Sport

Woking Expelled From League

Cricket club ousted for administrative woes

WOKING XI Cricket Club has been expelled from the Surrey Cricket League just six weeks into the 2017 season, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

The club, which plays at Woking Park in Kingfield, has only played three of its seven scheduled league fixtures; conceding three, coupled with one postponement.

The News & Mail understands that the club’s expulsion is due to an unprecedented number of administrative shortcomings, which forced the League to take prompt action.

Robin Ford, secretary for the Surrey Cricket League, said: “The club did not respond to repeated emails, which included resolving an outstanding fine. As result, the club was initially suspended.

“Under league rules, though, a team conceding more than two matches in a season is automatically expelled from the League; for which Woking have been notified,” he added.

Woking XI conceded their first match [v London Gymkhana CC] on 29 April, which resulted in an initial fine.

The club then conceded two further fixtures (v Ottershaw & Hamm Moor CC and v St Luke’s CC) earlier this month, which incurred further fines and ultimately cemented their fate.

It is not yet known if previous results involving Woking X1 will be expunged to help bring about a level playing field amongst other Division One clubs.

The League will now run with a reduced division of nine teams for the remainder of the 2017 season.

No-one was from Woking XI CC was available for comment at the time of going to print.

Woking Are Pitch Perfect

Hockey club will have a new spring in its step for 2017-18 season

WOKING Hockey Club is about to lay down the foundations to bolster its future, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

The Goldsworth Park-based outfit has received the green light from Woking Borough Council to install a second state-of-the-art international playing surface at its facility off Wishbone Lane.

CHAIRMAN: John Hughes

With one premier artificial playing surface already in situ, the club confirmed to the News & Mail (1 June ’17) that it has commissioned contractors to replace the second playing surface as early as next month.

And whilst many other amateur-status clubs are reliant on local authority funding or grant aid to make improvements, Woking has managed to self-fund a second full-size, dressed artificial surface to the tune of £305,110, which includes new high-rise perimeter fencing.

With no less than 38 teams amongst its ranks, including 462 colts (boys and girls), Woking Hockey Club is fast becoming one of the largest sports entities in the borough, and looks set to keep growing incrementally, year-on-year.

In response to the improvement works, John Hughes, chairman of Woking Hockey Club, said: “We’re pleased to be one of very few clubs in the country to be able to get the funding as a result of our business strategy. We haven’t needed any loans or grants.

“The new playing surface will be virtually identical to what we have on the adjacent pitch; it will be a big improvement to the current surface, which has been down for the best part of 18 years.

“The coaching that you can do; particularly with youngsters, on a modern hockey pitch is quite different to a solid playing surface.

“With the softer-type of pitch that we’re laying, you can teach players to lift the ball over another stick, which you couldn’t do on the old style ‘Astro’-type playing surface, so it has a number of performance-related benefits.

“Importantly for us, the resurfacing work will be undertaken throughout July (2017) and handed back to us in time for the first wave of pre-season fixtures, which routinely take place in August,” he added.

The new synthetic turf pitch is being designed and delivered by England hockey’s official facility partner Notts Sport, who recently partnered with the FIH; the international hockey federation.

Cleveland Land Services sports team, meanwhile, have been commissioned to carry out the work to ensure the pitch is up to the highest FIH international standards.

The new sand-dressed surface is a high specification artificial turf surface designed for fast-paced hockey – and is popular with professional and amateur hockey clubs alike.

They’re different to third generation (3G) football pitches; the carpet pile is reduced and the surface laden with sand, as opposed to small rubber pellets. It also comes with a 15-year warranty.

Although Woking is housed on a council-owned site, it is able to benefit from renting its facilities to neighbouring local football clubs, which has provided an additional revenue stream to help the club improve its facilities.

The new synthetic surface could also entertain netball, basketball and volleyball, making it a real hub of the local community.

In addition to the resurfacing work taking place next month, the club is also seeking to erect a small spectator stand to bring it in line with more senior clubs like National League club, Surbiton.

Other pipeline provisions include new team and match officials’ dugouts, new goals, and a camera platform for filming games.

“At the level we play at now, hockey is essentially still an amateur sport,” explained Hughes.

“However, with the level investment that we’ve made into the facilities at Goldsworth Park; and are continually looking to make, we are able to attract some very good players to the club.

“Having the right facilities and infrastructure is important. It means that we can attract players; some of which have favoured us over higher clubs, but also because we are able to offer every player an opportunity to play hockey.

“We’re also fortunate to have a level 3 hockey coach assigned to each age group, from the under-8s, right up to the men’s and women’s senior squads,” he added.

With works due to take four weeks to complete, it is anticipated that the new playing surface will be handed back to the club on 11 August ’17; five weeks or so before the start of the official hockey season.

On Saturday 10th June, a team from Woking District Girls U11 football travel to Derby for the National Finals of the ESFA (English Schools FA) Premier League District competition. The District side is drawn from girls in Years 5 and 6 at primary schools across Woking, with 13 different schools being represented in their current squad of 23.

This is the first time the girls team have ever qualified for the National Finals and Woking are one of two qualifiers from the South-East region. They will be up against teams from across the country including Preston, Sunderland and Swansea in the 8-team finals that take place at the Academy facility of Championship side, Derby County.

The girls have played over 30 league and representation matches this season and have developed hugely, both as individual players and as a squad as the season has progressed. Amongst many memorable games, highlights have included coming back from 3-1 down to beat West Kent 4-3, beating Croydon and Sutton home and away in the Surrey league and making the long trip to Gloucester twice, being unbeaten in their festival on the first trip and winning a very competitive friendly 4-3 on the second visit.

The girls qualified for the Finals by winning the 10 team ESFA/Premier League South-East District tournament which was hosted in Woking last month at the wonderful, new, purpose-built facility at Brookwood Farm. Having topped their group by winning 3 and drawing 1 of their 4 group matches without conceding a goal, Woking played Barking & Dagenham in the final with the place in the national finals at stake for the winners. After normal-time ended in an extremely competitive 1-1 draw, sudden-death extra time saw both sides come very close to scoring before the match had to be settled by a penalty shoot-out. The Woking girls kept their nerve scoring all their penalties and, with the help of a couple of saves by the home keeper, won the shootout 4-1.

Manager Adam Gunn said “To be in the national finals is just unbelievable, a huge testament to their hard work. When you look back on their footballing journey, it’s lovely to see reward, especially when so much hard work has gone in from everyone – players, coaches and parents. It is a fantastic achievement for the girls and we are all really looking forward to this opportunity.”

If you would like to find out more about Woking District football, which also has a thriving boys section, please visit the website www.wokingprimaryschools.co.uk

ENGLAND rugby players Jonny May and Will Collier have taken time to pay tribute to the war dead at  Brookwood Military Cemetery.

They were invited as part of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s centenary,  and in recognition of the Commission being the Rugby Football Union’s nominated services charity for this season.

May is currently touring with England in Argentina where they have two matches against the Pumas. The first one is on Saturday 10 June.

The two players laid a wreath at the cemetery and visited the CWGC Centenary Exhibition, currently on display at Brookwood.

In its centenary year, the CWGC has linked up with the RFU to raise awareness of the rugby players  who died in the two world wars. The Rugby Remembers campaign encourages young people to discover these stories and visit their local war graves. May and  Collier met some of the young people involved in the campaign.

The CWGC’s Centenary Exhibition, For Then, For Now, Forever, is free to visit and is open every day from 10am to 4pm.

A SEVEN-YEAR old Knaphill boy has just set off for Athens in his first international event to represent the UK at a major international martial arts competition that finishes this weekend.

Jay Coote is competing in the 2017 Amateur Members Association World Championships organised by the International Sport Kickboxing Association. He is a pupil of The Hermitage School in St Johns, and an accomplished gymnast and martial arts athlete with an impressive string of national awards and trophies over.

Jay, who is being accompanied by his father, Dean, is taking part in two individual display categories: open-handed fighting without weapons, and with weapons using bo-staff and nunchucks. He will be competing in the 8-12 and 13-17 age brackets because no formal categories exist for a seven-year-old.

“From a very young age he always showed extreme co-ordination and concentration,” his mother, Gemma, told the News & Mail. “He loved doing anything to the extreme. He rode his bike without stabilisers before he was three, was waterboarding down the Quays in Mytchett at two and snowboarding by himself down a mountain in France at three.

“Then he joined Woking Gymnastics Club’s Kinder Gym at just nine months. He progressed through to the recreational classes where at five he was picked for the Boys Squad. This was coached by Simon Elliott who also coaches three times under 15’s gymnastic champion Jamie Lewis.

“Jay joined Hands Down Martial Arts as a ‘little dragon’ at four. At six, he was asked to join the Elite Team and started competing nationally last year when he was spotted and selected for sponsorship by leading US martial arts organisation Hyper MA who arrange events and supply martial arts weapons and clothing”.

In February this year Jay was asked to send a video of his Martial Arts forms into a panel of judges to be assessed.

“He was selected along with his friend, Isaac Shalgosky, to go to Athens to represent England for the IKSA World Championships,” Gemma said.

Jay told the News & Mail that he was prompted to take up the sport by his dad and uncle Liam who used to do kickboxing and gymnastics.

“I tried it and found that I liked it and could be good at it. I like competitions and the whole idea of competing against other people,” Jay said.

The lad said that when he leaves school he wants to be a stuntman like his Uncle Liam. “He was in a number of films, including Star Wars and Jurassic Park“.

FORMER Woking FC manager Garry Hill has allegedly breached a gagging clause following comments he made to a dedicated non-league football publication last Sunday, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Former Cards’ boss Garry Hill.  Picture by Andy Fitzsimons

The long-service Cards’ boss, whose contract was not renewed at the end of last season, gave a feature interview, where he spoke candidly about his six-and-a-half years at Woking.

And whilst Hill spoke passionately about the fans, along with many of the backroom staff and players he has worked with, members of the Woking board were left seething over derogatory remarks made about two serving directors, who were not given the right to reply.

Despite signing a confidentiality (severance) agreement earlier this month, Hill went public to talk about the alleged treatment he had been subjected to from chairlady and former Mayoress of Woking, Rosemary Johnson, coupled with fellow director and head of communications, David Taylor.

Hill, 57, claims that, while he and his assistant Steve Thompson were helping to preserve the club’s National League status, which concluded in the 1-1 draw against Dagenham & Redbridge on the final day of the season, the writing was already on the wall for the management duo several weeks beforehand.

HAPPIER TIMES: Former boss Garry Hill and Woking chairlady Rosemary Johnson. Picture by: David Holmes

Yet for some of the Cards’ faithful, Hill’s comments come as a big disappointment and have only served to cast a cloud over what he achieved during what was a successful tenure at The Laithwaite Community Stadium.

After guiding the Kingfield-based club to promotion in his first season in charge, Hill helped the club register four consecutive top-half finishes with limited resources available, which many feel should be his parting legacy.

However, in choosing to break his silence, Hill has defied his confidentially agreement, which precludes him (and Steve Thompson) from discussing any matters relating to his time at Woking Football Club, and leaves no room for ambiguity.

In response to Hill’s public comments, the board of directors at Woking FC issued the following statement on Monday to the News & Mail: “A clear confidentiality clause is a place between Garry [Hill] and the club; both agreeing to maintain full confidentiality of all matters concerning his time at Woking FC.

“While Garry has chosen to break that [confidentiality] agreement, the club will not.  All we will say; as we have always have said, is that we thank Garry and Steve [Thompson] for the incredible success they brought to the club; for securing promotion back to the Football Conference (premier); and ensuring our survival in the National League for this coming season.

“For the record, we wish Garry and Steve the very best in what ever they do next, and in the future.”

FAREWELL: Cards’ fans thank Garry Hill for preserving the Club’s National League status in April 2017.  Picture by: David Holmes

At the time of going print, it is not known whether the club is seeking legal counsel regarding a breach of the confidentially agreement and defamatory remarks made against both Johnson and Taylor.

Hill was not able to comment further on the article published on Sunday, but he did praise the ongoing work of director and major Woking FC shareholder, Peter Jordan, as well as director of football, Geoff Chapple and company director, Ian Nicholson.

The former Cards’ supremo was also grateful to receive texts of congratulations from Kelvin Reay (director, Woking FC), David Curtis (director, Woking FC), Mike Smith (former chairman, Woking FC) and Darren Caskey (football consultant, York City FC) – among others – for helping to keep Woking in the National League. 

All Change At Woking (And It’s Just The Ticket)

Cards' season ticket sales sky-rocket ahead of 2017-18 campaign

AS THE saying goes, you don’t get much for your money these days, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

However, Woking FC continues to buck the trend when it comes to admission prices after extending its unbeatable season ticket deal until 31 May ’17.

The Laithwaite Community Stadium in Kingfield

For just £4:30 for adults (concessions £3.26) and 87p for those aged between 5-19, new and existing Cards’ fans will be able to watch their team compete in the National League next season.

It’s a real sign that times are changing and the turnstiles are turning at The Laithwaite Community Stadium, as the club seeks to draw back the crowds that were synonymous with the 1990s.

Following the launch of the £99 Early Bird incentive (£75 for concessions and £20 for 5-19 year olds), the Kingfield-based club has already sold over 1,450 season tickets, and is hoping to reach a target of 1,700 before the deal finishes next Wednesday.

In stark contrast to some of the League’s big-spenders, Woking can at least rest on their laurels knowing that they have already paid for one quarter of their season prior to anyone kicking a football on 5 August 2017.

Elliot Machin, Sales & Marketing Executive, for Woking FC, said: “We are very excited by the uptake of the current season ticket offer, which has already exceeded our initial expectation and captured the imagination of the local community.

“Our strategy is to fill the ground; to create a good atmosphere, and improve the match day experience; all of which will increase our core fan base.

“A season ticket of £99 for an adult and £20 for a child represents fantastic value at £5.17 per game for a father and son (to give as an example) to come to football.

“What’s more, the more people we have in the ground, the better the atmosphere is for the players and support for the manager,” he added.

Cards’ chairlady, Rosemary Johnson, was equally upbeat about the number of season tickets sold prior to the 31 May deadline.

She said: “We want to go back to being more of a family club; to reach out to more young people, who can come along with their families to watch their local football club.”

Based on the number of ticket seasons sold to date, the take-up for next season’s National League campaign has already risen four-fold against last season’s tally, with more enquiries being processed on a daily basis.

Although a near identical initiative was run by Sutton United last season, The Cards can draw comfort that their own Early Bird season ticket offers the best value anywhere in the National League.

Season ticket holders will receive access to all League games during the 2017-18 season. They will also be given priority to purchase tickets for FA Cup and FA Trophy matches, plus receive other hospitality and retail discounts.

For more information, go to www.wokingfc.co.uk

NEW Woking FC manager, Anthony Limbrick, has wasted no time in the close season transfer market by signing former Dover Athletic defender, Richard Orlu, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

SOLID START: Orlu defects from Dover to join The Cards revival. Picture by: David Holmes

The 28-year old centre half, who was officially announced this morning (19 May ’17) on wokingfc.co.uk, is Limbrick’s first signing after just 10 days in the hot seat.

Orlu started his career at Staines Town, before signing for Farnborough in the Conference South (now National League South) in 2011.  He then moved to Canvey Island at the start of the 2012/13 season, which saw him start every match and pick-up six man of the match awards.

After just one season at Park Lane, Orlu joined Conference South side Dover Athletic.  Woking under Chris Kinnear, the former Gulls’ man played an integral role to help The Whites gain promotion to the National League (Premier) via the play-offs in his first season.

During his time at the Crabble Athletic Ground, Orlu narrowly missed out on the play-offs after Dover finished seventh behind Aldershot Town last season.  He is now hoping to go one better with The Cards next season.

He said: “The style and the set-up at Woking suits me.  It’s an ambitious club, which gives me the opportunity to improve and push on.  I wanted a new challenge and I felt Woking was a very good place for that.”

Commenting on Orlu’s signing, Limbrick said: “Richard is experienced at this level of football and, most importantly, he is a winner.

“I felt his style fitted our philosophy and I’m excited to work with players who are hungry and have a desire to develop,” explained the former Southampton and West Ham United coach.

Orlu’s arrival at The Laithwaite Community Stadium signals a positive time for change and more new signings, as Woking gears up a more prosperous 2017-18 National League campaign.

WOKING RFC has been awarded RFU (Rugby Football Union) accreditation at a historic club and annual awards event last Saturday (13 May ’17), writes Andy Fitzsimons.

ACCREDITED CLUB:  Woking RFC.   Picture by Gary Raife

Players and supporters came together to see the Surrey 4 league club receive its award from Surrey Rugby – one of the constitute bodies of the national union.

The progressive West Byfleet-based outfit, who currently ply their trade at Byfleet Recreation Ground, picked up the prestigious accreditation after demonstrating competencies against six key performance indicators.

Prior to receiving the award, Woking had to demonstrate the innate ability to retain and develop players; recruit new players; recruit and retain high quality coaches, as well as volunteers and referees.

It also had to show that its facilities were effective and efficient; it had effective and efficient management and governance, whilst showcasing its integration with the local community.

It was a night to remember for club chairman Andy Burrell, who successfully spearheaded Woking’s accreditation project, but also picked up the presidents’ cup from Stanley Fisher for his dedication and voluntary work over the past 12 months.

Fisher said: “It’s a proud night for Woking RFC.

“There are still many clubs who have not achieved the standards that Woking have been recognised for, which allows us to build for a strong future.

“I would especially like to thank Andy Burrell; without his efforts, the accreditation wouldn’t have been possible.

“I very much look forward to a successful 2017-18 season,” he added.

ROME wasn’t built in a day, and new Woking FC manager Anthony Limbrick is under no illusion that success won’t happen overnight, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

ASTUTE: Anthony Limbrick. Picture by Andy Fitzsimons

And while most non-league managers are using the month of May ’17 to wind down and recharge their batteries, Limbrick’s work has just begun.

Just nine days into his first managerial role, the former West Ham United and Southampton academy coach is already in the throes of executing his masterplan.

Speaking at a fans forum event at The Laithwaite Community Stadium last Wednesday, Limbrick has already articulated his plans for the next two to three years and has won over many of The Cards’ faithful.

But the new Cards’ supremo is all too aware that talk in football can sometimes be cheap if it’s not backed up by results.

He said: “I knew it was going to be a busy first couple of weeks, and it’s been everything that I expected so far.

“I have met and spoken with a lot of people at the club; not just the players, but volunteers as well, and I have been impressed with their passion for the club.

“I was quite surprised just how many people attended the fans forum last week, but they’ve been fantastic since I arrived at the club and have made me feel very welcome.

“They asked some really good footballing questions, which gave me a chance to convey my philosophy.  We had good dialogue; and the questions that I hoped they would ask, they did ask,” he added.

While Limbrick is not dismissive at all by those who have gone before him, he is not one to dwell on a bygone era.

The former Hammers under-18s and under-23s coach has already made his mind up on some players and spoken to others who he feels have the ability to step up next season, not live in the past.

“We will run with a small squad next season of 18 outfield players and two goalkeepers, explained Limbrick. “It’s important, therefore, that all the players we have at the club know what to expect and buy into the philosophy from day one.

“The players that we retain and recruit have got to want to be here (Woking FC), and be prepared to train hard.

“The National League is a difficult league, so it’s about getting the balance right to play effective penetrating football. It’s important that the players are focused and able to adapt.”

When it comes to recruitment, The Cards’ boss also said that any player that comes into the side; whether permanently or on loan, would need to add value.

He is also keen to promote from within and have a close working relationship with Woking’s own academy.

“Through my previous roles in football, I have had the opportunity to work with and help develop a number of younger players; some of which have gone on to experience first team football. It’s a rewarding feeling,” he said.

“Due to my connections, there will of course be opportunities to bring in players on loan, but they will need to be impact players and make the team better.

“It has to be a reciprocal and mutually beneficial working relationship; I am not interested in players who are just prepared to go through the motions.

“More young professionals should be given the opportunity to play in the National League to broaden their horizon.

“I believe they need to make the step up from academy football to men’s football so they can get a better understanding of the work-rate required and what it really means to play for three points,” he added.

Limbrick is hoping to line up six pre-season friendlies from 8 July, which is likely to comprise a healthy mix of professional and senior non-league clubs.  More information will be available soon on www.wokingfc.co.uk