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Story posted: Saturday, 8th December 2018

Gary Norton's Blog
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Welcome to Decembers Blog.
Since the November blog, results have been poor for us and we have slipped down the league table which is obviously disappointing for us after a reasonable start to the campaign.

With a squad as young as ours we were always going to hit a rough patch of results and we are well and truly in a sticky spell in that regard at the moment having not won any of our 4 leagues games in November, losing three and drawing once.

Our only win since my last blog at the start of November was our 2-0 league cup win at Carlton Town. We also in the last month went out of the Derbyshire Senior Cup narrowly losing 2-1 to Premier division Mickleover Sports at the Moat Ground.

In-fact our league last win came away at Pickering Town on Oct 6th which seems like an age ago and since then we have only put a further two points on the board which is obviously both disappointing and concerning. Having said all that we have a total of 22 points so far courtesy of our reasonable start compared to 12 after the equivalent number of league games last season.

Last week’s 4-1 defeat at Marske aside, our recent league defeats have been by narrow single goal margins which for our youngish squad is of course difficult to take but also invaluable experience that will hopefully stand them in good stead both individually and collectively going forwards.

In my professional day job I always say that you learn more about your teams and individuals during the difficult times and over the years I have found that to be also true in a football environment. Football is an easy game for players, managers and coaches alike when things are going well but when results are not as you would like it’s a completely different situation both on and off the pitch. Whilst it’s true that our recent run of league form has been poor I remain confident that we will come through it and become a stronger unit as a result and the younger players in particular will gain invaluable experience at the same time.

As we make changes in the side to leave out players who in our opinion have not been playing to their expected levels we will likely lose the odd squad member along the way but for the most part I have been impressed with the overall attitude of the lads during this tough run of results.

If players move on it will present opportunities elsewhere for others to step forward and show us what they can do. Giving our younger players an opportunity to gain valuable experience at this level of football is something I’m really enjoying in my second spell at the Moat Ground as manager but I need to be mindful to ensure we have enough experience and quality in the side so that we remain balanced and still ticking over the points total to ensure we do not get pulled into the bottom area of the table and at risk of relegation again like last season.

To avoid that possibility we need to start picking up points again soon as we were earlier in the season as most of the sides behind us have games in hand and so we could be in trouble if we are not careful.

I was absolutely blown away by the level of support shown for our recent fundraiser held to help raise funds for the ongoing treatment of Leanne Barrett, wife of our captain, player coach and record appearance holder Jamie. In my last blog I touched on the fact we had recently become aware of Jamie and Leanne’s devastating news and the support both have received from Family, Friends and the community has been unbelievable.

We have also have a number of clubs far and wide provide support in terms of well wishes and donations to the cause all of which is testament to the high regard that Jamie and Leanne are held in many circles of life. In addition to all players in the first team squad donating the equivalent of a weeks expenses as well as their own personal donations to Jamie's Just Giving page we decided to put on a fund raising game to raise further funds and together with a couple of Jamie’s friends set out to organized the game with just a couple of week’s notice.

Given that short notice I anticipated about 2-300 people through the gate and perhaps £4000 in terms of funds raised as we were planning a raffle and small auction. To end up with 500 in attendance and raising £9000 was staggering and again demonstrates how their story has touched the hearts of many many people.

I know that Jamie, Leanne and their families are extremely grateful for the incredible generosity of everyone, and especially those who donated some excellent raffle and auction prizes for the cause. It truly was a fantastic team effort and made me very proud to be associated with Gresley FC, its supporters and especially our volunteers without whom we simply couldn’t function as a club. Leanne is tacking this head on and refusing to be down hearted about the situation ¿1/2" quite the opposite in fact and she is tacking it head on with a positive mentality and outlook which is hugely inspirational to us all and we will continue to support in any way we can.

We have our own club fund raising event coming up (or rather a supporters club event) in the form of a race night.

Planning has been going on for some weeks and I know the supporters club are very keen for it to be really well supported to help it be as successful as possible. In the past the club has been criticized for not holding enough events for people to come along and support and then when events have been put on ¿1/2" hardly anyone has attended.

This time round I’m really hopeful that all connected with the club from all sides pull together and support the event. Its being held in the Social Club on Sat 22nd December right after the home game against Brighouse Town.

I will be encouraging as many of the club's players of all teams to attend should their social calendars permit and even if the winter weather puts paid to the on pitch action on the day (fingers crossed it doesn’t) the event will be going ahead so I’m hoping as many of you as possible pop along and have a flutter to help us raise some funds towards match video and analysis equipment that will benefit all of the clubs teams in the future.

Tickets are £10 (£7.50 for supporters club members) and includes a free £1 bet in each race. There will be food provided for the event so if you haven’t anything planned on that date please come along and support.

This week I believe was national volunteers week so in this month’s blog I want to pay special mention to our clubs very special band of volunteers we have at the club.

Every non-league club in the land relies to some extent or another on a small army of trusted volunteers in order to function on a day to day and game to game basis and we are no different. Over the years we never quite seem to have enough volunteers at Gresley and I recall many times over the last few years us putting requests out for additional volunteers which occasionally yielded a result but not very often.

Some of our current band of volunteers have been with the club for many many years and are now part of the furniture it seems.

At the risk of causing offence and missing someone out I won’t name anyone individually save to say that without them the club simply would not function. To give you an idea of the sort of match day roles that need covering at a club like ours roles range from Chairman, Directors, Secretary, Bar staff, Canteen staff, Car park attendant, Gate staff, Hospitality staff, Match day secretary, Raffle ticket and Goalden goal sellers, Tannoy announcer, Pitch / ground staff, ballboys, Kit men, Website/social media editor / match tracker updates, Stewards, Kit washer, cleaners etc etc (and I’ve probably missed a few more roles that are covered so apologies if I have to those that cover them).

Without volunteers to conduct each and every task required of the club we wouldn’t be able to function in the way we do so it’s a huge credit to the people who are often forgotten or taken for granted by some but certainly not by myself and my fellow board members at Gresley. Long may you all continue to enjoy your involvement with Gresley FC and I hope each and every one of you knows how much your appreciated for the work you do and the hours you all put into the club.

On the subject of volunteers I would also like to pay special mention to my backroom staff who work with me in the first team. Like myself, assistant Carl Slater and coach John Williamson do not cost the club a penny in terms of expenses as we are doing the job free of charge for the club on a voluntary basis and are happy to do so given the clubs current limited finances. The same goes for recently our appointed physio Bob Elliot who joined us from Loughborough and even the physio before him (John Newall) used to give us some of the small amount of weekly travelling expenses we gave him for coming from Chesterfield back to the club to put into the players pot towards their end of season night out.

I have tried to offer Bob a small amount of expenses for his services as an experienced physio but he just won’t take anything stating he’s more than happy to help the club in any way he can. For this, I feel truly humbled that my whole team are working for the club for nothing on a completely voluntary basis and I’m not too sure there are many clubs at our level of football where this would be the case and the board of directors and I are most grateful for that.

Regardless of our voluntary status however, we know that recent results have not been good enough and we will continue to work as hard as we can with the squad to turn that around in the coming weeks. Myself and Carl Slater stepped into the breach in the summer to help try and get the club back on a stable footing given the perception from many that the club was in turmoil following a number of changes on and off the pitch.

The reality on reflection wasn’t anywhere near as bad as some people perhaps thought and quite quickly things settled back down again. We have seen some new members join the board in recent times ¿1/2" the latest being Bryan McIntosh who was invited to join the board a few weeks back. Bryan is a great addition to the board and will certainly help us continue the positive momentum we have seen in recent months behind the scenes.

On a sadder note George Sutton announced at our board meeting a week last Friday that he would be stepping down from his position on the board. George is in his seventies now but still very active and leads a busy life. He has a number of big projects coming up and he said he felt it time he stepped down from his position on the board to allow him to focus on other things.

The good news is he will still be a regular on the Moat Ground terraces supporting the team. George has been an incredible servant to the club often helping the club out financially in the many tough times we have had over the years under former guise of Gresley Rovers and more recently as Gresley FC. George will be sadly missed on the board for his professionalism, experience and structured way in which he would put his points of view across but will remain available to us all in an advisory capacity going forward.

I know the board wish to mark George’s fantastic service in some way in the future which is only right given the amazing service he has given to the club so I look forward to seeing what we do to honor a good and proper Gresley man like George.

Financially, not many people knew the personal impact the running of the club had on previous chairman Barry North who used to put much of his own personal money in to help the club survive week to week. Barry did this because he loved the club and wanted the best for it but once he moved on we needed to ensure we could be much more self-sufficient which was probably going to be our biggest challenge and although things are tight financially we are in an okay spot at this point of the season.

The funds earlier in the season raised via sponsorship brought in by the supporters club really helped and they are working hard to try and ensure we treat our sponsors well in the hope that it improves our chances of continuing their support for season to come. For a club like ours any money raised through commercial and sponsorship deals are a lifeline and so we need to ensure we keep our sponsors happy and involved an everything we do if they are to consider sponsoring again. We still have things to do in that regard but we have taken big steps forwards this season so credit to all involved.

On the footballing front Carl and I are still enjoying being in charge of a club we consider to be OUR club. We are both supporters at heart and the club will always be a big part of our lives. We agreed to step in to help out and try to stabilise things after a difficult couple of seasons on and off the pitch. With a limited budget available we set out to base our squad around a combination of experience and local young talent and for the most part have delivered on that front with a number of our young regulars in the squad living locally.

We had hoped that this would lead to an increase in attendances but sadly that hasn’t been the case which whilst understandable is also disappointing. People want to see a side winning most weeks and we proved that in the past when at Step 5 and Step 6 when we regularly got over 300 in attendance for home games because we were winning most weeks and in the top places of the league.

There are some that would welcome those days back, especially when you consider some of the travelling involved in this league but my personal view is that we should fight to ensure we stay at the highest level of football possible which given our current limitations is (in my opinion) the step 4 level we are at currently.

The long awaited move to a new ground still remains the holy grail we all dream of one day that would hopefully enable us to set our future aspirations a little higher but for the moment doing as well as possible in our current league is a realistic challenge ¿1/2" especially when you consider some of the huge budgets some clubs in this league can afford. For now we can focus on developing our younger lads and giving them as much experience as possible that will stand us in good stead for future seasons. With local young lads like Alby and Harry Lansdowne, Jake McIntosh, Kane Lee, Cam Steele, Zakim Evans, Connor Ward and Callum Riddelll etc all featuring this season regularly in the first team squad the future looks positive and I very much hope to see them all remain at the club for many seasons to come.

This will be my last blog of the calendar year and so it’s an opportune moment for me to wish you all a Merry Christmas period and also wish you well for the New Year. Next blog will be early January.

Gary
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League Position
  Team P GD Pts
10 Lincoln United 25 -4 33
11 Marske United 22 8 31
12 Cleethorpes Town 22 3 30
13 Frickley Athletic 23 -11 28
14 Wisbech Town 22 -5 24
15 Pickering Town 21 -9 24
16 Carlton Town 23 -8 22
17 AFC Mansfield 22 -15 21
18 Spalding United 24 -19 21
19 Gresley 23 -30 21
20 Stocksbridge Park Steels 23 -19 20

Full Table

Forthcoming Fixtures
Cleethorpes Town
League
Sat, 19th Jan 2019, 3.00pm (Away)
Ossett United
League
Sat, 26th Jan 2019, 3.00pm (Home)
Pickering Town
League
Sat, 2nd Feb 2019, 3.00pm (Home)
Ossett United
League
Sat, 9th Feb 2019, 3.00pm (Away)
Morpeth Town Action
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