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. This is part two.
TUESDAY 6TH NOVEMBER
As expected another manic day with a high volume of F A Cup emails and phone calls. I had to agree arrangements with Jonathan Park from BBC Look East and he confirmed he would come to the Tring game to film his feature. I had to give him background information on Elvis and send him photos. The dog will become a star! I then had to arrange for Chris Fry who owns Elvis to get him to the ground early tomorrow for his ‘’interview’’.
The pursuit of Butts Close continues and more paperwork is needed from Len Leroux. We are inching closer but will not find out until Friday. You certainly need patience to progress this request to use Butts Close.
Len and myself then have to go to the ground to meet representatives from Input Media who are covering the game for the BBC on Sunday and Focus Rigging and Scaffolding who will construct the gantry from which the game will be filmed. Everything goes smoothly and they are both very professional. It is noticeable how risk assessment is foremost in their planning. I have decided to take a half day holiday as after the meeting I need to catch up on the reams of paperwork. While working at home emails continue to come in. More from the FA, further media requests including one from the Sun and one from the Daily Telegraph.
I am still very much enjoying watching the countdown of ticket sales on the website as I keep converting each sale in to its monetary equivalent. That is how a treasurer thinks!
Chris Newbold continues to have his hands full compiling lists of guests, media representatives and Solihull people. He is also working on the parking list which is ever changing.
I still am struggling to sleep and waking up ridiculously early—I doubt it will get any better.
WEDNESDAY 7TH NOVEMBER
With all the emphasis on the F A Cup I have to remember we have our Herts Senior Cup game with Tring tonight as normal life does still continue. The most important meeting today is between Len and the Senior Trading Standards Officer from Hertfordshire Trading Standards. Chairman Terry Barratt also attends.
Len tells me it is a very detailed meeting as the Officer carries out a thorough inspection of the ground. He asks many questions and further paperwork will be needed but Len is able to provide the necessary answers and explanations. The police are also liaising with Len and Trading Standards. I have to take my hat off to Len because he really is under pressure as safety officer and ground chairman and in my opinion is handling everything incredibly well. He has had to take holiday to cope with the volume of work needing to be done.
I must also pay tribute to our social media team led by Stewart Curtis and Matt Furniss. Apart from producing a brilliant website for the club they have undoubtedly driven ticket sales for the Solihull game. Their clever marketing has really increased the demand and we really are so lucky to have such a go-ahead social media team.
I received phone calls from the Daily Telegraph and Daily Express reporters and I have to set up interviews with Mark Burke at the Tring game tonight.
I receive a special FA Respect armband through the post that Dan Webb will have to wear on Sunday and a special Badge that Mark Burke must wear.
Butts Close is still edging nearer as all paperwork has now been submitted.
Through the day there are numerous phone calls to Chris and Len while I have to prepare a press release about our mascots for Sunday.
Focus Media send through pages of their completed risk assessment and they are satisfied everything is ok. The Southern League send me an email wishing us good luck for Sunday.
So to the Tring game and the newspaper reporters are there nice and early so I can introduce them to Mark. Look East are running late so Elvis has to wait! Jonathan Park arrives 25 minutes before kick-off and interviews Elvis (Chris Fry), Mark, Matt Spring and myself.
Emma Saunders who will be covering our game for the BBC on Sunday is also at the Tring game and wanted to familiarise herself with the ground and meet Mark and the players.
We are still selling tickets in the office and continue to fine tune arrangements for Sunday. To end a hectic day we beat Tring 2-1 and start another cup run!
THURSDAY 8TH NOVEMBER
It is getting ever closer and the media requests continue to come in. We will definitely get the Butts Close decision on Friday. Len and myself receive further emails from Trading Standards and yet more paperwork is required
The BBC Sport website get in touch seeking information about the players and this will also be used for Sunday’s television coverage.
Extra toilets were ordered today to meet the demands of a 3,000 attendance. The number of extra stewards was agreed upon and extra catering was also ordered
I did a phone interview with Bob FM while BBC Three Counties asked to interview me on their Friday breakfast programme. Both stations were well aware of Elvis—I feel like I am his agent!
As ever there are many phone calls to Chris and Len. Chris has also had to cope with many queries from online ticket purchasers as if he was not already busy enough.
Thursday evening I met with Len and Terry to again discuss arrangements for Sunday.
We are featured on Look East and as expected Elvis is very prominent. In the evening our special promotional film is unveiled. Mark Burke is now waiting for offers from Hollywood to come in!
FRIDAY 9TH NOVEMBER
As ever not much sleep overnight and I am now resigned to this as the excitement levels continue to build.
I start football work soon after 7.00am and do the Three Counties interview at 7.30am. I am getting through paperwork before going to Baldock to meet Mark Burke and Chris Newbold
The three of us go through the planning for Sunday especially the parts that concern the players. We keep in touch with Len who has a meeting with the police.
The scaffolding company arrive at the ground to build the gantry.
We receive the decision about Butts Close and it is positive! Weather permitting we can use Butts Close for parking and I suggest we ask for donations to the Royal British Legion rather than make any profit ourselves.
At Baldock the special commemorative shirt had been delivered and it looks very good. Matt Spring who is coaching at the Arena agrees to model the kit so it can go online.
I still avidly watch ticket sales and when the F A Cup run does end It will be sad to return to normal income streams!
I just find time to produce the weekly bulletin and also continue to churn out the F A Cup diary.
Mark and myself continue to receive good luck messages from former players and clubs including Leatherhead and Stourbridge. Just 2 days to go.
SATURDAY 10TH NOVEMBER
Just one day to go and it is now becoming very real. All tickets are now sold which is an incredible achievement and thank you to the Hitchin public for your great support.
Yet again I woke early and started thinking of a few things I need to check with Mark Burke and other aspects of Sunday kept slipping in to my thought processes.
I suddenly realise I am a few days behind with my diary writing so I quickly get round to this task. A few people come round to pick up pre booked tickets that I have been holding on their behalf.
Len has organised a working party to help tidy up the ground while the hedge is being cut to comply with police advice. The pitch is being worked on and looks very good. I have to go to the ground to meet Len and Chris as we continue to fine tune the final arrangements and are pleased to sort out a couple of outstanding issues. I bet Len and Chris are looking forward to Monday when they can relax after such a stressful period. I suppose I am as well although the magic of the F A Cup does mean so much I just hope we do not have to wait another 23 years for it to happen again.
The players have had a final training session at the Arena and Mark has imparted his final instructions. I just hope they really enjoy the experience and do themselves justice. The whole town is behind them and your support can help us over the line.
As I write this there are just over 20 hours to go—I hope I can handle the excitement!