Re: well done
Having taken a few days to reflect upon Saturday's events and the season as a whole, I think this has been one of the most turbulent I can remember, for sure.
The first two seasons I was a regular (95/96 & 96/97) saw relegation battles where we looked in deep trouble in February, but neither going down to the wire like this season did. When all is said and done, I think looking back that what Gary and the squad achieved in the final ten games of the season will go down alongside what Ted Hardy achieved in the mid-80s with the final day victory at Slough Town.
At the end of February, we were absolutely dead and buried. By rights, we should have been relegated weeks ago with Grays. Yet, somehow, Gary (and the board should be applauded here for backing him) managed to cobble together a side at short notice that gelled quickly, came together quickly and went on an absolutely heroic run to stave off relegation at the death.
This season wasn't all bad - the FA Cup run was great until the anti-climax of Boreham Wood away in the 4th Qualifying Round which, for many reasons, had none of the magic of a great away-day in the latter rounds of the cup. But the performances at Dulwich and against Rushden were genuinely outstanding.
Again, Gary has had to put up with chaos on the playing side. Injuries putting players like Elliott, Andre, Big Dave, Seebs and Casey out of action for lengthy periods; others being seduced by the lure of greater financial rewards at other clubs; others not being up for the fight and others simply not being good enough. I'm sure Gary would take some responsibility for some of the replacements at times not being of the required quality, but the disappointing thing from my point of view was the way in which some players with some degree of calibre and experience at this level (not currently still at the club) would shine when things were going well yet go completely missing when up against things, as we so often were during the Autumn and Winter.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for the way in which guys like Arthur, Kezie, Murphs, Keagan, Dave & Casey have kept plugging away all season, through the bad times to enjoy the better times ahead - their attitude and level of commitment has put others earlier in the season to shame and I thank them for their loyalty and unswerving hard work.
Likewise, whether they remain with the club or not, I will always give a warm welcome back to James Hammond, Josh McLeod-Urquhart, Matt Ball, James Harper, Marcel Barrington, Khale daCosta and
Reis Stanislaus for matching the above guys since joining the club for work-rate, desire, commitment and getting us over the line.
Final thought on the playing side, to echo JD, please can we try and do everything possible to keep Tom Lovelock at the club. His command of his area is a breath of fresh-air, the countless number of outstanding saves he's made at crucial times to keep us in matches and calming influence on the back four has perhaps been the single most important factor in our survival. I'm not sure I've seen such a consistently good goalkeeper between the sticks since Gary took over.
Let's hope we can continue to build on what was, overall, a successful first season at SJP in terms of making it a home.
It would be great to get more youth teamers and their families through the gate on a more regular basis - put on penalty shoot-outs on the pitch at half time (maybe invite local school teams along?), or have mini five a side matches - it's not going to ruin the pitch. The atmosphere on Saturday was great - as it was against QPR, Worthing, Dulwich and Rushden. It would be fabulous to make 250+ crowds the norm.
Well done everyone concerned for getting us over the line. Let's work together to make 2017/8 a season of stability and growth. In GREEN!