Winning Isn't Everything - The Welling United Fanzine

The Welling United Fanzine

Thursday 26 November

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Never Go Back

It's the week after the season before and usually a time for knee-jerk reactions. However the following is a situation that I've not been happy with for a while and now, with the retirement of Bill Williams, there is the opportunity for the club to do something about it. "Get to the point" I hear you cry, but please indulge me a little longer.

In truth the 2002/03 campaign was another desperately disappointing one for the football club. League tables don't lie and for the second consecutive season the Wings finished in 15th place, just above the relegation places. And if the club's experience of the Conference is anything to go by then eventually we will be sucked down into the bottom four places and face an uncertain future in a lower division. Some may feel that this is a little melodramatic, but this football club has been used to losing for far too long now. But why?

I don't want to stage here a detailed post-mortem on the club's fall from the Conference. There are probably many factors which when combined have meant that we have come up short more often than not. Instead I want to focus on a trend that has been a feature of the transfer dealings at Park View Road and that is the willingness to re-sign players. There's a saying "never go back", which although employed in business is never more relevant than in football. As advice goes it's pretty sound, a second stint is rarely as good as the first (presuming the first was a success) and can often cloud fond and positive memories. More often than not it's ex-players who go back to a club as manager and when things don't pan out as expected the years of good service on the pitch are easily and quickly forgotten by the supporters. For example, Glenn Hoddle is currently learning this lesson at Spurs.

In the case of Welling United it's players that keep coming back to continue their playing careers. Look at the match programme for the last home game of the season when Tiverton Town visited. Of the 17 Wings players listed on the team sheet six were in their second (or more) spell at the club. For the curious amongst you the six were Glen Knight, Mark Hone, John Farley, Lew Watts, Gary Abbott, and Dean Standen. That's over a third of the squad and doesn't include Luke Morrish (former youth team) and Luke Anderson (previously on loan) who were at PVR earlier in the season.

Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against those six players. Each and every one of them in their own way has been a fine servant of the club. In fact you struggle to find a bigger fan of Abbott than myself. However there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough, thank you and goodbye. Admittedly Welling United FC is a pretty unique club, but what makes these players want to return? Naturally they know what to expect, and with that possibly comes a comfort factor. There will be no great surprises; they know how the club operates and how they will fit into the set-up. There will be no need to impress anyone as, until of late, the club has gone through very few changes in manager. A real cynic might say that the lack of genuine competition for places given the small squad and lack of reserve team might guarantee a returning face an almost automatic place, but that's probably a little too harsh.

In fact I can think of only three players off the top of my head that have returned to Park View Road after a period away and been a real success. They are Paul Barron, John Bartley and Gary Abbott. In Barron's case his first spell at the club was a long time before he came back, and not too many (if any) supporters could probably recall his original spell. Bartley was the final piece in the jigsaw that completed Graham Hobbins' side of the mid-1980s. He scored the goals that the side created at will. Mind you, he was such a talented player he would have scored a bucket full of goals out of nothing if required. Finally, Abbott's skill, vision and determination always made up for his lack of pace and his return to the club, which was always inevitable, was an undoubted success.

Of course we have to see the situation from the club's perspective. I don't for one minute believe all the happy family scenarios. The Hobbins brothers have always been strict with the playing budget and have not been prepared (quite rightly in my opinion) to gamble the club's very future. Put those conditions with the extremely competitive transfer market at this level and it's a continual struggle to bring in quality players. When transfer fees aren't applicable as is so often the case it comes down to signing-on fees and wages. And that's why, I guess, they have been so willing to bring former players back into the fold. They know what they’re getting and can probably guess at what future demands may be made. A fundamental understanding of what makes a player tick gives them a head start when contracts are being negotiated.

So here we are. The club is at a crossroads: In search of a new manager and with decisions to make over offering players new contracts. One thing is for certain, with the financial reality check football is undergoing at present there will be plenty of players looking for clubs this summer. For once the pendulum has swung away from the players and the clubs are in the box seat. We need players who are going to fight first for that all-important contract and then to keep their place in the team. Remember the other saying "familiarity breeds contempt", well the club mustn't allow this to happen. The club needs to freshen up. The new manager, whoever it turns out to be, must be free to ship out players and bring a new vitality and purpose. It's not going to be easy, but that's not to say that it can't be done.