Westleigh Park, Havant
The soap opera element of our club has been pumping out a few new storylines in the weeks following my last summary. Alright, it’s not exactly been divorce papers served over the Christmas turkey, or an abusive dad smote hip and thigh then buried under a patio, but nonetheless we’ve been turning over some of our lead characters, and it seems more will have to be written out, as a result of this past week’s shenanigans.
So firstly, since my last remarks, we have a new manager. The supporters had called for an experienced Conference man, with Terry Brown and Liam Daish being top of the wish list. Instead, we got a man who has as much experience of non-League as I do of competition topiary. That man is Lee Bradbury, a journeyman Football League pro who turned out for Portsmouth, Manchester City and Crystal Palace amongst others, before taking on the player-managership at AFC Bournemouth after Eddie Howe’s departure to Burnley. That stint lasted 14 months. Also, in worrying-but-not-actually-at-all-relevant omen news, the one time I remember watching him as a player, he was stretchered off with a serious knee ligament injury. Him doing football stuffs, while I watch, is clearly not a good mix.
After originally ruling himself out of the running to nestle his aris in the managerial bum crevice on our bench, he eventually realised that neither AFC Wimbledon nor Wycombe Wanderers would be taking him on after interview, so reassessed his desire to slum it in our pub league. First impressions were that this was not the appointment we needed given our precarious position but, hey, this is where we are, and it might turn out that the fresh eyes of a young, clearly ambitious manager might be beneficial for all parties. If success at our club is what it takes for Lee to get back into League management, then who would complain at that? We don’t need a lifer in the hot-seat; we need someone that makes us BELIEVE again.
So, it’s not really a case of ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ here. Meeting his new assistant is though, as he’s exactly the same as an old boss, being the exact same boss we sacked in April. Yes, Shaun Gale is back. He never really left of course, overseeing the community programme in the meantime. A lot of supporters are uncomfortable with such a recent managerial failure being ‘forgiven’ so soon, as it were, but it’s fair to say that Gale was relatively successful in his previous stint as assistant manager under Ian Baird, so this may be the role he is more suited for. Given some might regard this staggered demotion as a bit of a humiliation, the man’s commitment to our club is not in question. He is that Hawk lifer. If you cut him, he would bleed… well he’d bleed red, cos that’s what colour blood is, but chances are that that blood would stain an item of clothing with the Havant & ‘Ville club badge on it.
That’s the changes with the management dealt with, and now onto this week’s change in the boardroom. You may recall that in an attempt to gather new investment, and bring freshness to our board, we took on a new vice-chairman about six months ago. It was considered a bold move, as never had a football club appointed a massive bag filled with dribble and farts to such a senior position before.
It all ended in not tears but relief this week when Bertie Bag-O’Farts flounced out as noisily as he had flounced in, and probably not long before he was asked to err… flounce off. The exit was seemingly inevitable; it was just a matter of him taking the door rather than a plate-glass window. He will not be missed. When it comes to embarrassing bluster, he was a tour de force, and his brief tenure dragged our club through the mire, frankly. Ill-advised, unprofessional blurt in the press at best; and possibly fraudulent activity at worst. The man was clearly an oaf and we are best off rid, and hopefully now our public pronouncements will return to being undertaken by more savvy and experienced members of our club’s top brass, who had been doing a perfect job of it for YEARS. Back to basics then, although hopefully more successfully than John Major's government went about it.
Having budgeted on the basis of Bertie’s empty promises, plus having a surplus of players, a lot of whom aren’t of ‘proper Hawk standard’ if we’re honest, one of Lee Bradbury’s first tasks will be to cut our cloth. Sam Pearce has already been sent out on a long loan to Gosport Borough. This at our club is fairly standard practice and is essentially the equivalent of taking an old, ailing cat to the vet. They might come back but, well, y’know, prepare the children with talk of ‘pet heaven’ is all I’m saying.
To shake things up a bit, Bradbury has already called in some favours, obtaining left-back Dan Butler from Portsmouth and midfielder Stefan ‘Audrey’ Hamilton-Forbes from the landed gentry. Both put in encouraging debut performances here against a Welling side managed by Jamie Day, another that had been tipped for our recent vacancy, and there seemed a greater coherence about our performance. A draw here may have been a fairer result, but their keeper was not troubled in any major way while Clark Masters was required to swoop a long way to keep out a free-kick in the first half, and was left in a heap as Ross Lafayette took two swings to collect a scrappy winner in the 78th minute.
Bradbury’s tenure got off to a good start, with a 2-1 win away at Basingstoke followed by a club record 11-1 victory over United Services Portsmouth in the Hampshire Senior Cup. One would be ill-advised to read too much into that latter result though especially as in the three league games since we have taken nul points and scored just the single goal; an after-the-Lord-Mayor’s-Show consolation from Tony Taggart in a 3-1 defeat at Billericay.
The last manager had ten games before he got dinged out due to apparent ‘commitment issues’. Assuming Lee Bradbury shows a great deal more dedication, then we must respond in kind and give him time to sort out the mess. He has inherited a club that really needs to understand itself and what it stands for again. Things may get worse before they get better, but we are not in Truro/Kettering dire straits – for that we can be thankful. We do though need to be brothers in arms – and we must gather together and rebuild not only the team and our season, but also our sense of self-esteem as in the past few months, it has never been lower. Our pride Fallon hard times you could say. *cough*.
A new dawn has broken, it may still be murky out there, a bit cumulonimbus overhead, but a new dawn it remains.