Luddites

Isthmian League, Premier Division
Maidstone United FC v Canvey Island FC
Saturday, 8th February 2014, 3pm
Gallagher Stadium
Entrance £10, Programme £2
Distance 48 miles, Attendance 1794
Blackmail is a fairly serious allegation. I’m no lawyer or a solicitor – I’m not sure I even know the difference between the two – however, I am fairly certain that to suggest blackmail may be a touch libellous without some hefty evidence to hand, so let’s assume (and I do), that this claim was made in the heat of the moment.
Phoenix Club X – with all their modern facilities – is having a pretty good season; they may even get promoted. You, the league above, have a book full of rules for dealing with all such matters. Mulling the situation over, as your fingers drum the trusty clipboard, a course of action comes to mind…
It’s clearly not an easy situation to resolve however, so as to avoid any protracted end-of-season shenanigans – there’s a holiday your wife doesn’t want to move – you decide to democratically ask your members, the clubs, how they feel about such modern technology joining their traditional world. The resulting secret ballot gets tetchy which plays on your mind both day and night and, all the while the media are sniffing about. When the result comes back negative, you announce the result. In unison fans and media throw their hands in the air and, their hats in the ring. On this matter, Club X evidently has more support than you at first imagined; this plays on your mind even more. A few days later, as you distractedly relive it all in the morning paper, the smell of burning rises from the toaster as the phone rings. Its Mr Pesky Reporter from your industry’s favourite Sunday read…
140209 NLP
Regardless of the good will of all those involved (on both sides), reading through the debris, questions easily outnumber the solutions.
Granted there were worse examples in the 2000 American Presidential elections but, since when did “democracy” ever involve anything but “one man/woman, one vote”? Even to the layman, the current Conference voting rights give those in the firing line (Level 6, North & South), less of a say than those sitting safely a division higher. Whatever your leaning – as they will have to face the issue of this evil spector first – surely this is all a bit arse-about-face?
Majority is defined as a larger portion of any given whole. With this in mind now imagine if, to affect change in our ruling government, or any of their policies, one needed a majority of 75%? In nearly 200 years of general elections this hasn’t happened, so why is it so essential in lower league football? Unless one is protecting a situation from change, what can possibly go wrong if 51% becomes the majority benchmark?
140208 ILPD Maidstone United v Canvey Island (4)bWhat about ground-grading? (yes, I know I hate the way most of it seems intended to keep small clubs down). Given clubs have two years to remove terracing after promotion to Level 2 (unless relegation comes first), wouldn’t a similar scenario for pitches seem prudent at Level 6, as an olive branch at the very least? A voice in my head is screaming – in devil’s advocate tones – that the Conference board may be a little scared that once 3 and 4G breach their defences other “members” may want them too…
Whilst some of Blatter’s utterances suggest he thinks differently, if Canute couldn’t stop the tide, it is very unlikely that football, or its clubs, can change the weather. Often the weather takes it out on the north; this year it’s battering the south. Its wet and dank and miserable but, WE CANNOT PREVENT IT. For the sceptics there are some pretty basic geography lessons that cover this topic; for those with more delusionary idiosyncrasies… you’re idiots.
Mankind has been evolving for… er, forever. In football, the list of developments is endless: Pigs bladder, wicking fabric, Craig Johnson’s predators… If it is deemed appropriate to introduce expensive goal line technology to “improve” our beautiful game, surely we can also develop surfaces so we can actually play it during the colder months?
The advent of artificial playing surfaces came about years ago. Those who remember the 80s will likely have particular disdain for the monsters at the Roads of Loftus and Kenilworth. Modern sport may be a bit rubbish at times however, modern surfaces have had a positive effect. If FIFA and UEFA can approve them for competitive use on a world stage, why the hell can’t our regional semi-professional leagues?
Whilst some lower league sides haven’t played at all, for months, those with 3 and 4G pitches can use them daily. With a good scheduler; reserves, academies, women’s and girls’ football can be accommodated, and with training time, and all without any adverse affects to the first team playing on Saturday at 3pm. This is a good thing, right?
With players on any kind of wages, unless clubs play games they lose revenue streams that only gate/pie/programme money can bring. The impact of lower gates on week nights and cramped schedules at the end of the season will not help clubs either. (I’m certain we all agree that debt is a very bad thing but given the modern game’s fascination with it, I’m not so sure).

140208 ILPD Maidstone United v Canvey Island (17)b

Yesterday 82% of all games in the Conference South were postponed – 55% got called off, a division higher – yet down at Phoenix Club X, Maidstone United had no such worries. Strangely, it may seem to the Conference Board, after the game, there wasn’t a bad word to be had about the playing surface, only positivity that thanks to it we’d got to see a game.
Though the second period was a huge improvement, it wasn’t the finest first half we’ve ever witnessed as both teams snuffed each other out. Canvey kicked off and won a very early freekick, though any idea some had of this emulating the Liverpool match were quickly reined in as the wayward kick sailed wide. Soon visiting keeper, Scott Chalmers-Smith was forced into punching clear, before missing a cross which United’s Alex Fisher failed to make the most of and, in the next 35 minutes little changed.

140208 ILPD Maidstone United v Canvey Island (33)b

John Sands shot tamely at Lee Worgan’s goal (and missed) whilst up the other end, Michael Phillips shot through a crowded box, forcing Chalmers-Smith to save but the loose ball was hoofed clear before the home side could benefit. Then Fisher rifled one across the six yard box, which everyone missed, though his strike partner ran into the corner flag trying to prevent the ball going out. The half finished with Elliot Cox sparing the blushes of an awful back pass, before Canvey smashed a freekick into the wall, won one their first corner and had a Callum Webb shot blocked; my view of all of which was partially obstructed by subs warming up.
140208 ILPD Maidstone United v Canvey Island (25)bAfter some light refreshments, the scout with the pink pen and I, and the teams were back out in the last of the sun and, before long Jay Curran had headed home a corner. Failing to push on, Canvey instead spent more and more of the half defending. Fisher again fired wide; Frannie Colllin tried (and failed) a few times to muscle his way through the Canvey back line and, United missed the target from both free kicks and corners.
140208 ILPD Maidstone United v Canvey Island (47)bIt wasn’t all one way as first Curran then Webb missed the target however, once the substitutes started to arrive there was only going to be outcome. Eight minutes from time Zak Attwood ran through on goal , lost the ball but Chalmers-Smith caught him. Disappointing the home fans, only a yellow card was awarded before Collin levelled from the spot (cheering them up a tad). The final few minutes were filled with heavy tackles, a second yellow for Michael Alaile, Scott Kinch coming on as sub twice (if the announcer is to be believed), the ref getting worse after a very positive display to that point, lots of shouting of “Off, Off, Off!” and some relief in the away dugout at the final whistle. It wasn’t all-action but for the endeavours of both sides, the resulting 1-1 score did seem a fair reflection of the proceedings.
140208 ILPD Maidstone United v Canvey Island (37)b
Three hours earlier, it had been a hairy journey down to Kent as our smart car proved to be anything smart at dealing with the wind and gales but, once parked up all my fears were gone. Stepping through the turnstiles I was greeted by a bustling throng of supporters, noticeably proud of their new home. To the right stood a huge bar packed to the rafters, then a big stand with ample seating for fans with all needs. Covered ends gave fans voices grand amplification and along the far side of the perfect pitch, an open boulevard-like walkway gave a fine view from behind the dugouts.
Having grabbed some excellent fare from one of the many stands behind the goal, we stood in this beautiful ground, soaking up the sun as players warmed up before us. As if the moment couldn’t feel better, suddenly Sweet Home Alabama sprang from the PA.

140208 ILPD Maidstone United v Canvey Island (5)b

The Canutes and Luddites can cry foul all they like but, this artificial surface is an inevitable evolutionary tide that will gain more prominence in the game (especially as the weather has its way with the fixtures). It has given a lifeline to Maidstone and its supporters; much as like grass and mud, maybe it’s time to afford more clubs the same.

140208 ILPD Maidstone United v Canvey Island (52)b

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