Never un­der-state the role of the fans

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - Jeff Stelling

FIRST the good news: Dave Jones is hav­ing an im­pact at my club Hartle­pool United. The last few games, par­tic­u­larly at home, have been a lot bet­ter. We also had a good win at Cam­bridge United a cou­ple of weeks ago and were very un­lucky at Black­pool last week­end.

It’s a hard job. The squad is very young in­deed. As an ex­am­ple, we’ve got a young loa­nee goal­keeper, Joe Fryer, and a 17year-old right-back called Ken­ton Richard­son who looks a lot younger than 17. I hope he can for­give me for writ­ing that.

So it’s a young side, but they’re lis­ten­ing and learn­ing. With rea­son­able for­tune in the re­main­ing games, we should be OK.

I know Dave and the chair­man, Gary Cox­all, have al­ready sat down to talk about the bud­get for the sum­mer and out­lined po­ten­tial tar­gets. So, with­out be­ing cock­sure, we’re work­ing on the ba­sis that we will be a Foot­ball League club next sea­son and, hope­fully, it’s on­wards and up­wards

Re­late

There’s no ques­tion we had high hopes for where we’d fin­ish this sea­son – and a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle isn’t what we in­tended.

But, for all sorts of rea­sons – play­ers have left, we’ve had some bad in­juries – things haven’t gone our way. But it’s about keep­ing our head above wa­ter this sea­son and mak­ing sure there are two other sides be­low us come the fi­nal whis­tle.

That’s the hard bit. I’ve got a soft spot for all the clubs down at the bot­tom. New­port County are a club I can re­ally re­late to.

Like Hartle­pool, they come from a min­ing area, there’s been a lot of un­em­ploy­ment and not much money around. I re­ally feel for them.

As I do for Ley­ton Ori­ent sup­port­ers. Ori­ent are a fan­tas­tic club. Not that long ago they had a foot in the Cham­pi­onship.

Man­ager af­ter man­ager has proved it’s now an im­pos­si­ble job. You’re work­ing un­der such con­straints and there have been all sorts of sto­ries about who picks the team and ques­tions about why some clearly-tal­ented play­ers have left the club.

Now Danny Webb has be­come the lat­est boss to de­part. He’s only a young man, and to say he was in at the deep end is a real un­der­state­ment.

I think the first thing for Ley­ton Ori­ent fans is that their club has to sur­vive. They need to re­take con­trol of their club – at what­ever level that is. That’s got to be the aim.

Even if they’re not in the Foot­ball League any more – and I’m not wish­ing that upon them– they can take in­spi­ra­tion from other clubs. AFC Wim­ble­don are the most ob­vi­ous. They came up through the leagues and look where they are now. They’re more than hold­ing their own in League One.

Our neigh­bours, Dar­ling­ton, suf­fered and went tum­bling down the leagues. They’re on their way back and are only two pro­mo­tions away from the Foot­ball League. It’s a hard road. But it’s not an im­pos­si­ble one.

Ei­ther the fans or a per­son with the best in­ter­ests of the club needs to have the own­er­ship and I don’t think any­body can say that’s the case at the mo­ment.

In­cred­i­ble

It’s been a dread­ful story and, of course, one of many in the Foot­ball League.

Coven­try City fans will be read­ing this now say­ing, ‘What about us?’ An­other fan­tas­tic club, but look where they’re head­ing.

They’ve sold an in­cred­i­ble amount of tick­ets for to­day’s Check­a­trade Tro­phy fi­nal at Wem­b­ley against Ox­ford United.

I’m sure they’re go­ing to go and show what sort of fans they are and what sort of club it is. It’s a fa­mous club, with an FA Cup win in my life­time, and they spent a num­ber of years in the Premier League.

We’ve seen their protests this year and I think they’ve won a lot of sup­port from fel­low fans.

One thing we all know: foot­ball sup­port­ers may not have the busi­ness acu­men or fi­nan­cial clout to run their foot­ball club. But we have the best in­ter­ests of it at heart. That’s the most im­por­tant thing.

PIC­TURE: Mark Do­herty/ ProS­ports

GOOD EF­FORT: Hartle­pool, in blue, went down 2-1 at in-form Black­pool last week­end

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