was an attempt to write a leadership blog in a sporting world. By my reckoning this was an almost unique thing to do in professional sport at the time. Fans want to know what is going on at their club. For years they have been kept in the dark, dependent on what the media reports or the matchday programme (ie in house magazine) tells them. The blog was an attempt to keep people updated about what is going on and to provide a personal view of the pressures of running the club. Readership statistics suggest it continues to be well received.

But blogs are not the only way that social media is changing the face of sporting conversations. Fans used to only have the pub to complain about their club, now they use bulletin boards or fans forums http://www.wealdstonefc.co.uk/forum to air views, many critical about all different aspects of the club. Players are using Twitter or Facebook to share their views to communicate with each other.

This has all led to huge change. Conversations now take place between players and fans, or between fans of different clubs breaking down barriers – though whether this happens at the top end of professional sport in another thing. Club officials know what fans are saying and thinking and can react to questions, complaints or even occasional praise. And feedback suggests that it is not just young, more supposedly web-savvy fans who are joining the conversation but older fans as well.

Video highlights of action are quickly uploaded onto the web, audio files can be shared almost as quickly as they are recorded.

The influence of Twitter, Facebook, Bulletin boards and so on continues to grow. Social media is not only giving players and fans a voice it is creating conversations that have not been allowed to exist. Authorities increasingly face an uphill battle if they want to stay in charge of the message. The only way forward is to join the conversation, not to control it.

What is the right call?

Obviously very disappointing tonight. People who saw my tweets will know what I made of the performance.

There is no getting away from the fact that this has been a very poor start to the season – well below our expectations and that is probably what hurts the most.

From what I’ve seen I do believe this is the strongest the Ryman League has been for several seasons. My sense is you have two leagues within a league, a top half of clubs who have brought in decent players (at decent cost of course) and who will be challenging and the bottom half. I was impressed with Carshalton, Billericay &  Lowestoft and that is three more teams who have impressed me compared to last year.

Where do we fit in? Well current results make that a question that doesn’t need answering. Whether it is a simple lack of quality, of desire, of tactics or what people can and will debate. As we know everyone (rightly) has an opinion.

We’ve been here before, several times in recent years – and by not panicking, by considering all the facts we tend to make the right decisions in the end. So we will stick to that policy and not panic.

What we need to do now is make the right calls. We have to take a step back and ask ourselves lots of questions. I’ve always believed good players don’t become bad players overnight. And didn’t we strengthen the team in the summer? Wes looks a really solid centre back. Although I don’t think we’ve seen his best so far, there was not one person connected with Wealdstone not excited by the signing of Scott Fitzgerald. On paper at least given his record Dan Burnell was not a bad signing either. Callum’s injury has obviously hurt us and clearly we haven’t replaced Marvin adequately.

That all said, the team has not performed to its capabilities. Generally (and I wasn’t at either Margate or Hastings) I can’t fault the effort. We didn’t stop trying tonight, or on Saturday where on another day we might have nicked a point against a strong Lowestoft side.

But obviously we are not delivering. Should we change the management team? I think if I bothered to look back over the three years I’ve been Chairman the calls for change start whenever there is a bad run. Perhaps not too much last year but certainly in the previous two. No doubt the calls will get louder if we lose on Saturday.

All I can say is Gordon is the man responsible for signing the players and for picking the team. He knows the buck stops with him. But not only has he proved he can get out of these situations in the past but he has also earned the right to try and get us out of it this time.

I notice that someone on the Forum wondered when we had last gone into a big game, like the one coming up on Saturday with such little confidence? The answer is the last round v Chesham, a team 3rd in the Southern Premier. My view was we should have beaten them in the first game and then we did beat them comfortably in the replay. So I’ve no doubt we have the capability to go to Met Police and get a result – and we have to believe we will.

The other thing I notice which I continue to struggle with is the implication that a few defeats and that’s it. There is a suggestion that crowds are on a downward trend (they are not – so far our average of 435 is 20 up on last year), and a suggestion from some people where I hear the “I’m not going to bother if we see crap like that” sentiment. I think most of us know that football supporters generally, and Wealdstone supporters particularly, have had to learn to suffer.

I’m not enjoying this at present and I didn’t enjoy it tonight. I understand I/the Board can do something about it, but I also understand that a wrong decision can be far more counter productive. Please trust us to keep making the right decisions.