Stirling Moss


About 6 miles off the Thanet coast is a strip of land known as the Goodwin Sands.  This 25 metre strip of sand, sitting atop a chalk escarpment becomes visible at various times each day depending on the tides.  Many a ship has met with disaster trying to navigate around the area whilst a number of schemes over the years have been hatched to try to build structures on the sands.

However, if there is one lesson that any engineer worth their salt will tell you is that building on sand, let along fast-moving sand is a very bad idea.  History has shown that time and time again, yet people still think they can tame nature.

photo 2So what has this got to do with Bank Holiday Monday football at the Dripping Pan?  Well, for starters our visitors today were Margate, one of the coastal towns that can claim the Goodwin Sands as part of their own. But more importantly, it is about the lessons that football has taught us about thinking we can follow certain paths.  Make no mistake, in the driving rain at the very aptly named Dripping Pan this afternoon, Margate showed that they are head and shoulders above Lewes, and probably most teams in the Ryman Premier League this season thanks to a massive cash injection into the club.

The club aren’t exactly hiding their wealth under a bushel.  Talking to their charismatic chairman, Bob Laslett before the game he was very bullish when asked about his ambition for the club.  “Back to back promotion….six of them”.  You get the feeling he wasn’t kidding either. Since he joined the club just after Christmas, Margate have started to build both on and off the pitch for a future higher up the league.  With most clubs in the Ryman Premier League running with a budget between £2k and £3k a week (I guess), Margate’s appears to be significantly more.  The recruitment last season of Terry Brown, the ex-AFC Wimbledon manager who guided them out of the Non-League was a bold statement of intent and one that is starting to bear fruit.

Non-League football fans can be divided into three groups – those whose club have a financial backer and are spending money; those who don’t have access to the same resources and are deep-down jealous of the success of these clubs; and those who have been burnt by a failed strategy before.  For every Fleetwood Town, Crawley Town and Stevenage there are the Darlington’s, Hornchurch’s and very recently, Celtic Nation’s.  Nobody wants to see football clubs in financial distress – people’s livelihoods are at stake as well as years of history, tradition and the blood, sweat and tears of the fans.

photo 3My one concern for Margate is simply around geography.  They have made one big push up the Non-Leagues before, finishing in eighth place in the Conference Premier in 2002, however within two seasons they had been demoted due to ongoing issues with the redevelopment of their Hartsdown Park ground.  Twelve months later they fell into the Ryman Premier League where they have been since.  Whilst Kent currently only supports one Football League side, there are over 1.73 million people living in the county.  In Thanet District alone there are 134,000 people, more than Ipswich and Norwich who both have football teams who average over 20,000.  Margate’s current average home attendance is around 600, nearly double that of last season’s 325.  The appetite is clearly there for success, but will it be enough to sustain the club as they move through the leagues?

There is also not guarantee that the approach will be successful.  There is a big shadow looming over their success just down the A2/M2/A249 in the form of Maidstone United who are also attempting to climb their way up the Non-Leagues back to the Football League where they last played over twenty years ago.  They too have cash to spend although their advantage is a modern stadium that is already producing revenue seven days a week and being located in the heart of the county with good transport links that can bring those floating Premier League and Football League in.  During the afternoon you got the feeling that Margate are nervously looking over their shoulder at the events at The Gallagher stadium.

The Ryman Premier League is a bugger to get out of.  Lowestoft Town can vouch for the difficulty in trying to invest in a championship winning squad year after year.  Last season they finally made it at the fourth Play-Off attempt although their reward is to be put in a league where they have “short” away trips to Chorley, Barrow and Fylde.  Whitehawk invested heavily to go the same way two seasons ago then ended up in a relegation battle last season.  In other leagues, Chester and Halifax Town gambled on heavy investment to return to the Football League but are now counting the cost of over expansion.  Nobody wants to see that happen to any club.

Arriving at a very wet Dripping Pan Margate could boast a 100% record with five wins out of five, only matched by their nemesis, Maidstone United.  Their line up spoke volumes of their intent.  Ryan Moss, Charlie Allen, Kane Wills, Luke Moore. Proven players in the Ryman League and above – quite a haul considering the journeys some of these players have to make to Margate. But if the gamble pays off?  Well, who knows where they will end up.

Lewes 1 Margate 5 – Monday 25th August 2014 – The Dripping Pan
One the way out of the ground a chap turned to his mate and said, “It would have been a different result if it wasn’t for the rain”.  I’m every the optimist but nobody could complain at the result or the comprehensiveness of the victory.  Margate were unrecognisable from the team that scrambled a draw against Lewes just four months ago.  Less than a year ago the Gate came to the Pan and were sent away with a 3-0 defeat. Not one of that starting XI played in this game.  Times are certainly a-changing on the Isle of Thanet.

photo 1It is fair to say that the weather had an impact in the first half.  All three goals were rain assisted to an extent with defenders from both sides losing their footing to create the chances, first for Moss as early as the five minutes, and then again seven minutes later when James Fergany slotted home after a game of ping-pong in the Margate area.  The main talking point of the half came just before the break when Ollie Rowe was sent off for the second time in a week.  As Jason Prior took the ball passed Rowe, the centre-back tried to haul him to the ground.  Prior managed to regain his balance, carried on and shot at Banks who saved well.  The referee then pulled back play for the original offence and sent Rowe off.

Did the referee wave play on?  There seemed to be a lack of a whistle.  If the referee allowed play to go on then Rowe surely hadn’t “denied a goal scoring opportunity” as he carried on and shot.  What happens if he scored?  Would Rowe would have still be sent off?  All questions that the referee couldn’t (or wouldn’t) answer when he walked off at half-time.

Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the decision, Margate came out for the second period with their heads high and showed their class.  Three further goals from Allen, Pipps and then Moss to complete his hatrick made sure Margate took all three points home in style.

As Terry Brown walked off he shook hands with the fans.  Their immediate conversation was not about the victory but about Maidstone’s last-minute defeat to Tonbridge Angels.  Surely it is too early in a season for paranoia to be setting in?  Enjoy Non-League football for what it is…..

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Playing away in Dreamland


13804963363_e4a9f3df14_b“Well I’ve been working hard to reach me sales target
To earn a few quid for an away trip down to Margate
I’m gonna blow my commission tomorrow on all me football family
We catch the train at eight so don’t be late, were off to see the sea”

We are the luckiest fans alive today. Who else wouldn’t want to be spending a day at the sunny British seaside today. It is fair to say that prior to the release of the fixtures back in July, Margate away in either the earlier part of the season or towards the end would have been perfect.  In the last two season we had been down to the Isle of Thanet in October and January, so it was time that the fixture computer was kind to us. What better way to celebrate our promotion than a knees up on the golden sands and sewage outflow pipe of the Costa del Thanet.

Well, as our big sweaty transatlantic friend still warbles, two out of three ain’t bad. We were going to get our day in the sun in April at Margate, and ‘that’ sign was still warning us about staying away from the pipe carrying ‘stuff’ into the sea, but alas there was to be no promotion party. In fact our recent, and by recent I mean the last half of the season, has been a bit of a mystery. With a third of the season gone we were one place and two points outside the playoffs. However, the harsh weather, which first kicked in in October for us seemed to throw a spanner in the works and since then we have taken on average a point a game.

I still get the “sack the board” chants aimed in my general direction by those who still don’t quite get this community club aspect and realise that I can’t be sacked by the fans (voted out in October, indeed) but we will finish the season in a stronger position both on and off the field than last season and can look forward to next season when the regeneration project will commence on The Dripping Pan which will ultimately give us a new viable revenue stream. Continue reading

So what makes a good football programme?


Today marks my third month in the hardest job in football.  Manager’s have an easy job turning up for 3 hours on a Saturday to watch a game for free.  Directors?  Well that’s just sitting round a table eating biscuits and talking about building new toilet blocks (well, to an extent).  I’m talking about one where you need to be available 24 x 7 yet your work often ends up being discarded in the bin.  I am a (co) Football Programme Editor.

New Picture (3)In the past three months, Barry Collins and myself have put together ten editions of the Lewes matchday programme.  Programmes that every week we think are getting better and better.  It does help that Barry has had some experience in the editing game (Anyone heard of PC Pro magazine by any chance?), we have a brilliant team of designers over at East-Web (thanks Jack and Lee) who lay it all out and some excellent pictures from the shutter finger of James Boyes.  But it is the bits in between that cause us to burn the midnight oil.

When we took over the role in the summer, Barry and I had grand plans for the programme.  Who wanted to read dull boring bits about the away team when they only bring two fans? Adverts? Seriously…one or two at best.   People flocked to us promising us Pullitzer quality articles.  But when the chips have been down and we needed to do three programmes in a little more than five days where were they?  Exactly.  We were on our own.

The problem for Non-League clubs, as Glenn Wilson pointed out in a recent When Saturday Comes article is that the job is the one nobody wants to do.  The role is one of those that if we do a good job, no one notices, but if it goes wrong, everyone tells us.  Whilst we have “editorial” control, our audience doesn’t really care.  We currently have 12 pages of adverts in a 32 page programme.  That in my honest opinion is too many.  We have no choice but to carry FIVE from the Ryman League because of a deal they did. It is arguable we get the value of any commercial arrangement even if one of the ads is for Boux Avenue.  So each week we have to come up with something new.

Lewes v Margate 2013So far, so good.  I have no idea if sales are up or down, but two weeks ago we sold out (and long before kick off) for the first time in years.  In fact the silent majority were soon quick to voice their disapproval of the fact, telling us we should have printed more.  Well, perhaps if those same voices would have given us some feedback when we asked earlier in the season perhaps we may have.  We are still trying to put our own stamp of individuality on each edition.  Our offering today against Margate included an article on the real founding fathers of Football, an interview with one of our oldest and most loyal fans, a piece on our opponents written by one of their more well known fans and a “last word” from Barry about his Geoff Shreeves moment last week.  See for yourselves and tell us what you think by reading a pdf copy here. Continue reading

Adding insult to injury time


I don’t need no arms around me.
And I don’t need no drugs to calm me.
I have seen the writing on the wall.
Don’t think I need anything at all.
No! Don’t think I’ll need anything at all.
All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.
All in all you were all just bricks in the wall.

Ah the magic of Pink Floyd on a cold Thursday night in East Sussex, an almost as famous quote as the classic line utter by Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now of loving the smell of Napalm in the morning. “It smells like victory, son” he said as we entered the Pan after a difficult week and took a long, hard, deep breath it was Harvey’s we could smell, the smell of winners, surely.

So why the reference to Pink Floyd? Well, some of you may know that 45 Years ago Lewes FC helped put on a concert at Lewes Town Hall featuring Pink Floyd. The club was due to mark the anniversary with a Pink Floyd themed game back in January against Margate. Giant inflatable pigs were strung from the floodlights, tigers were loaned from a zoo to be set free on the hour mark, a spotlight had been set up to shine on midfield diamond Jack Walder….and then the rain/snow/ice/fog came down and the game was called off. None was more disappointed than Luge Pravda, on a rare trip over from New York who had coughed up (well, I had on his behalf) to lead the teams out in full kit as the official matchday mascot (he thought it was just matchball sponsorship).

photo (23)With the design genius of The Darker Side of the Moon consigned to the history bin, the re-arranged fixture obviously had to feature Floyd. What could better DSOM? Of course, The Wall. And unbelievably Mr Pravda was here again, ready to put his PE shorts on. What were the odds on that I hear you wonder. What odds indeed, judging by the fact I arrange the commercial meetings across the business and what odds that the bloody snow would make an unwelcome return to scuttle that plan too. So third time lucky. As a precaution I had managed to send Luge Pravda out to the Californian desert, meaning the game would definitely be on.

Our visitors had led the Ryman Premier for a time early in season, then fell away, primarily due to postponements, although in recent weeks they had returned to the play off spots. Unfortunately, the Rooks’s form was definitely that of a relegation side, picking up just one point from the last six games, and that was in the crazy game at Hendon on Saturday where in the first forty-five minutes Lewes found themselves two-nil down, playing against 9 men and awarded two penalties. Margate hadn’t done us any favours by shipping four against bottom of the table Carshalton, a game which saw Keeper/Manager Craig Holloway sent off. Lewes hadn’t lost on a Thursday night this season (well, they hadn’t actually played a game) so the omens were good for a vital three points. If only football was that simple! Continue reading

Sticky Toffee has never tasted so bad


It had been quite a good few weeks for the Rooks. Results on the pitch had been poor – in fact we were bottom of the current form table – six defeats from the last six games had brought Mr Relegation sniffing around our front door and our chance of a home win against Margate (and a chance to see match ball sponsor Luge Pravda lead the teams out in his PE kit) were dashed by the freak snow that hit East Sussex, cancelling the game for the second time in 2013.

8545562460_4c69d1e0da_bBut a football club is not just for Christmas, it’s forever and so our job as Directors is to build a sustainable club on and off the pitch. We are all 100% behind Simon Wormull (oh God, that sounds like a dreaded vote of confidence! Sorry Simon!) and believe that the team will comfortably avoid the bottom two. So it was positive to see our fantastic match posters get some of the press they have deserved. Both Proworx and East Web have a done a sterling job in recent years as designers, under the guidance of the likes of club Directors Charlie Dobres, Ben Ward and Patrick Marber (see the set here) and this week the national press came calling. BBC local news, Freund11 in Germany, MSN, Yahoo!, The Independent, The Sunday Times, heck even the Daily Mail got in on the act (although their interpretation of the facts still leaves a lot to be desired). Fine praise indeed, and it felt like the world and his wife were now following our results.

So after we put away our Kiss-Me-Quick hats from the Margate postponement, I looked forward to a short trip on the bus to Cray Wanderers for a relegation six pointer. After a morning of stripping (window ledges rather than with the employees of FYEO alas) CMF approved my efforts in the “Husband” department and sent me off to the bus stop, packed lunch and Thermos (you should always write that with a capital T as it is a brand and not an item – just like Hoover, Portakabin and Airtight), slipping my bus fare in my pocket and telling me to be home by 6pm. Alas, just as I set foot out of the door, Mr. Monsoon paid South East London a visit and another game fell by the wayside.

BFeZywoCMAAh-lXSo roll on 80 hours and we were back at the Pan. If Cray Wanderers was a six pointer, then the visit of bottom of the table Carshalton Athletic was a twenty-four pointer. Of course, this wasn’t the first time Carshalton had come to visit us. Just a few weeks ago they arrived in town, had a player sent off after less than 100 seconds, found themselves two goals down and then lost their manager all in the first half. As the teams headed for the dressing room the power to the Pan failed and despite us all holding up our mobile phones, the referee deemed it wasn’t enough so the game was abandoned. Continue reading

Sterling work for Saint Nicholas


Black suit – check
White shirt – check
New club tie – check

I was ready.  After the false start on Saturday I was making my “proper” debut as a director.  I was ready to press the flesh, making small talk with my fellow directors and basically being “directorial”.  I have no idea what that means, but I am learning, one small step at a time. Bring on the important decisions about drain cleaning options.

After the 4-0 defeat to AFC Hornchurch on Saturday I was not “gutted”, I was “disappointed”.  It was all about the long term sustainability of the club, rather than just results on the pitch.  I even understood the terms “Securitisation” for Pete’s sake – that is how much I had learnt in five days!

After banishing my children to the bedroom for joining in the cruel chants of “Sack the board” on Saturday, I told them I was withholding their match fee (pocket money) for a week. As I prepared to leave the house, ready for a full day of communications in London before heading down to Lewes they gave me a letter, addressed to the Direkta (sic) of Lewes FC.

Dear Direkta.  We are sorry that you are angre with us, the fans.  We paid our money (No, they got in free!) so we can say what we want, innit.  We hope you win tonit so we can have pocket money again.  Luv The Little Fullers” I have a feeling there may have been the hand of CMF at work in there somewhere but at least I had some backing once again.

Tonight Lewes welcomed “The Gate” into town for a “must win” game.  Of course all games are must win, but after the defeat on Saturday it was essential that the Rooks showed their “bounce-back-ability” as quickly as possible.

Few people know that Margate hold a unique piece of history in non league football.  Back in November 1971 they were drawn against Bournemouth (& Boscombe as they were back then) in the FA Cup first round.  It turned out to be a red letter day for one particular player, a day that would forever be etched in the history of the Cup.  Edward John MacDougall lined up up front for Bournemouth on that day and ended up scoring nine times in a 11-0 win.  Margate showed their own bounce-back-ability just twelve months later by reaching the third round of the FA Cup where they lost 6-0 at home to Spurs in front of an amazing 14,000. Continue reading

No Kamara flash at the Hartsdown


“Well I’ve been working hard to reach me target
To earn a few bob for a day trip down to Margate
I’m gonna blow the lot tomorrow on all me family
We catch the coach at eight so don’t be late, were off to see the sea”

Margate – so many memories for the TBIR team.  Many a summer we jumped on the train from our north Kent home, and spent the hour or so journey getting on and off the train to avoid the conductor.  In the olden  days trains used to be in “toast rack” carriages – compartments that could only be entered and exited from the outside and thus no ticket inspector could get you unless they got in at a station, so we simply looked out of the window, jumping into the next carriage when we saw him coming. Continue reading