There has been no further news from either the FA or Southern League regarding this season. They are waiting to hear what Boris Johnson has to say about any lifting of the lockdown on Monday. But there is news from the National League. The National League will proceed , despite 7 out of 23 clubs voting to end the season. But while the majority of National League South clubs voted to continue its season (12-9)in the National League North the voting was 7-15 and the decision to scrap the campaign with immediate effect was taken with the North and South divisions declared null and void.
GROUND UPDATE BY PAUL SPRAGUE AND KATE DELLER
In lockdown things haven’t entirely halted for the Club. Always in the background there is much needed maintenance which Steve Barker and his ground team keep on top of. The rest of the work highlighted when the club was forced to crowdfund, has also been progressing. We previously reported on the new roof to a section of the main stand and physiotherapy room. New guttering was also fitted to the rear of the stand to prevent continued water damage. The old tea bar which had been used as a store for ground staff tools and machinery for the last few years had to be demolished to make it safe; it had become unsafe and an eyesore. The gents toilet door was hanging within a rotten frame, now replaced with a shiny new door and frame. The ground staff, built the new shed, and also totally overhauled their tractor shed. The new shed will soon be insulated to stop the condensation ruining tools and machinery.
Whilst it will appear to some that the works may be progressing slowly, there has been a huge amount of effort from both volunteers and tradespeople all working in line with the varying Covid restrictions that have been in place throughout. We have also put in a huge amount of effort behind the scenes to develop our plans for the remainder of the improvement works. As these plans continue to reach the delivery phase we hope you will be excited as us to see the improvement they will make to everyone’s Top Field experience.
Recently there has been much preparation of the perimeter in readiness for the new fencing which will be started on 12 April. This will make a huge difference to the general appearance of the stadium and we are very excited to see this completed. We are all seeing a huge difference already to Top Field and we hope that when we are able to welcome back supporters you will be pleasantly surprised, years of neglect and storms will be a memory.
Sadly the Fishponds Road terrace roof blowing off was a massive step backwards and whilst we have managed to take it apart and make it safe it remains to be seen what we will be able to do! The FA ground grading had already stipulated that the timber terracing must be covered and kick boards at each step. So, we will continue to work to make the terracing behind the dug outs safe first, as they remain fully intact. We will be taking apart two standalone terraces to recycle the timbers for this project. Supporter safety is paramount. Stretching the funds as far as they will go will continue to be a balancing act.
One thing will always remain; our positivity and working in safety. COVID-19 times have meant that we all work very differently to ensure the safety of each volunteer.
ACADEMY UPDATE BY MICHAEL JONES
On Monday 15 February our coaches and a select few players from the academy were invited to a zoom Q&A with former Arsenal and England defender, and now current football pundit, Martin Keown. This event was arranged by our partner Pro:Direct.
The event discussed key experiences from Martin’s journey into the professional game, leaving Arsenal, re-joining them, becoming a premiership invincible, playing for England, working with Arsene Wenger, the best players he has played with/against, as well as an insight into his own coaching and punditry experiences. This was another great experience for all players and staff involved.
We would also like to introduce our new Supporter Engagement Officer, Sascha Gustard-Brown, who comes on board in a volunteer capacity with experience as the Head of Supporter Engagement at Luton Town FC and the Supporter Liaison Officer at West Ham United. Some of you may know Sascha from her contribution to our match day programme but she now steps up her role to assist the club in implementing new initiatives to engage with our wonderful supporters on both match days and non-match days.
Having left her role at Luton Town FC in October 2020, Sascha has been working as a football writer on a freelance basis – project managing a career insights series for recruitment platform, Jobs in Football.
She is immensely proud of the supporter engagement work implemented at Kenilworth Road and guided the Hatters to winning the prestigious EFL Family Club of the Year Award for the Championship (19/20) – a huge achievement in her first season in the role, having previously spent three years with the club as Executive Assistant to the CEO. Sascha is hoping to emulate the same level of engagement with the Canaries and is looking forward to our games restarting so that we can start bringing our creative ideas to life!
In addition, we have created a new working group who will work closely with Sascha to support the implementation of new initiatives, with our first meeting bringing some fantastic, initial thoughts to the table. We are fully committed to developing this area of the club and would welcome any feedback or ideas from our supporters so please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
COVID TESTING AT TOP FIELD
Top Field has had many uses over its hundred odd years of use, but on Sunday there is a new first as it doubles as Hitchin’s Rapid Testing centre for Covid.
Herts County Council confirmed that for this coming Sunday and the next, a pop up centre will be in operation on our car park. Whether this will continue beyond into March is yet to be seen.
Please do not wander along on the off chance – testing will be limited to eligible persons who have pre-booked via www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/rapidtest. By eligible you must be a key or essential worker who does not display symptoms of the virus.
Sadly it is likely to be some while before we can open the Clubhouse again – hopefully Boris will announce something positive on that front next week?!
Brett’s blog will be available on all our social media outlets from Sunday.
BY ROY IZZARD