Time for Guernsey FC to focus more on sporting ambition

TEN games into a season they long thought would probably miss them altogether and Guernsey FC find themselves in a pickle.

They might not know it, but they do.

Well, in terms of winning games and avoiding defeat they do, but you sense also vision in terms of what makes a really successful club.

Despite all the hugely impressive strands of this community club including recently/currently operating a record-breaking foodbank, the championing of diversity, equality and inclusivity in our community, support for the LGBTQ+ community and selling itself so well in various media streams, not to mention the undoubted goodwill they have accrued with just about every club that visits the island, the danger signs are flashing – and were even before Tuesday night at Marlow.

As a 6-0 midweek away defeat with close to the strongest starting XI they will be able to call upon any time soon highlighted, the sight of an Isthmian South-Central wooden spoon is looming ever larger.

No wins in seven, the team is struggling and, I suspect, may well be facing tougher times ahead.

Ross Allen, still our guiding light but having slipped into his mid-30s and veteran status, is having to be nursed and was only on the bench at Marlow.

Ross Allen is in his mid-30s and the veteran stage of his career as a striker. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30269863)

Relegation is now a real possibility and the kudos of a great foodbank and support for Stonewall’s #RainbowLaces campaign won’t win them any points where for all sports teams it ultimately matters – out on the park.

GFC is a very admirable operation. It always has been.

As they proudly highlight on the website home page, ‘the club’s vision is to create, develop and maintain a sustainable, successful and aspirational grassroots football club that brings about a real and lasting positive impact for our community’.

Over a decade they have achieved that in spades.

But, as a supporter, I worry they might be concentrating too much on the off-pitch paraphernalia and not on the sporting product.

This is not a pop at the coaching. Far from it.

Tony Vance and the coaching group deserve medals for their efforts over such an extended period. Were they to pack up and leave now, then the club would have a full-blown crisis on its hands.

The coaching group can steer the club through these rougher waters and keep the club floating safely at this level of the pyramid, but it needs to be achieved alongside a more progressive approach from the club itself, worrying less about the frills and more about enhancing the talent pool.

That means only one thing – recruitment.

The pool of available talent is so much smaller than it was when GFC burst onto the scene with the best group of players the island had seen in decades.

It did not need to go chasing for outside support.

It does now though, because the best emerging young talent on the island – and there are handy kids about – are nowhere ready for this level and will not be for a couple of seasons, if ever. And two seasons down the road there is the very likely possibility that GFC will have kissed goodbye to Jamie Dodd, Tom Strawbridge and Ross Allen, as a striker anyway.

Also, using that two-year forecast, GFC may be benefiting from a steady income stream provided by the new ground at Victoria Avenue and funding could be set aside for strengthening the team if, if indeed it desires to, it is still play at the current level.

I would argue they need to take a leaf out of Raiders’ book of sporting ambition and act now, go out and find a new spine.

The truth is this.

GFC are lacking the security of a quality goalkeeper. Cal Stanton is being desperately missed.

Jamie Dodd and Tom Strawbridge continue to give loyal service, but their joints are creaking and, as with the case with Allen up top, are very prone to being lost for a prolonged period. Their best years are behind them and such are the alternatives we need to keep them fit.

Guernsey also find ourselves in a position of wrapping Allen in the proverbial cotton wool, desperate not to lose the ace striker for a sustained spell.

The lack of a physically dominant midfielder with an engine and passing range to match is also so obviously evident.

Kez Mahon is playing some of his best ever football and has perhaps been GFC’s player of the season to date, but we need more than hard running and courage at this level.

If only Dave ‘Ginger’ Lesbirel or Grant Chalmers were about now and our strikeforce would not have to work their own wonders.

Of course, there is no need to panic as this current side have shown themselves to be competitive, despite the shortage of points on the board.

Vance and co. are skilled enough to turn things around but, also, we are just a couple of key injuries away from a disaster on the pitch and, with it, the associated and natural reduction in support.

To what extent was the disappointing attendance of 548 last week down to the high winds or was it a mix of the elements and poor results?

I fancy it was mainly the weather, but history tells us that when the club has gone through barren spells the crowds have slipped with it. That means less money to play with.

All the while Jersey Bulls eye promotion from the Combined Counties Premier and entry to the same level as the Green Lions, perhaps even the same division.

You can bet that if, or when, they do eventually go up that the inherent ambitious nature of the Caesareans will see that Bulls have few qualms about introducing outside talent to take them higher. And why not?

A sports club should always have ambition to be better at their sport. The other bits are not important, they are nice extras.

A win at Ashford today is not impossible and will be welcomed, but it will not make things better.

. AWAY from GFC matters, news of an indoor football arena at the Hougue du Pommier sports complex could be a game-changer for football.

What are the odds that in a short time it is a venue for small-sided leagues across a multitude of age-groups, including an indoor Priaulx League?

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