Jeez, where to start?
Well, I badly wanted to be wrong, but it wasn’t to be as Hastings United moved into the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round at our expense at the most excellent Pilot Field. Based on the first half, it was deserved, although we did enough in the second half to force a replay but didn’t have the calmness to get the job done as four or five times we had the goal at our mercy and found a way to not score.
I joined the K’s at the beginning of the 2001-02 season – the previous season the club reached the FA Cup Fourth Round, losing in a televised replay to Bristol City. Since that run, the furthest we’ve got is the Third Qualifying Round. Only one of those seasons have we had what you could even partly describe as a cup run. Every other season we’ve been dumped on, we’ve messed up, we’ve found ways of not having a cup run. And, probably like every Kingstonian supporter, I’m completely fed up with it. And then some. The FA Cup in the last seventeen years happens to other people, never us, and it’s (desperately trying to find a suitable word as this is being written before the watershed) irksome (failed in the search, then…).
The highlight of the afternoon was undoubtedly Manolis Gogonas’ goal, we knew he could score if only he would shoot a bit more often, but his goal at Hastings was glorious. It was one of those “eff-it-whack!” type shots, to hell with this trying to go past twenty-three defenders twice to tee up the perfect shot, I’m just going to hit the bloody thing as hard as I can. Anyone getting in the way of that was going to hospital. Unfortunately, the highlight was followed swiftly by the lowlight as our defence did something they’ve struggled to do all season, which is to lamp the ball into row Z when needed, and allowed a goal so soft that Lenor must be jealous of how that degree of softness could ever be created.
I think the thing that in retrospect has got me the most is our bench. Or rather lack of bench. We had one outfield player and a young goalkeeper. In the FA Cup, teams are allowed to choose seven. OK, we have had a lot of bad luck with injuries, we lost Louie Theophanous to suspension, but surely at least we can fill the bench with youth team players? Firstly, having one outfielder gives a signal that we are struggling (tick), secondly what would have happened if we’d had two injuries during the game, thirdly there’s no harm in taking four or five young players and giving them experience of an FA Cup tie in front of a large-for-our-level crowd.
Stick one on the field near the end, encourage them to give their best and they could be heroes, you never know. Show some faith and trust in them, that’s what happened when I was hon sec of the under 18s – Ian Brady and Mark Dunne encouraged the lads to have fun, do their thing and results would come, and they did with two league titles, a county cup final win and a trip to the FA Youth Cup First Round. Some of those players made it to the first team, sadly not consistently, and showed that they could play at first team level – some made it elsewhere, for example Rob Sheridan is doing well for himself at Dorking Wanderers, as is Ollie Robinson who is now at Walton Casuals and Ben Cheklit at Corinthian-Casuals. So yes, Saturday at Hastings was demoralising for more than one reason.
So where do we go from here? Well, the glib answer is a home game against Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday. The ever restless natives are revolting again (a lot of them are, shall we say, er…, touchy), but you can’t disagree with why. This season was going to be different, we’re going to organise ourselves a top quality squad, we’re going to give promotion a right royal crack, we’re going to challenge for this, for that, for the other. At the moment, we’re out of two cup competitions at the first hurdle, we’re inside the relegation zone, we’ve only won one game and didn’t deserve to win it.
The squad, I think (for I’m no longer certain), is better than in the last couple of seasons, the playing surface is an improvement on last season’s (and that is meant as no disrespect to Leatherhead, it just seemed at times that we were the only team incapable of playing on it, most other teams quite liked it…), all the required ingredients have been supplied by the club, the club has supported the player personnel decisions pre-season and the return has not been good enough. There’s people at the club working their socks off (to brazenly steal an Alan Dowson phrase) to promote the fact that we’re back in the borough, and I mean doing overtime in the attempt with the likes of posters, offers, even a Radio Jackie campaign. There’s no point doing this if the product that we’re actually selling doesn’t work, and so far this season it definitely hasn’t. I’m fed up with going into matches with merely a vague hope for a good performance and maybe a good result if we’re fortunate enough. There’s not much about me that is thin, but one thing that is thin is my patience and that’s very nearly worn out.
Well, this was supposed to be a happy blog when I first decided to write this, instead it’s a weekly or twice-weekly rant. And I’m fed up with it being this way, I’m fed up with feeling so upset game after game after game. All I want, all most if not all Kingstonian supporters want, is to win football matches. If the method that we are employing is not working, and at the moment no-one can say that it is, then maybe we use a different method and change the ingredients.
Anyway, rant over for now – I crave for a more hopeful blog next time around. I’ll continue to take the happy pills, try to keep calm and carry on.