THE SUNDAY LEAGUE TEAM WHO ARE 'FAMOUS'
FOR HAVING ALL THEIR MATCHES CAPTURED ON VIDEO

Site Designed & Maintained by Laurence Hughes (Club Secretary, Chairman & Cameraman !) e-mail: laurence_hughes@yahoo.co.uk  © 2017  Laurence Hughes ARCHIVE OF PREVIOUS SEASONS SEASON 2014-2015

APPEARANCES

CHAIRMANSBLOG

MATCH REPORTS

ORC SPORTS WALTHAM (SUNDAY) FOOTBALL LEAGUE

FINAL DIVISION ONE TABLE

APPEARANCES & GOALSCORERS SEASON 2014-2015 (INCLUDES PRE-SEASON FRIENDLIES) MATCH REPORTS SEASON 2014-2015 CHAIRMAN’S BLOGS SEASON 2014-2015

NAME

APPEARANCES

GOALS

NAME

APPEARANCES

GOALS

Tem ADIL

28


Simon JACKSON (GK)

6


Larry ASARE

1


Scott JENKINS

2


Grant BAKER (GK)

5


Younes JOUIED

1


Jack BANGS

26

5

Chris LUE

12

1

Alan BARNARD

26


Gavin MARDELL

4


Ivan BASS

5


Khaheem McKENZIE

2


Andre BENNETT

1


Leon McKENZIE-McKAY

28

13

Daniel CASCOE

13


Terry MOORE

26


Garry COVER

1


Vernon ‘Kizza’ NXUMALO

6

1

Martin CRUICKSHANK

11

1

Tyronne PETRIE

10


Sean CUMMINS

9

2

Mal SAPHIRIS (GK)

10


Daniel DALEY

25

9

Michael SHARMAN

2


Kevin DENNIS

5

1

Rob SIMMONS

2


Justin DICKINSON

7


Krishan SINGH

12


Tony ECCLES

11

4

Ali SOWE

2


Ryan FOREMAN

5

1

George STAHLMANN

16


Danny GREEN

3

2

Michael TAYLOR

9

3

Danny HAGAN

18

2

Josh TOUMANY

4

1

Lexton HARRISON

23

6

Chris WEBB

7

3

PLAYERS IN GREY LEFT THE CLUB DURING THE SEASON

CLICK ON THE OPPONENTS' NAME TO VIEW A MATCH REPORT & THE YOU TUBE LINK TO VIEW HIGHLIGHTS

Date of Match

Opponents

 

Competition

Result

You Tube

Sunday 10th August

PLUMSTEAD AFC

Away

Pre-Season Friendly

Lost 3-4

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 17th August

MBDA

Home

Pre-Season Friendly

Lost 1-3

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 24th August

AFC SOUTHGATE

Home

Pre-Season Friendly

Lost 1-2

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 31st August

HADLEY GREEN

Home

Pre-Season Friendly

Won 5-3

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 7th September

ST. MARY’S

Home

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Won 3-0

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 14th September

DANSON ALBION

Away

London FA Sunday Junior Cup, First Round

Lost 2-3

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 21st September

UPSHIRE RESERVES

Home

Waltham Sunday League Division One

NON-FULFILMENT BY OPPONENTS

Sunday 28th September

NO MATCH ARRANGED (Due to Highgate Redwing withdrawing from the League)

Sunday 5th October

BROXBOURNE RANGERS OLD BOYS

Away

Waltham Sunday League Challenge Cup, Second Round

Won 2-1

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 12th October

OLD POND ATHLETIC

Home

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Won 1-0 ABAN.


Sunday 19th October

PYMMES BROOK

Home

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Won 3-2

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 26th October

SOUTHBURY

Home

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Lost 0-1

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 2nd November

U.S. ACLI

Away

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Lost 0-3

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 9th November

OLD POND ATHLETIC

Away

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Won 3-1

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 16th November

ST. MARY’S

Away

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Lost 1-2

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 23rd November

UPSHIRE

Home

Waltham Sunday League Challenge Cup, Third Round

POSTPONED (Waterlogged Pitch)

Sunday 30th November

BROXBOURNE ATHLETIC

Home

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Drew 2-2

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 7th December

U.S. ACLI

Home

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Won 4-1

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 14th December

UPSHIRE

Home

Waltham Sunday League Challenge Cup, Third Round

POSTPONED (Waterlogged Pitch)

Sunday 21st December

SOUTHBURY

Away

Waltham Sunday League Division One

POSTPONED (Waterlogged Pitch)

Sunday 28th December

NO MATCH ARRANGED (League Xmas Break)

Sunday 4th January

NO MATCH ARRANGED (Enfield Council Xmas Break - No Pitch Available)

Sunday 11th January

AC ENFIELD

Away

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Drew 2-2

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 18th January

UPSHIRE

Home

Waltham Sunday League Challenge Cup, Third Round

Lost 0-2 ABAN.

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 25th January

ST. MARY’S

Home

Waltham Sunday League Division One (Third Match)

Drew 2-2

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 1st February

UPSHIRE RESERVES

Home

Waltham Sunday League Intermediate Cup Quarter-Final

POSTPONED (Pitch Unfit)

Sunday 8th February

UPSHIRE

Home

Waltham Sunday League Challenge Cup, Third Round

Lost 0-4

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 15th February

UPSHIRE RESERVES

Home

Waltham Sunday League Intermediate Cup Quarter-Final

NON-FULFILMENT BY OPPONENTS

Sunday 22nd February

PYMMES BROOK

Home

Waltham Sunday League Division One (Third Match)

POSTPONED (Waterlogged Pitch)

Sunday 1st March

UPSHIRE RESERVES

Away

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Won 3-2

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 8th March

AC ENFIELD

Away

Waltham Sunday League Intermediate Cup Semi-Final

Won 2-0

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 15th March

AC ENFIELD

Home

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Drew 0-0

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 22nd March

BROXBOURNE ATHLETIC

Away

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Lost 0-1

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 29th March

PYMMES BROOK

Neutral

Waltham Sunday League Intermediate CUP FINAL

Lost 1-2

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Easter Sunday 5th April

OLD POND ATHLETIC

Home

Waltham Sunday League Division One Double-Header

Lost 1-2

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Easter Sunday 5th April

OLD POND ATHLETIC

Home

Waltham Sunday League Division One Third Match (D/H)

Lost 1-5

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 12th April

PYMMES BROOK

Away

Waltham Sunday League Division One

Lost 1-7

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 19th April

SOUTHBURY

Away

Waltham Sunday League Division One Double-Header

Drew 1-1

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 19th April

SOUTHBURY

Home’

Waltham Sunday League Division One Third Match (D/H)

Lost 0-5

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 26th April

AC ENFIELD

Away

Waltham Sunday League Division One (Third Match)

Drew 2-2

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 3rd May

BROXBOURNE ATHLETIC

Away

Waltham Sunday League Division One (Third Match)

Won 6-1

 HIGHLIGHTS (HD)

Sunday 10th May

PYMMES BROOK

Away

Waltham Sunday League Division One (Third Match)

Lost 3-4

Match Not Filmed

CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Wednesday 13th May 2015

My last Chairman's Blog back in March was written just before we took on Pymmes Brook at Hoddesdon Town FC in the Waltham Sunday League's Intermediate Cup Final (for all teams in Division One), and although we only got to that Final after playing just one match thanks to so many teams dropping out of the division, we were still very much looking forward to it and 'bigging ourselves up' after a good run of form under Manager Simon Jackson since he took over back in November. Not surprisingly, we fielded the strongest side we had put out all season with only the injured Daniel Cascoe missing and with five good substitutes on the bench, but in an extremely close game against arguably the best team in the division, we just lost out by a narrow 2-1 scoreline which was mainly due to the goal we conceded in the first minute through nervousness and a lack of experience from playing in Cup Finals with it being our First Team's first Final for 29 years. With Pymmes Brook having played in three previous Cup Finals in the past two seasons, they knew exactly how to handle the situation but we will learn from what we did wrong and most definitely be better for it if we reach another Cup Final in the near future.

Unfortunately though, the Cup Final defeat appeared to trigger off a great deal of apathy from a number of our players for our remaining eight Division One matches, even though we were still in contention to win the title along with four other clubs. Two of our three unused substitutes, Tony Eccles and Ryan Foreman, together with goalkeeper Grant Baker, didn't play again for the rest of the season for various reasons, while the other unused substitute, Krishan Singh, only made himself available for our final game. We then had last season's Player Of The Year George Stahlmann dropping a bombshell straight after the Final by announcing he was moving to live in Torquay for the rest of the season and throughout the Summer period, thereby resulting in him only playing one further match while he was back up in London for the weekend, while skipper Danny Hagan went and fractured a bone in his foot at work straight after the Final, ruling himself out for the rest of the season as well ! Scott Jenkins, who was ineligible to play in the Cup Final, was another one who completely disappeared and did not play again, despite him re-joining us in early March with the intention of playing regularly, while any hopes of Daniel Cascoe making a comeback before the end of the season were dashed when his broken ankle failed to heal properly and had to be operated on again. Fortunately we were bailed out by the likes of Ivan Bass, Danny Green, Gavin Mardell, Vernon 'Kizza' Nxumalo and Rob Simmons all playing the odd game here and there, but none of them were able to play in all eight matches and in most cases they only played in one or two.

Our first match after the Cup Final was a Double-Header at Hazelwood against bottom team Old Pond Athletic, but despite their position in the table they turned up with a squad of 15 and the strongest side they had put out all season. What did we do because it was a Double-Header (i.e. two 60-minute matches) and the chance for everybody to play at least 60 minutes ? We turned up with a bare eleven of course...like we always do for Double-Headers. Time after time after time. Absolutely infuriating for whoever happens to be our Manager. In fact we did actually have 12, but it was more like a bare eleven because Jack Bangs couldn't stop coughing and had to come off at Half-Time in the First Match, which we ended up losing 2-1 to basically kill off our title hopes there and then. With Old Pond bringing on several fresh players for the Second Match and us having nobody apart from Manager Jacko, who volunteered to go in goal despite a broken thumb and a bad lack of fitness so that Alan Barnard could have a deserved run-out in his normal position on the pitch, we therefore suffered the usual thrashing that happens every time, and we were actually fortunate that we only lost 5-1 in the end ! It was totally demoralising as Old Pond were 'miles' better than us on the day and there was no way that would have happened had we been fielding the team we had put out in the Cup Final the week before.

The next four Sundays then saw Jacko unavailable himself, not because of those Cup Final and Double-Header defeats, but due to family commitments, so Terry Moore stepped in as Caretaker-Manager as he always does. Unfortunately though, Terry had to face an even worse nightmare when only nine players turned up for our match Away to our Cup Final opponents Pymmes Brook at Enfield Grammar School. As usual in these circumstances though, Terry is no quitter and he persuaded the rest of our players to just get on with it. Unlike in previous seasons when I would have played to make up the numbers in that sort of situation, I had no longer registered myself as a player because I was too old to qualify for injury insurance cover, not that I was expecting us to still be turning up with less than eleven this season anyway. I then made the choice to film the game as normal (and put the highlights on You Tube) instead of running the line, but fortunately the Referee decided not to fine us for having no Club Linesman. After all, Pymmes Brook's players definitely wanted it filmed, so they were never going to complain about the Ref having to make offside decisions himself. Predictably we ended up losing 7-1 even though none of our players gave up, but the most painful aspect of the game by far was Pymmes Brook's players over-celebrating some of their late goals and cavorting about in front of the camera. Not that I blame them. It is just hard to take when we know we are as good as them when we are fielding eleven decent players (for a 90-minute match as opposed to a Double-Header).

The misery continued the following week when we faced another Double-Header, this time Away to Southbury at Wormley Playing Fields, and yet again we turned up with just a bare eleven when our opponents, who were still very much in contention to win the title, fielded a squad of 15 and more-or-less a full-strength side. Somehow though, we managed to ride our luck in the First Match to nick a 1-1 draw, but again we were always going to lose the Second Match heavily and indeed we did, by a 5-0 scoreline.

All these bad results from players making themselves unavailable had by now actually put us in contention for finishing bottom of Division One instead of actually winning it. All within the space of three weeks ! A lot of that had to do with five teams dropping out since the season started, leaving only seven teams in the division of course, but even so, it was an alarming slide from the form and commitment we had been showing pre-Cup Final. We then faced another tough match on the 26th April Away to AC Enfield as we finished the season with the first of three 'third matches' in a row, these extra games having been brought in to compensate for so many teams dropping out. Predictably we turned up with just a bare eleven again, but this time it was a stronger eleven than in previous matches, and more importantly it was the first match since the Cup Final that we only had to play 90 minutes with a particular bare eleven, thereby giving us far more chance of getting a result as long as nobody got injured. Indeed that was what happened as we played out a fully-deserved 2-2 draw against a side who still had an outside chance of the title and were certainly going for it. We were well pleased with that result afterwards as it meant we had played AC Enfield four times this season and not lost any of those matches, something which would have been unthinkable in previous seasons if we had been facing them so many times.

Although that was very encouraging for us, there was still concern that we were unable to find more than eleven players week-in, week-out, but the boot was on the other foot for our penultimate match on the 3rd May as it was our opponents Broxbourne Athletic who turned up with only 10 men this time...to play our bare eleven. With us gaining confidence from our performance against AC Enfield the week before, we therefore went and romped away with an emphatic 6-1 win where those of our players who did not play in the 7-1 defeat to Pymmes Brook unknowingly overdid their goal celebrations much to Broxbourne Athletic's disgust no doubt, but then it is not often that we score that many...and indeed Lexton Harrison's hat-trick in that match was the first by a Rovers player in a competitive match for nearly four years ! Such was the disinterest in what was a meaningless game with nothing to play for though, that the attendance figure for the match was just 'One'...myself standing on the touchline filming it ! No substitutes, the Managers both playing, and not even any other games going on or people walking their dogs over there. It was totally surreal and something I have 'never ever' seen at Wormley Playing Fields before.

With our final match of the season on the 10th May being a 'third match' Away to Pymmes Brook and our opponents needing to win the match to confirm promotion to the Premier Division and almost certainly clinch the Division One title in the process, we should have been well up for revenge for our previous two defeats by them, even though we already knew we were going to finish the season stuck in 5th place and clear of relegation whatever happened. Instead, we had numerous players declaring themselves unavailable again due to 'other commitments', which this time even included the loyal Alan Barnard, which meant Manager Jacko (who had fortunately returned for this match) had no option but to go in goal with nobody else turning up who was capable of doing so. Jacko had still managed to scrape up a squad of 12 though, but then Ryan Foreman and Danny Green both failed to turn up, leaving us with only 10 men and another likely hammering against a full-strength and extremely fired-up side. This time it was decided that I would not film the match because we knew full well that having Pymmes Brook's players celebrating another mauling on You Tube would be massively damaging to our hopes of attracting good players to join us next season. However, we also strongly suspected that their disappointment in seeing me running the line instead of filming the game would affect their performance and indeed that most certainly seemed to be the case as they huffed and puffed their way through the First Half and didn't take the lead until the 42nd minute with a shot which Jacko definitely would have saved in his younger days or if he had been playing regularly. In the Second Half though our 10 men really surpassed themselves and they were an absolute credit to the club. We ended up only losing 4-3 and we could even have nicked a 4-4 draw had it not been for a brilliant save by the Pymmes Brook keeper, one of two 'Worldies' he made in the match.

We therefore ended the season on a positive note, but very much aware that we are going to have to bring in several new players for next season who are able to commit themselves into playing every week, which is what the likes of Pymmes Brook and Southbury have, not to mention Premier Division Champions Upshire, who have undoubtedly set the benchmark for us to aspire to. In fact thanks to the Waltham Sunday League using the FA's Full-Time system for its League Tables, Results, Fixtures and records of players who played in what matches this season, a few mouse clicks on each team's name to bring up their list of player appearances in order of most games played reveals that all other teams in the top two divisions had between 12-15 players playing in over 50% of their matches, with about 8 or 9 playing in over 75% of their matches. And what do those records say for us ? Not surprisingly we only had 7 players playing in over 50% of our matches and only 6 of them playing in over 75% of our matches. Those 7 players were Tem Adil, Alan Barnard, Leon McKenzie-McKay, Jack Bangs, Daniel Daley, Terry Moore & Lexton Harrison. I'm quite sure that Daniel Cascoe and Danny Hagan would have been over 50% had they not got injured, while the change in Management in November and Chris Lue not joining until February were also obvious factors that were nothing to do with general apathy and having better things to do, but even so, other teams all would have had similar problems with injuries and new players not joining until after Christmas. The commitment shown by our players in general is still less than that of pretty much every other club in the League. This happens to us year after year and it is not surprising that we never win anything when you look at those stats. We have far too many players who have to work seemingly every other Sunday (or more) and far too many who suddenly decide to go away for the weekend once it gets to the business end of the season. Admittedly this season there have been a lot of other clubs in the same boat in the past month or so who have decided to concede matches and pay the hefty fines rather than being prepared to play with less than eleven, and that is almost certainly due to the bad weather delaying fixtures during the Winter and the League's 'third match' idea extending the season well into May when normally the fixtures have all finished by the end of April. A lot of players probably pre-plan other commitments for May that they then cannot get out of. However, in our case it is actually having our matches filmed professionally and put on You Tube that has been causing the damage for a number of years now. We have had a procession of players joining the club since the mid/late-2000's because they like the idea of being professionally filmed playing football and then showing their goals/bits of skill on You Tube to their mates, but then every team we play turns up with a full-strength side because of You Tube, thereby making it twice as hard for us to win matches and invariably putting us out of contention to win honours by the time it gets to March. We then start getting thrashed on You Tube and instead of mates admiring our players' skills they are laughing at them instead, especially when we are trying to play with only 9 men and our opponents are taking the p!ss. Those of our players affected by that then start making excuses so that they can miss our remaining matches and in many cases they just leave the club altogether. The cycle then repeats itself with more new players coming in for the following season after being attracted by the filming of matches and we end up never having a settled side for longer than about 6 months...and that's if we are lucky with injuries. On the other hand though, there is no doubt whatsoever that the club would have folded by now if it was not for me filming the games and keeping the club website updated. Other clubs just don't do that and it gives us a massive advantage in finding new players. Unfortunately though, we do not get enough players who are good enough to get us back up to the Premier Division because they have watched us on You Tube and seen that our existing players are (invariably) not good enough, so they join other clubs instead who are going to have more of a chance of winning a trophy.

However, that could all change next season because we have finally taken the decision to leave Hazelwood Sports Ground after 30 years of playing there and pay the extra money to use the Edmonton Sports & Social Club as our Home ground. It is something we have toyed with before, but our pitch at Hazelwood was always in very good condition up until the end of last season thanks to Broomfield's long-serving First XI Manager Mick Robbins rolling, forking and cutting the grass himself every Friday in preparation for his team's matches in the Southern Amateur League on Saturdays. With Mick leaving Broomfield though and with nobody else willing to do that work voluntarily, the pitch has been absolutely diabolical this season, and with Enfield Council not having the manpower to do anything about it due to their usual cost-cutting measures, we have therefore decided there is no point in us staying there any more. That is especially so when the Pitch Bookings Officer at Enfield Council suddenly revealed to me back in March that they charge Sunday clubs £105.00 more per season than they do for Saturday clubs because Council pitches are under-used on Saturdays and they want to encourage more teams to play on that day of the week ! On top of that, Council pitch prices are apparently going up by another 10% for next season. Can you believe that ?!!! No wonder our League is struggling to survive.

When we first started playing at Hazelwood back in 1985, there was a full-time park-keeper there whose job during the week ...and on Sunday mornings before we arrived for our matches !...was to cut, roll and fork the pitches in addition to just keeping an eye on things. (Pre-'Parks Police'). The pitches were all in superb condition. In the early-90's most local Councils including Enfield laid off their full-time 'parkies' and only employed somebody to open the changing rooms and keep an eye on things when matches were being played. Our 'parkie' at Hazelwood was a nice old boy and I can remember him being absolutely gutted that he was losing his job. (You can see him in this picture here from April 1990 sitting down watching our match from behind the goal). They then replaced him for Sunday mornings with a bloke with 'learning disabilities' who used to sit in his room watching Bugs Bunny cartoons while the games were going on. Not a problem as far as opening up, cleaning out the rooms afterwards and locking up was concerned...although my old wooden box that I used to film from did go missing at around that time. However, that was when the pitches started deteriorating badly and Mick Robbins had to volunteer to do the work himself under threat of his club being thrown out of the Southern Amateur League if he didn't. I can certainly remember more than one occasion before Mick started doing that job when the half-way line resembled the logo for the old Wavy Line supermarkets that were around in those days, while the penalty spot had been marked out level with one of the goalposts and the 'D' at the Cowshed End had been marked out twice...one too big and the other too small. The next cost-cutting step taken by the Council was 8 years ago when they tried to kick ourselves, Broomfield and St. Mary's off the pitches at Hazelwood and get us all playing at Enfield Playing Fields instead so that they could carry out more cutbacks by getting rid of the weekend 'parkies' completely. If we wanted to stay at Hazelwood, we had to open up, clean out and lock up the changing rooms ourselves. We paid a £20.00 deposit for a set of keys and agreed, and although that has actually been better for us in not being under any pressure to leave the building quickly after our matches had finished, it was still wrong that we had to pay the same amount for the pitch every season as if a Council employee was doing that job. Whether we will get that £20.00 back now once we hand back the keys I have no idea. I suspect not.

We obviously had some memorable games at Hazelwood over the years and it is going to seem strange not playing over there any more. We don't yet know what St. Mary's are planning to do next season, but judging from various F.A. directives that have been mooted over the last year or so concerning the future of 'parks football', all local Council pitches will either be taken over by Powerleague-type organisations within the next 5-10 years (for the larger venues such as Enfield Playing Fields and Wormley Playing Fields), while smaller parks and Recreation Grounds will just be used for other sports such as cricket and for dog walking. The larger venues will become Sports Hubs including a number of 3G pitches, but priority will be given to Youth, Womens & Disability football at those venues, so the onus is very much on existing one-team adult Sunday League clubs like ourselves to find a private ground to play at and then possibly expand from there to eventually run Vets, Ladies and/or Youth teams depending on the number of volunteers we have, the availability of pitches, and the Kick-Off times designated for those matches. I see playing at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club as opening up a really bright future for the club, and I know that my fellow Management Committee members Jacko, Barney, Terry & Hagan do too. We will be playing on pitches that have the grass cut and are forked and rolled, we will not have to put up goalnets (as far as I am aware), and for the first time since we last frequented On Broadway about 6 years ago, we will be having a drink after matches as there is a bar there. We are also hoping to be able to train over there in midweek, particularly as they are building a new 3G floodlit training area in addition to the floodlit grass training area that is already there. If using these facilities next season does not help us to attract better and more committed players, then I don't know what will. That should then see us winning more games on You Tube irrespective of our opponents turning up with full-strength sides, and that in turn will help us to attract more sponsors. There is no doubt whatsoever that like certain players, certain potential sponsors will have changed their minds over the years and declined to put their money into the club as a result of seeing us on You Tube playing with only 9 or 10 men.

So that's our future hopefully sorted out, but what about that of the Waltham Sunday League ? With five teams dropping out of Division One during the course of this season and numerous clubs failing to fulfil their fixtures throughout all three divisions, there are real fears that the League could go down to just two divisions next season whereas other local Leagues (the Edmonton Sunday, the Barnet Sunday and the East Herts Corinthian Sunday) all have at least four divisions and seem to have far more teams interested in joining them than our League does. With that in mind, our League admitted at the last Full Council Meeting back in April that it had approached the Barnet Sunday League asking them if they wanted to merge. As the Barnet League said 'no', I would guess that the offer put to them was that our League's name would remain and that the existing Waltham League Officers would also remain in place and the current Barnet League Officers would only fill any vacancies...which definitely would not be the League General Secretary's position !? If it was the other way round and the Barnet League had approached our League asking them if they wanted to merge, I don't think there is any question whatsoever that the Barnet League would insist on the same, especially as they would be viewing our League Officers with suspicion bearing in mind they have overseen a rapid decline in membership during the past 5 or 6 years that they have all been in charge. Whether that is actually our League Officers fault, the F.A.'s fault or Enfield & Broxbourne Council's fault is difficult to say, but the situation is most certainly alarming for clubs like ourselves who have been in the League for over 25 years and have always had pride in the high standard we have been playing in.

The League AGM is on Thursday 21st May and with five new teams apparently having been accepted for next season, my gut feeling is that a constitution will be presented that still retains three divisions. There are 29 teams still in the League at the moment plus these five new ones, so they will put 11 teams in the Premier Division, 11 teams in Division One and 12 teams in Division Two under the assumption that none of those 29 teams are folding up. All teams are supposed to fill in League Affiliation forms for next season before the constitution is drafted, but a lot of them 'forget'/don't bother because they 'don't know', so they then just get included anyway. What will happen then is that at least five or six teams (including some of the new ones) will drop out after the A.G.M. and before the season starts, and although our League are now apparently being allowed by the F.A. to accept new teams into the constitution right up until August, I suspect it is more likely that clubs will join other Leagues instead if they see so many other teams dropping out. It happens every year where teams cannot decide at this stage what they are going to do and they only find out they have not got enough interested players (or enough money) once it gets to August. We could then end up with at least one division down to 8 teams again and the 'third match' having to be brought in which has caused so many problems this season. Even if a large number of clubs decide before the 21st May that they are going to fold up or join other Leagues instead, our League will be desperate to avoid going down to two divisions. They will not want that indignity when just three seasons ago there were five divisions.

I have been hearing all sorts of rumours and comments about teams joining the East Herts Corinthian League next season because they are getting fed up with our League 'falling apart', while Team Managers saying they are packing it in next season due to other commitments is also widely heard, as is the possible merger of clubs. It is quite likely that we will be in Division One next season along with 10 other clubs, all of whom then drop out, leaving us on our own. At least we would win a League Title for the first time in 28 years though !

  

CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Monday 23rd March 2015

The club is 39 years old now and I have been running it as Secretary & Chairman since being a founder-member as a 17-year-old back in 1976. Like myself, the rest of those founder-members are now 'getting on a bit' in years, but none of us are near our 60th birthdays just yet and are mostly still in good health as far as I am aware. It therefore came as a massive shock to hear that one of our founder-members and Greats Of The Past, Glenn Weaver, suddenly passed away at home on the 19th February just two days after I wrote my last Chairman's Blog. Glenn was only 53, the same age as my younger brother Trevor and the majority of our other founder-members, and he still had many years ahead of him to give to football in what he was best at, namely administration and organisation. In addition to being a Committee member for us since our formation up until the mid-1980's, Glenn was also involved from then onwards until the early-1990's with the successful Field End Youth setup for whom at least one of his nephews played...or at least they were successful until our own Steve Cokell scored a hat-trick against them for Enfield Rangers Youth in an Under-12's Cup Final that I filmed for Glenn back then ! (I must dig that video out when I get a chance). It was with Tottenham Hotspur Ladies though that Glenn became best known, taking up the Chairman's role with great success during his 20-plus years involvement with the club. Although I did film the occasional Spurs Ladies match for Glenn a few years ago, I am no expert on the setup there nowadays and what Glenn achieved, so I will leave that for others to pay tribute to. However, when myself, Demitrius Nurse, Julien Nurse & Kieran McGregor all attended his funeral on the 6th March to represent the club, it was clear from the huge numbers in attendance just how highly regarded he was. The Church (St. Stephens in Enfield) was packed to the rafters and the roads came to a standstill outside. Likewise at the post-funeral gathering at the Bush Hill Golf Club afterwards where I caught up with the likes of Panny Theocharides, Jonathan Mann, Kevin Johnson, Kevin 'Benny' Strike and Phil Chalkley, all of whom went to Edmonton County School with Glenn and were either Rovers founder-members and/or played for our 'B' Team in the Edmonton Sunday League under Glenn in the early-1980's. I also met Glenn's cousin Dave Friend and brother-in-law Garry Baker, both of whom also played for Rovers way back then. It was unfortunate circumstances for a reunion of course, but we all had a good chat and a laugh about the old days, while Kieran was very keen to organise a proper reunion for the club's 40th Anniversary next year. Hopefully we can get something done this time now that more ex-players are on Facebook nowadays. It was too difficult back in 2006 when we attempted to arrange a 30th Anniversary do.

So what were things actually like back in 1976 when Dave Ashton came up with the brainwave of forming Edmonton Rovers and then appointed myself as Club Secretary and Glenn Weaver as my Assistant ? Well, one of the problems was that I was only 17, Dave, Glenn and the other Committee members were only 15, and Dave wanted to be Player-Manager, so he refused to let any parents get involved. With nobody being old enough to drive until 17-year-old Gary Cooper finally passed his test in our second season, that meant we had to carry all the kit, nets, balls and corner flagposts on trains, buses and then a long walk to get to the Home pitch we were given by Enfield Council...Oakwood Park. It was absolutely miles away from where we all lived on the Edmonton/Bush Hill Park/Winchmore Hill border. That job of course was done by myself, Trevor...and Glenn. Every time. Once we started playing in that first season (in the long now defunct Enfield & District Youth League Under-17's Division), we soon started getting beaten heavily and our better players started drifting away, thereby forcing Glenn to make up the numbers even though he was never really good enough as a player, mainly because he wore glasses to play in as contact lenses in those days were all of the hard variety and very uncomfortable. In one match Away to League leaders New Cambridge at Hackney Marshes, our opponents actually felt sorry for Glenn and let him score...once they had gone 18-0 up...by getting their goalkeeper to drop the ball at his feet, while in another match a year later (in the Edmonton Sunday League against Cherry Tree) played on our infamous sloping pitch at Oakwood Park (which is now not surprisingly a golf course), Glenn was clean through on goal in a rare attack but lost his balance and fell over face-first with his glasses getting stuck in the mud. Typical of Glenn, he saw the funny side on both occasions and even posed for a picture for the first one...making sure he took his glasses off first so that he could look like a 'proper' player because he had scored. That picture was shown at the post-funeral gathering, so I expect Glenn must have had a framed copy of it on his mantelpiece somewhere. Throughout the nine years he was involved with the club and the many years before that where I knew him from kickabouts over the 'V Dump' & 'Dogshit Park' and the laughable 'Hugheshire v. Wedgetershire' cricket matches us early Rovers players used to have at Norfolk Park in Palmers Green, I never once saw Glenn get angry. Even when he had to Referee some of our Youth League matches where he actually sent Jerome Burnikell off on two separate occasions for calling him a 'four-eyed c**t' ! Jerome was unhappy that Glenn was refereeing fairly when we were losing heavily, but there was no way that Glenn was going to cheat so that we could get back into the match. If our players had a disagreement like that nowadays, they would probably come to blows or storm out of the club, but not Glenn. Like myself, I'm sure he would have loved to have played more often, but there was no doubt that he was happy to help run the club and keep it alive, no matter how depleted we were. In February 1978 in our first season in the Edmonton Sunday League we came the closest we have ever been to folding, and it was thanks to Glenn more than anybody else that we didn't. It was a meaningless 'consolation'-type Cup game against Martinbridge Sports, a team from the division above who had also been getting thrashed every week and appeared to be a lot worse than us. Only seven players bothered to turn up though as the rest of them had 'left' during the week because of our poor results. Those seven included myself and my brother Trevor plus four other real club stalwarts at the time in Demitrius Nurse, Alan Lee, Jerome Burnikell and Gary Cooper, who was 'forced' into playing in goal. The other player was John 'Todd' Sweeney, who lived in a dingy flat above a shop in Park Lane opposite the Spurs ground and we had to spend 30 minutes banging on his door to wake him up and drag him along to play. There were no mobile phones or e-mails in those days ! The League rules at the time were that we needed a minimum of 8 players, so Glenn therefore had to play again. There is no question whatsoever that the club would have folded had he not done so. We lost the game 11-4...how the hell did we manage to score 4 ?!!!...and it was by far the worst team we have ever fielded in our history, although Martinbridge Sports were probably the worst team we have ever faced in our history. Glenn and the others could easily have packed it in after that, but we somehow managed to find some new players from the following week onwards who were prepared to put up with heavy defeats like that initially until we gradually improved enough to become competitive, which we did half-way through the following season. Another abiding memory I have of Glenn was his brilliant impersonations of people, something which was touched upon by one of the speakers at his funeral. When we were running a 'B' Team in the early-1980's, Glenn, myself and Trevor used to meet up either on a Sunday evening or during the day in midweek if we were all off work or college at the same time. That involved taking both the First Team and 'B' Team kits into a launderette opposite the apparently soon-to-be-bulldozed Green Dragon pub in Winchmore Hill and then popping into the pub while the washing machines were running to sit down and have a pint while going through what happened in our respective matches as regards who played, goalscorers, substitutions, etc. Invariably I was with the First Team as Secretary and a sort of unofficial Manager alongside Captain Jerome Burnikell and then Demitrius Nurse, while Trevor played firstly for the 'B' Team then more regularly for the First Team. Glenn was 'B' Team Secretary, and for their third season (1982-1983) we appointed John Goodbody as Manager, John being an elderly Scotsman from the Boundary House pub who claimed to have played for Partick Thistle and Burnley, although we have never actually found any evidence of that. Whenever Trevor and myself sat down with Glenn in the Green Dragon to ask him what happened in the 'B' Team's latest match, he would always start off with his best John Goodbody impersonation using the words 'Och aye the fockin noo'....whatever that meant !? (We will probably need the Dorward brothers to translate). Impersonations of League Officials and Referees by Glenn also had us in stitches. When we folded the 'B' Team up in 1985 after their first season in the Haringey League, Glenn then decided to move on to Field End Youth and then on to Ladies football, but we always kept in touch now and again and I'm sure that like most of our other ex-players who were involved for any length of time, he would have been aware of how we had been doing since he left the club. Indeed he attended our 25th Anniversary Dinner in 2001 and provided a memorable speech at that event which I now wish I had recorded. Our club certainly have a lot to thank Glenn Weaver for in those early days and it won't just be Tottenham Hotspur Ladies who will miss him greatly, but ourselves and many other people involved in football locally will do as well. R.I.P. Glenn.

Meanwhile, back to the present day and we have finally managed to reach a Cup Final at last, beating Division One leaders AC Enfield 2-0 on their Home ground in the League Intermediate Cup Semi-Final in a match where they failed to manage a single shot on target. It was an awesome performance by us and arguably the best we have played since we finished third in the Premier Division 12 years ago. We then went and drew 0-0 in a Division One match against the same opponents the following week which meant we had only lost once in eight matches and that was to Premier Division Champions Upshire in a game in which we were certainly not outclassed. Although we narrowly lost 1-0 to another Division One title contender (Broxbourne Athletic) in our most recent match, it all now suddenly seems to be clicking together under Simon Jackson's motivational-style Management and we are now starting to field more of a settled team, particularly in midfield and attack. Martin Cruickshank, Chris Lue, Scott Jenkins and Ivan Bass have all come in in recent matches to boost the strength of the squad and they have certainly made up for Daniel Cascoe's absence through injury when we initially thought the rest of the season would be a big struggle without one of our most influential players. I have been telling everybody that it is 30 years since we last reached a Cup Final, although that is not strictly true as our now-defunct Reserve Team (which included Lexton Harrison and Leon McKenzie-McKay) did reach the Waltham League Reserve Cup Final eleven years ago (in 2004), while our last First Team Cup Final was actually 29 years ago having just re-checked the record books. It is still a heck of a long time for a well-run club like ourselves though, and some of our players were not even born when we reached that Cup Final in April 1986. Unfortunately, both of those Cup Finals were a real anti-climax in a way. We reached the League Reserve Cup Final very easily because there were only five teams in the competition and we played the worst of them in the Semi-Final, easily winning 6-0 after having a Bye in the Quarter-Final. The Final was then played on Wormley Rovers Herts Senior County League pitch, which has no main stand and is certainly not a 'stadium', while we were told to wear our spare orange & black kit instead of green and black, despite us playing Upshire's Reserve Team who were wearing their Celtic kit...which had never clashed with our green & black in about 15 previous meetings between our respective First Teams. We lost that Cup Final 1-0 on a rock-hard bobbly pitch under (very dim) floodlights on a Wednesday night and we didn't really have a decent shot at goal all match. It was probably one of the most boring Cup Finals the League has ever seen ! The Haringey & Tottenham Sunday League Intermediate Cup Final that our First Team appeared in back in 1986 wasn't much better. For some reason they played it at the Metal Box Ground on the other side of the North Circular Road to Hazelwood, but that was just a private Sports Ground in those days with no stands, no dugouts and not even a rope around the pitch to keep spectators back from the touchline ! (Predictably, it is now a housing estate). Only about 80 people turned up to watch anyway, several of whom joined in when we started off a mass punch-up in which our own Chris Draper was sent off. That sort of thing was a regular occurrence in the Haringey League in those days of course, which was why we left that League and joined the Waltham League instead. We lost that Cup Final 2-0, but our opponents Nike were one of the best teams we have ever played and we were massive underdogs going into the game...as we were in our previous Cup Final to that back in 1982 when we lost 4-1 to the Craig Park Youth Centre in the Edmonton Sunday League's Intermediate Cup Final. At least that one was played at the Barrass Stadium, which was a proper stadium back in those days. We also did well to reach that final after winning a memorable penalty shoot-out against Woodlands in the Semi-Final. The first of other two Cup Finals we played in (which were both in the 1979-1980 Season) was a lot more memorable though, as it is still to this day the only Cup Final we have ever won. That was the Edmonton Sunday League's Weekly Herald Cup Final, which was for all teams in Division 8, the bottom division at the time. We had a settled side back then with only 14 players used all season (apart from a couple of others who just played one or two matches to help us out when we were short). A squad as small as that would be unheard of nowadays, but back then there was nothing else to do on a Sunday except go to Church ! Nobody worked on a Sunday, Players would only go away in the Summer, Stag Do's were never abroad, and with pubs shutting at 11pm and nightclubs shutting at 2am, players would still have time to sleep off any hangovers before getting up to play the following morning. A crowd of about 350 turned up at the Barrass Stadium to watch that Cup Final against River Plate, and although only about 100 of them were our supporters, we still managed to win 3-2 After Extra Time after Kieran McGregor had scored a 'wonder goal' to equalise in the last minute of normal time. We did actually film bits of that Cup Final (including Kieran's goal) on a silent cine-film camera, although of course the camerawork (by various non-playing club members including Trevor Hughes) was shockingly bad. I will get it on You Tube eventually...when I can find it ! Although we were top of the Division 8 table at the time and went on to win that division, River Plate were second and it was always going to be a close game. They actually beat us 3-1 in the other Cup Final we met them in that season, but we won't dwell on that one. The average age of our team back then was only 19, so winning our first Cup Final was a brilliant achievement, and I can remember us having long celebrations both in the changing rooms afterwards and then in the evening at Demitrius Nurse's house in Haselbury Road. Our upcoming Cup Final against Pymmes Brook will see many things done very differently and hopefully we can attract some more support this time as we have nearly 40-years worth of ex-players to call upon. It would be great if history repeats itself from back in 1980 and we win a League & Cup double.

  

CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Tuesday 17th February 2015

My last Chairman’s Blog was written during the Christmas period when as usual we had a long spell without playing a match due to waterlogged pitches and then Enfield Council workers having two weeks off, meaning no fixtures being arranged because 'the lines couldn't be marked out'...not that they do that at Hazelwood anyway, but more of that later.

We then returned to action on the 11th January to play Away to AC Enfield, a team we had lost 6-0 to in the corresponding Division One match the previous season. That was a game in which we were a complete shambles because of players turning up late and then not having time to take in Manager Trevor Hughes's team-talk and changes in tactics, but this time we managed to field a strong squad of 15 who were all there well before 10.00.a.m. to warm-up properly, and that undoubtedly played a large part in us gaining a 2-2 draw against an in-form side who were (and still are as I write this) top of the Division One table. One of the main differences is that our current Manager Simon ('Jacko') Jackson chases players up to play and spends more time in motivating them than Trevor was able to do, and although we did ride our luck a bit against AC Enfield in terms of clear-cut chances created in that match, the improved team spirit and effort & commitment we have now undoubtedly helps us to 'nick' results from matches that we would have lost last season.

The following Sunday saw us finally manage to play Premier Division leaders and current Champions Upshire in the Third Round of the Waltham League's Challenge Cup at Hazelwood after the fixture had been postponed twice before Christmas for waterlogged pitches. Invariably for some reason, whenever we get drawn against a Premier Division team, we end up fielding a seriously depleted side with an outfield player having to go in goal, and frustratingly the same thing happened here to some extent as defender Alan Barnard was forced to don the gloves once again (as he had against AC Enfield) due to Grant Baker not turning up, while midfielder Ryan Foreman was also a 'no show' on the day. In addition to that, in-form forward Daniel Daley asked Jacko to name him as a substitute as he didn't feel well, while defenders Tyronne Petrie and Ivan Bass both had work commitments, thereby forcing Jacko to play attacking midfielders/forwards Leon McKenzie-McKay and Krishan Singh in the full-back positions. With Upshire having only lost one match in all competitions in 18 months...and that was only due to six of their players going away on a golfing holiday, Jacko decided to field a defensive 4-5-1 formation and to sit back and try and frustrate our 'illustrious' opponents. That actually worked to some extent as Upshire only managed five worthwhile efforts at goal in the first 45 minutes, although unfortunately two silly defensive errors by us gifted them two goals from those five chances. Despite being 2-0 down as Half-Time approached though, we were looking forward to the Second Half with Daley getting ready to come on for us to be able to switch to a 4-3-3 and with a number of our players showing that they were more than a match for Upshire in terms of ability, particularly the vastly-improved Daniel Cascoe in midfield, who was arguably the best player on the pitch. Unfortunately though, Upshire midfielder Alex Brooks obviously didn't like being upstaged by Cascoe's physical presence and flew in at him in the 45th minute with a fierce 'man and ball' challenge from behind that dislocated and broke Cascoe's ankle, leaving Referee Newton Gordon with no option but to abandon the match due to the seriousness of the injury and with a number of our players too shocked and/or angry to continue. The challenge was of course captured on video, and as far as I am aware, only myself and Jacko have seen it from our team...unless the unlisted link to it on You Tube has been passed on ? In my opinion, it was a definite red card offence (which the Referee duly obliged with), but there is no way that Brooks meant to seriously injure Cascoe like that. You could see that on video from his reaction afterwards once he had been sent off and then realised what he had done, although of course our players didn't notice that at the time as they were all either in a complete rage or more concerned with trying to make Cascoe as comfortable as possible before the ambulance arrived...which fortunately it did fairly quickly in comparison to Mike Sharman's serious knee injury earlier this season when we had to give up waiting in the end ! When we played in the Edmonton Sunday League in the 1970's and early '80's and then particularly in the now long-defunct Haringey & Tottenham Sunday League back in the bad old days of football violence, we did occasionally come across players who deliberately went out to break their opponents legs with over-the-top challenges (as happened to our own Billy Russell in a Haringey League match back in 1987...and yes, that match was filmed and it happened right in front of the camera !), while players playing with pen-knives tucked down their socks was also another thing we came across back then. I remember running on as a substitute in one Haringey League match, and as I was doing so, one of the opposing players deliberately elbowed me straight in the face without any sort of provocation from myself or any of our other players whatsoever. It was blatant intimidation before I had even kicked the ball. Although we never saw it ourselves, there were also stories of machetes being pulled out in the showers at Pymmes Park and teams driving across the pitch before the kick-off with shotguns pointing out of the window threatening their opponents while they were walking out for their 'warm-up'. Those sort of incidents were exactly why we tried to get into the Waltham Sunday League on leaving the Edmonton League in 1984, with us eventually getting accepted in 1988 after four seasons in the Haringey League. Ever since our first game in the Waltham League way back then, I have never come across any player deliberately trying to break somebody's leg. Compared to other Sunday Leagues in the North London area, teams are much more honest in our League and will look to play football first and foremost. However, all teams in our League, ourselves included, have at least one player who will put in a 'man & ball' challenge on an opponent when it is 'necessary' to let him know you 'mean business' in a hard, close, physical game, although normally it is done sliding in from the side. Brooks did it more from behind on Cascoe, and that was the problem because Cascoe was doing his Moussa Dembele impersonation at the time of deliberately showing the ball to his opponent to 'suck him in' to a sliding challenge before using his strength to shield the ball and turn away towards goal. Cascoe had been doing it brilliantly in recent matches and indeed Upshire's Manager Mark Laws, who is a big Spurs supporter...as is Cascoe, actually said to me that he thought Cascoe plays like Dembele...before I said it myself. The problem with that Dembele trick on the pitches we play on though is that Hazelwood in particular was so churned up and muddy for this match, that Cascoe's foot was planted too firmly in that mud and he couldn't move it off the ground quickly enough to avoid the challenge. 99 times out of 100 in these 'man & ball' challenges in our matches, the player fouled escapes serious injury because most of those challenges are committed at a lesser speed than Brooks flew in at. The general rule in our League from a Referee's perspective (and from what I have analysed on video for many years) seems to be that all man and ball challenges are given as a foul. If they are from the side and the player fouled gets up straight away, then the free-kick is taken without a word being said and they get on with the game. If it is from behind and the player fouled gets up unscathed, then it's just a 'quiet word' with the offending player. If the player fouled doesn't get up and needs a bit of treatment, then it's a 'lecture' for the offending player if the challenge is from the side, or a 'definite' booking if it is from behind. If the player fouled breaks his leg or ankle, then it's a sending-off whatever. Of course in professional football and the higher levels of Non-League on Saturdays, invariably it's an automatic booking for a man & ball challenge from the side and an automatic sending-off for a man & ball challenge from behind, whether a player gets injured or not. In Sunday League football, Referees use more common sense and treat it as a 'mans game', but they also look at the seriousness of the injury as well and go by that...even though they shouldn't. They are only human after all, and probably just as shocked by the injury as the players. That was what Upshire were complaining about afterwards as they asked for the video footage to try and get Brooks off his subsequent ban for 'serious foul play'. Unfortunately I have viewed many a broken leg in the past 25 years of professionally filming Non-League and Sunday League football matches and whenever it has happened as a result of a bad challenge that ends in a sending-off, the reactions of both sets of players are ALWAYS the same because of the shock and horror of the situation. The team-mates of the perpetrator will be in complete denial that one of their own can inflict that sort of damage and they will (quite rightly in my opinion) defend him to the hilt. It is all part of the necessary team spirit and I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that our players would do the same if we were in that situation. As Brooks ended up with a three-match ban, I can only assume that either the Essex FA turned down Upshire's appeal or after watching the video themselves, Upshire realised that the challenge was worthy of a red card...or certainly by FA guidelines it was...and they would only be wasting their money appealing. As for the reactions of the team-mates of the injured player, in my experience, whenever it is a broken leg from a bad challenge, they will ALWAYS immediately accuse the offending player of doing it deliberately and try to retaliate...as Cascoe's work colleague and best mate in our team Krishan Singh did, only he apparently missed ! Krishan still ended up with a three-match ban himself for doing that right in front of the Referee though, and he is still trying to complete his ban four weeks later as I write this...but more of that later. The problem here is that in professional and top Semi-Pro football, the player who has committed the initial challenge is ushered straight down the tunnel and into his own changing room for his own safety as soon as he has been shown the red card, even though he is invariably distraught at what he has done and the first thing he wants to do is apologise. In Sunday League football though, he has got nowhere to hide. He is a sitting (or rather standing) target on his own touchline, and with the injured player's team-mates still incensed, that is how punch-ups and mass brawls start which gives Sunday League football a bad name. Thankfully most of our players were sensible enough to restrain themselves and the situation didn't escalate.

With Cascoe out for the rest of the season we could well have been feeling really demoralised and fielding a seriously weakened side for the following week's Division One match against St. Mary's, but not a bit of it. Our excellent team spirit this season came to the fore again as virtually everybody turned up to 'win for Cascoe' and celebrate in front of the camera with a specially designed t-shirt for him. That meant a full squad of 16 with Grant Baker making himself available to play in goal this time, while we even had three other registered players in Martin Cruickshank, John Scouller and Garry Cover on the touchline who all could have played if we were short. Unfortunately though, St. Mary's turned up with the strongest side they had put out all season and we could only manage another 2-2 draw, which was the third time in four League matches we had ended up with that scoreline. Although that was a fair result on the balance of play, we could and should have won the game 3-2 though, because Referee Ian Fairclough wrongly disallowed a goal from Lexton Harrison after it had bounced down from the underside of the crossbar and then back out again via the roof of the net, with video evidence and particularly certain still-frame shots (See picture left) proving conclusive. The clip of that incident has subsequently gone viral on various websites, including that of national newspapers, and I have heard that Mr. Fairclough is apparently 'gutted' that he made that mistake, having now seen the video. However, we are not like some other teams who treat their Sunday morning football far too seriously by saying they 'don't ever want that Ref again' and other such silly comments. We tend to have a laugh with Referees about things like that which we have spotted on video after matches. In fact when he is next appointed for one of our games, we may well set up my ladder-platform level with the goal-line instead of the half-way line to make out that I will be filming from there 'just in case'. It was interesting to hear Mr. Fairclough say that he didn't know we put match highlights on You Tube or make full match DVD's available to buy though, as over the years I have had quite a few Referees, particularly at Non-League level on Saturdays, buy DVD's from me so that they can analyse their performances, particularly in their positioning when making decisions, and of course whether they actually made the right decisions. Invariably though, it is the younger Referees who are going for promotion who will be keen to do that, but in our League we just don't get them any more (as mentioned in a previous Chairman's Blog). Back in the late-90's we had a young Darren Deadman refereeing a lot of our matches and he would always buy a match video from me so that he could improve his performances. He is now refereeing in the Championship (the last I heard) and may even end up in the Premier League soon.

Our next scheduled match (for Sunday 1st February) was at Hazelwood again where Upshire's Reserve Team had suddenly re-appeared in the League's fixture list after several weeks of uncertainty following a number of non-fulfilments. We had been fully expecting to receive a Bye straight through to the Semi-Final of the League Intermediate Cup, but instead, we now had to face them in the Quarter-Final. However, the game ended up being called off anyway by the Referee on the morning of the match because the pitch was too churned up and dangerous after Broomfield had been allowed to play a Southern Amateur League match on it the day before when it was badly waterlogged. That was as a result of the rapidly increasing cost-cutting measures from Enfield Council whereby they seemingly cannot afford to employ groundsmen or outside contractors as a replacement for the voluntary work done on the pitch by Broomfield's now ex-First XI Manager Mick Robbins on a regular basis every Friday over the last 15-20 years, so instead they just cut the grass and mark the lines out in the first week of September with the apparent intention of just leaving the pitch as it is....unless anybody complains to the press or unless somebody else from ourselves, St. Mary's or Broomfield volunteers to take over from what Mick Robbins was doing up until the end of last season and cut, roll & fork the pitch ourselves ! In addition to that, Enfield Council are now only inspecting the pitch on Friday mornings in terms of announcing whether it is playable or not as they can no longer afford to pay groundsmen to do Saturday or Sunday morning inspections when it rains heavily AFTER the Friday inspection, which is what happened on this occasion. Needless to say, we did complain to the press (and to Enfield Council themselves), and although some work has since been done on the pitch, it is nowhere near enough considering what we are having to pay for it per season, so the campaign using the press and social media will continue to go on until we end up with our money's worth.

We therefore had to move our re-arranged League Challenge Cup 'replay' against Upshire's First Team the following week to Pitch 9 at Enfield Playing Fields because Hazelwood was still too dangerous to play on, which was a bit of a blow. However, it was far more likely that we were only able to field a bare eleven for that match instead of the 19 we had turn up for our previous match against St. Mary's not because of where we were playing, but because it ALWAYS happens that whenever we have too many substitutes for a particular match and players end up not getting a game, then a number of them WILL decide to work or do other things the following week. That's just human nature. Team spirit or not. Another problem that adds to that is numerous postponements at this time of year for unfit pitches, opponents failing to field a team, and in our case this season two unfortunate abandonments before Half-Time, so if we only play a full 90 minutes once every four weeks on average (as is the case with us since mid-November), certain players are going to lose interest and just not bother any more, particularly if they suspect they will only be a substitute on the rare occasions we DO manage to play. If affordable 3G artificial pitches were allowed in our League and there was enough of them to go round so that everybody could kick-off at 10.30.a.m. and be guaranteed to play every week no matter how much it rains, I have no doubt whatsoever that we would NOT be ending up with bare elevens for our matches, which we are almost certainly going to be doing on a fairly regular basis from now until the end of the season...and there are numerous other teams in our League who are in exactly the same boat and in some cases even worse. When we finally completed our 90 minutes against Upshire then, losing 4-0 in the process, we had Alan Barnard having to play in goal again, Martin Cruickshank having to play for the first time in 15 months, and Jack Bangs having to play a full 90 minutes for the first time this season while still being badly overweight and unfit. We therefore actually did really well to only lose 4-0 bearing in mind those problems, and in fact all four goals came from bad defensive mistakes while we certainly created plenty of good chances ourselves. We almost certainly played better against them than a lot of Premier Division teams have done this season judging by some of the high scorelines Upshire have won by. Thankfully the game passed off without any reactions from Cascoe's injury in the first match and in the end it was a good experience for us to see what we will be up against if we manage to get promoted to the Premier Division next season.

The postponed League Intermediate Cup Quarter-Final against Upshire's Reserves was then re-arranged for the following Sunday (15th February) with Hazelwood now being 'playable' again, but typically, Upshire Reserves cried off on the Friday evening before the match to give us the Bye through to the Semi-Finals that we had expected in the first place ! With us being left without a match yet again, but with our pitch being unused, Jacko decided to arrange a training session over there instead, as we could use the nets for shooting practice at the Cowshed End and also the changing rooms & showers...so in theory, a better set-up for a Sunday morning training session than we could ever get in Pre-Season, apart from it being muddy and cold of course. If the match against Upshire Reserves had gone ahead, it appeared that we would have had 12 players turn up, but as soon as Jacko mentioned training instead, that was it. Out came the excuses and we ended up with only 6 players there plus Jacko and myself. It was a total waste of time and after an initial laugh, joke and kickabout, it soon got boring and Jacko was the first to 'storm off' home. He was quite rightly not a happy bunny with a couple of players who told him they would be there for training and then just didn't show up, as we know we can still have an organised session with eight players. If Jacko had known we would only have six there, then he would not have arranged the session and he could have had more time with his kids for half-term, Barney could have earnt the brownie points that he was complaining about missing, I could have got some much-needed editing work done, and the rest of our players could have stayed in bed.

I would like to think that we have now learnt our lesson here. There is absolutely no point in arranging Sunday morning training sessions in the middle of a season. A couple of our players suggested to me that we should have kept quiet that Upshire Reserves could not field a team, so that our squad of 12 would have all turned up anyway. In my opinion though, we just cannot do that. It's cruel ! We simply have too many players playing for us who MUST either work, babysit or earn brownie points from the missus if we have no game on a Sunday, otherwise they will not be able to pay the mortgage, their babysitter will not continue doing that job when we HAVE got a match on a Sunday, and when it's Valentines Day/weekend (as it was on this occasion), enough said ! The same with niggling injuries, which we are always going to get at this time of year. In our position where we now only appear to have 14 or 15 players available/interested for the rest of the season, we cannot risk having players aggravating slight injuries in a training session if it is likely to put them out of our next match, as that could result in us fielding less than eleven, which is even more disastrous.

The problem we have now with Cascoe out injured and so many players 'disappearing'/losing interest all of a sudden is that we have started getting less than eight attending our Wednesday night training sessions at the Southgate Hockey Centre as well. Another complication is the forthcoming League Intermediate Cup Semi-Final against AC Enfield on the 8th March, because due to all the recent postponements and us not having a game arranged for the 1st March because of other teams asking to be released, Krishan Singh is still going to be suspended, while a League rule has now been brought into place that allows players to play in the Semi-Final even if they have played in less than three Division One games this season...which is very welcome as that applies to a lot of our players, BUT...that does not apply to any players who have been signed up since Christmas. We have just signed up two new players in Rob Simmons and Chris Lue, both of whom say they might have others interested in joining. However, none of them will be eligible to play in that Semi-Final, so we will almost certainly have to play that game with only a bare eleven or less unless some of our players decide not to work and instead, volunteer to be named as a substitute so that it gives us more chance of reaching our first Cup Final for 30 years. Yes...30 years !!!

  

CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Tuesday 30th December 2014

When I wrote my last Chairman’s Blog in mid-November, we were looking at pushing onwards and upwards under Manager James Hatchett after a reasonable start to the season, despite the increasing problems we were encountering off the pitch with certain individuals and organisations having a very negative opinion of adult men's Sunday League football and therefore not making things easy for teams like ourselves to continue. We then played St. Mary's in our 'Hazelwood Derby' match on the 16th November expecting another victory having convincingly beaten them 3-0 on the opening day of the season, but we ended up losing 2-1 as St. Mary's scored from their only two shots on target thanks to bad goalkeeping mistakes, while we also had two players sent off for dissent and a number of arguments breaking out amongst ourselves for one reason or another. I admit I was the guilty party for one of those on the final whistle, but then when the Referee threatens to 'report us to the League' for our players' behaviour, I am always going to lose my rag bearing in mind it is me personally as Club Secretary who has to take the flak...as is standard practice in Sunday League football. It was still a bit of a surprise when Manager Hatchett decided to resign an hour after that match though, but one or two problems between certain players had been bubbling away under the surface almost right from the start and he was fully aware that his hopes of us having the sort of team bonding with 'Lads Night Outs' and post-match drinking sessions which all clubs need in order to be successful was never really going to get off the ground, even though in general, most of his ex-Enfield Crusaders players and our existing players from the previous season got on well enough to become friends on Facebook and the like. Certain lifestyle changes for James himself at the start of the season was the main reason for his decision to quit though, as it meant he couldn't dedicate as much time to managing us as he had originally intended, particularly in getting players to bond a bit more both on and off the pitch. Giving up drinking & smoking and taking up cycling on Sunday mornings was a big part of James's changed lifestyle almost as soon as he took over during the Summer, so maybe our Club Treasurer Alan Barnard is to blame there, as Barney is a 'fanatical' cyclist himself nowadays and he was certainly giving James a lot of advice. Indeed Barney has recently announced that he is likely to be missing several matches in the New Year himself due to cycling commitments, and with us having three matches postponed because of waterlogged pitches in the last five weeks before Christmas and our Home pitch at Hazelwood in particular likely to get even worse as the season goes on, you can't really blame Barney or James for devoting more time to another sport which only snow is likely to disrupt at this time of year. I don't smoke or drink either, so I am actually well in favour of people living a healthier lifestyle like that, although I would definitely fall off if I tried to ride a bike, having not saddled up for 40-odd years ! I do content myself with two or three long-distance walks per week and running after lost balls in our Wednesday night training sessions though, so that will do me at my age.

Despite those off-the-field problems, I do feel that things still could have maybe worked out under James's management had it not been for two major factors. Firstly, the season-ending injury to Captain Michael Sharman in October was a massive blow, as being a 'neutral' himself (having joined us from Oakwood United during the Summer), Mike would have undoubtedly helped to bring both sets of players together, even maybe from just being on the touchline in some sort of coaching capacity, but his subsequent operation meant he was stuck at home and unable to do that. The other factor was that we did not have enough of our own players from last season left at the club who were good enough, fit enough or committed enough for James's liking, so that meant for most of our matches we had an almost 50/50 split of existing players and ex-Enfield Crusaders players on the pitch at any one time. Because there appears to be weaker teams in our division this season compared to normal, we still managed to nick a few results and were invariably the better team even in the games we lost, but it was obvious that some of the ex-Crusaders players, and one in particular, did not rate the majority of our existing players highly enough and would avoid passing the ball to them if they could. It is probably fair to say that some of the ex-Crusaders players WERE genuinely better than 'ours' having won trophies and League titles in the past whereas we had not, and some of their complaints that our existing players 'did not know how to play football properly' in terms of understanding James's vastly different tactics may well have been justified. However, we are not going to get anywhere unless all eleven players on the pitch play as a team, encourage each other and have patience with each other, and unfortunately there were too many times when that was not happening. James was then put in a difficult position, as he quite rightly wanted to be loyal to the players he had worked with for years and who he had brought along to improve us, but some of our existing players were always going to resent that, especially when they themselves were left 'on the bench'. It is a situation that happens frequently in the Non-League game on Saturdays, particularly from Step 4 to Step 7 level where many Team Managers suddenly announce that they can no longer commit to the Saturday/Tuesday/Thursday match & training schedules and the travelling involved, so replacement Managers come in and bring whole groups of their own players with them, simply because they know them and trust them to do a job and get results straight away. From our experience this season now though, it only really works if the new Manager brings in only 2 or 3 of his own new players and trusts the existing players, or if he brings in more-or-less a complete team of his own players...as the new Management Team at Slough Town (the Saturday team I film for) did when they took over at the start of last season. They only kept two players on from the previous season and brought in almost the whole team from their previous club Godalming Town, eventually getting promotion to the Southern League Premier Division (via the Play-Offs) as a result. They played some excellent football and it all 'clicked' right from the off, including socially off the pitch. However, I would never have allowed James to do that for us because I didn't want our many loyal players from the previous few seasons to leave, so in hindsight it may have been a mistake on my part in expecting a 50/50 integration to work. It clearly doesn't, and although I now feel like a Sunday League equivalent of Daniel Levy for what has happened here, I certainly don't want to attach any blame to James for things failing to work out. In fact James brought in some very good ideas which we will continue to take on board for the rest of the season and hopefully beyond, particularly the improvement in fitness, pressing the ball and working harder to win it back, vocal encouragement from the touchline, substitutes being FORCED to act as Club Linesman instead of the Team Manager doing it, proper pre-match warm-ups, post-match warm-downs, and pre-match/Half-Time energy drinks and biscuits...including jaffa cakes !

Of course on James's departure, many of our existing players from the previous season queried why I had not appointed somebody as Manager in the first place who had actually PLAYED for us, but I have never agreed with having a PLAYER-Manager, as one of our biggest problems over the last few seasons has been a lack of calling from the touchline (because I cannot do that myself when I am filming the matches). There is no question that Terry Moore or Garry Cover would have accepted the Manager's job if I had asked them, but they both wanted to continue playing. As for ex-players who no longer play and would have been good management candidates, at the time of James's appointment they had all either (sensibly !) moved away from the Edmonton area, we had lost contact with them as they refused to join Facebook or Twitter, or they were managing and/or coaching Youth Teams that their sons were playing for. That last one applied to Simon Jackson, but fortunately for us he then gave up that role once the season started and re-joined us as James's goalkeeping coach, so when James resigned, 'Jacko' was in an ideal position to take over as Manager straight away. With the seven ex-Enfield Crusaders players that James had either brought along (or had joined the previous season in goalkeeper Mal Saphiris's case) all then deciding to leave for reasons which I won't go into in public apart from admitting that it was probably my fault more than anybody else's for that happening, Jacko's appointment was a very popular choice amongst our remaining players and in a way, there was a sense of relief that the 'experiment' was now over and we could get back to the Rovers way of doing things, which was essentially to have a laugh and enjoy ourselves on the pitch, but at the same time, continuing James's good work in the aforementioned changes that had been brought in to make us fitter and more competitive. The immediate problem was then finding enough players to play in our next match the following week, which was against Premier Division Champions Upshire in the League Challenge Cup. Yes...the toughest game we could possibly face ! Thankfully though, the League had introduced a new rule regarding player registrations that very same week whereby we could now get players registered up until 6.00.p.m. on the Friday evening before the match. That meant we were able to sign up a number of new and returning players at our Wednesday night training session that week, whereas previously the registration deadline was an hour before that training session started...in which case we would then probably have had to concede the match. As it turned out, the game was called off because of a waterlogged pitch anyway, so the following Sunday's Division One match at Home to in-form Broxbourne Athletic turned out to be Jacko's first match in charge. We managed to find a squad of 15 for that match which included several players who James had discarded in Pre-Season in order to bring in his own players, so we were never going to have a problem actually finding players for this match who WANTED to play for us, and particularly in wanting to play under Jacko's management, as most of them already knew him as an ex-team-mate. The only problem was that goalkeeper Grant Baker (who was one of those previously discarded players) was unable to get out of pre-arranged work commitments, and with Jacko serving a one-match suspension from the London FA and unable to deputise as a (hopeful) one-off now that he was Manager, it meant defender Alan Barnard had to play in goal instead. Thankfully though, Barney played well and we managed to get a 2-2 draw out of the game, which was an encouraging result bearing in mind the upheaval from James's departure and the fact that we had lost on both occasions to Broxbourne Athletic the previous season under Trevor Hughes's management.

We then did even better the following week with a 4-1 win against US Acli, who were one of our jinx teams and who had beaten us 3-0 earlier in the season under James's management, so that was a real boost and our players were 'buzzing' after that one, even though Jacko wasn't actually there due to family commitments and Terry Moore was Caretaker-Manager for the day ! It was really frustrating that we then had two matches in a row postponed because of waterlogged pitches and that our next scheduled match is not until the 11th January, although one of those postponed matches was the re-arranged Challenge Cup game against Upshire in which we would have had a lot of key players missing. All being well, we should be able to field a much stronger side when we eventually play them in the New Year. That of course depends on Enfield (and Broxbourne) Council groundsmen being funded from somewhere to actually do some drainage work on the Council pitches used by teams in our division to make them playable though. Unfortunately I cannot see that happening and we are almost certainly going to have a lot more postponements in January and February which could even result in the 'third game' idea for teams in our division being scrapped and the League Cup competitions being abandoned for the season before the Quarter-Final stages take place. That would then leave us playing a maximum of only 17 competitive matches this season (of which we have played 10 already) instead of the 24 or more that we need in order to collect in enough match subs from players for us to pay our pitch fees. That scenario has happened to us before in the past when numerous teams dropped out of our division or failed to turn up for fixtures (as Upshire Reserves have already done to us this season and are still doing to other teams). When that happens, it is a financial disaster for Sunday League clubs, and as I touched on in my last Chairman's Blog, it's another reason why players do not want to be a Sunday team's Secretary, Treasurer, Chairman or Manager, because it invariably ends up with them having to pay those pitch fees out of their own pocket...as Trevor had to do on several occasions before (thankfully) eventually being paid back by the club. And here's another one to add to the list of problems for a Club Secretary, and something that cropped up after the 2-1 defeat to St. Mary's...Referees putting the wrong match dates and wrong teams down on the reports they send to County F.A.'s for bookings and sending-offs. Because of that, we ended up receiving a suspension notice for a St. Mary's player who had been dismissed in that match (as if he played for US !), while all three sending-offs from that game and the three cautions for our players came through as being applicable to SATURDAY football ONLY. It was an absolute mess and it took me several hours to sort the paperwork out with the London F.A. in order to correct everything. Having said that, I suppose it was our fault in the first place for our unruly behaviour in that match, as the Referee was certainly correct in showing cards for the offences that were committed. I would like to think that we can now avoid that situation for the rest of this season with the ex-Enfield Crusaders players having now departed though, as they were responsible for 11 of the 18 bookings and one of the two sending-offs that we have had so far this season. We were lucky that some Referees have not been sending those bookings in (or probably sending them to the wrong address ?!), as that would have taken us over the London FA's first disciplinary points threshold for this season already and seen us receive a £50 fine. (I think...as we have never been anywhere near reaching that sort of level since the days of Dave Ashton and the Nurse brothers back in the 1980's !) Yes, there may now be a danger of us not winning anything because we will be going back to being 'too nice' again in terms of sportsmanship instead of being 'aggressive' towards opponents and Referees, but if our players continue to be competitive in terms of keeping their fitness levels up, then that should alleviate that problem and continue to see us win more matches than we lose.

Although we have dropped eleven points already, we are still currently in third place in the Division One table and well in contention along with several other teams to win the title. During the recent spell of postponements, I have had time to update the Player Profiles pages to get them in synch with the squad we now have available under Jacko, and going through them all one by one really does make you aware that we have got some very good players playing for us who in my opinion are all good enough to play at our level, despite what other people might think. Unlike in previous seasons, apart from a couple of players who are only registered to help us out in emergencies, we have got nobody there who is going to let us down from now on in terms of fitness, work-rate and general ability. The one thing that most of them need to push us onwards and upwards into a trophy-winning team is just motivation and playing a formation that suits them, and I'm sure Jacko is the person who can deliver that judging from the positive reaction to his first few training sessions. Admittedly, despite the departure of the ex-Enfield Crusaders players together with an existing player from last season who was being disruptive from having his own ideas even before they came along, we still have a minor problem with one or two players failing to understand that coaching advice (as opposed to general 'calling') given to their team-mates at training MUST come from the Manager instead of from themselves, but hopefully we can nip that one in the bud once we re-start after Christmas and avoid any more disagreements which end with players taking things too personally then storming off and/or walking out. I am convinced that if we manage to patch things up there...and I am sure that Jacko will, then we can win either the Division One title or the League Intermediate Cup this season, or at least finish in the top half or reach that Cup Final, which will still be a major achievement considering how bad we were last season and with a lot of good players having gone since the start of this season. Payment of subs is a bit of an issue though, as we are currently in a situation where 10 of our 19 regular squad members can afford to pay and the others can't...which in some cases is because they have built up too big a backlog from fines after getting booked or sent-off or from when they previously played for us and we had to let them play without paying because we were short of players. We know it is wrong that the 10 who can afford to pay are subsidising the others, but we will look at ways of solving that problem as the season progresses. I know that like James, Jacko has some contacts who may be interested in sponsoring us and he may also look at fund-raising opportunities, so there is a possibility that we then might be able to make the payment of subs more affordable for EVERYBODY, but particularly for those of our players who have genuine work and/or family-related financial problems. To be honest, that is what most Sunday clubs need in these days of increased pitch fees, so hopefully some sort of campaign might be started sooner or later to encourage professional football, particularly the Premier League, into sponsoring adult Sunday League football and not just Youth football. Obviously if we cannot get any sponsorship or F.A./Premier League funding, then we would have no option but to get rid of players who cannot afford to pay and bring in new players who can, as that would be the only way that we could avoid the club having to fold.

Although that sounds a bit 'doom and gloom', I am really looking forward to the rest of the season now, as bearing in mind that Jacko's day job is 'managing managers for business' (or something like that ?), I think he will certainly be able to get our players motivated, organised and happy to play for us, and who knows where that will take us ?!

  

CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Thursday 13th November 2014

My previous Chairman’s Blog was written just after we had got off to a good start in our first League match of the season on the 7th September with a 3-0 win against our local rivals St. Mary’s, so obviously a lot has happened since then…and thankfully, most of it is positive. We have since won two further Division One matches, beating the much-fancied (by themselves !) Pymmes Brook 3-2 and then in our most recent match, beating Old Pond Athletic 3-1, while we also had a 2-1 win against in-form Division Two side Broxbourne Rangers Old Boys on a difficult pitch at Pound Close in Hoddesdon to progress in the League Challenge Cup, where we will now face Premier Division leaders and one of the best Sunday League sides in the Country in Upshire in the next round. We also had a walkover win against Upshire Reserves after they were unable to field a team for our Home match against them, which was very frustrating when our pitch at Hazelwood was in perfect condition, but at least that has given us four wins in Division One already, whereas we only managed three for the whole of last season !

In our other four matches played though, things haven’t gone quite so well. For our London FA Sunday Junior Cup match Away to Danson Albion the week after that win against St. Mary’s we had no less than 13 players unavailable, 9 of whom were key players who would all have normally been in the starting line-up. The bare eleven we had to play with actually played really well and we were very unlucky to lose by just the odd goal, but it was an extremely frustrating game to watch as we really fancied our chances of winning that Cup and there was no doubt whatsoever that if we had been fielding a stronger side, we would have won fairly comfortably. Our next setback then came on the 12th October when we faced Old Pond Athletic in a Division One match at Hazelwood. We fielded a really strong side for that game with skipper Mike Sharman having played his first full match of the season the week before after being out with a knee injury since Pre-Season, and with new signing Kevin Dennis putting us 1-0 up early on, we were playing with a lot of confidence. However, Mike then went and injured his other knee after only 20 minutes with nobody near him, causing the game to be abandoned as we waited hours for an ambulance, and that really hit us for six…as has the subsequent news that Mike now needs an operation and will be out for the rest of the season. On top of that, our Player Of The Year from last season George Stahlmann then dropped another bombshell by announcing that he was going away to China until Christmas, and with Jack Bangs already away in America for two months, Danny Hagan & Lexton Harrison out injured and Justin Dickinson having increasing Futsal commitments on Sundays, that meant we were rather decimated for our Division One matches against Southbury on the 26th October and US Acli on the 2nd November, losing them both without scoring a goal. Fortunately though, every other team in the division has dropped at least five points already and we are still right in the mix at the top of the table. With 24 games to play in Division One this season, teams can probably afford to draw four and lose four and still be able to win the title, as even the teams at the bottom are capable of beating anybody…as US Acli showed against us when their Manager and ex-Rovers ‘Great Of The Past’ Kevin Dedman got his game plan right and fired his players up sufficiently enough. The League Intermediate Cup is one competition we can also win, while the Upshire match in the League Challenge Cup is still a game we can look forward to in testing ourselves against the best, even though Manager James Hatchett’s ‘dream team’ midfield quartet of Mike Sharman, Justin Dickinson, Danny Hagan & Kevin Dennis that he was hoping to put out against them is unfortunately not going to happen now. There is no doubt that those four playing together would have been as good as anything in the League, Upshire included, but as it happens, the absences of those players from a lot of our matches recently has really encouraged the likes of Daniel Cascoe and Tem Adil to come in, improve their fitness and work-rate and get better with each game they play, and there is no doubt that they are both important members of the squad and will find themselves in the starting line-up more often than not. Defensively we have been looking very solid apart from the three goals we conceded against US Acli, which just seemed to be a bit of a one-off bad day, but we do have concerns with our forwards at the moment as all of them have been suffering from either a lack of fitness or form recently and we do need at least one of them to start firing on all cylinders soon. Thankfully, we are capable of scoring goals from midfield and the attacking full-back positions though, and that was how we managed to win our last match against Old Pond Athletic.

So, things are looking quite promising for us, and with one or two possible good new players being lined up to bolster the squad, we can really look forward to the rest of the season…that is if the Football Association, Leagues & County F.A.’s, local Councils, Semi-Pro Saturday clubs and Refereeing Associations do not screw things up for us…as I fear they might, if that is not happening already. Back in mid-September, BBC London Radio contacted me for an interview regarding the state of local Council pitches in the Borough of Enfield following an article in the Enfield Independent newspaper where a Youth Team were complaining about stones in the goalmouth and other problems with their pitch at Durants Park. (On seeing that article, the BBC reporter then just googled ‘Sunday football clubs in Enfield’ and of course found us first because of our website). That started off debates on several forums and media websites concerning the lack of funding for the maintenance of Council-owned park pitches such as our own Home pitch at Hazelwood Sports Ground, and although initially that resulted in somebody from Enfield Council actually cutting the grass on our pitch and even filling in the big holes just outside the ‘D’ of the Cowshed End penalty area that have been prone to waterlogging for years, nothing has been done since then, and the general consensus in the media following BBC London Radio’s highlighting of the situation was that nothing WILL get done unless the Football Association (and more specifically the Premier League) put money into the ‘grassroots’ game to improve the facilities and create more 3G ‘Astroturf’ pitches for multiple use. Of course what they mean by ‘grassroots’ is Youth Sunday League football and Saturday Non-League football where Step 1-7 clubs run Youth, Womens & Disability teams as Community & Charter-Standard clubs. As far as the Football Association, local Councils, Semi-Pro Saturday clubs and indeed the media are concerned, ‘nobody’ wants to play mens Sunday League football any more, and those who do are just a waste of space because they ‘all’ want to ‘kick each other off the pitch’ and are of no use to the national game whatsoever in helping players to progress and subsequently improve the standard of English football across the board. I had a bit of an argument on the Slough Town FC Forum recently with one of their joint-Managers (who I am currently working for in filming their matches) when I suggested that the standard of football in the top division of our League is as good as Step 5-7 on a Saturday and that instead of letting his non-contract fringe players play on a dual registration for Hellenic League (Step 5) teams in order to regain their fitness after injuries, he should let them play for Premier Division/good-standard Sunday Teams instead because the regulations concerning suspensions for sending-offs no longer cross over into Saturday football like they used to. He claimed the old suspension rule still applied whereby they would be banned from playing for Slough if they got sent off playing on a Sunday and that ‘every’ Sunday team has a ‘clogger’ who will want to ‘do’ a Slough player to ‘make a name for himself’ and that all Referees in Sunday League football are useless and wouldn’t do anything about it. As Slough Town are now playing at Step 3 level, I think it’s fair enough if he doesn’t want to let any of his players play in Sunday League football, but they were at Step 4 last season…the same level as Waltham Abbey, who have three of their first-choice players playing for Upshire in the Premier Division of our League every Sunday. Waltham Abbey F.C. must know it is a good standard and that players in our League do NOT go out to kick each other off the park, and in fact pass the ball about far more than they would playing at Semi-Pro level on Saturdays where no risks are taken. There are numerous other Step 4 & 5 Saturday players being allowed to play in our League on Sundays as well, and not just in the Premier Division. However, in general, the large majority of Semi-Pro Saturday Team Managers absolutely hate Sunday League football and they will always have a blinkered attitude towards it, and it is because of that attitude that the media latch on and the reputation of mens Sunday League football just gets worse and worse.

Regarding the refereeing in mens Sunday League football, ‘useless’ is too strong a word in my opinion, but there is most certainly a problem nowadays whereby younger Referees are being fast-tracked straight out of Sunday League Youth football into Eastern Junior Alliance or Professional Youth Academy Leagues and then onto Step 7 Saturday football and higher, by-passing the experience of refereeing in adult mens Sunday League football. They are actually not allowed to Referee in adult Sunday League football any more once they reach a certain level in their refereeing grades, which is a ridiculous ruling in my opinion. I presume it was brought in because whoever is in charge of refereeing appointments at the F.A. thinks that all other football (including the Eastern Junior Alliance) is a much better standard than adult mens Sunday League football and it will therefore be more of a test !? Consequently all we are left with in our League now are just a handful of Referees who are invariably approachable and friendly because they are not being assessed and going for promotion, but unfortunately most of them are getting on a bit and cannot keep up with play, thereby causing resentment amongst the players (and Managers) when numerous wrong decisions are given, mainly because the pace of the game and fitness levels in Sunday League football has actually increased in recent years. There is no doubt whatsoever that the standard of refereeing at mens Sunday League level does put off players from playing, as does having the same two or three Referees week-in, week-out, which is happening to us at the moment. Maybe there are some Referees in our League who do not want their ‘mistakes’ highlighted on You Tube and have therefore asked the League Referees’ Secretary not to appoint them to our matches, although ironically enough, the video does actually prove Referees to be right more often than not when they have made contentious decisions in our matches, and there has been many a time when our players have said ‘report him’/give him a mark of less than 61 out of 100…and in some cases 0 out of 100 !!! (in order to do so), but then the video shows he was probably worth an 80 or an 85 !

Two other things are also increasingly kicking mens Sunday League 11-a-side football in the nuts, one of them being Futsal and the other being the determination of Leagues and County F.A.’s to recoup money owed to them because of teams folding up.

Both are having an impact on us as a club at the moment. Firstly, Futsal. One of our better players Justin Dickinson is an England Futsal International and he is one of the few English players playing in the National Futsal League. This League has North, Midlands & South divisions with two divisions for each region, but the teams are all currently dominated by Portuguese, Brazilian, Lithuanian, Latvian & Spanish immigrants, so there is now a massive publicity drive to attract more English players into taking up the game. The problem is that Futsal League matches are all played on Sundays so that it doesn’t interfere with Saturday Semi-Pro football. It is therefore (albeit unintentionally) encouraging Sunday League players to give up playing for their 11-a-side teams on badly-maintained and often waterlogged pitches to play Futsal (indoors of course) instead alongside top Semi-Pro players from Saturday football. Definitely more value for money and arguably a much better standard technically. I haven’t asked him yet, but I bet the Slough Town joint-Manager has no objections to any of his players playing Futsal on a Sunday ! As for Justin, he still loves playing 11-a-side mens Sunday League football, especially for us, and he is really torn between the two codes of football at the moment because he can’t really do both on the same day, even though some of his Futsal matches do not kick-off until late afternoon/early evening. Others involved in Futsal though, and one in particular who I know very well, seems to be very much anti-mens 11-a-side Sunday League football nowadays and it’s Futsal all the way for him. There is no doubt whatsoever that Futsal will really be taking off within the next five years…for sure.

As for the player embargo fees problem whereby Leagues and County F.A.’s try to recoup money owed to them by teams who have folded up, we have been affected big-time by this during the course of the season so far, firstly with all of our ex-Enfield Crusaders players having a £5.00 ‘admin fee’ slapped on top of their £1.50 embargo fees by the League for reasons which I still do not understand, and now just this week, our attempts to sign up defender Tyronne Petrie from the now-defunct Oakwood United are being thwarted by red tape because the substantial money Oakwood owed to the League is being dealt with by the Middlesex F.A., as per Football Association rules in order to stop players from joining clubs in other Leagues before they have paid ‘their share’ of what is owed to our League. The contentious issue with that of course is what constitutes ‘their share’ because a lot of Sunday League clubs are run very differently in terms of whether their players actually pay subs to play for them and how much they pay per match or per season (e.g. an Annual Sub as we call it, or a ‘signing-on fee’ as others might call it). Apparently Oakwood United were being funded by their Manager in terms of paying for pitch and affiliation fees, but when it came to the (1st November ?) deadline to pay those pitch fees (and some other outstanding money for registrations and fines) to the League, the Manager then found that he couldn’t afford it, so the club then had to suddenly fold, despite having more than enough players to carry on. Obviously the League have every right to get that pitch fee money back bearing in mind that they had already paid Enfield Council for it to be hired out to member clubs. (Unlike us at Hazelwood, most teams in our League hire pitches via the League rather than directly from their local Council). However, as the League currently has £33,000 in the bank, it will always cause a lot of resentment when they then slap embargo fees on the players (via County F.A.’s) as a means of recouping that money. As Oakwood owe the League nearly £600, it could mean that every one of their currently registered players will have to pay an embargo fee of around £30 each plus a £5 ‘admin fee’ if they want to join another club…depending on how many players were registered with them when they folded, but how can that be fair when it was (allegedly) the Manager’s fault that the club owed that amount of money ? On each County F.A. website there are downloadable PDF lists of hundreds, if not thousands of adult mens Sunday League players who are currently ‘sine-die’ suspended because they were last registered with clubs who folded up owing Leagues and County F.A.’s money. A large number of the players listed have actually been suspended for the past 10 years or more, invariably because the clubs they played for owed so much money that the embargo fee that was slapped on them was simply too prohibitive for them to pay and it just wasn’t worth it to sign up for another Sunday League club again. They then ended up just playing 5-a-side at Powerleague and the like or just gave up playing competitive (affiliated) football altogether. The worst thing about it is that their dates of birth are listed in these PDF’s as well, and there are a heck of a lot of players who were in their early-20’s when they had those embargo fees slapped on them all those years ago. What a loss to the game ! No wonder adult mens Sunday League teams find it hard to attract players and then have to fold (or cannot start up as a new or re-formed club because half the players who want to play are sine-die suspended unless they pay those embargo fees).

The whole problem with the embargo fee system for adult mens Sunday League football is that most Sunday League clubs do not bother keeping a record of who has paid what in terms of subs collected in from their players, so the Leagues and County F.A.’s cannot implement a system across the board where they impose different embargo fees on each player for any particular club in an effort to be fair to each individual player. It would probably be too complicated and time-consuming to do that anyway. They probably have no choice but to divide up the money owed equally between the registered players. They also have little proof from the appearances listed on Full-Time of which of those registered players were actually committed to the club at the time of their withdrawal from the League, as some could have been out injured or on holiday and not been playing because of that. Ironically then, adult mens’ Sunday League football is dying largely because of Leagues still wanting their fines paid by teams who have dropped out, thereby stopping new teams from joining because they cannot sign enough players due to the embargo fees that have been imposed ! Surely with £33,000 in the bank, our League has to look at some sort of amnesty in conjunction with the four County F.A.’s that cover our League and to scrap the embargo fees if they have not been paid after a one-year suspension ? It is ridiculous that some players have not been able to play Sunday League football for over 10 years when it was probably no fault of their own that the club they played for back then had to fold while owing money. Our League’s concern with ‘safeguarding’ that colossal amount of money in their bank account came to the fore once again last week when they unanimously voted to turn down our request for them to re-imburse us for the Referee’s £35.00 fee for our abandoned match against Old Pond Athletic after we had to pay that fee (as per League rules) despite the match being called off after only 20 minutes due to Michael Sharman’s serious injury. Mike’s injury was a very upsetting incident for our players and we felt it was wrong to charge them any subs for just 20 minutes playing time in those circumstances in order for us to pay the Referee. We were hoping the League could have shown a bit of compassion when they have got so much money in the bank and most of their clubs are struggling financially.

Statements that are being bandied about in the media that ‘nobody’ wants to play adult mens’ Sunday League 11-a-side football any more is complete nonsense. They DO !!! The reason they don’t (in increasing numbers) is because the Football Association believe that media hype and they therefore just concentrate on giving their financial backing and publicity to other forms of the game instead. The F.A. are most definitely under the impression that the large majority of adult mens Sunday League 11-a-side sides are only ‘one-man-band’ Pub Teams who are no use to the game whatsoever because most of them will fold up owing money and have abusive players who will threaten young up-and-coming Referees if they are allowed to officiate in those Leagues. I personally don’t think that attitude will ever change. It certainly is a fact that nowadays there are nowhere near as many people who are prepared to be a Club Secretary of a one-team adult Sunday League club though, that’s for sure…and that is a massive problem when there actually ARE plenty of players wanting to play. Our League Management Committee are currently racking their brains trying to think of ways to attract new teams to our League and to stop any more of their current member clubs folding before the League inevitably gets reduced to just two divisions next season. Well…apart from the Club Secretaries problem, we know for a start that the F.A. (or the Premier League) are not going to give any money to Enfield or Broxbourne Councils to make their adult 11-a-side grass pitches playable, so we are not going to see an improvement there I’m afraid. In fact things will only get worse in that respect. Having staggered kick-off times and playing on 3G pitches in order to avoid the waterlogged pitches problem is also out of the question as there are hardly any 3G pitches in our area and they are already fully booked on Sundays by Youth and Community Leagues anyway.

There as no doubt about it as far as I am concerned. The only way the League are going to attract more clubs and stop teams from folding is to get rid of the numerous petty fines that they impose and to start texting automated reminders to Club Secretaries instead. They also need to subsidise whatever they can from the £33,000 they have in the bank so that clubs can then afford to pay their ever-increasing pitch fees, and if they arrange an amnesty for certain players’ embargo fees, then I’m sure that will keep the League going for maybe another five years instead of just the one or two years that it looks like heading for at the moment. Ultimately though, because of the Football Association’s current attitude, I believe that all adult mens ‘open’ Sunday League 11-a-side football in this country for one-man-band park pitch teams such as ourselves will cease to exist within the next 5-10 years time anyway. By ‘open’, I mean where players and teams of any nationality can play. I predict that Community Leagues such as the Cypriot, Turkish, Jewish & Asian Leagues will survive because they are prepared to play with staggered kick-off times on 3G pitches and of course they are heavily funded by their own communities. They will probably be backed by the F.A. as well, and so too will be Womens 11-a-side Sunday Leagues and disability football. I predict that all Council park pitches at smaller venues such as Hazelwood will have the goalposts taken down to save money and that the bigger venues such as Enfield Playing Fields and Firs Farm will be turned into these ‘Hubs’ that Greg Dyke was talking about recently whereby they will be run by an outside organisation instead of the local Council and will have a number of 3G pitches built into them in addition to having proper drainage installed for specially marked out Mini-Soccer, 9-a-side and age-appropriate-sized 11-a-side grass pitches for Youth Football only. At Enfield Playing Fields I can see the whole of the A10 side being used as a full-size 3G & Youth Football Hub, while the other side of the central path will have the goalposts taken down so that it can be used solely for the Pageant Of Motoring show, funfairs, dog-walkers and the ‘Just Play’ organised kickabout lot. In fact the ‘Just Play’ kickabouts will become increasingly popular with players who used to play 11-a-side Sunday League football before their teams folded up and they had embargo fees slapped on them, and particularly with players who are absolutely useless and would struggle to get into our team. Just look at how many are turning up for the ‘Just Play’ kickabouts at Hazelwood every Sunday morning now ! They had 11-a-side the last time we were there, all falling over each other because it was too crowded. The reason they turn up and play is because it is free and because they do not HAVE to turn up every week if they don’t want to. ‘Anybody’ can join in.

Local Councils taking down goalposts at smaller venues and having Hubs taking over the larger ones will also affect the lower XI’s of some Saturday AFA clubs of course, but if they are prepared to play their matches on 3G, then they will survive as there will be no Youth or Community teams using those pitches on Saturday afternoons, so there will be plenty to go round. It is possible of course that Hazelwood could be turned into a 3G Hub for Broomfield (the Saturday AFA team First XI who use our pitch), and ourselves and St. Mary’s would then get the benefit…but then we would have no League to play in unless a solitary one-division mens adult 11-a-side Sunday League was formed (or was still in existence), having a much larger catchment area than the Waltham League does now, with all member clubs playing at Hubs or private grounds only. Ultimately though, the F.A. will probably bring in some sort of rule whereby one-man-band adult mens teams who want to play on a Sunday are no longer allowed unless they are prepared to become a Community or Charter-Standard club running Youth, Womens and/or Disability teams in addition to their adult mens’ team…in which case we would then have to switch to Saturday football and play in either the AFA Leagues or Middlesex County League and find some more volunteers from somewhere to help run each team.

So…that’s the way I see things going in the not-too-distant future, so enjoy your 11-a-side Sunday League football while it lasts !

(Unless ‘somebody’ starts a mass campaign for the F.A. to see sense and back our version of the game of course !?)

  

CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Saturday 13th September 2014

On Sunday just gone (7th September), we played our first League match of the season against our old Hazelwood pitch-sharing rivals St. Mary’s and we came away with an impressive 3-0 win where we played some excellent football and were by far the better side. It was new Manager James Hatchett’s first competitive game in charge and a great start for his new regime, so what’s changed since the end of last season to make us get such a result from a game that we would have probably either drawn or lost by the odd goal in previous seasons ?

Well first of all, we cannot go overboard and think we are going to win the League just because of that one result as St. Mary’s were shockingly unfit after apparently doing very little in Pre-Season, while we ourselves didn’t have a great Pre-Season, losing three of our four Friendlies and also letting in some silly goals against a struggling Division Two side in our only win. Those four Friendlies were very experimental though and James was unable to attend one of them which consequently resulted in a disjointed performance. We also have to bear in mind that other clubs in our division are now very much aware of who our new signings are and that they have also improved their squads, so Division One is certainly going to be extremely tough to conquer once again. It also doesn’t help that two more teams have dropped out in Highgate Redwing and Enfield Royals, leaving the remaining nine teams having to play each other three times this season in order to have a worthwhile number of matches. When that happens, the familiarity and boredom of playing the same team so many times can become a problem, and then there is the League Intermediate Cup as well, which is now only for Division One teams due to the League going down to three divisions. That means we will be playing one or more teams FOUR times this season !

However, we are now much more prepared for a battle than we have been for the last 10 years or so, and the most obvious change that James has brought in…and what we fully expected of him, is an improvement in fitness and being able to press the ball a lot more quickly, whereas in previous seasons our players invariably stood off their opponents too much and/or couldn’t motivate themselves to win the ball back after they had lost possession. In addition to that, James has also clamped down on players turning up late or not at all and has already bombed one or two out who struggled to get out of bed on Sunday mornings during Pre-Season, the most obvious example of that being Ryan Foreman, who is clearly our equivalent of Wilfried Zaha and Ravel Morrison in terms of ability but lack of commitment, while Younes Jouied (aka ‘Adel Taraabt’) is another one who hasn’t done himself any favours by finding it difficult to accept that we are now louder and more committed as a team and that team-mates shouting at you is necessary if we want to compete at the same level as other teams in our division. Indeed the calling, appealing and aggression we showed against St. Mary’s was in stark contrast to what we were like under previous Manager Trevor Hughes’s reign when we were ‘too nice’, ‘too quiet’ and invariably near the top of the League’s Fair Play Award marks at the end of every season. There was no doubt on Sunday that the players who made all the difference were attacking full-back Sean Cummins, Player-Coach Justin Dickinson and Assistant Manager Michael ‘Mabbutt’ Taylor, all of whom were making their competitive debuts for us. All three of them had been part of Manager Hatchett’s highly successful Enfield Crusaders side in recent years and they really led the way in terms of their commitment and aggression, particularly Sean. I am struggling to remember seeing a more fired-up player for Rovers in the 38 years I have been running the club. We thought our ex-player Terry Brown (who was playing for St. Mary’s) was a bit of a nutter on the pitch, but Sean eclipsed him by a long way ! In addition to flying in to challenges which most of our players last season would not have dreamt of, these three players appeal for everything, and yes, that does mean ‘putting pressure’ on Referees...as all other successful teams in our League do. Personally I think ‘intimidation’ is too strong a word, but one of the Referees we had in Pre-Season wasn’t too happy about it because he was used to us being a ‘friendly’ team who played for fun. This is one of the problems in our League though, as most Referees have never officiated at Semi-Pro level on Saturdays, or if they did, it was a very long time ago…but there are more and more current and former players from the Semi-Pro game playing in our League every year and they have been brought up to verbally challenge Referees and ‘test them out’ to see how far they can go to get a decision in their favour without getting themselves sent off. These players are not going to change their Semi-Pro mentality just because they are playing on Sundays. The standard of our League is pretty much Semi-Pro anyway and extremely competitive throughout all three divisions.

This behaviour actually all stems from what goes on in the dugouts at Semi-Pro level on Saturdays. For the last season and a bit, I have been professionally filming matches for Slough Town at Step 3 (Step 4 last season) level in the Southern League. They groundshare at Beaconsfield SYCOB and a gantry has been built for me there which is situated right in-between the dugouts, and as they only get crowds of about 300 for every match, I can hear exactly what is going on. It is basically a competition where from the first whistle to the last, both sets of coaching staff compete with each other to see who can influence and ‘intimidate’ the Referee and his near-side Assistant the most, while the Referee and Assistant’s part in the game is to deliberately ignore it without incurring the wrath of their Assessor. Fortunately for them, the main stand at Beaconsfield is on the opposite side of the pitch and the Assessors cannot hear what is going on ! It is quite amazing to watch this whole game of ‘bluff and double-bluff’. When the teams come out onto the pitch, there is always banter and laughter between the dugouts, the Referee and the Lino, who have all invariably come across each other before, but as soon as that first whistle goes, the coaching staff in the dugouts are on the Referee and Lino’s backs for pretty much every decision that goes against their team, and that carries on for the whole match. There is no doubt whatsoever that the dugout that intimidates the Ref and Lino the most do get certain decisions going in their favour later in the game, particularly the ‘evening-up after a mistake’ ones. I can see that when I edit the video when I get home. Occasionally the Referee will come over to the dugout following an expletive-laden rant from a Manager or Coach (which would be a definite sending-off in Sunday football) and just ‘have a word’ which is often along the lines of ‘I know what you are playing at, so that’s fine, but I’m just doing my job in telling you to be quiet. You understand ?’ (Meaning ‘My Assessor is watching over there but he wouldn’t have heard what you said, so you’re fine’). The Manager/Coach nods his head in agreement, briefly apologises and the game goes on. Referees saying to Managers ‘That’s  1-0 to me’ and vice-versa is another common quip during matches. When the Referee blows the final whistle, his two Assistants run over to him and they all bump hands or high-five each other in a mixture of triumph and relief at getting through 90 minutes of serious ear-bashing ‘unscathed’. If the final scoreline is a fair result and there have been no particularly contentious decisions (which is often the case), the Managers, Coaches, Referee and his Assistants all shake hands and have a laugh about things and even have a beer together in the bar afterwards. This is all very similar to what happens in the higher-standard Sunday Leagues like ours. The only difference is that it is more a case of the players doing it rather than the Managers on the touchline. That’s because in Sunday football most teams’ Managers and supporters stand on the opposite side of the pitch to each other and of course a lot of Sunday League Managers are Player-Managers and are on the pitch anyway. Unfortunately, our League may well lose a Referee or two who doesn’t understand that an improvement in playing standards will bring with it more aggressive appealing for decisions from players, but then with our League likely to be down to only two divisions next season the way things are going, it probably won’t matter too much anyway and there will still be enough Referees to go round.

As for everything else James has changed since he took over, I must admit that for me it takes a heck of a lot of getting used to after 23 years of Trevor’s management. There are numerous things that are now being done differently, but I’m sure that over the course of the next few weeks they will prove to be the right decisions if our first League match is anything to go by.

We now have more or less all squad members attending training on Wednesday nights…or at least they will be when they have recovered from various injuries, and some have even changed their work shifts and made more of an effort to find babysitters so that they can attend, such is the competition for places in the team at the moment. We are also now doing structured drills at training instead of just three-touch 7-a-side for an hour, and we are also now meeting up in the clubhouse an hour before we start so that we can watch the highlights from our last match and have a brief meeting to discuss various things.

We now have proper pre-match warm-ups (the same as every other team in our League), while at Half-Time and at the end of the match, James dishes out energy drinks and jaffa cakes to our players (amongst other things) and we even have a warm-down at the end of the game ! The tactics and formation James is using (with the help of Player-Coach Justin) is completely different to Trevor’s ideas on how to play the game, although it does now look as if our players from last season are beginning to understand what their roles are after a bit of understandable uncertainty in our first three Pre-Season Friendlies. James is very much aware of the problems caused by me filming all our matches and putting the highlights on You Tube though, because other teams DO study them to see what we are doing. He therefore makes sure that all his team-talks are done well away from the camera and requests that none of it is put on the highlights or the full match DVD’s, whereas Trevor was never worried about that. He also doesn’t agree with analysing mistakes made by our players in matches, which is something we would always do (from the video) under Trevor’s Management, especially if we let in a goal from a corner. James only wants to dwell on the positives and he is very big on motivational tactics and is very much a believer in not worrying about what other teams do and instead, forcing them to worry about us. Trevor actually had that philosophy as well, but as we were making so many mistakes and losing every week under his reign, he had no choice but to dwell on the negatives and try and put them right from video analysis.

Although the videos have traditionally made it more difficult for us to win matches over the years because they fire our opponents up to play well, James does accept that they are a vital part of our club in attracting players, while we also now have a lucrative kit sponsorship deal from Kingsland Builders for this season as a result of James selling the club to them in terms of video publicity.

James is very much an ‘old school’ Manager in terms of contacting players though. He is more than happy for them to phone and text him to let him know if they are available for matches & training sessions and to have a chat about things, whereas Trevor had to have his phone turned off all the time because of the job(s) he did. None of our players therefore use the Forum at all now, and very few bother to use Teamer. Both the Forum and Teamer are still useful tools for me though as Club Secretary, so there is no need to do away with them completely. James expects all squad members to turn up and watch matches even when they are injured and for substitutes to volunteer to act as Club Linesman, and so far, so good on that score. That would never happen under Trevor’s Management and invariably he had to run the line himself. This is all part of creating a better team spirit, and another important part of that from James’s point of view is getting rid of the Marks Out Of 10 for each player that we had traditionally been awarding since the late 1970’s…and publicly displaying on this website for the last 14 years. James’s mantra is very much ‘We win as a team, we lose as a team’. No blaming of individuals. I think he may also have reservations on awarding a ‘Most Improved Player’ award at the end of the season as well because of that philosophy, although maybe we should still have ‘Player Of The Year’ awards ? The AGM will be a bit dull if we don’t.

Changing rooms, warm-up and training pitch ‘banter’ is extremely important for James and I know that our players from last year are absolutely loving that, as we didn’t have much of that at all last season. As happens at most clubs, if the Club Secretary is an ‘old bloke in his 50’s’ like I am, he is targeted as a bumbling old fool as part of the banter, so I certainly need to steer clear of the changing rooms before and after matches, but if it helps our players to win matches, that’s fine by me and I will put up with it. I have to admit that I had to do a Google Search for James’s use of Cockney Rhyming Slang for certain amounts of money because I was brought up working for WH Smith after leaving school and I certainly couldn’t say to customers in there ‘That’s a monkey, a pony or a score please’ !

Just about the only thing we haven’t sorted out yet is a pub to drink in after our Home matches, but that is not easy nowadays when there are so few of them left. If that doesn’t materialise though, hopefully we can get other social things arranged instead as the season goes on.

So all in all, things are looking good under our new Management, while also in addition to the ex-Enfield Crusaders players already mentioned, we have at least another four good new players in Chris Webb, Michael Sharman, Tony Eccles and Kevin Dennis to come into the side during the next few weeks to replace others who might be missing through injury. The increased competition for places will definitely keep everybody on their toes.

  

CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Wednesday 23rd July 2014

This is my first Chairman’s Blog since February last season and a lot has happened since then for sure ! We had a disastrous season really as we somehow managed to finish bottom of the Division One table eight points adrift of three other clubs in Upshire Reserves, Broxbourne Athletic and Highgate Redwing, who all finished on the same number of points as each other but were definitely no better than us. In fact, looking at some stats from last season that I have been able to compile (thanks to me filming every match), we deserved to win all three matches that we did manage to win, but we lost seven of our 25 matches played when the Shots Count indicated that we were the better side. That is rather unlucky, and so is the fact that in the 17 competitive matches that we lost (i.e. not including Pre-Season Friendlies), we were only ‘outclassed’ on five occasions and the other eleven defeats were extremely close matches where we could easily have nicked a draw at least.

In my opinion there were three main reasons why we finished bottom. Firstly, 23 out of the 75 goals we conceded in all competitions (and Pre-Season Friendlies) last season were down to goalkeeping errors. I know we had outfield players in goal a lot of the time, but even when we had proper goalkeepers playing, they made some costly errors too. Most other teams we played fielded agile young properly-trained goalkeepers all season who could all take their own goal-kicks and reach the half-way line with them and they could also throw the ball out hard and fast. We had nothing of the sort. Secondly, the majority of our players were just not fit enough to compete on level terms with teams who were able to close our players down to a yard when we were in possession. Our players were only fit enough to close opposing players down to about three yards, therefore giving them more time on the ball to pick a pass and/or shoot. Probably most of all though, the biggest problem was an increasing lack of respect shown to Manager Trevor Hughes (and myself to some extent) in terms of players turning up late to matches, not informing us of their availability, refusing to come along and be a substitute, disagreeing with each other regarding who should be marking who, and ‘doing their own thing’ and not listening to Trevor’s instructions. We did have some games where players bucked their ideas up, particularly the last game of the season where we managed a rare 4-1 win when it was too late to matter, while we were certainly unlucky in all three Cup competitions to draw top sides in the First Round and get knocked out in each of them. In fact our London FA Sunday Junior Cup opponents Asianos went on to reach the Final and we were extremely unlucky to lose 3-0 to them, only doing so because we had an outfield player in goal and they scored from all three of their shots on target whereas we wasted several good chances ourselves. A lack of goals and not having a target-man forward was another problem for us last season.

Before that last game of the season against Upshire Reserves back in April though, Trevor, our Manager & Club Treasurer for the last 23 seasons, had already announced to our players that he was retiring at the end of the season as he was emigrating to Cyprus in May. As we had been continually battling against relegation for 10 long seasons in a row without a sniff of a trophy in sight though, he would have resigned anyway due to increasing work commitments and a lack of enthusiasm to think of new ideas, particularly for our midweek training sessions which had descended into just a one-hour 7-a-side ‘kickabout’ every week, mainly for players mates who were not good enough to play for us on a Sunday.

A lot of the blame for that 10-year battle against relegation lies with too many players at various times simply not being committed enough or not being good enough for the standard we were playing in, but back in the 90’s, things were very different under Trevor’s reign as we had far more younger and fitter players who all socialised with each other off the pitch and we were also fortunate enough to gain a lot of momentum in terms of winning matches and going up the divisions because we started off in Division Five when he first took over. The players we had at the time all bought into Trevor’s philosophy of zonal marking from corners, playing three zonal marking defenders with a sweeper behind them, a midfield holding player well before it became fashionable, and one mobile forward who dragged defenders out of position down the channels. We defended deep and hit teams on the break with the sweeper (Stuart Dorward) making runs up the pitch to score goals and create chances instead of the full backs…and it worked a treat as no other teams played tactics anything like that. We ended up finishing joint-second in the Premier Division thanks to those tactics and having some quality players to carry them out. Although we still failed to win a trophy, it was a great time for the club and we have been striving to bring back that sort of success ever since in terms of at least being in contention to win something.

Trevor admitted towards the end of his reign that he should take some of the blame as well though for not having the time to watch the videos, read the Video Notes or look at the website in order to study our opponents. There were several matches last season where we clearly got caught out because of that and also because our opponents all study our videos to see where our weak links are and their Managers and coaches have the time to plan how to beat us. That’s how serious other teams at our level take things nowadays and we have been getting left behind.

When Trevor told me back in March that he was emigrating to Cyprus though, we were highly fortunate that it coincided with Premier Division team Enfield Crusaders dropping out of the League. They had won Division One the previous season, beating us 7-0 in one match where we were completely outclassed, while in other matches against them that season and the season before, much to my annoyance, their Manager (James Hatchett) came and plonked an unnecessary half-way line corner flagpost right in front of my camera, and also in another match, he got his substitutes and supporters standing on the same side as us to get in the way of the camera again. I well remembered that competitive spirit in being ‘nasty’ and firing his own players up at our expense (as our own Danny Hagan always recommends we do to our opponents), not to mention the success he had in getting them winning League titles and reaching Cup Finals on their way up to the Premier Division, so with several other clubs not surprisingly sniffing around for his services,  I therefore phoned James straight away to get in first and ask him if he would be interested in taking on a job which is the Sunday League equivalent of trying to win something with Spurs or England bearing in mind our high profile and the fact that we have not won anything or even reached a Cup Final for 26 years ! Thankfully though, as he lives pretty much right next to our Home ground at Hazelwood and has always been impressed with the way we run our club, James accepted my offer straight away and he will therefore be our new Manager for the coming season.

We are also making other changes to our five-man Management Committee for the coming season where in addition to James replacing Trevor, we are also bringing in ex-Enfield Crusaders forward Michael ‘Mabbutt’ Taylor as Assistant Player-Manager, while Alan Barnard is taking over the role of player/Club Treasurer. Indeed since taking over at our A.G.M. last Friday night (18th July), Barney has already ‘modernised’ the club accounts thanks to his ‘I.T.’ expertise whereas Trevor was still using an old WH Smith Accounts book bought in 1979. We will still be using the 1960’s antique Subs Tins though. They just don’t make ‘em like that any more ! I will still be Chairman, Club Secretary and Cameraman, including maintaining the website and filming all the matches as usual, while Terry Moore will continue to serve on the Committee as player/Assistant Secretary.

As for players, James has already brought in Left-Back Justin Dickinson as Player-Coach and there may be one or two other ex-Enfield Crusaders players to follow, but the large majority of our squad for the coming season will consist of the 14 or so players who were playing regularly for us at the end of last season. My personal aim for James, ‘Mabbutt’ and Justin this coming season is just to bring in fresh ideas to get our players fitter and focused enough so that we can compete on level terms with our opponents and finish well clear of the relegation places. Nothing more than that, and if they achieve something like getting us through to a Cup Final or challenging for promotion, then that would be a huge bonus. The League have kept us in Division One despite us finishing bottom, so it is going to be extremely tough once again as we know that three of the promoted teams (Enfield Royals, Pymmes Brook and Old Pond) are going to be very good sides who are used to winning, while just looking at the Twitter feeds of other teams in our division who we faced last year will tell you that they are all raising their game as well…and that is what clubs have to do now to survive in the Waltham League, which is still the strongest Sunday League around in our area in terms of playing standard, despite losing yet another division.

We have already had a good well-attended A.G.M. where James, ‘Mabbutt’ and Justin met our players, and we also had a good first Pre-Season Training session where our players responded to their ideas. One thing that will be interesting of course is that old chestnut of zonal marking from corners, which Trevor had been doing for the past 23 years when every other team in the League has done ‘man-to-man’ ! Last season we let in seven goals from 116 corners faced. I haven’t checked what the stats were for previous seasons but we certainly went for long spells of up to 15-20 matches in a row without conceding a goal from a corner during Trevor’s reign as Manager and we had always considered his zonal marking system to be a success, so I have a feeling that seven goals conceded is a higher total than normal. We know for sure that some players last season were not doing zonal marking properly because they were fairly new to the club and disagreed with Trevor’s tactics, so they did their own ‘man-to-man’ instead. We will not know what James has in mind tactically until we start playing Pre-Season Friendlies, but I suspect that zonal marking from corners will not be part of his plans. It doesn’t bother me personally as long as our players all buy into what he wants and I’m sure they will.

One thing that has helped our Pre-Season preparations in my opinion is not entering the Southgate Hockey Centre’s Summer 7-a-side League this year for the first time in 14 years. That was mainly because they scrapped the Monday Night League for some reason, but even so, it has enabled me to get more work done during the Summer so that I can now concentrate on getting our new Management team in place for the 11-a-side season, which will always be our priority. We also seem to have much more of a chance of obtaining sponsorship from various sources, and that is badly needed with Trevor having previously bailed us out on occasions with loans so that we could pay the increasingly expensive pitch fees, training fees, affiliation fees and the F.A.’s now-mandatory Player Injury Insurance Scheme fees on time. We are not in any danger of folding ourselves because of these increasing costs, but we are certainly now going to have to be ever more reliant on sponsorship to survive.

Other clubs have not been so lucky though, and as I already mentioned, the Waltham Sunday League is now down to just three divisions for the coming season and two teams have dropped out already, including The Beehive from our division, leaving us with ‘only’ 10 teams to face instead of eleven. Back in 1988 when we first joined the League there were 10 divisions, and there were still five divisions only two seasons ago. The rapid decline of our League during the past two seasons in terms of the number of teams caused major concern amongst Club Secretaries at the League A.G.M. back in May with a number of questions being asked and complaints being made about the number of ‘unnecessary’ fines being imposed when all clubs are struggling to pay their pitch and insurance fees in the first place. The worst one is Cup Rule 12 whereby a hand-written teamsheet has to be downloaded from somewhere on the League’s Full-Time website (although nobody has any idea where because it is ‘lost’ amongst the News pages) and then filled in with all the players’ names who the Manager wants to choose from if a team reaches a Quarter-Final, Semi-Final or Final, together with three dates on which (according to the Club Secretary) they played League games during the season so far. That form then has to be posted (not e-mailed) off to the League Records/Registration Secretary for him to receive it 7 days before the match, then he phones the Club Secretary to tell him which players are eligible or not. If teams forget to do that…and most of them do because all the information as to how many League games players have played is on Full-Time anyway, so why should they have to fill out a ridiculously time-consuming form ?…they will then be fined £25. Or at least I think it is £25. I have forgotten, as the last time we reached a League Cup Quarter-Final was about 15 years ago ! This needless rule therefore penalises the successful clubs and increases the chance of them folding because of excessive fines…and that is indeed what has been happening, along with other fines for forgetting to text results in (because the League refuse to use an automated reminder system like the London F.A. do), forgetting to send stamped addressed envelopes (because the League refuse to e-mail registration confirmation sheets) and the League not receiving cheques (because they refuse to do internet banking and insist on cheques being posted). Other Leagues have moved with the times and embraced modern technology so that clubs can avoid fines and keep going, but our League have not, although in fairness there are some things that our League do not have a lot of control over. One problem is that unlike other Leagues who are only affiliated to one County F.A., as the Waltham Sunday League is based in an area on the border of four different Counties (Hertfordshire, Middlesex, London & Essex) and has member clubs in each, the League has to be affiliated directly to the National Football Association instead, and unlike the County F.A.s, their rules are such that the Waltham League are seemingly not allowed to accept applications from new clubs after the 1st March each year for them to play the following season, whereas new clubs seem to be allowed to join other Leagues as late as August ! That has resulted in our League hardly having any new clubs joining whatsoever during the past few seasons whereas other local Sunday Leagues seem to have anything between 5-10 new clubs joining every season. After all, February is definitely not the time that people are thinking about playing football. At that time of year they are more likely to be thinking of giving up the game because of the atrocious weather causing mass postponements, or booking their Summer holidays and thinking about that instead. It’s June and July when players start thinking about playing for an 11-a-side team and particularly forming their own, especially if whichever Country they come from has had a good World Cup or European Championship. With England being so crap in Brazil though, that is almost certainly going to put a number of people off from playing football themselves, while we are hardly likely to see German, Argentinean or Dutch teams suddenly springing up wanting to play Sunday League football in our area. We know that most of the large English-born Italian community in the Cheshunt area follow Italy rather than England when it comes to football, so they are not going to feel like playing either ! However, there are hundreds of Romanians, Bulgarians, Poles, Albanians, Iraqis, Somalis and Congolese in our area who would absolutely love to form their own teams and play in the Waltham Sunday League (as many from the Italian community have done in the past), but the League rules are such (governed by the F.A.) that new teams MUST have a club bank account with the necessary funds already in place, plus a competent Club Secretary and ‘evidence’ of already having the necessary equipment (balls, nets, corner posts, Home kit, Away kit) and at least 20 committed players. Typically, nobody from those recently arrived communities will have a clue how to do that, so our League just refuse to accept them and instead, take on nobody. Other local Sunday Leagues don’t care. They just ‘let em in’ (in July or August) and then throw them out half way through the season if they don’t comply. More than half survive though, and these rival Leagues get bigger as a result, while those teams who get thrown out or do not get accepted into the Waltham League just hang about over Hazelwood instead, scuffing up the Cowshed End goalmouth with endless kickabouts.

Another kick in the nuts from our League for these teams is the current rule where teams are not accepted if they play on a pitch south of the North Circular Road (e.g. Upper Edmonton, Tottenham, Bounds Green, Wood Green & Muswell Hill) or east of the Lea Valley and south of the M25 (i.e. Chingford & Walthamstow). When we joined the League back in 1988 there were numerous teams playing on pitches in those areas, especially at the New River Sports Grounds in Wood Green, but at some stage during the 90’s the League put a block on that, with their official reason being that teams from the Borough of Broxbourne (where the League is based) were complaining about the travelling. With the League shrinking to such an alarming extent in recent seasons though, I can only guess that they don’t want to accept clubs playing at those venues NOW because those areas are perceived to be ‘too violent’ !? When we play in the London Cups though, we have played community teams from much rougher parts of London and never had a problem, so the League are in danger of appearing to be racist by only allowing clubs in who play in areas where the majority of residents and potential players are White British (i.e. Enfield, Cheshunt, Broxbourne & Hoddesdon). The Continental Secretary was certainly not impressed when the League told them at the A.G.M. that they will not allow them to return to the New River in Wood Green, which was where they played back in the late-80’s in our League.

By having this attitude, albeit heavily influenced by the Football Association themselves, I really can see the Waltham League being down to just one division in five years time and then having to fold as Community Leagues start to thrive in the same way as the Turkish, Greek Cypriot (KOPA), Asian & Maccabi Leagues have done for many years by playing on 3G pitches and having staggered kick-off times, which is something else our League refuse to do. The sheer amount of pubs closing down is also having a negative effect on the number of White British or Multi-Racial Sunday League teams in our area by forcing them to fold from having no base and/or sponsorship, and there are two more things which are going to put the nail in the coffin of our League and probably many others…the F.A. bringing in heavily-funded Under-21 and Under-23 Leagues for players released by professional clubs as 18 or 19-year-olds (when traditionally they have gone straight on to play adult Sunday football with their mates), and also another F.A.-funded initiative in these ‘Just Play’ Leagues whereby 11-a-side pitches are hired for anyone to join in kickabout matches when they like and without having to be registered…which suits a heck of a lot of current Sunday League players who cannot play every week because of work and family commitments and/or cannot afford to pay subs when playing for a club. The standard is dreadful…you only have to watch the ‘Just Play’ mob kicking about behind the far goal at Hazelwood on Sundays to see that…but at least it’s ‘fun’ and keeps people fit.

It is pretty obvious to me that the F.A. really do not give F.A. about mens Sunday League football as we know it and they have got no intention of funding improvements to pitches and changing rooms for the benefit of our League and others as they probably think most of us are just a total waste of space and that we do nothing for improving the standard of football in this Country…unlike grassroots YOUTH football, as the F.A. will get absolutely slated by the media if they don’t help to improve THAT after England’s dismal World Cup showing.

Let’s just hope then that our League survives long enough for our new Management team to get us back into the Premier Division through actually winning something rather than us being shunted up there because there are only 10 teams left in five years time !?