Why did we give extra tickets to Newport for the second leg?

I’’m aware there have been some discussions about why we gave an extra 175 tickets to Newport yesterday.  If anyone is interested I thought I would set out why we took that decision.

Firstly let me make clear this was my decision –so I take full responsibility for this (not Peter or Fingers or anyone else) though I did talk it through with them).

The game is ‘all ticket’ which means we cannot sell to ‘’walk up’’ people on Saturday. Remember this is a police decision not ours. As it stands at present by my reckoning we have roughly 1000 tickets still available (at the current allowed capacity) to sell to ‘home’ fans before Friday at 10.00pm. Given we have already sold somewhere around 500-600 tickets I am not convinced we will sell all of these tickets though I would delighted if we did.

This tie is about the football first and foremost and us doing whatever we can to create a(nother) memorable occasion for everyone concerned with the Club. However, from a business perspective, given that we are not convinced we will sell out, we would be extremely foolish not to ensure an extra £2,625 (gross) of guaranteed revenue from giving Newport that extra ticket allocation.

Knowing that this money is guaranteed means we can use it – directly – to purchase additional raised terracing (3 steps) for home support behind the goal and along the side by the main stand. This is not cheap and is being part sponsored but now becomes affordable. This means that our fans will have a better view and create a better atmosphere.  We are negotiating with the company and hopefully will do this deal by tomorrow.

We have already spent £3,500 on work at the top end of the ground that will help with the capacity. So we need to strike the right balance of spending appropriately, and maximising income. Remember also that money made from this FA Trophy run needs to work for us next season as well, on the field, as we will look to further support the playing budget if we can.

We also hope (though can’’t confirm until tomorrow or Tuesday until we have spoken with the authorities) that the additional raised terracing and the work at the top end might enable us to raise the capacity further in which case more tickets for home fans might become available but don’t take this for granted until after the authorities have made their decisions.

Sometimes decisions need to be taken. In this case I think we taken the right decision balancing up all these needs. Some people may not agree and if they wish are welcome to talk to me tomorrow night or during the week.

I don’t believe that any Wealdstone fan will miss the game and we will not be giving up the Brian Collins stand or other key parts of the ground. However, we do look to strike the right balance between improving things off the field and giving us the best chance of being successful on the field.

Finally, any Wealdstone person reading this – remember, buy your ticket before Friday. Details of how are here.

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Believe

Seems to be the word of the moment. Rightly so.

We’ve got the semi finals of the FA Trophy (yes say it out loud) and this amazing achievement has been achieved with plenty of belief.

The players have belief in abundance, the management team too and even those of us who have experienced so much disappointment and heartache over the years are beginning to believe.

The best comment at Cambridge was when someone said just after we had been pegged back to 2-1, “if we’d been offered a 2-1 lead away at Cambridge United in the FA Trophy 1/4 final with 15 minutes to go then we’d have snapped their hand off – so enjoy it.” That was great advice, if a bit impractical at that moment.

But the sentiment is absolutely right. We must enjoy the next nine days, as we have enjoyed the last two weeks since Cambridge. It might be a while until we get this close to Wembley again.

Realistically we still have a mountain to climb. The suspensions make life even more difficult for us and I think that playing two legs is very much in Newport’s favour. But you never know and we will give it everything. And whatever happens, whether we win or whether we get hammered, we can hold our heads up high. We have got Wealdstone FC back on the map, and expectations (always high at our club will have just gone up another notch or two).

We also have a Middlesex Senior Cup Final to look forward to on Easter Monday and you know what happened the last time we got to that final.

We’re loving the ride at the moment and make no mistake we’d love to keep it going all the way to Wembley. But at 10.00 on Saturday when hundreds of Wealdstone fans on 5 coaches set off from Grosvenor Vale we will go there confident, proud and determined – and full of belief.

 

 

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.

We’ve been here before

The outpouring of emotion on the Forum or in the conversations that followed Saturday’s game and our ignominious FA Cup exit have all been justified.

I think we all felt amazed how we could witness a performance that was just so flat and by ‘all’ I include the players, the officials, the management and so on.

But ‘flat’ is what we got. And Saturday to me was no different to the Potter’s Bar game of a few years ago or various other embarrassing cup performances we’ve had to endure.

I was nervous before the game, I worried that a team full of confidence on a great run with a bit of pace about them might cause us problems, but with no disrespect at all to Beaconsfield we couldn’t have been better hosts for them. The only time we got going was at 1-0 down and the second goal finished things off.

I know I wasn’t alone in not being great company and then sleeping badly on Saturday night.

So what do we do about it? Well we have been here before, pretty much every season since I’ve been involved with the Club and I know we will be here again, whether this year, next year or some other time. Ultimately for me you have to ask yourself are you doing the right things? If the answer is yes then all you can do is roll your sleeves up and work harder and things will turn.

Do I think we have the best manager we could have? Yes. Do I think we have the best group of players we’ve had in several seasons? Yes. Do I think they are underperforming? Yes, both individually and collectively.

Will I still say yes to all those questions if we repeatedly perform like we did on Saturday – No!

Football is a game of opinions. I read some of the comments on the Forum and I understand both the emotion and some of the well thought through opinions. Some of those contributors won’t agree with me, I don’t agree with some of them. That’s fine as long as we agree that everyone continues to do their best for Wealdstone FC.

However, to the person who chose to anonymously have a go at Wes Parker on Twitter, let me say that was out of order.

So where do we go now? Well I want to quote from one of the emails I received on Sunday morning from a long term supporter and former club official..

“I’m not trying to be Churchill but we need to respond to this is a way that enforces why we are a special club.  At a time when we all probably feel less inclined and less enthusiastic about finding even more time to help Wealdstone Football Club we must do what we can to manage the consequences of yesterday.

Gordon and the management team will do what is necessary on the playing side of things but we must do whatever we can to influence morale and finances off the field.

Let’s work together this week, next week and every other damn week to make sure we are stronger and more successful each year.”

We are a special club, we have all worked hard to get to where we are, which is why days like Saturday are such a blow.

We still have much to play for this season and our next 5 league games are all against Clubs higher in the table than we are, which given we are 8th tells you what a tough spell we have. Everyone has a part to play in being successful so once the pain subsides we must all dust ourselves down, pick ourselves up and continue to make sure Wealdstone FC continues to be a special club on and off the field.

 


		

Summer works continue

I know I don’t post much anymore but I hope people keep up with news from the Club through all the other means, including twitter, the website and the local press.

Things are seldom quiet at Wealdstone, whether during the season or through the summer months. Here is just some of the things I’ve been doing; as well as the usual Board meetings and other day by day business (including letters and emails) I have attended a supporters club meeting, a joint Ruislip and Wealdstone marketing meeting, and last Saturday the Ryman League AGM in Brighton followed by the Annual Banquet & Ball, where my wife Katie and I were joined by Paul, Peter, Andrew and Miriam together with respective partners.

Next week we look forward to the Ruislip Manor Fun Day, where the Club comes together to really make a show to the local community. Members of the football club, the social club, the supporters club and the junior club come together to talk to residents, hand out flyers and generally show the local population what we are about. This will include handing out a flyer with an offer for admission for the Wycombe and Crewe friendlies and money off the price of a drink in the club house. Hopefully this will attract a good number of interested residents and we are following that by attending the local residents committee meeting next week.

Meanwhile Attic and colleagues work hard on jobs around the ground and as always could do with people to come and give a couple of hours, especially ahead of the forthcoming friendlies against Watford and the others which are not that far away.

So if anyone wants to come and help either on the stall in Ruislip Manor or at the ground then this coming Saturday (2 July) would be a great time to be available, even if for a short amount of time – all help will be massively appreciated.

We are going to make a big push to have a Sunday later in July, early in August when we get people from all parts of the Club, including playing and management staff to come down and get involved in some general help around the ground but don’t wait for that – please come down this Saturday and if you can help share the burden we will all be grateful.

A couple of dates for the diary

We have some big dates coming up the week after next (w/c 21 March).

On Monday 21 March we have the Wealdstone Club AGM. This year I expect this should be a reasonably quick affair following a year of consolidation but all are welcome to come and ask questions and find out what is happening.

On Wednesday 23 March the reserves play Harrow Borough in the Middlesex County Premier Cup Final at Harefield

On Thursday 24 March we welcome World Cup referee Graham Poll as guest speaker at a dinner, which will again by hosted by the excellent Rob Nothman (who it was great to see at Aveley yesterday). Tickets still available and I am sure it will be a great night. Someone told me yesterday just what a good speaker Graham is, so looking forward to that.

And either side of these events we have Folkestone at home on Saturday and Tonbridge away the following week.

Lots happening!

Entertaining tomorrow

Although the news about Rick will cast something of a shadow over the day tomorrow we will still welcome Canvey Island to what is always a hard fought encounter.

We have a busy day though both before and after the game. Before the game we are providing lunch to a good number of sponsors and vice-presidents. A chance to say thank you and to welcome them more into the club. We have a couple of large parties involved in sponsoring the game tomorrow as well and in the evening Jon Taffel is belatedly celebrating his half century.

Could be a busy day, let’s hope the football doesn’t disappoint.

Reflections on turning fortunes

It’s been a while, but with so many things happening at the Club and outside, the blog has had to take a backseat for a little while, so apologies for the lack of saying anything.

So time for a couple of posts this evening while I’ve got a few minutes.

Firstly some comment about on the field activities. After the slow start to the New Year with three defeats we’ve bounced back with three straight wins. Barring a real collapse we look to have established a good gap to the bottom 5 who look a little stranded now, and if we can continue playing as well as we did against Concord on Saturday we should keep moving up the table.

Saturday was one of those days when everything went right. I am sure plenty of people woke up and decided that a trip to Canvey Island on a cold day to a game, which on paper looked very tough, was a trip too many. Well those who did travel got full value. Sometimes it is easy to say the opposition were poor and we had the breaks, but I felt that from 20 minutes on we played excellently and were good value for our big win.

Of course Richard Jolly grabbed the headlines. Jolls proved he is the goalscorer we all know he is and the way he took each of his four goals was calmness personified. We knew that bringing him in would give everyone a buzz. Whether he stays longer than a month we don’t know at the moment, and maybe it is unlikely given the Sutton manager’s comments today, but whatever the future holds it is good to have him back around for now.

On the other hand we were disappointed to see Greg leave. He has been a popular figure at the Club but to my mind hasn’t ever got going this season and perhaps a change of scenery will be what he needs. He has certainly started well at Hendon and we wish him well.

Some have questioned whether bringing in the various loan signings is a good move or not. We took a decision to do something because we needed something to spark us up after three straight league defeats and 5 games without a goal. I know Gordon is thinking longer term too and will use the time while the loan players are with us to assess what we need for the rest of the season (and longer term).

For now though, upwards and onwards and to Maidstone on Saturday.

 

Newport reflections and looking forward

Having written this column for tomorrow night’s programme, I thought I’d post it here (with added extras)

Every season there are 1-2 games we tend to remember for a long time in the future.

Last year’s trip to Aylesbury and the following fortnight up to and including the Rotherham game are good examples of a time that will last long in my memory. This season the trip to Brackley was very exciting, with the last minute winner and Sean Cronin’s heroics in goal. And now the match against Newport County joins that list (video here and photos here) and who is to say that the replay won’t be there too.

Let’s consider what we were going into away at Newport. A team on the crest of a wave, two leagues above us and in the play-off positions of the Blue Square Bet Premier on the back of having just been awarded a Welsh team of the year award following a record season last year. On top of that we had the recurring Jonathan North FA Trophy migraine scare to deal with. My hopes were not high.

What we got was a performance to be proud of. Of course Newport had chances and pressure – that was to be expected. But Wealdstone had 14 disciplined, passionate, never say die heroes with a goalkeeper outstanding. I don’t know how many balls Jonathan was seeing but he saw the right one when it mattered, with one save in the first half simply world class.

Over the last 4-6 weeks the team have turned around the season and now there are many possibilities. Performances at Lowestoft, Carshalton, Sutton and now Newport show there is no one we should fear, at least at our level, if we continue to play to this standard. And it is not just the players who have upped their games but the supporters too who were outstanding at Newport winning many plaudits.

I want to say something about Newport County too. I was very impressed by their whole set-up. Remember they are a club who have come back from the brink in recent years but from Chris Blight the Chairman down, they conducted themselves in a thoroughly professional and welcoming manner throughout the afternoon. Chatting to Chris, I was reminded of the advantages of being a club representing a town and having a Board of Directors who are all company owners and able to support the Club where it matters financially. We will continue to strive to emulate this model.

Monday night will be another big game. By rights Newport will win and win comfortably but you never know. I always tend to believe the ‘little’ club has one chance and has to take it when it comes. But you never know and with a passionate home crowd getting behind the boys perhaps the upset can be delivered.

 

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.