I bumped into Spence on my way to North Finchley on Friday. A long-time Finchley fan, he bemoaned the recent lack of home matches at Wingate & Finchley. I got to thinking further on the subject as I walked on up the road…
The issue is not so much the lack of home games but more a case of no Saturday home games. In every season the number of home and away games is equal but sometimes you get two or three away matches clustered together and then a string of home games. In the early part of the season there are invariably cup matches fitted in between the league games. In the case of the FA Cup and the FA Trophy these are played on Saturday’s – pushing the league game for that week to a Tuesday.
Wingate and Finchley dropped out of both competitions at the first hurdle this season, along with all the other cups as well (except for the Middlesex Senior Cup), so there are no more Saturday Cup matches. Unfortunately, a number of other teams within the Ryman Premier Division have progressed in the competitions and the result is that Saturday matches against those sides wind up being postponed and rescheduled for Tuesday evenings. I got to thinking about the impact of this. Firstly, it impacts on those fans who can’t get to games during the week – they get to see their team less. More importantly though, it hits the club in three ways.
The first impact is financial – fewer fans travel to games on a weekday so that’s less money coming through the turnstiles. Less money means that improvements to the team or facilities take longer to achieve – unless you want to get into debt. I think I’ve already indicated the Chairman’s views on that in a previous post – No we don’t!
The second impact is one of fixture congestion – The postponed matches have to be played on days in between those that are still on schedule. But matches postponed due to cup activity will not be the only ones that get moved to a later date. It is an unwritten rule of UK weather that the sun shines during the week when everyone’s at work, then the heavens open and it tips down all weekend. Winter brings with it a period of waterlogged and frozen pitches – which, in turn, result in matches being postponed. Last Tuesday’s match against Leatherhead was called off as the pitch was unplayable after very heavy rain the previous night. It can reach the stage later in the season where a club can wind up having to play as many as 4 fixtures in a week because the FA will not allow the season to be extended – can you picture the screams from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger if their Premiership clubs were asked to do that?
The final impact is on the players mentality and match fitness – instead of a regular procession of matches with training in between, it becomes disjointed. It is over a week since the players had a competetive match. They can train and they can play first team v reserves matches but it isn’t the same as a competitive match. For one thing the tackles will lack a degree of bite – no one wants to get injured or cause injury – so it’s not truly representative of a proper match. Being team mates there is also a lack of the unknown – they know their colleagues and can anticipate each others likely moves. It’s not very realistic and so the edge that is needed in a competitive match is lost.
Today should see us at home against Cray Wanderers. Our pitch is generally very good and handles rain better than most. The fans remember with chagrin being defeated 4-0 at home by Northwood a couple of seasons back in a mid-Christmas monsoon. On that occasion every other match in Division 1 North was called off due to waterlogged pitches 😦 The one thing that could stop our match this afternoon is a frozen pitch and we had a heavy frost last night – We await the referee’s decision with interest. Let’s hope it goes ahead as planned.
All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC.