Welcome to the start of another weekend and a home game for the First XI at last – our first since the August Bank Holiday. Tomorrow we host Winchester City in another league game, 3.00pm kick-off, and I cannot recommend enough that you should come along and enjoy the afternoon with us at Chesham United. I know you might expect me to say that as Chairman, but truly, the football we are playing this season is getting high praise everywhere we go…and we have been to plenty of places since we last played a home match!
Last Saturday we recorded our ninth straight win of the season with an away FA Cup victory over Farnham Town. We got off to a good start racing into a 2-0 lead, but the second-half did not reach the high standards we set ourselves this season and we found ourselves hanging on for a 2-1 win. That victory means that we now have a home tie against Margate in the third qualifying round of the FA Cup – two wins away from the First Round Proper. Please put that your date in the diary, Saturday 30th September, 3.00pm at The Meadow, it promises to be a great occasion. Please also take note that the roadworks around the ground continue to cause delays so please allow ample time to get to the games to avoid missing kick-off – if you are early, the clubhouse is open as is Billy’s Burger van and the Tea Bar so you can relax and have something to eat and drink whilst reading the matchday programme.
As I mentioned last week, we must keep our feet firmly on the ground, enjoy the fantastic start we are having but we are still only in the foothills of the mountain we are looking to climb this season. Nothing is ever won in September and there are many challenges ahead, and it is our job to make sure we are prepared for those challenges. And that is something we have discussed in great depth as a Board this week. We have had a start to the season that has put us in the best possible position to push on for the rest of the season. We could sit around patting ourselves on the back for a great start, but we are not doing that and are instead looking at this as our best opportunity to take than next step forward as a club.
What does that mean? It means that we know the squad will be stretched over the coming weeks, pitches will get heavier and injuries are inevitable. The way to minimise the effect of that is to be able to maintain strength in depth throughout the squad, this will always put pressure on the playing budget and you will see it up and down the country, budgets being slashed as we move towards winter and clubs cannot afford what they committed to at the start of the season for the playing squad. We will not be doing that. We have made the calculated decision to back our management with the playing squad and – within reason – give them the tools they need to continue a promotion push, without feeling constant pressure to trim the playing budget.
Such bold words can backfire, but that is why I say it is a calculated decision and the security and sustainability of the club remains a priority and will not be put at risk. However, it just feels right that we begin the next leg of the Chesham United journey after more than a decade of steadying the ship and, let’s be honest, being content with our situation and enjoying the odd flirtation with the play-offs.
Of course, this is not just about the fact that we are doing so well on the pitch, there are many other factors, and maybe it is not a coincidence that on and off the pitch are coming together at the same time. If you read back through my notes from 18-24 months ago you will read how we were desperately in need of more Directors at the club as the three man board was unable to sustain what we are doing. Today we have an amazingly strong Board of Directors that all bring something to the club and have got us to this position of optimism we are in. Compared to 18 months ago the Board now includes the Chairman of the Ladies section, a very switched-on finance director, a community minded director driving the cohesion between all sections of the club and some bloke off the television who has lifted the profile of the club out of the valleys of the Chiltern Hills to a global audience. We are in a very lucky position.
And then we have you, the people of Chesham, who have responded tremendously to what we are trying to achieve. I am very proud of the work we have done, and will continue to do, with Bucks Mind and the way we have brought the club out of its shell into the wider community with events such as the Treorchy choir at St Marys Church and our forthcoming involvement with the switching on of the Christmas lights in Chesham and the annual Fireworks event in November.
With a strong playing squad, a strong board and growing community involvement – putting a business head back on, as that is what we are/have to be – we need to be prepared to push boundaries and invest in success. I believe, in fact I know, that this club has the potential to attract regular crowds in excess of 600, 800-1,000 if we stay around the promotion places. It will be no surprise when I say that gate increase will have a significant impact on our financial ability to sustain a promotion push and continue our planned off field activities.
Add to that an increase in replica shirt sales with the Taskmaster sponsorship, and then suddenly all the doubts about whether Chesham United could really be a National South side go flying out of the window. However, we know to achieve that we need to improve our marketing of matches and the club around the town and across social media, and we have this week given instructions to the media team to seek out marketing support, ideally from a local business, as we appreciate the demand on volunteers to do more is unreasonable. If you run a local marketing company, or know somebody who does, and would like to discuss proposals for running matchday campaigns, please contact the club at firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies if this week’s notes turned into a bit of a visionary speech, but I genuinely feel that this week could be a turning point for the club in terms of our ambition, or more our belief in matching that ambition. You could say ‘I had a dream’…which I did, and I feel obliged to tell you now because if it did happen and I told you afterwards you wouldn’t believe me. I dreamt that we played Forest Green Rovers at home in the FA Cup, live in front of the TV cameras – unfortunately I woke up before I got to see the score, but remember where you read it first!
Thank you for your support, let’s dream together and see what magic we can create here in Chesham.