Relegated Fisher boss Dean Harrison: I hope the board can re-valuate for a better future for this great club. Something needs to change drastically for the good times to return to SE16

Monday 24th April 2017

FISHER manager Dean Harrison has called upon the fan-owned club to change drastically for the good times to return to SE16.

The club suffered relegation from the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division at the weekend – despite it being their homecoming season back home in Rotherhithe.

Waiting for a bus outside their new ground at St Paul’s Stadium on Salter Road, just around the corner from their old Surrey Docks Stadium, which was sold for housing, there is no signage on the outside of the brickbuilt small clubhouse and dressing rooms to tell you that you’re at Fisher Football Club.

The perimeter fencing around the artificial pitch behind both goals is for Millwall Lionesses, with advertising boards that you see at all Women’s Super League grounds. The other two sides of the pitch are available for Fisher and not one advertising board has been sold all season despite a banner proudly displaying that Fisher are a fan-owned football club.

Fisher’s homecoming match should have been against landlords Millwall, or one of their nearest senior non-league clubs, a Bromley, a Welling United, a Dulwich Hamlet, a Dartford etc.

The club made it’s homecoming match an all ticket affair against Farnborough Old Boys Guild of the Andreas Carter Joma Kent County League Premier Division.

Fisher won that game 4-0 – in front of 114 fans – and caretaker joint-manager Rob Curtis insisted after the game that “this is the start of something great.”

The club recruited Gary Abbott as their new manager, the team scored a lot of goals but conceded even more and he famously said after Fisher’s 4-3 home defeat to Sheppey United in the Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Second Round on 15 November, “I’ve even said to the chairman, if you’re not happy with results, get rid of me, get rid of me, if that’s what you feel is right for the club. I don’t think it is.”

The club “got rid” of Abbott after 23 games in charge of the club, with a sorry league record of one win, four draws and 13 defeats, leaving the club six points adrift of safety.

Fisher appointed Dean Harrison on 28 November and said  at the time of his return: “Anybody who doesn’t understand the enormity of the task at hand or is not willing to put in 100% effort for themselves, myself, my staff and this club, will be asked to leave with immediate effect. At the end of the day, this is senior football not a Thursday night 5-a-side league.”

Fisher were condemned to relegation following their 2-0 defeat at third-placed finishers Sevenoaks Town on Saturday and host Erith Town on Saturday.

“Well, nobody could say we didn’t have a go!” said Harrison, who has won five and drawn three of his 19 games in charge.

“If you’d said to me when I returned in December, that with two games to go it would still be all to play for, I’d have taken that willingly.

“The place was in a mess! The team were five points adrift, there was playing kit missing, warm-up gear missing, a bag of mix and match footballs and the dressing room was a complete joke! A couple of big ego’s and the rest sat starring at their phones with an earpiece in and all the personality of the mannequins stood against the wall in the corner of the kit room.

“The place needed a proper sort out, so that’s what we did.  We had a much-needed belated spring clean. Things changed quickly, everything became organised and players with good attitudes replaced players with poor ones.

“If anybody had walked into our dressing room during the last three months, they’d have thought it was a team winning the league, not fighting relegation!

“Foundations were put in place quickly as time was not on our side. Unfortunately, all said and done, we lacked the experience needed to complete the job but these players gave it their all and that should not be overlooked by anybody.”

Harrison was quick to praise his backroom staff for their support during a season of failure both on and off the pitch.

“I’d like to thank everybody involved with this club who helped me along the way, starting with my staff,” he said.

“Neil Hunter, my assistant, for his knowledge and non-mincing of words.  You’ve been my eyes and ears constantly. Thanks mate. I’ve learnt a lot and hope we work together in the future.

“Richard White, head coach, for his consistent enthusiasm and professionalism to the cause. A more genuine man you’d struggle to meet.

“Peter Dale, our goalkeeper coach, who has only joined us recently but puts on great sessions for our keepers.

“Donny Powell, our physio, who all the boys like a little TLC from.  A true fact, she wasn’t there for one of the games and not one players stayed down injured throughout the 90 minutes!

“Jason Birchall, head of first team operations, from away travel to signings, to getting the kit washed. What he doesn’t do for the team isn’t worth talking about.

“Last but not least, Harry Birchall, kit man. Week-in-week-out the kit is laid out for the players immaculately, waters filled and refilled and when everyone’s showered and gone, guess who’s picking up the dirty socks?

“Thanks to all of the people at the club who have worked so hard behind the scenes on match days at Fisher FC this season. From the kitchen to the turnstile to Joe Arif on the tannoy. You keep this place going.”

Fisher went down without a playing budget and they will need one in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division, otherwise the club will be rooted in Step Six for more time than a club of their history should be.

Fan ownership isn’t working in SE16. Relegation has proved that. Otherwise they would have rallied around Harrison by raising the funds to ensure safety was secured. Fisher’s biggest rivals Beckenham Town have done that and they are almost safe going into the final day of the season.

The summer months, Fisher, as a club, must find investors, create a real board with genuine intentions and give Harrison a playing budget that can football matches to win promotion at the first attempt.

Fisher Athletic were playing the likes of Barnet, Cheltenham Town, Colchester United, Kidderminster Harriers and Wycombe Wanderers when they finished bottom of the GM Vauxhall Conference in 1991. 

Next season they will be playing in the tenth tier of English football and Harrison demands a fresher way of thinking.

He said: “The supporters deserve a huge special mention. Without them this club would be nothing. They’ve supported myself and the players all the way since my return in December and I thank them sincerely from the bottom of my heart. The noise  they make is astounding and I hope one day this club gives you the success you all deserve.

“Thank you to all the players for your hard work and commitment. We came so close when so many had already written us off and who knows, if Rochester had fielded a proper side against Erith Town on Saturday (claims Harrison), we might still be in the race. Skulduggery? Maybe, but we mustn’t blame others for our shortcomings!"

Going through the Southern Counties East Football League Handbook, which is published on their website, Rule 8.9 includes the following statement:

“Each team participating in a match shall represent the full available strength of each competing Club.”

Harrison added: “Stranger things have happened and we will be going all out to win this Saturday in the hopeful possibility that only one team eventually gets relegated from this league.

“Whatever the outcome, I hope the board can re-valuate for a better future for this great club.  Something needs to change drastically for the good times to return to SE16!

“Please join us this Saturday for our last game of the season and then after at six o’clock in the Old Salt Quay for our presentation evening. All supporters are absolutely welcomed.”

Fisher, bottom of the table with 25 points, host an Erith Town that have escaped the drop following their 2-0 win at Rochester United at the weekend and are now fourth-from-bottom on 31 points.

Erith & Belvedere go into Saturday’s final game at home to Canterbury City on 26 points and are on course of joining Fisher in the First Division.

Beckenham Town appear safe in the bottom three on 29 points and will need a point at home to Bearsted to escape relegation by the skin of their teeth.

At the top, Ashford United and Crowborough Athletic go into their final games locked on 89 points.

Ashford United host Rochester United, while Crowborough Athletic travel to Hollands & Blair on Saturday. 

Ashford have a +13 goal difference in their favour should they both finish level on points.

Ashford striker Shaun Welford, 37, has to score a hat-trick to take his goalscoring tally for the season to a club record breaking 48, smashing Stuart Zanone’s 47 goals that he scored for the club during their 2014-2015 campaign.

In all all, although Fisher and Erith & Belvedere will disagree, it’s been the most exciting Southern Counties East Football League/Kent League campaign ever with excitement both at the top and at the bottom of the table.