Real football, real loyalty

by Chris

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Grass roots and beyond

Last Saturday the Rebels faithful, otherwise known as the fans of Southern league strugglers Slough Town FC, witnessed an unusual event.

On 14th March, Steve Daly celebrated his tenth anniversary of being a STFC centre half. While his appearances have been seldom in the 2008/09 season due to the previous administration believing he was “surplus to requirement”, the Rebels appointed a new manager a fortnight ago and Daly may yet get to pull on an amber and blue shirt before hanging up his boots for the last time.

Given the continuous player movement we usually see during any ten-year period, to witness this degree of loyalty, even at non-league level, is decidedly impressive.

During his 377 appearances, Slough won the league cup, beat Walsall in the FA Cup First Round and saw Ashley Hames take on the management position as part of Bravo TV’s Man’s Work series. (The nerdy little git won the game as well…Hames that is, not Daly.) In addition, he inspired one of the fans’ most memorable player chants to the tune of the Addams Family:

“In our defensive foursome
He’s absolutely awesome
From corners he will score some
It’s Steve Da-ly”

To his credit, Daly also stuck by the Rebels when the money ran out, they slid down the leagues and were threatened with relegation from the British Gas Business South West division at the end of last season.

So here’s to a true footballing hero, a gallant loyal servant to a non-league club who’ll always be welcome in the bar and will be treated to a free pint by most of the fanbase.

It did make me wonder though – what is it that prevents players from sticking around at a non-league club? Most fans don’t begrudge a move away from the club because of a better offer, whether its money or prestige – but there are countless examples of players who move sideways.

My favourite one with Slough was a midfielder who was well regarded but ran away the minute the money ran out. That was fair enough, but he lied about why he was going. He told everyone that he was moving to Essex to be with his missus, but then appeared a few months later playing for a local rival: Burnham. Cue many jokes about how having “moved to Essex” he must’ve got confused and thought he’d signed on for Burnham on Crouch.

However, I had a chat with a local talent scout this week which may help to clear the fog on this issue. He was complaining about a certain non league manager (who shall remain nameless, but I’m open to bribery) who treated not just his players, but those who were given to him on loan, appallingly.

When he wasn’t shouting and screaming at the players, he’d lead them on a merry goose chase around much of the Home Counties trying to find somewhere to train midweek. The manager had been told to give their home ground a rest, but had forgotten to book facilities elsewhere. Having sent the team and some on-loan reserves to one training pitch, he soon had to take them elsewhere as it was already booked. The manager sped off to an ulterior ground, forgetting that the loan-ers had no idea where they were and no knowledge of the local area. When that ground was taken too, the manager suggested a third location, but then decided to go home without telling anyone instead.

With the mid-week session abandoned, the manager ordered that the team arrive at the home ground early to put in some training before heading off to the away fixture. The on-loan players dutifully arrived and after the session, asked if they could go to the local shop for an energy drink. They returned 10 minutes before the departure time to find the manager, players, coaches et al had gone without them, leaving them with no idea how to get to the fixture.

Needless to say, the players returned to their own club with nothing but bad words to say about the offending manager, and no more loan agreements have been signed since. Somewhat unsurprisingly, that Sunday, the manager’s top striker left for a local rival, citing difficulties with the management.

Perhaps at our end of the football spectrum it’s a lack of tact and common decency which pushes the players to rotate around the local sides. Managers may have to employ a little more diplomacy at our end of the pyramid structure – typically this job isn’t the players’ primary employment, if they’re not enjoying themselves, they’ll leave. And the club will often be worse off as a result.

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  • stevie

    good article, a nice change to cover grass roots

    I can feel another blog coming on, top loyal players. Tony Adams, Matt Le Tis etc….

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