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.

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.

Keeping busy on PEPF

It may look as if things may have gone a little quiet on the Prince Edward front since last week’s announcement that Barnet would be leaving Underhill, but that would be far from the situation.

We have been pressing contacts on a range of fronts. As a result I have an informal meeting with a prominent Harrow councillor in the coming days to discuss Wealdstone FC and the site. Others have also been making and renewing contacts with some of the other main players. I think we are going about our business sensibly and quietly, initially we need to find out what the situation is with the site and whether anything has changed or is likely to.

I have also been interviewed by the Harrow Observer so expect some comments to go be in the paper on Thursday.

We have also pulled together a group of people from the Club with a range of skills to get involved as necessary.

It is particularly pleasing to have some dialogue directly with Harrow Council as this was an avenue that appeared closed to us previously.

More news in due course.

PEPF latest developments

Over the past 24 hours we have learnt through the media of Barnet FC’s potential move into the Prince Edward Playing Field for next season.

Obviously this news raises many questions that we need to have answered, either by the London Borough of Harrow, or from Barnet Holdings / FC.

To be clear the only thing that has passed planning – that we are aware – with regard to the building of a stadium on the site is that one would be built to house Wealdstone FC to match the standard we are playing at that time. To this point the conditions have not been right for either Wealdstone FC or Barnet Holdings to build that stadium. Our understanding is that it is not permitted to build a football league standard stadium on the site.

We are unaware whether this has changed and if any new planning permission has superseded this, although Mr Kleanthous / Barnet FC appear to be saying this is now in place.

We have never given up our right to have a stadium built on site and although there have not been any recent conversations with Barnet, given previous planning regulations we would have expected to have been advised if things had changed. 

So we will be contacting the Council in particular to understand what has changed and where this leaves Wealdstone FC. When we have more information we will report back.

Is the FA Trophy worth anything these days?

I tweeted this morning that it was a shame that more Blue Square Bet Premier clubs were apparently not taking the FA Trophy seriously, this followed defeats for the likes of Fleetwood, Wrexham, Tamworth, Hayes & Yeading and Mansfield to lower league oppostion while Kidderminster, Stockport, York City also failed to beat clubs hailing from lower levels of the pyramid. All this weekend’s FA Trophy results are here.

Clearly some of these clubs have their eyes on bigger prizes, promotion to the Football League or for Fleetwood (as for Chelmsford City who also went out yesterday) a big FA Cup 2nd round replay due this coming week. But still…

By my reckoning only 11 Blue Square Bet Premier clubs are definitely through to the 2nd Round (though 2 more will be through after all BSBP replays) and the 3 above may get through their replays – meaning that it is very possible that less than half the Clubs at the last 32 stage will be from outside the top level of non league football.

To me reaching and winning a Wembley Cup Final is a highlight; for a fan, for a player, for a manager or coach or for a Club official yet many Clubs now deem it not important enough to bother about, with promotion or avoiding relegation now all important.

I have to say I understand that in some cup competitions it is an opportunity to give squad players a game, where winning is not that important, where avoiding potential fixture congestion later on in the season means getting knocked out of a cup is not always such a big deal.

Few clubs will ever accept that getting knocked out was their aim. They’ll say “we picked a team to win this game” which means “I wanted to give some of the other lads a run out and am not really bothered by this game”.

I have to think this is short sighted. Yes there are probably too many lessor cups that non league clubs have to play in – look at how many ‘bigger’ teams got knocked out in the Middlesex Senior Cup last week. But remember, the FA Cup is over for most non league clubs by October or early November so is it asking too much to play your strongest side in the Trophy? Imagine if we had taken that view in the early round of the FA Trophy in 1985?

Taking cup competitions easy is a modern phenomena that has clearly filtered down from the pro game – and it is not welcome.

Of course it might mean that clubs like Wealdstone have a chance of a run, of a giant killing against a Conference Club’s second string which we’d gladly accept of course. But for those clubs, especially those left in the competition, you’ve got a real chance of glory this season. Take it – it’ll be one of the best things you ever do.

How we got caught up in Poppygate

Did we save the day for England? Well not quite but the way we’ve things have worked out with the England fans team has been great and we have seen once again the importance of developing relationships.

The saga over the past couple of days over whether FIFA would allow England (and the other home countries) to play wearing a poppy is the type of story made for the Daily Mail and the other tabloids and sure enough they’ve risen to the occasion. A happy by product of this has been the coverage we’ve received, as we host the England Supporters in their match against their Spanish counterparts.

We’ve got to know Garford Beck since we’ve been at Ruislip. One of his roles in the game is as manager/organiser of the England fans team. Garford brought the team to Grosvenor Vale for a recent game against the Welsh and as they had a good experience wanted to bring the team back for the games against Spain and Sweden in the coming days.

We’re very happy to help. Anything which brings people onto the site is normally a good thing and the bar take is most welcome too. Following the Welsh game , the two forthcoming matches were both allocated to one of the pitches run by Wealdstone Juniors at the top of the site.

However, as the poppy story broke, the Mail and others were able to report how the England Supporters will be wearing a specially designed kit with the poppy as an integral part of it. This really caught the imagination. Sky are now due to come down and the BBC are also showing interest. High ranking officials from the Spanish Embassy are coming, and we also expect some senior figures from the Football Association. So Saturday’s game is suddenly big news. It will be now played on the main pitch as well and we are keen that not only the players and organisers but all our guests enjoy their experience of Grosvenor Vale and want to come again.

From a practical point of view we might need some help too. Paul Rumens, Peter and Pauline Worby, Fingers and Leo Morris will all be making sure everything is where it needs to be but we might need some others to help too and would welcome any Wealdstone fan who can get along on Saturday to help – we will get any specific message about help required out on the website or Forum.

And these relationships are important. Notwithstanding fees received for use of the site and money taken over the bar, I have no doubt whatsoever that the more good relationships we have with people in the game, the more this can only benefit Wealdstone FC in the long term, whether through future commercial opportunities or just through added interest in the Club.

Stop press!  FIFA have relented and are allowing England to wear the poppy so maybe the press interest in coming on Saturday will fade but let’s hope for some coverage that makes us proud of Grosvenor Vale and Wealdstone FC.

 

Good to progress

Whatever my comments earlier winning tonight was important.

The prize money, while not life changing, is always welcome but I thought it was good to see a solid, battling performance highlighted by two classy goals and that gives us plenty to be pleased about tonight.

Margate had the first 15 minutes but they didn’t really cause too many problems. Other than that I thought we created a lot more, and looked like getting through them on several occasions, especially in the second half. Both goals were similar, good passing movements releasing Lee Chappell on the left hand side to put excellent balls in, first for Jolls and then Alex Dyer to finish expertly.

It was tense towards the end but we never do anything easily – but we were always doing enough – and we now head to Banbury in three weeks time.

Scott Fitzgerald and James Hammond both picked up slight hamstring injuries but we will see how they are for Saturday’s tough trip to league leaders Billericay.

We had a good Trophy run last year highlighted by the great trip to Brackley and two epic matches against Newport County. Let’s hope for more of the same in a few weeks time at Banbury.

The pain of missing games

Saturday was a very difficult day for me.

I had a family commitment (as I have every week for the next 6 weeks) on Saturday morning which meant I couldn’t leave Mill Hill until after 12.30. As I drove onto the M25 at South Mimms with my daughter in the car, I wondered whether it was worth driving 2 hours to Margate, to get there just before kick off with the knowledge that I would have to leave fairly quickly after the game. I considered that it wouldn’t take much traffic to make me miss kick off – or worse. Yet I drove on as I really wanted to be at this game. What with a week away recently and 1-2 other things recently, other than Aveley I have missed a more games than I would like recently.

After a great journey round the M25 we ground to a halt a couple of miles before the Thurrock turn off. It took ages to get to the motorway exit and looking at the hardly moving traffic ahead heading to the river crossing I felt that even getting to the game for half time was probably unlikely so, with great regret aborted.

These days of course we are lucky in that we can follow so much of a game through Twitter. And for two hours on Saturday afternoon we did just that. What you learn is however painful and tense the game itself is it is far worse following on Twitter. Not only do you get regular updates, especially from the Wealdstone FC supporters feed, and also from Mickey Kane, as well as more people every week, James Smith and Sudhir Rawal two others who have joined in recently. They all have that bit of opinion and colour which helps you suffer that bit more – especially when we are ‘on the rack’. When Margate won their 6 corners in a row towards the end of the game we were waiting for the inevitable. Fortunately it didn’t happen and we live to fight another day.

Following a football team has always been a lesson in knowing how to deal with pain but when it turns out that not being there is even more painful than being there you know what you have to do (get off Twitter!).

 

Is tonight’s game the season?

Big game tonight. Some might say that if we lose then we will have nothing much left to play for this season.

Well that is plainly wrong. Firstly we desperately want to win tonight and travel to Banbury in the next round. Much like the Margate tie, Banbury is a tie which both Clubs (or all three as it stands) will think they can progress from.

But whether or not we are in the Trophy after tonight, or by the end of November, we have only played 1/3 of the season so far and are only 4 points off the play-offs (11 points away from the drop zone). What the Ryman League season tells me is there is no outstanding team and everyone is capable of taking points off anyone else. Sounds familiar? seems to happen every year. People said beating Tooting was just beating a bad team but they then beat Lowestoft in their next game.  Similarly we beat an apparently struggling Hastings comfortably but they have now won their last 3 games.

Any team who puts a good run together will quickly shoot up the table. There is no reason why that can’t be us.

And yet, there is a feeling of under achievement so far this season. We know that in too many games we haven’t delivered what we expect. We know there are too many players not playing as consistently as we would all like. I am convinced there is better to come.

Of course the FA Cup was a huge let down – for everyone – and I think it set a tone for the following weeks which we’ve struggled to get away from.

We then had that 5 match run against leading teams, Hornchurch, Cray, Hendon, Lowestoft and Lewes. We were disappointed to only take 2 points from those 5 games, when with a bit more luck and more clinical finishing we might have got draws at Lewes and Cray, taken something from the Hendon game and beaten Lowestoft.  3 straight wins and a courageous draw on Saturday were good come backs and obviously we must keep it going tonight.

So even though from a cup perspective we will only be left in the Middlesex Senior Cup if we lose tonight, the season will be far from over. That said, let’s be clear, victory is what is required tonight and a good performance against a decent Margate side will be a necessity to make that happen. See you there.

Keeping this thing going

A few people have asked recently is The Electric Chair still going?

The answer is I haven’t given up on it but it is not so easy to keep it going. The fact is after 4 1/2 years and nearly 400 posts keeping any blog going is difficult. Things move on, other priorities emerge and I do spend plenty more time using Twitter now – see @howiejk, although the content is not just football (or ice cream).

For all that, I will try and publish more blog articles.

As always there is plenty happening at Wealdstone FC and I need to try and find more time to keep things more current through this blog.

So a few posts to follow about a bunch of subjects as they come to mind, I’m going to give the blog a new look (temporary for now) and I will try and update more regularly so please do keep coming back.