Friday, 9 May 2014

Close season observations and ambitions

Terry Casey
Last season was the best that Maidstone United have enjoyed for many years. 

Winning the league cup, finishing seventh in the league, our average league crowds increasing on the previous year – yet I felt that we had underachieved. 

This is in no way a criticism of Jay and the squad but an acknowledgement that at the start of the 2013/2014 season Jay had put together a squad was capable of, at the very least, making the play offs. 

During the early months of the season it was unthinkable that we would not be involved in the final reckoning because we were beginning to realise that this team really was good enough. The impact of the injuries cannot be overstated. 

Losing Steve Watt, our captain and the best centre half in the league; losing Mickey Phillips from midfield and losing one of the most exciting players in Orlando all meant that we were going to hit problems at some stage. Replacing Orlando with Rory should have helped but to lose Rory for most of the season was another blow. We underachieved because we did in fact have a team that might even have won the league but for the crippling injuries.

I continue to say to people that we are not a Ryman league club – we should be in the Conference at the very least, and I feel confident that we are only a year away from making the step up to the higher level.

The academy proved its value to the club as it was lads like Gary Smith and Liam King who scored goals for us on our way to winning the league cup. I describe the academy as the jewel in the club’s crown and watching the way they destroyed Eastbourne Borough in the Conference Youth Alliance cup final made me feel immensely proud. I also felt terrific pride in the numbers of our supporters who travelled to Crawley to support the lads in their quest to complete the double.

Their successes on the field are second to none, leaving other academies in higher leagues wondering how we have become so successful. 

The facts are that we have the best coaches in Jay Saunders and Jack Parkinson, the best tutors in Jim Bodle and Tom Parkinson and the best facilities at the Gallagher Stadium. The young people are also aware that, regardless of their footballing ability, they are valued and are learning from excellent role models within the staff and coaching team. They should leave us with an understanding of how to conduct themselves once they enter into the adult world and to enjoy their triumphs and to show dignity when things don’t go to plan. As a testament to the lure of the academy we have had to turn away dozens of young people who wanted to join the academy for 2014/2015 season.

Not making promotion, whilst desperately disappointing, means that we do have some time to plan ahead with the expansion of the ground. We have met with various organisations and have presented them with our plans to achieve the minimum capacity of 3,000. The problem is that the plans that we are currently looking at have come in at costs ranging between £800k and £1.2million. 

We will have to borrow to get this sort money and the cost of finance is extremely prohibitive. We are now looking at cheaper options which might enable us to finance the project ourselves and would satisfy the need to get our capacity to the level required by the Conference. The fact is that there is a clear shortage of covered seating at the stadium and whatever we finally decide upon , we will meet that demand.

The great 3G debate rumbles on and I am delighted that we have Oliver on this particular subject because he has moved the argument on through his skills, patience and perseverance. Every time I listen to anyone who opposes the case for 3G I can only conclude that they do not understand fully the argument. We must win the argument and my thanks go out to all of our supporters who take pride in the fact that their football club are about to change the face of non-league and lower league football. It has been the support of the Maidstone fans that have given Oliver, Bill and myself the strength to fight on. 

The only sad note is that it appears the Michel Platini of the directors’ team has not been able to agree terms with Bill Williams and may not be in the team to face the supporters on 20 June. Representatives from both parties have been unable to reach a compromise. Sources close to the Ash camp have said that the tactics used by Williams did not suit Ash’s unique skills. Sources close to the Williams camp were unaware of Ash’s skills.

Thank you for making Maidstone United Football club the envy of every non-league club in the country.