Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Concord Rangers - One Year On.

It pull's you in.  It's infectious.  What is that I hear you ask?  It's the Concord Rangers spirit and it can't be explained.  I've been following the Beachboys for a year now, and I bloody love them.  I didn't expect it to happen when I turned up a year ago wanting to interview people at the club. I thought 'well I'll have a nice day here, write a piece and bugger off" - that didn't happen.  I was made so welcome by everyone from the chairman down to the programme editor, I couldn't just walk away...so I didn't.

So one year what has changed?  Well the manager has left, half the team which played on that cold January afternoon has moved on...but do you know something Concord still find themselves roughly in the same league position.  So on one hand loads has changed, but on the other nothing has changed.  Concord are still holding their own and rubbing dirt in the faces of their so called "bigger rivals."

Concord always find themselves at the prey of these "bigger rivals" but the club will not be denied.  Two weeks ago their best defender this season Adam Bailey-Dennis was snapped up by Hemel Hempstead, 24 hours before a key match away to Bath City. Adam was a rock in that defence, that's why Hemel signed him. He was winning the player of the season award, well he was in my head. Now the initial reaction when you see that news filter through is "Oh for fuck's sake." It's human nature.   Let's think of a parallel, it's like Winston Reid joining Liverpool a day before West Ham play Everton away.  It's a kick in the teeth.  Most teams would crumble. Not Concord.  They only bloody won at Bath and they kept a clean sheet.  There it is again that spirit.  You can't buy it, it's just ingrained as soon as you walk through the door.

But what make's that spirit?  It's everyone involved.  Concord is one big family. You've got Jayne cooking up a variety of meals for the players and staff, (I won't mention the quality) then there is Tony and Brian at the gate always making everyone welcome come rain or shine. First impressions count and if you've got a miserable sod at the gate when you walk in well you might think about not coming back. That's just a few of them, but you've got unsung people doing loads of jobs not just on a matchday but during the week making things tick - Cliff, Toby, Jack Jnr, Chris...the list goes on and on.  Everyone is pulling in the right direction...how can we make the club enjoyable for everyone? Of course results matter on the football pitch, but Concord Rangers is much more than that 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon.

There have been up's and down's along the way in the year I've followed the club. Danny Cowley who impressed me so much with his management style on my first day at the club has moved onto manage Braintree Town.  Danny won't stop at Braintree, he's going higher and it was great to share time with him, in what I'm sure he will look back fondly on when he's famous "as a great time at Concord". Tony Stokes who was always happy to chat after a game, and made me feel like I'd known him years.  It was a sad day when I interviewed him after he had confirmed his move to local rivals Canvey Island.  The club-house isn't the same without his little son Chase kicking a ball around.  But like life, non-league football moves on fast.

The love of Concord has always led to me sponsoring a player this season, and I like to think that there is no coincidence that Steve Cawley is having one of his best goal-scoring seasons due to me sponsoring his kit.  I can't wait to be thanked when he win's the golden boot in the league!

For a freelance writer like myself, a non-league club is a godsend.  I encourage any budding writers to knock on the door of their local team.  You'll be surprised how much they're willing to let you do.  In the last year, I've interviewed every player in the squad, in fact some of them a couple of times.  These players are dying to be interviewed (well I like to think so!) I've found out so much about them and their lives away from the football pitch.  Could I call them friends, I like to think so.
Now at home games I find myself in the press box doing match reports for the official club website, I'm living out my teenage dreams.  I'm very thankful to everyone at the club for making me so welcome.


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