CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Sunday 25th June 2017

At the time of my last Chairman's Blog back in March, we had just been knocked out of the Barnet Sunday League's Junior Cup competition at the Quarter-Final stage with a 5-3 defeat on penalties Away to fellow Division Two side Brotherhood, as we once again found their 3G New River Stadium pitch a difficult surface to play on for some reason...just as we had when drawing 1-1 with them in a League match there back in October. Like that League match, this Cup game was 1-1 after 90 minutes, so we were still unbeaten this season in normal play, which was at least some consolation. Incredibly though, the following Sunday saw us lose on penalties by exactly the same 5-3 scoreline after a 1-1 draw yet again, this time in the League Senior Cup Quarter-Final. However, our opponents in that match were Premier Division side AC Medz, who then went on to win the trophy, beating last season's Premier Division Champions (and the favourites) Highgate Albion 1sts 2-0 in the Final. Unlike the Brotherhood matches though, we played really well against AC Medz and were unlucky not to win the game, with our opponents telling us we were the best team they had played all season ! We then backed up that assessment by winning four out of our last five League matches and drawing the other to clinch the Division Two title in style by a massive eleven-point margin and with a goal difference of 33 more than second-placed Churchbury. It was very satisfying for us to beat Brotherhood 2-0 at Home in the first of those five remaining League matches, as it proved that we were a better side than them when the game was played on it should be. It was the following match that confirmed we were the Division Two champions though, giving us our first trophy for 29 years. It was a strange situation because our opponents were bottom team St. John's Deaf, who we were always going to beat no matter what side they put out, so we knew we had won the title already before we even stepped onto the pitch. We also had a far superior goal difference to all our rivals which none of them were ever going to catch, so we were pretty much already Champions on that basis anyway. That goal difference was made even more emphatic with an almost predictable 12-0 win as a result of our whole squad all turning up wanting to play, so we were as strong as we could possibly be with four players even having to be left out of the 16 because we had too many there ! Those four omitted players showed great team spirit though by staying all match to cheer on their team-mates and then 'share the bubbly' as we sort-of 'half-sung' 'Championees' on the final whistle. Yes, 'half-sung' because none of our players had ever won anything before, so we almost didn't know what to do ! Indeed most of our players had not even been born the last time we won anything way back in 1988. The most satisfying thing for me personally though was that most other Sunday League clubs would have given up and folded long ago after going for only three or four years without winning a trophy, let alone 29 ! I had never given up though, and had made sure I kept the club running because I knew this day would come eventually. There were a number of factors in that decision to keep going and with our success this season which I am saving for my speech at our forthcoming AGM on the 30th June and for the next Chairman's Blog which will review that AGM and preview the future.

Having clinched that League title, our aim in our remaining three matches Away to Northaw, at Home to Grange Park and Away to Highgate Albion 3rds was to remain undefeated in the League all season, which was a feat we had never achieved before in our 41-year history. Manager Tony McKay quite rightly decided to make sure that everybody got a decent runout in at least one of those matches, but that nearly backfired on us in the first of them against Northaw as our opponents showed great discipline to curb their attacking instincts and defend in numbers all match, while relying on a rare goalkeeping mistake from Grant Baker to take a 1-0 lead in the 83rd minute which they kept right up until the first minute of 'Added On Time' when Daniel Daley grabbed a last-ditch equaliser for us from Anees Ikramullah's quality through ball to earn us a point. We actually played really well in that match though, as we did the following week in beating an in-form Grange Park side 3-1 in our last Home match of the season. Tony sensibly fielded a full-strength side for that one, and with Grange Park going on to win the League Junior Cup a few weeks later and also scoring 24 goals in their final three League matches, it was certainly the right decision, especially as our last match against a very poor Highgate Albion 3rds was always going to be another easy win for us in which other players could be given a start. A 5-0 victory in that match therefore saw us become the first-ever Rovers 'invincibles', with a number of our players and management celebrating that achievement with a 'club night out' meal in the local Kervan restaurant a few days later, while myself and skipper Leon McKenzie-McKay represented the club at the League Presentation Dinner at the Cyprus Garden restaurant in Chingford on the 19th May to pick up the trophy itself and the players medals. Those will all be given out at our own AGM/Presentation Night, which we hope will be our best-attended and most memorable yet, especially as we were in such a sorry state at the end of the previous season that we didn't even have an AGM and had more-or-less temporarily folded !

The evening before our AGM sees the Barnet Sunday League holding their own AGM on the 29th June at which I will be attending both as our Club Secretary and as the League's Website Secretary. As that Website Secretary's position involves the setting up and updating of the F.A.'s Full-Time system for the League, I already have some involvement in helping out with the Fixtures, Player Registrations and Referee Appointments in terms of advising those Officers how to use the system and correcting any errors, but the coming season may well see me more involved as a 'sort-of' Assistant Secretary for all of those jobs due to health problems for one Officer and work/family/holiday commitments for the others which see them absent from League meetings a lot of the time. The League have been trying to find new Officers and to get Club Representatives to come on board as Management Committee members and help out with these things (and more), but other commitments or an apparent unwillingness to take any flak from clubs that have been penalised has so far put them all off. Our own Club Linesman & Goalkeeping Coach Bob Cleary is of course a perfect candidate to join the Committee having been an Officer with the Waltham Sunday League, but unfortunately he has too much work on his plate for the time being. For Bob and other like-minded individuals to come on board at some stage in the future though, as I have said many times before in these Blogs, the League really do need to make more use of modern technology,  specifically Full-Time and the F.A.'s other I.T. tool for grassroots football, the Whole Game System (WGS). Unfortunately the League's hierarchy are still suspicious of these two systems, branding them 'not fit for purpose' because of the frequent crashes and 'downtime' that occurred during the first part of last season when the F.A.'s servers at St. George's Park couldn't cope with the demand from people all logging in at the same time on Sunday afternoons & evenings and/or the following day, not to mention the staff at the London F.A. (in particular) being unable to work out how to use Full-Time & WGS properly themselves. Thankfully those members of staff have now been replaced and the communications we as a club have been receiving from the London F.A. in recent months have been much improved, as has the Whole Game System. In my opinion the League has to start recognising that and putting more trust in what the London FA are now trying to do.

Apart from a number of match abandonments for violence and/or referee intimidation in the Veterans divisions (which are of no great concern for us as a club but will be dealt with at the League AGM), the biggest problem the League had last season was undoubtedly the numerous cases being brought up before the Committee of teams allegedly playing ringers, and the subsequent accusations from the clubs being penalised that too much guesswork and a lack of evidence was being used in 'proving' them guilty. Similarly the number of complaints from clubs insisting that their opponents had played ringers, but the League Committee then deciding there was not enough evidence when the appealing club insisted there was. The worrying thing for me about most of these cases is that they result in points deductions...even when the offending team has lost the match, and also 'Void' matches where neither team gets a point because they both played ringers ! That therefore leaves the Final League Tables looking a mess, giving the impression to potential new teams that the League has a lot of badly-run clubs. Indeed only four new clubs have so far applied to join the League for next season whereas a number of other Sunday Leagues in the Greater London area have had somewhere between 10 & 15 ! That could well be because other Sunday Leagues do not generally deduct points for playing ringers. They just write off the result (including appearances & goalscorers) and award the match to the opposing team as a 'Home Win' or 'Away Win', the same as if it was a non-fulfilment of fixture. That way there are no asterisks in the League Tables for 'Table Adjustments' and casual viewers from outside the League (such as potential new clubs) only find out if they delve into each team's results.

After a recent Management Committee meeting (which I did not attend), a decision for the coming season appeared in the minutes as follows...'Next season...the League M.C. will only pursue allegations that opposing teams played ineligible players if the match form signing had been witnessed, or a photo of the alleged ringer playing in the actual game is supplied (by the appealing club)'. I therefore wouldn't be at all surprised if some clubs start questioning this at the forthcoming League AGM because most of them actually want the League to bring in an ID Card system as soon as possible...which it has always refused to do because they prefer the checking of player signatures on a teamsheet. After all, what good is a photo of an alleged ringer taking part in a game when there is no registered photo with the League (as an 'ID Card') to compare it with ? As I have mentioned before in these Blogs, an ID Card system is now much easier to do than it was a few years ago. Most importantly, instead of having expensive-to-produce printed cards that are brought along to matches, it is now costless as it can be done with selfies uploaded to the Whole Game System, with clubs then being able to access their opponents' photos online on their smartphones using the League website or (if the F.A.'s Data Protection does not allow that), by asking the League Registration Secretary...who will have compare the photos. However, no League is ever going to stop the playing of ringers when clubs either deliberately or unknowingly register sine-die banned players under a false name, address and/or date of birth...which is something that has been going on in Sunday football for years. What happens then is that a player suddenly recognises an ex-team-mate or opponent, invariably from 'Semi-Pro' Saturday football, playing against his team and then sees a different name for that player on the teamsheet or on Full-Time afterwards. His team then appeal to the League if they have failed to win the game, but the selfie photo supplied to Whole Game and the League is of course of that 'false' player, so it's then a case of them trying to prove that he is not who he is registered as...which is almost impossible. Unfortunately there is no easy answer to stop the playing of ringers completely, but the use of selfie uploads as ID cards will be a better deterrent than nothing at all. I know that the League will not want to bring that in wholesale for the coming season as it is 'too big a change of procedure'. That is fair enough, but I think a selection of volunteer clubs (which will obviously include ourselves) should be allowed to experiment with it during the coming season, then if it works well, it can be brought in for the whole League for Season 2018-2019.

There have also been a few other problems cropping up since my last Chairman's Blog regarding rules and regulations, namely teams deliberately conceding matches instead of playing and 'getting thrashed', confusion in Cup matches as to whether Extra-Time is played or not, and the constant tinkering of the offside laws by FIFA causing utter confusion at Sunday League level.
When we played our last game of the season Away to Highgate Albion 3rds, it was actually a re-arranged match from a situation a few weeks earlier where in normal circumstances we would have been awarded the three points for a non-fulfilment of fixture by them. That was because they had not given the League 28 days notice that their Manager and Captain were both away and they could not trust the rest of their squad to organise things on the day. However, they also admitted that they had a number of players who did not want to play because we were the top team in the division and they knew they were going to lose heavily, so conceding the three points, paying a fine and suffering only a '0-0 defeat' instead of a 'cricket score' was a much better option for them. The League Chairman was not surprisingly annoyed at that attitude though, and he decided to set a precedent in 'compelling' them to play the game at a later date instead. As it happened, that worked out well for us as neither side had a backlog of fixtures and we had already won the Division Two title anyway, so re-arranging the match was a good opportunity to give some of our other players a start and keep them interested for next season. Obviously if we had been in a position where we needed the points and a failure to win in a re-arranged match (against possible full-strength opponents with the option to field First & Second Team players) could have denied us the title, then we would have been furious. Clearly in future, 'compelling' teams to play at a later date can only be done if both teams agree. It cannot be enforced if the team being inconvenienced need the points to be awarded. Of course it is always the Club Secretary and/or Team Manager who gets the blame when their team cannot field enough players and have to concede the points, but as we ourselves know full well from the previous 12 seasons that we spent struggling in the lower half of the Division One table in the Waltham League year after year and were sometimes the culprits ourselves, there is nothing the Secretary or Manager can do about it when the majority of their players lose interest towards the end of the season when they have nothing left to play for. Again, this is another thing that is never going to go away in Sunday League football, and non-fulfilments are becoming more and more common. Too many players play to win first and foremost nowadays instead of just playing for fun and doing the best they can.

As for the scrapping of Extra-Time in Cup matches, this is a rule that has crept in over the past couple of seasons in Sunday football, both in League Cups and in County Cup competitions, and I think it is fair to say that had all three of our Cup matches this season that we were knocked out of on penalties gone to Extra-Time at the end of 90 minutes, we would have won them all during those extra 30 minutes as we had five very good substitutes on each occasion whereas our opponents did not, so the extra fitness and ability from that would have been a telling factor. One of the biggest problems with these new directives of going straight to penalties though is the confusion as to whether the competition is actually using that rule or not and whether Extra-Time is being played in Semi-Finals and Finals only, as is the case in our League Cups and in the London F.A. Sunday Cup competitions. In one of the London F.A. Sunday Junior Cup Semi-Finals this season, our local rivals from the Edmonton Sunday League, Beehive (formerly Enfield Rangers & others from our Waltham League days), won their Semi-Final Away to Greenhouse Sports on penalties, but neither they, their opponents or the Referee and his Assistants realised that Extra-Time was supposed to be played first. When the London F.A. found out, they ordered Beehive to go all the way back to Rotherhithe to replay the game a couple of weeks later...which of course they then went and lost 3-0, allowing Greenhouse Sports to go on and win the Final. For me, the scrapping of Extra-Time is a ridiculous rule. It penalises well-run clubs who turn up with a full squad and it gives a helping hand to badly-run clubs who turn up with a bare eleven who then put everyone back behind the ball in the Second Half of matches to hold out for penalties. I can only think that the F.A.'s idea to bring in the rule/directive is because of the increase in 3G pitches, thereby allowing those pitches to be booked in two-hour slots all day and being able to fit more matches in on them. They can't do that if there are one or two games scheduled that 'might go' to Extra-Time. After reading David Elleray's recent proposals though, I can certainly see a situation in the near future where all adult Sunday Leagues will be instructed to play 60-minute League and Cup matches 'whatever' (with no Extra-Time at all) because unlike in professional football and the higher levels of Semi-Professional football, they will not have time-keepers to 'stop the clock' in ensuring the ball is in play for that length of time. The F.A.'s/FIFA's thinking will be ...'All matches at every level must be 60 minutes,  as saying it is still 90 minutes at amateur level might result in it going to 120 minutes if the Referee (or somebody else) is actually prepared to (or remembers to) stop the clock'. They will also probably think 'Let's make all matches 60 minutes because at Sunday League level they can then fit in more games on a 3G in one day and we can then get rid of more Council grass pitches'. When that happens of course, the 3G pitch operators will sneakily raise the hire prices at the same time so that clubs end up paying the same for a one-hour hire as they did for a 90-minute hire. So...remember where you read this first !!!

Finally, the confusing offside laws at Sunday League level. In virtually all of our matches this season we had incidents where 99% of the time, Referees blew for offside when a player ran onto the ball from an onside position to gain possession while another player in an offside position went towards the ball as well, albeit without touching it or stopping an opposing defender from making a challenge. Indeed after our season had finished I then went and filmed a Saturday afternoon parks League Cup Final back in May where I got an excellent view from the gantry at Dagenham & Redbridge's ground to capture the perfect example. Our own Club Linesman Bob Cleary also goes by this rule as well, and he gave the League's Registration Secretary Bobby Bernini a right ear-bashing in our match Away to GTFA earlier this season when he became the 1% that allowed the play to continue because an offside player running towards the ball didn't touch it and didn't interfere with an opposing defender in leaving it for the onside player to run onto. Bobby then explained to us afterwards that he went to a Middlesex FA seminar at the start of the season where they went through the rule and told Sunday League referees to apply it. Presumably the rest of the Referees we have had this season either didn't go to that seminar then (because they are affiliated with other Counties) or it was too complex for them to understand. We then had Arsenal's first goal in the FA Cup Final being allowed to stand when 99% of Referees in our League would have disallowed it, so cue more arguments next season where players have seen that on TV and then get booked and sent off for dissent when our League Referees 'inexplicably' give them or a team-mate offside when they are 'not' under the current FIFA guidelines. It is all FIFA and the FA's fault really for expecting amateurs to be professionals. Both players and officials. All amateur players and officials would surely prefer the rule to be 'If you first go towards the ball, even if you don’t touch it, you are offside'. Just keep it simple. Somehow I don't think it ever will be though, and the bookings and sending-offs will continue.


CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Saturday 11th March 2017

We have played seven matches since my last Chairman's Blog back in early January and we still remain undefeated this season in terms of scorelines at the end of 90 minutes, with our only 'defeats' as such being a couple of penalty shoot-outs in Cup competitions, the latest of which saw us get knocked out of the Barnet Sunday League Junior Cup at the Quarter-Final stage.

In Division Two though, we are now way ahead of the rest of the field on points and on goal difference, and it is almost certain that we will win our first trophy for 29 years within the next two to three weeks as we only need another four points from our final five matches, with two of those games being against the bottom two teams in the division. Even then, our nearest rivals have some tough matches left from which they will do well to secure maximum points or score the necessary amount of goals required, so even if we lost four of our last five matches, we will still probably win the title. We are that far ahead !

Our first game back after Christmas saw us record a 7-1 win at Home to our old Waltham Sunday League rivals from the late-90's, Northaw, who were actually top of the table at the time. However, their goalkeeper suffered an injury the week before and they turned up with a bare eleven and with their best outfield player in goal, so they were no match for us as we fielded a full squad of 16. That 16 included new signing Johan Ahipeaud, a tall forward with a good pedigree in Youth football with professional clubs both at home and abroad, while last season's top scorer Jack Bangs was also amongst our substitutes having missed most of the season up until Christmas due to other commitments. With Jack having shed virtually all of the excess weight he had put on over the last two seasons to get back to how he was when we first signed him nearly five years ago, the addition of him and Johan at this stage of the season has given a massive boost to our attacking options with Ayo Matthews, Daniel Daley & Leon McKenzie-McKay all having scored plenty of goals for us so far this season as well.

We then produced an even more impressive performance the following week when we made the short journey to our old Home ground at Hazelwood to beat an in-form Calcio side 7-0 on an absolute mud-bath of a pitch. Admittedly Calcio did have some bad luck with two of their better outfield players and their goalkeeper all going off injured, but even so, we played some excellent football despite the conditions...and despite a number of our new players this season turning up late after thinking 'our old ground' was Enfield Playing Fields just because we play our Pre-Season Friendlies there !

Although that Calcio match could easily have been called off because of a waterlogged pitch, we did actually suffer our first weather-related postponement of the season on Sunday 22nd January when our Home game against Roving Reporters Reserves had to be called off due to a frozen pitch. We also had another one three weeks later when Highgate Albion 3rds' ground was waterlogged, but compared to the last four seasons when we have had five or more weather-related postponements before the end of February in each of them, we have been really lucky with the weather this time (and our groundsmen at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club having better drainage equipment this season), and that has certainly contributed to our players having a higher level of motivation and commitment. There is no question that when players have to put up with postponements week after week, they will choose to start working or doing other things on Sundays instead, and that affected us badly during our later years in the Waltham Sunday League.

We did manage to play Roving Reporters Reserves both at Home and Away during late-January & February though, but although they were second from bottom in the table, they fielded strong sides in both matches due to their First Team not having a League game, so we were never really going to boost our goal difference too much in those games. Indeed in the second of those two matches (at Home), we needed two memorable goals in the last minute from substitutes Johan Ahipeaud and Jack Bangs to win the game 3-1.

The first game against Roving Reporters Reserves that resulted in a 3-0 win for us at their ground in Barnet on the 29th January saw the return of forward John Scouller after a three-season absence due to him living and working up in Derby. Although still living up there, he had asked to sign up again having improved his fitness (slightly) and because he is often back down in Edmonton at weekends to visit relatives. For this match, he actually travelled down from Derby in the morning and was the first of our players to arrive at the ground. Indeed he has also done likewise since then. It shows how keen players can be when we have a successful side of course. With John also able to play in a midfield holding/playmaker role, his return has been another useful addition to the squad, particularly bearing in mind that due to a lack of game time, injuries and other commitments, Tem Adil, Danny Hagan, Martin Cruickshank and Chris Akinrele have all now more-or-less left the club as regards the rest of this season and possibly beyond, so a freshening-up of numbers half-way through the season was needed to some extent to ensure that we can continue to name squads of 16 for each match. Of course Tem, Danny & Martin have been long-serving players for us and it was sad to see them go when they have all suffered from playing in a losing team for so many years through no fault of their own, and that we are now turning the corner without them.
On Sunday 5th February we faced Calcio at Home, and with our pitch being in superb condition, we knew full well that they would give us a closer game this time, especially as they had beaten Northaw 6-1 and Churchbury 6-0 during January on decent pitches. However, we produced another excellent performance to beat them 5-1, which was all down to us having five quality substitutes once again with the Barnet Sunday League's rules allowing all of them to be used on a roll-on, roll-off basis. There is no question that had that rule been in place in the Waltham Sunday League and had Bob Cleary been on board with us then as a regular Club Linesman instead of substitutes being roped in to do it, we would NOT have struggled at the foot of the Division One table in that League year after year and maybe even won a trophy of some sort. One of the substitutes in this match was Anees Ikramullah, who had also re-joined having only played in half a match the season before due to so many teams dropping out of our division and the League then folding. Again, Anees is another useful addition to our squad in replacing those who have departed.

Our final match of February saw us gain a ridiculously easy 8-0 win against lowly Arnos Rangers, who actually wanted to call the game off until the League told them they would be heavily fined and lose the points if they didn't play. Manager Tony McKay therefore decided to give other players a start, including Jack Bangs who responded with a hat-trick, and with Churchbury beating Arnos 10-1 the following week, we really should have had double figures ourselves and we could even have threatened the 37-year-old club record win of 15-1 if we had put a bit more effort in.

The problem with having such an easy game was that the following week's League Junior Cup Quarter-Final Away to Brotherhood on their 3G Stadium pitch was never going to be as easy and we ended up just not being mentally prepared for it enough, subsequently losing on penalties after a really flat performance in normal time. We now have another Cup Quarter-Final for our next match though (against Premier Division side AC Medz in the League Senior Cup), so hopefully we can bounce back in that. As a Division Two side we will be the underdogs for a change, so hopefully that might help us.

Meanwhile, off the pitch at this time of year, all Leagues ask for any proposed rule changes for the following season to be submitted by the 31st March as per Football Association rules & regulations. With myself and our Goalkeeping Coach/Club Linesman Bob Cleary both being ex-Waltham Sunday League Officers, we both know that there are a vast number of rules that the Barnet Sunday League could do with modernising in order to make things easier for Club Secretaries and to stop so many teams from folding, which then subsequently threatens the future of the League. The Waltham League ended up folding because the Senior Officer(s) in charge...which were certainly not Bob & myself !... had an attitude that fining clubs was necessary in order to bring revenue into the League first and foremost, then when those clubs complained about the £35,000 the League had in the bank as a result of all those fines, they were just fobbed off with lame excuses and decided to leave and join the East Herts Corinthian Sunday League instead. As far as myself, Bob, and indeed the rest of our Club Management Committee are concerned, the Barnet Sunday League are heading in the same direction, and it is all down to the current match-day teamsheet they are using. As I mentioned in a previous Chairman's Blog, the process at the moment is that there is one teamsheet for each match which is brought along by the Home Team, who are supposed to fill in their players names, registration numbers and signatures first, then give it to the Away Team in good time before the kick-off for them to do likewise on the same form and then give it back to the Home Team before the match kicks-off. That way, both teams can then see who has been entered on the form, thereby supposedly stopping each other from playing ringers. After the match, the Referee then has to fill in his section on the reverse of the form before he gets paid by the clubs, then the Home Team have to post the form off to the League Chairman Trevor Taylor using good old-fashioned 'snail mail'. They are not allowed to take a photo of the form and e-mail it in case they 'tippex' out any signatures of ringers they may have played and then get a registered player to sign the form instead later in the day. What happens a lot though (in our experience so far and from appeals by other clubs that are currently due to be heard as I write this) is that the Home team gives the teamsheet to the Away Team to fill in invariably using the excuse that half their players have not turned up yet..., then of course the Away Team never gets to see what the Home Team have filled in on the form. Referees are supposed to take the names of substitutes and then write down on their side of the form afterwards which of them were used, but most of the Referees we have had this season have not done that because they would rather be given a teamsheet before the match with each player's shirt number on and then just tick a box on that instead...which is the procedure used in the Saturday Leagues that they Referee in. Instead, they have been allowing substitutes to come on without asking for their names, and they then tell the Home Club Secretaries to fill in the Referee's side of the teamsheet afterwards with the details of substitutes used...for both teams ! Also, at least half the teams in the Barnet Sunday League do not enter their line-ups and goalscorers on Full-Time because there is no League rule compelling them to do so, so again, Away teams cannot see who supposedly played against them and challenge anything that looks 'false'. We have come across one or two clubs playing ringers against us this season as a result of spotting them on video, but we have won those games anyway. Even though we were the Home team on one of those occasions, we were unable to tell from the teamsheet during the match because they do not have a column for shirt numbers to be entered. In my opinion, teams have only played ringers against us purely because they were short of players and because they were either unaware of the on-the-day Emergency Registration rule or they just find doing the paperwork too much of a hassle. That is where online registrations that Club Secretaries can do themselves (without having to obtain signatures) should be it is in the AFA Leagues on Saturdays. We would also like to see the A5-size triplicate teamsheets introduced that other Leagues successfully use whereby both teams fill in their own sheets and give the top copy to the Referee and the middle copy to their opponents, all before the kick-off and with shirt numbers on the sheets instead of signatures. That will then avoid the situation we have at the moment whereby players' warm-ups and Managers team-talks are being disrupted by a teamsheet being stuck in their faces for them all to sign at the 'last minute'. The current procedure is from back in the days when all Sunday League teams would just stroll out onto the pitch a minute before the kick-off with a fag in their hand and the teamsheet could therefore be signed by players in the changing rooms, but Sunday football is not like that any more. Most teams, even in the bottom division that we are in, like to be out on the pitch at least 15 minutes before the kick-off to undertake a proper warm-up and it is difficult getting players to sign things thereafter, especially when it is raining. We as a club would much rather see procedures brought in that dissuade teams from playing ringers in the first place, and in our opinion that is done by having triplicate teamsheets with shirt numbers entered, all team line-ups and goalscorers being entered on Full-Time for every match...either by an appointed League Officer or the clubs themselves, two Emergency Registrations being allowed on the day instead of one, and online registrations being allowed that do not require signatures.
In addition to that, we believe that the League should publicise itself more, very much like the KOPA League, the Camden Sunday League and the Essex Sunday Corinthian League name but three. The Essex Sunday Corinthian League are well clued up on using modern technology and social networking to help their Club Secretaries and Referees with administration and also to publicise their League, and as such they are getting something between 15-20 new clubs applying to join them every season...and that is in an area of East London/West Essex with plenty of competition with other Leagues. The KOPA League use Facebook 'to the max' with interviews and features and they really publicise each of their member clubs. They also appear to have some sort of rule where each team takes a team photo of their opponents before the kick-off of each match and then posts it on the KOPA League's Facebook page, thereby stopping them from playing ringers. The Camden Sunday League go one step further by actually having a profile of each registered player on their League website, including a selfie mugshot sent in by the players themselves or their Club Secretary. Everybody knows who is who and it therefore eliminates the attempted playing of ringers.
In Saturday football at Step 3-7 level, many Leagues now have Facebook Live or local radio chat shows once a week where two or three guests are brought into a studio to chat about their teams, the weekend's results and various matters relating to their League. There is no reason why Sunday Leagues like ours cannot do something similar, and certainly add selfie mugshots of each player onto the Registration Number PDFs that are currently attached to the Club Directory on the League website. Teams would have no chance of playing ringers then when it will be so easy to view those mugshots on a smartphone direct from the website just before the kick-off while matching them to the shirt numbers entered onto the teamsheets. Facebook Live chat shows and more use of the League website and Twitter would surely attract sponsors to the League which would then offset the money lost from no longer having to fine clubs for the current teamsheet misdemeanours. There will still be fines anyway from teams forgetting to bring their own triplicate teamsheets to matches and from not entering shirt numbers or registration numbers, while teams will still forget to post them off or (preferably) e-mail them in. I am sure there will not be as many misdemeanours if players signatures no longer had to be obtained, but it is the fines for playing ringers and having points deducted which really needs to be eliminated as much as possible, as points deductions can spoil the end-of-season tables and make the League look badly-run.

The other main complaint from our club Committee is the League's acceptance of staggered kick-off times on grass pitches when there is no reason why those matches cannot all kick-off at, as is the case in other Leagues. It doesn't bother me personally as I do not have a 'Sunday Roast with the family' to go home to at a set time, but that is certainly the case with at least one of our Committee members, who also argues that kicking-off at 12.00 mid-day (as some teams do) gives them an unfair advantage when they already know the results of the 10.30 am Kick-Offs in their divisions. He certainly has a point there, but I very much doubt that will be a rule that will get changed, particularly as the League Fixture Secretary's team is one of the culprits !

Staggered kick-off times for adult mens' Sunday football will become the norm within the next 10 years anyway whether our club Committee like it or not. The F.A. still have the opinion that Sunday League footballers play just for fun and are not bothered about missing matches because of staggered kick-off times which clash with other commitments earlier or later in the day. They will encourage teams to have larger squads to cope with that, but there will be no teamwork whatsoever because they will have to field a different starting eleven each week. The F.A. don't realise there are Sunday League clubs out there like us who are as well-run as a Step 5-7 Saturday Semi-Pro club and that we prepare for our matches accordingly. It will be very much like what goes on in the KOPA League at the moment where most of their matches are played on 3G pitches one after the other at 10.00 am, 12.00 pm & 2.00 pm. With the increasing development of 3G Hubs across the country within the next few years to replace Council grass pitches, there will also be 4.00 pm, 6.00.p.m. & 8.00 pm Kick-Offs as well on a Sunday (using floodlights during the winter months). I think that eventually, money will come down from the Premier League's riches to support all this and make it affordable for Sunday League players to use these facilities. Sunday League football will not be as we know it now, that's for sure.


CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Thursday 5th January 2017

When I wrote my last Chairman's Blog back in November, I received a number of complaints from our ex-players (and our former Manager Trevor Hughes) that it was 'too long and boring' and that they had to give up reading it half-way through, which they apparently do for all of my blogs. They admitted that all they wanted to read about was just a brief summary of how we had been doing on the pitch since the last blog, and that's it...unless I was going to ramble on about what things were like when they were actually playing for or managing the club themselves of course. They genuinely have no interest whatsoever in the 'League politics' that have been going on OFF the pitch surrounding our club for the last five years or so, and no interest in what goes on at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club because they never played there themselves. They also have no interest in the difficulties I sometimes have to face in trying to film matches nowadays because they just take all of that for granted, and they have no real interest in our opponents' backgrounds because they themselves never played against those teams. Yes, I am fully aware that large chunks of my blogs will bore the pants off the majority of our ex-players, but I am not writing the blogs solely for them. The blogs are quite deliberately written to also attract the attention of other Club Secretaries, but also Referees, League Administrators, football-filming cameramen and people involved in football journalism, many of whom are amongst my Facebook friends. For our current players, the whole blog does tend to be of interest to them though, and indeed they have told me so and to keep up the good work, especially as most of them are new to Sunday League football this season and are keen to learn about what they are now involved in. Having these different sections of viewers reading the blog every month or so is why I always colour-code different subjects within the blog, making it easier for people to just ignore the sections that do not interest them, but the main purpose of the blogs is most definitely to attract publicity for the club as opposed to just doing a brief review of our matches. So now you know !

With us on a run of eleven matches in a row without defeat and the club's 36-year-old record of 28 matches unbeaten being under threat at the time of my last Chairman's Blog though, I thought I would go down the 'nostalgia' route for this first blog of the New Year in order to keep our ex-players interested this time ! That current eleven-match unbeaten record had stretched to 14 matches by the time we took to the field for our London FA Sunday Junior Cup match at Home to in-form South-West London-based side London Ravens on the 11th December and we were getting more and more confident that our current squad could go on and do 'the impossible'. However, skipper Leon McKenzie-McKay and key midfield holding player Daniel Cascoe both decided to go out to a party the night before for that match and consequently neither of them woke up in time for their names to be entered on the teamsheet that had to be handed in 15 minutes before the kick-off. They both had to be left out and we ended up losing a very tight match on a penalty shoot-out where a number of our attempts to score from the spot were quite appalling, which was extremely disappointing when we had beaten Churchbury in a penalty shoot-out in a League Cup match only a couple of weeks earlier. Although we then went and beat London Turkish Masters in our last match before Christmas to remain in two Cups going into the New Year, losing our unbeaten record the week before was very frustrating because our current team desperately wanted to prove themselves when the inevitable comparisons were starting to be made with our three successful teams of the past (from 1979-1980, 1987-1988 & 2002-2003). Of course we could easily say that we didn't actually lose that London Ravens match because penalty shoot-outs 'don't count' other words we drew the match, but lost on penalties. Also, when that 1979-1980 team created that 28-match unbeaten record, we were not entering London FA Cup competitions back then because the Edmonton Sunday League (which they were playing in at the time) was a 'pirate' (non-FA affiliated) League. That team's record is therefore League, League Cup & Friendly matches only, so consequently we are still on course to beat the record if you look at it that way. There is certainly a valid argument that had that 1979-1980 team been competing in the London FA Sunday Junior Cup back then, there is no way they would have won that competition or even progressed very far, as they were in the bottom division of the Edmonton Sunday League (Division Eight) at the time and the teams they would have faced from other Leagues would have been in much higher divisions. Indeed the two League Cup competitions for our 1979-1980 team were also much easier for them than what our current side have to face, as the Edmonton Sunday League never had a Challenge Cup for all teams in all eight divisions. They had a Junior Challenge Cup, which was for teams in Divisions 7 & 8 only, and a Divisional Cup, which was for Division Eight only...and the one that we ourselves won to do the League & Cup Double. We lost to the same opponents, River Plate, in the League Junior Challenge Cup Final, but we never played any teams from higher than Division Seven until we were promoted to Division Five the following season and then a couple of years later when we went up to Division Three and started playing Division One (the top division) teams in Cup competitions. Those two promotions were when we got found out and suffered several heavy defeats, albeit after some of our better players from the 1979-1980 Season had left or had suffered injuries. Although the standard of opposition in Division Eight of the Edmonton Sunday League back on 1979-1980 was shockingly bad (apart from our main rivals River Plate and third-placed Enfield Nalgo), we do need to bear in mind that the average age of our squad that year was only 19, but that the main reason we went on such a long unbeaten run was because they all turned up and played every week. Yes, they were all good players individually and they could certainly all make a challenge and put their bodies on the line for the team, but compared to how we play today, flowing passing moves were pretty much non-existent. It was all about sheer individual ability whenever goals were scored and winning the ball in the first place from defenders and our central midfielders just 'getting stuck in'. Like the various championship-winning teams from the Premier League over the past few years though, we can certainly name a regular first-choice starting line-up and indeed formation from that season. Back in those days every team played 4-4-2 and so did we, although we did actually tweak that slightly because of the way certain players played. That was probably because we didn't actually have a Manager as such ! I was Club Secretary and Jerome Burnikell was Captain, but the same eleven players started every match if they were available, so the team picked itself every week. On the rare occasions that players were not available, then either John Howard or Steve Mitchell would come in and replace them. It is worth remembering that in those days, only one substitute was allowed to be named, and there was no 'roll-on, roll-off' rule. They were invariably only used if somebody got injured  or we were winning easily with 15 minutes to go. As for the players who starred in that team, for most of our matches we had 'Big Steve' Howard in goal, Chris Draper at right-back, Tony Tombling at left-back, Demitrius Nurse as the archetypal big uncompromising central defender (which everybody had in those days) and Jerome as a 'sweeper' behind him. We then had Dave 'Animal' Thomas and Robert McMahon as two immensely strong tough-tackling central midfielders with Les Needham and Kieran McGregor as flair players either side of them, while Bobby Lake and Glenn Pooley were both prolific forwards, with Pooley an undoubted quality player capable of scoring some outrageous goals. Indeed he still holds the club record of 49 goals in a season from that 1979-1980 campaign. With Lake & Pooley both being left-footed, the right-footed Les Needham would get forward from midfield on the right to make it more of a 4-3-3 at times with Pooley drifting over to the left and McGregor tucking infield to join Thomas & McMahon in the centre, while at the back, Draper & Tombling would both tuck in from full-back to help Nurse mark the opposing front two, with Burnikell sweeping up behind all three. At the start of the season we had Mike Singh in goal and the club's founder Dave Ashton in the centre of midfield, but they had both been replaced by Steve Howard and Dave Thomas respectively by the time we had reached November. Ashton was having fitness problems at the time and then left to play elsewhere after myself and Burnikell dropped him, but he was back on board to play a major part in what was to become our second successful side in the 1987-1988 Season as we won the Division Two title in the Haringey Sunday League. There were only four divisions in that League at the time...a Premier and then Divisions 1-3, but we were not in the bottom one, so winning a title that season was probably a more impressive achievement than doing it in Division Eight of the Edmonton Sunday League. However, once again there were some really poor sides in that division full of slow or ungainly-looking players, and we only really had one rival team for the title in Ferry Lane Youth, and it was to them who we suffered our only League defeat. Indeed we certainly got found out when we played top Premier Division team Risley in a League Cup Semi-Final that season, as we lost 9-0 to them despite fielding a full-strength side ! We had a number of players in the squad at the time who had the most appalling technique in trying to control and pass the ball. They invariably just relied on effort and commitment, but they got badly shown up in that Risley match. That is certainly one thing that I cannot see happening with our current side. When we eventually face a Premier Division team this season, I am convinced that we will give a good account of ourselves and be able to compete on level terms as regards natural ability, and we will certainly not be losing by scorelines such as that. Of course we were all really pleased with ourselves when we clinched that Division Two title back in 1988. It was when we were first dabbling with the filming of matches, albeit only sporadically and with several different club members having a go, but we did capture some footage of 'wild' celebrations in the Central Pavilion changing rooms at Enfield Playing Fields when we clinched the title after an Away match over there. I was part of that winning squad myself, but our regular starting eleven was Sergio Carraro in goal, Aaron Dart at right-back, Paul Cullen at left-back, Francesco Apicella as a sweeper, Demitrius Nurse at centre-half, Dave Ashton & Julien Nurse in the centre of midfield, Huw John right midfield, John Dyer left midfield, and Gareth John & Glenn Pooley up front. Tony O'Driscoll, Karl Christodoulou and Stafford Dyer were the main fill-in players used when those eleven regulars were unavailable, but once again, it was a settled side every week and that undoubtedly helped us win the title. It was also a hard, strong side full of experienced players who could look after themselves, and it needed to be in what was a very tough, physical League, although thankfully, the real 'loony' teams that season (with knives down their socks, etc.) were all in Division One and not in our division, although we did have to face them the season before. Indeed quite a number of our matches during our Haringey League days saw punch-ups and sending-offs, and we were big culprits just as much as everybody else.

Dave Ashton was our Player-Manager that season, with Demitrius Nurse then taking over after we moved into the Waltham Sunday League, but they both had the same 'on-pitch aggression' mentality. Unfortunately that didn't work once we got into the Waltham League though, as our opponents were all good footballing sides and were more intelligent. Trevor Hughes then took charge for the start of the 1991-1992 Season and changed our way of thinking totally. Gone was the 'get stuck in and get rid of it/aggressive intimidatory' style of playing that had suited us well in the Haringey League, and in came a skilful quick counter-attacking passing game where a number of young 16-21 year-old players were all gradually brought in and coached to play the way he wanted, namely a 4-1-4-1 system with a sweeper and a midfield holding player and very much looking to hit teams on the break in passing our way out of defence, with the sweeper making runs from the back instead of the full-backs. Zonal marking from corners was also brought in with great success, much to the disgust of traditionalists Dave Ashton and Demitrius Nurse, although they had both left the club by the time everybody else had agreed that Trevor was right ! It was a totally radical way of playing which no other team in our division(s) were doing, and we gained a number of promotions up the divisions as a result.

The benchmark for what our current team should aspire to now was most definitely set in the 2002-2003 Season when under Trevor's guidance we finished third in the Waltham Sunday League Premier Division, level on points with second-placed Brimsdown Rovers and only five points behind eventual Champions Percival. In fact we were the only team to beat Percival that season, while we also gained four points from our two matches against Brimsdown (with a 2-1 win and a 0-0 draw), and we also had two memorable 3-0 victories against Enfield Rangers, who were another top side in that division. We even had six first-choice players missing in one of those two Enfield Rangers matches, which certainly showed just how strong a squad we had at the time ! Our most common starting line-up that season was Darryl Johnson in goal (although Shaun O'Neill & Stavros Elia also played quite a few games each), Robin Pryke at right-back, Steve Beasley at left-back, Stuart Dorward as sweeper, Paul Woolston at centre-back, Paul Ellerker in the holding role with Marco Ellerker and Chris 'Nugget' Beeden ahead of him, Derek Dorward & John Beasley in the wide midfield positions and Steve Cokell on his own up front. Conor McGovern actually started off the season in that lone striker's role, but then Steve took over from him, while other quality players such as Peter Sutton, Eric & Chidi Ibekwem, Tony Speller, George Bromfield and a very young Lexton Harrison also played in a large number of matches as we coped with injuries and Saturday Semi-Pro call-ups admirably. Our current players only need to look at some of the unbelievable goals that some of our players from this era scored to realise just what a good side we had back then. There are a number of Goal Of The Decade contenders from these players showing on our website via You Tube. Indeed if we are picking an 'All-Time Best Rovers Eleven' from our 40-year history, then Shaun O'Neill (GK), Robin Pryke (RB), Stuart Dorward (SW), Paul Woolston (CB), Marco Ellerker (CM), John Beasley (L/RM) and Conor McGovern (CF) would all most definitely be included for sustained brilliance (and Player Of The Year/Top Goalscorer awards) during that period, while several others from that 2002-2003 team would certainly be in a squad of 16. Likewise Kieran McGregor (CM), Glenn Pooley (LM), Julien Nurse (CM), Francesco Apicella (SW) & John Dyer (LB) from our other two successful sides. We have had other good players play for us during the past 10 years of course, with Terry Moore and Alan Barnard both certainly being options for the left-back and central defender/sweeper positions in that 'All-Time' team, but then it is hard to justify that when they have never been part of a successful side for us. We also cannot really include players who only played for us briefly because of injuries or from signing contracts to play semi-professionally, these being the likes of Steve 'Willie' Platt, Glen Southam, Neil Tilley & Peter Sutton, even though those four could all have gone on to prove to be the best of the lot had they stayed a bit longer.

So, are any of our current players already as good as that ? It is a question that Manager Tony McKay asked me recently, and the answer is no. Not yet. Even if we win Division Two this season and beat the 28-match unbeaten League/League Cup/Friendlies record.  We really cannot make any comparisons yet until they prove themselves, and to do that, we need to be competing at the top of the Premier Division, as that is where the club's benchmark was set in that 2002-2003 Season for sheer quality as we competed at the top of a League which still had seven divisions at the time and was rightly regarded as the strongest Sunday League in the South-East of England. We are not playing at that level yet, but in two years time hopefully we will be, and with the same core group of good young players.


CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Friday 18th November 2016

At the time of my last Chairman's Blog on the 30th September, we had just won our first three matches in Division Two of the Barnet Sunday League and therefore got off to our best start to a season for 19 years under our new management team and their much-changed squad from last season. Our main concern at that time was not being able to arrange any midweek training sessions due to the majority of our players either living too far away to travel to Edmonton in the heavy evening A406 or A10 traffic or simply doing jobs that involved them working evenings. Unfortunately though, we were unable to resolve that issue and we therefore had to scrap training for the rest of the season while encouraging players to undertake their own fitness regimes instead. Fortunately it has not had too much of an effect because our squad for the season had more-or-less been completed by then and we were not desperate for new players to join once the season had started, as has normally been the case in the past. However, two more new signings in Marley McKay & Ben Ankrah have still been made, with another possible three or four in the next week or two, but these are mainly youngsters for the future or just to replace a number of squad members who have since drifted away from not getting a regular game after featuring in our Pre-Season Friendlies and one or two of our earlier League matches. Unfortunately, two of the players who have not been seen for ages are Martin Cruickshank and Jack Bangs, two very good players and loyal club members from recent seasons who we would have liked to have kept, but if they cannot afford to pay their subs or keep letting us down by dropping out on the morning of the match, then we have no option but to put other players in instead. The club have always had that policy, which is how we have managed to survive for 40 years when others have not. We cannot show any favouritism.

We have so many players wanting to play for us now that we could probably field a Reserve side, and indeed that has been talked about a lot since my last Chairman's Blog. The last time we tried it (back in the early 2000's) ended in disaster with both teams fielding a bare eleven or less on a number of occasions and finishing bottom of their respective divisions due to injuries, player retirements half-way through the season, and players leaving because we were losing. We have therefore decided not to take that risk again, but to look at the possibility of using Norsemen's Saturday teams to give our fringe players and regular substitutes a full game every week (bearing in mind Norsemen play at the same venue as us). The sticking point at the moment is that Norsemen charge much higher rates for joining and then playing, so we are trying to find some way of funding that ourselves. Unfortunately though, that will not happen until next season now, so players who are not getting a game for us will either have to be patient and wait for their chance or be prepared to pay Norsemen's membership fees out of their own pocket.

On Sunday 2nd October we finally played our first Home game of the season at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club. As usual at that venue, cricket takes priority until the end of September, but when the goalposts are finally put up, the pitches there are all in immaculate condition, and with the changing rooms and the rest of the facilities being far better than what we had to put up with for our first three (Away) matches, our new players in particular were 'raring to go' as we took on Highgate Albion's 3rd XI and then convincingly beat them 7-0 to record our biggest win for six years in what was a quality performance where everything we tried came off. We were therefore really looking forward to doing the same again the following week with another Home match against lower to mid-table opposition in Majestic, but just as we were all going out onto the pitch at 10:00 am for our warm-up in preparation for the normal 10:30 Kick-Off, they texted to say they did not have enough players and that they would have to concede the match. Although our players were very frustrated at having to use the pitch for a training session between themselves instead, I couldn't really complain, as we had done exactly the same thing ourselves back in March 2008 when Northmet's players were all out on the pitch warming-up at the Holtwhites Sports & Social Club, which like the Edmonton Sports & Social Club is an expensive private ground where they do not want to be wasting the facilities by just having a kickabout instead of a match. To make matters worse on that occasion back in 2008, it was pouring down with rain and Northmet’s players had just spent an hour forking the pitch to make it playable. The heavy rain of course was another reason why half our team cried off for that match (in addition to the fact that we would have only had 10 men if they had all turned up)...and yes, one of our current players was one of the culprits for 'staying in bed', while two others who are still playing for us dropped out with injuries that they maybe could have played through to ensure that we fielded a team so that we would not lose the points and get heavily fined. At least we still kept going the following week back then though and re-grouped from there. Majestic didn't. They folded a couple of days later (owing a large amount of money to the League because most of their players were apparently refusing to pay their subs), and that left the division down to eleven teams as their brief playing record this season had to be expunged. I feel sorry for Majestic's Club Secretary if it wasn't his fault. I was put in the same predicament back in 2008 and it is a horrible job having to tell the opposing Club Secretary on the morning of the match that you cannot field a team when the opposing players are already there and have got changed. Invariably you have to take a heck of a lot of verbal abuse, especially if you are actually there at the ground when it I was ! The rest of our players who had turned up went and 'hid' in their cars of course and left me to do the dirty work.
We did manage to play on the 16th October though where we came away with a 4-2 win against GTFA at Bethune Park in Whetstone, which was another new venue for us after 28 years of playing at the same old grounds in the Waltham Sunday League. That game saw us show a lot of character as we came back from 2-1 down against a good side. We didn't play particularly well because we had not played the week before whereas GTFA had, but excellent finishing from Ayo Matthews and Aiden Kavanagh saw us increase our winning run to five matches, although we were not top of the table due to Churchbury and Northaw both having played more games thanks to our postponement against Majestic and the first day of the season broken leg abandonment against Roving Reporters Reserves.

The 23rd October saw us play our first London FA Sunday Junior Cup match of the season, where again we used our Home pitch to our advantage by beating a poor Plumstead AFC side 8-0 with Ayo Matthews equalling Shamus McGovern's 22-year-old club record in scoring five in a competitive match. With six wins in a row under our belts, we were already starting to feel super-confident, but we were brought back down to earth a bit on the 30th October when we had to play Away to Brotherhood on their 3G pitch at the New River Stadium in Wood Green, as several of our players had not played on such a surface before and we just didn't move the ball quickly enough on it to create enough chances to win and the game finished in a rather drab 1-1 draw, which was very frustrating for me personally as I was able to film the game from the back of a big main stand which was so much better than standing on a ladder-platform out in the open. Consequently the You Tube highlights of that particular match have only been viewed by half the amount of people who have watched our other matches so far this season. Yes, people want to see goals !

We got back to winning ways the following week though with a 2-1 win at Home to Alexandra Park Vets in the League Junior Cup, and then we produced our best performance of the season so far by beating GTFA 5-1 at Home in our most recent match. That last game has now put us on a run of eleven games unbeaten, which is the best run of form we have had since way back in Season 1979-1980. We are highly unlikely to surpass that season though, as we managed to go 28 games unbeaten back then, while Glenn Pooley scored a club record 49 goals. Although Ayo Matthews currently has 12 goals in 11 matches for us this season, Division Two of the Barnet Sunday League now is a better standard than Division Eight of the Edmonton Sunday League was back then, and Ayo will probably do well to get to 30. Back in 1980 we only really had one team (River Plate) who were capable of giving us a close game, but today in the Barnet League there are six other good sides in our division who are all capable of beating us if we take our foot off the pedal. We have certainly been boosted in recent weeks by Daniel Daley suddenly scoring from headers (with three in three matches) though, while Stephen Roussety has clearly benefitted from Bob Cleary coming on board to do the goalkeeper's coaching and warm-ups. We have also now sorted out some problems we had with players not playing the midfield holding role properly, while the communication between players on the pitch has improved as they get to know each other. Most importantly our players are all fit (in stark contrast to last season) and the work-rate is excellent. Defensively we look really solid with only one goal a game being conceded on average, whereas in recent seasons it was three or four. Most impressively though, for our first three Home matches and up until the 28th minute of our fourth one, we did not allow our opponents a single (legitimate) shot on target. The only goal that was scored against us during that time was a complete fluke direct from a corner after it caught on a strong gust of wind.

A lot of credit for this vast improvement in our fortunes has to go to our new Manager this season Tony McKay, firstly for bringing in so many good new young players, while getting Assistant Rod Bennett in to help him, and also Leon McKenzie-McKay to take over the coaching, fitness and captaincy. Unlike any of our previous Managers, Tony also has time to watch through the whole match video of every game to look for improvements in our game and weaknesses in our opponents' game, and he also has time to speak to players personally as to why they are not in the starting line-up. Some of the players being left out don't agree with him of course, but that's football management for you, and so far Tony is more than willing to put up with that...unlike two of our other recent Managers who didn't last for long because of certain players being 'disruptive'. For me personally in filming and editing the matches, Tony and Rod have also made my job a lot easier by not swearing their heads off on the touchline, which was the same as our long-serving Manager Trevor Hughes up until he emigrated to Cyprus in 2014. The last two seasons have been a nightmare in trying to edit out various bits of obscene language bellowed out from in front of the camera, as it is not something I can leave in when League and County FA officials probably watch our You Tube highlights. I was actually fortunate that one of the advantages of playing in the Edmonton area is that there are police helicopters frequently flying overhead during our matches, so I therefore grabbed a sound clip of that from one of our games to use in the editing process to drown out all the swearing. Fortunately I haven't had to do that at all so far this season !

Although a lot of players join us (or want to join us) because we film matches professionally and put the highlights on You Tube, historically it has always caused us a problem because we have not had good enough players to win matches in recent seasons in the Waltham League, so opposing teams would therefore turn up with a full-strength side in the knowledge that they were going to 'win on You Tube' or at least have a close game with us. However, the boot is now completely on the other foot. In our recent Junior Cup match against Alexandra Park Vets, their game plan against a younger side like us was not surprisingly to put 9 men behind the ball and just leave a lone striker 'up top'. They apparently anticipated us hardly having a shot while being able to use their experience to nick a goal or two themselves from the lone striker holding the ball up and then either bringing others into play or winning free-kicks from which they would have an obvious advantage. However, that lone striker was completely marked out of the game by Ivan Bass & Tyronne Petrie, our two central defenders on the day, and as that lone striker was also their Player-Manager, he took himself off after 25 minutes (albeit with what looked like a calf injury) and he then immediately started complaining that I was filming the match and putting the highlights on You Tube 'without his permission'. He didn't say a word before the game of course...because he was expecting to have had at least a couple of goals to his name against us, having won their previous five matches in the Vets Divisions. Indeed the rest of his players were all looking forward to watching themselves beat us on You Tube as well when they came out onto the pitch as I was setting the camera up, but instead they had to watch us create 20 clear-cut chances to their one, and they only really escaped with just a narrow 2-1 defeat because the near-gale force wind blew most of our shots off target and Ayo Matthews had an off-day in front of goal for a change. You Tube also undoubtedly helped us to beat Plumstead AFC 8-0 in the London Cup, as two key players evidently didn't fancy travelling all that way to get thrashed after they had seen us  beating Highgate Albion 3rds 7-0 in our previous match, while it is a fair bet that a likely severe thrashing on You Tube contributed to Majestic deciding to give our game a miss as well !  In the Waltham League it used to be opposing players prancing about doing silly dances in front of the camera whenever they scored. Now it is our players. And don't ask me what those celebratory dances are all about, as I do not watch rap videos.

On the pitch then, things are going really well for us, but what about off the pitch in terms of how we are finding things in the Barnet Sunday League compared to the now-defunct Waltham League ? As I mentioned previously regarding matches regularly kicking-off late from opposing teams turning up only 15-20 minutes before the kick-off and then playing with match balls that are only suitable for a 'kickabout', it certainly does seem a lot more relaxed and 'typical Sunday League'. In one of our recent matches (against Highgate Albion 3rds), we had an opposing left-back wearing a pair of goalkeepers gloves throughout the match which presumably allowed him to get a better grip on the ball while taking throw-ins. We have also had several Referees allowing players to run on and off the pitch 5-a-side-style when making substitutions without even informing them they had made a change. That would have been a definite yellow card in the Waltham League for a start. However, we have been pleasantly surprised with the actual standard of refereeing so far in terms of decision-making and having some sort of authority, as we had been told that the Barnet League had several on their list who were very poor in both aspects. As I have a League Administrator's login to run the F.A.'s Full-Time website for the League, I am able to see the marks out of 100 that clubs have been giving to Referees, and interestingly the majority of them are between 80-100 with quite a few 100 out of 100's being given. However, there are several clubs who have given referees marks of 60 or less so far this season, which means they have to do a written report as to the reasons why. In most cases it is all because a Referee has sent one of their players off, invariably for dissent, or failed to give them a 'blatant penalty'...even if the Referee has actually had a very good match for the other 89 minutes ! One team gave a Referee a mark of 0 out of 100 recently, which is ridiculous, but they were adamant that that particular Referee deserved it. I would like to think that when our Management Committee award marks for Referees (as we do by a general consensus of opinion on our Management WhatsApp Group after the game) that we always show a bit more common sense. We have not had to award a Referee a mark of 60 or below so far this season, and long may that continue.

The main problem for the League this season though is a number of Club Secretaries not being computer-literate...and also claiming that the rest of their club members are not computer-literate either ! Contrary to popular belief, the League DO want to embrace modern technology in having all clubs logging in to Full-Time to enter their referees' marks, team line-ups and goalscorers. However, at the start of the season when the Full-Time system for them to do that was first set up by myself and other League Officers, the F.A.'s servers couldn't cope with the extra demand from numerous Leagues (such as the Barnet League) who had been forced into using Full-Time due to their previous Football Mitoo-run websites temporarily going out of business during the Summer. For the first two weeks of the season, that meant a number of Club Secretaries found that their 'Team Administrator' logins continually failed to accept the usernames and passwords they had created, greeting them with 'I am not a robot' security messages instead, so they just gave up trying. In a lot of cases though, it was Club Secretaries simply not knowing how to use a keyboard to type out a minimum 8-character password that included a number and an upper-case letter or how to copy & paste using a mouse & keyboard ! They also forgot to memorise/store the password once they had logged in to Full-Time and therefore found that once they had logged out, they couldn't get back in again (because cookies are not automatically enabled to remember passwords using certain browsers/computer systems). They had to keep requesting a new invite from Full-Time to create another username & password until they finally got it right. Consequently those Club Secretaries now think the Full-Time system is ‘useless’ and they only bother to enter their Referees' marks and nothing else, or they have gone back to using the resurrected Football Mitoo website instead, from which I then copy their team details and scorers on to Full-Time myself. The situation at the moment is that something like 70% of teams in the Barnet League do use Full-Time to input their team line-ups and goalscorers after every match while another 10% use Mitoo to do that. The other 20% just cannot be arsed though, and there are several reasons for that. The main one is that all they really want to do is just play or manage the team. It has always been very common in Sunday League football that very few people want to be a Club Secretary and do the admin side of things. The fact is though, that you get fined if you don't, and that is why most clubs eventually fold up. The Barnet League HAVE to fine clubs for not entering a Referee's mark on Full-Time or Mitoo because that is an F.A. rule, but some clubs want to text their mark in or use the hand-written match-day teamsheet/referee's report form to do that instead, all because they are not computer-literate. There is no fine for not entering team line-ups online because they are done on the hand-written teamsheet anyway, and there is no fine for not entering goalscorers. If teams do not want their top goalscorer to be in contention to win a trophy at the end of the season, then that's their fault. That's the way the Barnet League has always looked at it...unlike the Waltham League, who fined clubs for everything that was left off a result card, including Fair Play marks out of 10, which is another thing that some 30% of Barnet League clubs just cannot be bothered with, even though it is very simple to enter that mark on Full-Time. Even if their Secretaries ('Team Administrators') are computer-literate though, a lot of clubs don't want to put their line-ups and goalscorers on Full-Time because...
a) They are losing every match. (They did when they were winning !),
b) Semi-Pro Saturday team Managers don't want their first-choice players playing Sunday football in case they get injured, so teams don't want to publicise the fact that they played and/or scored.
c) A lot of players are having to work on Sundays now, so they throw a sickie in order to play. One of our players did that earlier this season and wanted me to put somebody else down for him on the Teamsheet and on Full-Time. I said 'What about the You Tube highlights then ?' He replied 'Oh. I forgot about that'.

d) With thousands of illegal immigrants living in London at the moment, it stands to reason that some of them will be playing Sunday League football somewhere...and quite possibly in our League. 
Of course most of these clubs who are not putting their line-ups and goalscorers on Full-Time are probably forgetting that their registered players are all listed on public display anyway under the 'Players' tab in Full-Time and also on downloadable PDFs in the Club Directory of the League website. Hopefully in time every team will have their line-ups and goalscorers on Full-Time for every match as that will make the League look a bit more attractive to potential new clubs, but I cannot see anything changing in that respect for the rest of this season. It would be nice to know if Ayo (or even Daniel Daley ?) really is the League's leading goalscorer at the end of the season !

Another bone of contention is that most Home clubs seem to be giving us the match-day teamsheet to fill in first, which is surely wrong, because as the Home team sends the form off afterwards it means registered players for that Home team who are not playing but standing on the touchline can fill in and sign the teamsheet for a ringer to play instead without us knowing. This could well be another reason why teams are not putting their line-ups and goalscorers on Full-Time afterwards. Although the one allowable emergency registration player per match rule is a good one and often used, some teams turn up needing to use more than one on the day.

One thing that a lot of clubs would like to do themselves on Full-Time though is register their own players, which is something that quite a few other Sunday Leagues (and the Saturday AFA Leagues) are now allowing. Consequently though, players names are appearing on public display like this...lAURENCE hugheS...or with predictive text not having been corrected. It is not uncommon to see a team's registered players all listed together with some totally in lower case, some totally in upper case and others a complete jumble of upper & lower case and mis-spellings. It will then probably need me to tidy up things for them if that ever happens in our League...which it probably won't anyway as our current Officers are dead against it as far as I know.

Finally, one other unusual thing that we recently encountered in this League was a complaint from Alexandra Park Vets that we did not provide post-match hospitality for them in the form of sandwiches and maybe a jug of beer after we played them on the 6th November. Apparently in the two Vets divisions of the Barnet League there is a 'gentleman's agreement' for post-match hospitality to be provided by the Home team because they all play at private grounds which are invariably used by their Saturday teams that play in the AFA the Edmonton Sports & Social Club is for Norsemen in those Saturday Leagues. Although our match against Alexandra Park Vets was in the League Junior Cup and was not a Vets match as such, meaning that 'gentleman's agreement' should not have applied anyway, inviting our opponents (and the Referee) into the clubhouse afterwards for a drink is something we are keen to do, and providing sandwiches and a jug of beer for them will also be something we will consider if we can afford it. The problem at the moment though is that we can't afford it because our players would all have to chip in with us struggling to obtain match/You Tube highlights sponsorship that would pay for it. Unlike the Vets teams, a lot of our players are young and do not have a lot of money. They are playing Sunday League football because it is less expensive than playing in the AFA Leagues on Saturday afternoons where the match fees cover the costs of post-match hospitality. Also, at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club on a Sunday, Norsemen's Eastern Junior Alliance Youth teams have priority for use of the clubhouse for their own post-match hospitality, and that is what happened on the 6th November, with the Arsenal v. Spurs match kicking-off at mid-day obviously not helping. There just wasn't room in there. The subsequent verbal spat we have had with Alexandra Park Vets about that was rather unpleasant and unnecessary as we didn't join the Barnet League with the intention of upsetting people, but we will learn from our mistakes, which includes finding out of our opponents are fine with having their match highlights on You Tube...which I'm sure they all are, win or lose, although we might have to start toning down some of those goal celebrations just a tad !? It didn't half annoy me when other teams did it to us.


CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Friday 30th September 2016

At the time of my last Chairman's Blog on the 19th June, we were without a Manager and we only had ten players left with Terry Moore, Alan Barnard, Gavin Mardell, Lexton Harrison, Eric Ibekwem and our end-of-season goalkeeper Simon Jackson all having announced their retirement because of old age, injuries or family commitments. With no response from various adverts we had placed for a new manager, coach and some players, we then had to cancel our AGM on the 8th July for only the second time in the club's history and we ended up not having one at all. Since playing our last match in the Waltham Sunday League on the 13th March and with us not entering the Southgate Hockey Centre's Summer 7-a-side Football League like we normally do, the club had more-or-less temporarily folded, even though we had been accepted into the Barnet Sunday League for the coming 2016-2017 Season. What made things worse in late-June and early July was England's abysmal showing in the Euros, embarrassingly losing to Iceland and therefore not exactly encouraging people to suddenly take up playing grassroots football for clubs like ourselves. Indeed England's performances at major Championships could well be a major factor in the demise of many Sunday Leagues since they last did 'well' at the World Cup back in 1990. Invariably, 'parks level' players want to start playing football themselves in March & April (which is frustratingly after the Sunday League registration deadline) because they are excited by what is going on in the Premier League at that time of year, then they change their minds in July when Pre-Season training is about to begin because England's performances in Summer Tournaments have been so bad that it totally disillusions them. Sunday League clubs then have to fold from a lack of players before their season has even started !
At the same time this year we then had the EU Referendum vote suddenly causing divisions in our club when there were none previously. Yes, apparently 'Remain' voters ONLY can now play for Rovers ! The arguments initially caused a lot of damage to a club like us where we have traditionally had a complete mixture of players from all sorts of social, educational and racial backgrounds from one end of the spectrum to another. Football brought all these diversities together and we had never had a problem...until certain current and former members started letting off steam on Facebook & Twitter by accusing our Brexit voters (and non-voters in my case) of being 'uneducated racists' and that their lives had now been 'ruined' by these 'thickos' not thinking about the implications it would have for them and their families. Some of the comments even suggested they would never talk to some of their opposite-voting ex-team-mates again ! Needless to say those who were doing the complaining work in the highly-paid financial and legal industries where they can afford to pay for private healthcare, while those who didn't vote 'Remain' were self-employed or struggling to find a decent job...and in my case had to wait 8 hours in the North Mid's A & E department back in June because of overcrowding from newly-arrived immigrants. Thankfully it all calmed down within a couple of weeks, but it certainly put paid to our ideas of having a 40th Anniversary Dinner this September...which would have had to be planned at around that EU Referendum vote time.
In the meantime, we were still no nearer finding a Manager. Indeed there were several other teams in the area advertising for one as well. In general, few people want to do it for men's Sunday League teams because an increasing number of players do not pay their subs, either because they are ex-Semi-Pros or they have previously played in the local KOPA (Greek Cypriot) or Turkish Community Leagues where they are not used to having to do such a thing. Other players say £5.00 a match is too expensive (let alone the £10 we are charging), or they spend all their money on 'weed'. That means the Manager has to sponsor the club in order to keep it running, so they turn the job down or leave after a few weeks when the money runs out. Kids teams never have a problem finding a Manager or a sponsor though. There are normally seven dads all doing that on the touchline for your average mini-soccer match.

As for new players, the only responses we were getting from the various adverts placed at that time were from people phoning (invariably with an African accent) late afternoon/early evening on a Sunday wanting to join us...after we had to cancel our planned Pre-Season session in the morning from not having a Manager and not having any players interested in attending ! The first thing they then ask is how much do we pay, then they ask when and what time do we play and they are aghast when we say Sunday mornings. They were under the impression that all Sunday Leagues in this country are played in the evenings (as Powerleague is in midweek) and that it is all Semi-Pro where they will get paid to play. They think that we are one of those clubs because it says 'Sunday League Club looking for players' in our adverts. It is probably because the first sort of football they encounter when they arrive in this Country is at Powerleague, and in the Enfield area, a lot of people who play in that on midweek evenings (at Edmonton County School) also play in the KOPA or TCFF Leagues on Sundays where they DO get paid...allegedly.
On Thursday 14th July though, I suddenly received a phone call from one of our few remaining players, Daniel Cascoe, telling me to phone somebody he knew called 'Tony' who was interested in becoming our new Manager. I then phoned Tony the following day and had a long chat (without realising who he was), then just before I put the phone down after arranging with him to attend Pre-Season Training the following Sunday, I suddenly remembered to ask him for his surname and he said 'McKay'. I said 'What ?!!! Leon's Dad ?' Yes ! Why on earth Cascoe didn't tell me I have no idea, and I don't know why Tony didn't mention it when he first answered the phone either, but I had met him before some 13 years ago when Leon (McKenzie-McKay) first started playing for us as an 18-year-old and Tony had a couple of long chats back then with myself and our then-Manager Trevor Hughes where it was clear he knew what he was talking about. All it needed was for Cascoe to tell me it was him and I wouldn't even needed to have phoned. Just 'bring him on down' ! With one or two suitable new players having finally answered the adverts by then, we decided to arrange a Pre-Season Training session at Enfield Playing Fields (Donkey Lane end) for on Sunday 17th July with Tony's agreement, but only four players turned up along with myself. From what I can remember, that was Scott Jenkins (amazingly !), Danny Hagan (typically when nobody else is there !), and new players Tom Croake and Paul Coldwell, both of whom had asked to join without knowing anybody. We waited until nearly 11.00 am but there was no sign of our new Manager ! He did finally arrive though, along with Leon, Cascoe and Tyronne Petrie, and he had to immediately apologise for Leon's Mum deciding to throw a surprise all-night birthday party for Leon that was the cause of them all oversleeping. We then just had a chat about things in the car park and went home without training, while deciding to give it another go the following Wednesday evening at Once again though, only four players turned up, including Hagan, Tom and Paul again, and although Tony was there on time himself, we waited and waited and just gave up in the end, going straight home without training again. At that point, the club very nearly folded up completely, and it was probably the nearest we had been to doing so since way back in 1977.

On Sunday 24th July we decided to give Pre-Season Training another go at Enfield Playing Fields due to one or two more new players asking to join and a few more of our remaining 10 players from the end of last season indicating that they would turn up. We made a start with seven including new player Curtis Baalam, while another three turned up eventually, so it was finally a worthwhile session. We still didn't have enough players to be able to arrange any Pre-Season Friendlies though, and it was still rather worrying times for us. We decided to keep the Sunday morning and Wednesday evening Pre-Season sessions at Enfield Playing Fields going though, and for the session on Wednesday 27th July I agreed to pick up Martin Cruickshank half-an-hour late so that he could attend after work, while everybody else was due to arrive at the ground at When myself and Martin got to the car park just after, we realised that the others would have already gone out onto the playing fields to try and find a space to train on amidst some 10-15 other teams doing likewise, so we started walking down the central path to look for them. All we could see though were a number of teams with large groups of players, so we scoured around looking for small groups of four of five, which would have been us. Once we got half-way down the path, we suddenly saw what looked like Cascoe sitting down getting changed ready to train for another team, who had a dead ringer for Jack Bangs joining in with them...then we suddenly realised that WAS Jack, and that all the other 13 players there were new players, most of whom had been brought along by Tony ! (Tony himself had wandered off away from the group warming up as he was putting some cones out). We then recognised Leon taking the session, which also caught us out as we had never seen him doing that before ! When the players started doing some ballwork later on and I could see they were all young (mainly 18-23 year-olds), fit and had good ability, I suddenly realised we had hit the jackpot ! This was exactly what we had been looking for for the past 10 seasons ! The players there included two sets of identical twins (Connor & Aiden Kavanagh and Chris & Andreas Kriticos) and four or five others in addition to Tom Croake, Paul Coldwell and Curtis Baalam, who had all attended training previously. Quite a few of these players were also taller than anybody who played for us on a regular basis last season, so that was very handy, and there was even a good split of black, white, mixed race, Greek & Turkish players amongst them as well, therefore keeping up our tradition of being a multi-racial side representing the area the club is based in. After a couple more training sessions with decent turnouts (and a good Management Committee meeting down the pub after one of them where myself, Tony, Leon & Danny Hagan decided on our roles), we finally played our first Pre-Season Friendly on Sunday 7th August Away to Asian team AC Milano at the Low Hall Sports Ground in Walthamstow. We fielded a squad of 17 for this one which included eleven players making their debuts (or a comeback appearance in Khaheem McKenzie's case after a brief spell with us two seasons ago). Unfortunately though, the absence of both Grant Baker and Stephen Roussety meant outfield player Zac Troullous had to go in goal, and with AC Milano being a very good side who will be playing in the London FA's top Sunday Cup this season, we ended up losing 3-0. The following Sunday we then lost by even more, going down 6-2 to Broxbourne Rangers Old Boys in another Pre-Season Friendly, this time on our usual Pre-Season 'Home' pitch at Enfield Playing Fields, but once again that was due to us not having a proper goalkeeper again more than anything else. However, we fielded a squad of 14 and it was good 'game time' for our new players. For our third Pre-Season Friendly on Sunday 21st August, we played Highgate Albion's Second XI and finally managed what was only our second win in 17 matches and our first win since December last year ! That was due to both Grant Baker and Stephen Roussety finally making themselves available to play half a match each in goal, while new players Harold Ofori and Ayo Matthews (both of whom Grant had brought along) also made a difference. In addition to that, Lexton Harrison had now been able to abandon his retirement due to his son's team's Sunday morning League folding, meaning that Lexton no longer had to take him to matches while our games were taking place. With Danny Hagan also having recovered from injury after missing almost the whole of last season, it was like signing two more quality new players. Our final Pre-Season Friendly on the 28th August saw us gain a creditable 1-1 draw with last season's Waltham Sunday League Division Two Champions Edmonton Blades in a game where we once again fielded a squad of 17 despite having seven players unavailable, so we were finally now all set up perfectly for our first-ever Barnet Sunday League match the following week.
As always in Pre-Season, there are one or two players turning up who are not quite up to the standard required for us to sign them up to play in League matches...and they are often unfamiliar with how football (at any level) operates in this country. One of them (from Somalia) seemed to think I pick the team because we told him 'the Manager picks the team'. I told him I am not the Manager, but in every country apart from the UK, the 'Manager' is the Club Secretary/Chairman and the 'Coach' is who picks the team. So he was well confused and didn't turn up again after that ! Despite that, Tony still had 19 players available to pick a squad of 16 from for our first match Away to Roving Reporters Reserves at the Old Elizabethans Ground in Barnet. It was a difficult choice, and he had to leave out Martin Cruickshank and Jack Bangs in the end for non-attendance during most of Pre-Season when they were both regulars for us last season. He was able to do that because we had such a strong squad now, and indeed we took the lead after just 5 minutes through Daniel Daley and had several other chances before an opposing player unfortunately broke his leg in a 50/50 challenge with Danny Hagan after 18 minutes and the game had to be abandoned. It was a total freak accident, but of course really frustrating for everybody when we had started so well.
However, we have now completed three games since, winning all of them and getting off to our best start to a season for 19 years when we won our first four competitive matches in the 1997/1998 Season. Granted, the bottom division of the Barnet Sunday League is not as strong as Division One of the Waltham Sunday League and we haven't exactly won those three matches easily, but considering how many new players we have got and the fact that we are fielding squads with at least four substitutes every week, it is all a far cry from how things were looking back in mid-July. In addition to that, we now have a growing number of supporters and players who are not in the squad coming along to watch our matches and encourage from the touchline, while our Management Team now resembles the sort of setup that is normally seen at Step 5 Semi-Pro level on a Saturday. Alongside Tony, we have his own-appointed Assistant Manager Roderick Bennett, who is a vastly experienced Manager himself at local parks League level on Saturdays with the now-defunct PERME, a former Enfield Alliance team. Leon McKenzie-McKay is now our Club Captain and Player-Coach, with his particular speciality being pre-match preparation due to his job as a fitness instructor at Virgin Active...and we are certainly seeing the benefits of that compared to last season, even though Leon is rightly demanding a lot more from our players. We also now have a goalkeeping coach and qualified Club Linesman in Bob Cleary, who has just come on board after deciding not to take up offers of being on League Committees following the Waltham Sunday League's demise. (He was that League's Referees Secretary amongst other things). With Alan Barnard continuing as Club Treasurer even though he has retired as a player, this all allows me to solely concentrate on the admin side of things together with the filming of matches and the subsequent analysis of that footage. Unfortunately, Danny Hagan is still having problems with his knee, but he will also have a coaching input as a Vice-Captain if he plays, as will Tyronne Petrie...who will hopefully be involved in a new kit sponsorship that we have planned whereby our players will wear shirts with squad numbers and their own surnames on the back, which is badly needed when we have two sets of identical twins playing for us ! Indeed numerous adults Sunday League teams that I film in other League's Cup Finals nowadays have names and squad numbers on their shirts...and contrary to what most people think about Sunday League football they do NOT have 'silly' numbers such as 69, 99 or 100+1. We will not get sponsorship if we are perceived to be a 'muckabout' team, as potential sponsors will think we might fold. Muckabout numbers and names nowadays are only for corporate matches and the likes of Football For Fans (who I film Tournaments for during the Summer)...although having said that, one of Arnos Rangers players was wearing a No.69 shirt in our last match, but maybe that was why we beat them a bit more comfortably than our first two opponents !?

The only real problem we are having at the moment is getting enough players to attend our planned Wednesday night training sessions at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club. We have been unable to run a session so far because the majority of our players live too far away to travel after work at that time of night and there is simply no central venue we can use that is going to suit everybody. Travelling to Edmonton from the likes of Stevenage, Harlow, Potters Bar, Dagenham & Canning Town on a Sunday morning is not a problem, but it certainly is at most other times, and especially when Spurs are playing at Home at the same time. We could advertise for new players to attend training to make up the numbers, but then we already have a big-enough squad, and although some players have already left of their own accord since Pre-Season, we do not want to lose any others from having to leave them out because they cannot attend training.

At least we will have plenty more matches in the Barnet League for players to get a chance to play in though, unlike in the Waltham Sunday League last season. There are 12 teams in our division instead of four, and with the squad we have got now, we should be able to progress in at least one of the three Cups we will be competing for this season.
We are of course still getting used to the many things that the Barnet Sunday League do differently to the Waltham Sunday League. One of those, but probably the only thing that we as a club find a bit unnecessary, is the filling in of player's signatures on teamsheets before the kick-off of every match, which is the League's favoured method of catching out teams who might be playing 'ringers'. They do this by matching the signatures on the teamsheets to those on the player registration forms, but my signature is different every time for a start, and some of our players didn't even know what a signature was when I got them to sign their registration forms ! They just wrote their names down in cursive handwriting like a 5-year-old would do.
The studying of players' signatures to see if they match up is so subjective that we could 'get done' for playing ringers even though we won't be and we have not done so since our Edmonton Sunday League days back in the late-1970's...because we have never needed to. We already have 29 players registered and unlike other clubs, we register anyone who has ever played for the club who can no longer play regularly but might be prepared to help us out if we are short. The new Emergency Registration rule for the morning of the match will also stop teams 'having to' play ringers, and we will certainly use that if we have to. Evidently the League Chairman won't allow teamsheets to be scanned & e-mailed in after matches either. They still have to be posted off because he thinks Home teams will Tippex/Snopake out ringers' names & signatures and enter a registered player instead. Are Club Secretaries really that devious though ? The Full-Time software will stop clubs from  playing suspended or unregistered players anyway because first names will now be on display publicly instead of the initials only that were displayed on the League's previous Football Mitoo website, and suspended players will not be listed amongst the 'available players' in the fixtures on Full-Time either. With Mitoo, opposing teams wouldn't know that certain players were suspended.
Other than that rule, everything has been so much better than the Waltham League in terms of how the League is run off the pitch. They have allowed me a login to Full-Time as a League Administrator to set things up for integration into the custom League website that I have designed for them (, and they also allow Club Secretaries to login to Full-Time and input their own information. Both of these are things that Waltham League Secretary Denis Coventry refused to allow. Similarly regarding the submission of player registration forms. In the Barnet League, Registration Secretary Bobby Bernini welcomes clubs who knock on his door to give him completed forms so that he can have a friendly chat with them and advise them on certain things they may have filled in wrongly, whereas in the Waltham League, Denis would fine them, then send them an unintelligible text or e-mail telling them what they had done wrong...for which they would have to phone him after to find out what he meant. He would then argue with them and slam the phone down. The Barnet League also tell their clubs to expect a match every week, and they do that by re-arranging fixtures as late as a Saturday morning if necessary, allowing 'anybody' to Referee games, and using alternative pitches (including 3G Astroturfs) & staggered kick-off times if necessary. It keeps players interested...unlike in the Waltham Sunday League, who would tell teams on a Monday before a match that they were unable to arrange a game for them, and several teams would end up sitting at home on a Sunday morning wondering why they couldn't have played each other ! Yes, the Waltham Sunday League was a better standard of football and most clubs were better-run in terms of having all their shirts numbered, providing two suitable match balls and turning up in good time to put their goalnets up, but so far we are really enjoying our experience in this new League and at the moment, our players can't wait for their next match.




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