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JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS ALL
Monday 20th May 2002
Despite the sentiments of my previous notes about looking forwards, it seems we cannot entirely cast the events of last season into the dustbin of history! Not very hot on the heels of the Hants F.A.'s ruling concerning the Leigh Phillips affair, comes the news that the Wessex League Committee has also given weighty consideration to the matter and handed down its judgement - a £125 fine and a six point deduction from the club's playing record. The result of this is for the club to drop one place in the final league table for last season, with Brockenhurst effectively 'leap-frogging' into their highest-placed Wessex League finish.
The committee's decision was reached without any representation by the club, who now have 14 days to consider making an appeal. It is not clear at the moment if the club intends to do this although the punishments are effectively straight out of the rule-book. It is a shame that what was by all accounts, an administrative mix-up, should result in a ruling which will appear as a stain on the club's record when the real facts of the matter are long since forgotten. Nevertheless it may now be appropriate to follow my earlier invitation and look forwards to next season and so put this sorry episode behind us having first committed to memory a passage from the Book of Common Prayer which says - "Teach us to number our days: that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" !
MORE INGREDIENTS ADDED TO THE MIX
In a more positive vein, it is pleasing to note that Graham Kemp has added some more permutations to his squad for next season with the signing of Jamie Holland from Poole Town and the re-signing of Nick Miles, who originally joined the Linnets in October 2000 from Salisbury for a £1000 fee. Miles has been out of action for the best part of a year with a persistent back problem but has obviously convinced Kemp that he is fit enough to be brought back into the reckoning.
The signing of Holland seems somewhat more controversial in that Poole claim that the player had already signed a contract with them but that they had held off registering it because the player wanted to continue playing Sunday football with Bournemouth Electric. The player seems under no doubts however, according to the Daily Echo : "I have been loyal to Poole for three years and appreciate everything they have done for me but I am at an age where I want to play at a higher level. Graham [Kemp] has made some big signings and said that they will be pushing for the league. I have got a lot of friends at Lymington [& New Milton!] and I am looking forward to going there."
What was not made clear is whether Holland intends to continue playing Sunday football and this may have an indirect bearing on disciplinary matters (as if we haven't had enough of those) because the player unfortunately brings with him a scheduled suspension of 56 days which is due to start on September 2nd (yes, another one!). This suspension results from two separate incidents, one whilst playing for Poole and the other with Electric. It is to be hoped that this will not complicate Graham Kemp's calculations for the future.
LOOKING FORWARD, NOT BACKWARDS
Saturday 11th May 2002
With the dust now starting to settle on what was, historically speaking, a disappointing season for the Linnets - we have the first news of the management's efforts to build a squad capable of making a concerted challenge for honours in the future. Indeed, it is to the credit of messrs. Kemp and Pike that they have not wasted any time in signing new players and thus signalling their intentions regarding the future of the club.
As I have said before in this column, no team has a 'divine right' to success and this is true whether the club is Manchester United or Lymington & New Milton! The Linnets' past successes have inevitably given rise to expectations of more of the same but as Man. U have shown, even the expenditure of ridiculous amounts of money guarantees nothing. I have no doubt that during his initial period in charge, Graham Kemp has felt the pressure that such expectations can bring and there is no question that, despite putting a brave face on things, events and performances during the past season have taken their toll. To combat this the club appointed Alex Pike as assistant manager and although coming perhaps too late in the day to make a significant impact last season, has undoubtedly taken some of the weight off Kemp's shoulders.
Clearly the two have put their thinking caps on and this has resulted in the announced signing of five players of notable pedigree before the fixture list for next season has even been drafted. The players concerned are : Kevin Gill (from Wimborne) and Steve Staples, Andy Jones, Paul Sims & Phil Stone (all from Brockenhurst). Regular followers of the club will no doubt be pleased to note the reversal of a trend that has been almost embarassing over the past couple of years, that of players drifting away from New Milton to ply their trade at Grigg Lane and indeed two of those named, Phil Stone and Paul Sims, were part of that exodus about which Graham Kemp is reported as saying "I don't think either of them should ever have been released by the club [i.e. L&NM]. A certain sense of satisfaction must therefore be derived from the fact that everyone now seems to have "seen the light"!
Wessex league followers will undoubtedly detect Alex Pike's hand in the signing of Gill and Staples because although Staples spent most of last season at Brock, he previously wore the Magpies' colours under Pike, whilst Gill's performances for Wimborne have seen him touted as one of the league's most promising players and apparently a target for Southern League clubs such as Weymouth and Newport. Both players are clearly highly rated by the Linnets management team. Regarding Andy Jones, Kemp was reported as saying "In my opinion , [he] is the best left-sided midfield player in the Wessex League."
All of which activity was summed up by Kemp as follows : "We want to give everyone a fresh challenge and strengthen competition for places within the squad". Having apparently already re-signed 14 of the existing 18 squad players from last season, there may be a danger of expectations once more being raised! Time to forget past glories and to look forwards, not backwards.
NOT THAT OLD CHESTNUT AGAIN!
It seems these days that whenever the is a dull news period for reporters of Wessex League affairs, we get another variation on the question of local clubs merging. Of late this has usually revolved around a quote from Derek Binns (erstwhile of this parish), regarding the likelihood of a merger/mergers between ourselves, Bashley and Brock. I note from last week's copy of the "The Pink" that this has been dredged up again courtesy of Mr. Binns and I was pleased to note that Dennis Nash gave a pretty emphatic response to the question. The club has made it pretty clear (to anyone who will listen) that it intends to make its own way in the world and that previous 'flirtations' with the issue have been well and truly wiped off the agenda. I for one would like to sound an extremely loud raspberry in the direction of any further speculation!
SO, THAT'S THAT THEN!
Tuesday 30th April 2002
With the Linnets' season having fizzled out with a disappointing defeat at the hands of Gosport last Saturday, comes news of the disciplinary hearing convened to adjudicate on the "Leigh Phillips saga". The judgement handed down by the Hants F.A. is that the club should pay a fine of £75 for the 'administrative mix-up', whilst Leigh himself has been fined £10 and ordered to serve the outstanding 7 days of suspension which will now take effect from September 2nd. As is generally the nature of these things, no reason for the hearing's findings was publically reported but one can only assume that the relatively low-key nature of the outcome is due, in some measure at least, to an element of 'innocence' on the part of the club and player. So, despite attempts by the local media to make more of the story, with who knows what affect on the player's confidence after finding himself metaphorically staring down the barrel of official displeasure almost every time he stepped out onto the pitch, that's that then!
CLUB REFUTES PHILLIPS DISCIPLINARY
Monday 8th April 2002
Lymington & New Milton have appealed over the apparent administrative 'oversight' which led to striker Leigh Phillips allegedly returning from suspension a week early. Although it has been reported in the media that Phillips' suspension should have run until March 18th, thus making him ineligible for the league matches against Downton and Christchurch in which he actually played, the club refutes that this was their understanding based on the actual correspondence from the Hampshire F.A.
The ongoing saga could thus take another turn and would involve a significant case of "egg-on-face" if this proves to be a instance of an 'official' error, not least for the local media who seem to have taken their lead from the 'official' version that the suspension should have been continued and that the club and player were thus "guilty until proved innocent". As Oscar Wilde once wrote, "the truth is rarely pure and never simple" and that would seem to be the case here.
KEMP : "I MAY KEEP PLAYING"
The addition of Alex Pike to the club's management team may already have had a direct effect. It seems as though player-manager Graham Kemp was seriously considering "hanging up his boots" at the end of the current season not least because he was, by his own admission, finding it difficult to combine the roles of player and manager. Pike's arrival however seems to have given Kemp pause for thought as he indicated in his post-match thoughts recently : "For the first time this season [against Totton] I was given the man-of-the-match award......and that's because the pressure was off. I played and felt that I could almost forget the managerial side for a couple of hours - it worked perfectly. Alex has made it clear that he wants me to keep playing....and although at 37, I'm not going play 65 games a season, there's no reason why I should not play in the majority."
Whether Graham will want to, given his reaction to the team's performance last Saturday is another matter but it adds an intriguing twist to the still-evolving Kemp/Pike relationship. With the club seemingly now setting a course for the Southern League, which according to current chairman Terry Morris could be achievable in less than two years, the team is going to need every bit of the collective 'nous' that Kemp and Pike can bring to bear on the subject.
DISCIPLINE : IS IT A 'LEIGH'-ABILITY?
Monday 25th March 2002
The saga surrounding the suspensions of Linnets' striker Leigh Phillips has been the subject of 'gallows' humour as well as some disquiet amongst members and followers of the club. As if his lengthy periods of absence this season have not been enough however, we now have the astonishing news that his last suspension appears to have ended too early!
In a Daily Echo report, the official line seems to be that his last ban was for 42 days commencing on Monday, February 4th and would therefore conclude on Sunday, March 17th with Phillips eligible to play from March 18th onwards. However, the club seems to have been under the impression that the ban concluded on Sunday, March 10th and that the player was therefore available for games from March 11th onwards.
Phillips was consequently selected for the Downton game on March 13th and the subsequent match against Christchurch the following Saturday. The report suggests that it was an 'administrative mix-up' that has caused the problem but the club now faces a difficult choice in that they must either appeal to the Hampshire F.A. and face a disciplinary hearing or accept the charge. Either way, if the case is found to be proven, the club could face a points deduction, a fine, a warning against future conduct or a combination of these.
To make matters even worse, Phillips was sent off in the match against Downton for two bookable offences - when it appears he should not have been playing - and automatically faces a seven day ban to add to his mounting tally. Meanwhile there has been a growing feeling from the touchline that Leigh has become a 'marked' man on the field because of his past reputation and there has been some anecdotal evidence of opposing teams looking to 'wind him up' when they get the chance.
All of which must be very distressing for the player as well as extremely embarassing for the club. There is no doubting Leigh's goalscoring record at this level and, at times, the team has not been as potent during his prolonged absences. This apparent 'cock-up' however has put the whole problem onto a different level and poses a real problem for the new management set-up of Graham Kemp and Alex Pike as well as the club as a whole. How to get the best from the player while building a side that can challenge for honours next season and avoid the disruption of ongoing disciplinary problems that can only be a liability to the cause.
LEAST SAID SOONEST MENDED?
Friday 22nd March 2002
I don't know what preconceptions (if any) Alex Pike may have had about joining the Linnets but after watching the team's elimination from the Wessex League Cup at Andover on Tuesday night, he will now know that achieving the objective of Southern League football is going to take some real effort on the part of the new management team. Of course, the game was nicely set up for the hosts who held a 3-1 advantage from the first leg at Fawcett's Field and this allowed them to to totally dictate the shape of the match. The Linnets on the the other hand had realistically only one option - to go for broke. That they failed to trouble the scoresheet despite fielding three strikers during the second half, whilst conceding five goals into the bargain, says it all.
Although Messrs. Kemp and Pike will no doubt be thinking in terms of the future (i.e. next season), there are still some significant matches to be played before this one finishes and the first of these comes tomorrow, at home to current league-leaders Totton. We then have the (somewhat dubious!) pleasure of entertaining Andover again next Wednesday in the Semi-Final of the Russell Cotes Cup. The team's performance in these two games alone is likely to provide a significant yardstick for what needs to be done. In view of Tuesday's performance it may be a case of least said, soonest mended.
LINNETS MAKE A BIG 'CATCH'
Monday 18th March 2002
Few items of Wessex news are more likely to start tongues wagging than the revelation in today's press that Alex Pike, long-time manager of arch-rivals Wimborne, has left the Dorset club to take up over the position of Assistant Manager with the Linnets. He replaces previous incumbent, Paul Morrell, with immediate effect and travels with the team for tomorrow's League Cup Semi-Final second leg at Andover. Pike, who has not been in charge of first team affairs at Cuthbury since the birth of his son, Harry, some five weeks ago; apparently resigned his role as the Magpies' manager on Saturday evening after attending the Linnets' home win against Christchurch earlier in the afternoon.
Pike is known to have been frustrated with the set-up at Wimborne and in the past has expressed interest in managing a Southern League side despite the success he has enjoyed with the Magpies over the last ten years. Earlier this season he intimated that he would be quitting his role at Wimborne this summer in order to seek fresh personal challenges but he later retracted that statement. This decision seems to have been made following several conversations last week between Pike and Linnets' player-manager Graham Kemp and will also necessitate Alex's resignation as a director at Wimborne.
The Daily Echo reports that it is Graham Kemp's view that Pike can help the Linnets achieve their ambition of eventually playing in the Dr Martens (Southern) League. He said: "Alex and I have been friends for a long time and this has all been about timing. We chatted early last week about the possibility of working together and it was something that excited both of us. The time was right for him to leave Wimborne and he wanted to come over and get involved at Lymington & New Milton. In my opinion, he is the top manager in the Wessex League. You name it and Alex has achieved it. Having someone of his calibre at the club is only going to improve our standing. He's got the experience, the tactical know how and if he can attract the players he has to Wimborne, he will definitely be able to attract them to us. We're on the same wave length in that we both want to build a successful side and we both want Southern League football which Alex wouldn't have got at Wimborne."
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the news will be exactly how Kemp and Pike function together. In the Echo report Kemp is quoted as saying : "It will keep the pressure off me a bit. I will be able to keep playing occasionally and have Alex barking instructions from the touchline. I'm still pretty new to management and I can only learn from him. Alex gets a bit of stick for being outspoken but you can't question his record. We're both strong personalities and I am sure this will raise a few eyebrows. But, I trust Alex 100 percent and I respect him. He's his own man and so am I and it will take a few weeks to find out what roles we're going to take."
Kemp is also reported as saying that while he considers success to be important, he also wants to get enjoyment out of it, a view that Pike has also expressed in the past. So, is this a 'marriage' made in heaven?! One thing is for sure, it has rarely been dull following the Linnets over the past couple of years and with this move the stage is set for some interesting times ahead. Welcome to the club, Alex!
LINNETS STRUCK BY AWARD 'CURSE'?
Monday 11th March 2002
As so often seems to happen with these things, no sooner had the club achieved recognition for a good run of form by winning the Wessex League/Daily Echo "Club of the Month" award for February, than we stumble to two consecutive home defeats! Of course, injuries and suspensions played their part and the League Cup first-leg defeat by Andover might have been a different story but for the apparently 'charmed' life of the The Lions' goalkeeper!
More inexplicable was the subsequent home defeat by Fareham only days later. While it is true that they have one of the best away records in the league (including a recent away win at Andover) they nevertheless looked a much less capable side than the reigning champions. In truth it was a classic "mugging" by the away side and all credit to them for that. Once again we were short of firepower and (once again) we can only hope that the return of Leigh Phillips will put that right.
After the anticipation of two consecutive home matches against Andover (as heralded previously), it was slightly disappointing that the League should insist, following the postponement of the midweek League Cup Semi Final tie because of bad weather, that the fixture scheduled for the following Saturday be "upgraded" from league match to cup tie, with the league game now shunted forward into a late midweek fixture in April (a consequence of our opponents' fixture backlog). I realise that it can be difficult to suit everyone when organising fixtures (particularly as some clubs "insist" on entering every competition going(!)) but I would have thought that what was likely to be one of the League's top fixtures (based on the last couple of seasons) deserves better than a Thursday night slot when some folk - including yours truly - might find it difficult to attend compared to a 'traditional' Saturday fixture. If the League wants to promote itself, it would do well to look closely at the scheduling of such games and it might start that process by considering the merits of a 23-club structure!
THAT WAS "THE WEEK" THAT WAS
Friday 22nd February 2002
Although the previously heralded 'Wimborne Week' eventually turned out to be ten days, courtesy of the weather, it was nevertheless an extremely productive period for the team. Victories in both legs of the League Cup Quarter-finals against our old rivals plus a draw in the away league fixture represents a sequence of results at the higher end of expectations. Throw in the intervening league win against Whitchurch and we definitely have reason to be cheerful. But there is more! Even while we were busy wrapping up the league cup tie last Tuesday night, fellow title-chasers Andover were being beaten by Gosport and they were defeated again last night by Fareham.
If the title race wasn't a tight enough affair before, the whittling away of Andover's games in hand is certainly putting the pressure on them. And if that wasn't enough they now have to visit Fawcett's Field twice in the space of a week. Worse still, while the Linnets have the weekend off, being the 'odd team out' in this weekend's fixture list (the consequence of a 23-team league!), there is no respite for the reigning champions as they entertain Moneyfields, another in-form title-chasing side; before travelling to New Milton on Tuesday night as we jump straight back to League Cup action with the first leg of the Semi-finals. They then have to squeeze in another league fixture before returning to New Milton tomorrow week for a league encounter of significance to both sides. Eyes down for "Andover Week"!
WELCOME TO WIMBORNE WEEK (If it stops
Sunday 3rd February 2002
What with two-legged League Cup ties and with many Wessex clubs participating in the Hants Senior Cup & Russell Cotes Cup, not to mention the F.A.'s national cup competitions - it is not surprising that we come up against some teams more than the statutory twice per season. That said it is still fairly unusual to play the same team in consecutive matches, although that has happened to us twice already in this campaign, but to play the same side three times within a week is twisting the fixture list just a bit beyond belief! Making this situation even more unusual is the fact that our previous encounter was in fact a 'double-header' as well!
So - welcome to Wimborne week. Weather permitting. Tuesday evening sees us at home to our old rivals in the first leg of a League Cup Quarter Final (delayed from early January due to fixture postponements incurred by our opponents), while Saturday will see us looking for League points away at The Cuthbury, to which we make a swift return on Tuesday week for the second leg of the League Cup affair.
It is difficult to imagine a more testing set of matches. The Magpies have always proved difficult opponents for us and, on current form, it will be no different this time round. It is only a short time ago that Alex Pike's revamped team were being written off by the manager of another Wessex side (no, not Graham Kemp!) as being incapable of winning anything this season. Yet they are nicely positioned in third place in the league table (with home matches still to come against the two sides above them), having won home and away against reigning champions Andover and fresh from having plucked three points from one of the title pretenders (on 'foreign' soil) yesterday.
Our own result yesterday against Bournemouth sees us now breathing down The Magpies' necks in the league but we do have a score to settle in the League Cup, having been thwarted by the cancellation of last season's competition. It will therefore be interesting to see what priority, if any, is set by the rival managers in each of the matches. Of course, I wouldn't want to 'hype' the situation too much - both sides will still have plenty to play for whatever the outcome of these games and there are other teams that will have a say in both of these competitions before the season is out. Nevertheless, I suspect that both managers will see this coming week as a significant test of their team-building progress.
PROGRESS AS TITLE RACE HOTS UP
Wednesday 30th January 2002
With a handful of interesting cup and league fixtures this week featuring some of the leading Wessex clubs, I was looking for some signs as to the future course of the season. First up was our own Russell Cotes Cup tie against Bemerton which duly resulted in a 4-0 win for the Linnets and a place in the semi-finals. Easy-Peasy you might think, but bearing in mind the fact that Bemerton had already achieved an unprecedented (for them) league 'double' over us this season, this tie might have had 'banana-skin' potential and Graham Kemp's reported view after the game suggested that the scoreline was not indicative of the match, "we had six chances and scored four, while they had six chances and scored none!" Some credit therefore obviously due to goalkeeper Stewart Kearn and 'the boys at the back'.
Meanwhile in the Hants Senior Cup, holders (and of course, reigning Wessex champions) Andover showed that they could be beaten when Newport came from behind to win 2-1 at The Portway. Simply a case of a Doc Marten's team stepping down a level (or two) to bloody the nose of a Wessex pretender? Perhaps and maybe a timely result for The Lions who can now concentrate on getting their league season up to date, being as they are a mere nine games behind the Wessex front runners! Sorry, I forgot that the North Hampshire side are still in with a shout in the League Cup, the aforesaid Russell Cotes Cup, the North Hants Senior Cup and Goodness Only Knows what else. By my reckoning, they face an average of two games a week for the next three months and that's without progressing further in the remaining cup competitions.
In the league, current race leaders Fleet and Totton gained victories at the expense of title pretenders Thatcham and Moneyfields, while contenders Gosport were apparently lucky to gain a last minute point up at Eastleigh. So, are points on the board more important than games in hand? Never an easy question to answer but intriguingly, although a thirteen point spread covers the top eight in the league, four of those eight (sadly not including ourselves as yet) would catch or overhaul the leaders if they won the games they currently have in hand and the remaining four (including ourselves) could get to within a few points of the top. Of course it is extremely unlikely that everyone will win all their games in hand because, inevitably, some of those outstanding matches will be against opposition form the same top eight group. Equally, of course, the current leaders could be 'hauled back' if they suffer defeats against the other top sides. With many of the leading sides still to encounter each other (for example, Fleet still have to play Andover home and away) this means that almost anyone can win the title (including ourselves), depending on how the results fall.
For the Linnets, much will now depend on which side of their game prevails. Graham Kemp has recently extolled the virtues of the strength and quality of the squad that has been put together over past six months. So will it be the side that clinically disposed of Bemerton on Tuesday night or the one which went down with all hands over on the Island just two weeks ago? On paper, Graham's recent assessment that winning the title might be a step too far this season looks about right but given the scenario outlined above, who knows? One thing seems likely and that is that this could be the closest finish the Wessex has had in some years.
Friday 25th January 2002
Whereas this time last year saw the club being rocked by the news that it had decided not to pursue its Southern League ambitions - which precipitated a period of considerable upheaval - I am pleased to note that, one year on, developments of a much lower key but far more positive nature are taking place.
Firstly, as readers of the "A&T" will have seen, activity relating to the club's successful application for funds from the Football Trust (revealed at the last A.G.M.) is progressing, with plans to erect a covered standing area on the western side of the ground as well as the construction of a sponsor's lounge now well in hand; having received the blessing of New Milton Town Council. I understand that the covered area is likely to take the form of two sections, each measuring 24 metres (that's a fraction over 26 yards, or 78 feet in 'old money') and positioned either side of the half-way line of the pitch. Watch that space!
Attendees of last week's first-team home game at "The Field" will have witnessed another development resulting from appointment of Keith Williams, in his role as Community Affairs Manager. In what is hoped to become a regular event, youngsters from New Milton Eagles Under-11 soccer team put on a display of mini-soccer prior to the main show and this was followed up by a penalty competition at half-time which was won by young Ollie Hewlett. As regular visitors to this page will know, a significant part of the brief given to Keith Williams (and one in which he has gained considerable past experience) was to extend the club's facilities to embrace such links with young players and it is clear already that he has firmly grasped that particular nettle. Other local sides with players up to age 14, including girls' clubs, are invited to contact Keith about participation.
While the club may hope to benefit in the future from the involvement of youngsters, it does not stop there. Extending the link that already sees Nationwide League side AFC Bournemouth playing its 'home' Reserve team fixtures at Fawcett's Field, the club have just announced that they have reached an agreement with the Cherries to run a Soccer Development Centre at Fawcett's Field for boys between the ages of 11 and 14 which will operate as a partnership between the two clubs. This is another fruit of Keith Williams' efforts and strengthens a relationship between the two clubs that has shown itself in various forms over many years.
So, with Graham Kemp now convinced that he has the strongest squad in the Wessex League and vowing to aim for runners-up spot (again?!), as the new year starts to take shape things look decidely different than they did just 12 months back.
RINGING THE CHANGES
Sunday 13th January 2002
Back at the beginning of December I reported the news of the club's appointment of a full-time commercial manager (and Community Development Officer), Keith Williams, and speculated on the fact that this signalled a further step by the club to become a completely self-financing organisation. While, inevitably, much of Keith's work will be done "behind the scenes", Fawcett's Field regulars will already be aware of one development that he has initiated, namely the Club Call line that has been set up. Although a common feature among clubs in the higher reaches of the non-league game, it is not an idea that has been generally adopted by Wessex clubs up to now. The idea is that this 'information line' will be updated two or three times a week giving details of fixtures, match information, social events and news concerning the club. Callers can ring in to check the latest update while at the same time benefitting the club financially since it will receive a significant percentage of the call cost.
Having recently fallen victim to the virus that seems to be sweeping the country, I found myself wondering (in between the bouts of self-pitying) why other clubs at this level had not embraced the idea. This led me to thinking that perhaps they felt there was insufficient support "out there" to make it worthwhile. Eventually I came to the conclusion that, to some extent, this might be a self-fulfilling prophecy. As with any other form of 'leisure activity', football nowadays has had to smarten up it's act to become attractive to anyone besides the 'hard-core faithful'. A small part of that process is in providing information and if this can be done in a way that benefits the club - all well and good. If it also provides the added benefit of encouraging folk to turn up for the occasional match or become involved in the club's increasing social and community activities, even better! That is why I was happy to include the Club Call details on the 'home' page of this web-site but for those of you who may have missed it (!), click here.
THE PRODIGAL RETURNS ?
Sunday 6th January 2002
I don't know what part the recent managerial turmoil at Brockenhurst may have played but the news that Jimmy Sheppard has decided to return to Fawcett's Field, almost exactly a year after he departed, is one more intriguing step in the 'rebuilding' work that manager Graham Kemp has been carrying out. There is also an ironic element involved since it may be recalled that one reason that Jimmy (publicly) gave for leaving at the time, was that he did not fancy the travelling involved in playing Southern League football! Rewind the clock and it was only a matter of a few weeks after his departure that the club announced that it was not pursuing that ambition.
I do recall thinking at the time that his departure to Brock, coming as it did after so many others had followed the same path, was not a good omen; and this was reinforced by the subsequent news regarding 'promotion' and the (ultimately) unseemly debate about merger with Bashley and the departure of Derek Binns. I would like to think that his return may act as a kind of 'full-stop' to mark the end of that year of turmoil and that he will be adding his considerable experience to the team's efforts to produce a successful second-half to the season. Welcome back Jimmy!
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