Monday, April 22, 2013

SUPPORTER

Noun

1 - A person who approve of and encourages someone or something.

2 - A person who is actively interested in and wishes success for a particular sports team.



The AFTN forum has been full of a lot of talk this season about what being a supporter is all about. After the embarrassing antics that took place at Bayview last Saturday, that debate has got a lot more heated this week.

Most football forums have such discussions these days. It also breeds a modern day blight of oneupmanship, as supporters try to devalue others commitment to the cause.

There's not many things more likely to get my hackles raised on forums than that most boring of debates - "I'm a better/bigger fan than you".

Nobody cares. It doesn't matter why you think you are, everyone has the right to support their football team the way that they see fit. No one fan is better than any other fan. We're all in this as one big group.

What makes a supporter? Can you still be considered one if you don't actively attend games any more? And if you don't attend, should you be able to criticise or have you given up that right by not supporting your team by putting your hand in your pocket and handing over your admission money?

My answer to those last two questions is a resounding yes. If East Fife is in your blood. If you have an interest in the club. If you want them to succeed. Then by definition you ARE a supporter, whether you attend matches or not, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Is being a supporter all about unwavering support no matter what? In my mind, no.

The above definition emphasises the interest and the desire for success aspect of being a supporter. Not blind loyalty no matter what. Not shutting up no matter how bad the team is playing and not making your feelings known.

Others will vehemently disagree and this is seemingly where a lot of the arguments keep getting stuck in a continuous loop between those that are on different sides of that line.

And talking of lines, there is one between what is acceptable criticism and what is not. We, as supporters, have the right to make our feelings known. We have the right to complain vocally. We have the right to boo and show our disgust. In most cases, we were here before the current crop of players, management and board members were, and we'll be the ones here long after they move on.

All that said, some of the criticism of players at Bayview has been over the top for many, many a year. Every season, there always seems to be one or two players signalled out for the abuse, often by the same sections of the home crowd.

Away from home, the atmosphere at games is a lot different most of the time. Home field advantage seems negated at East Fife.

How does barracking our own players help them? How will it make them play better and not just have them living on their nerves of what the next abuse will be if they make another bad pass or shot? Do you really think they go out there to deliberately play poorly? They haven't picked themselves for the team.

I'm sick of reading posts between the warring factions of those who have walked away from East Fife and those who will keep going to cheer on the team no matter what. Neither group is actually helping the Club.

This season has been a divisive one off the pitch and what makes it all the more frustrating is that ultimately, everybody wants the same thing - a successful and thriving East Fife FC.

Frankly, I don't care if you're attending every week, a few times a season or not at all any more. Our football club needs us more than it has done since those dark Derrick Brown days, and it needs us all to work together for the betterment of the club.

There are little enough of us as it is, and those numbers are dwindling all the time. Fighting amongst ourselves when we are in the middle of a relegation dogfight solves nothing. Uniting and turning that anger into a positive solution for putting East Fife back on a better footing and dealing with the problems that have us where we are, does do that however.

We have three games left in the regular season and possibly up to four more in the playoffs. Save the hostility and the finger pointing and the nonsense until after those. Our only focus just now should be uniting to keep us up.

No matter what happens there needs to be a major close season chat about how to take this football club forward, how to correct the mistakes made this season, how to get some of those stayaways to come back, whilst attracting new fans at the same time, and how to bring some positivity to OUR once proud team.

For now, it HAS to be a case of - United we stand, Divided we fall. Right back in to the Division Three. And NO-ONE wants that.

[This blog post first appeared in the East Fife programme 'The Bayview' on Saturday 20th April 2013]

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Bad weather and postponements can kill a small club. Not only do you lose out on gate income, lost hospitality and wasted food in the pie stall, it can often lead to the most horrendous fixtures pile up.

Right now of course, we'd love to be looking at a fixtures backlog at Bayview and having a few more games ahead of us to try and avoid the seemingly inevitable relegation playoffs.

Some of the top managers are always on the telly complaining about having too many games in too short a time. It's not good for the players. You know, those highly paid ones that are full time and train a couple of hours each day, if that. Never mind that we used to play for 4 or 5 hours a day when we were kids, then go home and have our tea and then go back out and play some more.

Next time you hear complaints about fixture congestion, or think that your own club has a horrendously busy spell ahead of them, think of the plight of poor Guernsey FC.

I've been following the fortunes of the Channel Island's club since they formed in 2011 and played their first game in a friendly against AFC Wimbledon in July that year.

Right from the start, it was a feelgood story about underdogs trying to make it. It's one we can all relate to, following the level of football we do.

I was immediately intrigued by the travel implications involved in playing in the English football pyramid. They are closer to France than England after all. it would be like having Orkney or Shetland playing in the Highland League, something which I think would amazing btw!

Guernsey FC are the first Channel Islands club to do such a thing and they pay the travel expenses of all of their opponents that have to visit the island. It must cost them fortune, but it's just one of the hurdles they had to overcome to earn the right to play football with the mainland teams.

The island has a population of just over 65,000 and the club play at the 5,000 seated Footes Lane in St Peter Port. When the team was launched they drew on players from the top seven sides that made up the Guernsey Football Association and from that first day, they haven't looked back.

They were accepted into Division One of the Combined Counties League last season, Level 10 of the English football pyramid, and they won promotion to the Premier Division with ease. They scored a staggering 138 goals in their 34 matches (an average of four goals per game), losing only two and having a goal difference of plus 116. They walked to the title by 14 points. Their leading scorer, Ross Allen, had 51 goals!

This season was full of hope, and it kind of still is.

Promoted to the Premier, they've had a great season, including a run to the semi finals of the FA Vase. They eventually lost over two legs to Spennymoor Town, the new offshoot of the now defunct Spennymoor United, who East Fife played in a pre-season friendly in the 90s. The home leg of their semi final saw them pack 4,290 fans into Footes Lane, their current attendance record.

It was the first year they'd entered the competition and they nearly got all the way to Wembley. Not too shabby!

That Cup run and the horrendous winter weather this year has unfortunately had a huge impact on the League aspirations.

At the time of writing this article (Monday evening), Guernsey are sitting third in the League, with the Champions promoted to Division One of either the Southern League or the Isthmian League.

Getting to that level in only two seasons is remarkable enough, but it would also leave them four promotions away from the Football League, and you just have to look at the rise of AFC Wimbledon to know that such thoughts aren't necessarily just pipe dreams.

They're currently sitting 17 points behind the League leaders Egham Town, but they do have seven games in hand!

Yes, with an amazing 27 games postponed this season, Guernsey FC have been left with the most horrendous fixtures backlog I've ever seen.

Their April schedule sees them due to due to play 17 matches in 30 days and seven of those are away from home. This includes two weekends where they will play games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and they're basically playing every other day.

It's incredible stuff, but even more so is the fact that so far they have won five and drawn one of their seven games this month, scoring 21 goals in the process.

By the time you read this programme, they'll have played another two games, both of them away from home.

And the team can't catch a break. Saturday's home game against Farnham Town was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

That game has now been rescheduled for May 6th.

Guernsey's April schedule is bad enough, but when you look in to May they will round off their season by playing a staggering four home games in four days over May 3rd to 6th. Any more bad weather and postponements and who knows how they can fit new dates in.

Their end of season run in, especially their four-play in May, is a nice little football trip in store for anyone who fancies a trip to the island. I'd hoped to take a game in when I was down in London in January. The weather put pay to that idea, but the cost and time of actually getting to Guernsey didn't exactly help either.

Guernsey also have a chance of getting promoted if they finish second and they are currently just three points behind Epsom and Ewell who currently occupy that spot.

A top two place is almost guaranteed but if they can win back to back Championship they will have achieved it against all odds and overcome some of the worst fixture adversity you are probably likely to see.

A few more bad winters mind you and we could be seeing it again down there.

The Guernsey FC story is a magnificent one. It's one of underdogs. One of overcoming many obstacles to try and get success. And one of achieving it.

It's the dream all of us fans of lower league football clubs have and it's nice to see it when it does happen, unless it's a team like Gretna of course and then you can't feel good about that!

So keep an eye on Guernsey's end to the season and the next time you hear someone complaining about fixture congestion, just point them in the direction of the Channel Islands.

[This blog post first appeared in the East Fife programme 'The Bayview' on Saturday 20th April 2013]

Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow AFTN on Twitter