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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