Gaffer's Chat with Harry Hudson - April Edition
We’re back! Nowhere else to start other than to thank everyone who has contributed to the Leafe’s crowdfunding appeal. We are well over halfway to our £6K target and your efforts will ensure the club keeps going during this difficult period and is ready to welcome us all back when the time is right.
If you can, please make a contribution
We might have been starved of football in recent weeks and I know I have been not only missing watching the Leafe play but as Church Road is such a friendly environment, I have missed seeing all the regular friendly faces. Even people I don’t actually know usually nod. I have missed the special camaraderie that Leafe fans share.
With the season cut off in its prime and ruled null and void our General Manager, Clive Davis, has asked me to start rolling out little pieces for the club’s website again just to keep everyone updated, so never needing a second invitation, here’s a season review from the gaffer, Harry Hudson.
Next time, we will bring you Harry and Calum’s Manager’s Player of the Season result.
In the meantime, over to you, H:
Trying to gauge the success of the 2019/20 season is extremely difficult when there was so much left to play for. However, of course, we were cut short due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Upon reflection though, there is no doubt that we enjoyed another successful season considering our limited resources and young squad – on average seven of our starting eleven each week were under 21 years of age.
I want to highlight how exceptional it is that our young players adapted to playing at this level of non-league football. Although we have the outstanding senior players of Nathan Campbell, Corey Holder, Bentley Graham and Jamie McGeoghegan to guide our younger players take on a lot of responsibility at a young age.
Most clubs use a few young players around an experienced group and so they are given a bit more time to adapt before being relied upon in the first team, but we throw them in the deep end!
Also, a special mention for those senior players who are far more than just footballers in our group – they mentor, support and guide the younger lads, which makes me and Calum’s job so much easier.
To be honest, they could all easily move to other clubs, turn up play and go home, while also picking up a bigger pay packet, but they are fully invested in our project and are essential to our success.
Finally, a massive thank you to the fans who are passionate, patient and supportive of our work which makes it all worthwhile.
There is no doubt that the highlight of last season for me was our FA Cup run, culminating in the fixture against National League South side, Chippenham (three divisions above us in the football pyramid, don’t forget) at Church Road.
Although we had a favourable draw to get to the FA Cup 1st Round proper, I thought we were professional throughout our run, with four clean sheets in four games before the Chippenham match.
In the previous round, the support from the fans and atmosphere they created Abbey Rangers’ ground in Chertsey was fantastic and will stay with me for a long time.
Then, to see Church Road so full for the Chippenham fixture was amazing. Actually, although we lost, I thought the boys gave a very good account of themselves and our club on the day.
Hand on heart, I honestly believe the game could have gone another way if we had taken one of our early chances, but it wasn’t to be and we bowed out of the competition – my first loss in the FA Cup in two seasons!
Our league form was inconsistent this season and we never really felt like we hit the levels we wanted. We had some real low points such as losing to away at Ramsgate and VCD Athletic, which were our poorest performances and they stand out in my mind.
That being said, we were still in with a chance to make the BetVictor Isthmian South East playoffs and we have always said that on our day we can beat anyone in our league so would have had an outside chance, to make up ground, in the closing weeks of the season, I feel.
On a positive note, the standout league performances were the home win against high-flying Whitehawk and the last-minute winner against Sittingbourne away, which set us up for a play-off push.
Again, we suffered with injuries and suspensions to critical players at important times of the year which, hampered our progress but all clubs encounter these issues so that cannot be an excuse.
Then of course, we were also looking forward to the Surrey Senior Cup quarter final tie against Chipstead with the winners due to face Isthmian Premier side Leatherhead, so we fancied ourselves to be able to make a cup final this season.
Upon reflection I think we had a positive season across all competitions and hopefully entertained our fans with our expansive and exciting brand of football.
The squad we had assembled, by the end of the season, was full of talent and attacking intent and they were a joy to work with.
My assistant, Calum and I would also like to thank all our staff and the important roles they do for the group – Jake, Danny Rose, Billy and Jojo have been fantastic throughout the season. A big thanks to them.