I just think the amount of games that these players at this level are expected to play and particularly in a close period of time, is just too much too ask, says Hythe Town boss Steven Watt

Thursday 05th October 2023

HYTHE TOWN manager Steven Watt says his side have played too many games during the first nine weeks of the season.

The Cannons were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Ashford United on Tuesday night, which was their fifth Isthmian League South East Division game of the season.

The club have played 12 games (including the abandoned Ashford United fixture), including two FA Cup ties, two FA Trophy ties, one League Cup tie and they knocked holders Margate out of the Kent Senior Cup too.

“Frustrating, it really is, it’s so hard to get any sort of momentum going,” said Watt, when asked about the lack of league games going into the start of October.

“The Kent Senior Cup and Velocity Cup games, no disrespect, when you’re a club like us and you run with a squad that we run with (17 players), you can’t risk your players in those type of games.  You’ve got to try to manage your squad because we haven’t got a squad of 21.

“We’ve got some youngsters registered.  We finished our games against Sittingbourne (Velocity Cup) and Margate with three 17-year-olds on the pitch and it’s a good opportunity to rest some players and give some younger boys a try and give them a bit of experience so it’s good from that respect.

“We’ve got (centre half) Lex Allan who has played the last two games with a knock. He picked up a badly bruised ankle against Margate and he’s done really well in both games.

“When you don’t have an embarrassment of riches with squad numbers when you leave out three, four or five players and you can bring the youngsters in for these type of games. It’s difficult.  When you mix squads up you lose balance, you lose momentum if you lose one of those games.  We won both so it’s been good but it’s tricky to navigate.”

The Scotsman would like the League Cup and Kent Senior Cup to begin in November, to ease fixture congestion at the start of the season.

“I think that is a good suggestion.  You could maybe start them a bit later but the counter-argument for that would be the pitches, the weather, they’ve got to allow for that,” said Watt.

“People are progressing through FA Cup’s and FA Trophy’s as well.  We’ve gone through the Velocity Cup and we’ve got to play that (third round tie away to Ashford United) game before the end of this month, so it’s another game in October, so we will be playing seven games in October.

“It’s unnecessary but you’ve got to give the teams a bit longer to play the fixture.  You can spread the games out a little bit better but look, it’s nothing different to what I’ve said in the past and things never get changed and are not going to change, so look, we can’t complain about it. 

“We’ve just got to get our head down and we’ve got to try and navigate through these fixtures and come out the other end with as little injuries as we possibly can.”

The Isthmian League re-arrange postponed fixtures within six weeks after the date of the original fixture but Watt calls for fixtures to be spread out to avoid burn-out for his players who hold down jobs during the working day, as well as playing in the eighth-tier of English football.

“I’ve said it for years, in management, you’ve got the highest level and they talk about over-playing and this is what’s frustrating at this level.  You are just forgotten about,” claimed Watt.

“This is maybe seen by the higher-authorities as the riffraff of the football pyramid.  I don’t know. You’re just expected to get on with it.

“These guys (and Ashford’s players) are supposed to get up at six or seven o’clock in the morning and go and do a full days work and play on a Tuesday night and not get home until about half-eleven, 12 and go and do it all over again.

“There’s very little given for those players and the amount they play in a season. I’d like to see games maybe spread out a little bit more and you don’t get the Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday that we’ve had.  That’s where the issue lies.

“No one’s complaining about playing 38 league games in a season, plus cups.  You have to play Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday because you’re not given enough time to schedule games because our scheduled games have to be in a certain period. Why can’t it be eight weeks? Why can’t it be 10? Why can’t it be 12? 

“People know a lot more than I do and are a lot more educated in terms of how fixtures are scheduled but I just think the amount of games that these players at this level are expected to play and particularly in a close period of time, is just too much too ask.”

Watt, meanwhile, takes his side to Isthmian League Premier Division strugglers Concord Rangers in The FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round on Saturday, before hosting Sevenoaks Town on league match day six next Tuesday.

The Cannons are in eighth-place in the table with seven points.

Visit Hythe Town’s website: www.hythetownfc.co.uk