Having made the decision to get back into football, I was more than pleased to see my old friends on the Committee still retaining their passion for the game and doubly delighted that they offered me the chance to come back into the fold, following a musical sabbatical.
I lost a lot of weight, got fit during the summer and contacted the Essex County FA to get my registration re-activated. After a couple of sessions and a toughish exam I was back on the go! During this time, I got my teeth into the website and other media stuff, which has been handled brilliantly by Paul & Billy, and long may it continue. What I am doing is supporting their groundwork and helping where I can, and together, taking it to the next level.
Unfortunately I broke my foot not far from home and my onfield activities curtailed for some time to come.
But, it has given me a chance to visit and meet teams and referees to watch their performances, learn and take a view on the action and report back on what I have seen. I am happy to say that most of what I have witnessed has been good. The general standard of play throughout all divisions is the highest I can remember, the fitness levels have raised and the passion of some of the characters I have met is remarkable. It saddens me though when I hear some of the excuses people give when they cannot be bothered to show up for 90 minutes of football on a Sunday morning. Knowing the effort that the Secretaries have put in to prepare the team for the weekend (calls to the referee, the league, the players, the opposition, the general admin stuff in relation to the pitch, the kit, any disciplinary matters with Essex or London FA’s, and probably another set of calls because the match official has been changed!). That’s probably a standard week for most. When you add in to the equation the financial aspect, many Club Secretaries cover the additional funds for the football club out of their own pocket. The bill for running a club is huge and all they ask is for their players to turn up on a Sunday morning. I’ve witnessed on more than one occasion the Secretary ringing around on the morning of the match, shirts hanging over his arm, finding out where his players are. Due to the new substitute rule, each and every player has an important role. 16 players could and should be out there bright and early on a Sunday with no issues. Sometimes, winning the game starts before you’ve even kicked a ball. Despite those struggles, the hassles each and most weekends, these hardy figures come back for more. I take my hat off to you guys.
On the field, there has been some wonderful stuff, the quality flowing through all divisions. I know there has been some level discrepancies but these things happen and every now and again we just have to do the best we can to cope. I am pleased that most have accepted the situation and been as professional as they can and next season we will work with you all to make sure we get it right. Back to some of the action and I have been delighted with the general approach by most teams on any given Sunday. There is a little unwritten rule which needs to be heard though.
“What happens on the field, stays on the field, the match ends, everyone shakes hands and enjoys a beer together after the game.”
The next time you play each other, the friendly rivalry has a proper edge to it and the process repeats. Perfect!
But, too much festers from stuff that can be easily forgotten. Don’t let it eat away at you, get on with the game, respect to everyone and let the officials do their job. They (we) don’t always get it right, but they are honest mistakes and I always maintain that you can “only give what you can see”. The pace of the game sometimes means we are not in the best position to see it. Anyone who takes it upon themselves to manhandle other players AND the referee by way of making their own point will never be looked upon favourably by anyone so please be assured that the league is fully behind the County when they hand out bans and fines for such activity.
As I said, we all get pissed by decisions, anyone who witnessed the appallingly overruled Bournemouth equaliser against my beloved West Ham in the last minute will know how much a wrong action can influence attitudes but there are ways of making sure we do our best to avoid it happening again. We need to make sure all markings and reports are supplied to the league so we can support those that need help, support and guidance.
Back to positive matters and thankfully we have been fortunate to secure the excellent facilities at Parkside, the new home of Aveley FC, for our cup finals towards the end of the season. I’ve known Craig since the old days at Millfield, when my team used to hire out the ground on a regular basis, so he was more than happy for Bob and myself to pop down a couple of times to see what they could do for us. I know they will be grand occasions and we intend to make them memorable and we hope you embrace the effort that has gone into making it happen by enjoying the day with us.
On the field, I am hoping 2018 brings a renewed effort by everyone, but especially the players, to do what is right, be true to yourself, think of your team, your Secretary, the integrity of your club and the ESFC should be uppermost in your mind, even during the most trying of times.
To each and every referee, your dedication to the game, our game, is admirable and sometimes the worst of facilities, the terrible weather, some ugly snarling faces, the abuse, and piss-poor transportation on a Sunday means that £35 is your only reward for giving up around three or so hours (more when you consider the admin when you reach home) and your partner wonders why you put yourself through it. The love of the game, that’s why. If we have a bad one, set about putting it right. I’ve learned lessons by watching some great officials this season and I am hoping others seek to do the same. Thank you for your efforts each and every weekend.
“Someone told me this season that the referee is the only one getting paid so I guess he was telling me that we are there to be abused, shouted at and assaulted (yes, it has happened more than once this season). Well, that’s ok then. I’ll just make my way to your house, call your missus every name under the sun and when she gets upset, I kick the cards from her hand, or fly-kick her because she has the audacity to tell me to leave her own field of play. But it’s fine, because I hand her £35 for her troubles!”
2017 leaves us with many memories but let’s hope the new year brings even better ones. We are a year older and a lot wiser. Get on the field and prove it. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
(Written on a cold Sunday morning, because there is no Grassroots stuff to watch!)