The Voice in your Community


Bake’s Memoirs

by Neil Baker, local sporting legend

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.