Eve of the 2008 season.
"FRIDAY 15th AUGUST
Well, after all the drama of the past six weeks, Hendon Football Club has made it to the post and is going behind the stalls. How will the team go on the field?
2007 was a terrific year.
Hendon went into it in the relegation zone, recovered to comfortably avoid the drop and were top on Boxing Day. 2008 hasn’t been quite so successful. In the local cups, losing both the Middlesex Senior and London Senior finals was disappointing.
Losing to despised local rivals Wealdstone on the final day of the league campaign was painful. That loss cost the Greens a play-off place that seemed to have been booked by wins over the top two, Chelmsford and Staines, in the preceding fortnight. However, those two wins were something of an upward blip, as the team had been on the slide since commencing the new year with six successive league defeats.
Hendon certainly overachieved in the first half of last term and the second half was simply a reversion to the norm. Given the summer departures, the norm is probably just below halfway down the Ryman Premier table. I’d settle for twelfth. I have a feeling it might be slightly lower, but it’ll take a lot of bad luck for the season to develop into a serious relegation struggle.
I’m concerned about the goalkeeping position. Luke found his voice in the second half of last season and grew in confidence, but he’s not big and he’s not Richard Wilmot. Berkley looks promising but he’s even more of a Trappist than Luke was. Gary McCann is a keeper, so he knows what he needs in that department, but I’m not sure he’s convinced by Luke.
Craig Vargas apart, I’m not sold on the fullback options. Central defence looks OK, but it’ll look a lot better if James Parker is in the number five shirt. There’s a fair amount of talent in the middle of the park, but the midfield might be slightly short of beef.
Up front, Hauley’s improvement from the middle of last term was astounding but I’ve never fancied Chris Bangura as an out-and-out striker and the squad could do with more depth in the forward department.
I’d better stop writing about it, because the more I think about the holes in the team, the more worried I get.
There’s certainly no realistic chance of Hendon being in contention for the title. No chance at all, in fact. Sutton are now favourites with the bookies, but I still strongly fancy Staines, who’ve been available at 10/1 after a fair bit of support had come in for Dover. Some clubs’ chequebooks spew out paper like a confetti dispenser at a Moonie mass wedding during most close seasons at this level. However, there’s still no sign of anyone except Carshalton spending money.
I don’t see this being a high-quality season at Ryman Premier level. Last term’s play-off semi-finalists look to have regressed since April: Ramsgate appreciably so, having been pillaged by Dover’s chequebook; Hornchurch less so, but they still look weaker. I can’t see anyone climbing from the middle of last season’s final table. The improvers should be the duo who stayed up on goal difference: Boreham Wood and Carshalton; and the team that finished just above them: Maidstone. I don’t see any of them having sufficient quality to trouble the leaders, especially Staines, though Carshalton’s roster suggests they’ve shelled out a lot of dough. Richard Jolly doesn’t come cheap and he’s been allowed to leaf through Carshalton’s chequebook and further refine his professional capabilities as an accountant by filling in whatever figures he fancies.
The teams Hendon should be looking to keep ahead of are impoverished local rivals Harrow Borough, newly promoted duo Tooting & Mitcham and Canvey Island, last term’s strugglers Margate, Harlow and Hastings and possibly Heybridge Swifts, who appear to be in an even greater state of financial flux than has recently been the norm.
Staines for the title; Sutton, Dover, Billericay and Tonbridge for the play-offs; Hastings, Margate, Harrow and Harlow for the drop."
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