The Voice in your Community


Bake’s Memoirs

by Neil Baker, local sporting legend


February 3rd 2021, Issue 103

It’s been a while since Nigel and his staff have been able to produce the Voice but let’s all hope that the announcement made by the Government this week (22nd Feb} will lead us all back to a near normal life again. It’s been an horrendous twelve months for us all, I would be surprised if any family has escaped the virus in one form or the other.

But there is now some light at the end of a very dark tunnel, the vaccines have made all the difference and have enabled us to look forward rather than backwards and we can start to plan again for the future.

I had made a few notes for my next column before we were put into lockdown again and one of the points I had made was the concern of the number of head injuries that were happening in football. We now have concussion substitutes in the Premiership which I hope will filter down to grassroots football sooner rather than later. I’m convinced that managers are reluctant to lose important players and make decisions that are not in the best interests of the player and this must be taken out of their hands by the decision being made by the club doctor who at premier league and EFL games sit in or close to the dugouts.

Lower down the pyramid this must be decided by the physio or a qualified member of staff. I know that I can and must trust my physio to make the right call. If not then why would the club employ him or her?

Only this week former Scotland and Man Utd defender Gordon McQueen has been diagnosed with vascular dementia. As the medical profession gets better these types of illnesses are becoming far more prevalent. Numerous ex footballers are suffering with and in some cases dying from injuries related to their careers in the game.

Jeff Astle, the former WBA striker, was the first high profile player to be highlighted as having a problem from heading the football regularly. No coincidence that the problem is position specific i.e. centre halves/centre forwards. These positions tend to head the ball far more often than any other. Also the game has changed over the years and the game takes place a lot more on the ground now than it once did.

A centre forward ten years ago was the stereotype, big, strong and good in the air. Teams were far more direct playing upto the strikers and teams played with wingers, hence more crosses went into the penalty area. On the defending side, centre halves were expected to deal with these strikers and were in direct physical contact contesting these headers.

A directive from the FA has been sent out to professional clubs/academies to restrict the number of heading practices. This really made me think. Could our game in time become a game that is played without heading taking place? Remember playing football years ago with a condition imposed, ‘no overhead height’? I certainly can, mainly in the gym when the teachers didn’t want any windows broken but also outdoors to practice football on the floor.

Tackling is definitely a skill that is being lost to the game (watching all the games on TV over the last couple of months you hardly see a tackle made) . In fact most players pull out of them, could heading the ball also disappear from our game?

Interesting to see how our local teams have fared since we last published.

Stoke have had a real topsy turvy couple of months. I’m writing this piece before the Barnsley game having just beaten Luton and Sheffield Wednesday. Prior to these wins we had won one in thirteen. Hardly play off form but that’s where the club finds itself, on the fringes of the playoffs.

I’ve watched a few of the games that have been televised and have to say been disappointed with the football we have played. In fact some of the games have been a hard watch.

Granted the manager has improved the squad and our league position but doesn’t inspire me with the brand of football. Most supporters will be delighted with the improvement in results but pleased that they haven’t had to pay to watch!

There have been mitigating circumstances, injuries to key players, Campbell, Davies, Collins and Shawcross, but we still have a lot of dead wood at the club. Our new signings have not exactly improved the team or indeed the squad. Clarke. Doughty and Matondo have been conspicuous by their absence.

Fletcher and Powell are proving to be a competent partnership, whoever plays at the back make us hard to beat but midfield is an area for concern. Plentiful in numbers but short of quality. A resourceful finish to the campaign and who knows what lies in store.

Over in the East of the county the teams have been inconsistent to say the least. Forest and Derby have improved their respective league positions but neither have reached a position of complete safety. Both will survive because there are poorer teams than them below but whether Rooney and Hughton can take them on to better things remains to be seen.

The same applies to Burton Albion, Hasselbaink has been bought in and steadied the ship to a degree but can he turn round a team that was destined to be relegated in a short space of time is questionable. At this moment in time they are five points from safety and the only thing that can save them is a few wins and the three teams outside the bottom four are in freefall. I hope they do, they are a super club run by a good man in Ben Robinson.

Now there are signs that local sport can start to tiptoe back again. Let’s hope our semi professionals and amateur players can look forward to putting on their boots and pads again. It may be just too late for football and rugby but hopefully we can play or watch some cricket next season. I for one can’t wait!

Take care, stay safe and get your vaccination

All the best, Bake.


December 7th 2020, Issue 102

I hope you are all keeping well and staying safe as we go through a second lockdown. It had to come with the virus becoming more prevalent particularly in our area.

Hopefully by the time you read this edition of the Voice, the Government will have relented and allowed us all to see our families again and prepare for a Christmas together.

Elite sport has been able to continue during lockdown but unfortunately football at a local level has been forced to shut down but hopeful that we will get the go ahead to resume after December 2nd.

For you football fans living in East Staffordshire who follow Derby, Forest and Burton Albion, you probably wish that football at your level had come to a halt! It has been a tough start to the season for all three teams.

Forest haven’t recovered from the defeat by Stoke in the last game of the previous season which ended their play-off hopes. It took an extraordinary set of results that night that dented their chances of a chance of promotion. Every scoreline went against them and to cap it all they lost by three goals, if it had been by two I think they would have still qualified.

The hangover continued into this season and a poor start led to a change of manager. Chris Hughton has improved things and will keep them out of trouble but will he take them any further? They have featured regularly on the TV recently and I have to say they are effective but hardly good to watch. In fact the ‘derby’ game against the Rams was the worst game I have seen this season.

Derby County have bigger problems than Forest. I mentioned two seasons ago that they hadn’t got enough firepower in the team and that still hasn’t changed and the team has deteriorated since. They narrowly missed out on the playoffs last season. This year they will struggle to stay in the division I’m afraid.

A takeover and a new manager could be in place by the time you read this and I’m hearing it’s going to be Wayne Rooney. He’s played his part since joining the club but the new manager? I’m a believer that you have to serve an apprenticeship in whatever job you take and I’m not sure he’s ready to take on a big club like Derby. Their supporters will point to Frank Lampard who did a fine job there two seasons ago and Steve Gerrard who’s done the same at Rangers but it’s not a regular occurrence.

Burton Albion is a club in a similar situation. Nigel Clough stepped down when the league was curtailed last season and they have appointed former player Jake Buxton. Jake is a real good guy and was a player you would want in your team. A leader who you would want in the trenches with you. He is going to need all those qualities in abundance in his new role.

What he will get is the backing of the club from a sound board and chairman who has been at the helm for a long time. Under Ben Robinson’s tenure the club has blossomed. Overachieving in reaching the championship on modest resources reminds me of what is possible with sensible planning and the right appointments which is what happened at my former club Crewe Alex.

I sincerely hope that fortunes improve for both Burton Albion and Derby in the coming months.

Talking of fortunes improving, what a terrific job Michael O’Neill is doing at Stoke at present. From dicing with relegation last season to the fringes of the play-offs. Now I’m not getting too excited as most City fans would have settled for a mid table position when the season started.

Some inspired signings (Fletcher, John Mikel Obi, Fox) a small injection of youth (Souttar, Collins, Campbell) and some trusted journeymen alongside them. He has moulded them into a winning unit. Hard to beat and now the goals are starting to flow.

I’m not sure I would pay a lot of money to watch them play but slowly he has worked his magic and given the supporters something to be proud of again. There have been some lean years due to poor management on and off the field but there is hope again that those fans will be able to watch their team again shortly.

One piece of good news was the resignation of FA chief Greg Clarke. Not a moment too soon in my opinion, in fact it should have happened far earlier. I mentioned him at the time our league was prematurely bought to a conclusion last season. It was a decision made in haste, not thought over, in fact not considered at all. It was the decision of a lazy organisation.

The FA have been silent over the last six months, giving no guidance to local clubs whatsoever. These people are put into positions of power and authority to lead, guide and make decisions that benefit the game. They don’t.......

It has been said for an age now that they are men so out of touch with the game but they cling on to power because of what comes with the role instead of what they can give to the game. The association needs fresh blood and a different direction but who can give them that is anyone’s guess.

So that’s it for another year. What a year it’s been for us all. May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Xmas and a happy new year.

Let’s hope we can get back to some sort of a normal life.

Take care, stay safe.



October 28th 2020, Issue 101

I do hope you are keeping safe and sound. Just as we thought things were beginning to improve we are currently being hit by a second wave and the concerning thing about it is that it’s closer to home this time.

The Staffordshire Moorlands and East Staffs are seeing more cases than before and we must carry on and abide by the rules and hope that the scientists and medical boffins can get to grips with the virus and ease the burden on our families and lives.

It seems that the modern day footballer is struggling to abide by these rules. Sancho, Abraham and Chilwell have let themselves, their families, team mates and to some extent their country down badly by openly flouting these rules. Foden and Greenwood did similar in Iceland. In fact since the start of the pandemic many of them have behaved badly.

What makes them do that? Do they think they are above the law? I think they act like this thinking and hoping they won’t get caught out but in today’s world the press miss little. A fine is hardly a deterrent to these multi millionaires and the fact that they are in the main young men and unlikely to suffer badly with the virus shows them to be a selfish breed with little concern for their peers, families or the older generation.

Gareth Southgate has a very difficult job dealing with these players and more often the decisions made will be by the FA. But it will be the manager who has to explain to the public and face the media and in Harry Maguire’s case hung out to dry.

When the team struggles like they did in Iceland and Denmark it’s he who has to carry the can. Without a number of his players due to various circumstances he is left to pick up the pieces, face the music and left to explain performances that we all saw were below par.

Not an easy job, with Maguire you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t! But he’s an eloquent man and in my opinion making a good job of it.

I’m writing my piece before the friendly game against Wales and after the weekend’s results in the Premiership. Well good luck picking his three centre halves (if that’s what he goes with as I think he will). No chance of any of you punters who like a bet on the football getting rich on those outcomes. First of all Leicester City get beat at home 0-3 by West Ham. Then we witnessed Man Utd getting battered at home by Spurs,

I bet Jose enjoyed that, I know I did! Then later we saw something even more unbelievable, champions Liverpool getting thrashed at Villa.

Yes I know we’re in strange times but that also applied to football that weekend.

Spare a thought for the national manager, two of his candidates to play in that back three would have been Maguire (conceded six) and Gomez (conceded seven)!! I know you Wolves fans who live locally have been singing the praises of Conor Coady who made his debut in Copenhagen. It’s a position that he has settled into well after playing in midfield in the early part of his career and credit goes to your manager for recognising this but he’s not a great defender. He reads the game well, organises his team but when he’s called to head the ball away from danger it’s not his forte. Maybe he’s the new breed of defender and I have missed something.

I have to say I enjoy watching the Wolves play. They play a different system than most in the Prem but it suits the players. Their recruitment has been excellent and their style of play good to watch particularly on the counter-attack. I know they would like to dominate games more especially at home but slowly, slowly. Your club is in good hands and you are definitely on your way back.

Sad news that my old club Cheadle Unitd have decided to fold. My old mate Jagger rang me to tell me the news. Players’ committment or lack of it was the main reason he said. 50 years of history, a super club with super people at the helm. Many memories to cherish and hopefully soon we can relive those memories at the fifty years celebration which has had to be cancelled until times change.

I can’t speak highly enough of the club and it saddens me to see what is happening but I look back in fondness of my time playing there and returning to watch their games occasionally and catching up with old teammates and friends.

Only last month I was invited down to the Bird in Hand to present some long serving awards to Mick, Webby, Hodge, Lyndon Beardmore, Marc Hubbard and Beacon. These six had put in 175 years service! Absolutely fantastic dedication to their football club and unlikely to be bettered at any level of the game. Well done to you all and now enjoy your Sunday mornings in bed and then off to the Bird for a pint.

More sad news was losing another former team-mate and friend George Byatt. I had regularly mentioned him in the Voice over the years. My condolences to the family. RIP George...

All the best. Bake.


September 10th 2020, Issue 100

Messi to Man City or PSG is the big headline in the football world. Arguably the best player of my lifetime but does it make sense to spend massive money on a 33 year old who could possibly be past his best? He’s still a special talent but even if they were to get him on a free transfer (which is being muted as I write this) his salary and image rights will still earn him a package that most clubs in the world couldn’t afford.

It would be fantastic to see him come to the Premiership as a football fan but with my manager’s hat on would I want a player who has two or three years at best left at the top, is going to break the club’s pay structure and as suggested, demands favours from the club that others won’t get and upset my group of players?

If he does come to England and City he may well make the difference and help win them the Champions League which in itself would be money well spent, so plenty to ponder for both Pep and the club.

Is he the best of all time? Who knows. It’s all about opinions. He’s certainly one of the best. You will all have your favourites and two of mine are Pele and George Best.

I saw Pele play at Stoke in 1969 when the Potters entertained his club side Santos. Stoke stumped up the fee of £12000 to host the team from Brazil. He scored a fantastic goal weaving through the Stoke defence before slotting past Banks. I also recall Denis Smith having a goal ruled out as the referee blew for half time before the ball had crossed the line! Imagine that happening today, there would be uproar!

George Best had everything and I mean everything! Two footed, he could play anywhere up front though he mainly operated from the left wing. For me the best dribbler of all time. He could beat defenders with either foot, go past them either way, make and score goals and was good in the air.

I saw him play a number of times before he self- destructed though there was a rumour at the time that he rarely played at the Victoria Ground as he was frightened of getting kicked by former teammate Maurice Setters!

I also saw him out socially. The first time was at a sportsmans evening at the former Stakis Hotel in Hanley hosted by Newcastle Town FC. He did a question and answer session for about an hour. He had Miss World at his side, Mary Stavin. There was a waiter who stood behind him with a bottle of wine and every time his glass approached empty the waiter filled it.

The other time was when Alan Hudson opened his nightclub in Newcastle. He sat on a chair at the end of the bar and only left that seat to go to the toilet. That about summed the man up. He enjoyed the company of beautiful ladies and the drink as much as playing football unfortunately for us football supporters.

Most of you will have heard the joke that’s told about him in various forms. This is my version. He’s in Ireland in the finest hotel in Belfast lying on the bed with another stunning girl as company. They had been to the casino and obviously had a successful night at the roulette table as notes were scattered all over the bedroom. He had rung down to reception for a bottle of their finest champagne.

A knock on the door and the cry of ‘room service’. In walked the waiter with the bottle and two glasses, his eyes nearly popped out of his head as he saw all the money and the gorgeous girl - ‘be Jesus Mr Best, where did it all go wrong’ was his comment!!!

Talking of Alan Hudson I also regard him as one of the best players I’ve seen play. When Tony Waddington signed him from Chelsea we already had a decent team but he made a decent team a good one. There were a plethora of good midfield players around at the time and he probably didn’t achieve as much as he should. Another who liked a drink I’m led to believe but players who played with him said that it never affected his performance.

He would have been even better today on the surfaces that the game is played on. If you look at old clips of Hudson they are mainly played on mud baths but even on poor pitches his skills shone through. If you looked at the England squad named for the games in Iceland and Norway his name would have been the first one in midfield.

He and Tony Currie should have played many more games together in partnership for England and the present crop of Henderson. Rice, Winks and co just don’t compare.

My team Leek Town played Rocester in a friendly on the 21st August. Needless to say it was played without a crowd. It was great for me to take my team back home to the club I first played for and the village I was born in. Although the place has changed remarkably since I left in 1964 I still have so many fond memories of the place and the people.

I went into the clubhouse to look at the old photos of teams and players. Make no mistake about it Rocester FC have had some very good teams and fantastic players over the years. Alan Beaman and Alan Smith had a lot of success at the club and even prior to that they had good teams who were run by a committee rather than a sole manager.

The team of the late fifties and sixties were up on the wall and I was pleasantly surprised how many I could remember. Committee men synonymous with the club were Ken Green, Gilbert Egerton and my late father George. Players, Ranji Bullock, Keith and Leon Hibberd, Alf and George Blood, Barry Hulton, Pete Swanwick, Pete and Brian Walker, Joe Carpenter, Graham Darbyshire, Barry Wain, Frank Hitchen amongst others.

It was nice to see chairman Barry Smith who works so hard and chatting to him about his hopes that the club can return to former glories.

An old friend Will Paxton was also present and we talked about old times.

Good luck to Paul Wright and his players and all at the Romans for the coming season and thanks for the game,

Congratulations to Nigel, in particular, and your staff on reaching your ton, Issue 100! I know how hard you must work to fulfill your obligations and it’s been a pleasure to help and support you.

All the best,



July 30th 2020, Issue 99

I’m sure, like me, you are pleased that we are gradually getting back to life as it was pre-lockdown. Not quite the same but our lives are starting to get back to some sort of normality.

I include sport in that, football is being played at the top level again and local cricket came back on the agenda on Saturday 18th July.

Though a reduced programme it was important that the season was not totally wiped out. I felt that cricket was treated a little more unfairly than other sports. It’s played outdoors where the virus is less likely to be contracted and easier to social distance than other contact sports.

The concern was that the umpires that stood were of an older age and that supporters of the game were generally in the age group that were considered more vulnerable.

How ironic that when the season was due to start the weather was fantastic. After the wet summer of last year when the season was hit by numerous games cancelled or curtailed due to rain we had our best weather of the summer so far.

The test series against the West Indies has started behind closed doors which was pleasing despite our defeat in the first test, in fact I am writing my column watching the first mornings play of the second test at Old Trafford.

Although there has been no club cricket to report on there has been a series of articles in the local press on past and present players and teams which I have to say have been really interesting.

One was on Russ Flower who of course was the professional at Cheadle CC in the early seventies. I was at the club at the time playing in the second team and Kidsgrove League team. I was having a decent season with the seconds and was picked to play in the first team against Congleton at our Tean Road ground.

I was 17 at the time and nervous about making my debut. There was some established players playing in the team at the time including Dave Croft, Tony Brindley, Nige Rushton, Dave Burton, Billings and Congleton had probably the quickest bowler in the league at that time Malc Lees.

I got to the ground early and made my way to the home dressing room and was greeted by Russ with the following words ‘ah, so this is the run machine’. I’ll never forget those words which settled me down straight away and made me welcome.

During those next two seasons I got to know Russ better and I found this was typical of the man. Not only was he a fine left arm spinner who represented Staffordshire before having a season at Warwickshire in his mid thirties he was a gentleman.

I’ve seen him a few times in the last couple of years. He was up at Highfield last season when Leek played Stone as he is now president of the club and I have bumped into him at Uttoxeter races which is one of his pastimes.

Wondered what your thoughts were on England leaving out Stuart Broad for the first test match? Splitting up the most successful opening bowling partnership in history was a surprise to me. Agreed you have to plan for the future but I am an advocate of picking your best side at any given time, even more surprising that Broad has been our best bowler over the last twelve months.

He and Anderson cannot go on indefinitely but they are still our best bowlers on home soil though with Archer in the team one of them may have to come on first change.

The main topic of conversation on the football scene is the introduction of VAR this season. For me it has been a disaster, rather than adding anything to the game it has taken away. I did say at the start of the season that I was wary and so it has been proved. I’m totally with goal line technology but someone’s elbow, toe, knee being ruled offside is ridiculous. Some of the goals being allowed or ruled out of late makes a mockery of the game.

Tottenham’s Harry Kane had a goal disallowed against Sheffield Utd for handball. Moura was dribbling through, got fouled and a defender kicked the ball against his arm which rebounded to Kane who scored. The goal was disallowed for handball. Have you ever seen a poorer decision?

Now if the ball hits the arm of a player in the penalty area, intentional or not the goal is wiped out or a penalty awarded. Crazy. The laws of the game are spoiling the game. Referees should be allowed to use their common sense. It also breaks up the game. We have to wait too long for an official who has multiple views of the incident to make up his mind. If it takes anyone that long then surely it is not clear and obvious which VAR was brought into the game for. I rest my case!

Eric Dier was banned for three games and fined for climbing into the stand to confront a fan who had been abusing him and his brother. Some people thought that was wrong as he shouldn’t have been subjected to that and he was defending his family. I disagree, it’s wrong that anyone should have to take any sort of abuse on the field of play but you can’t have players of any sport leaving the field of play to confront offenders. Who knows what could have happened. He could have got seriously hurt, particularly if it had been at an away ground and could have started a mass brawl. Let the stewards and police deal with those situations.

I was involved in a similar situation at Crewe many years ago. We had lost a home game and we were getting a bit of stick from a section of supporters near to the tunnel. One fan in particular was giving one of our players some real personal abuse and I took exception to it.

I cocked one leg over the barrier and was about to let him have one. Before I could, a steward grabbed me and pulled me back pitchside. I thanked him after he had given me a right ticking off. I lost my head and may well have done something I would have regretted.

One last thing before I go, I had a call from Kev Rogers wife, Bev, during lockdown. Kev’s not been well for a while but she had been to see him and he had been watching a bit of football, She has asked if anyone had any photos of his footballing career that she could take to show him, I’ve spoken to a couple of the Cheadle Utd lads and they are looking some out. If there’s anyone with old football photos with Kev on, then please let me know through Nigel, our editor.

All the best,



June 1st 2020

Hello again,

I hope you and your families are all keeping well during these trying times. It's not easy for any of us just now but there are signs that things are improving slowly and the lockdown restrictions are gradually being lifted.

We all have our opinions on how the pandemic has been handled and how quickly or slowly these restrictions are being changed as time passes but we are reliant on the information we are given, the guidance we all have to adhere to and gradually making decisions that we feel comfortable with.

That's life and getting back to living our lives. We have to make decisions on all aspects of our lives that ultimately affect ourselves and our families.

Most of these decisions involve a certain amount of risk. At home, every time we leave the house, travel, financial decisions we make, in fact in everything we do there is an element of risk.

But if we do nothing then things stay the same and nobody wants that as we all want to get back to living our lives as normal as we possibly can. We will get over this in time and we must be ready to resume life as we know it. The majority of us will have been affected in various ways, some more than others. We have lost a lot of lives due to the virus and my sympathies go out to the families that have suffered this awful experience.

History will tell us that covid19 came and changed our world for a short time and that we had to rebuild and rethink our way back.

Enough of my pontificating! 

My pessimism on the sporting front in the last column has been replaced by an air of optimism. The Bundesliga has started again with no hiccups and 'project restart' is well underway in the Premier league. We are so dependent on the top league restarting and more important, finishing, at all levels in giving us hope that the rest of us will play some football in the near future. There's still a lot of things to be decided yet but the signs are much better than i anticipated.

How long it will be before football is played in front of crowds is anybody's guess but first things first, let's get the game up and running again providing it is safe to do so. It also looks as though the Championship will get the nod to start again soon but leagues one and two have been curtailed. What did surprise me that the EFL said to these clubs, come up with a solution that the majority of you are happy with. League two did, promotion and play offs but with no relegation, surprise, surprise. The FA failed to ratify the decision saying that there must be relegation. League one are still in negotiations.

What is certain is that the two bottom leagues cannot afford to play without crowds. The Championship clubs will just about manage as will the Premier league.

What has become evident over the last three months is how badly these clubs have been run. I see where the Huddersfield Town chairman has said we could lose 50-60 clubs. I doubt that very much and hope he is very wide of the mark because this affects so many communities as well as supporters. What must happen at all clubs, professional or semi professional is they must review their models and find ways of streamlining and sustaining their businesses.

What I find ironic is that a top club like Man Utd who report debts of over £400 million, take out a loan for £140 million and are linked with two players, one who could cost £100m and the other £50m!!!!! Then you realise why they have so much debt and are so reliant on TV money.

Having said that you shouldn't believe half of what you read in the sporting press. Only yesterday I was reading Stan Colleymore's  column and he was implying that the government should step in and save these clubs that are struggling for survival. Poppycock, in one polite word. Why should they help an industry that particularly at the top is flush with money but doesn't run or regulate itself properly? Any company that has outgoings and pays their employees close to that amount without considering other overheads deserves to fail. To spend money that they are not guaranteed to bring in is akin to lunacy. 

They need the guaranteed TV money but then rely on crowds, merchandise, hospitality and sponsorship, none of which is guaranteed.

Of course the bigger and wealthier concerns have benefactors who fund these businesses but what happens if and when they decide to part company and move on?

Whether the present will bring these clubs to their senses only time will tell but if they don't then we may well be short of the 92 professional clubs we have now.

The talk is of salary caps, one for another time perhaps, but my belief is that they don't work. Look at Saracens in rugby union and Man City in football. Clubs find a way round them!

Cricket has a bit further to go I think. We've had some fantastic weather for the time of the year and the season would have been in full flow and wouldn't have missed a Saturday, how frustrating. I actually think it is easier to apply the current rules to cricket than football. We can expect some cricket nationally from the start of August but that doesn't make for a full programme due to the weather turning later in the year. 

The argument against the game being played locally is that age plays a big part, supporters generally tend to be from the older generation as are the umpires who are more susceptible to the virus. Despite the wait my local club Leek CC are preparing for the new season, Brian Mellor the chairman has plans in place and stalwarts Malc Tweats and Baz Hayden amongst others are busy preparing the square and ground.

Stay safe and well👍




April 29th 2020

I hope you are all keeping well and staying safe in these uncertain times. It's not something we do well, doing as we are told, but for now we must all do our bit for the sake of our families and allow things to go back to some sort of normality.

Most of us will never have encountered anything like these times and it's going to be a strange and different world for a while, but hopefully, before too long, we can get back to living our lives as we did before the outbreak of this disease.

When Nigel, our editor, originally emailed me to say that the Voice was being temporarily cancelled due to Government advice, I wasn't surprised, but pleased that he used his initiative and decided to go online with his production.

Too many companies and businesses have just accepted the inevitable and complained instead of finding a solution and blaming Government for their demise. Now I'm not having a go at those that have suffered due to the shutdown and don't have any other means of income or support and cannot do their jobs because of the pandemic, but I am of the opinion that you have to TRY and find a way out and explore other avenues before accepting defeat.....

Congratulations to Uttoxeter Rugby Club on their promotion from Midlands West 3, the step up will be a testing one for them, competing against teams like Newcastle RFC, Longton RFC and Leek RFC in division 2. I know speaking to Nigel Titterton, Uttoxeter RFC Chairman, that they are a tight knit group, all local and not paid to ply their trade, but they will embrace the challenge together. Tribute should also be paid to the English Rugby Board who took this decision whilst others have dithered.

Unfortunately I cannot say the same regarding the English FA. My team Leek Town FC have had our season deemed null and void. Now I know there are far more serious happenings at the moment and football and sport is certainly not a priority, but for them to make the decision so quickly after the season was stopped was a poor one.

We might not have finished as champions as there were still nine games to play. We sat top of the league by two points and a game in hand so nothing was guaranteed and Stamford FC were hot on our tails and it would have certainly gone down to the wire. No other team was close to us so it was a two way fight for promotion.

I was pretty sure that we wouldn't play any more football this season due to the outbreak so the governing body had a decision to make. Within a fortnight of our last game they made the decision to curtail football from step 3-7. I thought a fair way of determining outcomes would be on a points per game format.

Not just myself but most people  spoke to involved in the game agreed as did our league, the NPL.

In their wisdom, the FA decided that there would be no promotion or relegation and all records would be expunged!!! So all our efforts, management, players and supporters counted for nothing. Eight months of training and playing, the cost to supporters who had travelled all over the country to see us play, sponsors who had kindly contributed to the cost of running a football club........ meant nothing.

I was livid and felt, and still do, let down by the association. If the decision had been made across the board, i.e. at all levels of the game, it would have been less painful and easier to accept.

It was a decision made by a lazy governing body. It said to us, you are irrelevant at those levels and we have far more important clubs and leagues to sort out.

It was an easy decision to make rather than finding a solution.

Even now the FA  and their chairman Greg Clarke are conspicuous by their silence. How often have we heard from them/him during the break in football? He is supposed to be taking the lead but they and him sit in their ivory towers waiting for guidance or probably doing nothing that would upset that mighty organisation, the Premier league. 

It's not just the FA that are hopeless. The governing bodies that run the game at non league level are in the same bracket. How else can you describe them?

They can't sort out the boundaries and regionalise the leagues properly. I've been back at Leek three years now and we have played in a different league every season. NPL Eastern section onto the North-West back into the East. AND, if we had of completed this season and hadn't got promoted we would have played in a newly formed Midlands section!!!!

Brilliant! What brains they must have sitting on these bodies. Not only do they have difficulty knowing where we are situated but last year we went into the play offs knowing that if we won them we weren't sure we would go up!!! Honestly that's true! It's rather complicated so I wont go through the process here but how can you have a scenario where a team winning their respective play offs don't get promoted.

It's mind boggling! Even more so for the people who are paid to come up with the answers but seemingly aren't capable. No wonder we involved in the game have no faith whatsoever in these regimes. In fact they should be sent to the Tower of London and "Off with their heads"!

Now I've had my little rant, onto what the future holds for our national game. Personally I can't see the season finishing at any level, how can we when people are still being infected and dying. For selfish and financial reasons the Premiership will do all it can to fulfill obligations to the TV companies but can it possibly be safe to do so?

I can think of numerous reasons why the season wont and shouldn't be completed despite the financial implications involved. It's going to take longer than we all thought before we can play any contact sport again. Plans that are being muted at the moment are pie in the sky as far as I'm concerned.

Sorry to end on a pessimistic note as far as football is concerned but on a general note, let's hope that over the next few weeks we can move around a little more, see our families and grandchildren a bit more often and return to work.  Gardening and DIY can go back on the 'jobs to be done list'.

All the best and keep safe and well.