Weʼre raising £2,100 to Thank you to incredible players of Dunstable Town FC
- Dunstable, UK
- 8 days to go
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Ive been coaching over 20 years and this has been the most incredible football year of my life. We have a group of 21 young football players competing in the semi professional football league where they are the only players in the league to not have been paid a single penny all season. Not even expenses. The club was rescued by fans and we knew it wouldn't have a playing budget. We recruited from open trials and promoted five players from its development squad. We didn't even have a football to train with. We started the season with players that had one and half years experience at step 3 senior football or higher. We gave debuts to several 17 and 18 year old lads and in games our average age was typically 19. We took some beatings but gradually we got better. Most of our learning was done on the pitch as training was a third of a 3G pitch for an hour a week for most of the season. They learned so much along the way. Luck didnt go our way either. We used nine goalkeepers along the way and in two games we had our centre back in goal.
Teams came to us in big rolling hotel coaches whilst we crammed up in a mini-bus. We traveled 1000 miles in one week alone and took unpaid leave from work with two players putting their jobs on the line. They had to get over early nerves and learn to play on a stage against many former ex professionals and against teams with playing budgets upto £10k a week and for the most we competed and showed huge resilience. We realised we had gathered together a group of very special people that were honest and desperate to better their football careers.
To our clubs credit they wouldn't commit to any money it couldn't afford and cleared all its financial commitment. It would remain sustainable to preserve its future and not throw money it didn't have at the problem risking the clubs future. With a council owned stadium and limited income opportunities that other clubs take for granted it meant the zero playing budget remained in force for the whole season.
The guys remained committed. They live in Milton Keynes, London, Essex and other places many miles from Dunstable with a handful living local but they never ever once complained about petrol costs. They also never ever showed any sign of giving up. Most teams we played showed us huge respect and the great Hereford fans clapped our youngsters off the pitch at Edgar Street appreciating their fight and spirit.
The last week and 4 games
As the season came close to its conclusion we were hit with a goalkeeper problem again and we requested special circumstance to sign which was refused. Then matches were called off and it meant we would have a fixture pile up through no fault of our own. It meant that we would be tasked with playing 4 games in 1 week. Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Others in the league argue they too have to do that but these games matter, so we requested a date extension becasue we had so much at stake, after all the fight and things we have been through which I have documented and will later publish, surely you cant put our lads through that? We had a squad of 17 fit players. The date a week later would have seen us play the same or similar games ratio as our rivals Gosport but it was refused.
We started the football marathon with a home fixture to St Ives and after a terrific performance and hitting every part of the goal and the paint beneath it we couldnt quite get it over the line. We came in to learn that Gosport had won its first game in 24 matches 7-0 to Frome which was exactly the goal difference we had up on them. Later we also learned that Frome fielded 10 players throughout and didn't have a regular goalkeeper. The lads were of course Angry and I had to keep them calm despite all their questions. It meant that we would have to go to Biggleswade as strong as we possibly could. The lads were again terrific and Daniel Trif running to me and embracing with the rest of the squad after scoring meant so much more than football. His poor young wife has been battling cancer that was really aggressive and progressing and she remains fighting. It puts things into perspective and it was an emotional moment. Gareth, my assistant manager looked at me after and we both took a deep breath and I said, "lets leave it for 10 minutes" as we battled to contain our emotions. We had used all three subs to cover injuries and with ten minutes to go our deep midfielder Mano, who had been terrific, limped out having pulled his groin, we would be down to ten men and like St Ives, with supposedly nothing to play for they showed great sporting honesty and put us under pressure as the clock took a slow tick toward the 90th, when 9 minutes were held up. I couldn't believe it. Then a further 3 came on top of that where we defended for our lives to hold onto the 3 points.
Then Gosport at home on the Thursday, the big one. We had took many measures to try and help our lads recover but two key players had limped out Tuesday and were the first victims of the crazy fixture finish which become less about sporting integrity and more about the size of a squad and strength in depth. Of which we have neither. We had a great crowd in for the lads and that even included something like 75 players, officials and fans of Kings Langley Football Club down the road. Darren the director said to me that they all felt so passionate about what we had done with no budget and wanted to support us and show solidarity. Absolutely fantastic and humbling.
40 Minutes into the game some of the players started to look jaded and it worried me. Gosport looked sharper and that of course was not suprising. We had a number of really good chances to take the lead which would see the job done and us safe. However after another really good chance Gosport pounced on a loose ball and scored. Our lads really huffed and puffed and several were clearly limping as they gave all they had again and eventually being more exposed Gosport found a second and the win would take the relegation battle into the last day. This Saturday, which for us is at Frome and Gosport at St Neots. Our lads had collapsed on the floor and I went round picking them up off the floor. I gathered them and got them to look at Gosports players and fans celebrating. I wanted them to bottle that up and take it with them on Saturday. In the dressing room I told them its still well within our grasp. I'm sure St Neots will be totally professional as their coaches are decent people and will want a good performance to finish their season. Fair play to Gosport, they now are rumored to have a very healthy playing budget and the number of very reputable former professionals on the pitch is what you get for your money. You certainly cant Criticise the chairman for not backing them financially and Im sure he will be desperate for that investment to pay him back.
Our dressing room was full with the whole squad. Including poor Lanre who looks like he could be out for upto a year with a snapped ACL. The lads were devastated. I was as well but more angry, as I told them, not one bit at them but at the circumstances and what they have been asked to do after playing for nearly an hour two days earlier. I told them we will never give up, its not in my nature. I felt incredibly sad for them, like a parent seeing his own children hurting. But we can proudly say we have done everything honestly and every game we have just gone out and tried our best and stuck together. Now we need one more go Saturday and I know the lads will give absolutely everything they have.
Having seen many crowd funding for many clubs who perhaps have been drained of resource by paying players that isn't sustainable I have to say that despite our tough situation the club have ensured its financial stability. They have said they are committed to looking at a bonus for the players following our last game. I also have had many messages from people saying they would like to individually support our players for one bonus and thank you for what they have done keeping this football club going, for free. We have 21 players that have made a significant contribution and I want to raise a bonus "thankyou" pot for them. Maybe more than money if you contribute something its the supporting words that I can use to show them tomorrow on the bus to Frome and could be the last lift they need to give them the physical and mental energy to go again one last time and make history. Every penny of this will be split evenly to our players who are...
Nathan Harness, Will Hunt, Gedeon Okito, Keiran Ogden, John Sonuga, Peter Kioso, Ben Collins, Daniel Trif, Johnny Barnett, Alex Ward, Mano Langlais, Ty Ward, Lanre Ladipo, Ryan Young, Saul Williams, Ethan Lamptey, Andrew Osei-Bonsu, Arel Amu, Charlie Black, Erin Amu, Aaron Hudson.
On Saturday we finally found ourselves relegated and of course we are all devastated. Overall we know that to compete with the resources (none) at our disposal and to take this to the last game was an awesome achievement and show of grit and resilience from the players. For the final game we lost two of our most key players as the toll of the final week claimed its next casualties. We already knew that our rivals Gosport, playing St Neots would be facing a new young goalkeeper. He was sent off shortly after the break and St Neots had also made some other changes with a cup final for them the following week. Nothing like this had ever fallen our way. For example, early on in the season we faced a really terrific Merthyr Town side with well paid terrific players against our inexperience and were comfortably beat. Later they are cash strapped, lose 80% of the squad and go to Chesham United and get beat 13-1 with a 15 year old in goal. Gosport Borough had a transfer embargo and were limited to a squad of 16 players at the start of the season. The day we played them it was lifted, a new chairman came in and two huge signings. One was terrific at the back and got our lad sent off in 5 minutes and the other one scored. Its just been how the dice of landed for us.
When we seen the Frome team then for the last game that would decide our fate we could see that it was pretty much back to full strength and someone told me they had managed to raise £4k which they used to pay the players outstanding wages and they returned to play against us. To be fair, 3 of the players were excellent and rightly so. But they seemed really fired up to win for a game that had now motive on paper. After taking the game to them early on we created several chances but our end product and decision let us down. Frome scored with a simple ball over the top and a well taken finish. As the game wore on our desperation and eagerness was replaced quickly with fatigue and visibly drained players. But they still never gave up and even in the second half we should have scored 3 or 4 with one cleared off the line straight after the break. We knew the score at St Neots and that Gosport Borough had got the reward for all they had financially invested in the end. So as nearly always in football, in the end, cash was king and we were relegated.
We will all take some time and dust ourselves down. For me, I was on the phone to the board the next morning detailing whats needed to be competitive and we are now looking at that so we can plan the clubs future. On reflection, we can honestly say though, we fielded are best available players in every single game. We stuck together, We fought for our lives. We challenged decisions to get goalkeepers in where we could to give us realistic chances. We requested a fairer run in and it was declined by the league also. We always had a full team in games including subs and we never ever rolled over in any match and gave it our best shot.
We will live to fight another day and as humans will come back stronger. The club is now safe and secure and whatever happens it can now go into next season without the burdens it had and certainly a lot wiser on and off the pitch.
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- 4 months ago
Tony McCool4 months ago
Hi, thanks again. We will present what you raised to the players at our presentation do on the 25th May and we will interview the players who Im sure will want to say something in response. I will let this run in case more would like to make even the smallest of gestures.
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- 4 months ago
Tony McCool4 months ago
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May 31, 2018
Just found out today that you're in charge. Hadn't realised things had got to where they are now with the club compared to a couple of years back. You've got one more fan at Creasy next season mate.
May 25, 2018
Really highlights the difference between the have's and the have nots in this great game. Magnificent gesture well done.Gillingham FC supporter
Paul McDonagh - St Josephs U8
May 10, 2018
May 9, 2018
Amazing bunch of young people I really hope that you get recognised for your commitment to the beautiful game.
May 9, 2018
Worthing FC x
May 8, 2018
May 5, 2018
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