Monday 04th April 2005

Doom and gloom merchants need to be ditched

JOHN CUMBERBATCH has admitted he is impressed with the facilities at The Homelands but wants the Ashford Town players to reflect the organisation off the pitch on the field of play, writes Stephen McCartney.

Ashford Town clawed their way out of the Ryman League Division One drop zone following their 3-2 victory against play-off hopefuls Tooting & Mitcham United on Saturday.  But the Kent side are only two points clear of relegation with five games to play.

Cumberbatch, the club's assistant manager, was impressed by the club's facilities, when his son Marc, came to Homelands whilst on loan from Barnet last season before the defender joined Southern Leaguers Erith & Belvedere.

He told the club's website: "Last season when I came to Ashford Town to watch Marc, on loan from Barnet, I was given a brief tour of the club.

"I remember being extremely impressed and commented later that this club, in non-league terms is a giant in waiting.

"The facilities and behind the scenes organisation at the club are second to none.

"I felt it would not be long before the football on the pitch reflects what happens behind the scenes, so was always surprised when checking this season's results, to see them going the way they have been."

Cumberbatch, whose side travel to second placed Walton & Hersham, a side that thrashed champions-elect AFC Wimbledon 4-0 last weekend, next Saturday, added: "This club is a big club.  It thinks big commercially and is run on an extremely efficient basis, even to many League clubs.

"It is criminal therefore that match results earlier this season have not reflected the organisation, professionalism and results off the pitch.

"It is impossible to get good results if players and coaches have a slack attitude to training and preparation of games.

"I feel this may have been the team's failing.  However, the players at the moment, are working extremely hard in training and are acting in a manner befitting the club they represent.

"This has been reflected in matches and, apart from Fleet and Molesey, we have either dominated, or matched, most opponents since early January.  The fact results are so far not totally reflecting this is disappointing but it will only be a matter of time - but do we have enough?"

However, Ashford have five difficult league games left to play, starting with their trip to Stompond Lane on Saturday.  But they do have three home games in succession, against Whyteleafe (16th April), Bashley (19th April) and Metropolitan Police (23rd).  They end the season at Horsham on the 30th.

Cumberbatch added: "When Tim (Thorogood) asked me to join as assistant manager here, though I knew it would be a long process to claw back the points deficit, I vowed we would not leave ourselves in a position where we are still fighting relegation with just a few games remaining.

"I don't account for the games where we have totally dominated yet lost, or shared points.  Bar the aforementioned Feet and Molesey games, we deserved two points from the other games.

"I am told this has been the pattern for most of the season.  A major cause has been a lack of fitness and mental strength within the teams along with a lack of confidence.  I do feel, however, that we are at the stage where this has changed - but again - do we have enough time?

"Of course we do, but it is comfortably tight with very little room for error."

Cumberbatch revealed the players the club signed before last Thursday's transfer deadline.

He said: "Tim and I discussed the need to make some signings before the deadline to ensure we had experience to cover the event of injuries.

"Little did I expect that the Leatherhead game would leave us with four crucial injuries.

"We have signed former Erith & Belvedere goalkeeper Jani Seitsonen and Mike Delaney, a midfielder and striker and former professional in the German Bundesleige with Stuttgart.

"These players have been signed because we want to ensure that an unusually long injury and suspension list does not leave us exposed.

"Though we have cover from the young players drafted in from the reserves.  It is not sensible, or fair, to pitch too many of these players into this pressure situation and expect them to perform at their best.

"With that said, three of them took part in the Hastings game and were very competent and assured, especially Gary Clarke who performed well in centre midfield."

Cumberbatch wants all the club's supporters to pull together in the right direction and back the team or stay away.

"It is the easiest thing in the world to be negative," he said.  " We can all preach doom and gloom.  It's very safe and clever to predict we are going down, we won't survive, we won't make it, but that is not what we need.

"In a sinking ship, the doom and gloom merchants need to be ditched - thrown overboard.

"What we need are men and women who will stand to the very end, be positive and work for survival.

"Negativity is not welcomed anywhere around this club.  We need (and I think we have in abundance) players, coaches, officials and supporters who will give their all for every remaining game, who believe in the football we are playing and have the belief that we can get the points needed to stay up despite the heavy load of bad luck raining down on us.

"I believe we will survive: otherwise I would not be here.  I have full confidence in the players, managers, back up staff and the club's supporters to believe we will remain in this division.

"It's at those times that true supporters are required!"

Walton & Hersham v Ashford Town
Ryman League Division One
Saturday 9th April 2005
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Stompond Lane, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey