Thursday, 2 September 2010

Tooting and Mitcham 0 Sutton United 3, Tom Dunford and Croydon Athletic in trouble

Unlike former Southampton manager Alan Pardew, the U’s go marching on. Goals from Mr Jolly Esquire, Fola Orilonishe and Bradley Woods-Garness in our last two outings have put us top of the tree, while ex-Saints’ boss Pardew has been shown the door at St Mary’s Stadium.

Hopefully, whoever takes over that job will be as accommodating to Paul Doswell as Pardew was because that relationship became very beneficial to our club. Not only did they help us out at short notice during pre-season and brought a decent-sized crowd into Gander Green Lane, but we’ve managed to acquire a player who might be going places in the not too distant future in the shape of Tom Dunford.

But, hold on, the latest news suggests that Pardew is one of the names in the hat for the Aston Villa job. You’ve got to love football’s mad managerial merry-go-round, haven’t you. I’m sure Villa can do better than letting Pardew take the helm at Villa Park, and I wouldn't mind betting Pardew will be back in a decent job soon.

Anyhow, back to the matter in hand. It may not have rained goals as such over the weekend, but the sun was certainly shining on us as we edged past Folkestone Invicta and brushed aside Tooting and Mitcham. As a result, we now find ourselves sitting pretty in first place. Of course, there are still plenty of miles left in this race yet, but for the time being at least, the Ryman League Premier Division table makes for satisfying reading for Sutton supporters across the land.

I made my first visit of the season to a Sutton game at Tooting and was rewarded with an excellent performance from the boys. Given the chances we missed, three-nil seemed to be just about the right result. We gave them a couple of decent opportunities to score, but equally, we could have won by a wider margin, having hit the woodwork on a couple of occasions and created some other decent openings.

My dad made it along to the game too. He arrived after Jolly had given us the lead and then left a minute or so before Woods-Garness hit our third. His aim, on departure, was ‘to beat the crowd’. I couldn’t help but think that Imperial Fields on local derby day is not exactly Wembley Stadium on Cup Final day. Apparently twenty minutes later he was sat at a packed bus stop near the ground awaiting the arrival of the 280, so he’d have been better off joining me and my pals in the bar after the game for a celebratory pint of or two.

I sat watching the TV for a bit in the clubhouse, checking out the Blue Square Premier results. To my surprise, the breaking story on Sky Sports News wasn’t our fine win at Tooting, but rather this strange sentence: PAKISTAN ARRIVE IN TAUNTON. Crikey, so a touring cricket team arrives in one of the towns where it’ll be playing a match. That’s like saying: CHELSEA ARRIVE AT OLD TRAFFORD. Please tell me that last sentence has never been on the Sky Sports ticker.

Recently, Sky Sports News, with its over-the-top way of presenting and reporting on selected sports, has been taken off Freeview and I can’t say I am disappointed. I have certainly had enough of their rather sensationalist method of reporting.

Then I almost had to rub my eyes in disbelief, were they really reporting live from Colston Avenue, the home of our dear friends at Carshalton Athletic...yes, they were! It took a minute or so to kick in before I realised it was all to do with the events off the field at their opponents of the day, Croydon Athletic, who have been i n the news because they are owned by Mazhar Majeed, the chap at the centre of the current cricket betting scandal.

I have to say that I’m not surprised that Croydon are in such dire straits. A club who can entice a player from a newly promoted Premiership side to come and play in front of one Rams’ fan and his dog has got to raise plenty of suspicion as well as a few eyebrows. I will be interested to see how Crawley Town get on in the coming months having just forked out a large fee for York City’s Richard Brodie.

The financial disarray which a lot of clubs in the Football League have found themselves in is sadly being replicated across the non-league scene. The list of clubs who have chased the dream by spending beyond their means or have just generally been run badly is getting longer with every passing week. All of a sudden Crawley has money to splash around. I just hope, for the sake of the fans, that their rise isn’t followed by an almighty fall like the one which happened at Boston United when they had a certain Steve Evans in charge.

Wherever you may be, I'd be interested to know what you guys think, about the greed in football, in not just the higher echelons of the game, but in non-league and in sport in general.

Without wanting to appear smug in any way, all this talk about football finance makes me glad I support such a well run club as Sutton United. I think the sale of Charlie Taylor to Barnet has been a good bit of business. With an undisclosed fee, a small sell-on clause and a pre-season game lined-up for next season then it seems like a good deal all round. He can be a real handful on his day, and who knows, he might just do a decent job for the Bees.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that the first National Non-League Day might see a bigger than usual crowd down at Gander Green Lane. It would be nice if the boys can rise to the challenge and beat Billericay, who sit in eighth at present. With the chance to impress some potential new support, this is not just an important game in terms of our league aspirations.

Before I sign off for now, I just want to share a little tale from the Tooting clubhouse. A pal of mine went to the bar to order a round of drinks and asked if she could pay with her cash card. She was promptly told they don’t accept card payments. This wasn’t right, I should know, I’d bought the previous round with my card, albeit the smaller bar. Anyhow, when my friend pointed the barmaid in the direction of a sign on the wall which read something along the lines of ‘WE ACCEPT CARD PAYMENTS’ she was told, and I quote ‘well, it’s like the papers, innit? You shouldn’t believe everything you read’. Thankfully my persistent pal won this minor battle and we enjoyed our second celebratory pint.

That’s enough of writing in capital letters for one week, CHEERS for now ...

Friday, 27 August 2010

A Jolly good start for Paul Doswell and his Sutton United side

Yes, I know the title of this post is obvious, but let's rejoice, that wasn’t too bad a start, was it?

Despite some supporters’ optimistic pre-match predictions, Sutton’s season opener at Concord was always going to be tricky. At least a 0-0 draw presented us with our first point, which thankfully, was soon followed by a thoroughly deserved 2-0 home success against Horsham.

We’ve certainly got off to a tidy start, with two clean sheets and two goals – one from Craig Dundas and one for Richard Jolly ‑ ­and most importantly four points from a possible six.

The home game against Horsham was played in front of a decent sized crowd of 503, and although I wasn’t there, by all accounts the vocal support was very good. In my opinion, that’s something which sadly lacks at Gander Green Lane, and it’s important that the fans work hard at creating what atmosphere we can from what is, after all, an old converted athletics stadium. I use the term stadium loosely.

Perhaps the much talked about dugouts may have played their part in the volume being cranked up a notch, with many of those unfortunate supporters who have had to move from their usual spot right in front of the main stand opting to use the covered terrace near Collingwood Rec.

Anyway, whatever the reason, well done to all those who did their bit last Tuesday, it must have helped the players. Paul Doswell has worked hard at engineering exciting possibilities for our club, both on and off the pitch. He’s undoubtedly got an infectious personality and knows what he wants. He’s built up an excellent squad with players who not only want to play for him, but for our club as well, so it’s encouraging to hear that the supporters are really getting behind the boys.

We were lucky to get our Tuesday night clash with the Hornets on, considering all the bad weather of late. I think had it been played a day later then there would have been no chance. Although we managed to beat Horsham, and the weather, one of the beneficieries of the downpours were Carshalton who gained a reprieve when their game at Cray Wanderers was abandoned after 54 minutes with the Robins trailing 2-0.

It’s been good to hear of this new initiative which has been set-up, National Non-League Football Day, which takes place on September 4. It will be interesting to see what effect this has on attendances at non-league clubs across the country. Thankfully, we are at home to Billericay Town that day, so we’ll wait and see if fans of the big boys come and watch us.

I’m guessing there are a lot of unhappy supporters of Premiership and Championship clubs who want to get back to basics and enjoy football once again. Certainly, in the conversations I’ve had with friends and colleagues who follow teams such as Chelsea and Arsenal, they feel they’re losing touch with their clubs, so this might be an important chance for the likes of Sutton United to gain a few new supporters, you never know. If you want to know more then, try this for size -

The Bank Holiday weekend fixtures offer a chance for us to build some momentum. Folkestone Invicta visit Gander Green Lane tomorrow and we, in turn, make the short trip to Tooting and Mitcham on Monday. The Terrors find themselves up there with Hastings United at the top of the table having just defeated Cray tonight. Both of these matches are winnable and, perhaps this is something of an optimistic thought (whatever next?), but wouldn’t it be nice if it rained goals for Mr Jolly and co this weekend...

Friday, 20 August 2010

Sutton United blog, you are cleared for take-off...

Finally, it’s here, the big kick-off, not only of the new Ryman Premier League season, but also of this brand spanking new Sutton United blog...and just in the nick of time too...

The aim is to just offer a fan’s eye view of what’s going on at Gander Green Lane on and off the pitch over the coming season in what will hopefully be an exciting roller-coaster ride featuring far more ups than downs.

So, where do we start? Well, as we have less than 24 hours until the curtain goes up on the new season we had better get down to business. After what seems like a long pre-season, especially for teams in the Ryman League, United start their campaign against newly promoted Concord Rangers on Saturday afternoon.

I know what you’re thinking, ‘Concord, where in the blue blazes is that?’ Well, Canvey Island apparently, and that’s a place we know only too well. They will be keen to impress in what will be their first game at this level of football and have a more than capable striker in former Chelmsford City man Bertie Brayley, so we shouldn’t take them lightly.

I’ve got to admit, I know as much about Concord Rangers as I do about the history of folk music in the Faroe Islands, but what I do know is that they’ve enjoyed some success in recent years and will be up for it come 3pm tomorrow.

However, they may well have Brayley and co, but fear not dear Sutton fans, we’ve got Richard Jolly. I know which striker I’d rather have. We’ve been crying out for a lethal predator in our last two tilts at the Ryman title, so it was pleasing to see Paul Doswell act swiftly in the early part of the summer to get his man.

You’ve got to hand it to Dos, not only has he used his wiley ways to lure Jolly to Gander Green Lane, but also the likes of Craig Dundas, Sam Page, Simon Downer, Tom Davis, Fola Orilonishe and Tom Dunford.

In my opinion all of these signings are a signal of our intent to come top of the tree this time around. The signing of former Southampton trainee Dunford may well prove to be the shrewdest of the lot.

I’ve seen a few comments on the forum about Jolly not finding the target much in pre-season, but his game is so much more than that and to have him lining up for rather than against us can only lend weight to our promotion ambitions. His name strikes fear into sides across the division.

There’s no doubting Doswell's ability to attract decent quality players to our club. Long gone are the days of John Rains where we wouldn’t know who was going to pull on the amber and brown shirt until the season was virtually upon us.

I’m under no illusions, I don’t think we’ll be the next Dartford or Dover in the sense we’ll run away with the championship, because I think there are some other suitors to the throne.

If we take a quick look at some of the other runners and riders then obviously, Croydon Athletic have made some jaw-dropping acquisitions of their own – most noticeably Jermaine Wright, who left behind the heady heights of the Premiership with Blackpool, for the joys of running out for the Rams in front of 100 or so hardy souls at the KT Stadium. Former Sutton man Tom Hutchinson is also an excellent recruit. There's no doubting in my mind that Croydon will be tricky customers this season.

Thankfully, the World Cup and the building of two controversial dugouts at Gander Green Lane has helped make the memory of that heart-breaking play-off defeat at home to Kingstonian seem distant. The Ks will feel hard done by after their own play-off heartache at Boreham Wood, so I fully expect them to be up there challenging this time. Other contenders could be Wealdstone, newly promoted Lowestoft and our old pals at Tonbridge Angels. The latter, much to my regret, have acquired one of my favourite Sutton players from last season, Alan Pouton.

One intriguing team to keep an eye on will be our old friends at Tooting and Mitcham. With our clash on Bank Holiday Monday rapidly approaching, I suspect not even their new boss Mark Beard will be quite sure what to expect from his squad of waifs and strays.

The circus that is Carshalton Athletic keeps rolling on. I’m not going to rant about that bunch from down the road too much, but I think their appointment of Lenny Lawrence as Director of Football may well be another case of the Robins building a nest made purely from clutched straws. We’ll see, as far as we’re concerned there are bigger fish to fry.

Having been so close in the last couple of seasons I think we might do ourselves a favour this time and set our sights on the title and not just settle for a play-off berth, For me, and no doubt for Dos and his troops too, it has to be the championship or bust.

In terms of our preparation and pre-season I think the boss has got it right. The plan seems a simple one:

1) Get most of your squad sorted before you go away on holiday.
2) Line up a handful of friendly matches - there's no need to have eight or nine like some teams.
3) Hone your skills and tactics in training.
4) Introduce some team bonding fun and games.

My next post will be after our first game down the Lane on Tuesday night against Horsham who, by my reckoning, will be amongst the also-rans.

Come 4.45pm tomorrow we will know if we're off to a flier or struggling to take-off. One thing is for sure, if we're going to show what we can do this season then games like this one against Concord should be plane sailing.