08 September 2013

Chesham United's Vice Chairman Alan Calder relays his Programme notes here for Truro Fans - well worth a read!

Calder’s Column

Good afternoon and a warm welcome to The Meadow to the players, supporters and officials of Truro City who we hope have had a good journey up to Buckinghamshire, it is fair to say that the away game at our visitors is genuinely one of the first fixtures every club looks out for when the schedules are released at the start of the season.
Today we are celebrating Non-League Day, and hopefully we are welcoming some new faces to The Meadow, and new faces to Non-League Football – If today’s match is anything like Tuesday night’s victory over Bashley then you are in for a treat. At this level of the game we have not seen half a billion pounds change hands between clubs over the summer, and, although some players are well rewarded, none of the players you see in action today will be millionaires when they pick up their wages at the end of the month.
The players you see on the field today will have worked hard at their game, they will love the game and they will be wearing either the Truro or Chesham shirt with pride. Don’t worry, us non-leaguers are not ignorant enough to think it is only about the love of the shirt, wages are important; and why not, the players have worked hard, they have day jobs that pays their main salary, and they are good enough to earn a wage in the game – But it is not the be all and end all. I cannot speak for Truro, but at Chesham we have players that are well into treble figures in terms of appearances, loyal to the club over several years now – They care about the club, they know what the club is all about and they want to do well for the club, the supporters and the town.
Like I say, it is semi-professional, and players are paid which means the football on display is far from “park football” and it shows the strength of the English pyramid the fact that what we are watching this afternoon is the seventh division…I hope you enjoy it and appreciate the commitment of everyone around you, both on and off the pitch. I hate to think what time Truro left to get here, or what time they will get home tonight. Likewise on Tuesday, the Bashley players would not be home until gone midnight, after a thoroughly miserable time on the pitch, but they will be back out there doing it today, wearing their Bashley shirt with pride.
To most of you reading this I am already preaching to the converted, you know the non-league game, and enjoy all the benefits that come with it – the closeness to the action, the approachability of the players, being able to have a beer on the terrace, walk freely around the ground, change ends at half-time, have a drink with the opposition fans, travel freely to away games without being herded around by police or stewards, its affordable, it’s, to me…PROPER FOOTBALL.
Non-league is a million miles away from the Premiership; that is not always a good thing, there is a lot to be proud of about the top level of football in this country – it’s just not my cup of tea. I love going away to the different grounds, some better than others, some with great character, or set in idyllic settings, others are complete dumps in horrible areas…but they are all home to someone, and we should never let the ground snob come out in us – enjoy the occasion for what it is. There are a number of games (without naming names) where I look down the away fixture list and think “It’s not going to be a pleasant day, its not a nice place, the pitch will be awful, the football will be bad, let’s go there, score any sort of goal off someone’s backside, and come away with the three points” – Maybe that makes us slightly crazy, going out on a Saturday, knowing that you are not going to enjoy it, but you feel it is your duty to be there.
Crazy as that sounds, these bad days add to the appreciation of the good days, and there are many of them throughout the season, often away days. Often involving long distances, or visits to the seaside…always involving having a drink or two. Many of these trips are well documented and I won’t now repeat the stories of Weston-Super-Mare, Bideford, Bognor Regis or the Isle of Wight, but I will leave you with the memories of our last trip to Truro.
Another incredible thing about non-league football is how you can get involved, and if you are passionate, really make a difference and have an influence on how your club is run. A young ten year old boy can be coming down with his mates regularly and then one day find himself as a ball boy; then start travelling to away games on the players coach with some of the older supporters that look after him; he may then join the supporters club, take up a position on the committee of the supporters club, get offered a place on the Board of the main club and suddenly find himself totally wrapped up in the running of the club until one day he finds himself setting off in the car at 4.30am in the morning for his very first game as Chairman, some 300 miles away in Truro…
Dad and I set off to Cornwall at that hour to avoid the holiday traffic, and to meet up with the Chesham supporters that had travelled down the previous night and were staying in Newquay. We arrived at the hotel in time to see them polish off their breakfast whilst piecing together some of the events from the previous night. We then made our way to the Wetherspoons pub in Newquay for the first pre-match pint…at around 10.30am. A mini-bus picked us up from the pub at midday, taking us to Truro city centre where we sampled a couple more local beverages before arriving at the ground at 1.30pm – plenty of time for the final pre-match drinks.
To me as Chairman, it was not all about the matchday, it was all about the preparations. The players and management had been booked into a hotel the night before in Exeter, we had supplied some spending money for them to get food and a drink – summer training had gone well, we had a budget in place…My turning up in a shirt and tie in Truro could have no influence now, so I was going to enjoy the away day – And boy did we do that.
At the end of our 3-0 win I did visit the boardroom and had a good chat with the Truro Chairman, I am sure he did not believe me when we discussed what our budgets were and how much (zero) money I was putting in as the Chairman – I explained our principles as a supporters’ run club and how everyone mucked in. as we discussed how our clubs operated, I still had to keep pinching myself that we had won so convincingly. As it happens, despite us doing the double over them, Truro went on to win the league that season and get promoted, only for a whole host of other problems to rise to the surface that leads to us meeting again today in the Southern League.
That young ballboy who grew up to become Chairman is no longer at the helm of our club, but is still very much in love with non-league football, and always will be. Whenever he feels down, or fed up with some of  the moans and complaints, the lack of appreciation, understanding or respect, he thinks back to that evening with a dozen of his Chesham supporting friends, celebrating a stunning first game of the season win down in Cornwall, and he remembers why it is he loves the non-league game, and why it is he little Chesham United.
Enjoy the game

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