Whether your jam is more Aretha Franklin or Erasure, this week we want to talk about respect.
Fives games into the new season and other than the early loss to Aldershot Town, Woking haven’t put a foot wrong. Dowse admitted that The Cards were somewhat of a ‘surprise package’ after wins against Harrogate Town, Chestfield and Fylde, who were all strongly tipped for promotion. But are Woking getting the respect they deserve?
It’s not hard to see why managers and teams are being caught out by Woking when you listen to their post-match interviews – they just can’t comprehend losing to a newly promoted, part-time outfit.
Harrogate Town boss Simon Weaver told their local paper, The Harrogate Advertiser, after their 1-0 loss:
“We absolutely annihilated Woking in terms of football and chances created”
Centre back Connor Hall added:
“The whole team know that we had chances in the first half and chances in the second half. We should have won by quite a few”
I’m not going to pretend Woking didn’t ride their luck in that game. Harrogate did miss two chances that seemed harder to miss than score. But Woking had chances too, most notably when Meite couldn’t get enough on Johnson’s cross, otherwise it was 2-0. Clearly this was all forgotten on their coach ride back to Yorkshire. The sides certainly weren’t too far apart on the day and to say Woking were annihilated is a case of sour grapes for me.
Moving on to Woking’s 4-1 win at Mill Farm. AFC Fylde boss David Challinor spoke to the club’s official site after the game and looked just as bemused by the fact Woking had rocked up and taken the p*ss. Somewhere between calling his team’s performance terrible, repeating that he would be looking to bring in new players and blaming the ref (he claimed an assessor was at the game and agreed with him), it didn’t seem he made much of Woking. The only bit of praise they got was: “Credit to Woking, they did a job”. I’m not expecting managers to heap praise on us, but maybe one of the reasons they lost is because Dowse & co have put a good team together that can more than match teams in this league, and we were the better side over 90 minutes?
The last week has been an incredible one for The Cards – but will it be enough to earn the respect of the league and make people sit up and take notice? It’s hard to say, and whilst most Woking fans won’t get carried away and will see it as nine vital points in our bid for survival this season, you’d hope some of the established names might be more humble when playing Woking. Underestimate us at your peril!
Images by David Holmes. Find a full set at wokingfc.co.uk
Football is officially back, and it hasn’t been a quiet week for The Cards. In fact, the highs and lows of football were summed up in the last week.
Curtain Raiser In East London
Dagenham away has become somewhat of an important stage, and a happy hunting ground, for Woking in the last few years – and so it should be if we are paying £21 to get in! Between staying up on the last day in 2016/17 season, finding (what we thought was) a new lease of life in Jason Godliffe’s first game as caretaker manager and now an opening day showdown – it’s always memorable. It was no different this year, as everything went right for The Cards, from the new 5-3-2 formation to Joe Quigley missing a shot that would have been easier to score, it was a brilliant way to lay down a marker and send out a message to the rest of the league.
It’s always a buzz when unfancied, part-time Woking are spoiling the big boys’ party and being one of the hundreds of Cards fans singing at full-time as the squad celebrated, I can safely say that’s why we stick with the club through thick and thin.
Most Notably: -Good creativity for Gerring’s new song – “Stands at 6ft3, f**ing hates Torquay” -Moussa Diarra/Manny Parry partnership was outstanding and the new song to the tune you Kolo/Yaya Toure wasn’t bad -Perfect away performance, utilising our strength and height -If you charge away fans £21, you don’t deserve home wins
Death, Taxes and Losing To Aldershot
It was of course only fitting, that in true football style, we came crashing back down to earth only a few days later. Although there are plenty of forum posts about how and why we lost, I can put it down to three things – the 5-3-2 being anticipated and countered well by The Shots, our hit-and-hope approach and a voodoo curse being placed on the club when we play our neighbours. I’m starting to think the third reason is the most valid!
However, a crowd of just under 4,000, the home kit not being as awful as everyone made out and knowing if we took our chances we might have been okay, gave fans a few things to cling on to that night. Still, truding out of Kingfield as the opposition wildly celebrate a derby win will always be a low-blow.
Most Notably: -The home kit was ready in time and was surprisingly nice -The Shots fans didn’t break the barrier -Jack Cook as a RWB outlet, not the best tactic
Bouncing Back To Blow Harrogate Away
Okay, we didn’t blow Harrogate away, but there was an opportunity to use a weather-related pun. However, after a shaky first 15 minutes, what a performance! Harrogate reached the play-offs last season and after winning 3-0 away at Barrow on Tuesday, it was clear this was going to be a tough game. Tactically I think Dowse got this one spot on and once we got into the game, we more than matched Harrogate. They squandered good opportunities and we got a bit of luck in the winner and keeping them out, but don’t underestimate some great performances across the park. Poku and Meite took their chances as they both got started their first games of the season and Johnson’s pace and skill look like they will be an important outlet this season.
A battling performance was exactly what Woking needed after Tuesday’s defeat and if our luck was out against The Shots, it was in yesterday and we made it count.
Most Notably – Donnellan proved if you don’t shoot, you don’t score -Johnson gave their left back the run-around and will be more than a handful this season -We’ll be no pushovers this season -Jon Stead is still playing at 38
A week is a long time in football, and the first of the season was a rollercoaster ride, but there’s a long way to go yet, so hold on tight!
Images by David Holmes and can be viewed at wokingfc.co.uk
Cards midfielder Christian Jolley praised the impact of manager Alan Dowson’s substitutions and the sides’ determination to grind out results following Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Eastbourne Borough.
Toby Edser sent the home side into an early lead before a Tom Gardiner own goal sealed the three points for Woking in the second half. Despite the comfortable scoreline, Jolley believes Eastbourne caused problems for the promotion-chasing Cards. He told freelance sports report Peter Moore:
“They [Eastbourne] kept coming and finding pockets of space, and that stopped us pressing and influencing the game.
“It’s just another test that we managed to overcome. We aren’t going to win nicely every week. At time we will have to roll up our sleeves like we did today.”
Woking have played eight first team games in December and with Saturday’s win coming in the middle of a busy Christmas period, Jolley paid tribute to the substitutes that came on to freshen up the display and get Woking over the line.
“The subs lifted us because we’ve played a lot of football recently. You only need to lose a yard against an opponent and things can get difficult from there.
“We deserved the clean sheet, we made it difficult for them to create anything clear-cut.”
Having suffered an early season injury, Jolley returned to the Woking side against Swindon and with a months worth of games under his belt, the midfielder admitted he is in fine shape:
“I feel good, my body is feeling strong. I am really pleased how my body has responded to all the fixtures – I think I’ve had nine 90 minutes now. I’m happy to be out there playing and contributing.”
You can listen to the full interview below. Images by David Holmes. A full set can be viewed at wokingfc.co.uk
It’s hard to believe quite what has happened to the Cards this season. Sitting in third place in the National League table after 15 games, with a squad assembled by the seemingly promising new management team of Anthony Limbrick and Jason Goodliffe, it was a group of players that looked set to challenge for a play-off place ahead of schedule – just twelve months into the proposed three year promotion plan.
Even as that promising run of form tailed off in the lead up to Christmas, as injuries and off the field uncertainty began to take their toll, few could have predicted what would come in the following weeks and months. The Cards would eventually go down by a single point after picking up just three wins since the turn of the year – returning to National League South after a six-year stint in the top flight of non-league football.
As the dust begins to settle on Woking’s relegation and with another ‘fresh start’ looming at the start of the new season – when, potentially, there will be some new faces behind the scenes and, certainly, there will be a new management team in charge – many members of a beleaguered and unfancied squad are at a crossroads; who will stay and who will go? Let’s take a look at each member of the team and their future prospects.
The 19-year-old has undoubtedly been one of the Cards’ stand-out players this season after joining on loan from Chelsea. He has played the most minutes of any Chelsea loanee this year and despite suffering relegation with the Cards his parent club will likely be delighted with his progress.
There were certainly questions marks over the youngster’s ability to play a full-season of men’s football, particularly considering his relatively slight stature, but he has answered his doubters with aplomb after taking over from veteran stopper Michael Poke in the summer.
The Cards would be delighted to take Baxter back for another season, but after 18 months playing in the National League the chances of such a move look slim, with Chelsea surely more amenable to loaning him out to another fifth tier side or even into the lower echelons of the Football League.
Will he stay? Verdict: No chance
The big defender was Anthony Limbrick’s first signing as Woking manager. The re
action to his arrival was mixed despite an impressive record with former club Dover Athletic and, for the most part, those fears have proved more than just as Orlu has struggled to adjust to a different style of football.
Despite scoring a memorable goal away to Guiseley, netting with his first touch after coming on as a substitute, his defensive record has not made for pretty reading – with 51 goals conceded in his 29 starts – and after being made club captain in August he eventually lost his place to Jordan Wynter.
Whilst his experience could be considered valuable and his ability could be more suited to regional football it’s hard to see much desire from either side in signing a new contract. Plus, as one of the marquee additions last summer his wages are likely to be more than the Cards are keen to expend.
Will he stay? Verdict: Not worth the money
After finishing last season strongly the winger turned full-back has taken another step forward this campaign and has arguably become one of the Cards most consistent performers. He has struggled more with injury problems since the turn of the year, with two lengthy spells out of the team, but for the most part he has enjoyed a positive year.
It will be interesting to see how well he performs upon his return to league football – having previously played semi-regularly for Yeovil Town in League One – and after amassing more than 75 appearances during his two years with the Cards he could well be ready to hit the ground running.
Will he stay? Verdict: Destined for bigger things
Another loan player, this time from Norwich City, but unfortunately he has not been able to make quite the same impression as his goalkeeper. He has never truly recovered from the injury he picked up during the 2-0 win over Sutton United back in September and he’s been in and out of the team since then – finishing the year with 30 appearances in all competitions.
Ramsay is only 20 and has certainly shown in his better performances that he has the potential to be a promising player, but one can’t help but feel that the next stage of his development is best-suited to somewhere other than the Laithwaite Community Stadium, where the likes of Adam Newton and Jake Caprice have raised expectations for the standards Woking full-backs should be meeting.
Will he stay? Verdict: We can do better
The 22-year-old centre-back has made a big impression this season, despite his team’s struggles at the back, after joining from Dagenham and Redbridge last summer. His performances earned him a call-up to the England C squad and the Cards were at their best when both Staunton and defensive partner Jordan Wynter were fit and playing alongside each other.
He chipped in with a couple of memorable goals – in the draws with Wrexham and former club Dagenham – whilst it was his deflected effort that gave Woking their win against Chester in February, the club’s last win on home soil this season.
Staunton is on a two-year contract and should, on paper at least, still be here next season. The difficulty will come in repelling interest from elsewhere. With a season of regular first-team football behind him and after recognition on the international stage it’s easy to see another National League team taking an interest and testing the Cards’ resolve to keep hold of him.
Will he stay? Verdict: Make him captain and hope he does
The 24-year-old was initially signed as a versatile utility man capable of playing at full-back and in centre midfield. However, he’s turned out to be a gem of a signing, and has found a new home playing at centre-back.
After initially starting there to cover a defensive injury crisis, with Richard Orlu and Joey Jones both out injured, his performances were a revelation and his initial partnership with Josh Staunton coincided with the team’s best form of the season. If both had managed to remain fit until the end of the season you have to imagine that the Cards might have clung on to National League safety.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise to discover that one or more National League teams had an interest in Wynter but, equally, it’s not unreasonable to think that his performances might have slipped under the radar in a team that still shipped plenty of goals.
Will he stay? Verdict: Would be a great capture
The former Tottenham and Southampton youngster was signed as a back-up full-back after doing enough in pre-season to earn a contract. Due to the injury problems experienced by both Louis Ramsay and Nathan Ralph he’s ended up playing a lot more games than anyone, including himself, probably expected with 42 appearances racked up in all competitions.
He’s shown flashes of the potential that saw him play 20 games in League 2 for Carlisle and had National League sides Dover and Kidderminster taking a chance on him but, for the most part, he has proved to be a weak link in a Woking side often under the quash.
His goal against Peterborough in the FA Cup, which briefly brought our second round replay level at 2-2, will always live in the memory as a standout moment from his time in a Woking shirt. Unfortunately though, he hasn’t quite shown enough quality over the course of the season to suggest that he deserves another contract.
Will he stay? Verdict: Not good enough
You could be forgiven for forgetting that the midfielder is still only 21. After graduating to the first-team from the Woking academy in the summer of 2016 he has been a model professional while continuing to improve and impress with his performances on the pitch.
His 13 goals in all competitions this season mean he finishes the campaign as the club’s top scorer, whilst his career record for the club now stands at 19 goals in just 58 starts – with 88 appearances to his name in total. Whilst there have been bad games and underwhelming performances mixed in with the good ones that has to be expected from a player still learning his trade.
The club and its fans always enjoy having players who are ‘one of their own’ and Carter certainly fits the bill. If he can repeat the same level of marked improvement again during his third season as he did during his first two then he could be in for a career-defining year in 2018/19.
Will he stay? Verdict: Should be a key player
Another ‘what if’ player for the Cards this season who didn’t recover from a long injury lay-off; the Charlton loanee was arguably the standout player during his initial loan spell as he scored six times in all competitions including the winner against Dagenham and a brace in a 2-0 win over Sutton.
When he returned for the home game with FC Halifax Town on the 10th March expectations were understandably high. Sadly, he has looked every inch a player who is playing within himself, virtually ever since. Whether it’s the leftover effects of the injury, the loss of the likes of Joe Ward and Inih Effiong to play alongside, or simply a dip in form it has been a frustrating second spell for him.
Charlton certainly appear to rate him highly after giving him a runout in a number of cup games this season and surely the London club will see his imminent future at a much higher level than National League South. Indeed, if he can rediscover his early season form, he could find himself playing League One football next year.
Will he stay? Verdict: Unlikely to return
The 28-year-old was brought in to help fill the void left by the departure of Joe Ward to Peterborough in January and, whilst he lacks the flair of his fellow-winger, he has done a respectable job across his 17 appearances whilst on loan from Ebbsfleet United.
Unfortunately, he has not been able to add goals, but despite that his tenacity down the flank has not gone unnoticed and his efforts have been predominately well received. His relationship with his brother Regan has also been appreciated with comparisons drawn to former favourites the Wye’s.
He looks unlikely to have a future at Ebbsfleet, who are already amongst those chasing promotion from the National League after finishing sixth this season, and he could make the perfect signing for a team looking to return to non-league’s top tier next year having impressed for Chelmsford and Bromley, as well as the Fleet, at that level in the past.
Will he stay? Verdict: Useful experience at the right level
A near ever-present for Woking this season after amassing 50 appearances in all competitions whilst also chipping in with four goals. He might not be the most fashionable player in the Woking team but he certainly does a job in the midfield engine room and keeps things ticking over with his ball retention and physical presence.
Whilst he isn’t every supporter’s cup of tea he’s certainly valued by his teammates, picking up the players’ player of the season award following Saturday’s final game at home to Dover, and he could yet prove to be a surprise hit should the Cards hold on to his services.
It’s worth remembering that Keiran Murtagh, the undoubted star of our 2016/17 season, was once viewed in much the same vein as Ferdinand after several years of underwhelming performances before he finally hit top gear just when his side most needed him. Ferdinand’s record at National League South level, where he has previously impressed for East Thurrock, suggests that he could be the next Woking midfielder to make a surprising comeback.
Will he stay? Verdict: An uninspiring but necessary signing
Many supporters might have forgotten just how good Chez Isaac was during the first-half of the season. In fact, he’s another player who could conceivably have helped the Cards avoid relegation, had he not endured such a long spell out of the side due to injury.
A busy and tenacious presence at the base of the midfield he was a key figure in the Cards early season good form and should consider himself extremely unfortunate to end the year with a second successive relegation – having already gone down with Braintree last time around.
His leadership qualities also proved key to the Cards during the extended absence of Richard Orlu and Joey Jones as he was often utilised as the stand-in captain. If he does stay then he should almost certainly be considered for a similar role again next season alongside Josh Staunton.
Will he stay? Verdict: Get him fit and he can be vice-captain
Where do you start? It’s hard not to feel sorry for Joey Jones who, on occasion, appears to be resembling a one-man highlight reel of mistakes and comedy errors – capped off by his televised humiliation in the closing seconds of the Cards’ 3-2 defeat at home to champions Macclesfield Town.
Despite all of the issues one can’t help but feel that a talented player is still on offer. The midfielder turned defender turned midfielder appears to have settled into a role he’s best-suited to in recent weeks, playing between the defence and the midfield as a deep-lying playmaker capable of winning the ball and starting an attacking move for his team.
He’s also racked up more than 200 appearances for the club, making him comfortably its longest-serving player, and with few alternative suitors likely to be queuing up for his services perhaps the Cards could do worse than to give him one more chance to impress whilst at a lower level.
Will he stay? Verdict: There’s still something there
Another player worthy of sympathy; the 24-year-old who signed from Merstham in the summer of 2016 raised many an eyebrow in his debut campaign as he scored 15 goals in all competitions – finishing second in the club’s golden boot race to Gozie Ugwu and playing a big part in his team’s league survival. Unfortunately, he’s not been able to recreate that form this time around.
Injuries have played a big part in his fall from grace with the midfielder managing just seven league starts all season and only 21 appearances in all competitions. A recent hat-trick for the club’s Under-23 side acted as a reminder of his ability, but even after that performance he was ignored for the club’s final game of the season at home to Dover, with the returning Bobson Bawling preferred for the substitutes’ bench.
His versatility is also valuable – he’s able to play out wide, in midfield, behind the striker and even as an emergency left-back – but despite all that he’s likely to be fairly low down on any new manager’s list of contractual targets with his priority surely to be in adding more diversity and creativity to a midfield which has just been too ‘samey’ during the past year.
Will he stay? Verdict: Hard to see where he fits in
It’s a sad indictment of his time at Woking that one of the biggest issues facing the Cards new manager will likely be how to get rid of Jason Banton, who still has a year left of the contract he signed last summer, after joining the club from Crawley Town.
In hindsight things started badly. Banton, a player renowned for his poor track record when it came to injuries, was already struggling for fitness when he joined the club and he wasn’t able to make his debut until the game with Leyton Orient in the fifth match of the season. He showed flashes of his ability in the early months, scoring three goals, but those positive signs became more and more sporadic as the season wore on.
Ultimately, he was hung out to dry following the departure of Anthony Limbrick, with new manager Jason Goodliffe talking about only including players who wanted to fight for the club’s National League survival. Banton didn’t play for the team at all in the final five games and it’s hard to see him doing so again; a sad end for one of the more disappointing signings in recent Woking history.
Will he stay? Verdict: Please someone take him… please
Is there a more unfortunate player in the squad this season? When Bawling went off at half-time in the Cards FA Cup draw at home to Concord Rangers he left a side that had lost just one of the last nine league games and were riding high near the top of the table. The next time he would appear in a Woking shirt it would be as a late substitute for a side less than 20 minutes from relegation.
It’s hard to know how well, or not, Bawling might have done given a full season. The signs were certainly promising following his move from Crawley Town. He was the perfect Anthony Limbrick player as a pacey wide-man with a good delivery and playing opposite Joe Ward, either side of Inih Effiong, he formed part of a promising attacking trio.
The former Chelsea and Watford academy player is still only 22 and has time to recover from his long-term injury lay-off. His brilliant goal against Torquay United back at the end of August was a clear sign of what he could produce more of in the future and if he’s got the all clear from the doctors then he’s surely deserving of another chance to prove himself.
Will he stay? Verdict: Have injury problems hidden a good player?
The 21-year-old was signed as a replacement for Jamie Philpot following his loan spell during the first-half of the season. Whilst Philpot also endured mixed fortunes during his time as a Woking player it’s hard to argue that the Millwall man was the more consistent centre-forward.
On loan from Hull City, Edwards looked surprisingly out of his depth at National League level, and despite a scrambled goal against Hartlepool and a gift-wrapped strike versus Maidenhead – two games that both ended in defeat – he did little to endear himself to the Woking faithful. It’s hard to see him playing any higher than National League North/South level next season and it almost certainly won’t be with the Cards.
Will he stay? Verdict: How has this lad got a Championship club?
The former QPR striker, who boasts Premier League experience on his resume, was signed at the turn of the year as a replacement for Inih Effiong following his move to Ross County. Whilst he’s a completely different type of striker, one arguably unsuited to our style of play, he’s done very well.
He’s scored four goals in 18 appearances and has worked very hard, often undertaking a thankless task as a lone striker, running the channels and holding the ball up to the best of his abilities. There will no doubt be a number of teams keeping an eye on him, and he has himself admitted that he is desperate to return to the Football League, but he could do worse than to get another year of regular first-team football under his belt before potentially moving on.
Will he stay? Verdict: Would be a great addition if we can tempt him
A strange signing in many ways, the imposing forward was added on a short-term deal in February to try and boost the Cards’ survival hopes, a ploy which failed quite spectacularly. Theophanous had never played at National League level before and was unable to recreate his previous form from regional football in his 11 appearances – failing to score a single goal.
Staines, Bromley, St Albans and Chelmsford have all made the most of Theophanous’ talents in the sixth tier of English football but after dropping down to the Isthmian League last summer, albeit with free-spending Billericay Town, and failing to standout one can’t help but feel that he’s better suited to that sort of level moving forward.
Will he stay? Verdict: Needs to drop back down another level
Academy Players: Sam Mason, Lazar Stojsavljevic, Declan Appau, Ivan Nsimbi, Reggie Young
The progress of the club’s young academy players has been a real highlight of a miserable season. With five new names joining Charlie Carter in the first-team there have certainly been moments to savour. Sam Mason featured on four occasions during Nathan Baxter’s brief spell out through injury and by all accounts did very well.
Lazar Stojsavljevic turned in one of the best defensive performances of the season from anyone in a Woking shirt as he helped secure a 1-0 win over Dagenham on his first club start, before scoring a memorable winner against AFC Fylde, who would go on to finish in the play-off places. It was extremely cruel that an injury sustained in the same game would rule him out for the rest of the year.
Declan Appau scored the goal of the season against Guiseley before having his campaign cut short by injury and Reggie Young did enough to earn a squad number late in the year. It was a shame not to see more of Ivan Nsimbi after he impressed in pre-season but by all accounts he has struggled with various injury problems ever since.
Mason and Stojsavljevic look like natural signings as first-team cover. Appau might struggle to find a place in an already crowded midfield that still needs reinforcements whilst it might be too soon for Young and Nsimbi to again be expecting first-team places after making a minimal impression.
Will they stay? Verdict: Plenty of potential
So, who are we ending up with?
Goalkeepers: Sam Mason
Defence: Josh Staunton, Jordan Wynter, Lazar Stojsavljevic
Midfield: Charlie Carter, Anthony Cook, Kane Ferdinand, Chez Isaac, Joey Jones
Forwards: Bobson Bawling, Reece Grego-Cox
The makings, in theory, of a promising National League South squad; a new goalkeeper and two new full-backs will be high on the agenda but the central-defensive area could be fairly well stocked with Josh Staunton, Jordan Wynter and Lazar Stojsavljevic all exciting young players.
In midfield we’re looking at a quartet who should be easily good enough at this level in Charlie Carter, Kane Ferdinand, Chez Isaac and Joey Jones and if we can add some defensive steel, in the Damon Lathrope mould, and some creativity in the ilk of Keiran Murtagh then we should be ready to go. Anthony Cook and Bobson Bawling offer a mix of youth and experience out wide although a couple more exciting flair players could really help to add an extra dimension.
Up front will need serious strengthening as Reece Grego-Cox is the only option in the current scenario and despite his qualities he’s proven that he’s not capable of playing as a lone striker. Inih Effiong is available again following his release by Ross County and could be a strong candidate to make his return. The important thing is surely that, unlike this season, we’re not left short of options up front. For a large part of this campaign we’ve made do with only two strikers and that has certainly been high on the list of shortcomings of the squad assembled by the former management team.
Whatever the end result proves to be we certainly seem set for an interesting summer ahead. Here’s hoping that we head into the start of next season in optimistic fashion and at least appear ready to hit the ground running in style upon our return to National League South.
Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts on Twitter @GlenH1292.
Images by David Holmes. A full set can be found at wokingfc.co.uk
Woking welcome Hartlepool United to Kingfield on Saturday as they look for their fourth win on the bounce.
Saturday’s game sees two form sides face off. The Cards came from behind to beat AFC Fylde last week with goals coming from Joe Ward and Jamie Philpott to put themselves top of the form table. Whereas Hartlepool, who had a tough start to the season, find themselves third in the form table following a 2-1 victory over Bromley.
With the exception of Cheltenham and Bristol Rovers, teams relegated from League Two have struggled to bounce back to the The Football League. We spoke to Pools fan Kate Simons to find out more about how fans in the North East see the season so far and what their expectations are for their first season in Non-League’s top flight.
Nobody likes to be relegated, but for some clubs that have been in the bottom third of League Two for a few seasons, dropping down and rebuilding can turn into a positive project. How do most Hartlepool fans see life after League Two?
Although it was heart-breaking to get relegated, I think most fans are optimistic for life after league two and everything that goes with life in the National League – new teams to play, visiting new grounds etc. I think lots of fans just want to see the team playing with passion and with fight again.
How have you found the standard of National League football since dropping down from The Football League?
It’s different, that’s one thing for sure! I think it’s a faster paced and a lot more physical compared to The Football League.
After a tricky start to life in non-league football, Hartlepool have found some form, winning four of the last six. Has this just been a case of adapting to the league?
I think it has been a case of adapting to the National league, but also adapting to the different style of play in this league. A lot of new faces were brought into the club too, so it takes time for people to gel.
Hartlepool manager Craig Harrison has been very successful in Welsh football, what do you think he can bring to non-league’s top tier and to United?
Craig was a very successful manager at TNS and I think he can bring that to Pools, he knows what it takes to be successful and he can instil that into the team. Being from the North East, Craig knows just how much this team means to the fans! He seems a vocal, hardworking and passionate manager!
A lot of teams now qualify for the National League play-offs, will getting one of these spots be a minimum expectation for the majority of fans?
I think the fans just want to see the team play well, after spending the last couple of seasons fighting relegation and then eventually being relegated, we just want to see the team playing with passion. Of course, being promoted/qualifying for the play-off’s is on everyone’s mind but people are realistic and know just how hard it is to get out of this league!
Who will be the danger men that Woking have to look out for on Saturday?
Jonathan Franks, he’s just re-signed for the club and he can’t seem to stop scoring!
Michael Woods, he plays with his heart on his sleeve and he’s not scared to put a challenge in!
Finally, what is your score prediction?
Think it’ll be a tough game, but I’m saying a 2-1 to Pools. Up the Pools!!
Photos from David Holmes. For a full set visit wokingfc.co.uk
Garry Hill has spoken for the first time since leaving his position at Woking last week and told reporters that there is no animosity from himself towards the club.
Hill spent over six years at Kingfield and during that time took The Cards from The National League South to The National League and reflected on recent developments prior to watching Dagenham & Redbridge face Forest Green Rovers. He told The National League’s social media team:
“I’ve had six and half wonderful years there and I wish the club all the best. There is a change going on which I think every club on and off the pitch needs at times. Hopefully it is for the right reasons for the players, supporters and volunteers.
“There is no animosity from myself and I wish them all the best.”
Hill has been replaced by Anthony Limbrick as new investors pursue a fresh start at Kingfield. Limbrick has worked with youth teams at both Southampton and West Ham as well as at an International level for England. Cards fans will get a chance to hear him speak at a fans forum on Wednesday which is being held at Kingfield.
Image by David Holmes. A full set can be found at wokingfc.co.uk
Woking travel to local rivals Aldershot Town on Boxing Day and will be hoping for a repeat of last season’s success against The Shots.
After recording wins against Gateshead and Bromley, Woking fans would have hoped that Garry Hill’s side would have pushed on. However, Cup and Trophy disappointment followed and with Woking failing to beat Guiseley last time out in the league, Cards fans are again looking at the shrinking gap to the relegation zone (just goal difference is keeping Woking above the line).
If you listen to football folklore then form goes out of the window in derby games. This statement will be music to the ears of both Cards and Shots fans as both sides have been struggling of late. We caught up with Tommy Anderson, Chairman of The Shots Trust, to find out what we can expect on Boxing Day.
It’s been a while since we played each other and since we last met there was quite a big summer for The Shots off the pitch with Gary Waddock returning to the club. Fans must have been delighted to see him return?
There were big changes at Aldershot back in the summer both on the playing side and of course the return of Gary Waddock as manager which was just what the club needed! Season ticket sales rose dramatically following Gary’s return, a good, competitive squad was assembled and our start to the season was extremely encouraging. Our recent form has dipped and cup exits in the FA Cup and FA Trophy at the hands of lower opposition was disappointing, no question about that, however I think we need to be realistic and honest and say if 10th position was offered to us back in June at this present time, we would have had accepted it. From a personal point of view, I am content overall with how the season has panned out. I expect the squad to bounce back from recent disappointments and improve as the season goes on and put pressure on the teams above.
A few other additions included Scott Rendell and Jake Cole from Woking. How have both players settled in at The Rec?
They’ve done ok. Jake Cole in particular has significantly improved us in the goalkeeping position. Earlier on in the season, he made some crucial saves at key times in games to preserve our lead, he offers big assurances to the defenders ahead of him with his talking and direction, a real leader. Scott Rendell for me is slowly getting better and better, the goals haven’t produced what he had done previous, this is down to mostly being played in a deeper position and also people need to realise that this season he came back from a cruciate ligament injury that put him out of action for all of last season, arrived at Aldershot and played lots of games in a short space of time and was clearly shattered! However, Scott has now really worked on his fitness and is looking sharper and sharper and I’m fully confident that the goals will flow in the not so distant future.
It has been an up and down season so far for yourselves with disappointment in the FA Cup and Trophy (similar to Woking!) but a steady mid-table position has been maintained. There have been a few big results in there too. How do you think things are working out and are the play-offs the aim?
Overall, I’m fairly content with how the season has panned out. Major disappointments in exiting both cup competitions early and for clubs like ourselves, there is a lot of financial gain to be had from a decent run in both competitions, however our league campaign has been a vast improvement on recent years, we are playing an entertaining, attacking style of football which we long sought for at the a EBB Stadium! Early doors, we started in superb fashion scoring plenty of goals and putting good sides under the sword! However, like all clubs, we are currently on a disappointing run of results and that needs to be addressed quickly. We now have a perfect chance with the next two fixtures to get our season back on track and to make an almighty push for the play-offs which for me has to always be the target, despite the fact it would be an overachievement on our budget for that to happen this season.
Who will Woking have to watch out for on Boxing Day?
Jake Gallagher – A tenacious, hardworking player who now plays in a further forward role since Gary’s arrival and has an attacking edge about him that not a lot of people would expect him to have. A player that always gives 100% and from speaking to him in the week, he is completely fired up and ready for the festive fixtures!
Idris Kanu – A highly rated youngster who is attracting plenty of interest higher up the football pyramid certainly has the game to create and muster chances and goals out of nothing. With the TV cameras circulating the EBB Stadium on the 26th, Idris will see this as a fine chance to impress and put a statement out to the interested suitors.
Scott Rendell – Scott will be relishing coming up against his former side and will be really chomping at the bit to get his goalscoring boots firing. A natural finisher who certainly has plenty of goals left in the tank and always one for any team to watch out for.
Finally, what is your score prediction?
I’m predicting Aldershot Town to get back to winning ways, after last year’s disappointing matches against Woking. It’s time for us to attempt to get the double crown back! Woking will certainly cause problems and come with a game plan but I’m backing Aldershot to win 3-1!
Photos by David Holmes. For a full set go to wokingfc.co.uk.
Woking travel to Ebbsfleet United on Saturday as their FA Trophy campaign gets underway in what, at least on paper, appears a tricky tie.
The Cards will be looking to get back to winning ways after being dumped out of The FA Cup by Accrington Stanley on Sunday in front of the BBC’s cameras. Garry Hill’s men, without the suspended Charlie Carter, will go from underdogs to favourites against a Fleet side going well in The National League South.
The Kent club, who currently sit third in the league, beat Harrow Borough 4-2 to set up the tie with Woking and ex-Card Bradley Bubb will be looking to come back and haunt Garry Hill.
We talked to Fleet fan Joe Glidewell about what has been going on at Stonebridge Road and what Woking can expect on Saturday.
I am yet to speak to a Woking fan who thinks this is a good tie, what has the reaction been around Stonebridge Road?
I think the general consensus is that it’s a winnable tie, albeit a little ‘boring’. Furthermore, I think the majority of our fans see it as a good chance to test ourselves against higher league opposition, as we haven’t had that in cup draws for a while!
Is the Trophy a priority this season or is the focus fully on the league?
For me personally, I believe we have the squad to challenge on both fronts. However, given the gap between us and first place in the league at the moment, I feel we should be focusing solely on the league. That said, winning breeds confidence, so a win here will see us in good spirits going into the busy Christmas period, including two games against local rivals and fellow play-off contenders Dartford.
As with every year since being relegated in 2013, Ebbsfleet are aiming for promotion this season, how is the challenge panning out so far?
At the moment, not very well. We’re ten points from Maidenhead who, at the moment, do not look like slipping up. They also beat us at Stonebridge Road recently 2-3 with a Sean Marks hat-trick, the final goal coming in the last couple of minutes. They’re a good side, so we will have to rely on them perhaps ‘doing an Ebbsfleet’ while we put together a run of wins.
Ebbsfleet are seen as one of the ‘money’ club in the Conf South, why haven’t things worked out in previous seasons?
I think the main reason it hasn’t worked is the lack of experience in the management to go with big expectations amongst the fanbase. Steve Brown came in right at the start and was fixated with Dover, taking a bulk of their squad and talking trash about them in the media. That season was only ever going to end one way for me! After his sacking the following November, Jamie Day came and there was an air of excitement around after what he had achieved with Welling. Unfortunately, he couldn’t handle it and after us finishing outside the play-offs that was it for him.
Daryl McMahon, after impressing in charge of the academy and in a short stint as caretaker boss was given the gig; his first managerial job. Let’s not talk about last season (The Fleet let a large lead drop when top of the table and lost in the play-offs to Maidstone) but fans are split on him. Some want him gone, some believe he is the one to take us up. I think you get where I’m going with this though… what you need to get promotion is an experienced head and a team of grafters. You can’t just put ‘the best’ players together and expect them to do the business.
Woking fans will be familiar with some of your squad, Bradley Bubb, Charlie Sheringham, Aaron McLean and Danny Kedwell amongst the bigger names, but who will they have to watch our for on Saturday?
Bradley Bubb deserves a start. He’s impressed every time he’s come off the bench and knows where the net is. Charlie Sheringham has had a tough time of it with injuries and fans consistently getting on his back. If he’s over his niggle that kept him out of the Oxford City victory last week then Darren McQueen is the man to watch. Quick, hardworking, plays for the team and knows where the goal is. That is, of course, if we play it on the floor to the little guy! Jack Powell is another one. On his day, easily one of the best central midfielders in non-league, but has been slightly inconsistent so far! Then there’s Nathan Ashmore of course. 100% the best goalkeeper in our division and should really be playing higher!
Finally, what is your score prediction?
Not usually one for making predictions but I’ll go a close 2-1 either way. We need to keep Gozie Ugwu quiet, a lad we know well from his loan spell here a few years back. Whatever happens, I want it done without the need for a replay!
Photos by David Holmes. For a full set of images visit wokingfc.co.uk.
Attention turns away from the league (thank goodness!) and towards the FA Cup this weekend as The Cards travel to Stockport County for their Round One tie.
After a string of poor results, Garry Hill’s side will now be focusing on how to overcome a County side that will certainly be ‘up for the cup’ under experienced manger Jim Gannon. Despite sitting in mid-table, the side from Greater Manchester had an impressive October, losing just one game to Kidderminster Harriers and winning their four other games.
Although they are in step two of non-league, County, as an ex-league side, are still widely seen as a ‘big club’ and even have a side named after them in China. A big crowd is expected on Saturday as they look to revisit some teams they were more familiar with on their journey in the higher tiers of English football.
We talked to Sam Byrne from Stockport News about the club and what Woking fans can expect on Saturday.
Stockport will always been seen as a ‘big club’ thanks to their history, previously in Division 1, how have fans adapted to being a non-league team, are they just happy to have a club?
As you allude to in a question below, initially many probably thought County would be straight back up – firstly from the National League into the Football League, and then from the National League North back into the National League! So relegation into non-league in 2011 was gutting for the whole club, and while attendances both home and away have remained some of the best in non-league (and even better than some L2 and L1 clubs), I don’t think it’s the fans “adapting” to non-league. Just die-hard football fans doing what die-hard football fans of any club do.
You won’t find a single County fan who will claim to have truly enjoyed any part of non-league football – but as things got worse and worse both on and off the pitch over the last few years, an air of resignation and of being battered into submission from the fans seemed to appear, which is probably mistaken by some as acceptance from the fans of where the club finds itself.
When Stockport got relegated from The Conference it was though that they would come back up pretty soon, but it hasn’t happened, what has been going on at the club?
It’d probably be quicker to tell you what hasn’t happened at this club over the past few years than what has! Summing things up as briefly as possible, we dropped into non-league with Ray Mathias in charge – he’d steadied the ship on the pitch somewhat in League Two and fleetingly gave us a chance of survival, so most were happy with him staying in charge. But over that summer, a ‘consortium’ of Liverpool-based businessmen got their foot in the door and somehow were allowed to point Didi Hamann as manager with Mathias shown the door, before signing a boat-load of Liverpudlian players. The consortium, and Hamann, rather predictably left the club just two months later and County were left with a sinking ship which was now sinking even faster than before. So much has gone on over the past decade, and every single fan will point to a different issue being the most problematic, but that consortium being allowed to play Football Manager with the club despite no alleged evidence of any funds or backing was a big factor in things going even more wrong.
We swiftly dropped into the Conference North, and although there’s been three seasons of mid-table finishes, club legend Jim Gannon is back in charge with owners who are now steadying the ship off the pitch and doing their bit to tie up all the different debts/loans etcetera.
You’ll speak to some fans who won’t agree with that at all and who will argue that these same owners were some of the same people who were also in charge during our decline, and that gradual progress in the sixth division isn’t really progress – but the majority (in my opinion!) do support what’s currently going on. So that does just give you an idea of not just the issues on and off the pitch, but the differing views of the fanbase as well. I know I said it’d be a brief overview, but that’s almost impossible!
County currently sit in mid-table, what is the aim for this season in your opinion?
As mentioned, Jim Gannon is back in charge and he will have the support and patience of the vast majority of fans as he rebuilds. We really struggled last season under Neil Young with a high turnover of players and a rotten run of mid-season form, and Jim pretty much completely rebuilt the squad over the summer, so while the play-offs are the goal (Fylde will surely run away with the one automatic spot!) I imagine a season where County may just miss out on a play-off spot would be accepted by the fans, as long as progress on the pitch is being achieved. It’s a very tight division with any of around 9 teams going for the play-offs, but that will be the goal.
Coming from step two of non-league, County have already had a few games in The FA Cup this season, how did they get to round one?
We’ve had one of the more comfortable routes into the First Round, it has to be said. Three home ties in the three qualifying rounds, with only one of those coming against a side in the same division, and three 2-0 wins.
Hyde and Bishop Auckland from divisions seven & nine were swept aside quite routinely at Edgeley Park in the second and fourth (final) qualifying rounds, but the biggie was Salford City at home in the Third. Some County fans probably had a bit of a chip on their shoulder about the ‘media darlings’ of Salford after their Cup exploits on the BBC last season, so the 2-0 win and rather dominant performance was quite sweet. That provided everyone at the club with a lot of confidence as Salford were quite fancied and would have been confident of a win themselves.
How big a game is this for the club?
It’s massive. I think it’s fair to say nobody would dub Stockport vs Woking as a glamour tie for either side, but the occasion itself is big. It’s the first time since 2012 that we’ve reached the First Round proper, but as a National League side at the time, we were drawn away at Southend in what was probably the worst possible draw we could have got, and a 3-0 defeat beckoned. We’re just on the back of a run of four wins in five games now, so confidence is high all around, and many are looking at your away record and league position and fancying the win. I know Woking are pulling out all the stops to get fans travelling in big numbers, and I’m sure you’ll rightly fancy the result as well. As we discussed on Twitter, County are really pushing their reduced admission prices and trying to get as many fans through the gates as possible, so a big attendance could also be on the cards. So it will hopefully be a big atmosphere for what is a big occasion despite the tie on paper not looking the best!
Who will Woking have to watch out for on Saturday?
Easiest question you’ve given me! Danny Lloyd, the left-sided attacker signed from Fylde over the summer. 9 goals and 8 assists in 17 games so far this season for County. He’s proven a real fan favourite so far, and County will always be confident of a result home or away with him in the side. He was actually left out of the squad altogether last weekend in a 0-1 home defeat to Kidderminster with Saturday’s Cup tie in mind!
In midfield, Lewis Montrose – a former League Two title winner with Wycombe – has a touch of class and can look head and shoulders above this level when he’s on his game.
Finally, what’s your score prediction?
A: It’s a really tricky one. County could well be the bookies favourites, which is probably a bit harsh on Woking if so! I’m sure you guys will expect the win no matter your league position, just as I’m sure County fans would do against a lower division side. Jim Gannon will inspire confidence in the home fans due to his prior Cup exploits – he guided Northwich to the Second Round last season, where they were actually 2-0 up at Northampton only to lose 3-2 in the final eight minutes. He managed ten FA Cup games last season at Northwich – four more than Man Utd played, who won the entire competition!
I don’t much fancy a long Tuesday night mid-November trip to Woking (no offence!) so rather predictably, I’ll go for a 1-1 draw and a replay to follow!
Image from David Holmes. Find a full set on wokingfc.co.uk