I thought it might interest the Hitchin supporters if I kept a daily diary in the run up to the Solihull Moors fixture giving an insight into what goes on behind the scenes. It is 23 years since we last reached the First Round and I vividly remember how preparations back then took over my life and I was fully expecting the same to be the case this year.
FRIDAY 2ND NOVEMBER
Up to Friday it had been relatively calm. We had decided prices, ticketing arrangements and basic match day strategy but knew many things would come along to challenge us.
Friday saw me make my weekly visit to the Arena to meet Mark Burke. It was business as usual as I finalised the weekly bulletin and ensured Mark was happy with the manager’s notes. We then discussed various accounting matters before moving on to an FA Cup update. He needed to calculate how many tickets each player required to purchase and had also had requests from former players also wanting to purchase tickets. The special FA Cup footballs which have to be used in the Competition proper had been received. We then received an offer from our kit supplier MVI to produce a special commemorative shirt for the big game which would include the Emirates FA Cup emblem as well as the poppy with the match details on the front of the shirt.
We felt it a no-brainer to take up the offer and after discussions with chairman Terry Barratt decided it would be an excellent idea to auction the shirts after the game and give half of the profit to the Royal British Legion.
I then received a phone call from Jonathan Park the sports editor of BBC Look East who wanted to do a feature on Hitchin Town FC. It was agreed he would come down to the Tring game where he would interview mark and some of the players. Next up it was a call from Emma Saunders who would be the BBC reporter at the Solihull game. Again it was agreed she would attend the Tring game to familiarise herself with the ground and meet Mark and the players.
Through the day I am constantly in touch with Chris Newbold who is looking after media requests and ticketing arrangements, and Len Leroux who as safety officer and ground chairman is a man under pressure. I also keep in touch with the Solihull secretary.
I am also hoping to get North Herts District Council to allow us to use Butts Close for parking. This is not an easy task and I am very grateful for the support offered by Councillor Ian Albert to achieve our objective. I had to fill in a lengthy application form which I emailed to NHDC.
Wearing my treasurer’s hat I could not stop myself following the online ticket sales and was amazed at the rush to buy. I could feel myself counting ££££’s rather than sheep to get to sleep!
I also liaised with youth section chairman Paul Males who was producing a list of ticket requirements for the various youth teams. Everyone was happy to pay.
SATURDAY 3RD NOVEMBER
We are actually playing a league game today. But I know it will be tough at Tamworth who are coming in to form and will our players be able to forget the big game next Sunday and fully focus on today? Mark Burke knows it will not be easy to concentrate the players’ minds.
I take a phone call from Pipeman who is unable to go to Tamworth so I agree to fill in for him—but my report will be rather more succinct than our usual scribe.
There is plenty of discussion on the coach about the Solihull game but Mick Docking has had to stay at home because he is preparing a special souvenir programme for the Emirates F A Cup tie. It is frightening just how many hours Mick spends on producing programmes and the spate of home games recently has really stretched him. Mick rarely misses a game and his dedication to getting the programme produced is typical of his commitment to the club.
We lose the game 2-0 after missing a penalty and again all thoughts turn to Solihull. I had an interesting chat to the Tamworth officials who recalled when they were chosen as a live F A Cup game by the BBC. It was interesting to hear what a live game would entail should we ever be so lucky to be chosen.
Chris Newbold gave me the printed tickets on the coach which we would begin to sell on Monday. It is all beginning to feel very real and the online tickets are sold out. The excitement is building!!
SUNDAY 4TH NOVEMBER
On the whole this was a quiet day. A few phone calls with Chris Newbold and Len Leroux and emails from Mick Docking and Solihull Moors FC but very much the calm before the storm.
One thing I did have to do was to catch up with my bookkeeping as I had fallen behind due to FA Cup pressures. Now we are running the social club again my volume of work has increased so I really do need to keep on top of things regardless of the FA Cup. However I wish I had this time problem more often as you cannot beat the excitement of an FA Cup run.
One thing I can enjoy doing now is looking at the Hitchin Town FC bank balance with the FA prize money having been received. Have I died and gone to heaven? I keep thinking of all the hard times there have been in my 40 years as treasurer when it was a constant struggle to keep afloat so periods like this are a real Godsend!
Still struggling to sleep and I am sure it will get worse as next Sunday gets ever nearer.
MONDAY 5TH NOVEMBER
As expected Monday saw a sharp increase in the Emirates FA Cup activity. Over the course of the day I received 24 emails relating to Sunday’s game and probably just as many phone calls.
I was still liaising with Len Leroux and Councillor Ian Albert in the hope of getting permission from NHDC to let us use Butts Close for parking on Sunday. Yet more voluminous forms needed to be completed.
I had phone calls from reporters from the Daily Telegraph and Daily Express asking to interview Mark and some of the players and it was agreed they would come to the Tring game for this purpose.
Next up was an email from the Senior Trading Standards Officer from Hertfordshire Trading Standards. Herts County Council is the enforcing authority under the Safety of Grounds Act 1975 and the Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987. This was obviously an email to treat very seriously and the officer wanted to carry out an inspection of the ground this week. Again it is Len Leroux as our Safety Officer who will need to meet the officer and we had more paperwork to prepare ahead of the meeting that was set for Wednesday. We are all unpaid officers of the club and are being asked to cope with situations that really need full time paid officials to cope with. However Len does not complain even though he and myself are having to take time off work to cope.
Media and guest requests to attend on Sunday continue to come in and I am so grateful to Chris Newbold for handling this particular task. Emails keep coming from the F A with further demands but you almost become blasé about such things.
On to the evening and Len, Chris, Kate Deller and myself start selling the offline tickets in Canary Club. Phone calls and emails continue to come in and in any quiet spell we are still discussing strategies for Sunday.
I have to phone the Solihull Moors supporters club to discuss where coaches will be parked and use of the clubhouse.
When I get to bed I wake up at 3.00am and then cannot go back to sleep as I keep thinking through so many different things connected with Sunday. I drift off at about 5.00am and when I wake up I realise I had a dream about Sunday in which I was at the ground but had forgotten to bring my paperwork!
Part two coming soon!