Chris Lakey: Blues need to get their fans onside – and quickly too
- Credit: Nick Butcher
I have no particular beef with Lowestoft Town, but I feel extremely sorry for their supporters, their manager and the players who find themselves in a terrible position because of the club's problems.
A few years back, with a bowl of chilli in hand, I was fortunate to chat to then joint manager Ady Gallagher in the clubhouse. The atmosphere around the place was terrific.
Gallagher, Micky Chapman and former Norwich City defender Craig Fleming were in charge of an exciting and vibrant team, playing in front of healthy and optimistic crowds.
There was ambition in the air and the prospect of brighter things to come.
But success comes at a cost and, at some stage, the funding for that ambition started to dry up. You can't really blame anyone: it's their money, they can do what they want with it. But the downside of pulling the plug, if you like, is that optimism becomes pessimism, the bright future suddenly looks very grey around the edges. The excitement of what might be, becomes a memory of what might have been.
If you are going to fund a rise up the football pyramid you have to be prepared to go all the way: pulling out midway is not an option. It leads all too often to where we find ourselves today: a club that has failed to pay its players and manager. A club that has, as a consequence, lost its best players. A club that is trying desperately to see out the season.
Manager Dale Brooks says that will happen, but he will be crossing everything he has between now and the end of March, when the non league transfer deadline closes, that more players don't leave. The remainers say they are willing to stick it out, but frankly, if there's a prospect you are doing all that for free (and by all that I mean giving up many, many hours to train, play and travel) then you think twice.
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There are many local non league clubs, albeit not all at the same level as Lowestoft, who would offer guaranteed and half decent money to have a few of their players. If they come calling, it will make them think twice.
And before anyone points out that footballers are well paid (which isn't always true, of course), don't forget that they will have budgeted whatever they get each week. The prospect of having a contribution to your mortgage taken away is not one they will fancy.
So, the players are in a quandary: walk, and there will be a question mark over their loyalty – which brings me to Blues skipper Rossi Jarvis who will be sidelined by injury for the rest of the season, but has agreed to leave the club by mutual consent now. Instead of watching and being paid (possibly) he has gone - which will help those meagre funds enormously. Credit to Rossi Jarvis for that.
And credit to Brooks who could easily have thought 'I don't need this'. Instead, he has stayed and is working overtime to get players in and put a team out.
Then there are the supporters: they won't lose financially, but losing their hope is almost as bad. If you go and watch a team on a regular basis, your are basing your loyalty on promise an expectation, but when that is taken away, do you stick or twist?
And, like any football fan, they will want to know what on earth has happened - and what is being done about it.
The club had announced a meeting with fans for last Thursday but then, on the day, announced it had been postponed.
'After speaking with key individuals and consulting fans, we felt we needed more time to gather more information to give a clearer picture of the situation to you - the fans,' they said on their website.
Frankly, I think that is a cop out. The fans are waiting and have been for three weeks. They deserve to know something.
On Tuesday night, only 378 turned up to see Lowestoft lose at home to Dulwich Hamlet – their first home game since the problems surfaced. It would have been better had it been a Saturday, but had the engagement between club and supporters been better I guarantee you there would have been a far healthier crowd.
Yes, it was cold, but the town didn't exactly come out and support its club did it? Don't blame the stay-away fans, though. The club lost the momentum after the first announcement of financial difficulties. Look on their website: not one figure has put his or head above the parapet to explain anything. The original announcement of the financial difficulties came in a statement attributed to the board. Since then, nothing.
Lowestoft Town need to get their fans onside, and soon.
Unfair on Fenmen
Wisbech Town were fined £500 for not controlling their fans during an FA Vase tie against Bromsgrove Sporting.
The charge effectively covers two things: a fan who threw at flare at the visiting dugout and one or two fans who made a racist remark towards the visiting goalkeeper.
The flare is dangerous. The racist remarks are disgraceful and deplorable. The miscreants have been banned for the club, and quite rightly. But how could Wisbech Town FC control the actions of one or two lame-brains?
Despite its reputation, Wisbech Town is a great place to go and watch football; it has been besmirched by those who acted so deplorably.
I was at the game and their chairman Paul Brenchley was ashen-faced and horrified when I spoke to him after the game. I saw and heard things, but nothing racist – because it was isolated idiocy. I was asked to give written evidence to the Cambs FA and made those points.
Sadly, it didn't do much good, but Wisbech's reputation has been unfairly tarnished.
Taste of Robinsons
Within hours of leaving Charlton Athletic, Karl Robinson had been named as the new manager of Oxford United.
Oxford, it seemed, had scoured the world: Craig Bellamy was on the verge of getting the job at one stage, apparently, while Jaap Stam was touted as soon as he left Reading on Wednesday.
Steve McClaren, Patrick Kluivert, Frank Lampard and Brian McDermott were all serious contenders until, 59 days after they sacked Pep Clotet, Oxford finally got their man. That's right, 59 days, which is almost the average tenure of a manager nowadays.
What does Robinson's decision say for Charlton, who are ninth in League One but not as attractive a proposition as 16th-placed Oxford?
Weren't Charlton one of the clubs on which Norwich City were going to model themselves?
My bet is that one day Robinson will one day be back in charge of the MK Dons, so beloved by our regional TV corporation.