Oh happy day

A few minutes to reflect on a landmark day for the Club.

It was great reading the increasingly excited tweets and message boards in the build up to the game. Not just all the usual suspects but names I didn’t recognise looking forward to a chance of some FA Trophy giant killing. The Racing Post made us their headline non league tip of the day. Our form has been good but on the other hand knowing we had no Parker and no Massey (as well as no Dyer) was a huge worry. You don’t want makeshift formations and new systems being required immediately before a big game.

I arrived at Grosvenor Vale at around 1.20 and expectations were mounting. But Gordon wasn’t looking happy. James Hammond was stuck at Harrow on the Hill with no Uxbridge train due. This brought home to me the difference between the Blue Sq Prem and Ryman Prem. Barrow had travelled down the day before and stayed locally overnight. They would have had the chance for light training or team discussion/bonding during a relaxed morning and would be ready, tuned to the minute for our game. We had players delayed on the Underground requiring the Chairman to rush out and pick them up. As we were to find out preparation was one thing – 90 minutes is quite another.

The injury to their keeper Danny Hurst was very concerning. He had already made one world class save from Connor and again was brave and effective in saving from Britt. But very quickly as he didn’t rise things looked bad. I’ve always believed that the more you do something, like watch live football, the more things happen that you can ever imagine. In everything we thought might happen today a 25 minute break midway through the first half was definitely not one of those scenarios. The good news is the keeper seems ok. I don’t know if he was kept in overnight for observation or not but reports were positive. Good luck to him and well done to all the medical staff involved.

And then we were trailing 1-0 at half time. A soft goal I thought and not really what we deserved but now a mountain to climb.

But climb it we did. We’ve loved having Richard Jolly ‘home’ this season. The fans put their hands in their pockets to help make it happen and that trust continues to be repaid. Jolls is the archetypal ‘fox in the box’ knowing how to be in the right place at the right time to score many of his goals. Rarely can he have scored such a sweet volley as he did today. A goal out of the top drawer! And we were back.

Within minutes Britt had poked in from a corner to put us in front. As the match had started I chatted with Ross Wilson from Watford. He is their Football Business Director which means the guy in charge of how long Britt and Connor stay with us. The conversation was everything you would hope to hear, that they (Watford) are delighted with how things are going, that the players are really enjoying it etc. With Watford kicking off at 5.00 and given the injury break during the first half, I don’t know how long the Watford contingent stayed for. Had they stayed second half they would have seen Britt scaring the Barrow defenders everytime he got the ball.

Britt was judged man of the match but there was many candidates, for me Chris O’Leary and James Hammond were both excellent today – but they all were. The patched up defence harried, blocked and tackled and ensured Jonathan hardly had a save to make (again). The midfield fought tirelessly against their full time counterparts and the front men again delivered. Jolls must be the top scorer in this year’s competition.

2-1 might well have been 4 or 5 and we spurned enough chances that would have taken the tension out of the final few minutes. But we held on well enough to deliver the shock result.

And what scenes at the end from players and fans alike. Real jubilation. Moments we all will not forget.

It is always hard work at Wealdstone with so many contributing so much but we are lucky enough to have days like this every now and again and this is why we all do it. Since we’ve been at Ruislip we’ve enjoyed big crowds at friendlies against Watford and Leeds, we’ve had the Rotherham day and last Boxing Day was pretty decent too. But today was right up there – and we won.

I should also say how excellent the Barrow officials and supporters were today. It must have been a shock to them but still they were a credit to their club, but I wouldn’t have fancied their long coach journey home.

We will hope for a home draw for the last 16 But you take what you’re given and whoever we get we will give it our all. My only hope in these games against teams from much higher up is not to be embarrassed. That never looked likely today.

Back in early October our season was threatening to unravel fast. But how we’ve turned it around. Starting Tuesday we have a run of very tough league games which we need to be winning. That’s for Tuesday though, tonight is all about the FA Trophy and as Chairman of Wealdstone FC I can say how proud I am tonight.

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Not letting things go quiet

…on so many fronts.

A quick update. We had a call last week involving a number of people  from the Club, directors, officials and other interested parties to discuss our current stance on activities going on with the Prince Edward site. The call really focused on what the Club’s objectives and next actions should be. We had some widespread agreement which was good and one of our priorities is to continue developing our relationship with Harrow Council. We are expecting a meeting with them towards the end of January, early February to follow up the meeting we had with a prominent Harrow councillor just before Christmas. To some extent until we know more definitively what is planned for the Prince Edward site then we can only prepare. So more news when we have it.

Also at the moment we are preparing for an important meeting as we start to properly fuse together the football club and social club entities. As reported at the Club AGM, we have reached agreement with the shareholders of the Ruislip Social Club to bring the two entities together. This is now going forward and is a very exciting development for us. Again more news in due course.

Otherwise I hope everyone is enjoying the football at the moment. Some great passing football, goals, quality defending long may it last! One game at a time though and next stop Horsham.

A kick in the proverbials

The statement that we have put out this evening makes for some tough reading.

With our landlords KSIMC telling us that they will not extend our lease, or even contemplate selling us the freehold to the Grosvenor Vale site it feels, as the title of this post suggests, like quite a hefty kick in the proverbials.

And coming in the week that Jermaine signs for Everton for nothing, it just makes this a very painful few days for the Football Club. To get so close but not to hit the jackpot is deeply frustrating; to apparently not even hit the board is another thing all together.

Enough mixing of metaphors! It’s at times like this that you look at yourself and what you / us as a Board have done and wonder if we have made the wrong calls. That will ultimately be for others to judge. It would be easy to get depressed and give up, to feel that the football gods are always going to make life difficult for us. But this is Wealdstone, and we’ve known enough adversity in the past. We came back before and we will come back again.

As far as the lease goes we need to remember that we still have eight years to run. We are not being kicked out now. So there is time to sensibly plan for what we need to do in the future. Perhaps that will be at Grosvenor Vale, perhaps Prince Edward and perhaps somewhere else.

Let’s not give up on Grosvenor Vale either. Things can change. We have supporters, the Council, the residents and much of the community who have engaged positively with us since we moved in just two years ago. Our discussions with KSIMC have until this point been positive and we were led to believe that a lease extension was not going to be an issue. Their first communication with us after their AGM when this was discussed told us that this had been rejected for now, but a follow up email suggests that the lease will not be extended at any time in the future.  Quite why they have changed their stance so dramatically is difficult to understand and no doubt we will find that out in good time. But just as they appear to have changed their mind this time so we can hope that our future discussions with them may lead them to change again in the future.

On a personal note I will not bullshit, receiving this news is a huge blow. As always with Wealdstone we seem to climb a mountain only to find one even higher lurking just behind it. I suspect that in the great traditions of our club we will roll our sleeves up and get on with it – but I am sure we will need more help and expertise to help the Club forward and anyone reading this who wants to get involved should let me know.

We have a new season to prepare for, and we will do what we have always done, try to support Gordon and look optimistically to the new year in the Ryman Premier.

There is a long way to run with this one yet – don’t lose the faith!

Can you help this Saturday?

So much to say, so much going on (as always) but just no time (as always). Twitter seems much easier than writing long hand now (follow me at @howiejk). But I will try and post some stuff up soon.

In the meantime this is a plea for help. We really need people to come down and help the few hardy souls who have been regulars at the site over the past few weekends. There are always loads of jobs to do to suit any talents or skills.

This weekend in particular we need some help to lay some hard standing by the Fire Exits. If you can make it, especially on Saturday, and even if only for an hour or two then please let Roger Slater or Nick Symmons know (or just leave a comment on this blog). Any help you can give will be most appreciated.

More on here soon

Thanks to so many

Rather than write a new post thanking so many people I thought I might post my article due to be in today’s match programme. So if you are not at the game or didn’t get a programme read on.

Programme notes for Carshalton game (ever so slightly updated)

A warm welcome to all for our final game of this memorable season, and a special welcome to all our successful juniors, both boys and girls who are with us today.

In many respects I can’t really believe how quickly this season has passed. So much has been packed into it, as always at Wealdstone, both on and off the pitch.

The good news is that coming into the 42nd game the season is still alive with hopes of getting into the play-offs resting on today’s results here, at Boreham Wood, at Kingstonian and at Aveley.

So the best memories may be yet to come, but whatever happens it will take something very special to beat the fortnight back in late October / early November that followed us winning at Aylesbury, beating Harrow and then culminating in what was such a great day against Rotherham. It took us 23 years to get to the First Round of the FA Cup, hopefully we can do it again next year. Other highlights include getting to a Cup Final (if not the penalty shoot out), and a Leeds United themed set of memories that include the pre-season friendly, the pride of Jermaine’s performances against Manchester United and Tottenham though also the disappointment of realising he was not going to be sold after all. I bet they wish they had done now!

As always, and in his testimonial year we need to salute our manager Gordon Bartlett with his excellent team behind him. Gordon puts so much time into the Club and yet his passion burns as brightly now as ever. In this packed last week of the season a bumper crowd celebrated Gordon’s testimonial on a great Wednesday evening – it was all so well deserved. I am delighted that Leo Morris will be celebrating his testimonial next season.

It has been a hard season in many respects, especially with the challenges of the weather and Fingers particularly has done an amazing amount of work, often with little recognition or reward. The pitch remains a big issue for us and one we will look to get right – though it will take time and money and patience.

Off the field there are so many people to thank as always – so I won’t even try and thank everybody – other than divide it into three groups.

First to my Board of Directors for all the time, effort and energy they give without much thanks – but in some respects with everyone’s thanks. We have so much going on at the Club and I really believe that with the right breaks anything is possible and much of that is due to the work of a few on the Board.

Secondly to everyone who helps, whether on match days or not, in the Social Club, the Supporter’s Club, the Stewards, the ball boys, those who help with the Board Room hospitality, the press, the programme, the tannoy, the photography, the gate, the Reserves, the Youth, the Juniors, the catering, the kit, the works in the ground and so on (apologies if I missed you out). So many people, giving up their time to help our Club. That is why so many others will always be jealous of what we have in abundance – passion, a desire to succeed and a love of the Club. Dare I say, more of the same next year please?

Finally, a huge thank you to all our supporters, young and old.  Thanks to everyone who contributed to 100:400, to all our Club sponsors, match sponsors, kit grid donors, match ball donors and so on. Thanks to all those who travel home and away, or even just to home games. You have been immense and of course, we need you all, as much as ever, starting in August when we do it all over again.

But you know, as much as we need volunteer labour down at the ground through the summer months, and we do, I urge you all to take the opportunity to spend some time with your loved ones and get some brownie points because the new season will be with us before you know it.

Have a great summer

A good day today

A quick update on today’s meetings – it’s been a long day.

This lunchtime Peter Worby and Paul Rumens accompanied me to the Stanmore HQ of KSIMC, our landlords.  We had a very encouraging meeting which carried on over lunch.

We are due to meet again on 9 March at Ruislip to discuss various possibilities. Let’s hope this is the start of proper and frequent conversations leading to a long term agreement. I am encouraged by our discussions but I think we all know there is a long way to go.

This evening Peter and Leo this time came with me to Ruislip Manor Library to attend a meeting of the local residents association. Although we were expecting the worse, in terms of complaints about parking and noise we were to be surprised, as in general the residents were very complimentary about what we have achieved so far wished us every success in the future.

It is important we have a working relationship with the residents that we can develop in the future so that when we are in a position to invest in the site we do so with their support. Again this is an investment in a long term plan which I think is very important to our future.

A good day.

Big day tomorrow

We have two very important meetings tomorrow.

Believe it or not, we finally have a meeting with our freeholders KSIMC. Paul, Peter and I will be going to their Stanmore HQ to meet with them and follow that with lunch. We are not necessarily expecting any decisions tomorrow but it will be important to try and get some commitment for ongoing discussion.

Then in the evening Leo and I are going to a meeting in Ruislip with our local residents association. This is the first time we have appeared in front of them and it is an opportunity to begin to forge a relationship here as well. That said, I respectfully understand that they will have issues they will want to raise with us, so we will doing probably more listening than talking.

I see quite a bit of similarity between the two meetings, both are important and having got the opportunity to get in front of these groups we don’t want either to be one-offs.

More tomorrow

A big disappointment tonight

I think it is fair to say we were all taken by surprise by tonight’s match being called off, and not only taken by surprise but very disappointed.

At the heart of the problem is drainage.  I have asked Fingers and Adam the groundsman to come back with any short term suggestions that may help stop this happening again.  If there is something we can do that costs £hundreds then we will do it – but if it costs £thousands then that is another story.

It really is simple, like everything the long term solution costs money. If we had invested more money into the pitch during the summer and reduced Gordon’s budget further then I don’t think that would have been a popular decision though we may have played tonight.

As always we make choices around where we spend our money. We did spend about £5,000 on the pitch during the summer but this money is as much for repair and wear and tear as anything else. To invest in a decent drainage system would be a much bigger job and is not worth doing until we have more certainty around our long term tenure.

Many will remember that before we came to Ruislip the pitch at The Vale was probably the worst in Middlesex. The work we have done to it has improved it out of recognition but we also know there is far more to do.

Ultimately tonight’s postponement doesn’t help and means Alan Couch needs to reorganise another match.  At least we are away for the next three games.

Grosvenor Vale in the snow 9 Jan 2010

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.