Thursday, 28 July 2011

A warm return to the Sunny Exacta

Well following a very difficult week personally in the Banks household, it was a case of getting suited and booted again on Tuesday night for the Southport friendly, and getting back in to the swing of things, it was the first game I’d been at since the Tranmere win.

It was a pretty warm evening again, so it felt quite hot in the ‘ill-fitting Matalan suit’ – and as soon as I was through the doors it was time to get straight into it and get into work-mode but at the football. First to meet the Southport officials who were in the Boardroom, nice people. Then, off to see how our media peeps were, and a quick chat with them to see how things were progressing, especially Blues Live, who are getting bigger and bigger this season, and with the support from the Chester FC Exiles, the product should become better and better as time goes on.

A quick chat followed with Cleggy and also Dan Burns, who will be taking to the pitch for the pre match / half time entertainment we have planned this season at the Exacta, and as Dan is connected to the club’s media side already via the Seals Podcast, it gives us an extra dimension, and hopefully Dan will be able to bring some of those top 10 players of the Decade that was announced on the podcast recently.

The media side of the club will start to gear up again for the start of the season, with hopefully some more interviews with Colin Murray along the way, and also more coverage on other outlets. The Friday Night Football Show is expected to make its return on Friday 12th August, the eve of the new season of course, so keep your ears out for that one, with no doubt a Cilo Green (sp) or Take That tune thrown in too!

As always with most friendly matches, the atmosphere was pretty low key, more akin to a nice evening in the sunshine, and enjoying that, but that all came to halt as Wildey suffered his shoulder injury, so I went down to see what was happening following the long lingering trudge off the pitch, and it was obviously a shoulder problem, and to say he was gutted in the treatment room was an understatement.

Will Osborne and the paramedics were certainly kept busy, and the decision was made to send him to hospital, not what we wanted to see, but neither was the bump sticking up out of his shoulder!

Having text him yesterday morning, Wildey is definitely gutted about what appears to be a lengthy lay off, but he's asked me to thank everyone who has sent him good wishes, hopefully we'll see him back sooner rather than later, but what it does do is open the door of opportunity for the other strikers at the club, and we'll certainly be expecting them to step up to the plate.

The match itself was disappointing too with Southport taking the lead on the stroke of half time, but there was such a great chance to level things up through Jerome Wright in the second half, and I think we all held our head in our hands when that went over the bar!

Southport then took a grip on the match, and there was no way back for us, but as I pointed out to others, we lost 2 pre season friendlies last season and went on to win the League, so I'll settle for the same again, but would prefer it if we just lost the one game in pre season this time around.

So, back in to the swing of things again, and plenty going on as we build up to August 13th.

One thing last night annoyed me, and that was the ridiculous post on DevaChat concerning Gary Kent, with the poster claiming:

Mr Gary Kent treated with such contempt by Chester FC officials/directors can no longer be an employee of Chester FC (CDHT) from September.

Mr Kent has seen more owners and directors come and go than the current board put together yet cannot agree with what is currently happening at the club.

I feel the supporters do not own this club - a select few have made it their own.

Well all I can say is that this post is laughable and downright insulting, and after a reply I decided to log off DC for the rest of the night. I remember I had an honest chat with Gary Kent when the original CFU boycott was taking place, and when he wasn't being paid by SV. We had a good hour on the phone one night as Gary couldn't see why we were boycotting home games, but after the reasons were pointed out, and our plans - which included keeping Gary on as Groundsman - he saw what we were trying to do, and following that conversation, I had a number of good chats with Gary and how he was pleased how things were going.

This post also came as a surprise to me, as only at the board meeting on Monday night were the board advised that Gary was retiring in September - I think it's fair to say we were all surprised, but we all appreciate what Gary has done in the last few decades as Groundsman, and we'll certainly give him a great send off, but "treated with contempt" and "cannot agree with what is happening at the club" are just way, way off the mark.

The supporters do certainly own this club, and many are helping in their own way to run it, volunteering their own services in various places of the club, maybe the original poster should stand for election to the board and then he could see just how much we appreciate everyone's help in running the club the way it should be. Maybe he could sit in the office taking calls, maybe he could pick up rubbish after the match, maybe he could clean the toilets, maybe he could help behind the bar, maybe he could help in the club shop, maybe he could help by being a steward, maybe he could jump inside the BiG Lupus outfit, maybe he could help stuff envelopes, maybe he could run around like a blue arsed fly on match days making sure that everything is going according to plan. We may be the ones in suits on match days, and that's because we are making sure this club looks and acts professional, but believe me, we are 200% appreciative of everyone's role at Chester FC, and there are nearly 2000 owners of the club, who I'm sure are extremely proud of it.

Don't you just dislike people that try to put the club down at every opportunity?

To that poster, try getting off your arse and doing something positive for the club. Many have done, and many will still do, and all take pride in what they do to help. They have been insulted by this remark too.

Right, off my soap box now, I'm going to work...great.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Friday Night Football to return to the Exacta!

Superb goal by Joe Ormrod
What a week it's been, sadly I missed the FC United match due to being away in London all weekend for Mrs B's birthday weekend, but kept in touch via the Twitter feed, and was delighted to see that the lads kept up the 100% pre season record, with a 'come from behind' win - and even better to see that Joe Ormrod scored a cracker on his debut after making the step up from Chester FC Youth last week.

The weekend also saw our pre-season plans being disrupted, thanks to a couple of teams. First of all after setting up a match against Fleetwood on July 23rd - they then ended up going and setting up a match of their own on July 22nd, which made it plainly obvious that they were then only going to send their young kids, something that we were not prepared to see as a fixture, and so the fixture was pulled.

Are you Phil Thompson in disguise?
All through July there has been much discussion over the Stockport friendly, and it's fair to say that we were 'monitoring their situation' very closely indeed - we all know who was 'rumoured' to be linked to their club, but you can go changing fixtures around without knowing full facts, and Didi Hamann confirmed that despite cancelling other away friendlies, he wanted the Chester match to go ahead.

That match would have been discussed further in time, but then Stockport then advised us that they were pulling out of the game, quite insulting really knowing that it didn't leave much time to sort out another game, bear in mind that 99% of teams already have a friendly set up for that date - shame we didn't book Accrington Stanley in instead hey!

People will ask why we need to play so many games at home, it's simple, we have money to raise in our pre-season games as part of our budget, so to have pre-season messed around the way it has been is rather annoying not just to us, but to Neil Young who will have been gearing his team up for these friendlies.

It's not been easy to get friendlies booked in against the 'big' teams, with many of them sorting out their schedules well in advance, and despite us requesting 'glamour' friendlies against some big clubs, it just hasn't happened for one reason or another this year, although a large part of that is the fact that virtually every Premier League club has left the UK for a tour elsewhere, and the further they travel the longer they need to prepare & recover, hence the lack of dates available, but again it's something we'll look at for next year, and I'm confident that we'll have a friendly or two against Premier League opposition next season.

We have of course a game now against Airbus on Friday night, and one to look forward to, it will certainly be one for Ash Williams to look forward to given his move from The Wingmakers last year, and another good chance for fans to see the Chester lads who are doing well this time round as well, and it showed how much the lads want this, by their performances against Tranmere & FCUM (okay, I'm basing my thoughts on FCUM from the NATV clips, but it looked like we were up for it!).

Looking forward to getting back to it all on Friday night, and hopefully a third win in a row for the Blues!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Football's back at the Exacta!

After what seems an eternity, football eventually re-appeared at the Exacta Stadium on Tuesday night with a visit from an extremely strong Tranmere Rovers side.

Exacta looking good again
It was great to get back in to the swing of things, although with all the planning and meetings taken place in the summer so far, it doesn't actually feel like we've stopped or had a break, but everyone - including me - felt the excitement of seeing the lads and in particular the new signings, on the lavish green grass at the Exacta.

They didn't let us down either with a good performance that saw them take the game to Rovers, remembering that Tranmere were four leagues higher than us, and what a goal from Wes Baynes to clinch the win...stunning!

The preparations for pre-season have been going on for a while of course, and we have been trying to secure a pre-season friendly against Premier League opposition, but so far have been unsuccessful with most as they just don't seem to be able to fit us in to their hectic schedules - talks are still ongoing with a couple of them, but they may not come off this year, there is still a small possibility of it happening though, so I won't write it off completely.

We have of course got many home games in our pre-season line up and that will of course benefit the players - in particular the new lads - as they'll be able to get used to match conditions on the fantastic surface at the Exacta, again great credit to Gary Kent & CDHT for helping out there - it certainly looked good the other night.

BiG Lupus - a bit hot!
Off the field we've been very busy still at the club, and appearances at various fetes and events such as Chester Events, Blacon/Hapsford/Lache fetes, and many more to come - all promoting the Club and City Fans United/Junior Blues - it's all very important to keep that up - although I think BiG Lupus may have shed several stones in the last few weeks with the heat, in fact I think he may go onto the opposite of the Atkins Diet to build him up a little bit again!

It was great to see Andy Donaldson & BiG Storage sponsoring BiG Lupus again, Andy has certainly put his money where his mouth is since we reformed, and is a great credit to the Chester Business Community.

There have been a few changes around too based on fans comments, we have taken on board suggestions to have beer available inside the ground during matches, and we were hoping to start trialling that on Tuesday against Tranmere, but thanks to a delivery that never turned up, we were unable to start it, but it should be fine for the match against Fleetwood on the 23rd, which incidentally is our Chester FC Community Day, in which we hope to have the Army, Fire & Rescue, Police, and the North West Ambulance Service amongst others exhibiting in the Car Park, whilst there will be the chance to have a go at the Soccer Speed Shot, something to test your footie skills out on, and also the Chester FC Youth will be giving you the chance to take part in a penalty shoot out before you head into the Exacta. It all gets underway at 10am on the 23rd.

So, back to Tuesday, and I must admit it felt good putting the blue & white tie on again, the first time since the Town Hall celebration at the back end of May, but here we go again, maybe the start of another memorable season - let's hope so.

Can you hear me Cleggy?
The plan for the match day entertainment is always low key on the pre-season friendlies, and all we had planned for the half time sequence was the draw for 2 tickets to the Manor House Stables Box at Chester Racecourse, and that was going to be drawn by Tom Dascombe, successful trainer, but there was no plan for me to even talk at half time, but just as I was leaving the house I got a phone call from Jim Harvey asking if he could bring along 2 former Chester City players to the game, so naturally I said if we can get them on the pitch for a quick interview then yes!

And so, they did - to their credit, they looked as nervous as hell, so I kept the questions brief, as I said I wasn't planning to speak at all, but that all changed!

The sound system has long been a bug bear, and there were plenty of faults with it pre match - largely due to the fact that there had been so many Community games played in May, and plenty will I'm sure have fiddled with sound level buttons, which left Cleggy all over the place when he opened up, and plenty of microphone screeches, so for anyone blaming him, please think again, it really wasn't his fault!

What made it even harder for him was the fact that a team sheet had been provided, but when the substitutes were being made, the numbers didn't correspond with the actual players, and some didn't even have a number at all, which as you can imagine threw him into total confusion, as it would with anyone else, we were talking whilst one sub was taking place, and I jokingly suggested that we should get the Tranmere fans to sing the name of the player coming on, thankfully we didn't do that!

Although when the Chester substitution happened, and he changed the name about five times, I went in to the PA room and gave him the Alan Sugar look, and said, "Cleggy, it's with regret, you're fired!" - all jokingly of course, as the job he does is very good, and not just about talking in that room, he gets a lot of requests thrown at him in a short space of time, plus it's boiling in that little room!

So back to the game again, and I thought we did well in the first half, more than matching Tranmere, and putting some good moves together, and particularly liked the free kick that caught them cold, but sadly Powelly couldn't get it past their keeper, and the chance had gone.

Wildey was doing his usual role in shrugging off the defenders and making his way into the box and was unlucky not to score, but score was something Wes Baynes did, and what a way to score too, picking up a loose ball from 25 yards out before hammering one into the top corner, a great way to introduce yourself to the Chester fans, and especially after coming to the Blues from the dark side too, perfect way to start.

Tranmere had a couple of chance but bar the late flurry you always felt that we were in control of the game, and when the final whistle went, Les Parry came up to wish us all well, fair play he's a nice bloke, and of course was the first person to agree to a friendly last season when I was with him on Colin Murray's live show in Liverpool University.

Following the match, there were a few jobs to do, and great to see the Lounge was full of potential sponsors for next season, and a very successful night was had up there and many put themselves down for match sponsorship for the new season, and I'm sure Pat will reveal just how much in Saturday's programme, but there was certainly a large smile on his face!

Well that will do it for now, as got to get ready for work, but just time to refer to a nice little piece in the latest issue of When Saturday Comes, where they have a feature of fan owned clubs, and a nice picture of the open top bus in May.

More good publicity!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011