Last Night, This Season and Beyond
Last night was symptomatic of so much of this season - not good enough. Outplayed, out-thought and out-muscled by a Tooting side that thoroughly deserved their victory last night. The performance, which was pretty insipid and uninspiring largely, I suspect, through fatigue, compounded the journey down which included sitting in a tailback on the A308 through Hampton for an hour.
Two players did themselves justice last night. Joe Wright, who has had his detractors throughout the season (myself included) but who made some outstanding saves - the one from the free kick was genuinely first class - and kept the scoreline respectable; and Casey Maclaren, who made some vital - if slightly last-ditch - challenges and forced the Tooting keeper into his one save of the evening.
Once again, we were undone by a couple of individual errors that led to each goal. A missed clearance and a clumsy, needless challenge in the penalty area. Going forwards, Kezie was trying to fend off the advances of a couple of Tooting defenders with no red shirt within fifteen yards of him, and even when we did get into good positions, we didn't pull the trigger. Shulton helped a bit going forwards in the second half, but he should have been sent off for his part in triggering the rolling maul at the beginning of stoppage time.
For the season overall, we have to be thankful that Lewes couldn't buy a win in the first half of the season, Burgess Hill couldn't in the second half, that VCD were generally pretty poor, that Brentwood left themselves with so many games in such a short space of time and that Farnborough can't manage their finances.
That said, I don't think this season can equate to 2005/6 or even large parts of the season before. - yes it's been tough and set against the context of last season, extremely challenging - but I didn't ever really feel that we would go down. It hasn't been like the reign of Gary Farrell, or 2005/6 where I genuinely couldn't find any hope anywhere.
Hopefully now, this summer gives us a really good chance to start again. Yes, I think the switch to 3G should suit us and the way Gary likes to play football - but we're still going to have to play on heavy and bobbly pitches throughout the season so we have to make sure that we aren't undone by that. That is something we did brilliantly last season.
Player wise, there are a lot that if I was Gary, would be in limbo. There are six that I definitely want to hold on to, another half a dozen or so who we know are capable of more than they've shown this season and the rest have shown glimpses from time to time, but too often flattered to deceive. Whether it's a case of giving them a little more time and seeing if consistency comes is a decision for Gary. There is one who I think is a walking liability (not through ability) and I would gladly never see in a Hendon shirt again.
Key areas for improvement are at both ends of the pitch. An imposing, dominating centre half (likely to cost a few £££) and a regular partner / support for Kezie, assuming he is around next season.
We have a huge opportunity at SJP to build something to be truly proud of, but we as fans have to pull together to realise the potential we have there. Rob can only do so much, Simon can only do so much, Dave Bedford can only do so much. This is the time to reach out to the people of Hendon, West Hendon, Kingsbury and Cricklewood and spread the news of the club's return to (as near as dammit) it's spiritual home. Get the youth teams into the home games, get them to bring their friends and families, find those supporters that used to be regulars at Claremont Road and encourage them to come back and be part of something again.
The club can be something that the community is proud of, that represents them and that they feel part of. We can build some momentum early on - the trick is maintaining that and keeping people interested. Perhaps you have ideas that you think are worth trying out, something that hasn't been thought of before but something innovative that may entice people through the turnstiles. You don't necessarily need to see them through yourself, but just talk to a member of the Supporter's Association or Trust Committees and they can be discussed.
I'll finish this slightly indecipherable ramble into the Green dark by repeating what our former physio and current Team GB Bobsleigh coach Gary Anderson said yesterday. "I will never forget my time at Hendon. I worked at all levels of the game and have to say my happiest times were at Hendon. One club that does things right. Proud to have been associated." He then goes on to talk about doppelgangers, pubs and Saint Etienne references - but reading that from someone like Gary made me feel pretty proud of our little club.
Well done all for getting through this season, let's hope there are a few more smiles around the place next time around.
Re: Last Night, This Season and Beyond
Once again you have provided considered, sage insight both into the season just gone and those to come. This is genuine and honest support with constructive and realistic criticism which I applaud and support wholeheartedly.
Not Quite Random Ramblings
And I’ll say “Aye” to all of John’s thoughts. I couldn’t believe how poor we were in the London final. Confidence is something you cannot instil or teach and there were too many players whose confidence is so low that they are scared of making mistakes so become too tentative ... and then take the wrong option and make a different type of mistake. One effort on target in 90 minutes, Casey’s header, sum up how poor we were. Finbarr's injury didn't help, but Kezie desperately needed help in the Tooting half (can't call it the final third because we were coming from too deep).
One final thought on last night: I know the reasons we wore red (as Tooting were the nominal home side, we could not wear black or midnight blue shorts, so it had to be the red kit), but if I never see Hendon in red again, I won't be disappointed. We just don't look like Hendon FC in those colours.
Last season was a glorious surprise and it raised expectations to a level which were probably too high. I certainly expected us to be contending far more for the playoffs than for Ryman League North but, in hindsight - a wonderful thing - the offseason and preseason should have set the alarm bells ringing.
The writing was on the wall in August and September when we started losing games to late goals (last year these were wins turning into draws) and it continued all season. Twenty centre-back pairings was about a dozen too many, but it is hard to imagine a better pair than our 2014-15 - from November - duo of Elliott Brathwaite and Charlie Goode (though, for those old enough, Alan Phillips/Peter Deadman and Alan Campbell/Phil Gridelet probably push them close).
It also didn't help that players in all three areas of the pitch were nothing like as effective as they had been last season. I cannot recall so many players taking holidays during the season or being unavailable for work reasons. As for departures, injuries and suspensions, they are occupational hazards, so using them as excuses is too easy, but there is no doubt we were seriously weakened by all three.
So 2015-16 is consigned to the history books (and dustbin in my mind) and we can look forward to a new dawn in 2016-17. If all goes as we hope, we will be back - well, within 50 metres - of the borough at SJP, somewhere we can call home and somewhere that should not be subject to the number of postponements that have been the blight of ours seasons for so many years.
All the magnificent work done by Rob Morris, Simon Lawrence, Mike Harte, the HFC Trust board and secretary Graham Etchell (not forgetting Lyn) has given us hope going forward. Let's hope Gary and his management team can put out a squad which will be back in contention for honours in April 2017.
Re: Not Quite Random Ramblings
Picking up on Davids comments below re un-availability of players i do find it strange that we have players on dual registration (Jake Cass & Hassan Sulamain) spring to mind that seem to play regularly for there parent club but make few if any appearances for Hendon.We also have players registered (Belal) for example that were never going to play a game. I know that there is not much cost involved in this but surely it is better in the long run to have players registered who are actualy going to be available to play for us.
Re: Not Quite Random Ramblings
In footballing parlance, I would describe last night as akin to watching an autopsy on a loved one!
No-one can accuse the lads of not trying and like the fans, they themselves, displayed their frustrations.
All our pro-longed weakenesses were once again brought to the fore.
I maintain we are at a cross-juncture. With Kevin due back in the middle the whole dynamic changes. We saw last night the space Seebs had to exploit. Kevin has great awareness and we will become stronger.
Plenty of terrace talk with regards to recent departures potentially coming back. We have a lack of physical presence and have been incapable of imposing any foothold in games.
It all makes for an interesting pre-season. I remain optimistic. A couple of solid additions and we should prosper in a division which looks to contain a lot of evenly matched sides.
Keep those heads up chaps.
Re: Not Quite Random Ramblings
A disappointing end to a disappointing season,no complaints about the result last night they deserved to win,we didn't, end of story. One of the few bright spots in recent times has been the return from injury of Chris Seeby and from suspension of Casey Mac.both have put in some outstanding performances considering their lengthy lay offs. Someone else, who has been an ever present all season( I think) deserves a special mention for devotion beyond the call of duty,the epitome of a great clubman,step forward Big Dave,player of the year in waiting.