CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Tuesday 2nd April 2019

My last Chairman’s Blog was written during our Xmas & New Year’s break just after a run of matches during November and December where we had played well and had some good wins or had been very unluckily defeated by late goals. That was with a number of players missing who we were expecting to have back for January, and with 19 players turning up to our first midweek training session after the break, we were looking forward to taking on Division Three leaders Zenit St. Whetstone Reserves in the Third Round of the League Senior Cup at Enfield Grammar School with a Quarter-Final place up for grabs. However, for reasons best known to themselves, a large number of players decided to do other things instead, leaving us with a squad of just 13 including emergency signing Marlon Bennett (son of Assistant Manager Roderick), and although we fielded a strong attacking side, the absence of Curtis Baalam, Tyronne Petrie and the suspended Richard Harris made us too weak defensively, and Zenit’s team of ex-Hackney & Leyton Sunday League Premier Division players had a field day, convincingly beating us 4-1…and it would have been a lot more had it not been for Louis Bennett Junior making some excellent saves for us. As it turned out though, Zenit Reserves had foolishly brought on an unregistered player for the last five minutes to give him a runout when they really didn’t need to, seemingly unaware that we put highlights of our matches on You Tube. He was then spotted by somebody who realised he was actually registered for another team in the League at the time, so the League were then tipped off about it and had no choice but to award the match to us instead. We didn’t know that until a few weeks later though, so we could easily have gone into our next match at Home to Premier Division side Enfield Athletic in the League Challenge Cup the following week feeling really demoralised. However, we managed to scrape up a squad of 16 for this one, but only one of our substitutes (Jack Bangs) was an attacking ‘game changer’ with the likes of Aiden Kavanagh, Daniel Daley, Nana Obeng, Eni Bezati and Furmaan Khan all unavailable…as the majority of them would be for the rest of the season (at the time of writing this). At least we were much stronger defensively though with Richard Harris, Tyronne Petrie and Daniel Cascoe all starting this time against what turned out to be a physical competitive side. We also had goalkeeper Ian Whitmore playing for the first time in a while, but this was to be his last match for us as it had become evident by now that he only wanted to play for us if we treated him like a Semi-Pro Saturday player in allowing him to play without paying and to pay him his travel expenses. Although he was a good enough goalkeeper for him to play at that sort of level on a Saturday, we couldn’t afford to do that ourselves as we simply don’t have the sponsorship, so Manager Tony McKay decided to stick with Louis Bennett Junior and other possible new but less experienced goalkeepers for the rest of the season thereafter. ‘Playing Semi-Pro’ on a Sunday is certainly becoming more and more common though because of the boost in popularity of Sunday League football thanks to You Tube teams SE Dons, Palmers, the Baiteze Squad and others. An increasing number of highly-qualified (EUFA-B-type) Manager-Coaches are starting up Sunday teams that are full of ex-Semi-Pros from Saturday football, all of whom have been attracted by the Manager-Coach himself sponsoring the club and paying ‘star players’ expenses so that the team can win trophies, with the Manager then enhancing his own reputation with the help of social media …until the Manager’s money then suddenly runs out because of unexpected exorbitant pitch fees and fines for administrative & disciplinary misdemeanours, so the team then folds within a year because the players themselves simply will not pay to play. That is why we would not want to go down that route, as we would rather the club survive than ensure we have a Semi-Pro standard goalkeeper at all costs.

Another reason for us only suffering a narrow 2-1 defeat to Enfield Athletic was a change to a 3-1-4-2 formation having always played with four at the back during Tony McKay’s reign so far. This was Player-Coach Tyronne Petrie’s preference and it seemed to work well, so we continued with it for the next few matches that he played in. The following match four weeks later Away to Zenit St. Whetstone’s First Team wasn’t one of them though as Tyronne had to work again…as he has to do two or three Sundays a month on average. We were also missing Richard Harris, Troy Blake, Harold Ofori and Marlon Bennett as well, so we were desperately short of central defenders, meaning Aiden Kavanagh had to play there alongside Lexton Harrison, with Henry Akinsanmi also having to play out of position at left-back. This was against a team who were top of Division One and who had not lost a League match since re-joining the League at the start of the previous season, so we were always likely to suffer a heavy defeat, especially after having lost 6-0 to them in a Cup match that previous season. To make matters worse, keeper Louis Bennett Junior didn’t realise that Zenit wear exactly the same colour shirts as his personal XXXL luminous yellow top, so he therefore had to try and squeeze into one of our standard XL size keepers tops instead. That ended up badly restricting his movement and he just couldn’t get his head right for the game, despite the efforts of our goalkeeping coach Bob Cleary to encourage him during the warm-up. Zenit Firsts therefore strolled to a comfortable 5-0 win with Bennett Junior being at fault for several of the goals, although he did at least make one or two excellent saves as well. One positive to come out of the game though was our improved performance in the last 20 minutes of the match after 21-year-old attacking midfielder Mustafa Farhan was brought on for his debut after having trained with us on and off since Pre-Season, but in general it was a bad day for us as the lack of match practice from three waterlogged or frozen pitch postponements in a row took it’s toll against a side who had been playing regularly during that time and are arguably the best team in all four divisions at the moment.
Another disappointment for us from that Zenit St. Whetstone match was experienced central defender Ivan Bass getting changed and going home at Half-Time because Manager McKay had only named him as a substitute….and indeed we have not seen or heard from Ivan since. Tony’s reasoning for that decision (and putting Aiden Kavanagh in the starting line-up at centre-back instead) was that Ivan had not played well in his limited appearances so far this season and that he had also been suffering from a foot injury, so Tony didn’t want to risk him from the start against such a good side. However, the problem with that was Ivan now lives in Stevenage, and travelling all that way for only half a game or less is simply not worth his while when he could be spending time with his family instead. Some of our club members might complain about that attitude…until they find themselves in the same predicament of course. It has happened numerous times in our 43-year-history where players who have always been popular with their team-mates reach their mid-30’s and are ‘forced out’ (for want of a better phrase) in this way because the Manager can no longer trust them to play well enough for 90 minutes against much younger and fitter sides. If we were a club where our sole objective was to ensure everybody got half a game no matter how good the opponents are and/or the importance of a match, then Ivan could have started, but we have never gone down that route in competitive matches and we are not going to start now. We will always start a game with our strongest possible side (according to whoever the Manager is). Nine times out of ten, these departures from the club always end up with the player meeting up with his former team-mates and Manager at some stage in the future with no hard feelings, and I’m sure that Ivan (and other long-serving players who will quite likely face a similar scenario in the next year or so) will be no different.

Our next match Away to Hornsey & Highgate saw us turn up at Highgate Woods with a squad of 15, all of whom struggled to find a parking space as usual, especially as it was a warm sunny day with families and dog-walkers galore over there. This match saw us field another debutant in 20-year-old winger Zak Mohamud, another player who had been training with us for a while, but there was no Tom Croake for this one, as he had now decided to leave the club after being substituted the previous week for the third match in a row, which was mainly because both himself and Ayo Matthews prefer to play a lone striker role in a 4-2-3-1, but we had changed to a 3-5-2 and it just wasn’t working for them in playing alongside each other up front. Manager McKay preferred to keep Ayo on the pitch though because he is physically stronger and more likely to hold the ball up…in theory, although that is not really his game either. With Tom gone and Jack Bangs only on the bench because of a back injury, that saw us score only one goal in this game…through Mustafa Farhan in the 49th minute, but it looked like giving us the three points for the first time ever against our ‘jinx’ team until 40-year-old Louis Bennett Senior, who had come on as a substitute to make his debut, brought down a forward in the area, resulting in Hornsey & Highgate equalising with the last kick of the match. It was a bit of a sickener when we had already thrown away matches on four previous occasions so far this season by conceding goals in the last few minutes, but we would have taken a point before the game, and considering all the good players we had now lost for the rest of the season, it was still an encouraging performance.

Our next match on the 24th February saw us playing at Home to Grange Park, the team that Tom Croake decided to join a couple of days later just before the League’s transfer deadline, so our 4-2 win in this match maybe showed that he might have made a mistake, although such is our erratic form this season that Grange Park are still likely to finish above us anyway. We were actually really poor in the First Half though, finding ourselves 1-0 down at half-time after Troy Blake, who was playing in his first game for nearly three months, gave away a penalty which was easily converted past Lexton Harrison, who was forced to play in goal at the last minute with Louis Bennett Junior unable to get out of bed after a night out. Fortunately though, Grange Park also had an outfield player in goal…in their case their best one…and after we had brought on Jack Bangs and Zak Mohamud on at half-time, we played really well in the Second Half with Ayo Matthews scoring his first goal since October and Henry Akinsanmi notching his first goal for the club in addition to further goals from Ayo and from Leon McKenzie-McKay.

That result put us in a positive frame of mind for our Home match against Highgate Albion Reserves the following week as we now had an outside chance of finishing Runners-Up in the division, but our opponents were in the best position to take that spot, so it was a game that we simply had to win. However, Marlon Bennett injured his knee in the warm-up, quite likely putting himself out for the rest of the season when he had only just joined, while Troy Blake, Daniel Cascoe and Zak Mohamud all failed to turn up for the kick-off. That meant Tyronne Petrie, Sam Woolley and substitute Oshade Watson all had to play through injuries when it was initially planned to give them a rest, and with Jack Bangs missing through illness and no attacking players on the bench once again, we perhaps not surprisingly slumped to a 3-1 defeat. We did have a new goalkeeper in Myles Forde making his debut for us in this game though, but as he has to work most Sundays and can only play now and again, it was still a case of using whoever we could in that position to see the season out with.
We then had another two weeks of waterlogged pitch postponements before we took on top Premier Division side Park Royals in the League Senior Cup Quarter-Finals on Sunday 24th March, while in the meantime, Curtis Baalam had announced that he was joining the long list of players who were now out for the rest of the season, in his case after trying to play through our previous four matches with a tear in his Achilles tendon and arthritis in his ankle. With Sam Woolley also missing (and very rarely playing due to persistent injuries), Tyronne Petrie having to be called in to work at the last minute and several other players preferring to do other things, it left us with only two substitutes including 40-year-old Louis Bennett Senior, while Harold Ofori had to go in goal for the first time in his Rovers career with Myles Forde working and Louis Bennett Junior injured, although Harold did tell Manager Tony McKay before the game that he was ‘a proper keeper’, unlike some who we have had to force into doing the job. We also had Josh Baptiste playing a rare game, which meant he didn’t know some of our newer players’ names, while defender Troy Blake was extremely rusty having missed the Highgate Albion Reserves match and also having played only once in four months due to his own injury problems. That saw Troy punished for two mistakes in the first 10 minutes as Park Royals comfortably took a 2-0 lead, and with them cleverly using the width of the pitch at their Home ground (Hadley FC…a semi-pro stadium) to spread the play and sucker us into a pressing game thereafter where we couldn’t get close enough to stop long balls being played over the top of our back three by their defenders, we ended up suffering an embarrassing and demoralising 8-1 defeat that effectively ended our season and quite probably put a number of players off from bothering to turn up for our remaining three League matches (Away to FC Lokomotiv Thunder and at Home to New Barnet and Zenit St. Whetstone) whenever they are scheduled for.

However, with no League matches arranged for us on the 31st March or the 7th April, we decided to use our final Wednesday night training session on the 3G pitch at Enfield Playing Fields on Wednesday 27th March for a one-hour 11-a-side practice match against KOPA League team Akanthou, who share the other half of the pitch with us. For that, only two players who started against Park Royals bothered to turn up, with several of the others not saying a word when Manager Tony McKay asked them to indicate their availability, so we therefore just got on with it using players who had regularly been attending training but had not yet played in a competitive match for us in some cases. In goal was Myles Forde, while our back four consisted of 18-year-old Kai McAuley, 19-year-old goalkeeper Louis Bennett Junior, 40-year-old Louis Bennett Senior and 13-year-old Harvey Bennett (who is built like an 18-year-old, so could get away with it !). In midfield was 21-year-old Mustafa Farhan, Dave Nguyen, Daniel Cascoe and 17-year-old Jordan Ofosu-Osei, while up front was Jack Bangs and 18-year-old Jamie Butler. Tyronne Petrie then turned up later on to replace Harvey at left-back, but that initial back four actually played better as a unit than the back three of experienced players we fielded against Park Royals a few days before, even though two of them normally play in goal, another has dodgy knees and the other isn’t supposed to be playing because of his age ! It was the two players that Kai McAuley had brought along, Jordan and Jamie who were really impressive though with Jamie scoring a good goal in our 4-2 ‘defeat’…although the score didn’t really matter, and as they are keen to join us next season, we made sure we got their details straight away. It is very frustrating that the Barnet Sunday League’s player registration deadline was on the 28th February though when most other Sunday Leagues have now changed theirs to the 31st March, as we cannot use these new players for our three remaining League matches and we will therefore have to rely on demoralised and/or half-injured players turning up as we cannot afford to concede those games and pay the fines. We already have other players in the 16-23 age group lined up to play for us next season, or even as early as May (in Friendly matches) once they have finished their current exams and University courses, and indeed the plan for next season is certainly to find a squad of around 16-18 players from that age group who all live locally and/or can attend training and do not work on Sundays. We have six of those players registered this season already in Louis Bennett Junior, Kai McAuley, Sam Woolley, Nana Obeng, Mustafa Farhan & Zak Mohamud, but we are expecting 10-12 more to be joining us during the Summer, including Jordan Ofosu-Osei & Jamie Butler. Older players from the last few seasons will then make up the rest of the squad, but they will need to make themselves available more-or-less every Sunday, keep themselves fit instead of going down with constant injuries, and make an effort to attend training at least two or three times a month. Then we will undoubtedly be able to build a settled side again that plays as a unit instead of not knowing each other and trying to play different tactics (pressing/not pressing/playing the offside trap) all at the same time. That teamwork was what we had when we won Division Two two seasons ago and it was what we had during the mid/late-1990’s when the large majority of our squad were 16-23 year-olds to begin with and they all stayed together for a long time, ending up with us being one of the top Sunday sides in London by the early-2000’s when they were all in their late-20’s and in their prime.

Next season, the Barnet Sunday League (of which I am currently on the Committee) are aiming to introduce an extra two divisions while cutting the number of teams in each, so that there are 10 teams in each division instead of the 13 that there are in the bottom two divisions at the moment. So six divisions with 60 teams in total, but with an extra Cup competition introduced for each division. If all goes to plan, there will be a Challenge Cup for all teams in all six divisions, then a Senior Cup for the Premier and Division One, an Intermediate Cup for Divisions 2 & 3 and a Junior Cup for Divisions 4 & 5. Then there will be a divisional Cup for each division and of course (for ourselves to enter), the London FA Sunday Junior Cup. The divisional Cups will be run late in the season to stop clubs from folding if they are out of the other Cups and towards the bottom of their divisions with nothing left to play for. More Friendlies will also be arranged for struggling teams to try out new players later in the season with the help of Twitter and other social media platforms….and the registration deadline will be extended until the 31st March to fall into line with other Leagues. Teams folding up once it gets to February and March has always been a problem in Sunday League football, so ideas like this are needed to stop that happening.

There has been a lot of interest from newly-formed clubs wanting to join the League next season, and if a lot of them are top-quality sides, we may find ourselves playing in Division Two next season whatever happens in our last three matches, but that may not be a bad thing if we have predominantly 16-23 year-old players playing for us. Then we can grow from there and it will still be a decent standard for us to attract good players.


CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Saturday 22nd December 2018

It has been two months since my last Chairman’s Blog, so there is certainly a lot to catch up on, as we have played nine matches since then with only one Sunday where we did not have a game.
We had just completed two wins against weak opponents before we faced another on the 14th October at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club, as GTFA, who were below us in the Division One table, turned up with a depleted side and we ran out comfortable 4-1 winners despite missing our then-regular centre-back pairing of Richard Harris & Troy Blake and also Aiden Kavanagh, Nana Obeng and others. That showed the strength of our squad and we followed that up with a fourth win in a row the week after when we defeated a useful Crews Hill side 4-2 in the Second Round of the League Senior Cup on Pitch 10 at Enfield Playing Fields…which is the most annoying pitch to play on over there from a match-filming vantage point perspective as there is no room on the touchline to put my ladder-platform up, therefore meaning I have to stand on a crate instead in order to film over Manager Tony McKay’s head and get a clear view of the game. That Crews Hill match saw Ayo Matthews score his 4th & 5th goals in three matches, thereby showing he was finally back to his best after an injury-plagued time last season, while it also saw the debut of holding midfielder Ashley-James Smith, who was brought along at the last minute by Tom Croake to play as an Emergency Registration signing after Curtis Baalam overslept. Unfortunately though, Ashley’s fitness wasn’t good enough to last a full match and he has not played since. In fact he has now apparently suffered a broken ankle at work which will no doubt rule him out for the rest of the season. This match also saw the usual Sunday League Club Linesman problem surface again in that some Referees refuse to use them as they habitually treat them with suspicion. These are Referees who invariably officiate in the Spartan South Midlands League on Saturdays where there are always officially-appointed Assistant Referees, so Club Linesmen are therefore not required at that level and Referees are subsequently not used to using them. The problem here though was that our Club Linesman Bob Cleary is actually a qualified Referee (and has also since been appointed as the Barnet Sunday League’s new Referees Secretary), while the Crews Hill Manager was also more than willing to run the line and was clearly competent and clued-up on what to do. The Referee, a new official to the League, wouldn’t have it though, and the game was littered with dubious offside decisions where he had to guess, which not surprisingly caused all sorts of arguments. It was a shame because the Referee was actually very good in terms of his fitness levels and being the right age (in his late-20’s, as the League are rightly looking to do away with the many older Referees who will not report cautions & dismissals because they cannot go online and use the modern technology required). This is where I am sure that Bob (Cleary) will bring in a ruling that all Referees MUST use (and trust) Club Linesmen if they are going to officiate in our League, and that the only occasions where they Referee a match without them is when one or both teams are having to force a substitute to do it against their will when they are clearly not going to concentrate. Thankfully we have not come across that anywhere near as much in the Barnet Sunday League as we did in the Waltham Sunday League, and that is because the roll-on, roll-off substitution rules nowadays mean there is less chance of a substitute not being brought on at all and therefore ending up as ‘Lino’ for the whole 90 minutes. Invariably players take it in turns and are less likely to get bored and lose concentration…which is when they get accused of ‘cheating’ by the opposition.

On Sunday 28th October we faced our jinx team in Hornsey & Highgate, who had beaten us twice in Division One the previous season by outmuscling our defenders from long balls and set-pieces, so we went into the game (at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club) determined not to let that happen again. However, we did exactly that in a nightmare nine-minute spell half-way through the First Half when we found ourselves 3-0 down, and although we scored twice in the Second Half, it was too much of a mountain to climb and we suffered another defeat to them, subsequently leaving us bottom of the table a week or so later thanks to Edmonton Blades and The Beehive BHP Seconds both deciding to drop out of the League, these being two teams we had beaten whereas most other teams had not yet played them.

That aftermath of that match saw an increasing number of our players decide to do other things for the rest of November & December and only make themselves available now and again, and that was compounded by in-form goalscoring midfielder Nassir Ali injuring his knee playing in a 5-a-side match, something which now looks likely to put him out for the rest of the season. With Leon McKenzie-McKay still out with a knee injury himself and Curtis Baalam, Troy Blake, Sam Woolley, Nana Obeng & Mo Ali all unavailable, we then had to travel to Sheen in South-West London for our next match to play an in-form AFC Mortlake side in the London FA Sunday Junior Cup. We did actually field a strong starting line-up with a good new signing in Furmaan Khan making his debut in the centre of midfield having been brought along by his Brunel University Futsal squad team-mate Aiden Kavanagh, but we only had two substitutes in Jordan Umpire and Dave Nguyen, both of whom rarely play and who were unable to make a difference when they came on. That saw us slump to a 3-1 defeat, and although the Mortlake keeper was probably their Man-of-the-Match, we played poorly and wasted a lot of chances from players not passing to each other and making the wrong choices.

Thankfully we did not have a game the following week as our pitch at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club was being used for a Veterans County Cup match at 12.30 pm and heavy rain that had fallen the night before had made the pitch too soggy for two games to be played on it one after the other. With County Cup matches taking precedence, it was our game (against unbeaten Highgate Albion Reserves) that had to be called off…which was good news for us as we would have only been fielding a bare eleven at the most, although Highgate Albion Reserves were apparently struggling as well. We did play them the following week at their Home ground at St. Aloysius though, where we narrowly lost 2-1 to a goal in the second minute of added-on-time at the end of the match after what had been an excellent performance against a side with a 100% record. For that match, Manager Tony McKay was away on holiday in Barbados, as he was for the AFC Mortlake match, but he picked the team from there and instructed his Assistant Manager Roderick Bennett and Player-Coach Tyronne Petrie to use it. However, it went against our club rules that had been agreed at the AGM which stated that players would not be included in the starting line-up at the expense of others if they had not paid their £40 Annual Subs/’signing-on fee’ or if they owed over £30 in match subs. Four players falling foul of those rules all ‘had to’ be included though because they were all good players who were needed against the extra quality of opposition we were up against, with our four substitutes on the day either not being fit enough, not having played well enough in recent matches, or being defensively-minded players that would have left us with not enough attacking players on the pitch. Those four substitutes were not happy at all, but one of them, Oshade Watson, knuckled down and made a determined effort to prove a point by turning up to training the following Wednesday and then being given a start in a more favoured central midfield position for our next match Away to fellow strugglers New Barnet where he then scored two spectacular long-range goals in a 3-2 win and was rightly named as our man-of-the-match. Also playing against New Barnet were Josh Baptiste (in a left midfield position) and substitute Eni Bezati, both of whom had not been seen since Pre-Season, while in the Highgate Albion Reserves match the week before, we had central defender Harold Ofori briefly back from working in America since the start of the season and central midfielder Henry Akinsanmi turning up to play his first game of the season. So that was four good players coming in to boost the squad and help us improve our performances. However, Ayo Matthews then went and got himself sent off for perceived ‘violent conduct’ right on the final whistle in that New Barnet match when he turned round and reacted after the opposing goalkeeper had ‘lobbed’ the ball at him following an argument arising from a defender kicking out at Ayo off the ball. That goalkeeper was sent off as well, but with Ayo nowhere near actually connecting with a punch and only ‘cocking his arm’ threatening to do so, it looked extremely harsh on video and there was no doubt that the Referee was influenced by the knowledge that the highlights were going to be shown on You Tube and he therefore had to take action as per Champions League/Premier League guidelines rather than ignoring it like most Sunday League Referees would do when there are no cameras or assessors present. Ayo has now subsequently served that resulting three-match ban…while the New Barnet goalkeeper’s ban has subsequently resulted in them conceding 17 goals in their last two matches !, but we did manage to win the first of the three games Ayo missed as we defeated GTFA 4-2 in their Home match at Bethune Park in Whetstone on the 2nd December. This was one of those dates when numerous Sunday League teams or individual players cry off or turn up late because of a 5.00 am fight in Las Vegas or elsewhere somewhere near the U.S. West Coast, on this occasion the Wilder – Fury contest…which is too expensive to watch via pay-per-view at home, so players go out clubbing for the night and watch it there instead. These events are becoming increasingly common with MMA fights at that time being thrown in to the mix as well, and to a lot of Sunday League footballers, that particular sport is even more appealing than traditional boxing. GTFA started with only 10 men because of that, but we did manage to field a squad of 14, despite having 10 players missing who would have been named in the squad of 16 had they been available. Unfortunately though, our win was overshadowed by long-serving forward Daniel Daley breaking his leg in the 56th minute in an accidental collision with the GTFA goalkeeper. We didn’t know how serious it was at the time and he was able to be carried off the pitch and eventually taken to hospital in Assistant Manager Roderick Bennett’s caged mental health ambulance (as he probably would have had to wait for five hours for a yellow A & E one ?!), so it therefore allowed the game to continue. It was a devastating blow for us though, and our players were extremely upset afterwards because of the sound of the crack and Daley’s cries of pain…hence no highlights appearing on You Tube (publicly) of that particular game. With Daley out for the rest of the season and now living in Surrey, there are obvious doubts as to whether he will attempt to make a comeback for us at the age of 32, unlike Leon McKenzie-McKay and Daniel Cascoe, who have both recovered from similar injuries but still live locally, so just in case he doesn’t play for us again, it is worth noting that he is 8th on the club’s All-Time First Team Top Goalscorers list with 97 and is one of only 18 players to have played more than 200 matches for the club in our 42-year history. He has been playing regularly for us for the last 8 seasons and always pays his subs, so he will be a huge loss without a doubt.

Perhaps not surprisingly, we ended up with just a bare eleven for our match Away to Grange Park the following week, with some players almost certainly put off from playing after seeing or hearing about Daley’s injury. We also had players giving this game a miss because they couldn’t afford to pay their subs though…and maybe in some cases thinking ‘why should we have to pay subs ?’ because they are a good/important player who should (in their eyes) be treated like a Semi-Pro. This is now becoming an increasing problem in Sunday League football because there are so many more ex-Semi-Pro Saturday players coming into the game and there are so many Sunday clubs actually operating like a Semi-Pro Saturday club where they can allow players to play for free (and even expenses) due to sponsorship deals. Unfortunately we cannot do that sort of thing yet because we do not have that sponsorship, and because the floodlit 3G half-pitch we are hiring at Enfield Playing fields costs approximately £250.00 per month but we had not been getting the turnouts at training to justify that expense. It meant we had to threaten to drop players unless they paid, so instead of getting their wallets out, a number of them simply made themselves unavailable of their own accord. That included goalkeeper Ian Whitmore, who had been an ever-present (and one of our better players) so far this season, which therefore forced defender Lexton Harrison to go in goal…as he had to on several occasions last season. That was something we hoped would never happen again, but it did and we subsequently lost the game 3-2…and deservedly so as well, as Grange Park turned up with several good new signings after failing to field a side for their game against Zenit St. Whetstone the week before. The only positive outcome from that match was Leon McKenzie-McKay coming through unscathed in his first match for several months after a knee injury, but with keeper Whitmore then deciding to leave the club in the aftermath and look for (presumably free) football elsewhere and closer to his East London home, we had to find another proper goalkeeper for our final match of 2018 on the 16th December against Division One leaders Enfield United…a side who had inflicted our heaviest defeat in eleven years on us back in September with that 9-1 thrashing. We had already signed up 21-year-old ex-Barnet Sunday League Referee Harry Barfoot (a friend of Tom Croake’s) as a goalkeeper but unfortunately he was away in Paris for the weekend, so we had to take a gamble with Assistant Manager Roderick Bennett’s 18-year-old great-nephew Louis Bennett, who had attended training the Wednesday before, along with 53-year-old Chris Theochari, the goalkeeper from Roderick’s Over-50’s Veterans 5-a-side team who had featured in one of our Pre-Season Friendlies. Both were hastily signed up straight after training, with Louis having to be signed up as Bennett Jr. because his 40-year-old Uncle Louis Bennett (Roderick’s son) had also been signed up as an outfield player in case of emergencies. Although Louis Jr. is built like a heavyweight boxer and is even bigger than Roderick…which takes some doing !...he was admittedly nervous in his first match at this sort of level and let in a bad goal after 6 minutes where he got his angles wrong. However, he then made a number of excellent saves after that and kept us in the game while we had to play the first 14 minutes with only 10 men due to Richard Harris & Henry Akinsanmi both turning up late from Romford where they both live. That was because of a doubt that the game might not go ahead due to heavy rain the day before, but the Edmonton Sports & Social Club’s verti-drainer machine had done a superb job on this occasion and the pitch was in excellent condition. With Harris & Akinsanmi still not having arrived, Manager McKay then decided to bring Chris Theochari on as a midfield holding player to make up the numbers, but obviously nobody had told Chris that the No.18 kit was a medium-size for Vishal Patel & Eni Bezati only and that an overweight 50-odd year-old would look silly in it ! Maybe the ridiculous tightness of the kit contributed to Chris not touching the ball once in the nine minutes he was on the pitch, but he did a job for us in holding his position and creating an extra body in there until Henry Akinsanmi finally turned up and came on for him, and from thereon afterwards we were by far the better side, pulling it back to 2-2 after being 2-0 down and then having a goal disallowed, missing a penalty…which was uncharacteristically blazed over the bar by Jack Bangs…and having all sorts of bad luck with our finishing. Then in the 80th minute came another controversial sending-off as a result of the game being filmed and put on You Tube as Richard Harris was shown the red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity just outside the area, but when you see it on video, Richard clearly got the ball first and only brought down the opponent accidentally with his trailing leg from making the sliding challenge. In addition to that, Louis Bennett Jr probably would have got to the ball first or at least at the same time had the opponent not been brought down by Richard. Again, normally in Sunday League football, Referees just give a free-kick and nothing else in those circumstances, so we were really unlucky to be punished again just because the game was being filmed properly, but then maybe later in the season it might work in our favour with opponents being sent off by Referees ‘having to’ go by the letter of the law in case the ‘powers that be’ are watching. The worst thing about decisions like that is the expensive fine and also that players can no longer appeal to their County FA to have the decision overturned because it was ‘in the opinion of the Referee’ as opposed to mistaken identity or an obvious error. We then went on to concede two late goals and lose the game 4-2 after Richard’s sending-off, but Manager McKay was really pleased with the performance, and with a number of key players due to return in January and us still in two Cups, we can certainly look forward to the rest of the season in the knowledge that we are as good as any other team in the League once we have a near full-strength squad to pick from. Although one or two players still need to start paying their subs, we now have loads of good options in the second half of the season for fielding a full-strength starting eleven with Harry Barfoot as a likely first-choice goalkeeper with Louis Bennett Jr challenging him for a place, both of them being only 21 & 18 respectively and bound to improve under Bob Cleary’s coaching. In defence we now have Sam Woolley gradually regaining his fitness in the right-back position with Oshade Watson, Troy Blake or Henry Akinsanmi all capable of playing at left-back when Aiden Kavanagh is unavailable due to clashes with his Futsal matches, while we are well covered in the central defensive positions with Richard Harris, Tyronne Petrie, Lexton Harrison, Troy Blake & Ivan Bass all very strong and experienced in those positions. In the midfield holding role, we should have Curtis Baalam back playing regularly for the second half of the season alongside Petrie, Watson, Akinsanmi or even Daniel Cascoe if he can get himself fit enough, then our attacking midfield options include Jack Bangs, Nana Obeng, Furmaan Khan, Eni Bezati and the now fit-again Leon McKenzie-McKay, all of them very good players. In attack, Tom Croake has shown that he can play up front on his own or alongside Ayo Matthews by scoring in each of his last five matches. With the League’s registration deadline not until the 28th February, there is still time to sign up more quality players if we need to, and we may even get lucky with Nassir Ali returning at some stage if his knee injury turns out to be not as serious as we first thought. If he does, then it is likely that his younger cousin Mo Ali will start making himself available again as well, giving us more attacking midfield options to cover for Daniel Daley’s absence. Although winning the Division One title (or even finishing Runners-Up) is now impossible with us having lost six matches already and lying third from bottom, we still have a lot to look forward to after Christmas as long as these players can show the necessary commitment.


CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Saturday 13th October 2018

Firstly, apologies to everybody who likes to read these Chairman’s Blogs for the lateness of this one bearing in mind we have played eight matches (including Pre-Season Friendlies) since the last Blog ! That has been mainly due to increased match filming & editing work for myself at Non-League level on Saturdays where I am now back at National League side Ebbsfleet United after a five-year absence so that they can fulfil their obligations to their paymasters BT Sport in providing the required standard of Home match highlights for broadcasting after experimenting with media students whose priority was filming matches on a wide angle for performance analysis. That requires me to use BT Sport’s equipment, which is rather different to my own camera & laptop which I use for filming other clubs matches (including our own). It is a big learning curve which has been very time-consuming.

However, plenty has been achieved with Edmonton Rovers since we started Pre-Season Training back in July. We had such a large number of new players turning up in Pre-Season that we were even able to have a full-scale 11-a-side practice match between ourselves on our usual hired Pre-Season pitch at Enfield Playing Fields on Sunday 19th August. In fact so many players turned up for that session that we had four substitutes for both sides, and at that stage we were actually considering running a Reserve Team to play in sporadic Friendly matches throughout the course of this season to keep all these players interested, with Lexton Harrison being added to the Club Management Committee as Reserve Team Manager but being given the title of ‘Development Squad Manager’…or something like that !

Our first actual Pre-Season Friendly was on Sunday 5th August where we travelled to Hackney Marshes to play Downs, who were Grant Baker and Anees Ikramullah’s old side from the Hackney & Leyton Sunday League. They had won Division Three in that six-division League last season and also a Cup Final (which I filmed for them), so it was an ideal test for us. Anees had already left us after having moved up North to work, but Grant declined to play for either side on the day due to an apparent injury, leaving us without a proper goalkeeper again…which had been an ongoing situation with him and our other goalkeeper Stephen Roussety throughout last season. We drew the game 4-4 in what was a useful workout, but it was a game we would have won had Lexton Harrison not been forced to don the gloves again. That was enough for Manager Tony McKay, who told Grant he was no longer wanted due to his unreliability. We then moved quickly to advertise for a new goalkeeper on Twitter with the help of one or two excellent websites and managed to find one pretty much straight away in the experienced East London-based Ian Whitmore, who then played in our Friendly against Oracle Rangers at Enfield Playing Fields the following Sunday and has not missed a game since. Although Ian is probably not as agile at low shot-stopping as Grant and one or two other keepers we have had in the past, he is most definitely the best we have had for many a year at kicking the ball properly, communicating & encouraging our defenders and catching high crosses coming into the box. He is also well over 6 foot tall and very similar to one of our Greats Of The Past, Daryl Johnson, who played well over 100 matches for us between 2001 and 2011. Hopefully Ian will go on to play a similar amount of matches for us, as there is no doubt that having a proper goalkeeper playing regularly has given us a massive boost in the past few weeks. We did lose that Friendly to Oracle Rangers by a 4-5 scoreline though, but that was simply because we had so many new players turn up that Manager McKay decided to field two completely different elevens in each half, so there was very little teamwork as a result and it was all about seeing who had the necessary individual ability and the required level of fitness. We were leading 2-1 at Half-Time, but the main problem in the Second Half was Ian being given a rest and his 52-year-old replacement Chris Theochari struggling with an injury and looking very rusty in what was presumably his first game of 11-a-side for many a year, as he was recruited for this match on the basis of him being the goalkeeper for Assistant Manager Roderick Bennett’s Veterans 5-a-side team. We also had another goalkeeper signing up during Pre-Season in 23-year-old Albert Okadigbo, who looked very promising, but he obviously realised his chances of getting a game were very slim with Ian clearly being our new first-choice, so Albert has now subsequently left the club already.

Our final Pre-Season Friendly was on Sunday 27th August where we played at Enfield Playing Fields against FC Potters Bar ’18, a newly-formed team from Division Two of the Herts Advertiser St. Albans Sunday League. This match was arranged in the knowledge that we would more than likely be too good for them, but that we needed to get a confidence-boosting win before playing our first League match of the season bearing in mind we had only won three of our last 24 matches going back to October last year. That proved to be a good decision as we ran out 7-2 winners against a bare eleven with skipper Leon McKenzie-McKay proving his fitness with a hat-trick after coming on as a Second Half substitute after missing most of last season with a broken ankle.

We then decided to have a week off with there being very few pitches available for the first week of the season on Sunday 2nd September, thereby resulting in only a handful of League games being arranged, so Sunday 9th September saw our first Barnet League match of the season where we faced Edmonton Blades, a team who demolished us 6-2 when we last played them back in November last season. This time, Blades turned up with a stand-in goalkeeper and a couple of key attacking players missing, while they had done ‘nothing’ in Pre-Season…unlike us, where Player-Coach Leon McKenzie-McKay had got most of our players ‘super-fit’. We then ran out 4-0 winners despite missing six first-choice players from last season in Ayo Matthews, Daniel Daley, Tyronne Petrie, Nana Obeng, Ivan Bass & Harold Ofori, so that gave us a lot of confidence. So much so that we decided to take on last season’s Division Two Runners-Up Enfield United the following week despite knowing that they were likely to be a much better side than Edmonton Blades and very fired up with quite a few of their players having gone to school with our own Aiden Kavanagh. We could have turned that game down and played Edmonton Blades again after the new League Fixture Secretary had decided to arrange back-to-back matches for the first two (complete) Sundays in an effort to make it easier to arrange Double-Headers at the end of the season in the event of bad weather, but we thought we would be fielding the same side or an even stronger one when that decision to switch the game was made. Sod’s law, numerous players then dropped out with injuries and work, family & social commitments, meaning we had to throw in far too many players who were struggling for fitness or had not played at that sort of level before. That saw us lose 9-1 as our opponents turned up with a number of Norsemen First XI players who were far too good for us…which was not surprising as Norsemen are arguably the strongest team in AFA football on Saturdays at the moment on current form. Several of those quality players have not played for Enfield United since, which is really frustrating for us, but it is something we have had to get used to over the years when opposing players know they are going to be on You Tube playing for a side that are likely to beat us. That 9-1 defeat was our heaviest for eleven years since we lost 10-0 to St. Mary’s in a Waltham Sunday League match and we were actually lucky that Ian Whitmore had a really good game in goal ! Despite that, we showed good team spirit and character to still field a squad of 16 the following week when we took on FC Lokomotiv Thunder at Home in a game that was actually called off waterlogged on our own pitch at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club after torrential rain for 24 hours beforehand. Thankfully there had been no game arranged for Pitch One and we played on that instead, although the ball was still sticking in one or two puddles early on before the weather improved during the game. Although we fielded a strong side with numerous first-choice players returning, our opponents took their chances and we didn’t in what was a very close match, exactly as it was on both occasions against them last season when we drew both matches. This time we suffered a second successive defeat, going down 0-2, but we played a lot of good football and there were plenty of promising signs that we were not going to have another nightmare season like we did the last campaign and that the 9-1 defeat the week before was just a freak result.
We then backed that up with a 3-1 win Away to The Beehive BHP Seconds at Aylands Open Space on the 30th September, albeit after a poor First Half where our players tried to do too much on their own and frequently chose the wrong options, leading to some very heated arguments at Half-Time when we should have been comfortably ‘out of sight’ instead of only 1-0 ahead. We then had a much better Second Half where everybody made a concerted effort to encourage each other and we then carried that on into our next match as we beat Italia Wasteels 7-1 at Home in the First Round of the London FA Sunday Junior Cup. Although our opponents turned up with a very poor side after half their players declined to make the long journey from Dulwich for the match, we played some excellent football and scored some quality goals with six different players getting on the scoresheet. That included Nassir Ali and his young cousin Mo, who are two of 10 new (or returning) players we have added to a squad of 28 that we have listed on our Player Profiles page as being regulars or good enough to be named in our matchday squads of 16 this season. In addition to that, we now have Curtis Baalam, Daniel Cascoe, Aiden Kavanagh, Ayo Matthews, Leon McKenzie-McKay & Sam Woolley all generally fit and/or available when that was not the case towards the end of last season. Although we have temporarily lost Harold Ofori to work commitments in the USA for the start of this season, we know that we have a good enough squad now to be able to win something, whether it be the Division One title or a Cup.

At the moment though, we only have one League Cup competition to go for instead of the normal two as the Barnet Sunday League have had some big changes to their Management Committee this season where a lot of things are being done very differently. For their Cup draws they decided to do them live on Facebook, but the Committee members involved seemingly had a bit too much to drink first (in plucking up the courage to appear on camera !) and ‘forgot ?’ about the Cup for Premier Division and Division One teams, so hopefully that will now be done on another date. In the other Cup for all teams in the League…which they have ‘mistakenly’ called the Senior Cup instead of the Challenge Cup, we have been drawn to play Away to Division Two side Crews Hill on the 21st October, but we don’t know who we will be facing after that (if we get through) as they are now making the draws ‘round-by-round’ FA Cup-style, as are all the County FA’s with their Cup draws this season. I guess that adds a bit more excitement when social media allows these draws to be shown live nowadays.
There are 12 teams in our division this season, which is great news, and indeed there are 17 new teams in the League as a whole, resulting in the formation of an extra division. Yes, we did very nearly get relegated to Division Two because of where we finished in Division One last season, but thankfully the large majority of new teams joining the League were not good enough to come straight in at that level and have gone in Divisions Two or Three instead. The League is not yet at the same level playing-ability wise as the Waltham Sunday League once was and there are also still a number of archaic rules in place which need to be modernised, but it least it looks as if the League is in no danger of folding like many other adult Sunday Leagues in London are continuing to do every season. That means we can keep looking forward and planning new ideas to improve the club and attract better players.

One of those is re-starting floodlit midweek training sessions during the season after an absence of quite a few years, and thankfully we managed to secure half a full-size pitch on the new 3G Astroturf at Enfield Playing Fields that is run by Enfield Council. We only have it for one hour between 9.00-10.00 pm on a Wednesday night, so it’s not ideal when the Champions League is on TV and we only get 8 or 9 players turn up, but it is better than nothing and we have had some good turnouts so far, despite having to charge players £5.00 each to meet the cost of hiring the facilities.

The other new idea is having a professional commentary put on our match highlights on You Tube. Initially we were planning on using a trainee for every match, but the first one we tried went away on holiday at just the wrong time and was also unable to commit towards paying for the necessary equipment, while the other one we tried had his microphone broken when his kid trod on it and then tried recording the commentary via his laptop’s built-in microphone while sitting several feet away…or at least that was what is sounded like. It just wasn’t right for us, so I decided to pay the £25 per match cost out of my own pocket to have talkSPORT’s Barry Swain do all the commentaries, as he does for my Cup Final productions. Barry also now does the commentaries for the England younger age group matches on the FA’s You Tube channel and his voice will be familiar to many.

The first game he commentated on was our 4-0 win against Edmonton Blades and he has done every competitive match since, with his commentary not surprisingly getting better as he gets to know who our players are. I want to keep this going for the rest of the season of course, but I may not be able to afford the cost myself and therefore really need a sponsor (or two ?) to cover the rest of the matches. Just let me know if you (or you company) are interested.

Finally, there is much debate at the moment about the FA selling Wembley Stadium to raise funds for ‘grassroots’ football and what exactly constitutes ‘grassroots football’. Personally I don’t think there is any doubt whatsoever that what this means is funding for Charter-Standard clubs ONLY, and funding for the facilities that these Charter-Standard clubs will play at. I predicted several years ago in one of my very first Chairman’s Blogs that this idea would happen eventually whereby all adult mens 11-a-side clubs who only wish to run one team will not be allowed to play in FA-affiliated Sunday Leagues unless they become part of a Charter-Standard club’s setup or become a Charter-Standard Club themselves, thereby allowing Council playing fields to be sold off for housing or for Sports Hubs with 3G pitches to be built such as the facility which is currently being planned at Parsloes Park in Dagenham. The Sports Hubs (and currently-existing private Sports Grounds such as our own Home venue at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club) will be for Charter-Standard clubs only, and teams who do not want to progress into becoming a Charter-Standard club will only be able to play ‘Flexible Football’ and ‘Just Play’…which are basically just FA-organised ‘kickabout matches’ at any time and any day once every three or four weeks. A few days ago I had a chat with our new Barnet Sunday League Chairman David Cross about this, and he is in agreement with me that instead of fining clubs for minor administrative errors, we should be looking to improve standards on the field of play and fining clubs for turning up late, not having numbers on their shirts, not bringing any match balls, not having a medical kit and wearing different coloured shorts & socks amongst other things. All things that inconvenience opposing teams and Referees and lower the standard of the League where badly-organised teams join and then drop out after only a year or two. David also thinks that the League should instruct all it’s clubs to become Charter-Standard, which is what tends to happen in the AFA Leagues that he is also involved with on a Saturday. The FA recently announced a £750 grant for adult Sunday clubs to do that, but the problem with that is finding the volunteers to give up their time to go on the necessary coaching and first-aid courses that are required. That is where that £750 goes. Just paying for the courses. That is where I would probably disagree with David for the time being, because if a rule was brought in for next season that all Barnet Sunday League clubs must be Charter-Standard within say three years, then I think there would be a mass walk-out straight away and the League would go down from four divisions to two. As we know from playing one particular team in our division already this season, there are a heck of a lot of teams in our League who are just a group of players where nobody particularly wants to be the Secretary/Manager (and do the admin work) because they are all regular players themselves. They do not particularly want a Manager or a first-aider on the touchline. All they want is a couple of roll-on, roll-off subs, and one of those players brings the medical kit on…if they have got one ! That will be the same in many other adult Sunday Leagues and I would hate to see the FA (or our own League) put a stop to that tradition, which has been part of Sunday League football since it began.

As for ourselves, we already have things in place that could probably see us become a Charter-Standard club if we were required to become one, although running a Youth, Womens and/or Disability setup is not something I would want us to do. We would not be able to do that at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club anyway because that would be Norsemen FC’s domain. Although we were contemplating having a Reserve Team when we had big turnouts during Pre-Season, a large number of those players have now lost interest, so I am more than happy just having the one team under our name, and for me, that will be the best chance of us winning trophies with us not having anything else to worry about.


CHAIRMAN’S BLOG - Thursday 19th July 2018

With the 2017-2018 Season having finished two months ago, it’s about time I caught up with what happened since my last Chairman’s Blog back in March when we were left facing a relegation battle after only one win in eight in Division One of the Barnet Sunday League and with New Barnet, a team who were below us in the table but with games in hand, our next opponents. It was our Home game but we had to play the match at New Barnet’s ground, Oakhill Park, as our pitch at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club was suffering badly from persistent waterlogging after months of heavy rain…in stark contrast to the heatwave/drought that we are now experiencing as I write this ! New Barnet were fielding a much stronger side than they had when we beat them 5-0 at the start of the season, while we ourselves had numerous players missing because of Mothers Day, injuries and work commitments. We were particularly badly hit at the back where Lexton Harrison, Ivan Bass, Harold Ofori, Aiden Kavanagh & Tyronne Petrie…our five best/most experienced defenders from the previous season…were all unavailable, leaving us with a makeshift back four of Sam Woolley, Jamie Mehmet, Curtis Baalam and Oshade Watson…with the right-footed Curtis having to play as the left-sided centre-back, while a badly-unfit Daniel Cascoe was making a rare start as one of our two holding players. With New Barnet fielding two very good tall and mobile strikers, we were given the runaround at the back and we were fortunate to only lose the game by a narrow 3-2 margin in the end as it could easily have been a lot worse with our players being pulled all over the place because they were more used to facing a 4-2-3-1 formation and couldn’t work out between themselves who to mark, therefore leaving Curtis & Jamie facing two against two situations all match. That led to arguments and slanging matches galore between goalkeeper Grant Baker, holding midfielder Anees Ikramullah (who is a qualified coach and knows what he is talking about) and the rest of our players, but that just destroys the confidence of players even further when they are not playing well. On the final whistle, a large number of our players stormed off the pitch without shaking hands with our opponents, while others just ripped off their kit and went straight home. It was a horrible match for us and one of the low points of our season for sure.
‘Thankfully’, the following week saw our fifth postponement of the season from bad weather in what had been an appalling Winter, this time due to snow when we were scheduled to play bottom side Kedares Town at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club. We did manage to play the game the following week instead though, therefore giving us time to clear the air and calm players down, and with Manager Tony McKay making a clever tactical change by playing Curtis Baalam as the lone holding player with Anees Ikramullah & Daniel Cascoe both pushed further forward in a 4-1-4-1 formation, we subsequently came away with a vital 2-0 win that put paid to the possibility that we might actually finish the season bottom of the table ourselves. That win came despite four of our players failing to turn up seemingly because of the clocks going forward the night before…although none of them ever admitted that of course, while Oshade Watson had to play whilst leaving his toddler son unattended on the touchline. With our only available substitute Ivan Bass and Manager McKay both concentrating on the game, Assistant Manager Roderick Bennett having to run the line (because Bob Cleary had to Referee the game at the last minute again) and myself filming the game as usual, that saw our water bottles all being emptied before Half-Time, our players named magnetic discs from the tactics board all being ripped off and thrown away into the mud…or into a dustbin in some players’ cases (depending on how they were playing in the match ?), and the ladder-platform for filming being eyed up as a climbing frame. Thankfully, Manager McKay managed to stop that last one from happening in the nick of time, while on the pitch, substitute Bass had come on to grab a second goal for us to kill off the game, scoring with a trademark header from a typically perfect-delivered corner from Jack Bangs. Oshade then came off the pitch at the end to retrieve his own magnetic disc from the dustbin and everybody was happy again. Another thing that was noticeable from this game was that when Ivan scored our second goal (to put us 2-0 up with 13 minutes to go), he sprinted back into his own half straight away ready for the re-start…as he always does whenever he scores for us, irrespective of the scoreline at the time and irrespective of the fact that he is an experienced player in his mid-30’s. We need to be more streetwise all round with things like this in close matches though, particularly when we celebrate goals scored that have put us into the lead or furthered our lead. What all professional and Semi-Pro teams do after scoring a goal that puts them into the lead is deliberately run over en-masse towards the corner flag to celebrate all together, then the goalscorer stays there and makes out that his bootlaces have come undone...or a similar sort of ruse. Then he walks back all the way for the re-start and only jogs back if the Referee threatens to book him for time-wasting. It is all about game management and not allowing the opponents to get back into the game straight away…or at all. It is amazing how few adult men’s Sunday teams play ‘professionally’ like that. They all invariably seem to think they are still 10-year-olds playing Mini-Soccer where they only have a short space of time on the pitch in which to score.
That result set us up nicely for our next match, which was at Home to unbeaten League leaders The Winchmore, who would clinch the Division One title with a win. The Winchmore not surprisingly turned up with a strong squad of 15 with only two first-choice players missing (through suspension) whereas for our players it was a 'nothing match' with us stuck in mid-table, so the majority of them decided to take advantage of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend and do other things instead...or simply leave the club in some cases for reasons best known to themselves ! That left us with just a bare eleven for this match including no recognised goalkeeper and with four players playing their first match for several weeks. However, a goal-less draw with The Winchmore on the same pitch earlier in the season had showed that their style of football was very much suited to how we play ourselves, so there was always the chance that we could still give them a decent match as long as our players could all last 90 minutes. We got off to a bad start though when The Winchmore went 1-0 up after just four minutes, and at that stage it looked as if we would probably go on to lose heavily. However, with no real pressure on us at all (and our players encouraging each other instead of arguing), we played really well after that and were leading 2-1 by the 40th minute after excellent finishes by our teenage attacking midfielders Tom Croake and Nana Obeng.  However, we were then dealt a killer blow when The Winchmore equalised to make it 2-2 right on the Half-Time whistle and with them then re-grouping at Half-Time in making various substitutions when we could not, it was always going to be a ‘backs to the wall’ job for us in the Second Half if we wanted to get anything out of the match. The Winchmore were always going to find a winner at some stage, which they did in the 66th minute with us then just defending well to avoid a heavier defeat with no substitutes available to come on. I was extremely concerned before the kick-off that we would be on the end of an embarrassing scoreline and that The Winchmore’s players would all over-do their celebrations in front of the camera…as one or two teams in the Waltham Sunday League did when they clinched titles against us many years ago with total disregard to the fact that I was gutted to see us being humiliated when we were clearly fielding a weakened team. After all, a lot of other teams simply wouldn’t have bothered turning up and would have just given them a walk-over victory instead when they knew it was going to be ‘no contest’, but we are not like that and we will always make every effort to field a side. It appeared that The Winchmore realised that, and to their credit, they ignored the camera and took their own pictures of their celebrations. They may not be everybody’s cup of tea because of the way they play in trying to wind up their opponents, but I know that they respected us because we are a well-disciplined side who do not fall for those tricks. Both of our matches against them this season were excellent games of football.
With that game against The Winchmore being on the 1st April and leaving us with only one League game left to play (because there were only 10 teams in our division instead of 12), we agreed to play another Friendly match on the 8th April to try out some prospective new players for next season, while also entering an Inter-League Cup competition involving teams from the Inner London (Bangladeshi) Sunday League and the Hackney & Leyton Sunday League in which we would start at the Quarter-Final stage. For our Friendly match against Essex Sunday Corinthian League Division One side Valentine United…played at the Old Parkonians ground in Barkingside, we gave a runout to five new players in a squad of 19. Two of those (Ruairi Coles and Sean Derrick) were friends of Aiden Kavanagh’s younger brother Keiran, who also played, while the other two trialists were central defender Richard Harris, who had been brought along by goalkeeper Grant Baker, and experienced utility player Marc McAuley, who was Assistant Manager Roderick Bennett’s step-son. The match ended in a 1-1 draw with Keiran, Ruairi and Sean all looking particularly impressive, but unfortunately it turned out afterwards that they will not be joining us this season as they still have another year left at University. Richard Harris featured again in our two Inter-League Cup matches played thereafter though, so at least we found one new player to boost our squad.

We then played our final League match of the season the following week Away to Hornsey & Highgate at Highgate Woods, but with nothing at stake in what was a lower-mid-table skirmish, both sides turned up badly under-strength with Hornsey & Highgate only able to field 10 men while we ourselves were down to just 19 interested players from the 54 we had registered. With five of those 19 unavailable for this particular match, we once again fielded a drastically-changed side from the previous week with numerous players in the squad of 14 not having played on a regular basis for several months due to other commitments and injuries, which had been the story of our season. The match was full of mis-kicks by our players because of rustiness, while Tyronne Petrie scored an Own Goal to give Hornsey & Highgate the lead and we were then embarrassingly outpaced for their second goal which gave their 10 men a 2-0 victory and ourselves an unwanted record of just two wins in 20 matches. At least we were not turning up with only 10 men or less ourselves…as used to happen quite frequently at the end of the season in our Waltham League days when we were stuck in the lower half of the table with nothing to play for, but the signs were alarming nonetheless when we had been such a good team the season before.

On Sunday 22nd April we played Away to Bangladeshi side Burdett at Hackney Marshes in the Quarter-Final of the Inter-League Challenge Cup and came away with a 4-1 victory which was our best performance since we beat New Barnet 5-0 back in September (2017) ! The reason for that was undoubtedly because the match was not being filmed when Burdett were looking forward to seeing themselves on You Tube, therefore leaving their players deflated…although in truth they were not a good side compared to what we had been playing against in the Barnet Sunday League all season. It also relaxed our own players as a number of them had been under fire from various You Tube trolls commenting about their poor recent performances, and sods law we ended up scoring at least three Goal Of The Season contenders as a result. The reason I was unable to film the match was because it was arranged at very short notice and I had already been booked to film a Cup Final elsewhere, therefore having to leave the match well before the end. There was no real point in just filming the First Half only, and we were treating the game more as a Friendly anyway as we were not expecting to progress to the Final. The positive result changed our way of thinking though, and for the Semi-Final against Hackney & Leyton Sunday League Division One side Boston Celtics on the 20th May we very much wanted to field a strong side and win the game to give us the chance of some unexpected silverware. However, it had been four weeks since we played a game and a large number of our players were already in Summer holiday mode, especially as the current heatwave had already begun. We ended up missing nine players in the end, six of whom would have been in the starting line-up had they been available, so as had so often happened during the season, we therefore had to field a side where numerous players had never met each other before, and indeed the inclusion of Ralph Katikaza and Nathan Allen for their Rovers debuts took our total number of players used for the season to a ridiculous 60 ! Although our fitness levels were good and we competed well, we just didn’t have the teamwork to create enough chances once Boston Celtics had gone into a 2-0 lead and our season ended as a rather predictable ‘damp squib’. As in so many of our matches this season, it was that lack of teamwork that was the main problem, which was undoubtedly caused by not having midweek training sessions and having so many players not showing any loyalty whatsoever and leaving the club…invariably without paying any subs…after just a couple of bad defeats where their mates had laughed at them losing and making mistakes on You Tube. With only four players having played in over 75% of our matches this season, we were never really going to have a chance of winning a trophy this time. Although our players always competed well and didn’t give up in any game we played throughout the course of the season, it was the lack of ideas in the final third and our main striker Ayo Matthews being half-injured for most of the season that cost us dear. Indeed the last time we scored more than two goals in a match on You Tube was way back on the 8th November, which was when skipper Leon McKenzie-McKay broke his ankle and played his last game of the season. That was another player we missed really badly.

On Friday 22nd June, we had our Annual General Meeting where a number of new rules and regulations were agreed for the coming 2018-2019 Season. That included not allowing new players to play unless we had seen them in training (or playing for other teams) first and charging them a £40 Annual Subscription (instead of the £10 ‘signing-on fee’ we charged last season) to stop them leaving after two matches without paying any match happened frequently last season. Those new players will then not be allowed to play in League or Cup matches until they pay those Annual Subs and they will not be allowed to play in a second Pre-Season Friendly until they have paid for playing in the first one. Yes, we might lose every week from fielding a weakened side but at least the club will not fold up (like many others do) from players not paying their subs. We are more likely to win with a settled squad of the same 14-16 players turning up every week anyway rather than signing up 60 different players, several of whom are quality but then leave after only two matches if they have lost or made individual mistakes on You Tube. We have had a major clear-out of players for the new season, retaining only 21 from last season in our players WhatsApp Group, but well over half of those are unlikely to be available on a regular basis, while two of them (Anees Ikramullah and Nana Obeng) will be leaving us at the end of August anyway to move up North for work in Anees’s case and abroad in Nana’s. We do not have any new players signed up at all yet because those who played in the Friendlies and Inter-League Cup matches towards the end of last season have not turned up to Pre-Season Training, while the large majority of prospective new players who have been texting, tweeting and e-mailing myself and Manager Tony McKay so far this Summer have either been cast-offs from other Sunday clubs where they are not good enough to get a game, players from abroad who think we are a professional club who are going to arrange a visa for them and then pay them to play, or a number of disabled (deaf and/or learning disability) players who appear to have been mischievously advised by somebody on social media that we are a Disability Club, probably because of the horrendous mistakes our players were making on You Tube last season. Of course it could just be the Football Association encouraging ‘inclusivity’, but that is ridiculous if it is. Even some Charter-Standard clubs do not have club officials who have been trained in sign language or how to deal with mental health problems, so how can a ‘one-man-band Pub team’ like ourselves (only running one adult team) be expected to cope with that ? It is hard to tell disabled players that we cannot take them on, but unfortunately we have no choice but to tell them that because it would be cruel to allow them to play at our level.
Meanwhile, due to the new GDPR Data Protection regulations, as Club Secretary, I have had to type out new Barnet Sunday League registration forms for all our retained players this season as new signatures and corrections to old addresses are required for that. In doing so, it has made me aware of the increasingly ridiculous distances our players are travelling from in order to play for us. We only have six of our 21 registered players living in the Borough of Enfield, with only another three living just outside the Borough in Cheshunt, Waltham Cross and Barnet. The other 12 live in places as far away as Whyteleafe (in Surrey !), Watford, Stevenage, Basildon, Romford, South Ockendon, Ilford, Bromley-by-Bow, East Ham, Ware & Potters Bar, and because of that, they have no hope of being able to attend midweek training sessions or getting to every match on time. That is going to have to change, but up until now, we have been unable to find a whole new group of players (preferably in the 18-23 age group bracket) who live in and around the London Borough of Enfield and willing to join us en bloc. It’s as if nobody of that age in Enfield…and particularly in Edmonton and the poorer/deprived Eastern side of Enfield plays football any more unless they are Turkish and playing in the local Turkish Community Football Federation…a League which is booming at the moment. Even if England had won the World Cup, that still probably wouldn’t have changed anything in the Borough for the players we would normally expect to join us. They just join gangs or sit in front of their computers smoking weed and playing violent games all night instead. In the richer western side of Enfield, cricket and rugby seem to be more popular sports. Those who like to play football and can afford to pay to play have ‘fled’ to live out in ‘nicer’ areas…such as where the majority of our players now live. At our club AGM, one of our players, Anees Ikramullah, suggested that we join his Centric Sports Management roster and share their training facilities in Barking, while also applying to become a Charter-Standard club so that those facilities can be hired at a cheaper rate. Although Tony McKay agreed with that at the time, I have since turned it down because it will end up with all our players being obtained from the South-West Essex area and it will end up with us having to leave the Edmonton Sports & Social Club, leaving the Barnet Sunday League and playing in an Essex-based Sunday League under the C.S.M. name. There will be no other choice. Edmonton Rovers have been going for 42 years now, and I would rather we hang on under our own name and continue to attempt to recruit players from the Borough of Enfield…somehow…and stay at the Edmonton Sports & Social Club.
As for the Barnet Sunday League that we will be spending our third successive season in, we do not yet know the constitution for the coming season and what division we are in, but we should hopefully find out by early August as there is a League Management Committee Meeting scheduled for the 25th July. Although I am still doing the League Website and running the League’s Twitter account, I am no longer on the Committee myself for reasons which I cannot go into here, so I don’t know exactly what is going on behind the scenes. However, I understand that there may be as many as 15 new clubs joining the League, so clearly things are heading in the right direction...even if it means us getting relegated a division from finishing in the bottom half of the Division One table last season ! As was quite rightly pointed out at the recent League AGM, these new clubs have all joined primarily because of the League’s word-of-mouth reputation in ‘running a tight ship’ when it comes to discipline. Hopefully our properly-filmed match highlights on You Tube have also given that impression to prospective new clubs though, as we very rarely have any trouble in our matches. Of course all players without question want to be professionally filmed playing football given half the chance, and they are also attracted by seeing each team’s line-up and goalscorers displayed either on You Tube or on the League website via Full-Time. Remember that the large majority of under-30’s nowadays have grown up playing FIFA/Championship Manager computer games where they study things like that before picking their teams. Believe it or not, most teams we play actually study our Edmonton Rovers highlights to see what our individual players strengths and weaknesses are and who exactly played and scored in previous matches…and we do the same analysis on our opponents. It is incredible how advanced Sunday League football is getting nowadays !
Finally, a new thing I am considering for our You Tube highlights is finding sponsorship for a trainee professional commentator to be used on all of our matches this season. That is done by sending the commentator the edited highlights via Dropbox, then they record the commentary in a studio as an MP3 file which is in-sync with those highlights before sending it back to me for the final production and upload. If the commentator is good and goes on to become the next John Motson, that will be great publicity for us. One thing I will be making sure of though is that the commentary is done properly and with a lot of good factual information about the two competing teams. Just like you see on Sky/BT Sport/Match Of The Day. Quite recently I worked as a freelance cameraman for the CONIFA World Cup where the Final was ruined by bookie Paddy Power constantly taking the piss as a co-commentator alongside some other bloke who I think may have been from You Tubers Hashtag United. It was very much in the style of Soccer AM and the efforts of our Sunday League You Tube rivals Palmers (Smiv), SE Dons, Eltham SF and Mile End (Baiteze Squad) where their commentaries are just for a laugh and specifically for the younger generation, getting huge audiences as a result. Although we will not be going down that route ourselves…much to the disappointment of some of our players no doubt ?...mark my words. In 5 years time, that style of piss-taking quirky commentary will be the norm on mainstream TV, and the likes of Clive Tyldesley, Guy Mowbray and Jonathan Pearce will be confined to history !




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