This is the first bulletin since the lockdown with no football to discuss or look forward to. Hopefully there is a good cross section of news items and comments to keep supporters in touch with the club while we await the return of football.
The League sent out a questionnaire to member clubs asking the clubs’ thoughts on the best date to return to playing league games after the end of lockdown 2. The League are recommending recommencing on Saturday 12 December as if 5 December was chosen then players would have only had a few days in which to train and regain fitness. Hitchin agreed with the League that 12 December is the best date to restart.
CROWDFUNDER UPDATE BY PAUL SPRAGUE
Despite the lockdown we have managed to continue with progress on delivering the Crowdfunder works and ensuring we fulfil the reward commitments.
In terms of rewards, over the last couple of weeks we have completed the following:
Dug Out Sponsorship – We have been able to complete the application of the signage to the dug-outs. Fitting tributes to John and Wendy Gray are now displayed on the home and away dug outs. Thanks so much to the Gray family for their support.
In terms of our ground improvement works, we have replaced the gates to the exterior perimeter of Top Field. This will not only improve the appearance and security of the ground, but will also provide us with more options for managing entry and exit points on match day in line with our Covid protocols. We also took delivery of the new metal shed for the ground staff store – thanks to those that helped with the delivery. This will be erected this weekend so that the former tea bar at the rear of the main stand can be cleared of the remaining equipment. We are then aiming to complete the demolition of the old tea bar in the coming weeks. This is a complex task involving several tradesman so it has taken significant planning to get this co-ordinated.
As well as this we continue to scope and price further works to ensure we can keep the momentum going and deliver the works as soon as possible.
The first four home games last season saw an aggregate attendance of 1,338 – Stourbridge 322, Rushall Olympic 303, Tamworth 344 and AFC Rushden & Diamonds 369. In comparison the first four games this season saw an aggregate attendance of 1,958 – Alvechurch 425, Needham Market 410, Leiston 523 and Royston 600. This equates to a 46.33% increase which is really impressive especially as there have been two Monday games this season compared to one last season.
Comparing the FA Trophy attendances between the two seasons in each case we played a team from the Isthmian League first division. Against Bedfont we had a crowd of just 218 in 2019 whereas 443 attended the Herne Bay game recently – an increase of 103.2%
These statistics show how we have benefitted from the fact that Premier League, EFL League and National League teams have not been able to have any supporters at their games. Let us hope that when football resumes the new supporters continue to come to Top Field.
ACADEMY TEAM UPDATE BY MICHAEL JONES
We’ve now had our first full week of the new government restrictions. This has meant a few changes to the way we run the Academy on a day to day basis. All competitive fixtures have now been postponed until new details are given by the FA/government.
However, we still are able to train as we are part of the education sector. To keep the enthusiasm and competitiveness of both players and staff, we are running a three team inter-tournament with Damon Lathrope, Josh Mollison and Charlie Horlock running the three teams. Each of the teams were drawn at random along with the coaches to manage them. The idea has been to play two games a week whilst we are currently under these restrictions, with the losing team over the entire contest facing a fun forfeit!
We also had our first open recruitment session on Friday 30 October, which was a huge success, and we are hoping to run our next session as planned on Monday 21 December.
MANAGER’S NOTES WITH MARK BURKE
I asked Mark how he had spent last Saturday as the lockdown started and what he has planned for this Saturday. I was pleased to hear that Mark is earning brownie points as he was gardening last week and will be painting his living room this week!
The players were given last week off and from this weekend will start on the individual fitness programmes that they used during the first lockdown. Our physio Sam Backhouse and strength and conditioning coach Andy Goddard are available for the players to consult with should they require any further advice.
Mark really enjoyed watching the Sky Sports feature that was filmed at the Royston game(it can be accessed on our social media outlets). He felt it showed the club in a very good light and was a good advert for football at our level. It showed our covid arrangements were being properly implemented and gave a good flavour of how the club had come to terms with the pandemic, while the football section was well edited to show how managers react during a game
Mark told me that when he saw the notification on our social media outlets that it was 25 years ago last week that we beat Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup he could not believe so many years had passed since one of the most memorable and enjoyable games of his career. The memories came flooding back for Mark who remains very proud of what we achieved that day. It was a time when he made so many good friends who he remains in touch with today.
Mark told me an interesting story from the day of the Bristol Rovers game that remains vividly in his memory. The team had a pre-match meal at what was then the Blakemore Hotel in Little Wymondley and it is the journey back to Top Field that Mark recalls so well. He was a passenger in Neil Ryan’s car – a beat-up pale blue VW Beetle! Fellow passengers were Ken Gillard and Chris McMenamin and Mark remembers that Wonderwall by Oasis was being played and all four joined in singing loudly all the way back to Top Field. Mark said they arrived at the ground fired up for the game!
It is interesting to note what happened to the four occupants of that VW Beetle. Neil Ryan is now manager of Manchester United Under 18’s, Ken Gillard is manager of Arsenal Under 18’s while Chris McMenamin was sold to Coventry City. But of course Mark ended up with in my opinion a far more prestigious post as he became manager of Hitchin Town!!
Ciaran has dual registered with Gloucester City who are currently at the top of the National League South. So during our lockdown he will continue to play. He came on as a substitute last Saturday for another ex-Canary Jack James.
ONLINE CLUB SHOP
With Christmas getting nearer we now have some items for sale on our online club shop:
- A limited number of replica shirts
- Hitchin Town club scarves
- Hitchin Town branded face masks
- Some great books by GameofthePeople
Please follow this link to buy your Hitchin Town merchandise.
Last week I interviewed Layne Eadie. I think you will find it an interesting and revealing article so look out for it going on to our social media outlets in the near future.
CANARY CLUB PODCAST WITH FREDDIE CARDY
Just to let you know, Marac and I recently interviewed Luke Brown for the Canary Club Podcast, so could you include this in Friday’s weekly bulletin please?
BY ROY IZZARD