A decent beginning

I didn’t know what to expect out of opening day – I certainly didn’t expect the Cray Wanderers goalkeeper to be that good, and I certainly didn’t expect a clean sheet from the K’s defensive unit.

On paper it looks like the game was a bit rubbish, it blew a gale almost all match and there were no goals scored, but the truth is completely different. I’d like to think that I saw two decent football teams beating the crap out of each other in search of three points; it was definitely a fiery affair at time with some wrestling moves thrown in by either side, not helped by the inconsistency of the referee. The main plus point was leaving King George’s Field not in the usual raging mood, usually caused by a comprehensive stuffing by the opposition.

We could easily have won this game, we had more clear chances than the visitors, but Cray had extended periods of pushing us back and creating pressure through denying us possession. Between the Wands’ sticks, goalkeeper Lewis Carey played an absolute blinder, with several outstanding saves to keep us out. Louie Theophanous, in theory a lone striker (a tactic I’ve always disliked) but not really with the idea being that the midfield helps him as quickly as possible, was superb and deserved at least one goal. Elsewhere going forward, I think the Cray back line deserves credit for keeping Reece Hall and Fabio Saraiva quiet, whilst when he was on Dan Bennett was always capable of unlocking the defence and did so on occasion.

The man of the match at the back for me was the youngster Jerry Puemo, ostensibly in the side as a replacement for the suspended Ollie Cook and injured Tutu Henriques (though pedants could successfully argue that you can’t “replace” someone who hasn’t played yet…), his lack of experience showed at times but that was easily overshadowed by his grit and determination to keep a clean sheet. Against what looked to me to be a good Cray Wanderers team (forget that they are newly promoted, they are used to winning and played with a confidence that we have only dreamed of in the last few years), our defence were excellent and deserved to keep our first clean sheet since the 3-0 win at Bishop’s Stortford in January.

For an opening game, I thought we did ok. A cliché in football is that it’s a bad idea to peak on opening day of a season, though it feels that we did do precisely that in 2017 after our 1-0 win at Billericay Town (I’m still not sure how we managed that). We certainly haven’t done that in 2019-20.

I think the issues regarding the league sponsor have eased a little – the only presence in the programme is a small logo on the front cover, I don’t have to mention them on the microphone or the team sheets, there will be a limited presence on the website (though the powers that be aren’t massively communicative in letting Gary Ekins know what precisely needs doing), no logos on shirts, no advert in programme, no advertising board. One annoying issue is that players under the age of 25 cannot now have their picture on the front page of the website, so I’m thinking of ruining it for everyone and not have a players’ photo at all on the front page – though you can click on a news item or match report and see plenty of photos, but this is an immense frustration. We should not have the league sponsor logo anywhere near pages concerning the youth section, this will be fixed when Gary gets final clarity, there’s something else that will need to come into force regarding age verification for users but again Gary will be on to that when he gets the right advice. The last bit sounds like an absolute disaster to me, but that opinion is based on no knowledge whatsoever of what they’re talking about, surely things like this put users off and just encourage them to not go on to a website, but again I’m ignorant about these things, so we will see what transpires.

The main query for me overall is precisely this – with all the things that the league sponsor’s logo and name will not be going on (which is most things), what are they getting out of it? It can’t be a case of saying to the leagues: “here you go, have some money,” so it’s just another strange thing. And no, I still don’t approve of the Isthmian League having a betting company as the main sponsor (and please don’t cry about the Football League being sponsored by a betting company, that’s not right to me either, but Kingstonian aren’t in the Football League so I don’t care as much).

Another overriding thing that has been sticking in the craw (is that a type of bird in the North East of England?) is that the leagues and associations seem to possess less and less recognition that most people who do things at our level of football are volunteers; the effort that goes on behind the scenes trying to keep up with league rules, advisories, diktats and the like is increasing far too quickly, there is a danger that volunteers will soon feel that they cannot cope, it’s not worth it, etc., etc., and be forced to effectively stop doing their hobby as it’s too much pressure and time and stop volunteering for their club and, at worst, stop going to watch their club. And most of the time, the pressure will not come from their club, it will come from all these extra things that keep piling up and piling up from league, associations, their sponsors, the FA, etc., etc., some of them minute in themselves but they add up so quickly.

When I get to see some of these essays that get given out, sometimes my first reaction is absolute panic, what are they piling on me now? This summer, there have been many conversations between myself and the K’s chairman and slowly we have been getting through this latest soap opera, working out what needs doing and what can be avoided – but by ‘eck we’ve needed to go through some of these issues with a fine tooth comb to fully comprehend what is actually wanted, clarifications and clarifications of clarifications (and some of them desperately need clarifying)… I am still waiting for the next pie to be thrown in my face for the next set of declarations, but for now the panic has dissipated.

Anyway, bottom line is that in my opinion, football authorities and sponsors (not talking about club sponsors, just to, ironically, clarify) do not comprehend the problems that they are causing to club volunteers, or if they do then…make your own judgments.

I’ve just realised, this ain’t a great advert for volunteering for non-league football clubs. But when things are properly organised (and sometimes they are), then it can go very well, you can do things you never thought you’d be suited to (for example, if you’d have told my teachers at school that I would be doing the announcements on the microphone for a non-league club, then to a man and woman they would not believe you) and be a source of immense self-pride.

Whingeing time over for now, in a couple of hours I shall be traipsing off to Wingate and Finchley for our first away game. Maybe, just maybe, the jinx can be broken.

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