YourThurrock welcomes Charlie Key to our growing band of bloggers. We first met Charlie when he was standing as a candidate for the local elections as well as being one of the campaigners whose hard work ensured that Jackie Doyle-Price was elected MP.
Charlie has just graduated with a 2:1 in Politics from the University of Greenwich.
The Football Club Chairman’s Manual?
I have lived in Thurrock my entire life. There are many disappointments, many things we don’t find quite right, sometimes it is the A13 and most other times it tends to be the M25. But something I have always found a bit of a pain is that I’ve usually had to travel out of Thurrock to watch a good game of football. For the past few years Grays Athletic have had the right to boast that they have had a reasonably successful club. Winning the FA Trophy and bursting their way into the Blue Square Premier had been amazing achievements for a club that had the financial support to attempt to push its way into the big-time. A subject that is constantly debated, and one which I will not even attempt to answer now, is when exactly did the Grays Athletic bubble burst?
I have spent my entire life following football and have spent the last nine years as a season ticket holder at Southend United, a half hour journey out of the borough, whilst Dagenham & Redbridge and West Ham are similar journeys westward. However, Thurrock thankfully doesn’t haemorrhage thousands of fans out of the borough every Saturday, as many stay to watch a fine selection of non-league football on show in all corners of the borough. Regardless of where you go to watch your football, terrace talk is no longer about what happens on the pitch, but more likely what happens off it. I am a Southend United fan… I could lecture you to Weston-Super-Mare and back on this subject. (Any Thurrock fans should feel free to take me up on the offer – they’ve got an away trip there on November 13th!)
One of the big issues to consider in football is how should a football club be run?
Southend United and Grays Athletic are just two clubs that have seen the bubble of success burst before their very eyes. Should we argue that both clubs have been mismanaged, or have both crumbled under the pressures of an unsustainable adventure? Sustainability is the key to success with a modern football club and I believe that will be the key for Thurrock’s football clubs, particularly East Thurrock United.
I feel like I owe something to East Thurrock United. I went to see Southend give them a good thumping in a friendly about 6 or 7 years ago. Whilst there, an ex-Dagenham & Redbridge striker came and sat next to and asked me what I knew about East Thurrock United. So I told him what colour shirts they were in and after half an hour he could watch no more. He went on to sign for a team in the Conference North. I wish I’d lied.
A fortnight ago, I was invited to be a guest of a member of the board at the Club and was delighted to go along. Perhaps I thought I’d instantly be enrolled into football’s elites and become one of the prawn sandwich brigade (as we used to call them when I was just a kid with a pukka pie and a season ticket). In contrast, no such cabal was running the show at East Thurrock United; even the manager John Coventry feels more comfortable watching the game from the stands with the supporters. Anybody that is anybody at East Thurrock – whether they are working in the burger bar or picking apart accounts in the boardroom – is doing the dirty work where it needs to be done. The football and the operation at East Thurrock is far from perfect when compared to the Uniteds, Chelseas and Villas that we know, but East Thurrock’s finances are in a better position than Portsmouth and probably a great deal more sustainable than Manchester City.
To be fair, I was only at East Thurrock United for one night, but I was shown all parts of the club and the place felt like one big family. Not because everybody has a loyalty to each other; the loyalty is to the badge the players wear on their shirts. It would be wrong of me to lecture the footballing world on the rights and wrongs of football club management, but a similar ethic to club management should be continued in all standards of club on the football ladder. It would be good to see a club like East Thurrock United progress past the heights that Southend United reached, not from financial investment, but from a good group of people working together for a good cause.
I’m not putting out a free advertisement for East Thurrock. I’d like the opportunity to say that Thurrock FC and Aveley and Tilbury are running things in a similar fashion, and I hope to see Grays Athletic do the same in the coming years. The football clubs that Thurrock have should boast that they are united clubs, building for the future and investing in our young talent, and I hope to never see them getting involved in the boom and bust financial world that has stopped clubs like Southend United and Portsmouth from reaching their full potential.
There are some wise heads running the football in Thurrock and as supporters, it is important that we stand behind the players and the management at our local clubs. It was a pleasure to sit next to John Coventry last Tuesday – he’s a very nice chap. But I can’t help but think, if I sat next to Southend’s manager, would I be so polite?
Ladies and gents, you want to contribute to Thurrock in some way other than council tax? Go out on Saturday afternoon, take your partner, take your kids, before it starts to get cold!