There was a grim inevitability about the day. I doubt if many Kingstonian supporters thought that we could get a positive result out of Dorking Wanderers, I didn’t think it would be that much of a pasting, but certainly my confidence in the team was so low that it was having to furiously dig a trench in order to not suffer horrid friction burns dragging on the ground.
It was my first visit to Meadowbank since Dorking Wanderers and the Surrey FA moved in, and I really liked what they had done to the place. I went to the old Meadowbank many a time whilst watching Kingstonian’s Under 18s – instead of a (let’s be diplomatic) characterful ground that had seen better days, here is a stadium that is ready for football at a higher level. As befits a team top of the league, there was a positive buzz about the place, and we arrived to play the Wanderers at precisely the wrong time.
Looking at the Wanderers team on Saturday, I think the club is pretty ready for football at a higher level as well, though we did make it easy for them.
For most of the game, it did not feel as horrible as the match at home to Potters Bar Town. A defeat was expected and it was hard to see how the management could pick the players up after Wednesday for a match at the league leaders, a team unbeaten in months and scoring goals for fun. As is normal, there were numerous changes in the K’s line-up and I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Leo Chambers, thrown in for his first game since August and expected to play a blinder trying to keep out the division’s leading club.
The contest was over early – the opening goal finally came in the fifteenth minute, and K’s heads duly went down, a sad and frustratingly familiar tale. Fingers were being pointed, blame was being diverted, team work merely something you see on a coaching video. Amidst all this, Dorking flew at us all afternoon, and we did relatively well to keep the score down to 0-2 at half time.
There was never the sense that the game could be turned around, and anyway Dorking didn’t give us the chance when the second half started when they added an early third. More goals flew in, more arms thrown into the air in frustration and the ineptitude of their team mates, the fight and the battle in the team completely gone. In some cases, the fight and battle may not have been there in the first place.
Dean Inman got one back with thirteen minutes to go, but my dreams of being able to claim a Pyrrhic victory using the school playground rule of “last goal wins” were blown away by three quick goals to finish the pain as Dorking Wanderers declared on seven.
I understand the anger of our supporters, and I’m pleased for them that they have the energy to vent their feelings. I couldn’t do any venting, I still feel a sense of numbness about the whole thing that has sapped my energy. That Leigh came to be sacked after the Dorking defeat is no surprise, everything about the team had been changed to try and get things right, there was only one thing left to do, and so it came to pass.
Even when it is the right thing to do, and let’s face it, this was the right thing to do, I always feel a sense of loss. I had to type out the announcement for the website, and just like when Tommy Williams was told that his services were no longer required, it was a difficult thing to do. A simple statement was released, yes, but I hated having to type it out.
My attitude is always the same, regardless of the level of success, whether high or low, if a manager of a team of mine is in strife, I want him to be the one who gets out of said strife. If he can’t, then it’s a sad day for me, even though it is for the best for the club. I was even sad when Liverpool sacked Roy Hodgson, but don’t judge me for that. For me it’s not a celebration thing, it’s a final acceptance that things have gone wrong and drastic measures need to be taken to rectify matters.
Was it wrong to have appointed Leigh in the first place? I say no – I was told who the other candidates were and he was genuinely by the far the best candidate we had. Due to the fact that only one team was to be relegated in 2017-18, I thought that any issues could be ironed out and that we had plenty of time to get ready for a promotion push in 2018-19.
Leigh had time to settle in and would basically have the longest pre-season preparation ever. Results were up and down, players came and went with alarming regularity but surely when 2018-19 came along, we would be able to fly out of the traps and compete with the best from day one.
Alarm bells did arrive quite early, though. Pre-season (as in the summer of 2018) didn’t feel as if it went smoothly, and when we were comprehensively stuffed by Westfield, I began to worry but I had enough trust in everyone that it would be ok by opening day at home to Brightlingsea. Of course, results showed that we had a horrendous start but eventually got it together and zoomed up the table. Our habit of getting beaten by lower-league opposition in cups got worse as we fell three times to teams from one level lower.
The results started coming when Alfie Doughty arrived from Charlton, and the Palace loanees Tyler Brown and especially James Daly got settled. We had a team with exciting youngsters and a decent and experienced spine. Second place at the New Year and surely we could go up a level in intensity. James got hurt against Merstham (I hear that the lad who made the tackle on him was on loan from Crystal Palace, or at least was part of the Eagles’ youth system…!), Charlton recalled Alfie and also the hugely impressive Ben Dempsey, Tyler went back to Palace, and, after an impressive 3-0 win at Bishop’s Stortford, an away game that I naturally missed, it fell apart.
We did get some injuries to good players, most notably James Daly and David Fitzpatrick, but we went back to making changes at an alarming and befuddling rate, in the last few weeks it felt as if we were having a re-build every game and eventually certainly the last two games (maybe more) we had nothing positive going on, there was confusion, no cohesion, grit and determination had gone, and on Saturday at Dorking the only outstanding part of the K’s team were the groovy dayglo green shorts (the ref decided that our blue shorts clashed with their black shorts so we had to borrow Dorking’s groovy green shorts).
I found Leigh to be a good person, but football is a harsh world sometimes and the club did what it had to do. And as football is a harsh world, no doubt any melancholy that I am currently feeling will dissipate immediately when I am asked to announce the new appointment (I have absolutely no clue who the candidates are and I want it to remain that way until the post is filled) on the website and some excitement will re-emerge from the deep the closer we get to Saturday.
You never know, I may see an away win this season…