The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Blue And White…
Saturday 14th December 2013
—AFC Hornchurch 3 Margate FC 2—
A strange title for this blog, considering the result above! But hoping that the reason for this will become apparent as I proceed to ramble on…
Last week was an action packed week at MFC, to say the least. Manager Simon Osborn being relieved of his duties, talismanic goalkeeeper Craig Holloway signing an 18 month contract, & rumours circulating more than local takeaway menus.
Starting from the beginning, injured skipper John Beales took charge for our game against Billericay Town on Tuesday night, where we contrived to lose our 1-0 halftime advantage, gained by a header scored by Phil Walsh, with the final result being 2-1 to the visitors from Essex – yet again, a distinctly unimpressive side that we had lost to.
However, this didn’t provoke as much anger, upset, & in my case – seeking solace in a late night kebab – as it normally would have done, due to the rumour mill turning evermore, as the week progressed. Indeed, various managerial candidates were mooted on the Thanet Gazette website – local managers Neil Cugley & Ray Turner (who manage Folkestone Invicta & Faversham Town respectively) along with ex Gillingham player & manager Andy Hessenthaler – whose son Jake, we were fortunate to have with us earlier this season – all being suggested as possible management contenders.
On Thursday – jaws dropped both in the world of Margate FC fans & indeed, the world of Non League – as ex AFC Wimbledon manager Terry Brown was unveiled as the new manager – on a three year deal, no less!
I feel it prudent to explain the reasons for this onslaught of jawdropping.
In the words of fellow Gate fanatic Ryan Day, Mr Brown is somewhat considered as the Alex Ferguson of non league football – some choice reasons as to why are stated in the two links below –
In short, 7 promotions – including twice leading clubs from the Isthmian League (also known as the Ryman League – Margate’s current level of football) to the Conference, & indeed in AFC Wimbledon’s case – the Football League on top of that, really are incredible achievements.
Add this to what was published in Friday’s Thanet Gazette – news of a wealthy businessman willing to take over Keith Piper’s majority shareholding & invest in the club – and you can begin to understand the reasons for this new found optimism among Blues fans.
The new manager’s first interview on the club website had Gate fans daring to dream, when he stated –
“Margate Football Club in my eyes is a sleeping giant. I am absolutely delighted a club with such massive potential and a real grounded ambition for the near future has given me the opportunity to take it’s supporters on a similar journey to that I took the Wimbledon fans on just a few years ago. There is no reason why Margate Football Club should not have football league status in the next few years, we (Brown & asisstant Stuart Cash) strongly believe that and would not have taken the job if we didn’t”
So it was with a somewhat dreamlike feel, that we approached our first match under Brown’s reign – a tricky away fixture at leaders AFC Hornchurch. In truth, no-one (including myself) expected too much from this fixture, the new manager needing time (and his own players) to stamp his mark on the club. In my opinion, this was merely a chance for the manager to run the rule over the current squad, & to assess what was needed & what was good enough to continue.
I met fellow Gate fan Stu in the morning, who enquired as to whether I fancied walking to Margate, due to the trains not being in service – to say he took me the scenic route was an understatement! We passed Kingsgate, Joss Bay, Palm Bay & Cliftonville before I reached Hartsdown Park – Stu continuing on to meet Mark Sandwell in Birchington.
On arrival, I walked into the club carpark where I found a happy Health & Safety Officer in Peter Cove – looking remarkably dapper, suited & booted – and on hearing about my plight in regards to Stu’s scenic ramble, promptly informed me “You do know, you could’ve just gone through St Peters instead” – Thanks for that, Pete!
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this fixture owing to Jim’s generosity in offering me a lift Friday night – our meeting place being Hartsdown Park. I was also lucky enough to share the car with staunch Margate fan Ryan Day, who is also responsible for the new Gate Player on YouTube – a mixture of match highlights & player and manager interviews.
Being in the company of two long term Margate fans was truly a pleasure & an education – especially in terms of listening to Jim, it really does make for some enthralling club history! The short journey to Essex took about an hour & a half, and upon pulling into the car park, we were welcomed by a Hornchurch fan & parking attendant who informed us that our Press Officer Paul Zannetti had eventually got here after his sat nav took him on a detour to Southend – rumours that he wanted some seaside rock & a quick stroll on the beach are as yet, unconfirmed.
Walking into the stadium, we were greeted by some jolly Hornchurch fans in Santa hats selling programmes & 50/50 tickets – and a ground that seemed dominated by a large running track! This put a dampener on things somewhat, owing to my forgetfulness & leaving my egg & spoon at home!
After a wander round the stadium, & some banter with coach Simon Pridmore & kit man / ex-player Winkle in regards to doing the relay (Pridders doing his best Usain Bolt pose!) I got speaking to a Hornchurch fan who showed me his large collection of football flags – even having a Basque one in honour of their keeper, Inigo Echepare. Before long, the teams trotted out onto a bog-like pitch, and the game kicked off.
It must be said that the game was scrappy in the extreme, mainly owing to the conditions & the pitch – not exactly conducive to passing football! Margate took the lead after 30 minutes through Warren Whitely, whose finish squirmed under the keepers body after some good build up play involving Wayne Wilson & Phil Walsh.
Sadly the lead was short-lived, Hornchurch equalising through a looping effort from Michael Spencer, after the Gate defence failed to clear their lines. As the half time whistle blew, the travelling MFC faithful applauded the squad from the pitch – a battling first half display, although there were concerns that we might suffer from a slow start in the second half, as has been the case in recent weeks.
Happily, this didn’t occur, as the game continued to be fairly even until Margate made the breakthrough once more – Phil Walsh slotting in after a Moses Ashikodi effort was blocked on the line. An hour gone & all positive – until Gate pressed the self destruct button, a poor backpass from Wilson setting Stefan Payne through, whose finish gave Holloway no chance. 2-2 unfortunately didn’t last for long either, as a thunderbolt of a strike from Michael Spencer put Hornchurch 3-2 up.
Margate battled hard, but couldn’t get the elusive equaliser their performance deserved – but it was far from a dejected set of die-hard fans that applauded a performance in which every single player in a blue & white shirt gave their all – the lads did themselves & their new manager proud, & can consider themselves extremely unlucky to lose – a sentiment echoed by the Hornchurch fans who I met in the bar afterwards – a friendly bunch who I wish all the best for the rest of the season.
It was also a pleasure to meet ex Gate striker Carl Rook & his dad – after being thanked by myself for not scoring against us this time round, Carl smiled graciously & replied “I didn’t have the chance to!”
After Ryan had conducted his interview with Terry Brown – which can be found at the bottom of this article (all credit goes to Ryan Day & Gate Player) we set off for home – an optimistic conversation was had and enjoyed by all, particularly Jim, whose beloved QPR & Keith both achieved wins today – surely a good reason for two fingers of his finest Dufftown malt?
A Margate EGM & fans forum is scheduled for Tuesday – the action really does seem never ending right now! The start of a beautiful future, one hopes! Fingers crossed the lads can give us an early Christmas present by beating Hampton & Richmond next Saturday, before a tricky Boxing Day trip away to Maidstone United.
The future’s bright. The future’s blue & white…
Stu’s Away Day Burger Review –
“Decent bird behind the counter, the burger was big, but a bit dry – 6 out of 10”
Ryan Day’s Post-Match Interview with new Margate FC Manager Terry Brown
Last not but least, an excellent picture taken by Don Walker of some of the travelling Margate faithful – highlights include Peter Cove doing a Fonz-like impression for the benefit of the camera, Stu looking like he’s contemplating robbing someone’s house later on in the evening, & myself on the far right looking mean and moody (or perhaps just confused) – credit to Don Walker & margate-fc.com for the photo. NB – click on the photo to see myself & Stu included in the shot.