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Looking Back On 2017 With The Chairman
2017 has been quite a year for Margate Football Club. A year of two halves.
After a tough start and relegation to the Bostik League Premier Division, a re-building process spearheaded by Club Chairman Alistair Bayliss, the board, Steve Watt and his management team, is well underway.
With a new Manager, new recruits and a new pitch secured, the second half of 2017 has seen The Gate make some steady progress, with many fans and locals alike excited with what the future has to offer.
Whilst there have still been plenty of hurdles and challenges these past few months, with 2018 just a few days away, the best is quite possibly yet to come.
Reflecting on the past year, the Chairman believes the football club is in a much more positive position, on and off the pitch.
“The tail end of last season was tough for many, many reasons. We’re definitely making good progress now. Eugene has come in, taken the club over and invested in the set-up. We’re bringing people in – on and off the park – who are making a big difference. Everyone is pulling in the right direction and I’m really chuffed that we’ve made the progress we have.”
And although lots has been achieved, the Chairman’s feet remain firmly on the ground with a focus on stabilising and continuing to tackle the day-to-day challenges, including supporting a squad carrying a number of significant injuries.
“There’s a tendency to get carried away a little bit. With the squad that we’ve got, a lot of people wanted us to be challenging for the top from the very first minute but it doesn’t quite work as easily as that.”
“With a whole new squad coming in together, it takes a bit of time to gel. We have loads of injuries; with Flish from the start of the season, we’ve got Sess out and Tom Mills out too. There’s two or three boys carrying heavy colds and flus and it’s a challenging time. But we’re in a much, much better position than we were this time last year.”
“I think the progress on and off the park has been excellent and I enjoyed my Christmas dinner a lot more this year, than I did last. I’m looking forward to pushing on in the New Year.”
Judging results so far in the 2017/18 campaign, The Gate have enjoyed some outstanding unbeaten runs whilst juggling a hectic league and cup schedule, something the Chairman was quick to praise.
“You have to expect we will have a dip but I don’t think the lads are getting enough credit from any circles. We started the season superbly, had a little blip in October and have had a few more draws than we would have wanted, but it’s about learning about each other and working with each other over periods of time.”
“I’ve said it before, I’m more than confident and more than happy with what we’ve done to stabilise the club and that’s our main priority.”
Christmas and the New Year is yet another jam-packed period for football clubs across the Bostik League. With Margate fans being asked to travel just shy of 500 miles in five days, it’s a subject the Chairman feels passionately about.
“We’re in Dorking and that’s an interesting one. I have no idea why we’re in Dorking when you look at the rest of the league fixtures. We’re the only club who has had to travel any distance on Boxing Day. We’re happy to be here – it’s a lovely club but I don’t think it’s fair on our fans, I don’t think it’s fair on our players and I don’t think it’s fair on the football club.”
Looking ahead to 2018, a busy January awaits and fans’ support will be more important than ever to ensure the team pushes for the best possible League finish.
“Billericay will win the league and we will congratulate them as and when they do. And that’s not to detract from anything we – or any other club in the League – is looking to do. It would be an extraordinary turnaround if they didn’t win the League.”
The Chairman predicts a tough January but one the management, squad, staff and fans will pull together to take on.
“We found ourselves in a situation with the FA Trophy where we had to re-arrange games through no fault of our own and we now have to play those extra games in January. We’re trying to re-build the football club and are having to ask our fans in January, the toughest month, to fork out for 10 games.”
“I’m struggling to figure out how 10 games in January and four in February is right and I think there may be some more paperwork for our Club Secretary to fill in. We may need to get our boots on and play the last couple of games along with Watty, Browny and Mike!”
“January will determine where we end up but I’m confident we will be alright. I’d love to think we’d be in the play offs: if we are, brilliant and we can push on. If we’re not, we’re not.”
The Chairman’s final thoughts were saved for supporter Jim Dow, who sadly passed away before Christmas. Plans are already underway to pay tribute to one of Margate’s most loyal fans who stuck by the club through thick and thin.
“When I came into the club, Jim assisted me and the staff with a number of things. He would come in two or three times a week, in his own time to help us. He even helped with the purchase of shares to inject some money into the football club, that’s the kind of guy Jim was.”
“I found out on Christmas Day morning and I was really, really sad to hear the news. Jim was a great old boy – an Aberdeen fan too – which made him a little bit more special in my eyes. We’re going to do something for Jim as way of a tribute soon. In the meantime, all our love and thoughts go to Jim’s wife Val and their extended family.”
“It’s a very sobering thought, to lose a loved one. There’s an awful lot of Margate fans who know Jim and will remember him fondly; and not just the fans but members of the board and staff at Margate Football Club.”
Please keep an eye on the club website for further information about how the club intends to celebrate Jim’s life and ferociously loyal support for Margate FC.
Thursday, 28 December 2017
By Charlotte Richardson