CHOBHAM RFC will be hoping to pull rank on bank holiday Monday (1 May ’17) when they take on Battersea Ironsides in the final of the FM Incentive Surrey Trophy at Esher RFC, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

After a convincing 38-25 win against Camberley in the previous round, Chobham will be hoping to put their league form behind them in a bid to secure some much-needed silverware in their 50th year.

Chob player-coach Ryan Gregory is hoping to welcome back four players who were absent from home defeat against Gravesend last Saturday.

Chobham RFC player-coach: Ryan Gregory
by Andy Fitzsimons

Fans’ favourite Ollie Smith looks set to return after pulling his hamstring a few weeks ago. Tom Riley, Ollie Wakefield and Dan Mays are also expected to be named in the squad.

Whilst Gregory has been disappointed with his side’s 10th place finish in the London 1 South this season, he believes that the club’s recent league form won’t have any bearing on the trophy final.

He said: “Playing in cup [trophy] competitions requires a different mindset; and although a number of our performances have been disjointed this season, I don’t believe that mindset will be an issue.

“We blew Camberley away; especially in the first half, to progress through to the final last month.

Camberley are a decent side; however, we imposed our style of play on them; something that they hadn’t experienced this season. We need to do the same against Battersea on Monday.

Despite playing two levels below Chobham in the London 3 South West, Gregory is not underestimating the task ahead after Ironsides’ beat Old Reigatian 15-8 to book their place in the final.

Although he can draw some comfort from the fact that Ironsides’ league campaign has, at best, been inconsistent with 11 wins and 11 defeats.

“Battersea have got a very good fly half and some good forwards, so I’m not underestimating the challenge,” confirmed Gregory, “but I believe that, if we play like I know how we can play, we’ll win the game.

Chobham RFC: Ollie Wakefield set to return for Monday’s Trophy final. by Chobham RFC

“We’ve got the opportunity to finish the season in a positive way – to give something back to our fans who have been superb this season.

“We won the Surrey trophy four years ago – and the club wanted to win some silverware in its 50th year anniversary – so what better time to win it.”

To help focus and motivate this players, Gregory believes that the infamous words of former British and Irish Lions captain Paul O’Connell will help his players over the line.

“I was listening to Paul [O’Connell] the other day and he said: ‘you need to be the best on the things that require no talent’, which is right.

“We know what we’re good at, so we just need to be better than Battersea on the things that we’re not so good it,” confirmed the Chobham player-coach.

This year’s Surrey trophy final takes place at Esher RFC in Hersham (1 May), Surrey. 1pm kick-off.

WESTFIELD FC boss Tony Reid is in a quandary: whether to sign a new goalkeeper or utilise an existing outfield option for next week’s cup final, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

The Yellows have now received sanction from the Combined Counties League to sign an emergency goalkeeper in the aftermath of Gary Ross’ three-match suspension.

SUSPENDED: Gary Ross.  by Andy Fitzsimons

But with the clock ticking, Reid now has just eight days to potentially identify and sign a suitable replacement for Ross ahead of their Premier Challenge Cup final against Epsom & Ewell on 5 May.

The recruitment drive, however, precludes the non-league club from signing or loaning a contract player outside of the League’s registration window.

And while The Yellows have been given special dispensation to register a new goalkeeper, unless the player is out of contract with his current club or a free agent, options will be limited.

FIFA’s stance to abolish emergency loans this season within the top four tiers of English football does not apply to non-league clubs plying their trade in the confines of The National League System (steps 1 to 7b).

Subject to agreement – and sanction by the Football League – Westfield may still be able to sign a professional goalkeeper on an emergency youth loan if under the age of 23.

But with defender Dale Burnham deputising stupendously for the suspended Ross in the last two games, Reid may be guided by superstition and stick with a winning formula.

Over The Hill?

Is Cards' boss ready to call time on Woking

SPECULATION linking Woking FC boss Garry Hill to the manager’s post at big-spending Billericay Town has been refuted by Blues’ chairman Dan Groves, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

With Hill’s contract up at the end of the season, some onlookers had put two and two together to make five, which placed The Cards’ supremo as the perceived front-runner to take over at the frivolous Ryman Football League club.

Woking boss Garry Hill: Extra Time?  Picture by Andy Fitzsimons

However, while Hill’s future at Woking looks increasingly uncertain, he will not be dropping down two leagues to potentially take a pay rise.

Speaking with the News and Mail, Billericay chairman Dan Groves said: “If you’re asking me if Garry Hill will be our manager next season, then I can confirm no.

“In truth, it’s the first I’ve heard of it. Had we got promoted [to the National League South], then maybe we would have looked for a new manager to take over from Tappers [Glenn Tamplin – the club’s owner], but as things currently stand, he will continue to manage the side next season.

Reports linking Hill to The Blues started to emerge when reality TV star and radio presenter Mark Wright bought a 20 per cent stake in the Essex-based non-league club.

They have already shown their financial muscle by signing several ex-professionals and have pulled no punches regarding their ambitions to get promoted into the National League.

But with Hill normally tight-lipped about his future to The Cards, he said:  “It’s no secret that my contract with Woking is up in the summer.   However, I haven’t spoken to any other clubs and I won’t be speaking to anyone while I’m under contract.  

“I’m relaxed about the situation at the present time; people know that I have had opportunities to move on in the past, but I am very fond of Woking.  After all, I’ve worked with Steve Thompson (assistant) and Gary Chapple (director) for six years.

“There’s no denying that it’s been a tough season (2016-17), but things have started to come together over the past 3-4 months,” he added.


FOR Years, Chobham RFC has punched above its weight on the field, and now the progressive village team is a step ahead of towns and cities when it comes to education, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

With progression very much the order of play, Chobham was one of the first rugby clubs in the country to launch a two-year, full-time, academic programme for 16-18 year olds, who want to combine playing rugby with a wider career in sport, including coaching and event management.

Run in conjunction with SCL (Soccer Coaching Limited), a leading provider of coaching and education in the south east of England, Chobham’s West Surrey Academy (WSA) is now well and truly up to speed, and thriving.

The Academy was set up in 2016 and several of its second-year scholars have accepted university places and found employment in sport after moving to Chobham to complete their BTEC extended level 3 diploma in “national sport: performance and excellence”.  And with places for its September 2017 intake already well advanced, it’s clear that the club’s popularity is rising and it has the right vision and knowhow to get the best out of its players and students.

Speaking exclusively to the News and Mail, Liam Cranford, WSA manager, said: “We first learned about the education opportunity after one of our senior teams played Blackhealth RFC, who were working in partnership with SCL.

“I have previously worked with the company, so when Chobham approached me to set up a similar programme for them, I knew it was a great opportunity to reach out and upskill more young people in the local community.  “Our programme engages students both on and off the field. It keeps them in further education, develops their rugby skills and, after two years, they leave us in a better position to make informed decisions.

“For us, it’s about harnessing students’ passion for rugby, but delivering it alongside an enriched education programme to further their onward education through sport, or help them move into full-time employment,” he added.

Cranford, who is a Rugby Football Union level 2 coach, with experience of working with Harlequins and London Irish – among others, also believes that having the right attitude and aptitude to learning is something that the club looks for when interviewing prospective candidates.

“The purpose of the programme is not to create elitism, but to find people with the right attitude to learning.  It’s about finding students who have the passion to want to push themselves, so they mirror the effort level that we put in; both on and off the park,” explained Cranford.  “In any given day, students can spend two to three hours covering the academic side of things, followed by a couple of hours playing rugby.   “The practical side is split between field sessions, playing matches, conditioning sessions and player analysis; all of which contribute to the success and wellbeing of the individual.

“After completing the two-year BTEC extended level 3 qualification; which is equivalent to three A-levels, students will have enough UCAS credits to go to university and study a sports-related discipline, or to move into the sports industry at large,” he added.

To ensure that students continue to receive a first-class education, Chobham’s fully-funded education provision and facility is assessed by OFSTED.

The schools’ inspectorate looks at the quality of how the education is delivered; the planning and provision for it, and that the playing and education facilities at Fowlers Wells in Chobham are well maintained.

As part of the two-year course, which mirrors the college academic year, students can expect to learn about principles of anatomy & physiology, sports coaching, risk analysis; coupled with sports performance, sports nutrition, event management, and rules, regulations and officiating in sport – to name just a few modules.

The Academy also competes in the Association of Colleges’ league South East Division 1; which it won in its first season, playing against the likes of Godalming College, Henley College, Berkshire College of Agriculture and Peter Symonds College.

Charlie Andrews, who joined the West Surrey Academy as a second year scholar in 2016, is just one of a number of students who will graduate this summer and has benefited from the innovative educational pathway.

He said: “Before I came here I was studying with another educational provider in Worplesdon, which wasn’t anything like what Chobham offers.

“People learn in different ways; and for me personally, I liked the idea of being able to learn through more coursework based study, and to have the opportunity to play competitive rugby around my education.

“There’s nothing wrong with sitting in a classroom each day learning, but that format didn’t work for me, which is why I was drawn towards the Academy.

“I have a passionate for rugby and to work in sport, so, for me, it was absolutely the right decision.  I have no regrets whatsoever, as it has given me the chance to progress onto higher education,” he added.

FOR more information about the West Surrey Academy, visit  Alternatively, call 07879 405402 or email:

CHOBHAM RFC player coach, Tony Paul, is a ‘must have’ on the team sheet.   But after 15 years of competitive rugby, the trusted inside centre is now ready to call time on the game, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

Paul, who has played in the Premiership A League for London Irish, before going on to represent Rosslyn Park, Ealing and Chobham, believes it’s finally time to step aside and hang up his boots.

Change of focus: Chobham RFC player coach Tony Paul.   Picture by: Andy Fitzsimons

Speaking exclusively to the News and Mail ahead of this weekend’s final London 1 South league game at home to Gravesend (22 April ’17), Paul said that his experience can be better utilised from the sidelines.

He said: “Sometimes you get to a crossroads in your career, which is where I’m at now. Yes, I could still carry on playing, but in speaking with Ryan [Gregory], we both agree that having me in solely a coaching role from next season will ultimately benefit the team.

“This season has been tough for a number of reasons; and with both Ryan and I both still playing, it doesn’t enable us to take an objective view and see things from a different angle. When I’m not playing, it means that I’ll be able to look at things more strategically.

“I’m not going to put my boots in the bin, though, it simply means that the no. 12 shirt is free and up for grabs, which all helps with competition for places,” added Paul.

Co-player coach, Ryan Gregory, “There’s no two ways about it, we will definitely miss having Tony in the squad; at the end of the day, he’s a very good and respected player for Chobham Rugby Club.

“Tony and I, however, have spoken about his decision, and we both agree that having both of us playing and trying to coach at the same time is probably not helping us.

“With Tony taking on a dedicated coaching role from next season, it will enable him to focus and make more informed decisions based on having a better view of the game. We both believe it will help us step up to the next level,” he added.

While Paul’s career has seen him rub shoulders with some extremely good rugby players; even in front of 40,000 fans at

On The Paul: Player coach Tony Paul is ready to throw in the no. 12 shirt.   Picture by Chobham RFC

Twickenham in the rugby 7s, Paul wholeheartedly believes that working with Ryan and Chobham has been a highlight in his career.

“Ryan and I are of a similar cut,” explained Paul. “We both like free-flowing rugby, which is something that I didn’t have when I was playing at London Irish. Back then, working under a South African coach, it was too structured and it wasn’t for me.

“We’re been unfortunate with injuries this season, so we do need to recruit, but I believe that competition for places next season will be high, which will, I believe, have a positive impact on performance.”

With two fixtures remaining, it’s not Auf Wiedersehen, Pet for the Chob inside centre just yet. Paul is expected to be named in the squad for the visit of Gravesend this weekend and again for the Surrey Trophy final on 1 May ’17, which could be a fitting way to bow out.

This Saturday  (22 April ’17) will see Pirbright Cricket Club compete in the top-flight of the I‘Anson Cup Competitions for only the second time in its 230-year history, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

It’s been quite a mix-bag of emotions for the Surrey club who were relegated after just one season in Division 1 back in 2015, before bouncing straight back as Division 2 champions at the first attempt last September.

And while the step up from Division 2 to Division 1 is significant, Pirbright’s 1st XI captain, Ian Milton, does not believe

Leading by example: Pirbright CC captain Ian Milton. Picture by David Holmes

the ambitious village club is batting above its weight.

Speaking to the News and Mail ahead of this weekend’s opening league fixture away to Frensham CC, Milton said: “Prior to this season, the club had only been in Division 1 once, but was relegated after just one season, so we’re under no illusion that this season will be difficult.

“Last season, we won 16 and lost two [games], so we had a very good season and it was great to receive our title trophy from Devon Malcolm at the awards dinner in October.

“I believe we’re in a better place now than we were two years ago. We have a squad of 18 players, who not only have plenty of ability; which is of course key, they have a great bond,” he added.

Despite losing the services of number four batsman, Elex Van Rensburg, who has reportedly moved to the Middle East for work reasons, the club has gained the services of experienced amateur batsman Jonathan Sweeney, as well as a new fast bowler.

“Jonathan has played at the highest level of amateur cricket,” explained Milton. “Although he hasn’t played at the top level for some time, I believe that he can play anywhere from a number one to a number five batsman.

“I tend to ask the batsmen what order they want to bat and keep to that running order throughout the season for continuity.”

Milton, who is an investigative officer in the army, and can be deployed to just about any place in the world at 24 hours’ notice, is a firm believer that positive thought generates a positive outcome.

And who could question Milton’s stance after he led Pirbright to Division 2 honours in his first year as captain.

He said: “For me, it’s all about creating the right environment. The players know what they individually bring to the table, so it’s how we harness that belief.

“It’s all about peak performance and honing in on your strengths, which for us is bowling.

“We have seven very good bowlers and three specialist batsmen, which I think will really strengthen our position this year.

“I believe we are stronger in the bowling department than we were two years ago, so as long as everyone plays to the level they can play, we can finish in the top 5,” added Milton.

Pirbright travel to Frensham CC for their I‘Anson Cup Competitions’ season opener on Saturday, 22 April ’17 (1pm).

WOKING FC goalkeeper Brandon Hall has been selected for an elite football academy spearheaded by England striker Jamie Vardy, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

Hall (pictured), 24, will join 41 other handpicked non-league footballers playing at steps 1 to 5 of the national game to feature in a new V9 Academy documentary, which will be screened on Sky Sports in September 2017.

And for the former Charlton Athletic scholar – who will be out of contract with The Cards next month (May 2017) – his road to fame and fortune could be just around the corner.

The V9 Academy was principally born out of a conversation between Vardy, who has personally funded the initiative, his agent, and his wife Rebekah last season.


The trio wanted to give something back to the non-league game following the Leicester City striker’s meteoric rise from Stocksbridge Park Steels in 2010 – to winning the Barclays Premier League with The Foxes in 2016.

The six-part fly-on-the-wall series could well be the lucky break that Hall needs to showcase his abilities and take his game to the next level.

And with one or more professional contracts likely to be tabled as a result of the documentary, Hall’s time at The Laithwaite Community Stadium may have run its course.

The Woking shot-stopper has already made over 100 appearances for Hayes & Yeading United, Ebbsfleet United and Woking within the two-tier National League.

He has also been selected to represent England national football C team on no less than four occasions; most recently in the 2-1 win over Estonia U23s (November 2016) in the International Challenge Trophy.

Hall applied to the V9 Academy while on national duty – much to the delight of England’s goalkeeping coach Mick Payne – who is reportedly a big admirer of the Woking shot-stopper and his intellectual prowess – both on and off the field. Therefore, selecting Hall for the documentary was considered to be “a no-brainer”.

On Sunday, 4 June, Hall will travel to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and training complex to rub shoulders with the England striker for a week, as well as several other notable names within the English game.

These include David Coles (Bristol City), Chris Ramsey and Simon Ireland (QPR), Alan Stubbs (Rotherham United), Travis Binnion (Sheffield United) and Robbie Stockdale (Sunderland).

Throughout the programming schedule, players will be observed on their physical, psychological, tactical and technical attributes, from which all players will be given specific feedback to work on.

Hall and his fellow V9 teammates will be split into three squads of 14, with no elimination throughout the series.


Players will partake in a number of inter-squad games on one of the days and three showcase games on Friday, 9 June – the final day of filming. These all provide a shop-window opportunity for League clubs, as well as other non-league clubs, to observe and speak to players with a view to signing.

Speaking exclusively to the News and Mail, Hall said: “I first found out about the V9 Academy while I was away with England C last year.

“Some of the lads were being shadowed by a film crew, which prompted me to ask a few questions. It was only then that I was briefed about the format of the Academy, which made me apply when I returned home.

“I didn’t know too much about the filming side of things back then, all I knew is that it was called the Vardy Academy, or the V9 Academy, at the Etihad.

“It’s essentially five days of elite training; and if any comes of it, brilliant. Otherwise, I can put it down to being a great experience and having the chance to do it.

“However, the more I’ve heard about it since, the more exciting the opportunity is,” he added.

Although Hall has largely remained an understudy to the more experienced Michael Poke this season, he remains entirely grateful to Woking boss Garry Hill for giving him the opportunity to play in the National League top-flight.


“There’s more pressure to perform in the National League,” explained Hall. “When you factor in the crowds and the likes of BT Sport covering the games, it all helps going into the Vardy (V9) Academy.

“I don’t really have any regrets about not being offered a professional contract by Charlton when I was younger. I believe it’s been by far the best thing that’s happened to me.

“Part of me thinks that everything happens for a reason, and that I have simply taken a different path to hopefully achieve the same objective.”

Hall, who is in the final year of his Business Management degree, is likely to be the pick of the crop for talent scouts across the UK and abroad when he dons his V9 training gear in seven weeks’ time.

And with the Woking man a year younger than Vardy when he made his Football League debut for Leicester at the age of 25, the glass ceiling has now been removed to help those wanting to make the step up.

Pictures by Andy Fitzsimons and David Holmes

DESPITE the precarious position that Woking FC find themselves in this season, boss Garry Hill still found time to avert his attention from the game, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

Phonegate: Garry Hill on his mobile phone during Woking’s crucial clash against Sutton United.

The Cards’ boss, 57, was caught on his mobile phone in the technical area during last Saturday’s (1 April ’17) National League clash versus Sutton United.

And while Woking were being penned back by their south London rivals in the second half, Hill’s attention was seemingly elsewhere after he was believed to be checking up on a few results and texts in full view of the camera.

Unlike their opponents, who found themselves in hot water after their reserve team goalkeeper, Wayne Shaw, was caught eating a pasty during a live television broadcast against Arsenal, Hill’s mobile antics went largely unnoticed by the 1,500-plus strong crowd.

But for some of the Woking faithful, it’s proof that Hill’s passion has waned and its time for change. For other onlookers, it’s testament that Hill still cares and is simply checking in on rivals Torquay United.

While Hill’s managerial style certainly helps to polarise public opinion, there’s no denying that the former Dagenham & Redbridge boss puts in the miles away from The Laithwaite Community Stadium, even if he’s clocking up more browsing time from the sidelines.

Prior to The Cards’ fixture against Sutton United, Hill reportedly made the long journey to watch The Cards’ next opponents, and regularly commutes from his home in Essex to Woking, Surrey, and twice a week to the club’s training facility in Tolworth.

Woking’s 2-1 win over the U’s last Saturday reversed their 4-1 away defeat earlier in the season, and if superstition is anything to go by, Hill could well be seen again checking up on proceedings elsewhere if it helps to get his side out of the quagmire.

With Hill otherwise engaged, assistant manager Steve Thompson did the post-match interview.

He said: “It was a massive win [against Sutton]. We started well, and it was an excellent header from Delano [Sam-Yorke] to give us an early lead.

“In the second half, however, we were like a boxer on the ropes – there’s no denying that. But the players responded well following the car crash result against Maidstone United,” he added.

In the aftermath of the players’ dismal showing against The Stones, Hill could in part be excused for taking his eyes off the game for 20 seconds when his own players took their eyes off the game for 45 minutes the previous Saturday.

“The league table doesn’t lie,” affirmed Thompson, “it tells you that there’s still a lot of work to be done, but we got what we deserved against Sutton.

“It was a tough, but a massive win to get us out of the relegation zone. That’s six points from a possible nine; and if you offered us six more from another possible nine [points], we’d bite your hand off.”

Thompson accepts that every fixture from hereon will be like a cup final; so having the right focus will be key.

“Barrow will be a tough fixture; they’re all tough fixtures. Barrow are a big strong side, so we know what we’re up against and what to prepare for on Saturday (8 April ’17),” he added.

SCHOOLCHILDREN from Horsell and Ripley were among around 60 who took part in the 8th Surrey School’s Regatta at Papercourt Sailing Club.

Some 20 schools took part in the event in Ripley in great sailing conditions in winds of 10-15 knots that became more challenging later on.

Papercourt Commodore Frank Brown said: “This is a great event to kick off the start of our summer season and it is great that so many schools are now supporting youth sailing.

“Interest in youth sailing is growing and places are filling up on our youth courses, which start next month.”

The next popular event to take place at Papercourt is the annual Open Day on 13 May, which gives non-members the opportunity to try sailing as part of the Royal Yachting Association Push the Boat Out scheme, aimed to encourage new sailors to take to the water.

Woking In Meltdown

Cards’ boss demands more after shambolic performance

STRAIGHT-talking Woking FC boss Garry Hill didn’t make any excuses for his side’s dire second half performance against Maidstone United last Saturday (25 March ’17), writes Andy Fitzsimons.

Clichés went out of the window for Hill – one of the English games longest serving managers – who said that his side simply ‘collapsed’ after they threw away a two-goal lead.

For some fans, The Cards’ second half showing was an evisceration; and one of the worst second half displays from a Woking side in recent memory.

UPHILL STRUGGLE: Is Garry Hill ready to turn his back on Woking?   Picture by Andy Fitzsimons

The defeat again leaves Hill’s side sitting precariously above drop-zone.  And with Sutton United visiting The Laithwaite Community Stadium this Saturday (1 April), The Cards need to get their house in order, and fast, to fend off the chasing pack.

By any omission, this season has tested Hill’s managerial credentials and staying power to the max – and will undoubtedly go down as one of the most stressful and impoverished seasons he has known in 25 years of football management.

And with only six hours of competitive football remaining before the end of the National League season, Hill can only but wonder what more he and assistant Steve Thompson can do to influence what goes on, on the field.

Speaking after the 4-2 defeat at home to The Stones last Saturday, Hill said: “We collapsed against Maidstone. It was disappointing to see as supporter, as a manager and as a football club.

“When you consider what’s at stake – and the manner in which we collapsed against Maidstone – it’s very disappointing.

“We didn’t defend well at all, and I’m afraid to say that my players couldn’t handle it; they melted.   There’s no point making excuses in football.

“When I think back to their [Maidstone United] third goal – and I watched the ball drop out of the sky unchallenged; all because someone was frightened of hurting their head – that tells you a lot,” he added.


Hill pulled no punches about his players’ commitment to the cause; questioning, albeit indirectly, whether or not some have the aptitude to be winners when it really matters.

“When you’re 2-0 up – as we were against Maidstone – it was a massive opportunity to make a real impression on the teams around us.   But if you’re not able to; or prepared to do the basics properly and put your body on the line for your teammates and the football club that pays your wages, that’s not acceptable.

“All credit to Maidstone, while it wasn’t a world-beating comeback, they had nothing to lose. They played 4-3-3 and were bold and brave.

“We do need to take a look at ourselves and in the manner of how we lost last Saturday. Prior to that, we had kept three consecutive clean sheets at home, so to lose 4-2 when we were 2-0 up was very disappointing.

“All the games coming up are tough games. We’ve got to make sure that we have a team now that is prepared properly to go out on Saturday and get a result,” he blasted.

Irrespective of whether Woking survive the drop or not, some fans believe that Hill will walk if the Woking board are not able to increase the playing budget for next season.

And with Hill’s contract up in the summer, the temptation to be lured from The Laithwaite Community Stadium could well become a reality if the financial terms aren’t right, both on and off the pitch.


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