A stormy end to an ultimately frustrating game

A couple of weeks ago I blogged that the Croydon Athletic game was one of the worst 4-3s you would ever see. I couldn’t say that about today. After the Croydon game I looked at the next three matches, at Lowestoft, Carshalton and Sutton and thought that getting anything out of those three games would be good so to get 4 points (and after today you have to say it should have been 7) shows the progress we are making.

Obviously we deserved something out of the game today, probably all three points. Three great goals, always threatening when attacking and relatively comfortable in defence. You would accept that the team top of the league and at home would do most of the pressing. Forbes’ goal apart though how many shots did Jonathan have to save as the game went into injury time.

Anyway with an air of inevitability we then conceded in the 92nd and 95th minutes to lose the game. As for the injury time the only thing I’ve got to say about that is that there was no board held up to tell us how many minutes were left – so this wasn’t a Canvey situation of being told 4 minutes and then playing 7. Not for the first time this season we went into stoppage time without knowing how long was left yet this is a Ryman League requirement and we will be writing to the Ryman League to share our thoughts on referees and injury time – as there is little consistency. Mind you, I wouldn’t use this as an excuse. Clearly you need to play until the final whistle regardless of how many minutes are played.

I think that every few years you get a game where you lead going into injury time and end up losing. It is deeply frustrating but looking around on the final whistle, despite the disappointment, our supporters were not suddenly going to look for trouble. There had been no hint of that today. That was until the Sutton players – maybe 6-7 of them – moved behind the referee and towards our supporters apparently intent on goading the crowd from the safety of the pitch.

Both Peter Worby and I were standing amongst our support and I want to say how well the supporters did today in backing the players, singing songs and shouting encouragement. It was one of those games where (I am pleased to say) there was very little barracking of opposition players and both sets of fans contributed to an excellent atmosphere so why there was this reaction on the final whistle is a mystery to me.

Understandably the Sutton players wanted to celebrate their ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card and had they gone over to their fans then there would have been no problem. Instead they seemed determined to come over to wind up our supporters, and they got the desired reaction.

This appeared to continue as our fans made their way towards the exit (and the home fans) and with an apparent lack of stewarding very quickly insults and bad language were freely traded between both sets of supporters and with Sutton players and management continuing to join in; one guy maybe their goalkeeping coach seemed unable to resist getting involved.

Had I seen Wealdstone players or officials react in this fashion I would be furious and would have taken action. What Sutton decide to do is down to them but both Peter and myself, and Pauline Worby, made it very clear to their officials how this had started, given they only saw the tail end of the incident and got caught up in some of the unfortunate posturing that happens, so understandably blaming our supporters.

I look forward to the day when these incidents are history. Frankly I am fed up with them and there are 1-2 of our fans who we felt crossed the line of acceptability and who we will be speaking to. But let’s be clear, in my judgement, none of this would have happened if their players hadn’t provoked it and they had no reason for doing so.

When the dust settles on today though there are many positives to take and if we keep playing with this intensity and quality we will do ok. Let’s try and progress in the League Cup first, weather permitting on Monday.

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This is why we do it

A great day yesterday.

It didn’t seem that way when I got a call from Gordon, who was on the coach travelling up to Brackley, telling me that we had no goalkeeper. I felt this was going to be a tough game with a full team so without a goalkeeper it was going to be very difficult.

But how well did the team do? how well did Sean Cronin do? The save he made in the second half was excellent.

Our support was tremendous, in great voice and fantastic scenes at the end; and what a finish with Peter Dean’s excellent goal. For once, not much injury time and 13 heroes able to enjoy their ovation.

The report in today’s Non League Paper is a bit on the blinkered side. Remember we created three excellent chances in the first half and other than the save Sean made and the one against the bar I don’t recall Brackley creating many other clear chances.

So onto the First Round of the FA Trophy and enter the Blue Square Bet Premier sides. Will we get a good draw? Ideally for me we either get a winnable home game or an away game against a big Conference side. Most likely we will get Sutton away. Anyway we will get what we get and go into it looking to do as well as we can, and hopefully progress further.

Back to tough league action with two trips to South London this week. Carshalton only won by 5 yesterday and Sutton are top of the table. Should be fun.

That was hard work

You will have to go a long way to see a poorer 4-3.

With a bitterly cold wind exacerbating the pain we struggled to master a poor Croydon Athletic side tonight, but at least a win is a win and with trips to Lowestoft, Carshalton and Sutton ahead these were an important 3 points.

I praised Croydon after our game there last month for their energy and desire but didn’t see that so much tonight and thought we should have won far more comfortably. Having been ahead twice we let them back in the game and it took one moment of class from Peter Dean to make the points safe.

The game will be remembered most though for the incident which led to Scott Fitgerald getting sent off in injury time. It seemed clear to me that he did not headbutt their left back who deserved top marks for lying prone for several minutes. Let’s face it, if Scott had made contact that then there would have been blood and probably serious injury. I think most people worked out what was happening except the referee who saw something that deserved a straight red. Scott’s reaction said it all, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets him in further trouble.

That said you also have to ask why Scott picked the ball up when it was their throw – especially given he had already been booked – so he was risking a second yellow anyway from the referee who seemed determined to have a say in the game one way or another. After scoring two goals why get involved in the first place? He already has a one match ban coming up for getting to 5 bookings and that will be another 3 on top. You do the math!

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.

Trying to be positive

…but it’s bloody difficult tonight.

Not quite the start to the season we had hoped for. Distinctly second best in too many games. Confidence seeping out almost visibly. No goals in 4 straight league games – I was excited by our forward line before the season started.

No lack of effort tonight but we were well beaten. Credit to Carshalton they were quicker, stronger and more creative than us. Their number 11 Henry had pace to burn and yet despite all this they won the game with two sensational strikes and one unlucky own goal.

It is tough to find positives at the moment. But this is football, we all think we know the answers, can see the problems and can wave a magic wand to change it. Year after year most clubs go through a dodgy spell – perhaps this will be our one of the season now. Experience tells us that the only way out of it is to roll your sleeves up, to work hard, try and keep believing and it will turn.

We do have some decent players. They are just not performing at present – but whether from Saturday, the following Saturday or whenever it will change. It must do soon because lets make no bones about it we are showing distinct relegation form at the moment and many more games like this and the season will revert to one big struggle.

This is the time when managers and coaches need to really earn their corn. They are responsible for signing the players, for setting the tactics, for picking the team and for motivating the players to perform. They also need the players, collectively as a unit to have the desire and belief to perform and the will to win. Clearly something in that little lot is missing at the moment.

I continue to believe in this management team and this group of players. I believe we are good enough to go to Chesham and get a result but not if we continue with he way things have been recently.

At risk of this being taken out of context the fans can also do more. A reasonable crowd tonight but several people commented to me that they couldn’t remember our fans being so quiet. Remember the run-in last season when the crowd carried the players through that crazy run of games. Our supporters can make a difference and we you to on Saturday please.

Let’s get it straight I am not blaming the supporters for where we are. I do appreciate that it is difficult as a fan to lift yourself when the team are struggling – yet this is when they most need you.

If this is a bit ramble then I’m sorry but it’s difficult to be too coherent after the run we are having but let’s hope it will end and end quickly, starting at Chesham on Saturday.

What is a proportionate penalty?

The less said about yesterday and our away form the better. It must change and change soon!

Once again I find myself posting about the financial woes of other clubs.

Since my last post about Croydon Athletic (D Day for them at the end of this week), things continue to go a little crazy.

Ilkeston Town from the Blue Square North have gone bust almost below the radar and had their record expunged in what seems like record time. The excellent Twohundredpercent blog describes what happened up in Derbyshire.

Welling United from the Blue Square South have just had 5 points taken away (together with a suspended £5,000 fine) having been found guilty of misconduct by the FA for, as Barrie Hobbins the Welling Secretary admits in his statement “ not only falling behind on HMRC liabilities but submitting inaccurate financial returns to the Football Conference”. You can read the full Welling statement here. And last week’s Non League Paper reported St Albans City, again from the Blue Square South, were being investigated by the FA regarding payments to players, though nothing has been proved or confirmed here as far as I am aware.

Remember we are still in September! At the end of last season many clubs were reprieved due to the problems of others (Margate who beat us yesterday being one of those reprieved) and for so many of those clubs with financial problems it comes from one thing – spending too much chasing success.

In Welling’s case they are considering whether the 5 point deduction is a proportionate and reasonable sanction. How many points should be deducted for cheating – because that is what they are guilty of.

We (and many other clubs) don’t withhold money from the HMRC, or submit inaccurate financial returns to the authorities. We work hard to get our finances on an even keel and spend what we can afford to avoid going into debt. So is a 5 points deduction fair? Perhaps they should be forcibly relegated 2 divisions as well rather than still being in contention for a promotion place into the Blue Square Premier.

For me Welling, Croydon Athletic, Ilkeston and those who have gone before them – and those who have still to be found out – deserve no sympathy for their plight, indeed one can only hope that a 5 point deduction is at the low end of the punishment scale in future.

A messy farce

Let’s get this straight from the off. As Chairman of Wealdstone I don’t like writing on my blog about other clubs. No doubt some readers may already be saying “so don’t” but given the amazing national press coverage that the Croydon Athletic situation has brought the league I think this is a pretty public matter – and it does impact on us.

I chatted to Alan Turvey yesterday about this and I am confident that the League will have done all they can to help Croydon Athletic, but this is a situation where apparently there is not much anyone can do, other than appear from nowhere with the cash available to run a senior non league side. Would anyone really be interested in a crisis club like Croydon if they were looking to invest at our level. By the way if anyone reading this is looking to invest in a non league club then please contact me first!!!

This is not the first controversy to engulf Croydon Athletic either. They say this situation is entirely separate from anything that occurred with previous Chairman Dean Fisher. Fisher is the previous chairman / owner who is now in jail for fraud. I believe the Fisher situation meant that the FA have already been taking a keen interest in Croydon Athletic and I don’t believe there is any evidence of impropriety.

Unfortunately for the Club, after one crook came a guy who is now earning his 15 minutes of fame for all the wrong reasons as the News of the World and every other paper have made him into an anti hero for our time. Actually I believe Mr Majeed is not even registered legally as the owner of Croydon – which perhaps shows how difficult it would be to enforce some sort of ‘fit and proper persons’  test at our level.

The emotional farewells that have been broadcast from the management and team are all very well but I struggle with the protestations of the now ex-manager that significant (or above average) sums of money have not been invested in the team he had created – and this insistence actually takes away much of the sympathy I might otherwise have. We have all been around too long to know that you don’t come from the bottom of Ryman Div 1 to be a fancied team in the Ryman Premier within a year without serious investment. Players do not just do it for the love of the game, especially those signing from Conference and Pro clubs. A good set up will have helped but money talks as loudly in our league as it does in every other one.

What will happen to Croydon Athletic now? Today the League have announced that their next two league games will be postponed to give the Club time to see if it can survive. This will be hard and I don’t think many people will be surprised if they do not return.

So how does this affect us? On two levels I think. Many people felt that Croydon Athletic would be challenging at the top end of the table this season so you could argue that might be one less team likely to be up there. But maybe more important is what this says to people who are considering trying our level of football, or thinking about giving up watching a pro club because they think that has all become too money oriented.

I can only comment with confidence about our Club and hope that people see the number of people involved, the backbone we have and the fact that we would not be where we  are without much hard work built on plenty of honesty – by which I mean paying out what we can afford, keeping our promises and generally keeping everyone in the picture in terms of where we are going. It’s the only way.

No one likes to see any club disappear and sure, like anyone else, I feel sorry for any genuine Croydon Athletic supporters – but as I always say in these circumstances – I hope they were asking all the right questions about how long the club could sustain their progress and not just enjoying the ride.

This is obviously not good for Croydon Athletic, but it is not good for the Ryman League or Non League football in general. We can only hope this is a one off and there are no other clubs financed in the same way – but the truth is you couldn’t say that for sure.

Travelling over, now what’s going on

Back yesterday morning from basically three weeks away – a combination of work and holiday. Fortunately back in time for what I thought was an absorbing game – especially given the lack of chances, let alone the lack of goals.

A few people commented to me after the game that our manager didn’t look best pleased – and he wasn’t. That is good to see. Gordon knows that this is the season where we need to kick on and while finances will continue to determine the speed with which we can progress, this group of players is talented enough to do well. Points rather than performances will determine how this season ends up and a team looking to challenge would have hoped to eke out a narrow success. Though by the same token I think we have seen many similar games in recent seasons where we would have conceded late on. So a tough point and still no goals conceded in three home games which is good.

One thing I couldn’t agree about were the comments I heard around me from people saying Danny Burnell shouldn’t have taken the penalty. His penalty record is very good, he is a striker and I know he wants a goal but people are building this so called ‘drought’ up too much. We’ve only played 5 games and he has started in what – the last two? I was pleased to see the confidence to grab the ball and am confident he will come good. We need him to.

The crowd was good, breaking 500. Though supportive, I was a little sceptical about Non League Day, but I’m happy to say that as well as plenty of publicity the day seems to have been a success. Let’s remember, attracting more people is why we’ve moved our midweek games to Monday nights, trying to avoid the Champions League. We will look at other schemes through the season as well to try and attract new people to Wealdstone – and hope they come again.

There is a lot to do. I have a long list of people I want to get together with to discuss the future, how we can best move forward and harness people’s talents as well as progress on all the other things we have to do off the field. Unfortunately this will take me some time to achieve – but we will give it a good go. We will also shortly announce an ‘Ask the Chairman’ session, and maybe combine this with ‘Ask the Manager’ as well. So watch this space.

I had some good conversations with Alan Turvey yesterday, as he was at the game. Not surprisingly, one of our first conversations was to do with Croydon Athletic and I will pick that up in my next post.

A new season dawns

All the friendlies, all the discussion, all the waiting now (almost) over.

Not really sure why the Ryman start a week after everyone else (other than the Evo-Stick – or Northern Prem who also start tomorrow), and two weeks after the football league; but tomorrow we get going down at Hastings for a tough opener.

Hastings appear to have had a good pre-season so will be confident going into the game, and they only finished one place behind us last season. So it will be tough. Their chairman David Walters’ comments are interesting and I am sure we would echo much of what he has written.

We have a good side, with some good new signings and plenty of optimism in the camp – but they will be well tested tomorrow.

I’m sorry to be missing the first couple of games as I am on holiday at present enjoying a rest in the Maltese sun. I’m back briefly for next Saturday before going straight off to the US for business and hope to get back in time for the 4 September game.

So missing plenty of early games (3 of the first 4) – great planning! When I’m back though we will be organising an ‘Ask the Chairman’ session so that we can all hit the ground running for the new season.

Enjoy tomorrow.

Getting back to business

The summer is almost over. It’s seems a bit funny to say that this side of August but three months after we played Carshalton in our final Ryman League game of last season, tomorrow night we play our first ‘proper’ pre-season game against Dagenham and Redbridge, followed quickly by Watford on Wednesday night.

Not that the summer has meant time off for many involved with the Club. Speaking personally, pressure at work particularly, has meant that something had to give and for me that resulted in the blog staying quiet. With the football starting I will try and start posting again and I can now take the opportunity to write a couple of posts while I sit in the departure lounge at Dusseldorf airport following a weekend trip over here for a wedding.

In this and the following blog post I want to comment on some of the things that have happened at the Club since we last met. In the next post I will focus on our financial situation and how we are trying to support Gordon to have as competitive a team as possible, but in this post I wanted to review some of the things that have happened off the field this summer.

The big news of course, as was well reported was the refusal of our landlords to renew the lease. Not much more to say about that now but plenty in the future. For now all I will say is we have formulated some initial plans, we are talking to the right people about our next steps and we will share more about this in due course, perhaps in a Club meeting sometime soon.

If this was the bad news, plenty of other things have been a struggle too. We have seen the summer remedial work around the ground stop and start due to a whole range of reasons. I’m grateful to everyone who has given their time and helped out with the work that needs doing but I do think it is fair to say we have learnt plenty from this. I am not surprised by the apparent lack of volunteer help. We have been very lucky with the help we have had from people since we moved to Ruislip but we cannot depend on it and we will need to be much smarter in the way we organise this work in future close seasons.

Commercially this summer, I have been delighted by what I believe has been some of the best organisation and dedicated hard work we have seen in recent years. The trouble is it is very tough out there. As we come out of recession, advertising with your local non league club is not top of many organization’s priority list.  But it has not all been doom and gloom on the commercial front and hopefully within the next few days we will be able to announce an excellent sponsorship deal for the Club.

Two decisions made by the Club seem to have come in for some discussion with supporters; our new away kit and the launch of the Vice Presidents Club. Taking the new ‘Roma’ kit first. One thing I have learnt is that if you get three people in a room and ask them to choose a new kit from a catalogue and you will get three different views. This is the same on the Board as it is with supporters.

Our initial decision was to try to update the home kit with a bespoke design that was not in a catalogue but the economics of this were not favourable. Therefore we used our Prokit allowance to update our away kit.  When we announced a new away kit at the AGM there was a less than favourable reaction and again I have to think that the way the kit was announced this summer might be improved upon in future seasons. I am keen that we wear the blue kit wherever possible but we do need something different and I hope that this new kit will grow in popularity especially if we win plenty of games in it.

I have been a little surprised by some of the comments I have read to do with the VPs club. Clearly one of the main duties we have is to try and find different income streams – this is the same for any commercial entity. At the same time I am very keen not to go back to the same people (the supporters) for money year in and year out.

Launching a VPs Club, something we have done in years gone by, is an attempt to offer something to a relatively small number of people who maybe can afford a little more, or want something extra on matchdays. Maybe these are people not always on the forum? We do know that when we have entertained good sized groups as match sponsors the feedback has been excellent and we have people still who tell us how successful in many ways the Vice Presidents Club was at Lower Mead.

Do people really think we shouldn’t be offering this? I don’t really see that.  Given we now have the facilities and two years experience of running a ground it seems the right time to try this. Our target is to get 10-15 members this season – no more – and we see this as a stretch. We are already nearly 20% there, before even speaking to people directly. So I don’t know whether this will prove a good thing or not. What I do know is we will try things if they have been well thought through and have people committed to run them. I hope we do get a few more signed up for the Vice Presidents and I hope it is a resounding success – because that will mean satisfied people, potentially more new people being attracted to the Club and more money raised.

Plenty going on then, and this is without mentioning many meetings, with people like the Ryman League, Hillingdon Council as well as our ongoing correspondence with Everton FC and all the other things. Nick’s press releases will have kept people up to date with player signings and other things too. I will try and keep blogging, especially over the coming weeks but I hope you get a sense of some of the issues we have been dealing with as we try to keep the club progressing the right way off the field.