July 18th ’05
Not long now until the first pre-season match. If you’ve been following events on this website you’ll know that Steve and Dennis have been assembling a squad that look good enough to challenge for one of the top three spots in the division this season. James MacCullum has retired but we have new recruits in the shape of Ashley Gillings, Graham Retallick and Steve Tuck. The competition for places will be fierce this year and the pre-season games will be a good opportunity for the squad to gell. We want to hit the ground running this year. And running shouldn’t be a problem as Steve has had the lads charging up and down Cherry Hill in Ely on Thursday evenings so they should be well prepared. The only time I walk through the park is if I’m heading for The Cutter or the Indian Restaurant – just hope the lads haven’t been going straight into either of those after training and undoing all the good work.
With the weather being so good at the moment it hardly seems right to be playing football – or eating curries for that matter. Some players are still playing cricket, others will probably miss one or more pre-season games as they’ll be on holiday and it won’t be until the first Saturday of the season (August 13th) when we’ll know who Steve and Dennis regard as their first eleven. Personally, I’m looking forward to this season with more anticipation than I have done for a while. In previous seasons there have been a few players who have chosen to leave the club en masse. This season the reverse is true – players are staying and the squad is being added to. There’s a real sense around the Unwin that this is an important year for the club. Gareth Lippiatt is doing a grand job off the pitch with commercial deals, advertising and setting up this shiny new website. The club need to be in the Premier League and to attract new supporters we need to be moving in an upward direction – on and off the pitch.
Patrick Viera has gone to Italy – oh really? Jose is in trouble with the FA again – oh yeah? Rio wants £120,000 a week – hmmm? Well, the Robins are playing Newmarket Town on July 26th (Tues – KO 7:45). Now that’s more like it. See you there.
July 4th ’05
This week’s column is aimed at, primarily, Ely’s newbies – the growing young professional population that is attracting Pizza Express, Starbucks and the rest to set up shop in our fair City. Amongst that influx of 20/30 year olds are undoubtedly many football supporters. I travel to Cambridge on the train each day and the platform at Ely is packed with men and women and I see them reading the sports pages and discussing the latest fooball news – from the Premiership. As a non-league football team, many levels below the big time, how do we attract these people to The Unwin Ground. What do we need to do to make the aware and eventually care about the City’s team?
Speaking personally, I’m neither growing, young or professional but my affection for the club was cemented in 1997 after years of being a fair weather supporter (which you can read about here). After a good start the season I was getting hooked enough to go over the Histon to watch us play on a Tuesday evening. We had two players (Matt Eden & Graham Retallick?) sent off in the first half but still beat them 3-0. It was one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. The visiting Robins supporters gave the players a standing ovation and before I left you could hear the noise from the dressing room as the Ely players launched into a rowdy chorus of ‘The Red Red Robin’. I’m going to admit it, I had tears in my eyes.
So, you young professional who’s just moved to Ely (and may just possibly be reading this), are you going to come along to the pre-season friendlies? Go on, give it a go. After the first match you’ll know a handful of the players, by the second match you’ll recognise about half the team and so it’ll go until you have a ‘Histon away’ moment that will bind you to the club forever (or until you get head-hunted and move to Cornwall). That’s what I’ve found with non-league football – you have to invest a bit of time to enjoy it fully. We have a growing City and we should be attracting far bigger crowds. So, if you are a Chelsea, Spurs or Arsenal fan and you’ve migrated up the M11/A10 to join us in the Fens, then come on down to Downham Road. You can still watch your team on Sky – they’ll never be playing at 3pm on a Saturday like The Robins do.
If this emotional blackmail doesn’t work (come on, I’ve ‘fessed up about the watery eyes) I’ll try bribery. Tap me on the shoulder, say ‘I am a Newbie and I claim my pint’ and I’ll buy you a beer.
June 26th ’05
We’re a couple of weeks into this new site now and I’m starting to enjoy this – there are all sorts of nooks and crannies where a frustrated web-ed can have a dabble. One area of the site where I have been spending some time is the Player Sponsorship page. This is an area of the site that had provided a real chance for some extra income for the club. As I write, four players and a coach (Gary Grogan) have been chosen to be backed by local businesses, family and, in my case, I’ve sponsored Tony Brown using my Internet Soap Opera. Yes folks, £50 will buy you your name/logo next to your chosen player in the match day programme, on this web-site and in the club house as well as a warm glow all over.
As Gareth has said, all the 1st team playing and coaching staff are up for grabs as well as any reserve or A team player. I suspect that now a few have been snapped up the race will be on between the players to get themselves sponsored. None of them will want to be the wallflower, sipping a pint of flat lager on the sidelines, while their team mates are there on the dance floor getting a snog during ‘Me and Mrs Jones’ will they? I could be showing my age here. Do they still play smooches in clubs?
We’ll need all the extra funds we can get this season as it’s going to be a big season at the Unwin. How big? Very large, I suspect. Fairly sizeable anyway. So, get out your cheque-book, pick one of the squad and get in touch with Gareth or Steve - especially if you’re a Russian Oil Barron that has just moved into one of those new houses across the road from the Football Club.
June 16th ’05
If you’re reading this then you must have found your way to the shiny new website - the old green beast is dead. I’m sure many of the visitors used to think, ‘Hmm, Ely play in Red don’t they? Why is the website green?’ Well, I did it like that to tie in with the sister site, www.ely.org.uk. At the time, I was one of the first to start a Jewson league website; only Wroxham and Bury were on line at that point, in 1998.
After a season of writing dodgy match reports using the name Johnny Swift, Brett Matthews got in touch and asked me to change the site to www.elycityfc.com and to make the site ‘official’, which I did. So, we began season 1999-2000 with an official site and over the years have had some sterling contributions from Steve Taylor, Jim Unwin, Anthony Peake, Simon Barlow, Sam Lawrence and others. I always intended re-vamping the site but just never got round to it. In the face of criticism on the guest-book, I always stood by the content of the site. If anyone was willing to negotiate the labyrinth of links I had dotted about the site there was always more read than your average footy website.
And now, as season 2005-06 dawns, we see Ely City FC once more ready to face the challenge and, as with all clubs, money is scarce. So, to provide a site more attractive to sponsors, I’ve been asked to relinquish control of the old green meaney and join forces with Gareth Lippiatt, Steve Taylor and others to produce this – a sharper, leaner, fact-packed web-site. During the season I hope to comment on all things footy related, whether at The Unwin or Stamford Bridge – whatever springs to my woolly head. Other stuff what I have written can be found here.
Lastly – the new website is open to anyone to contribute to. If you fancy having a go, send it here.