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8 April 2020

ALTRINCHAM FC ACADEMY PROCEEDS

Altrincham FC press and media officer John Edwards writes that "Altrincham bosses have defied the current uncertainty over football’s future by boldly declaring they will press ahead with plans to have an Academy up and running for the start of next season.

The scheme was plunged into doubt by the far-reaching effects of the coronavirus across the country... But while cutbacks have been the norm elsewhere, Alty have bucked the trend and pledged that they will open up a potential pathway to manager Phil Parkinson’s first-team squad for the area’s emerging young talent.

Buoyed by emphatic evidence of the club’s importance to supporters, in the form of an appeal fund that now tops £17,000, and eager to reap the benefits of producing homegrown talent, director Lawrence Looney explained the board’s stance by saying 'We had a tough choice to make. Do we go ahead and launch the Academy in these uncertain times, or play safe and wait until next year? Our decision was clear; we go ahead.

'The ending of the academic year and the fact there will be no end-of-year exams has caused so much stress for young students, who now face massive uncertainty about their future. By sticking to our plans for the Academy, we can offer a way forward, we can offer hope to those young people to whom we have offered a place.

'The benefits of being able to support our community at this time far outweigh the risks and the potential financial burden that this may put us under. Altrincham Football Club are committed to setting up this Academy, and we are delighted to be able to go ahead for 2020-21.'

Pre-lockdown trials were held at the club in January, with Looney, fellow-director John Coyne and assistant-manager Neil Sorvel all in attendance.

Coyne commented 'There were some great players out there, and they were so impressed by the fact that Neil was there to watch them. You can see that the idea of an Altrincham FC Academy is an exciting one for the players.'

Sorvel added: 'The Academy adds an important step in our Player Pathway and will be a critical link between the juniors, the youth teams and the first team. We want to attract the best young talent to this club, knowing they will be developed to become the best footballers they can be.'

The Academy will start with around 20 places this year, with the hope that this will grow to nearer 40 from next year and beyond. And if things have not returned to normal by then, the club will launch with Distance Learning and individual training plans to make sure that all students get the right support as they start this important journey.

Meanwhile, Alty's appeal for funds reached a remarkable £17,309 after a donation of £750 from former Robin Duncan Watmore, now at Sunderland, and £860 from fans group The Flaggers, the money they would have spent in sponsoring Saturday’s scheduled game against Gloucester City."

ON THIS DAY: 8 April

Six years ago today, on Tuesday 8 April 2014, Altrinncham made an evening trip to Cumbria where they won 6-1 against bottom placed Workington. The original fixture had been postponed an hour before kick-off so, for Alty, it was a second journey of the season to Borough Park.

Once the game got underway, Altrincham cruised to a 4-0 half-time advantage. They took a fourth-minute lead when Densmore's freekick flew in from 25 yards. Then the keeper brought down Lawrie and Walshaw converted the resulting spot kick after 14 minutes.

Walshaw made it 3-0 when a Workington clearance fell to him in the box (40 mins). Two minutes later Perry headed home a Lawrie freekick to make it 4-0.

Perry and Clee engineered a fifth for Moult (52 mins). After 69 minutes Perry headed in a Lawrie corner to make it 6-0. However, Abadaki got a goal back after 76 minutes from a Fernandes pass.

Alty rose to third in the table after this victory.

Nicky Clee was fit to start but Simon Richman was ill (though on the bench) and Damian Reeves was out, injured.

Alty's line up (as seen above) comprised, 1. Stuart Coburn, 2. Shaun Densmore (capt), 3. Adam Griffin, 4. Carl Rodgers, 5. Gianluca Havern, 6. Scott Leather, 7. James Lawrie, 8. Jake Moult, 9. Kyle Perry, 10. James Walshaw, 11. Nicky Clee. Subs: 12. Simon Richman, 14. Matt Doughty, 15. Greg Wilkinson, 16. Tom Marshall, 18. Russ Saunders

GOOD NEWS AT TRAFFORD FC

The BetVictor NPL confirms that "Funding has been secured for a new stand at Trafford FC’s Shawe View ground - but the COVID-19 restrictions may mean it can’t be built until next summer.

The Trafford FC Supporters' Club will build a terrace at the Pennybridge Lane end, which is currently a grass bank, and they aim to eventually put a roof over it to match the stands on the other three sides.

Pete McGrath, secretary of the Supporters' Club, said 'The plan remains to build the terracing this summer but, of course, we can't go ahead with the current Covid-19 restrictions in place and no one knows when we might get back to normality...Carrying out major building work like this obviously needs a window of opportunity where there's nothing happening at the ground for a decent period. That only happens for about 6 weeks in June/early July, so if we do miss it we'll just have to build in 2021.

'We always planned to do the terracing one summer and the steelwork/roof the following year so everything just shifts along 12 months'...

The club is approaching its 30th anniversary this summer, and the plans provide a boost looking ahead to 2020/21. Money raised by the Supporters Club has been added to a £2,000 grant from Manchester FA’s “Fund4Football”, with skilled volunteers ready to do the work.

Without the new stand, the Pennybridge Lane end would largely have been out of use, following guidance that grass embankments at football grounds are not to be used as spectator viewing areas due to FA Ground Grading criteria.

McGrath added 'It's become more pressing since the ground regulations were tightened up and the grass bank at that end of the stadium was made out-of-bounds. We've never had any issues with spectators on the embankment, but it clearly isn't ideal'"

VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH NEWS

The National League reports that “A visit to Farsley Celtic on a wet and windy February midweek evening isn’t for most 19-year-olds making their way in the game. It proved to be a memorable acid test for youngster Rhys Williams, currently on a season-long from Liverpool with National League North side Kidderminster Harriers.

Less than a year earlier, the centre-half formed a vital cog in a side crowned FA Youth Cup winners. Instead of progressing into the under-23 set-up at Melwood, Williams opted for something different...

'The plan was always for me to go out on loan in the first year of my professional contract,' explained the England under-19 international... 'But I was a little nervous about stepping into men’s football'...

Kidderminster Harriers, one of the few full-time outfits in the sixth-tier with a clear academy pathway, are closer than most National League clubs to providing Williams’ accustomed football surroundings. The opening months provided a daunting test of 10 matches in the space of 36 days...

'It was so tough for us because we had such a small squad at the start of the season,' he admits. 'One thing it did mean was we knew we would all be playing each game. I didn’t feel as nervous as I might have been going into matches because of that. I was able to play my natural game without the fear of being dropped. Dealing with the change of intensity in the football was what I found hardest to adapt to.

'I remember my first game against Leamington, where I made a mistake, the gaffer (John Pemberton) came over to me afterwards and told me he still trusted me. Those types of assurance paid off as I’ve gained experience with every match I’ve played'...

The defender has had as many managers in nine months at Aggborough as he has had in a decade of time on the books of the European champions. Following a change of ownership, Pemberton was replaced by Jimmy Shan. But his reign lasted just two months, heading east to take charge at Solihull Moors. Club legend Russell Penn has stepped up into the interim position...

The 19-year-old said 'If you want to survive at a club and keep playing, you have to be able to alter your game to the way a new manager wants you to. Being able to have done that is one of the things I’ve been most pleased about. Pemberton’s style was more cautious than Shan’s, and we became more expansive with three instead of four at the back. Penners (Russell Penn) has merged the two styles together...

'Playing in a three for the majority of the season has been a great learning curve. I like having the licence to go forward. It suits my style to be able to take the ball into risky areas of the pitch for a centre-half to be in possession...

'My basic defending has improved so much. Liverpool knew I had the attributes to play with the ball at my feet, but now this will have proven to them that I’m capable in defensive situations too...

'The atmosphere in our win against Hereford on Boxing Day was the best I have played in front of. Representing my country is the best moment of my career so far. It’s interesting that I’ve still been noticed playing in National League North by my international side'".


7 April 2020

ON THIS DAY: 7 April

Thirteen years' ago, 7 April 2007, was the date of Altrincham's first ever visit to the characterful Clarence Park ground of St Alban's City. Sadly, in some respects, the oak tree which had stood behind one of the goals had been removed in 1998.

St Albans were lying at the bottom of the table for this, the first match between these sides. For their part, Alty lay 18th in the Nationwide Conference but were to join City in the four relegation places by the end of the season. However, Altrincham were reinstated by the demotion of Boston United from League Two to Conference North for financial reasons.

Alty's form in recent weeks had been strange; three successive away wins in a seven-match sequence which also showed three home defeats in four fixtures. For Altrincham, Val Owen and Gary Scott were still out, injured, and Chris Senior's injury suffered the previous week ruled him out, too, along with the suspended Stephen Rose. So, Andy Scott continued in centre-midfield as did Karl Munroe at right-back.

A pulsating start to the game at St Albans saw four goals netted in the opening 20 minutes, three of them to Alty but, with the visitors 4-1 up by the interval, the second half was a non-event apart from Coburn's penalty save and a stupendous fifth Alty goal from Rod Thornley.

Robbie Lawton put Alty one-up following Lewis Chalmers's long throw (3 mins). After Colin Little had missed a sitter, Archer headed an equaliser (9 mins). When Joe O'Neill sprang the offside trap, Little converted when his fellow-striker's shot came back to him (12 mins).

After goalkeeper Paul Bastock had failed to gather another Chalmers long throw, Little nodded in Alty's third goal (20 mins). Little completed his hat-trick in first-half added-time when Gary Talbot nodded on another Chalmers throw to him.

The Alty supporters celebrate after Colin Little had netted Alty's second goal at St Albans.

... and after Alty's third goal, too.

The second half was poor as Alty conserved their energy for another match in 48 hours and St Albans found it hard to raise their game. But Karl Munroe needlessly conceded a penalty when he pushed over an opponent long after Coburn had the ball in his hands. However, the Alty keeper saved the spot-kick superbly (60 mins).

After 30 more minutes of uninspiring fare, the referee found 6 added minutes and in the second of these, substitute Rod Thornley thumped a tremendous looping shot over Bastock from 30 yards to complete the scoring. Curiously, Alty manager Graham Heathcote stormed down the tunnel, 20 minutes from the end, seemingly annoyed that his team were not following his instructions.

ALTRINCHAM: 1. Stuart COBURN; 17. Karl MUNROE, 4. Peter BAND, 5. Gary TALBOT, 11. Warren PEYTON; 7. Robbie LAWTON, 6. Steve BUSHELL, 22. Andy SCOTT, 14. Lewis CHALMERS; 9. Colin LITTLE, 12. Joe O'NEILL, . Subs: 13. Richard ACTON (gk), 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Gary SCOTT, 10. Rod THORNLEY, 18. Pat McFADDEN.

Colin Little's hat-trick at St Albans was Altrincham's first in the league since 28 March 2005, when Colin hit three against Hinckley United at Moss Lane in the Nationwide North in a 4-1 win. Before that, the last league hat-trick had been Rod Thornley's against Gateshead on 26 August 2002. The last away hat-trick was Lee Poland's at Lancaster City in the FAC1R on 27 November 2001. Two weeks earlier, Poland had hit four in an 8-1 win at Woodley Sports in the CSC.

7 APRIL: OFF THE PITCH

At the time of the above game in 2007, the website also recorded the following events on the day of the match...

Robins' supporters who only see their team's home games miss a lot of enjoyment on the road with Altrincham FC. Yesterday, Altrincham fans had an enjoyable day travelling down to St Albans, where they were met by bright sunshine and a friendly club. And STAR travel coordinator Tom Jacobs gave his travellers a pleasant surprise by announcing a reduction in the advertised coach fare as the vehicle was virtually full.

Unlike the sometimes featureless modern stadiums to which Conference clubs are increasingly moving, St Albans's Clarence Park ground has plenty of character. Afer a short walk through the park, away supporters enter the stadium via an open-air turnstile attached to a well cared-for wooden hut (see picture). Inside the ground, the two ends are both open to the elements which, on a sunny day like yesterday, was a bonus.

The main stand is a long wooden construction whilst the opposite side of the pitch is a half-covered terrace. The clubhouse is behind the main stand and has a modern bar, SkySports TV and excellent views on the busy main line railway to London. The pitch itself slopes towards the away end where, before the game, there was a nice touch from the St Albans staff. They came and spoke to Alty fans and asked them which teams' scores they would like to hear at half time in addition to those of the Conference clubs. Macclesfield Town was an obvious choice for the travelling Robins.

The tannoy then also named several Alty fans in its welcome to St Albans. Although for Alty it was great day out, with their 5-1 win being their first five-goal haul away from home in the Conference since a trip to Merthyr in September 1994 it was a pity to think that we might not be coming back here next season as St Albans are deep in relegation trouble and we are not yet entirely safe, either.

Right: Steve Murray, Robert Bate (with ice cream) and "The Skipper", Gary Wright, in front of the supporters' coach. Sadly, Steve and Gary are no longer with us.

Another facility not found at other Conference grounds was the ice cream van parked outside the ground, which was rather incongruously branded as "Ulster Maid". After the game, several of the Alty travelling fans sampled its wares (see picture) before boarding the Go Goodwins coach, hired from chairman Geoff Goodwin's company, for the journey home.

Two Alty fans wished they had used the coach in both directions yesterday; they set off by private car only to break down whilst still in Cheshire, near Crewe. Undeterred, they hired a taxi for £218 to get them to St Albans, before taking the only two spare seats on the coach for the return trip!

If you fancy joining Alty on the road, there are two more opportunities this season. On Saturday next we make our last trip for a while to Dagenham and Redbridge, who clinched promotion to the League yesterday. Though the Daggers have beaten Alty 5-0 two years running at Moss Lane, it was a different story last season at the Glyn Hopkin Stadium at Dagenham where Alty won 4-2.

JORDAN SAVES LIVES

News of former Altrincham player, the late Jordan Sinnott, comes from The Mirror, which reports that "A kind-hearted young footballer who was killed during a night out has now saved at least seven lives and helped dozens more.

Caring Matlock Town player, Jordan Sinnott, 25, had spoken to his family about his wish to be a donor if anything happened to him. In January in a devastating incident he suffered a fractured skull during a night out in Retford, Notts. Two men are awaiting trial for his manslaughter. But despite their 'nightmare' his family made sure his wishes were carried out.

And now he has saved seven people aged between 20 and 50 after donating his organs. Soldiers and other burns victims are also benefiting from skin grafts created after his donation

His brother Tom said, 'He loved giving and even after he’s passed he managed to do that. At least his heart is still beating.'

His mum, Melanie Tait, 51, said she brought up the issue of organ donation after being told there was no hope for her son who was on life support at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital. Melanie from Shipley, West Yorks, said 'All I could think of was the phone call that would be made to tell them an organ had been found for their loved one. It’s a gift of life and the highest gift you can give'...

Melanie said 'When he was in the operating room the theatre staff gave him a minute’s silence.'

Jordan lived and breathed football, his family said but he was looking forward to getting engaged and married to the love of his life Kelly Blossons, 26. The family were 'blown away' when they appealed for clubs to send signed shirts with Jordan’s name on the back and 1,000 shirts arrived from all over the world. The shirts will be auctioned to raise money for Sport Relief".

DAILY ALTY AUCTION

Former Alty goalkeeper and coach, Ian Senior, owner of the club's kit supplier, SKkits, is raising funds for the Football Club via a daily auction of Alty-related sportsgear. He is doing this via the Twitter feed of Altrincham FC.

VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH NEWS

According to the Hereford Times, "Hereford FC chairman Andrew Graham has urged all factions of the club to band together during this tough time and speaks of his frustration of the politics that have previously 'burdened' the Bulls.

Graham was elected onto the Bulls board as a Hereford United Supporters Trust (HUST) nominated director two years ago. He was than appointed as Hereford FC chairman in June replacing outgoing Ken Kinnersley. The Bulls board consists of three HUST nominated directors and four appointed by the initial directors.

With Hereford preparing to announce 'significant losses' this season, Graham says... 'I have no time for politics and certainly no time for divisiveness,' said Graham. 'We are a great club; we have no room for any entity thinking that they are bigger than any other and I am sure that no one wishes to carry that candle into the history books.

'The message must be, that we will work as one, where every fan is as important as another, where every voice is listened to and where the needs of the club drives the agenda and nothing else. The beauty of this club is that every fan is deserving of a voice. I will represent every fan equally and justify this for the right reasons. If that isn’t what is needed, I will return to my place on the Meadow End.

'Getting to understand the politics that burden Hereford FC (as in every organisation) has been an eye-opening and myth-busting experience. My belief is not that any group of individuals will be the reason for the success of this fantastic club but, more, the ability of passionate individuals, pulling together, for the right reasons, in a cooperative manner. Regardless of whether someone is an employee, volunteer, major shareholder, minor shareholder, service-provider, supporter or sponsor, we must ensure that there is a common purpose...

He added... 'I was clear with both the Hereford board and to the HUST board that I would always put the club and Hereford fans first and if this means ‘rocking the proverbial boat’ then get your lifejackets on... The objective of the chair is to drive the strategy forward and not to favour any shareholder or group of shareholders in particular. Being a HUST nominated director and chairman feels like I am the flag on a rope in a tug of war. Only I was expecting to have been pulled in both directions from day one and have only felt pull from one side.

'I see no reason for it and it certainly isn’t warranted. During what has been a disappointing time on and off the pitch I cannot allow myself to "tow a party line". I will do what is right for this club and what is right for each fan, irrespective of how many shares they may, or may not hold.'

Graham added that everybody should be working towards one purpose; that is to become a ‘Sustainable Fan-Owned Football League Club’ and to do this everybody should accept it is already '100 per cent fan-owned'...

Above: Altrincham's last away game to date was a 2-0 win at Hereford. Here we see Phil Parkinson and his players at the end of the game at Edgar Street. Far right, Simon Richman is saluted on his goal by Josh Hancock, whilst in the foreground, left, Bulls' manager, Josh Gowling takes time to congratulate Alty's Craig Mahon.

HUST are working towards owning a 50 per cent shareholding in the club by fundraising and using the money to buy additional shares while donating the money to Hereford FC. To date they have donated £220,000 which is 43 per cent of the share capital...

'I air my frustrations at misinterpretation, misinformation and a somewhat cynical belief among some factions that there is a hidden agenda, an ulterior motive, that without HUST having a 50 per cent shareholding, and an equal number of directors on the Hereford board, some ill-fate will potentially befall Hereford FC', added Graham... 'I have been reminded all too often of the potential for HUST to remove me from my position and I believe that there are moves to remove me now, but, despite this, I will continue to promote what is best for Hereford FC...

'Regardless of the level of HUST shareholding, Hereford FC will always be 100 per cent fan owned'.

Most of HUST's income comes from their 50/50 matchday draw along with other fundraising draws. However, Hereford FC plan to run the draw themselves next season and have asked HUST to consider alternative fundraising initiatives...

'It was my belief and ours collectively as a board that, with the club facing unprecedented financial pressures and likely to post a significant loss that, whilst we would allow HUST another year to try to reach the 50 per cent shareholding desired, we would like them to explore alternative methods of raising funds, allowing HFC to operate the 50/50 (through a community charitable status) thus retaining the surplus (50 per cent) whilst additionally receiving income from HUST fundraising efforts, via share purchases.

'It was our belief that we thereby maximised potential fundraising from two streams instead of one. I have been asked by HUST to explain this, have attempted to do so, and do not believe my communication has been accurately disseminated or has perhaps been misinterpreted along the way. I would welcome a situation where the focus isn’t on a 50 per cent shareholding, but on continued fundraising efforts where 50 per cent shareholding happens to be a welcome achievement not a target'".

We learn from the Telegraph & Argus that "Bradford (Park Avenue) have appointed Martin Knight as their new Director of Football Operations to help with their plans for the Horsfall Stadium...

The role entails Knight taking 'complete control' of all football matters from first team down to the academy system".

Earlier, Bradford (Park Avenue) had announced the appointment, adding that "The club is currently working on an ambitious plan to improve Horsfall stadium and now needs to make changes to take full advantage of these amazing facilities once they are completed.

Club chairman Gareth Roberts commented, 'We are very fortunate to have somebody with the knowledge and experience of Martin Knight available who can come in and help us build a successful and sustainable community club. It is even more important in these difficult times that we carefully manage our resources and we look forward to creating a club to be proud of”. Martin has a background with more than 25 years’ experience in optimising the commercial performance of businesses across a varied number of sectors, most recently at SharkNinja, building a leading consumer brand. Martin focusses on developing a high-performance culture of leaders and operators, refining organisational structures and processes, and developing engaged and collaborative workforces".

Knight commented, “I am extremely honoured and excited to be joining Bradford (Park Avenue) and hope that with the support of our fans, staff, volunteers and board of directors, we can transform our club to be the standard bearer in how community clubs can operate on and off the field, from our junior section through to our 1st teams. There is a lot of hard work ahead of us all to achieve these ambitious aims, and a challenge of our current thinking and practices too. However, we have a lot of talented, dedicated and hugely passionate people involved already, whom I hope will join us in achieving this.”

END OF SEASON ARRANGEMENTS CHALLENGED

The Standard confirms that "Lawyers backed by more than 150 clubs have written to the FA to challenge the decision to end the non-League and women’s seasons.

Pressure on the governing body is mounting with the nine-page letter from law firm Walker Morris, sent on behalf of three clubs, South Shields, Worthing and Hastings, who represent a further 148 men’s and women’s teams.

Last month, the FA announced an immediate end to the season for all steps below the National League and all but the top two tiers of the women’s game.

The letter called for a 'thorough consultation' before the move is officially ratified by the FA Council and raised concerns about the process and timing of the FA’s decision.

It read 'The clubs request that prior to any decision being put to FA Council to be ratified, the FA should ensure that a thorough consultation process has taken place through the leagues to ensure that what is put to the Council to ratify is the will of the clubs.'

An FA spokesperson said the decision was made by 'committee representatives for the respective leagues' and 'fully supported' by the governing body."

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that "The National League season should be completed regardless of how long everyone has to wait, says Yeovil Town chairman Scott Priestnall.

Elite football across England has been suspended indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic. Priestnall's Glovers are fourth in the fifth tier with nine games to go.

'Whenever it’s finished, even it’s in January, it should finish and then a new season starts whenever deemed possible,' he told BBC Points West.

'For sporting competitiveness and the sheer idea of a competition, I was very disappointed with the FA’s decision to end the lower leagues. That was a decision that probably didn’t need to be made. We should all be taking a breathe [sic] at the moment, concentrating on what’s important, and then finishing football when we can finish it.'

Priestnall, who said it had been an 'easy decision" to put the club effectively in hibernation while the country is in lockdown, added everybody should get the 'humanity side right first' before dealing with football".


6 April 2020

ON THIS DAY: 6 April

One of the more eventful Altrincham matches on today's date, 6 April, occurred in 2013 when the Robins won 4-3 at The Shay against FC Halifax Town in the Blue Square Premier

Though the sides had yet to meet in the league, Halifax had beaten Alty 5-2 at The Shay earlier in the season in the FA Trophy. They started the game fourth with Altrincham fifth, but the Shaymen had three games in hand. James Lawrie was out, having caught the same bug that had afflicted Nicky Clee and Pat Lacey and ruled them out. Into the squad came youth team defender Alex Weatherby.

Right; Damian Reeves celebrates his first goal at Halifax.

An excellent second-half performance from Altrincham saw them record a magnificent win after trailing 3-2 at the interval. Halifax dominated the opening half hour and took the lead after 23 minutes when substitute Titchener was allowed to proceed after Alty claims for a foul had been ignored. Altrincham gradually improved and equalised after 33 minutes when an excellent passing move up the middle of the pitch ended with Reeves tapping in from Watmore's feed. Town claimed vainly for offside.

Alty then took the lead after Watmore got free and fed Richman (40 mins). But the Robins seemed to have thrown the game away when they conceded twice before the break. McManus levelled after 42 minutes before a poor back pass led to Coburn losing the ball, wide right of his goal. From an acute angle, Titchener made it 3-2 (45 mins).

But Watmore laid on another for Richman (56 mins) before Reeves clinched it with a 69th minute goal. Halifax tried to get back in the closing stages but Alty had dominated the half and rode out an excessive six minutes of injury time to consolidate a play-off position.

ALTRINCHAM: 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Shaun DENSMORE, 3. Scott LEATHER, 4. Carl RODGERS, 5. Gianluca HAVERN, 6. Danny HALL, 7. Simon RICHMAN, 8. Danny BOSHELL, 9. Duncan WATMORE, 10. Damian REEVES, 11. Nicky CLEE. Subs: 12. Matt DOUGHTY, 14. Jake MOULT, 15. Ryan BROOKE, 16. Alex WEATHERBY, 18. Tony McMILLAN (gk)

ALTY OLD BOY: PAUL ELLENDER

The Boston Standard reports that "Christian James looks back at the Boston United career of a club legend who felt both the highs and lows...

He was a man who played for Boston United in four divisions and six cup competitions across eight years, racking up 287 appearances at 82 grounds, facing 94 different teams. He played for the Pilgrims on all bar one of the days of the week (Thursday), in front of crowds more than 13,000 fans and fewer than 150; in the FA Cup third round and second qualifying round.

His name? Paul Ellender.

Above: Paul Ellender (far right of the players) with the Altrincham team at Moss Lane after winning the UniBond Shield against Stalybridge Celtic in August 1999.

Bought for a club record fee from Scarborough on the eve of the 2001-02 season, Ellender played before, during and after the club’s Football League years, bookending his half-a-decade in the fourth tier with a season in the Nationwide Conference and Blue Square North. That wasn’t quite it for Ellender’s Boston career through.

After 10 months away, ‘Ellie’ returned to see out the end of the 2008-09 Unibond Premier campaign as the Pilgrims secured safety on the final day.

Ellender’s career began at Scunthorpe United, although his first senior appearance was for county rivals Gainsborough Trinity. Having played in the Blues’ Unibond Cup win over Boston in 1997 he captained them to an FA Cup first round tie at Sincil Bank the following season.

The centre back attracted attention from Altrincham, who signed him alongside centre-back partner Chris Timons. The Robins were Northern Premier League Champions in 1998-99, Ellender’s only full season at Moss Lane.

Scarborough paid £70,000 him in November 1999 and the Seadogs went on to finish 10th in the Conference while Altrincham were relegated.

The following season proved to be Ellender’s last at Seamer Road as Boston United and Football League Oxford were both chasing his services. The BBC reported the chance to remain living in Scunthorpe swayed the centre-back to join the Pilgrims...

Having made 38 appearances in the Conference-winning season, scoring twice, Ellender led Boston into the Football League, but soon lost his place in the starting XI due to injury... But things changed. After coming on in a 2-0 win at Exeter in mid-February, the centre-back enjoyed a remarkable run of starts from there on in, lining up for 62 of 67 games up to the end of the following season.

Ellender impressed enough in 2003-04 to be voted the club’s Player of the Year... A two-month spell in the autumn of 2005 saw Ellender firmly out of favour as the defender started one game in 11, in the LDV Vans Trophy, and made just one further appearance off the bench, in the FA Cup at Swindon... By the time February came around, Ellender was loaned out to Chester City...

Steve Evans [recalled] his captain from the Deva Stadium in time for seven consecutive starts at the end of the 2005-06 campaign. Ellender returned to the role of consistent starter in 2006-07, missing just four games in all competitions...

Sticking by the Pilgrims after a two-division drop in 2007-08, Ellender made a further 44 starts, including his 250th for the club at home to Alfreton in December... Having left to join Alfreton Town in the Summer of 2008, during which the Pilgrims were demoted once again, Ellender rejoined for the final two months of the season to see United to safety on the final day against Cammell Laird...He collected the 81st booking of his Boston career before leaving for the final time in 2009.

He moved on to Retford, who for a sustained period lead the Unibond Premier League before falling out of the play-offs (which Boston would ultimately win) after a poor run in the spring of 2010... He then represented North Ferriby United the following season.

In games featuring Ellender the Pilgrims had an almost even record: won 111, lost 109, drawn 78 with a goal difference of +6 (402-396)... He scored 16 goals, two own goals, kept 75 clean sheets - at a rate better than 1 in four games - and secured legendary status at the club."

VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH NEWS

Curzon Ashton report that "In light of recent events, and troubled times ahead, with football postponed across all levels we need your support more than ever!

It would be amazing if we could all stick together and support the club and our Curzon family, helping out where possible. Any help or donations would be gratefully received...

Financial Director, Harry Twamley had this to say 'It’s going to affect us all badly. With the league suspended there are not only no gate receipts but there are no bar receipts either,' he explained. 'Because people are being told not to go outside, we’re getting lots of calls cancelling parties in our function room. We’re losing room rent because organisations have called off the meetings they hold at our ground during the week, and we’re not receiving anything from the 3G pitch because youngsters have been told not to train'...

Chairman Wayne Salkeld said: “The current pandemic stretches way beyond the football industry. However, the club feels a very real sense of responsibility to do everything it can to support our club and surrounding community. It is not enough for us to simply sit tight and hope that it all blows over. By moving forward, we can offer various options for next season, we are able to ensure cashflow in the short term, as well as give a little back to the NHS heroes who are working to keep us all safe and healthy.'

For every £20 raised in our crowdfunding campaign, we will donate one match ticket for the 2020/2021 season to NHS staff and any Frontline Workers from Tameside".

At Southport "We have been running a daily teaser on Twitter for the last eleven days and these will continue until Friday. The current score is 5 to us and 6 to supporters; all to play for in the remaining five days!

From Saturday we will start a weekly SFC themed quiz on the website for the next few weeks with a different theme each week starting with 25 Cryptic Clues to Southport FC players. We may even be able to find a little prize to reward the winners...

Future weeks will be Guess Who Pictures, Who Am I, Where Are We Playing Pictures, Find The Southport Players in a passage of text, General SFC Knowledge, Cryptic Pictures to SFC people and maybe more".

"Here’s the latest of the behind the scenes updates of events at at Darlington FC...

The Boards of Darlington FC and DFCSG met for the third time during the enforced break on Friday evening via video conference call, to discuss various ongoing relevant matters...

Chief Executive Officer David Johnston was due to take part in a webinar with all the other National League club chairmen last midweek, but this was cancelled because of the league’s ongoing business with the EFL.

The sales of season tickets are ongoing, and there is now the option of buying a season ticket over five instalments... We urge fans to buy season tickets now in order to help support the club’s cashflow position.

We are also delighted to announce that the Boost the Budget scheme for season 2020/21 will be announced in early May.

During these unprecedented and challenging times, the club is introducing several initiatives designed to reach out to our entire local community and fan base... During the coming week we’ll roll out a variety of ways of engaging with you all and some of these will include;

The Club is also in continuous contact with our sponsors and partners and we’re maintaining our excellent relationships with them during this difficult time."


5 April, 2020

FANS RESPOND TO ALTY APPEAL

Altrincham FC Press and Media Officer, John Edwards, writes in the Sale & Altrincham Messenger that "Altrincham bosses have been overwhelmed by the generosity of fans, players and even supporters of other clubs after seeing their appeal for funds surge past its £10,000 target inside a week... and by Tuesday morning this week, the total raised had reached a staggering £12,460.

Long-serving defender Shaun Densmore set the tone for player contributions and his donation was swiftly followed by similar gestures from team-mates Jake Moult, Josh Hancock, James Jones, Jordan Hulme, [former team-mate] Josh Ollerenshaw and at least two more anonymously.

Alty-supporting Premier League referee Anthony Taylor pitched in, and there was even an offering from a Portsmouth fan, following the Robins’ gallant attempt at an FA Cup giantkilling act at Fratton Park earlier this season...

The appeal remains open here, and director Bill Waterson said 'The job of thanking our fans for their support is one I will never tire of, and they are making me more and more proud to be associated with Altrincham Football Club.

'The board are frankly blown away by a response that cements our fans’ reputation as the best in the business. The appointment of Anthony Taylor is often questioned when he officiates one of the bigger Manchester clubs, but the answer is clear; he is an Alty fan".

ON THIS DAY: 5 April

Altrincham's most recent game on today's date, 5 April, was in 2016 when they lost 2-1 to Dover Athletic at Moss Lane under the floodlights on a Tuesday night

The result meant that Altrincham dropped to 22nd in the Vanarama National League as, not for the first time that season, they let a lead slip. Alty were the better side in the first half and deservedly led thanks to a fiercely driven shot from Michael Rankine from Jordan Sinnott's lay-off at a freekick just outside the box. The goal arrived after 36 minutes and Rankine might have doubled the lead, three minutes later, when put clear by Lawrie but his first touch was too heavy and keeper Walker got the ball.

The second half was a different affair as the visitors penned Alty back from the re-start. The got their reward when an attempted clearing header by Altrincham struck a Dover player and allowed Miller to score from six yards or so in the 67th minute. Eight minutes later Payne got past Havern to make it 2-1.

Right: Alty take to the field against Dover.

Alty brought on Reeves, Crowther and Heathcote but could not get back into the game. So, for the second time in a week a half-time position of safety for Altrincham had witnessed a drop of three places during the second half.

And there was post-match confusion as it emerged that Marcus Holness had been red carded after the final whistle following a challenge on a Dover player who had been winding down time at the corner flag very near the end of the game. Dover's Bellamy then tackled Holness, though no foul was awarded against either Holness or Bellamy at the time. Holness was then indirectly informed, in the dressing room, that he had been dismissed.

For this match, Adam Griffin was ill, so centre-back Scott Leather had moved to left-back and midfielder Jordan Sinnott had returned, at right-back. Up front Michael Rankine was preferred to Damian Reeves presumably in acknowledgement of the opposition's style of play. Loanee Jimmy Phillips started as Josh O'Keefe moved to the bench.

ALTRINCHAM: 17. Tim DEASY, 20. Jordan SINNOTT, 26. Marcus HOLNESS, 5. Luca HAVERN, 6. Scott LEATHER, 4. Jake MOULT (capt), 8. Simon RICHMAN, 26. James PHILLIPS, 15. Josh GINNELLY, 7. James LAWRIE, 9. Michael RANKINE. Subs: 10. Damian REEVES, 12. Sam HEATHCOTE, 14. Josh O'KEEFE, 19. Ryan CROWTHER , 23. Callum WILLIAMS.

VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH NEWS

At Gloucester City, the chairman, Alex Petheram, writes that "I’ve seen a couple of messages from concerned supporters wondering what our current financial position is...

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 we as a club have been effected massively. I personally went down with the virus before the Blyth game with several others self-isolating. I’m not going to name which players, they can do that themselves if they want.

Financially, times are hard, very hard! If this was a ‘normal’ business and not a football club, you’d shut the doors and walk away. The key word above is ‘business’, the football club is a business, it has a company number like every company in the world. I genuinely believe some people think, as we’re a football club, that it’s a charity number. But the club like every business in the world, needs to make money, as trading insolvently is illegal.

With that said, now we’ve no football being played, no community projects, no working in schools, no Easter and Summer Camps etc., etc, yet wages and bills still to pay. We are going to lose £111.4k at the last count. How’s that going to be paid I hear you ask?

The second football stopped I had to personally put in £25k, with another £54k put in this week. What makes it worse for me, is that with so little football played over the winter, I had to pump in £30k in that period also. This was to get us over what I thought would be a cashflow issue; ha, I got that one wrong!

So, at a time when the weather has turned and we should be having a run of home games in the sun, we’re in fact facing further losses. Steve Harvey has also put money into the club (thank you mate) and as for Eamonn… well for the past 20 plus years Eamonn has done nothing but put money in to the club.

As I said the other day, all our staff and players have been placed as furlough workers, with all players taking a 20% pay cut, thank you lads. So everyone in the club is feeling the pain, but that’s what teams do, stick together as we’re never out the fight!...

So, what’s the solution? There isn’t one. As closing the doors and walking away from a club formed in 1883 just isn’t an option.

How’s this affecting the [return to the club's former] ground? The lack of cash in the current economy is a massive issue. We couldn’t be building the ground at a worst time!

What are our options on the build? The same as with the club, we have none. We’re too far into the project to do anything other then get our heads down and keep swinging, always moving forward. Does every penny spent scare me? Yes! Does every penny spent keep me awake at night, yes! How’s the ground being funded? We’ve an 18% grant from the FSIF with Eamonn and myself putting in the rest, this is on top of the day to day club costs and who can forget the current COVID-19 losses! To make matters worse we’ve also currently had nothing from the FSIF, however I’m hoping the first payment lands soon...

Why haven’t we set up a ‘go fund me page’ was another question I was asked? Simple; everyone is affected by this, so I don’t feel it’s fair to ask...

I’m personally struggling to stay positive and pumping in cash left right and centre into the club to keep us alive is a rubbish game to play. The club is struggling but it’s being propped up by the will of three incredibly either stupid people, or three very committed people. Three people that only want good for the club and its supporters. But I’ll let you pick which one, as no doubt something I’ve written here will be picked up and twisted by someone or something...

What is it Rocky said? 'Going in one more round when you don’t think you can; that’s what makes all the difference in your life'”. We’re never out of the fight".

Leamington report that "Having recently made his 400th appearance for Leamington FC, James Mace has had the devastating news that he has ruptured his Medial and Anterior Cruciate Ligaments (ACL) .

There is always the initial disappointment of sustaining such an injury but when it results in loss of earnings and a huge medical bill, as players we feel we must do what we can to help.

James works as a tree surgeon and his injury has meant he cannot work. His insurance company will pay a small sum each month but not enough to sustain his young family and there would be no contribution to surgery costs. Colby Bishop and Connor Gudger have recently had similar operations, costing between £6k and £9k.

A GoFundMe page has been set up after players and fans have all asked how they can contribute to help James. We hope that this platform will allow those that want to donate to help fund the surgery... We will of course follow NHS guidelines regarding elective surgeries to not put a further strain on the NHS."

NORTH-WEST NEWS

"With the North West Counties Football League joining the country in lockdown in the fight against the coronavirus, the league has turned its attention to finances in order to help our member clubs.

As well as being Football Clubs, all 60 of our clubs are businesses who are suffering financially from being closed at present...

Funds may be available to some clubs to help them through this time, with the Government, HMRC, Sport England and others all offering help if clubs meet specific criteria. However we are conscious as a league that we too must also do our best to help our own clubs.

Earlier this week the Finance Committee held a meeting via our conference call facility to come up a package that can help our clubs. These recommendations have been subsequently been approved and ratified by the Board via email communications.

The total amount of the package that was agreed totals over £35,000, and this is made up of some of the following items. The league will be waiving the annual subscription for the 2020/21 season. This will ensure that NONE of our 60 clubs have to pay ANY annual fees for both the league, Macron Cup or PlayerMatch.com Cup.

Our Annual General Meeting and Awards Dinner that we hold every year at the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool is to be cancelled this year. Clubs pay for this in their League Services payments throughout the year, and this will be reimbursed to all clubs...

Clubs that are owed money for match officials travelling expenses will be paid with immediate effect. Our league operates an equalisation scheme where every club pays the same amount for match offcials regardless of location, with some clubs refunded and some billed at the end of each season.

The league are also looking to further reduce costs for the 2020/21 season through a variety of measures that can in turn be passed onto the clubs. This could include online handbooks, the reduction of matchday paperwork and match report books, or a reduction in pass cards and the Observer's levy.

Unfortunately, any outstanding amounts that clubs owe to the league via fines or referee equalisation cannot be written off as it would be in breach of Article 4. However any clubs that do owe money can request a deferment via the League Secretary on the amount owed".

Meanwhile,the BetVictor Northern Premier League has it's own NPL Show. Last week's show is available here.

Also the BetVictor Northern Premier League adds that "Clubs in the NPL N/West Division have launched fundraising initiatives to help them through the current crisis and support their local communities...

League leaders Workington have already raised an incredible £11,485 in donations, via their appeal on their club website. Mossley have been selling a special edition “Wembley Shirt” to mark 40 years since they reached the FA Trophy final... City of Liverpool have used this time to admirably raise funds for their local community, collecting donations to purchase food to enable the delivery of food parcels to the most vulnerable people in the Liverpool City Region...

Meanwhile, fellow Merseysiders Marine have issued an appeal for donations to help get through the financial impact of the current crisis. They were celebrating their 125th anniversary and seeking immediate promotion back to the Premier Division when the season was brought to an end. Marine Chairman Paul Leary said, 'We will be applying to Sefton Council and HMRC for some of the government financial assistance that has been made available, but whilst these are a help it will not be enough to see us get through this unprecedented situation...

'This is our biggest challenge ever but we shall get through it and come out stronger...

Marske United have launched “All Marske United Together”... Supporter Iain Thomson, who runs Scottish Pickles, has pledged to donate a percentage from every jar of chutney/preserve he sells towards the appeal...

Pickering Town have launched a Just Giving page, while Runcorn Linnets are staging a virtual match against Dunston on Saturday 11, where fans can purchase their usual match day items to raise money for the club.

Tadcaster Albion are encouraging supporters to sign up to their 100 Club, which costs £10 per month and offers a prize of 30% of the monthly proceeds to the winner".

Meanwhile, Nantwich Town report that "manager Dave Cooke has reiterated the club’s stance on the decision to null and void the Step 3-6 season in non-league.

The Dabbers were chasing promotion to the National League North and sat in 6th place... Nantwich have expressed their disagreement with the decision to null and void the current campaign, as well as their disappointment that they were not consulted prior to the call being made by The FA...

Cooke said... 'We believe that the verdict from the FA was hastily decided and it is disappointing that perhaps we won’t have football until October. For me, even if the 2019-20 season had to be suspended, it was imperative that we should finish the campaign, even if that meant 2019-20 became 2019-21. I felt that we were having a very good campaign, and we would have made the play-offs at the very least, and we were looking forward to being involved'"

The National League has a reprise of season 2003-04, which was won by our Cheshire neighbours Chester City. Sadly, Altrincham were not in the Conference that season.


4 April 2020

PREMIER LEAGUE "ADVANCES" CASH TO NATIONAL LEAGUE

Sporting Life has reported that "The Premier League has announced that it will advance £125m to EFL and National League clubs, while a £20m donation has also been made to the NHS.

The league confirmed the news following a video conference call on Friday, where there was also an acknowledgement that it is unlikely football will resume in May and will only restart when it is safe to do so, in line with government advice.

In a statement, the Premier League said 'Discussions also took place regarding financial relief for clubs in the short term and while there is no single solution, measures are to be put in place to immediately deal with the impact of falling cash flow.

'"Critically, the League unanimously voted to advance funds of £125 million to the EFL and National League as it is aware of the severe difficulties clubs throughout the football pyramid are suffering at this time...

'The League, clubs, players and managers express huge appreciation for the heroic efforts of NHS staff and all other key workers who are carrying out critical jobs in such difficult circumstances,' the statement continued".

It seems that this money for the National League is not a donation but, rather, an advance payment of so-called "solidarity" moneys which would have come to the National League in due course anyway.

ON THIS DAY: 4 April

Right: Dale Johnson (in yellow) competes for the ball at The Dripping Pan.

Eleven years ago, 4 April 2009, was not a great day in the history of Altrincham FC. The club made the 500 mile round-trip to play Lewes. The Sussex side were rock bottom of the league and, going into the match, had previously experienced EIGHTEEN straight defeats. And, of course, they were to beat Altrincham 2-0!

For their part Alty had faltered badly in recent weeks after coming within touching distance of securing enough points to secure their place in the league for the following season.

Before the Lewes game, it had already been a long week for Altrincham FC with two away trips in four days (to Crawley and Ebbsfleet) racking up almost 1,000 miles on the road before they set off for Lewes. A draw at Crawley had been folllowed by defeat at fourth-bottom Ebbsfleet. And as the management had only 13 fit players at its disposal; to bring in reinforcements would have jeopardised the club's financial position, it was easy to see why form had recently dipped. Five subs had been named at both Ebbsfleet, the previous Tuesday, and here at Lewes, but only two of those named on the bench were actually fit to play.

Fortunately, Michael Welch had surprisingly recovered from an apparently bad injury on the previous weekend and he came back into the side in a 3-4-3 formation, with Greg Young and Marc McGregor the other components of the back line. Chris Lane moved to right midfield, with Matt Doughty on the left. James Smith was serving the final game of his three-match suspension, whilst Ben Wilkinson dropped to the bench, with Warren Peyton and he being the only fit substitutes amongst the five named.

This poor performance from Altrincham thrust them back into the relegation mix as their own run of poor form was extended to just three wins in their last 15 games. A very bobbly pitch at the natural hollow that is The Dripping Pan did not help but Altrincham resorted far too much to aimless balls forward.

Nevertheless, in the opening twenty minutes Altrincham created and missed several half-chances, whilst Lewes started nervously as was to be expected after their lamentable run. But, once Wheeler had taken advantage of a slip by Marc McGregor to score from the Rooks' first real chance, Alty were second best for the rest of the half.

Slack marking allowed Keehan to make it 2-0 from a corner just before the interval.

Ben Wilkinson replaced McGregor at the break and Alty then enjoyed plenty of possession but, apart from a couple of good saves from shots by Little, the visitors were kept at bay by the Lewes defence. How a penalty was not awarded when Dale Johnson was almost throttled by the keeper in the box in the closing minutes was a mystery, but Altrincham could not complain at the result.

Left: There was a fine display of our away colours in the blue and yellow flags brought by Altrincham supporters to Lewes on Saturday, 4 April, 2009.

To make matters wose, Anthony Danylyk was sent off in added time for a second yellow card offence. Losing to an already relegated side which had lost all of its previous 18 games is not an easy pill to swallow.

Just 337 spectators attended the game.

ALTRINCHAM: 1. Stuart COBURN; 18. Michael WELCH, 4. Mark McGREGOR, 5. Greg YOUNG; 2.Chris LANE, 21. Shaun DENSMORE, 16. Anthony DANYLYK, 3. Matt DOUGHTY; 14. Dale JOHNSON, 9. Colin LITTLE, 12. Joe O'NEILL. Subs: 11. Warren PEYTON, 10. Chris DENHAM, 7. Robbie LAWTON, 17. Ben WILKINSON, 19. Chris SENIOR.

However, there were some positives. Not least was the fact that Alty were still seven points above the relegation places so survival remained firmly in their own hands. And, although The Robins had only taken 12 points from their last 15 games, just one defeat in their final six games of the season left them finishing a respectable fifteenth in the top-flight of non-League football.

Altrincham were to face their third Sussex club in a period of ten days when Eastbourne Borough visited Moss Lane the following Tuesday night and played out a 2-2 draw.

VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH NEWS

According to NL Daily "Gateshead forward Ruairí Keating has hailed the character and togetherness at the club. The Irishman made the move a long way north to join the Heed from Torquay back in January...

Keating spoke about the spirit in Mike Williamson’s side... 'Definitely just an honest, hard-working, decent bunch of lads. There’s no bad eggs, there’s no big-time Charlies, we’re all in the same boat. We’re like a bunch of mates at school. Everybody’s here to enjoy it, play football and just be happy.

'There’s a bit of craic but there’s no messing around. We’re given the platform to just go and be happy and give all you can and showcase what you’ve got. It’s a great group of lads and coaching staff.'".

At Chester FC "City Fans United can confirm that David Harrington-Wright has decided to stand down from his current role as Chairman as well as membership on the Board of City Fans United.

Formally elected to the Board in October 2017, before taking over the role as Chairman in April the following year, David oversaw a significant period of stability and revival for the Club which had been challenged through a financial crisis as well as subsequent flooding and the Covid-19 pandemic during his tenure.

In December 2019, David took the decision to temporarily step back from his role as Chairman to support and care for his wife Fiona who sadly passed away in January 2020. He has now decided to permanently stand down from his role which will allow him to focus on his own businesses and personal well-being during this difficult time.

David has agreed to kindly support the board through this period of transition...

David said 'I have been truly honoured to be the Chairman and a board member of my beloved Chester FC, and it’s fair to say the almost three years on the board have been a roller coaster! I would like to think I leave the club in a better position than when I joined but it has not been solely down to me'...

At the City Fans United Board Meeting held on 30th March 2020 it was confirmed that current Vice-Chairman Andrew Morris would step up into the role of Chairman initially until the next AGM scheduled for 22nd October 2020".

According to the Eastern Daily Press, "Chris Smith’s journey to King’s Lynn Town via Ipswich is an education... He’s a poster boy for how to handle a brutal industry.

Smith joined Ipswich Town at the age of eight. He captained the Under-23s. He spent three years on a professional contract... Released last summer after making just one brief senior appearance for his boyhood club, he ... was picked up by the Blues, and... quickly he decided that the further education which the club are duty bound to provide wasn’t enough... 'I spoke to the club and said ‘I want to do A Levels as well seeing as I don’t know what’s going to happen with the football’. They said that was fine, but there wasn’t exactly a lot of support. It’s something I had to do off my own back'...

Those initial A Levels were in maths and physics. The plan, if he got released at the end of his scholarship, was to go off to university. But he didn’t get released... In his first year as a professional, Smith continued with his education, taking another A Level – this time in further maths. In his second year, after coming on in a League Cup game, Smith went out on loan to Chelmsford...

[AFter returning to Ipswich], 'I was an unused sub against Aston Villa... During the week though I slipped a disc in my back. My chance of making a league debut had gone and I spent the whole summer and start of next season rehabbing. Gary Waddock had seen me play before and said he would like to take me on loan to Aldershot (National League) on the basis of that.... I went there but I was still struggling with my back...

'When the time came for me to get released I wasn’t too sad... It was nice to finally have some clarity and for my destiny to be in my own hands at last... So finally, after deferring three times, Smith started a mechanical engineering degree at Loughborough last summer. He also signed for the Linnets.

'Combining the two has been mentally and physically tiring,' he admits... 'I had a game clash with an exam at one stage and he said "university comes first”... That manager is Ian Culverhouse... 'e’s such a calming influence, a real thinker,' said Smith. “There have been so many times where we’ve had a frustrating first half, then he’s tweaked things around at half-time, given a great team talk and we’ve gone on to be brilliant and win the game...

'I’m just seeing what parts of the course I enjoy the most before deciding what sort of career I’ll pursue... The studying will always come first, but I couldn’t do without the football either. I need them both'...

Smith says 'It’s important to have a back-up. I want people to understand that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t make it at an academy or as a young pro. There will always be a team to play for, no matter what the level. It’s about enjoying football... A lot of lads didn’t have a Plan B... and they’re now doing jobs they hate just to get money'".

The chairman at AFC Telford United confirms to spectators that "Since our statement last week your response has been overwhelming thank you. Early bird season tickets reached 70% of last year’s early bird sales, [plus] amazing donations and enquiries and purchases of shares...

The National league have now indefinitely suspended the 2019/20 season. Although this is disappointing, with the current pandemic there was no other option in my opinion. We do not have any further information regarding how the league will be settled or if the season will be null and void.

We do still have hard financial challenges in the coming months, having lost gate receipts, secondary match income, goalzone closed, non football events cancelled and delayed commercial income. We want to prepare for the 2020/21 season, we have stadium maintenance to be carried out to keep our stadium safe, we are still planning major pitch renovations which come at a large cost even with potential of grants and we want to be recruiting a playing squad to compete next season.

We do not like to come cap in hand, but you can continue to support us by purchasing a ticket for AFC Telford United v AFC Telford United All Stars XI game... making donations of any amount... or purchasing shares in your football club and renewing sponsorship".

Meanwhile, the Shropshire Star tells us that "AFC Telford United manager Gavin Cowan has been pitching in to help local communities amid the coronavirus crisis. Cowan has been working around the clock helping the vulnerable... The Bucks boss teamed up with volunteer-powered Shrewsbury Food Hub, who recycle food surplus to requirement from supermarkets and put it to good use.

Cowan was pictured with colleagues in front of his Crossbar Coaching van, which visited several community centres and schools across the region full of food and clothes ready to go to those in need. The relief packages were also delivered to the Prince Rupert Hotel in Shrewsbury, which is currently housing the homeless.

Cowan is managing director of sports coaching company Crossbar Coaching, who are based at Lilleshall. The businesses' four vehicles, two vans and two minibuses, are available to any organisations who are out helping the community during the Covid-19 crisis... Many of the companies' employees have been carrying out 'bitesize lessons' via a video on Crossbar's social media... The company have also released 'maths on the move' resources on their website for primary school children across all ages".

The NL Paper says that "Gloucester City have confirmed they have a back-up plan in place to groundshare with Bath City if their new Meadow Park home is delayed by the coronavirus.

The Tigers have not played in Gloucester since their home was destroyed by the floods of 2007 and were on course to kick off at their new stadium at Meadow Park for the first time this summer before the public health crisis and football’s lockdown started to slow progress.

Work on the National League North club’s new 3,208 capacity ground with a 3G pitch begun in January, with their current groundshare at BetVictor Southern League Evesham United’s Jubilee Stadium due to expire in May and not up to new FA ground-grading stand[ard]s coming in next season.

Oxford City and Kidderminster Harriers have also been considered as temporary hosts by the Tigers who’ve also confirmed they used the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme this week to furlough all their staff and players.

Gloucester City chairman Alex Petheram told fans that Bath’s Twerton Park was their first choice as a fall-back option and fifth temporary home in 13 years of exile after spells at Forest Green, Cirencester Town, Cheltenham Town and current landlords Evesham despite being 45 miles away."


3 April, 2020

ALTY PLAN A FUNDRAISING BOOK

Altrincham FC announce that "Director, John Coyne, is reaching out to all supporters, sponsors, players past and present to talk about their favourite Alty memories; their first game, the goals that meant the most to them, games that live on in their memories, and their favourite players.

These anecdotes will form part of a commemorative book which will be compiled by John, available to purchase, with 100% of the proceeds going to Altrincham Football Club.

If you would like to take part in the project, and share your memories, please email John Coyne".

In the meantime, don't forget that you can help the club now, via its Go Fund Me page.

ON THIS DAY: 3 APRIL

Five years ago today, 3 April 2015, Altrincham beat Kidderminster Harriers 3-2 at Moss Lane in a Blue Square Premier match.

The victory was only Altrincham's second win in eleven games and yet,amazingly, they finished this game in tenth place, one rung higher than they had been at the start of their winless run, thanks to having drawn seven matches in the winless sequence.

For the match against the Harriers, Altrincham were without Nicky Clee, who had missed the last couple of games with injury, to which was now added illness. In addition, long-term injured Matt Doughty and Dale Johnson were all missing. Anthony Danylyk and Adam Carden returned to the starting line up as Peter Doran and Michael Welch reverted to the bench.

Alty started brightly as Carden, McAliskey and Densmore all had early shots. But the visitors took the lead in the 15th minute when McPhee got to the by-line, left of goal. Matthews headed the former Gravesend and Torquay man's cut-back firmly past Coburn.

After 26 minutes, Chris Denham equalised, at the back post, from John McAliskey's knock down and, with Kidderminster still enjoying more of the possession, Denham broke away two minutes before the interval. He fed Carden, to his right, whose shot was beaten out but Denham headed the loose ball into the net. However, immediately, the Harriers levelled with a similar goal to their opener. This time McPhee cut the ball back from the right by-line for Matthews to bundle it home.

The scoring was completed four minutes after the interval when centre-back Greg Young ran 60 yards from his own half up the inside-left channel before beating the Kidderminster keeper. The Harriers had plenty of attacking possession but could not get an equalizer, though it took a Densmore clearance off the line in the last minute of normal time to make sure. Alty had now only lost twice in their last 12 matches.

Right: Greg Young's strange goal celebration consisted of his pulling his shorts up to his waist and then running back to his own half, as shown!

Kidderminster Harriers had gone into this game lying tenth, a point ahead of Altrincham. The Harriers had beaten Alty 3-0 at Aggborough earlier this season. Following Mark Yates's departure, former Macclesfield striker Steve Burr was now the visitors' manager.

The gate was very disappointing, comprising just 889 spectators with 64 in the away end. The attendance was not helped by Manchester United being in action at lunchtime and Manchester City also having a fairly local away game. There was also a lower than normal away following reflecting the visitors' failure to secure a play-off place.

ALTRINCHAM: 1. Stuart COBURN, 6. Shaun DENSMORE, 12. Robbie WILLIAMS, 5. Greg YOUNG, 27. Ryan BROWN, 10. Chris DENHAM, 16. Anthony DANYLYK, 7. Robbie LAWTON, 24. Adam CARDEN; 19. Chris SENIOR, 17. John McALISKEY. Subs: 9. Colin LITTLE, 21. Peter DORAN, 18. Michael WELCH, 13. Russell SAUNDERS [gk], 2. James SMITH.

The visitors included three players who also wore the Alty strip during their careers; James Lawrie, Robbie Matthews and Brian Smikle.

KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS: 30. Ross Atkins; 2. Duane Courtney; 6. Martin Riley, 33. Luke Prosser, 17. Tom Sharpe; 7. Chris McPhee, 8. Dean Bennett, 27. Jack Byrne, 14. Brian Smikle; 10. Darryl Knights, 21. Robbie Matthews. Subs: 12. Jasbir Singh [gk], 25. James Lawrie, 9. Marc Goodfellow, 11. David McDermott, 31. Lloyd Kerry .

VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE SEEKS HELP

Guiseley report that "Simon Bullock chatted to Guiseley Academy graduate and former Bournemouth, Port Vale and Yeovil Town midfielder Ben Whitfield about his time with The Lions, his early football career, move to the Premier League and life at Torquay United...

'I was on the bench quite a few times for league matches. I never actually came on but it was good to be involved. I didn’t know that I was going to be involved against Selby, so I turned up to the game and then came on as a sub which was great...

Huddersfield offered me a deal and I was close to signing it. Then my agent got in contact with me and said that Bournemouth were interested. I didn’t really know where that was because it was so far away. I went down there, having trained with Huddersfield for a while but I’d never met any of the first team players, management staff or anyone like that. I turned up at Bournemouth, where the Chief Scout and Assistant Manager Jason Tindall were waiting for me and they showed me around the stadium, the training ground and they pulled me into an office to talk about what they’d want from me which was a big thing for me...

The club didn’t expect to go on the run they went on, getting promoted to the Premier League, which was why I never ended up being in the first team... Eddie Howe taught me loads. Just the way he trained his players, the intensity of the training sessions, how he worked with everyone and how long the sessions were'...

Q: Your first loan spell in the National League with Kidderminster Harriers ended with you winning the club’s Player of the Year and Supporter’s Player of the Year awards".....

'It was brilliant, I loved every minute of my time at Kidderminster... To win Player of the Year and Supporters' Player of the Year was a big thing for me because I was still quite young, so it was nice to receive that award... I signed for Kidderminster on an initial one-month loan, and it just got extended and extended...

Q: The season after that, you made the step up to League Two, signing a season long loan with Yeovil Town...

'Yeovil was really good as well. Darren Way was the manager and he worked a bit like Eddie Howe... Playing in League Two was great because playing professional football and playing at a higher level is what everybody wants to be doing...

Q: Another season was spent on loan, this time at Port Vale, followed by you signing for them permanently...

A: In the first six months at Port Vale I did really well and I had other teams interested in me. Lincoln City wanted me and they offered Bournemouth some money, then Port Vale showed interest and they offered Bournemouth some money. Because I was playing so well, I didn’t really want to move so I just asked if I could sign on loan again at Port Vale and continue progressing. I didn’t want to leave Bournemouth because I knew that they were a higher level club than Port Vale, but I didn’t want to not sign on loan at Port Vale because I knew that I was playing regularly in my first six months there...

Q: After leaving Port Vale about a month into this season, you signed for Torquay United...

'The manager at Port Vale told me that I didn’t score enough goals to be a part of his team, which I didn’t agree with as I hadn’t played under him much before and when I had done, I’d scored, so I didn’t really understand that... I signed for Torquay and so far, I’ve played and started every single game, apart from my debut which I came off the bench and scored in...

'I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for Guiseley. Dave Currie taking that chance on me has got me to where I am now. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have signed for Bournemouth'".

We learn from the Shropshire Star that "AFC Telford United have been ‘overwhelmed’ with the response to their financial appeal amid the Covid-19 breakout. The Bucks launched a gofundme page seven days ago to help preserve their longevity and [it] has passed the £1,000 mark – currently at £1,155 from 29 donors...

Football Operations Manager, Luke Shelley, said 'We have been overwhelmed with the generosity of supporters in this difficult time. With so much uncertainty with jobs and everyone’s health we would like to thank those supporters who have donated towards our appeal, either by purchasing a season ticket, donating to the gofundme page, the club shop eBay store or even buying shares'".

At Hereford FC the website is taking "an alphabetical look at our all-time opponents". Part One of this series is the letter "A", which obviously includes Altrincham.

As well as a photo of their match at Moss Lane against Alty in 2019, the stats remind us that in four encounters Hereford FC have yet to beat Altrincham, having drawn twice and lost twice to The Robins. In the "current" season, Alty achieved a "double" over The Bulls, winning 5-1 at home and 2-0 at Edgar Street.

York Press reports that York City "have confirmed that they have placed their staff and players on furlough until further notice.

In a statement released yesterday, York said that they had decided to 'close the club for the foreseeable future' amid the financial impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has prevented professional sport around the country from taking place...

In a statement on their club website, York City said 'The sudden onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, uncertainty around the conclusion to the 2019/2020 league and our inability to make plans with any real certainty, has had an immediate, unforeseen financial impact on the club.

'In line with the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, club staff and players have been placed on furlough until further notice. The chairman, who has personally supported the club financially since 2006, paid all wages in full to this point and will ensure that all staff receive 80 per cent of their wage during their time on furlough, irrespective of the government scheme’s upper limit.'

York chairman Jason McGill added in a short statement 'This virus and the current crisis that surrounds us all, is bigger than the club and bigger than football'".

During the lull in football, Bradford (Park Avenue) are reminiscing about previous encounters. The club's Football League history means that they can boast no fewer than sixteen encounters with a club as famous as Chelsea, fourteen of those games being league matches and two more being in the FA Cup.

NW NEWS

At Wrexham we learn from the Board of The Wrexham Supporters Trust that "We have communicated with all employees of the business, including the playing and coaching staff, to ask them to agree to move into the Government-organised Job Retention Scheme. The decision to furlough employees means we can pay them on an ongoing basis under the conditions announced by the Government...

Coronavirus is having a serious effect on the financial health of the Football Club. What has happened to Wrexham AFC due to coronavirus?

This is the perfect storm at the very wrong time of the year and the majority of clubs in our division will be similarly impacted...

The Wrexham Supporters Trust has a track record of steering the club through crisis. Ten years ago, we took over a club that was losing £750,000 per year, with debts of £500,000, that had no assets. We are proud to have turned that into a sustainable business that doesn’t spend more than it can bring in in revenue. However, coronavirus is the biggest impact on society in living memory and the effects of it are a threat to the continued existence of the Football Club.

The decision to furlough all employees of Wrexham AFC has been taken to protect the future of the Football Club. Had there been no coronavirus then Wrexham AFC would have continued as a financially stable football club".


2 April 2020

YORK CITY v ALTY PROGRAMME

On 14 March, Altrincham should have been playing a National League North match at Bootham Crescent, York. York City have now announced that they have "added copies of the Altrincham matchday programme excusively on the online store, to be purchased with a donation to the NHS.

Earlier this month, we were scheduled to play the highly-anticipated league fixture but unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the game was postponed.

With the programmes from the fixture unsold, we are now selling the limited number of copies for £3 with an added minimum £2 donation for the NHS Charities COVID-19 Urgent Appeal.

The price includes the cost of delivery when bought alone, and each purchase will be in with a chance of winning a home shirt signed by the players and management team.

Please click here to buy the programme through the online store. Thank you for your continued support during this uncertain peroid. Stay safe and we will see you soon".

York Press adds that "The match was the final scheduled game for York prior to the National League suspending fixtures in its three divisions...

Having donated the food prepared for the Altrincham game to Changing Lives, the club have now put the programmes published on sale in support of the NHS Charities COVID-19 Urgent Appeal. The appeal is helping staff and volunteers working in the NHS currently".

ON THIS DAY: 2 APRIL

Altrincham's last fourteen attempts to win a match on today's date, 2nd April, have proved successful just once since 1951!

That one success came in 2005 with a 1-0 victory at The Northolme against Gainsborough Trinity in the Northern Premier League. Altrincham had already visited Gainsborough earlier in the 2004-05 season, for an FA Trophy game, which ended in a 1-1 draw, before Alty won the replay. In the reverse league match at Moss Lane, which was the first game of that campaign, Altrincham had won 4-1.

Left: Adam Brindle

On 2 April, Altrincham arrived in Lincolnshire in sixth place and were ultimately to finish fifth and win the play-off against Eastbourne Borough at The Britannia Stadium which earned them their place back in the top-flight of non-League football.

In the game at Gainsborough, after a disappointing first half from both sides, Alty were much improved after the break, especially after the introduction of Kieran Lugsden and Colin Potts. Indeed, Potts was announced as Alty's Man of the Match after 80 minutes, only 23 minutes after coming on!

Alty got the reward for their second-half improvement when it was Potts's corner, from the right, which was nodded on to Colin Little who scored at the back post (67 mins). Gainsborough's only second-half threat came in the closing stages but the Alty defence held firm.

For this game, Altrincham were without Steve Aspinall, who was watching the game with an ice-pack on his injured ankle, and both Colin Potts and Eddie Hussin were only fit to be on the bench. Both sides were without two players with broken legs, (Marcus Hallows and Stephen Rose for Alty; Caudwell and Bird for Trinity). Trinity also had Sherlock suspended.

Josh Mitten was again preferred to Kieran Lugsden up front for Altrincham whilst teenager Lewis Chalmers started his second game for the first team, on the left flank.

The squad for the match was 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. George MELLING, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Mark MADDOX, 5. Gary TALBOT (capt), 6. Richard NORRIS, 7. Gary SCOTT, 8. Val OWEN, 9. Colin LITTLE, 10. Jonathan MITTEN, 11. Lewis CHALMERS. Subs: 12. Eddie HUSSIN, 14. Adam BRINDLE, 15. Kieran LUGSDEN, 16. Colin POTTS, 17. Paul TILLEY.

Right: Paul Tilley

In addition to Lewis Chalmers and Kieran Lugsden, two other youngsters in the squad were Adam Brindle and Paul Tilley. Bridle, an Alty Reserves' defender who had been a junior at Manchester City, had the unfortunate distinction of being named on the bench no fewer than six times that season but never got onto the pitch at first-team level for Altrincham.

Paul Tilley was an Altrincham youth team midfielder, for whom he was captain in 2001-02. In the absence of a Reserves' side at Alty he moved on to Trafford and Leigh RMI before returning to join the re-formed Altrincham reserves in 2004. He went on to make his first-team debut as a sub on 6 November 2004 in the CSC against Chester City. In all, he made eight substitute appearamces for Altrincham, five of them being in league games in 2004-05.

VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH NEWS

The Telegraph & Argus reports that "Bradford-born Des Hazel has been involved in football for the best part of 40 years.

After making 274 Football League appearances for the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United, Hazel retired in 2000 to begin a career in developing young players. Roles at Bradford City and Leeds United followed, before he landed a job at one of the biggest clubs in the country, Manchester City.

Gareth Roberts then brought his expertise to Horsfall last October in an attempt to build a successful academy... Hazel said... 'You have to build a base where eventually you can produce players to step into the first team. It has to be a process, built over two or three years. Ideally you are looking to use Bradford (Park Avenue) as a community base. The attendances are very nominal, so you have to look at the community and try and get a new clientele which would help the first team and the youth team.”

An example of the sort of player Hazel is aiming to bring through is young Jamie Lyons. The 17-year-old impressed immediately and has since made a number of first team appearances.

Hazel said... 'I realised this kid could play. He had the right ability and temperament. He still has to grow into his body but that will come... Mark (Bower) liked him and he has played in the first team. We are looking to attract those types of players.'

Elite Development Scout was the 52-year-old’s title at current Premier League champions City... 'When you are recruiting for Manchester City, you have got to realise that these players have already been found. All you are doing is cherry picking all these players from other academies'...

Hazel has hosted a number of trials since he was appointed at Bradford and gave his assessment on what he looks for in a player... The former winger said 'He might not do anything for 90 minutes but it could be the way he trains or moves. Is he injured? Is he growing? Has he got that desire? There’s a lot of factors you have to consider. The trials have not gone too badly. You look at the local community and you have got to be brutally honest; I have got to start looking at players outside Bradford as well that have been released from professional clubs.

'You have got to be a realist; the chances are that not a lot of them will become professional footballers. We are looking at players who can push on into the first team'".

And Bradford (Park Avenue) "announce the signing of twins, Willy Eckerslyke and Woody Eckerslyke from Earls Park F.C. Willy and Woody, aged 25, both join after making a phenomenal impact at the Sparks, both combining for 78 goals and 37 assists in just two seasons at the London-based club. Both proud Yorkshiremen, born and bred in the city of Bradford, they are excited about getting the opportunity to don the Red, Amber and Black...

Avenue manager, Mark Bower hopes the pair both continue what they have started, 'Very pleased to announce these two new signings. Although to be honest with you, I couldn’t tell you which one is which. Called Woody Willy and Willy Woody earlier. But yeah, both scored plenty of goals and got good potential so I’m excited to see what they can bring to the team.'”


1 April 2020

NATIONAL LEAGUE SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY

On Tuesday afternoon, the National League announced that "The National League Board met earlier today and has reviewed its prior decision to suspend the competition until at least 3rd April 2020.

In consideration of the very serious and unprecedented national public health emergency caused by the coronavirus, the Board has taken the decision to suspend the National League, National League North and National League South competitions indefinitely.

The National League is currently obtaining specialist legal advice, is consulting regularly with The Football Association and other stakeholders, and is committed to involving its member clubs in a pending decision on how best to conclude the 2019/20 season".

ON THIS DAY: 1 April

2006: Coincidentally just as on yesterday's date, 31 March, it was exactly 13 years since Altrincham had hosted a game against Exeter City at Moss Lane, today's date (1 April) is the 14th anniversary of another fixture against Exeter City, this time in Devon, with Alty losing 3-1 in the Conference.

Above: Alty's day got off to a bad start after the players' coach broke down on the way to Exeter from their overnight stay at Taunton and the players eventually arrived at the ground just after 2.25pm, having been picked up from the M5 hardshoulder by the supporters' coach, which had returned to collect them after it had delivered the fans to the ground. Above the players cross the pitch after their arrival at the ground, with the supporters' coach just visible outside the ground, far left.

Things did not improve as Alty, trailing 2-1 but still in the game and looking forward to a second half with the wind behind them, had Mark Maddox sent off. Having been fouled, the Alty captain was red-carded for allegedly kicking the offender, as the game went into added time before the interval.

2008: In 2008, the CSC Final took place on a Tuesday night, 1 April at Wincham Park and the game ended Nantwich Town 3 Altrincham 3 but The Dabbers won 5-3 on penalties after extra time. Phil Parkinson was in the Nantwich side. Jake Sedgmore's missed spot kick was the ultimate determiner of the outcome.

Alty had been without seven of their first-team squad; Lynch, Tansey, Turnbull, Roca and Battersby were ineligible either because they had not signed before the semi-final stage or had played for another club in the competition, and both Liam King and Val Owen were injured, although Val warmed the bench. However, Alty started with many regular first-teamers (Coburn, Tinson, Lawton, Young, Peyton, Lane, Shotton, O'Neill) whilst recent fringe players such as Jake Sedgemore and Pat McFadden remained on the bench. Phil Parkinson featured for The Dabbers.

A hat-trick from the Dabber's Slovakian ex-Crewe and Stafford substitute, Pawel Suhaj, was the key to the Nantwich success, after Altrincham had taken the lead in the 33rd minute through Chris Senior, following good work from Colin Little. But Alty were second best for much of the game, with passes frequently misplaced and, though the surface was poor, that was no excuse for their defeat. The 6ft 4inch Suhaj came off the bench in the 68th minute and within three minutes had levelled the scores, converting a left-sided corner.

Three minutes from the end of normal time he put his side ahead only for Ryan Shotton, pushed up front for the final minutes, to equalize in the first of three added minutes. Alty twice could have snatched the Cup in the remaining minutes before extra time arrived.

Suhaj then was allowed an eternity to turn and score his hat-trick goal three minutes into the first period of extra-time, only for Shotton to grab another late equalizer, chesting down Lawton's cross before scoring, two minutes into the second period of extra-time.

In the penalty shoot-out Nantwich converted all five spot-kicks confidently but Alty's first, by substitute Jake Sedgemore, was saved, allowing the Dabbers to run out 5-3 winners from the penalty spot.

2013 & 2014: On April Fools' Day in 2013, Altrincham lost 2-0 at Chester FC and a year later they played a goalless draw against Boston on 1 April, a Tuesday night.

2017: Most recently, on 1 April 2017 they lost 1-2 at Salford City, a result which confirmed Altrincham's relegation but in that game they should have emerged with at least a point, if not all three, following a spirited performance.

Right: Gary Jones is mobbed by delighted team-mates after his fine goal.

Referee Marsden was the centre of controversy as he denied the visitors three very strong penalty appeals whilst granting Salford a more questionable spot-kick which got The Ammies back into game after they had trailed at the interval.

Altrincham had taken a deserved 38th minute lead when Gary Jones netted with a superb 30-yard strike. But thirteen minutes into the second half Sam Heathcote was penalised in his own box and Walker netted from the spot. The goal prompted the hosts' best spell of the afternoon and they took a 62nd minute lead when Simon Grand scored from close range after Tomlinson had saved well from King's shot.

Alty finished strongly; they hit the bar through Owens, and referee Marsden waved away appeals for penalties when Owens was bundled over and when a defender appeared to stop the ball on the line with his hands. But, in the end, even a win for Alty would only have delayed the inevitable relegation which has been beckoning for some weeks.

And to compound their woes, Alty, already lacking eight injured players at kick-off, lost Tom Hannigan to another injury during the first half.

VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH NEWS

Football might be on hold at present but the Shropshire Star reports that "AFC Telford United have confirmed their first pre-season friendly of the 2020/21 season...

Gavin Cowan’s men will make the short trip to face Southern League Central side Nuneaton Borough at Liberty Way on Saturday, July 11. The Bucks have added that the friendly is subject to further coronavirus updates...

The Bucks sit 13th of 22 clubs in the standings having completed 34 of their scheduled 42 fixtures. An update from the National League is expected in the next few days."

Likewise at Boston United "manager Craig Elliott is continuing to plan for the future, despite uncertainty when football will resume.

The Pilgrims have not played in National League North since their 1-1 draw at Curzon Ashton on March 7 and have seen their last five fixtures postponed.

Elliott said... 'At the current time, I feel extremely proud of our club and of how efficiently and effectively we were able to act and ensure the safety of all stakeholders and I would like to extend my personal thanks to our chairman for making this happen.

'Obviously the current situation has meant that our league campaign has been suspended and that the players have had to train individually for nearly two weeks now. A decision regarding social distancing and training was made very early on in the process in that we felt that this was the safest decision for our players, which was then backed up by government advice.

'I am in regular contact with the playing squad and, as I am sure you can imagine, they are desperate to finish our season as soon as it is safe to do so. The playing squad have been keeping on top of their fitness with individual fitness plans that have been professionally put together by Hayden Clifton and, at this stage, I am absolutely confident that each player will follow the advice given and keep on top of their health, fitness and diet in this very challenging environment.

'I am also in regular contact with the rest of my management team and chief scout. Already, we have had regular dialogue and time to reflect and fine tune ideas from this season. It goes without saying that we are also taking time to look to the future and how we can continue to improve, although this is very much tentative as we await clarity on how this season will be concluded.

'On a personal level, I would like to see the season finished and, with the hard work and flexibility of all clubs, players and league officials, I believe that this can be achieved. I feel for the integrity of the competition with so many points still to play for and I feel that we must explore every option to ensure this can happen. However, I am also conscious that this decision is out of the hands of managers and players and as such, we eagerly await this decision.

'While football is a huge part of all our lives and all of us are awaiting a return to the normality of the highs and lows of matchday, I am sure that you, like myself, fully agree that the health and safety of everyone is of paramount importance at this time'.

The Chester Standard confirms that "Chester FC... together with Chester FC Community Trust, will be contacting older City Fans United members, season ticket holders and volunteers in an effort to reduce social isolation during the lockdown.

The Blues say the initiative is open to the whole community, not just Chester FC supporters, and is looking for volunteers who can help from home.

In a statement, Chester FC said... 'Whether it is a friendly chat, a chance to talk about the Blues or organising assistance with shopping, we will be available for a regular call to offer support and promote positive well-being during this difficult time. The response of communities across West Cheshire to this crisis has been inspiring and the club has offered its full support to Cheshire West and Chester Council.

'This new initiative is open to anyone in the local area in need of extra support or a chat, not just Chester FC supporters... We would also welcome help from supporters who can volunteer a couple of hours at home each week to be part of the new initiative'".

FromCheshire Live we learn that "For Simon Grand, football has always been his 'escape'... For the past 20 years as a professional footballer [he has] been able to rely on those 90 minutes to get him in the right frame of mind again.

Over 500 games as a professional which has seen him play in every division from League One to the National League North, the 36-year-old has solidified his reputation as a fearless competitor at the heart of defence. Up until the coronavirus outbreak put the breaks on football and normal life across the globe, Grand had played every minute of every league game for Chester FC. Quite some feat for someone closer to his 40s than his 20s...

'Whenever I have had tough times in life, bereavements or anything, I have always been able to rely on football as an escape and that 90 minutes where I can just get away from things and forget, just concentrate on my football,' said Grand. 'To not have that now is tough, especially as this is a time in life that none of us have ever experienced and I've got more on my plate right now than I ever have but no football'...

His partner is due to give birth in a week's time, something he does not yet know if he will be able to attend, like the rest of the UK his daughter is being home schooled and he and his partner have been forced to close their salon in the face of the pandemic and now have to go through the process of seeking available government funding to ensure that they can re-open when life returns to normal, whenever that may be.

'It's really hard at the moment,' Grand admitted. 'I'm not even sure if I'll be allowed in the birthing unit when the baby arrives and sorting out everything around the salon is a headache. Then there is the fact that my Chester contract is up in a month or two. Times are strange and they are difficult but they are for so many people'...

Last week Grand took to Twitter to say how disappointed he would be if this season were to be scrubbed from history and declared null and void, his goal of playing every minute of every match and playing his part in some success seemingly dashed. Some took it as a retirement announcement...

'I've always looked after myself, kept fit and been wanted by clubs and managers every single summer,' said Grand. 'I don't want a virus to force me into retirement, I wanted that to be a decision that I made when I was good and ready. I know that it is out of my hands now but the way I feel at the moment is that I don't think I'm done. If it goes on a couple of months and then we start to see where we are at, then I'd like to keep on I think. But that all depends on who wants you, if you can find somewhere that you enjoy and with a group of players and staff that you believe in. I have that at Chester.

'But if this is a longer term thing and we aren't seeing football for months on end then I might have no choice. I don't want that, though. I also don't want this season to be voided. What has happened to the leagues below is us absolutely ridiculous. We've got to try and finish the season but there will be contract issues, I know. You just don't want all that hard work to be for nothing, and that counts from the very top down'.

At Chester, Grand has been able to spend the twilight years of his career playing alongside someone who has been a constant throughout much of it, Danny Livesey. The two best friends have played together at Rochdale, Carlisle United, Barrow and Chester...

'Danny coming to Chester re-ignited his love for the game,' said Grand... 'When he was out for the season through injury, and I had left just before he arrived, he kind of fell out of love with it a bit... Then the Chester call came and from the first training session you could see that the old Danny was there, wanting to win everything and getting that competitive streak back... I hope it isn't the last time we've played together for Chester. It wouldn't be the right way to end it all'".

Chester FC themselves report that "To support the long-term sustainability of the Club through this difficult time financially we are actively exploring a number of steps to cover this Shortfall such as:

With 2 player wages cycles left to be paid before 2nd May when player contracts cease, and payment of Government support via the JRS not yet forthcoming , it is essential all fundraising activity be continued to ensure we can meet our short term financial obligations in full and on time.

We are currently linking in with our match related sponsors to discuss individual arrangements with them. In fact, so far a significant number have donated the money they would have paid for sponsoring either the Match, Ball or Programme to the Club in lieu of the sponsorship which the Club are truly thankful for.

Our principal sponsors are covered under a separate arrangement so not directly linked to the fixture list completion i.e. not dependent on the actual matches taking place. That said, dialogue continues to take place with them individually but again it should be noted that this is more focussed on how they can continue to support the Club rather than pulling money away via reimbursement".

NL Daily informs us that "Gloucester City could play their home games at Bath City’s Twerton Park if their Meadow Park home is not ready for the start of next season.

Construction on their new 3,208-capacity ground has been taking place this year, with the club set to have a 3G pitch. It has been some 13 years since the club played in their home city, with their old ground on the Meadow Park site ruined by that year’s floods.

In an update from co-chairman Alex Petherham, he said 'With the season still on pause, and we’ve no idea what or even when anything will happen on that front, we’re very much in uncharted waters. We don’t know when we’ll be back to full speed ahead at MP and we don’t know if we’ll have to revert to our plan B.

'We have spoken to Bath City as an option if we’re delayed but as we don’t even know when this season will end and how long we’ll be in ‘lockdown’, looking forward to next season would just be guessing.'"

Wrexham's Daily Post reports that "Maidenhead United owner Peter Griffin has made a fresh proposal on how to settle the football season... Different leagues and governing bodies are locked in talks over the best way to proceed with the season.

The FA have already opted to declare divisions below the National League null and void, sparking fears that the same may happen in professional football...

In an open letter to the FA, the owner of the Magpies, who sit 22nd in the National League two places below Wrexham, has proposed a solution that would both end the season now and also reward teams for their successful season. Griffin, along with CEO Jon Adams, has argued that a points-per-game average would be the best way to settle the season, rather than risk things dragging on during the current pandemic.

They propose that relegation should be scrapped this season, meaning that each league expands for next year. 'In times of great adversity we see football for what it is, a meaningless pastime that means everything to so many,' the letter said... 'We are currently... in the dark, without clear leadership and direction from the football authorities. We believe that there is an overwhelming consensus amongst National League clubs that the football season should be finished now...

'It is now time for the FA and the Premier League to show strong leadership by accepting the current season is over and that it is not practical to hope that it could be completed at an undefined future date. This message needs relaying to FIFA and other bodies. Quite simply put, it is abhorrent to stick our heads in the sand and insist "we will finish the season at all costs" when people are dying and the global crisis continues apace.

'The time for consistency of approach and a solution for the whole football family is now. So far the FA has come up with a variety of ‘solutions’ for different steps of football; voiding the season for non-league steps 3-6, no comment on the National League, and apparently everything must be completed for top level and European competitions. This must stop immediately; football needs to act as one.'



Click here for EARLIER NEWS


Alty Files Website Index

The following pages, which initially replicate those pages with the same web addresses which formed part of the official Club website, will be re-branded from 2018 as part of this new unofficial Alty Files site.

A/Z Site Index to The Alty Files at www.altrinchamfc.co.uk