Friday, 26 June 2009

Six Weeks to go and counting

Another week closer to the big kick off on August 8th and this time next week we will know the fixtures for the BSP in 2009/10 and the real countdown can begin.

It looks likely that the BSP will not get the same level of TV exposure it received in 2008/09 with the sad collapse of Setanta.

Whatever your thoughts on Thursday night fixtures away at the furthest geographical point possible and the meaningless Shield competetition I can honestly say I enjoyed the fly on the wall coverage. We had Deano's team talk with all the "great" players, Rebecca's interview technique of shoving a mike in front of a stressed manager and that never to be forgotten quote from the big man Jefferson Louis on coming off against Oxford! Not to mention the opportunity for Mark to complete a full commentary on a wet and windy night in Devon from the comfort of his own armchair!!

Talking of commentary thanks to Deano for signing Adrian Cieslewicz from Manchester City. I am sure the Dragon's supremo was more concerned with his footballing skills than how to pronounce his surname but it will also give us the opportunity for some full and frank discussions in the press box as to just how it is said.

Another interesting piece of news was the possibility of signing Andy Mangan who has a tremendous knack of finding the back of his opponents net but I quess we will have to wait and see what develops on that one.


Thursday, 25 June 2009

Drewe Love!

Drewe Broughton is eager to see his two old sides, Wrexham and Chester, return swiftly to The Football League, and I half agree with him!!

Of course Broughton's record of playing in teams that get relegated is well known. yet he manages to do exactly what we aspire to: he consistently remains in the Football League.

I was about to suggest he splits Wrexham fans' opinions, but realised I'd be lying; it seems most people didn't like him much. Yet is that fair? He's certainly a more steady character than Jeff Louis; you might shoot back that Louis scores more goals, but who wanted to retain him at the end of the season?

By way of contrast, there are plenty of Football League managers willing to employ Broughton. This might not be the most widely-held notion, but I reckon we'd have been better off if we'd held onto Broughton. And he's six years younger than Gareth Taylor!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Saunders in Ronaldo Link Shocker!

Deano's in a pretty exclusive club, according to the Guardian!

And hopefully he has more than this in common with the man who just guided Bordeaux to the French championship!

Mind you, I'm a little worried that the thing they have in common is that they didn't actually win anything!

Man Overboard!

Who can blame Mark Wright for bailing out at Chester?

The drama around the football goes from bad to worse and you can understand why Wright is reluctant to spend a year of his career dragged a troubled club through a season in The Conference with a ten point handicap which surely means the best they hope for is an outside chance of a tilt at the play-offs.

An interesting sideshow in all this is that the local media has reported that the return of Phil Bolland to link up with a manager he has worked well with was a foregone conclusion. Surely that's all up in the air now?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

TV Dream Dies

So Setanta has finally gone under. It was a long and painful death, and I'm afraid this will probably represent the moment where a cold dose of reality hits home.

There were suggestions in last Sunday's Non League Paper that The Confence would be able to find a new broadcaster willing to show the games. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm stunned by the notion: who on earth would do that? It was a notion which about summed up the head in the sand attitude of so many in football.

The fact of the matter is that money's gone, the high profile coverage is gone. Now we'll just have to crack on and make do. Perhaps the message to absorb is that we shouldn't expect the status quo to be permanent, especially these days.

When you see clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool spend recklessly you wonder where it will end. They're insulated from the real world, but they have the security of knowing there are plenty of influential people out there who won't let clubs of such magnitude go to the wall.

The same isn't true of clubs at our level though, and we don't have to squander the same levels of money to get into trouble. Nothing's permanent, nothing can be assumed and those who assimilate this message most clearly will be the ones who thrive.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Big Moves afoot at Ebbsfleet.

Bearing in mind what I said earlier about Michael Gash:

£80,000 offer for Michael Gash and Darius Charles
A football club, which wishes to remain anonymous, has made an offer of £80,000 for both Michael Gash and Darius Charles. Should members accept this offer, £40,000 would be paid immediately on completion and a further £40,000 on 1 January 2010.

In addition:- Ebbsfleet United would receive 20% of any transfer fee received by the football club for either player. - Ebbsfleet United would receive a further £5,000 for each player if the Football Club are promoted as long the player is contracted to the football club in the season of the said promotion.

The view of Liam Daish, the EUFC Board and club accountant
Liam Daish, the EUFC Board and club accountant recommend that the club's owners accept this £80,000 offer.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Conference A Gangster's Paradise?

When we got our home game against Histon called off due to international call-ups last October the rest of the Conference were unimpressed. Yet it appears to have possibly saved the Histon squad's lives.

The events which surrounded Histon's game against Lewes last September sound like something out of the Sopranos. There's something hard to grasp about a story on a Cambridgeshire villlage football team which kicks off with the club president having his car blown up.

It would seem the sort of guys you don't want to tangle with had a lot riding on that match-like so many of the recent stories about match fixing in The Conference and League Two, they're from the north west-and wanted redress. if they didn't get their £100 winnings on wasted bets, they claimed they ambush the Histon coach on its way to Wrexham and kill the squad.

It's a grim thought, and evokes memories of what happened to the Sri Lankan team coach in Pakistan. It appears criminals are targetting the lower end of professional football as the players are not well paid and therefore more susceptible to a bribe. Hopefully this illustration of what these people will do if crossed will make even the poorest of players think twice.

Seven weeks and counting

Well we are down to just over seven weeks to go until the big kick off and yet again the impact of us being in non league hit home earlier this week when first the Carling Cup draw was made and then there was the furore over the new fixture list, neither of which included the name of Wrexham Football Club. No we have to wait a further two weeks for the one man and his abacus to produce the Blue Square fixtures early in July. Still we are where we are and on July 3rd we will know who and where we are playing on the opening Saturday of the league season in seven long weeks.

The conference AGM has voted the club's programme the best in the BSP and rightly so! The amount of effort that goes into producing a quality publication is immense and many congratulations must go to editor Dave Roberts and his team of intrepid contributors for burning the midnight oil on many occasions to bring us the quality publication they did last year.

Welcome to Gareth Taylor, an experienced and quality striker who will surely add experience and height to the Dragons front line. We also have seven pre season friendlies to look forward to. Starting in just 3 weeks time when Chris Coleman brings Championship side Coventry to The Racecourse no doubt hoping to repeat the season Wolves had last year after being well beaten by Wrexham in a pre season friendly! If only football was so simple and straightforward.


Thursday, 18 June 2009

Cheshire Solidarity Saves Chester

Did Northwich Victoria inadvertantly save Chester from demotion to the Conference North last week?

It looks that way to me.

The FA decided last Friday to overturn the Conference's decision to relegate the Vics a further division as a punishment for an "insolvency event". (Can you remember the good old days when football fans had never heard that phrase?)

And the F.A. were right. Basically, the Conference had two contradictory edicts in their rulebook. the newer one said a side which has a conveniently-timed "insolvency event" in the Summer must drop a division, and that was the punishment meted out to Northwich.

The problem is, there was already a rule saying in those circumstances you'd have to start the next season on minus ten points in the same division. They were caught bang to rights.

So how does this link to Chester? Obviously the original punishment meted out to Northwich is the road the Conference want to go down, and the chance to make an example of a "big" club would surely have been hard to resist. But it would also have triggered another humiliating slap on the wrist from the F.A. Which is great in terms of earning us a couple of juicy derbies in the midst of our long treks to Sussex and the North East, but isn't much consolation to Woking.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

StadiArena? Steady!

I was surprised to see Paul Retout talking about his hopes to develop a StadiArena stand on the Kop in the Leader. It's something which has been under consideration for a while, and I think it ought to have stayed under wraps.

It's an exciting project, nicely illustrated by their website, but incredibly ambitious for a club of our size, when we're at the lowest ebb of our history, in the current economic climate.

That's not to say we shouldn't think big; aiming high is what will get us back where we want to be. In fact, to be honest I find the thought extremely exciting. But that's exactly why I don't want to know about it!

I'd rather big projects like this were kept under wraps, because if we announce we're looking at this and it never happens we won't look too clever. Remember the massive stadium refurbishment we were supposed to be having in the early 90s? Embarrassing wasn't it?

Burnley are building the first StadiArena stand in the world, Coventry are looking to follow suit and there's one in the pipeline in Gujarat-India's Wembley according to the publicity. Scouring the internet to find convincing arguments for the logic of such a development isn't too difficult-ex-Burnley striker Paul Fletcher is behind the idea and he has done an impressive PR job. It looks like a great product, and his logic looks sound. Perhaps we should wait and see how profitable these projects are before going public though.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Jansen's Logic Rather Flawed

So let's get this straight: Matt Jansen's looking for a place where he can piece together his confidence without too much stress, so he plumps for a side which is operating at a part-time level. So far so logical.

But Leigh Genesis is a club which has looked a dead cert to be closed down for the last year after a massively over-ambitious rebranding exercise inevitably crashed and burned, a big-talking new owner having taken them down a crazy road and then suddenly got cold feet when he had the shock of his life and realised that Leigh is not a big city capable of sustaining a major sporting operation.

Good luck Matt. I hope my fears are exaggerated. I enjoyed our LDV tie at Leigh RMI-it was an enjoyable introduction to the welcome we'd receive in non-league. I've been watching their problems with interest because their loyal hard core of fans deserve a lot better, and there was a horrible inevitability to how it would end up. I just can't follow why Jansen saw this as a safe haven from which he could rebuild his confidence.

Phil Bolland Released

Well, would you?

You Win Nothing With Kids

I suppose there's no point in speculating on the quality of new signings when we haven't seen them play for ages, but since when did that stop anybody?

Gareth Taylor was certainly an effective player a few years ago. One might argue that he was an effective player last season as he started a third of Doncaster's games in the Championship. One might also argue the opposite as he only scored one goal in them.

I've always had a prediliction for fielding a big bloke up front, as insurance against an inability to pass the ball around, and it might be that Taylor will be a bit too canny for Conference defences. On the other hand, he's thirty-six, and Saunders' penchant for signing aging strikers has hardly been a roaring success thus far, Suffo and Jansen failing for different reasons to help our promotion push.

Frankly, I never feel too comfortable when we sign a guy who ticks the same box as me when asked his age on an application form!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Remember You're a Dragon

Got a bit excited when I saw this on Harriers Online's Twitter page, bearing in mind that Justin Richards was one of the better Conference strikers last season:

Justin flies to the Robins...
Then I remember that we're not Robins any more. Ah well....

Desperate Times

Speaking of financial woes, the following arrived in Ebbsfleet fans' inboxes this week from manager Liam Daish, and it illustrates the desperate situation Conference clubs are in right now:

"I'd love to keep Darius Charles and Michael Gash"

"Liam Daish's message to Ebbsfleet United's owners is that if we want to keep players like Darius and Michael, we need to show our committment too...

There's been a lot of interest in two of our players who are under contract at the moment - Darius Charles and Michael Gash. I want members to know that I'd love to keep these two players and build a squad around them along with Lance Cronin, Paul McCarthy and the young lads, Michael West and Steven Springett - and hopefully kick on.

"What I will say though, and we need to bear this in mind, we need to be able to match these young players' ambition and help them realise their potential. But the way the budget is, at just over £4,000 a week and a handful of players I have already got on contract, it's leaving me very, very short with what is left to build the remainder of the squad.

"It's coming to a critical point where I'm trying to build a side for the new season, but with the budget as it is, if you try to build the rest of the squad with just over £2,000 per week, it's going to be very, very difficult. So as much as I'd love to keep Darius and Michael, looking at the bigger picture, with what could come in with transfer fees and freed up wages, it might be difficult to keep them. That is unless the weekly playing budget increases, whether that comes from the club's owners or revenue streams at the club.

"So the clear message is, if you are voting for these players not to go anywhere, we need to back this up by building a squad around them to match their ambition, rather that just filling the gaps and hoping we can get by."

"Thank you Liam, In the space of a few days, over 3,000 members voted not to sell Darius Charles and Michael Gash. To be able to keep them, we need to try to increase our weekly playing budget which currently stands at around £4,200 per week. To boost this number, so far, 400 have committed to giving an extra £47,000 over the next 12 months. Can you join them by contributing a small amount each month?"

When the manager sends a begging letter to the fans you know there's something wrong. It looks horribly like the unravelling of the internet-owned club dream-Blue Square's Alan Alger is tipping United to finish in the spot above relegation next season, yet this time last year they look dark horses for the Football League.

Perhaps it was always inevitable that fans who bought a club in this manner would be fickle and bail out when the excitement of making progress grinds to a halt, especially in these straitened times. I fear for where it could leave a club that was prgressing quietly within its means a couple of years ago though.

Would You Splash Out On Gash?

Has there ever been a more public non-transfer than that of Ebbsfleet's Michael Gash?

The guy's going nowhere, or so it would appear, but the gory details of his courtship have given me pause for thought about the current state of the transfer market.

I'm a bit naive, perhaps, but to me the amounts being bandied around don't sound as high as I'd have thought. This is, after, one of the more highly-rated target men in the Conference, a man Dean Saunders singled out as having caught his eye against us.

I'm not suggesting that we'll swoop for him-I suspect the move for Gareth Taylor put the kibosh on that-but reading about the offers makes you realise how realistic having a go at signing a Conference leading light is.

After all, didn't we spend a fair bit of cash last Summer on transfer fees by our standards, generally on players we're now looking to offload, or who we've already paid off. A bit of careful financial husbandry and we could really wield some financial weight in this division. We'd have the cash to bid for proven performers in a division increasingly filled with clubs crippled by fiscal problems. Pity that fiscal control isn't something we specialise in.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

There Ain't No Setanta Clause

The apparently imminent collapse of Setanta is, obviously, not just bad news for those of us who enjoy a weekly dose of French and German football.
The media's coverage of the story has naturally focussed on the potential impact on Premiership and SPL sides, but we're in the firing line too.

We stand to lose an automatic £70,000 fee, plus whatever we earn from live appearances (Last season that bumped the figure up to £94,000-see here for how it broke down, but ignore the erroneous maths!) It's not an earth-shattering itv digital figure, but it's enough to hit our budget for team rebuilding hard.

We'd also have a hole punched into the best week-in week-out coverage we've probably ever experienced as a club. I've never known the players in our division better as there's live games on TV every week, plus The Non League Paper and BBC London's Non League Show, whose podcast is well worth a listen (apart from the week I was on it on a very dodgy line, blathering on about Terry Darracott!)
I hope Setanta pull through for the good of the grass roots game, not because it taught me who Wolfsburg's Edin Djecko and Grafite are!

Should We Swallow Bartlett Spat And Make Our Move?

Having resisted stubbornly the familiar game of speculating wildly throughout the Summer, I must admit that there is one player whose fate fascinates me.

Despite plenty of speculation on Red Passion, there's no reason to suggest that we're interested in tempting Adam Bartlett to The Racecourse. The question, if that is the case, is why not?

Bartlett was released by Kidderminster at the end of the season, along with much of the spine of the side which took them to the fringes of the play-offs. Indeed. they surely would have got into the post season were it not for the horribly packed run-in they had to negotiate, and in the first half of our match at Aggbroough they played as well as any side we faced last season.

It's the second half which brought Bartlett to the attention of Wrexham's fans., in more ways than one! On the pitch he made an impression in the right way, a string of superb saves earning his side a win despite incessant pressure-his point blank stop from Patrick Suffo's first touch as a Wrexham player was particularly memorable.

However, he made a equal impact after the final whistle when he was involved in a very unpleasant exchange with the Wrexham fans behind his goal; he came out of the incident very poorly.

He repeated the positive side of his performance in the return match, another fortuitous Harriers win as both halves followed a similar pattern to the second period at Kidderminster. That only heightened the surprise when he was released.

The high esteem he's held in is illustrated by the fact that he immediately made a rather opportunistic move to Cambridge purely to play in the play-off final, and the fact that the Non-League Paper lauded him in their post-season reviews.

He was allowed to go because Harriers, sadly, are suffering financially, though it seems they are now in a position to offer him and some of the others jetisoned a way back to Aggborough.

To be honest, I hope they accept those terms; we don't want football to be twisted out of shape by the financial downturn, and clubs starting seasons under points handicaps or automatically relegated for off-field matters can't be right (unless it's Chester!!!) I'd rather the Conference retained an organic look, with sides recognisable from one season to the next, but if he must leave, why shouldn't we look to move in? We've got a smashing young lad in Chris Maxwell, but he's not ready yet. He and Bartlett would be a formidable duo at our level.

If he isn't on our radar, I hope that's purely because we have a different, better option in mind, and not because the incident at Aggborogh has soured us against him. After all, Gary Bennett was hardly a popular signing, but he turned out rather well!

If he arrives and is as good as he looked against us last season I'll even put aside my natural fear at us signing the only player whose F.A. disciplinary trial I've given evidence to!

Conference Nod Chester Through

So City are in, thank goodness, with a ten point handicap. Now the fun begins!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Another D Day for Chester

Having crowed excitedly about the return of the Wrexham-Chester derby, then suggested our neighbours could be reprieved if Darlington collapse, I'm worried we might lose out on a resumption of cross-border hostilities after all today.
The Darlington issue never came to anything; their continued membership of the Football League was nodded through at their AGM yesterday in such a lowkey manner that it didn't even merit a mention on Darlington's website. The threat to our derby at today's Conference AGM seems more real though.
Woking, in a desperate attempt to save their skins, plan to object to Chester's membership of the Conference, citing the double relegation of Boston United as a precedent. I suspect they'll fail: the parallels are circumstantial, I feel, and I can't imagine the Conference, after the hammering it received last season over points deductions, has the appetitie for a similar fight.
No-one thinks City's sudden escape from administration feels right, of course, but their fans don't deserve to suffer further as a result of whatever happened behind the scenes, and we desperately want to renew acquaintances anyway!

Still, the last few years suggest that anyone who tries to speculate on which way the Conference is going to jump at any particular time is likely to get their fingers burnt. Watch Google News carefully today-it could get interesting!

Eight weeks and counting

Well we are well into June and it seems an eternity since that last day victory over Weymouth at The Racecourse on 26th April. Since then we have seen quite a few players leave and so far only Mark Jones return and Nathan Fairhurst sign full time. In 8 weeks we start another Blue Square campaign as we look to regain our League status and looking at some of the dealings so far in the market you have got to say Oxford look like they really mean business this next season. They, of course, have been out of the league longer than us and will be just as desperate to get back. The number of ex league teams in the BSP for 2009~10 is getting longer with almost half the sides having played league football at some stage or another which is going to make for a strong competition. Can Wrexham do it? The answer to that of course depends on the players Dean Saunders can bring in to strengthen the side and squad. By the time I write my next blog we may have some more idea.


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