It’s a brave man indeed who occupies the hot seat
PUBLISHED: 13:30 28 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:30 28 September 2017
Shirley D Whitlow
I admire Lowestoft Town’s new chairman, Alan Green – but I certainly don’t envy him.
Non league football is packed with admirable people who work their socks off for little or no reward. It is a thankless task, unless your team is successful and, of course, that is simply not a possibility.
Lowestoft enjoyed terrific times a few years back when they got themselves into the Conference set-up – Micky Chapman, current boss Ady Gallagher and Craig Fleming combined their experience and intelligence to create a cracking side.
But success doesn’t come cheaply; there is no doubt that the more money you have, the more success you get (although cash is no guarantee of course... it’s just very helpful). Those who succeed without cash are isolated cases – and the fall is always imminent.
Gary Keyzor put a lot of money into Lowestoft to get them in the Conference, but was unable to sustain it, and at a guess I’d say the budget now is half what it was back then. Which is why they are now in the Bostik (Isthmian) League Premier Division.
Top players earn promotion, and they cost money, and Gallagher, now working with Dale Brooks following Chapman’s decision to retire from management, has to make every penny count. He has to call in favours for players to avoid the embarrassment of not having enough to fill the subs’ bench.
There is little in the way of a youth set-up to supplement the flow of players because that was lost to an outside agency - a loss that was terribly careless.
Keyzor has now stepped down as chairman, remaining on the board with Green taking over. In a statement on the club’s website this week, Green said he wanted a return to the glory days. To enable that, he has to find money to help Gallagher – and he has to ensure Gallagher stays too.
The club is part of the makeup of the town and Gallagher is its public face, a man who bleeds blue blood, and not the royal variety. Take him out of the equation and you lose a bit of that inner soul, a bit of the DNA on which the club survives. He takes the brickbats - football fans, rather unwisely, are never slow to voice an opnion, but it is based on what they see in front of them. Rarely does it have the benefit of much real knowledge. They don’t consider finances. They don’t consider circumstances. They don’t have to deal with the players on a one-to-one basis: they just see blokes running out in the kit and expect them to perform.
I hesitate to refer to Rory McAuley, but it is almost inescapable. The poor lad has really been through it after the tragic death of his sister. He scored the winner on Tuesday night, but you can bet that Gallagher has had to dig deep into his man management skills to help McAuley through the sort of emotional difficulties none of us can ever understand.
So he has to deal with each player’s individual needs, he has to put a team out on an ever-dwindling budget at a club whose supporter base expects more than it is entitled to.
And when Lowestoft lose, he’s in the firing line. There is little in the way of mitigation that will appease the paying customer. Yet each week he comes out for more, spending every waking hour thinking about what to do next and how to do it.
Now he has a new chairman, who will bring a different outlook, new contacts perhaps, new sources of finance, new ideas to help build up the bits of Lowestoft Town Football Club which have been neglected, accidentally or otherwise. This is no sleight on Gary Keyzor: he’s a businessman who put an awful lot of money and time and energy into the club, but that cannot go on for ever. Now he has stepped aside and it will allow a different school of thought to emerge, new ideas for investment perhaps, new ideas on how the club can re-establish itself. A different way of looking at the problem.
Like I say, I admire Alan Green and I admire Gary Keyzor.
I couldn’t be chairman of a football club. For a paying customer it’s a simple Saturday-Tuesday diversion from everyday life. For the people who make it possible, it pretty much is their life.
It’s fitting that Peterborough United claimed their 1,000th league victory with a thriller of a game against Wigan, which ended 3-2.
I cut my footballing teeth watching the Posh at what was then, and still is to me, London Road. I stood in the London Road End before maturing to a place in the enclosure, just to the right of the tunnel. It’s fair to say it was an education.
I don’t hold with the ‘support your local team’ school of thought. It is ridiculous. But having been brought up a Red, I found that interest waned as the possibility of watching Best, Law and Charlton every week dwindled until I had as much chance of being an old Trafford season ticket holder as I had of being the next James Bond.
So Posh it was: 20 miles away, relatively cheap and safe. Until Newcastle came to town for a cup game in 1978, looking for souvenirs in the shape of my blue and white scarf and, just before kick-off, a bit of my nose as a horde invaded the Posh home end and grown make-believe footy hooligans turned out to be scaredy-cats as they pushed this scrawny (oh yes) teenager into the battle, from which I managed to escape.
Trouble was frequent at football matches in the 70s, not a rarity. It didn’t help that on some match days there were evil so-and-sos armed with copies of a right wing magazine who would try and force you to purchase a copy before getting in. The trick was to go to the tea hut first and plead poverty.
I saw some great matches there: we beat Leeds in the FA Cup third round in 1986, a win which earned me free drinks all night in The Lamb Hotel in Ely. I saw an opening day fixture when our centre backs were Slack and Firm. I followed their fortunes from afar and still do, although lapsed supporter doesn’t begin to describe my neglect for a former love.
I’ve been in the club shop more often that I’ve been to games in the last decade: it’s what happens when your Saturday afternoons are take up with work. The last time I watched a match at London Road was because City reserves were playing there and I wanted a story.
So here’s to Posh’s next 1,000 wins – maybe I can get around to seeing one some day.
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