So on Thursday (26/03/2020) we got the news that the remainder of the 2019/20 season was not only finished but hadn’t actually happened. Whilst this was one of the options on the table (none of which were perfect), it still comes as a brutal blow to those teams who were close to winning leagues, securing promotion or in the latter stages of cup competitions.
Of course I recognise that this is an unprecedented situation and that there are greater issues than non league football but teams, players, supporters and volunteers have put their heart and soul into two/thirds of a season and to have that count for nothing, I can totally get why people are upset. This time last year we were going for a league title and in two cup finals, and had that been ripped away from us, it would have been shattering for both me and our whole club. Call me a cynic but put some of those who are saying “get over it, there are lives at stake” in the shoes of a club going for a league title and I think they might change their tune.
Looking at our own season, I feel as if it is necessary to rewind back to the start of June last year. At that point, despite our league title triumph, it looked as if we might be denied promotion. It was an unsettling time for the club and the feeling when it was finally confirmed that we would be playing in Division One East was a brilliant one. So to be sat here at the end of March, with the club sat fifth in the league (on a points per game basis), it’s great credit to the efforts of the whole squad and everyone off the pitch as well. The vast majority of our squad were playing their first season at Step 6 and it’s testament to them how quickly they have adjusted that, if anything, we probably feel like we could have done even more. Certainly I was looking at our run in, where every game left was against a side below us, and thinking we could have a real stab at putting pressure on the top four in the league.
We have a real family feel to our club but clearly to hold our own in this league, we needed to add players to the squad. I’ve got to say all the boys that have come in have bought in to what we are trying to do and within less than a season they have all become Crendon boys, rather than new signings. No doubt we will try to strengthen again in the summer but the most important attributes to me will still be personality and attitude – if we can find players with the quality but also the character then hopefully they will find a great club to play for here. Personally, it’s a privilege for me to manage the club at the highest level it has ever played at and to work with this group of players. There were many high points across the season on the pitch but my favourite moment for the club was taking the field and winning our first ever FA Vase match, then being involved in a really exciting game against a side who would go on to reach the quarter finals. If ever there was a moment to take stock and realise how far the club had come, that was it, and we are now within touching distance of a first ever FA Cup appearance, which would be incredible for little old Long Crendon.
I have to say a huge thanks, not only to the players, but also to my assistant Richard Barrett. His commitment to the club is immense and he takes everything thrown at him in his stride whilst generally being the nicest bloke going. Quite simply everything runs better with him around. Off the pitch, Gerald Reilly is still the main man. He is fund raiser, ball collector, gate man, supporter, coach and everything else besides. To me, though, his greatest value is in his ability to make new players feel a part of the club – he is the off pitch face of Crendon and it’s his presence that makes us a club rather than just a team to play for. I’d also like to say a word for Josh Lunn, our reserve team manager. It’s been a tricky step up for our reserves into Division Two and the season hasn’t gone how they would have liked. Nevertheless, Lunny’s commitment hasn’t wavered and if we can harness that same commitment among the players then I have no doubt they can have a better campaign next time around.
So, despite the current uncertainty, thoughts naturally turn to next season. Football might have stopped but in reality it never stops! It will definitely be a strange build up, one we haven’t experienced before. Usually at this level of football, you don’t know exactly how the leagues are going to look ahead of the new season but if they really are to be unchanged then we will be coming up against the same opposition although it remains to be seen how similar they all look. I’m resolute when it comes to not setting targets for us as a side but clearly we should be better prepared for having had a season under our belts in this league and there is the opportunity to add quality to our ranks over the summer if we can attract the right sort of player. At the same time, we were a bit of an unknown quantity to a lot of teams this season and we won’t have that in our favour now. As ever, though, the baseline for us will be a committed bunch of players willing to work their socks off and put the club’s goals above their own. If we get that then I’m sure we have a positive season to look forward to. God knows we all need something to look forward to at the moment and no one is more excited about it than me. In the meantime, keep safe and stay in touch.
Ryan Davis – First Team Manager