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Friday 01 August 2008
What's happening at Kingsmeadow - feature number 12

This week saw two encouraging performances on the pitch but a couple more injuries. Jake Leberl had a back spasm that may keep him out of the Tonbridge game; Sam Hatton has a dead leg and is doubtful, as is Chris Hussey who has been unwell.

Off the pitch, Terry Brown has been looking at bringing in another striker. At the moment, it is too early to say much, other than he is pursuing several options.

Preparations for the new season continue. David Charles has spoken to Newport County about arrangements for the game next Saturday and we hope to publish details early in the week. From a safety point of view, it is standard practice that if the home team has the game policed, then ‘our’ police will send two officers to the game. This increases the chances of stopping our banned fans from getting into the game – we aren’t always successful, as some recent friendlies have shown, but we set a much higher standard for league games and we are determined to stop banned fans from getting into games.

You will have seen that we have filled three fans’ coaches for the Newport trip and we are well on the way to justify booking a fourth. We can’t run fans’ coaches at a loss and so we need to get another 20 or so bookings before we confirm the booking with the coach company. We have set a deadline of close of business on Tuesday to make our decision about the fourth coach, but it looks good at the moment. If you are thinking of going by coach, please book now - £10 for the return trip is very good value.

The team and management will, thanks to a generous sponsor, be staying overnight before the Newport game. Terry regularly reiterates his mantra that the squad is like a family and so everyone in the squad is going to this first game - no members of the family will be left at home. After an early evening meal, there will be a team talk and a quiz to while away the evening.

We have now sold 1,480 season tickets and all of them, except applications which arrived today, have been despatched or collected. If you haven't received yours yet, please be patient and leave it a few days before calling us.

Back at the stadium, work continues in preparation for the delivery of the concrete tiers onto which the new seats will be bolted. The tiers will be lowered onto the steel girders on Monday and then it will really look like a stand is going up. Nonetheless, there is a lot more work to do, but the contractors tell us we are still on track for a finish on 12 September, the day before the Maidenhead home game.

One consequence of the timing is that season ticket holders in block K (and those in the new block L) will be relocated for the first four games of the season. There are just enough seats to accommodate this although, even more than usual, we’d be grateful if anyone who isn’t coming could send us their ST voucher, to help to ease the pressure. Because there will be such a major, albeit temporary, reallocation of seats, we won’t be selling tickets in advance for the first four home games of the season; instead, if there are sufficient returns, we will sell them from the kiosk in the main lobby.

Talking of the kiosk, we are rebuilding it soon, to accommodate two people, to make it easier to sell seat tickets. Other work around the stadium continues. This week has seen repairs to the PA system, with apologies for the teething problems at the Salisbury and Kingstonian games, plus work to create gates that open onto the pitch at the bottom of each aisle in the main stand – a safety requirement.

We are planning to increase the number of press places in the press area (a sensible place to put them, you might think) and we can do so by moving the away directors forward a row. Now that the roof has been extended we don’t run the risk of them getting wet. We are also reviewing the facilities in the press box and aim to make it a lot easier to use – including use of a wireless network for them to email their reports after the game. Finally, if we can, we will be creating a facility to pipe the Radio WDON commentary to partially sighted people.

While our stadium was being improved during the close season, David Charles has been chairing a small group looking at this web site, our online home, to see how we might improve it. Volunteers, some involved in the original design and current maintenance, have been researching ideas in use by other clubs and how we might refresh the site incrementally in the short term, ahead of a larger scale change over a longer period.

For many this process is largely about improving how we get our information updated promptly, rather than rewriting the whole look and feel of the site. We started on improving our communication with this series of ‘What’s happening at Kingsmeadow’, updates and photos which have been well received and followed it with the podcast and today’s ‘meet the manager’ download. (Look out for a further podcast next week. And there are no photos today as we felt there wasn’t much new to say about holes in the ground.))

We continue work on the OS with a small change to the look of the front (home) page, albeit within the existing design style, to improve its function as a ‘portal’. The current design of the site may not be able to support all the changes we may want to make, so that will have to wait for a while yet. We’ll be seeking comments on the new front page in due course but, for the time being, please give it a thorough going over to see if it feels better than the current one.

Elsewhere, the final pre-season treatment of the pitch has been going on and we are ordering (with thanks to WUP for their sponsorship) some new nets. The team photo took place before training the other night – we’d hoped to do it before the Salisbury game but the Conference sponsors’ kit wasn’t here and it is mandatory to wear it in the team photo.

On a sad note, Erik Samuelson attended the funeral of a staunch fan earlier today – we can’t always have someone attend but, whenever possible, one of the directors goes to such a funeral. We all know how significant a part football plays in people’s lives, but the sight of a club pennant on the coffin, plus almost all the flowers being yellow and blue, brings it home and it is very moving.

Erik was interviewed by Caroline Barker for the Non League Football Show on BBC Radio London, which is broadcast every Monday night at 9.00 pm. Monday’s show includes a piece about management of clubs, which is the subject Caroline talks to Erik about. He took the opportunity to interview Caroline for our matchday programme and that will appear as the first in an irregular series looking at aspects of football, behind the scenes.

Looking to next week, on Monday Erik and Terry go to a meeting for all Conference chairmen and managers at Burton Albion’s Pirelli stadium. The agenda is quite a long one and includes some interesting items about the ‘Respect’ campaign, plus the role of chairmen as line managers (we assume this is a proposal to hold chairmen accountable for any inappropriate behaviour by their managers and team. If we are right about this item, it is an idea which we support totally. Monday will tell.)

Tomorrow is the last pre-season friendly which also completes our part of the deal re Jon Main and we all hope that everyone comes safely through it. And then our next game is our very first in the Blue Square South – what we’ve all been waiting for. Next week we will turn our attention to football and so this is the last of these regular features about off-the-field happenings (although one-offs will continue to appear from time to time). So we end today on the following usual note – one week to go.

Exciting times indeed.