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.

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A must read

Wealdstone manager Gordon Bartlett, together with WFC supporter Roger Slater (author of the Club’s History) have published Gordon’s autobiography “Off the Bench.

We got our copy of on the day it came out (when the Cray game was cancelled a fortnight ago) but since then my daughter Daisy has been reading it, which is not bad considering she typically doesn’t read books! Yesterday she said that I could have it now that she has finished though she did admit to only starting halfway through the Wealdstone years.

It’s obviously quite a feat for a non league manager to publish an autobiography and no doubt if anyone deserves to tell the story of his career then Gordon does. Let’s hope there are a few more chapters to write still.

I suspect that this book will get some really good media coverage and I’ve tried to attach a copy of the article that appeared in the Watford programme yesterday. Off The Bench Watford prog

So although I haven’t yet read it others are telling me it’s a great read so order your copy from the Wealdstone Megastore now.

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.

Thanks for the memories

So after all the planning, all the anticipation, all the talk we are left with the memories – plenty of them and almost all good ones.

The Leeds game proved everything we hoped it would be, a great opportunity to showcase Wealdstone, Grosvenor Vale and the Social Club in front of a four figure crowd, the police, the council, the press etc.  And we rose to the challenge.  So many people deserve to be thanked but in particular Fingers and Ray Kemp who both marshalled their willing band of volunteers expertly.

And let’s not forget the squad of players who helped make it a night to remember for the Wealdstone people in the ground, not only by winning, but also with the quality of some of the football, particularly in the second half.

Hopefully the last two games will mean that some Watford and southern based Leeds fans will come back.  I certainly spoke to a number of Leeds fans who were impressed by our welcome and I think (hope) they will return.

Now we can put the ‘big’ games behind us and start preparing for the season, which starts in under 4 weeks.  And for those suitably enthused, we are doing a Leeds United on Saturday sending one 1st team squad to AFC Hayes and another to Enfield Town.

A final word to Jermaine.  I think he enjoyed coming back, he seemed happy, couldn’t sign enough autographs or pose for enough pictures and he generally seemed to go around with a smile on his face.  Whatever happens to him in the future he will always retain a special place in Wealdstone hearts.

Pre-season fixtures announced.

If you haven’t seen them the pre-season list is here.

I have blogged about the Leeds game in my previous post so won’t spend any further time on it except no doubt the sharp eyed amongst you will have noticed that we do not have a game against Dagenham & Redbridge.  This was a fixture originally planned but one that had to move because of the Leeds date, all being well we will play that game next pre-season.

The game against Watford on 18 July will be Gordon Bartlett’s testimonial.  Gordon is a living Wealdstone legend (does this qualify as a vote of confidence?) and holding this game is long overdue.  I know that Watford are sending a team to Hampton & Richmond Borough on the same day but hopefully we will once again a good sized crowd to watch us host a Watford side for the third year running.

Our plan will be to hold a similar testimonial match for Leo Morris next year.

Watford and Leeds isn’t a bad start and otherwise we have a good balance of fixtures to get us ready for the new season – now all we have to do is to sell hundreds of tickets for both the ‘big’ matches.

Player news

First of all someone leaving.  Yesterday we agreed to transfer Peter Dean to Bishop’s Stortford.  This is a good opportunity for Peter at a higher level and we were satisfied with the terms agreed with Stortford. Peter did particularly well for us in the first 2-3 months of last year and we thank him for all his efforts for us and wish him all the best for the future.

Onto someone not leaving…yet.  Following the Watford game, Aidy Boothroyd told Gordon how impressed he was with Graeme Montgomery and he asked to have Graeme for training with Watford for a few days, which he is doing now.  This is a great opportunity for Graeme, we know that he is full of ability and let’s hope these few days go well – at least for his benefit.

Now someone staying.  Delighted that Alan Massey is the latest player to sign a contract and commit himself to the Club.  I have noticed how many people have picked Alan out as being the player they are delighted to see this year and with Carl and James Gray I think we have some excellent options at centre back.

Finally it seems I am no longer the only person connected with Wealdstone FC to have his own blog.  Nick Salapatas who made such an impressive entrance at Hendon on the last day of last season has his own excellent blog here and unlike me he seems to have mastered video as well.  Nick is another player we are hoping for big things from this year – and now we can read about what he thinks about it as well.

Spreading the word

The pictures of the transformation at Ruislip that have been posted on the Ryman Forum look fantastic.

The word is clearly spreading.  Sky have told us they want to come down on Wednesday night, and we have had requests from a variety of newspapers.  Incidentally Tim Edwards the new Harrow Observer Sports Editor starts on Wednesday and will be at the game.

I got a call from Caroline at the BBC London Non League show earlier and may be on the radio at 9.30 with the opportunity to describe what has happened at Ruislip over the summer and plug the game.  Details of the show are here.  Incidentally it looks like you can podcast the non league show now so if you miss it tonight you should be able to get it through itunes.

Pre-season means what it says

Easy to go overboard on the first two friendly results, 0-4 and 0-3.  But I don’t think they tell any real story.

Credit to Watford last week for putting out a full team in the first half.  Perhaps it should not be a surprise we were losing 3-0 so quickly.  I thought we battled well from that point.

On Saturday, in awful conditions for much of the time, we didn’t play too badly.  This was really the first time that many of these players have come together against opposition of a similar standard and with better finishing the scoreline would have been different.

Of course it would help if we had our strikers playing, but with Deano ill, Peter Dean (also Deano?) away and Ben at a wedding we were short up front.  We have been after a ‘big man’ all summer and aren’t stopping now but the money on offer elsewhere has tended to blow us out of the water.

Expect to see a few other players given a run out tomorrow at Edgware.  This is pre-season.  Results don’t matter – there are no prizes on offer before the season starts.  But we are interested to see how different individuals perform in different situations so the games are valuable.  Incidentally we are planning an open training session / meet the manager evening before the season starts so watch this space or the club website.

Reflections on Wednesday night

24 hours on…

From my perspective the night was an outstanding success.  A good crowd (expect a figure confirmed today), great weather, a strong Watford team and relationships developed with our near neighbours and this cannot do any harm in the future.

Actually I didn’t see much of the game.  This seemed just as well 15 minutes in, the one thing we didn’t want was a massacre.  Whatever the score, whatever the performance let’s remember we were playing pretty much the full Watford team in our first proper run out and I am prepared to wager they won’t be far away from an immediate return to the Premiership come next May.

I was also very impressed with the Watford officials.  Their chairman Graham Simpson was just back from holiday that afternoon but came to the game and stayed until quite late with time for everyone.  Chris Bailey, their finance director, was a really nice chap and also attended even though he is joining Fulham FC in a fortnight.  Aidy Boothroyd was also exemplary – a nice guy and a credit to Watford Football Club.

Incidentally I noticed all the Watford players/officials calling Mr Simpson “chairman” and even saw some fans asking for his autograph.  Maybe I should demand a bit more formality!

Some of the post event coverage has been pretty good.  So far I’ve seen the Watford Observer (better coverage in the actual paper) and the Watford FC website as well as Attic’s usual photo coverage.  There will be plenty more.

While I think about it I should also thank Keith Ronald and everyone at Harefield.  They did their club proud.  The pitch looked great and their help with stewarding, catering and the bar was hugely appreciated.  We have agreed to play an extra friendly against them (date to be confirmed shortly) and we are also playing them in the FA Youth Cup.  A number of our people couldn’t believe how different Harefield looked from the last time we were there.

Most importantly we made some money, we showed we could cope with a big crowd (no queues, no overcrowding) and we developed our relationship with Watford.  So thanks to everyone that helped – it was all worth it.

H

Preparations continue

Went with Fingers to Harefield this evening to talk through preparations for next Wednesday.  I can’t believe how quickly this has come round. We believe the crowd may be anything from 500-1500 (or more?) and need to be prepared for all eventualities.  No doubt the weather will play a part too.

So I think we are clear now how car parking will work, where food will be available, how the bar and overflow bar will be set up, how we can open more entrance points if we need to…and so on. It’s all such exciting stuff.

Watford have confirmed a strong group of players coming over – they may have a surprise when they see the away changing room.  To be fair though Harefield have done a fantastic job and the pitch looks great. Mind you given so much rain recently every pitch should look good.

Lots of people are saying they are coming. I went to something at my kids school this evening and one of the infant school teachers told me he was coming with his wife and a friend of us who has helped us with our leaflet distribution.

The two questions they ask, where is Harefield? and what’s the weather going to be like?

We can help them with the first one at least!