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Chobham Prepared For Arch Rivals

Coach Gregory says his players are not taking their opponents lightly in Surrey Trophy semi-final

CHOBHAM RFC will be hoping to emulate their last success in the Incentive FM Surrey Trophy to progress through to the final of this year’s competition, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

Chobham RFC coach: Ryan Gregory.
Picture courtesy of Chobham RFC

With the Chob lying in mid-table obscurity in the London 1 South, player-coach Ryan Gregory believes there’s no better time than the present to win some silverware to truly celebrate the club’s 50th year anniversary.

The last time Chobham played in the Trophy was several years ago when they beat Sutton & Epsom 26-20 in final. Now the club wants to take a trip back down memory lane when they entertain arch-rivals Camberley in the semi-final on Saturday (18 March ’17).

Despite having home advantage, Gregory and his players are under no illusion of the task ahead and the threat that Camberley pose.

While neither side have played each other in a competitive league game for a number of years, the rivallary is still prevalent; irrespective of whether Camberley play in a lower status London 2 South West division.

He said: “We haven’t played Camberley in a competitive fixture for a good few years now, but they’re flying in their league and are pushing for promotion back to the London 1 South.

“They’re a very young side, and play an exciting attacking brand of rugby. They play with a lot of confidence and have scored a lot of points this season, which why there are where they are.

“If to add into the mix that it’s a local derby too, you can see there’s plenty at stake,” he added.

With the potential of an upset on the cards, Gregory is rightfully not prepared to get into any pre-match mind games and predictions, and remains focused on the job in hand.

“It was important for us to get a win against Maidstone last Saturday (11 March ’17), especially after our second half performance against Tunbridge Wells the previous week,” explained Gregory.

“We know that Camberley will be well drilled and will look to come at us. Therefore, I am treating this Saturday’s Trophy match in much the same way as I would condition the players for any other London 1 South league game.

“Everyone is aware of what happened when we played Camberley in a pre-season friendly back in August, so neither I or any of the players will be complacent; quite the contrary.

“I believe that if we are able to keep the ball for long periods of time, which I know we can, we will win, but it certainly wont be easy,” added Gregory.

The winner of Saturday’s semi-final will play one of Battersea Ironsides or Old Reigatian in the final, which is due to take place on 1 May 2017 at Esher Rugby Club.

IT’S A FINE line between winning and losing, but for Woking Hockey Club ladies coach Mark Robinson, he believes he has the answer, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

With Woking Ladies 1s needing at least one draw from their remaining two division one fixtures against Reading 1A and Wimbledon 1A to potentially avoid relegation, Robinson is calling on some big hitters in the world of sport for a bit of assistance.

Woking HC ladies 1s coach: Mark Robinson

The experienced Woking and England Development Coach is all too aware that psychology and mental

conditioning play a critical role in changing or defining the outcome, so who better to call upon than the likes of a few cult heroes.

In a bid to combat any last minute nerves, Robinson is now leaning on some proven neuro-linguistic tactics to prepare his players.

He has pulled together a three-minute motivational video, which will be screened to his players in the dedicated player room prior to them taking to the pitch against Reading on Saturday (18 March ’17).

He said: “The Reading fixture is a must-win game, plus it’s our last home game of the season.

“I have used motivational tactics before when I was at Havant Hockey Club, so I feel it will appeal to the players and, most importantly, get them in the right frame of mind.

“The quotes used within the videography have been taken from several American sportsmen and women who were all winners on the court and key leaders off it.

“I have been lucky enough to work with and learn from some exceptional mentors myself, with Sue Perry at Sussex Hockey Club possibly being my first mentor and from whom I learnt so much.

“Outside of the game, I have always been inspired by the words and wisdom of big personalities, such as Michael Jordan and Winston Churchill – to name just a few – through their respective leadership and motivational skills.

“It’s all about finding out what makes people tick to help bring the best out of them,” he added.

While Woking’s current league position belies their work-ethic on and off the pitch, Robinson believes that one final push will help his players over the line and preserve their division one status for next season.

And with rivals Staines only one point ahead of Woking in the table – but with a far inferior goal difference – Robinson’s players are well placed to take advantage of the situation if they can prepare themselves effectively.

SINCE his appointment as Woking Academy Manager in June 2015, Scott Harrison has overseen plenty of progression within the youth ranks of the junior Cards, writes Lewis Winter.

Last summer he made the bold decision of forming an under-23 side – or ‘Woking Reserves’ – and placed them in the Suburban Premier League to give players as young as 16 their first taste of men’s football.

The young Cards, who have often been joined by members of Garry Hill’s first-team such as Chike Kandi and Frazer Shaw, have not disgraced themselves and are mid-table with eight games remaining.

Success story: Charlie Carter (picture by: David Holmes)

The under-18s and under-19s have had enjoyed more success, with both competing for their respective league titles. The under-18s have also reached two semi-finals; the first of which will be against Chessington & Hook United or Westfield in the Surrey Youth Midweek Floodlit Cup.

And Harrison couldn’t be happier with how it’s gone in his second campaign in charge.

He told the News & Mail: “It is exciting. It’s been a better season than probably we were expecting.

“We knew we recruited better, we lost some good players at the start of the season; some of those were educational reasons, while others were not prepared to fight it out.

“To be fair the boys who have come in, were lads that we didn’t really look at first of all because we went and found other players, but to their credit they’ve stepped up to the mark.

“It’s now about how far they want to take it. Reaching two semi-finals this season and also fighting on two league fronts too, I don’t think I could ask for more. Hopefully we can finish the season by winning something,” he added.

Harrison admits lifting a trophy would be the icing on the cake for him, his staff and his playing squad, but he knows his ultimate aim is to nurture players for the first-team.

Charlie Carter is the most recent example of the academy’s success, being a regular under Hill this season.

The Surrey Senior Cup has given several more of Harrison’s squad a chance, with centre-back George Brown, midfielder Declan Appau and the exciting and versatile Charlie Hester-Cook all having appeared for the first-team.

“We have to think what the reason is and what we are doing it for,” said Harrison.

“We want to get players into the first-team; we want to support Garry Hill and Steve Thompson with players. They have been brilliant in bringing players through and trusting our judgement.

“I think Charlie, George and Declan are good enough to make it – as long as they stay grounded, do the simple things and listen to experienced players around.”

Thompson showcased his support by watching the under-23s defeat Uxbridge 2-0 last Thursday, casting his eye over the future of Woking FC.

Harrison is hoping all his players have what it takes to make it in the game, but knows it’s a tough task for anyone aiming to be the next Charlie Carter.

“I hope they all are the next Charlie Carter,” commented the Academy boss.

“But they have to understand it is a hard level to play at. Charlie went away, worked on himself physically and made himself bigger.

“He seems to have learnt the game and he’s listened and worked hard.

“My players need to do the right things and take their opportunities like Charlie has.

“There’s a pathway in [to the first first-team], but they have to keep believing that we are doing the right things,” he added.

EXPERIENCED Woking FC Assistant Manager Steve Thompson knows only too well that individual mistakes are proving very costly this season, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

Thompson, who has had a long association with Woking; both as a player and being part of Garry Hill’s management team since 2011, acknowledges that The Cards are simply leaking too many goals from individual errors.

Woking Assistant Manager: Steve Thompson

Speaking with the News and Mail last Sunday, Thompson eloquently said that there’s only so much you can teach the players. The rest is down to them.

He said: “Since January – and the Boxing Day defeat against Aldershot Town – Garry and I have been happy with the players’ performance and how they’ve played as a team.

“We have no qualms about their level of effort, but the quality does need to improve; we are simply making too many mistakes, which reflects where we are in the table.

“We didn’t play badly against North Ferriby last Saturday; neither team really dominated, but we didn’t make the most of our chances.

“I didn’t feel that we were in any danger, and then the ball is in the back of our net from a throw-in, which is not something you spend your time coaching the players at training. You expect them to deal with things like that.

“We have a strategy on who plays and how we set up, but you can’t tell a player to jump to head a ball; he either does or he doesn’t. If the result of him not jumping means you concede a goal, there’s not much that you can do about it from the sidelines. It’s down to their decision-making on the pitch,” explained Thompson.

This Saturday, The Cards travel to mid-table Boreham Wood, who have the fourth best defensive record in the Vanarama National League, but the second worst goal-scoring ratio. Only North Ferriby United have scored fewer goals.

And with Woking having scored in all but four of their 36 league games to date, but also conceded the most number of goals in the league, it’s anyone’s guess who will come out on top.

“Boreham Wood are a difficult side to play against as they play counter-attacking football,” said Thompson. “They always have plenty of men behind the ball, which is why only Lincoln City, Tranmere Rovers and Aldershot Town have conceded fewer goals.

“If you look back over the last few seasons, we’ve always scored plenty of goals, but we’ve always conceded plenty of goals too. That was never really an issue, though, prior to this season.

“If we can avoid making too many individual errors in our remaining games, I think we’ll be ok,” he added.

Run For The Hills!

Minnows Knaphill seek ace card in real David and Goliath battle at Kingfield

KNAPHILL FC are preparing for their biggest fixture in their history when they take on non-league giants Woking in the quarter-final of the Surrey Senior Cup next Tuesday, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

As the crow flies, only 2.7 miles separate Woking and Knaphill, but the footballing gulf is considerable.

With 83 league places separating the two sides, The Cards’ faithful could well assume that their side has already won the match before they kick a ball on Tuesday night (21 February). However, such complacency has never won football matches.

Woking FC boss – Garry Hill was unavailable for comment

For Woking, who have reached the final of the County Cup on no less than 28

Knaphill FC boss – Keith Hills

occasions; winning the competition 12 times – most recently in 2014, the next result will largely be borne out from a battle of wills.

Knappers’ boss Keith Hills knows that his players are not just out to make up the numbers; they have a point to prove.

While the Combined Counties League is a far cry from the dizzy heights of the National League, several of Hills’ first team squad have come through the ranks of the Woking academy.

Timmy Taylor, Connor Close, Josh Watkins and George Frith (injured) are all players that began their football at the Kingfield Stadium before joining the Knaphill revolution. It’s something that Hills believes could be the ace card up his sleeve.

Incentive

He said: “If there was ever an incentive for my players to show what they’re about, it’s next Tuesday. It doesn’t get much bigger than that for a club like Knaphill.

“For some of the players, it may be the first and only chance they’ll have to play in a quarter final of a cup competition and against a big-name club like Woking. It’s about seizing the moment and not letting the opportunity get the better of you.

“Undoubtedly, some players are going to be disappointed on the night, but that’s football. I can only field 11 players, and I have to pick the team on merit.”

Hills is likely to go with the same team that beat Tooting & Mitcham 1-0 in the previous round of the competition; one that was resolute in defence and potent on the counter-attack.

And if goalkeeper Richard Shelley can produce a similar match-winning performance like he did against The Terrors a fortnight ago, Woking are likely to have their work cut out.

“It was very hard to go to play a team like Tooting, who are top of the Ryman League South, and second-guess whether they were going to field a number of under-21 players or not,” explained Hills.

“It just so happened that their under-21s played the night before we were due to play, so we knew that they would field a strong first team squad, which we were prepared for.

“The lads played out of their skins against Tooting; I couldn’t fault any one of them. Tooting are a very good footballing side; they played triangles around us for the first 20 minutes and made it very difficult for us.

Equation

In the end, though, it came down to a simple equation: we took our chance and they missed theirs, which is why we won the match.

“We know that we’re the underdogs against Woking, so it’s important that my players remain focused, but enjoy the occasion. We’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose, which is a good position to be in,” added Hills.

With Woking languishing just above the drop-zone in the National League, Cards’ boss Garry Hill may well decide to rest on his laurels for once and opt for a mix of experience and youth to help preserve Woking’s league status over winning any silverware this season.

It could mean, therefore, that all three of Woking’s on-loan players; namely: Chris Arthur (Crawley Town), Connor Hall (Sheffield United) and Macauley Bonne (Colchester United), will feature against Knaphill.

Speaking candidly about the cup fixture, David Freeman, Chairman and former manager of Knaphill, knows just

He said: “Next Tuesday is our cup final, there’s no two ways about it.

Reality Check: Knaphill FC chairman – David Freeman

“It signifies where we are now as a football club and just how far we’ve come in a relatively short space of time.

“We’re not expected to beat Woking; we know that, but we’re going to go to Woking next week and represent the club as professionally as possible, both on and off the pitch,” he added.

In stark contrast to Knaphill, Freeman recognises that Woking have got bigger fish to fry – so to speak – given where they are in the league and the resources available to both football clubs.

In 2001, Knaphill were plying their trade in the Surrey Intermediate League at a time when Woking had reportedly paid Crystal Palace £60,000 for striker Chris Sharpling. And four years before that, The Cards sold defender Steve Foster to Bristol Rovers for £150,000.

Ascendency

Yet despite their humble beginnings and lower league status, The Knappers remain in a position of ascendency and a shinning example for other football clubs to follow in when it comes to togetherness and attention to detail.

“We’re here where we are today because of the unity we have in the club and the bond the players have with each other,” explained Freeman.

“Over the past two to three years, there’s been a real sense of togetherness at Knaphill Football Club. And while it would be unnatural if people always saw eye to eye all of the time, football should harness a sense of belonging, which is why I genuinely believe that we are stronger together. It’s not about one individual.

“The committee and I set out to run this football club as professionally as we can. People will always look at what you’re doing and judge you on that, so I want to set the bar high.

“I know that we have inadvertently inspired other clubs to replicate what we do, but that is something to be proud of. It’s about continuing to do the right thing and let everything else take its course,” he added.

Woking FC commercial manager – Geoff Chapple
(Picture by David Holmes)

Former Woking manager, now commercial director, Geoff Chapple, says Woking will take the cup fixture against Knaphill seriously. He admits, however, that current boss Garry Hill will consider the club’s National League programme and is likely to avoid picking players that might be nearing suspension.

All of Woking’s loan players have been given permission to play in the County Cup by their parent English Football League clubs.

While Knaphill continues to set its sights on gaining promotion to the Ryman Football League within the next two years, the Woking fixture will always herald a significant milestone from where the club were, to where they are now.

For some, it’s the shape of things to come; and who knows, if they continue the way they are, Knaphill could even be playing Woking in a league match before the 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup.

 

*Pictures by Andy Fitzsimons (unless stated otherwise)

THE GRASS isn’t always greener the other side, which Woking RFC coach Pete D’Cruz can testify first hand, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

A gardener by trade, D’Cruz believes that having the right grass roots and player retention have been the driving force in his side’s quest for promotion.

Woking, who currently reside fourth in the Surrey 4 league table; only four points behind second placed Horley, are now in the ascendancy.

On Point: Woking RFC coach Pete D’Cruz. Picture: Geoff Banks

Following impressive back-to-back wins against Haslemere and Raynes Park this year, D’Cruz’s side has amassed 112 points in their last two games, with only six points in reply.

Having narrowly missed out on promotion to the Surrey 3 last season, the Woking coach is confident his side can go one better this season.

He said: After finishing third last year, we knew that we could push again for promotion again this season. That was always a goal of mine, which is shared by the whole team.

“Unfortunately, very early on this season we lost several first team players through injury, which didn’t help; especially in the run up to Christmas where we lost our way a little.

“Continuity was always going to be key, and we haven’t really had that this season. However, I am encouraged by our last few results and the return of a few players from injury. It makes all the difference, as the last few results have shown.

D’Cruz has been particularly impressed with Justin Dougherty, who has seamlessly moved from being a number 10 to a scrum half.

“Justin is a very talented player,” said D’Cruz. “He has the natural attributes to play anywhere he wants to and has done very well at scrum half.

“It’s also great to welcome back Callum Wogan, who has made a big difference to the side at fly-half.

“The league is very strong this year; probably the strongest it’s ever been, so we need our best players on the field,” he added.

D’Cruz believes the key to success is two-fold, which is borne out of giving the players more responsibility to help develop their patterns of play on match days, as well keeping the fulcrum of the squad.

Although the Woking boss believes that none of this would be possible without the WAGs – to coin an infamous term – who remain the unsung heroes behind the scenes.

“It’s all to easy to overlook the support that the Woking players regularly receive from their wives and girlfriends to enable them to train twice a week and play on Saturdays,” explained D’Cruz.

“We may still be an amateur club, but we try and instil an array of professionalism throughout, which requires a commitment from the players. Therefore, without the support from the players’ partners – who may be at home looking after their young children – none of this would be possible. For this, I remain eternally grateful to them.”

When asked about where the club sees itself in five years’ time, D’Cruz commented: “Woking is an ambitious club, which is underpinned by a proactive committee who want the club to gain promotion and even develop a third team.

“This is testament to not just the first team squad, but the second team too who are also vying for promotion from the Surrey Combination 2 South West division.

“Players that join the Woking tend to stay put for some time. I believe this says a lot about our ethos and quality of rugby, but also the social side of things too,” he added.

THE NEXT 12 months are likely to be a major turning point in Sheerwater FC’s 59-year history, but for once it’s out of their hands, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

With their Recreational Ground earmarked for housing, The Sheers are currently waiting for plans to be approved for a new ground on the green site of Bishop David School in Sheerwater.

Welcome News – for Sheers’ boss Pete Ruggles

If sanctioned by Woking Borough Council (WBC), the school’s grounds will play host to a new state-of-the-art sports facility, which will enable The Sheers to continue to play in division 1 of the Combined Counties Football League (CCFL) for the 2018/19 season.

However, the clock is ticking; and with a reported build-time of 12 months, work will need to commence in the next few months if Sheerwater are to comply with The Football Association’s (FA’s) new stringent ground-grading criteria, which comes into force on 31 March 2018.

Floodlights

All existing member clubs plying their trade at step six of football pyramid – which includes division 1 of the CCFL – will be required to have floodlights installed at their ground (with an average lux reading of at least 120) by the end of the next financial year. Any member club that is found to be in breach of this ruling will be relegated to one of the county leagues (step seven).

For some onlookers, it’s a timeline that could make or break Sheerwater Football Club. But with regeneration very much the buzz-word of the moment, The Sheers are hoping that plans are well-advanced to enable them to compete on a level playing field with the likes of Knaphill and Westfield.

Cllr. Beryl Hunwicks, portfolio holder for health and wellbeing development at WBC, said: “The council supports the aspirations of all local sport clubs.

“Over the past two years, we have worked with Sheerwater, Westfield and Knaphill football clubs to improve

Current Home: Sheerwater Recreation Ground

their grounds and ancillary facilities to enable them to remain within their respective divisions.

“We’re aware of the time for Sheerwater to install floodlights set by The FA and will continue to work with the club to ensure the grading requirements for its ground are considered so it can remain with division 1 of the League,” added Cllr. Hunwicks.

Future-proof

In addition to the plans for a new ground, the Council has also said that any proposal will be future-proofed to allow Sheerwater to progress to the premier division of the Combined Counties Football League, which will be welcome news to current boss Pete Ruggles and his recruitment drive for new players this summer.

In response to the council’s pledge, The FA has stipulated that, if Sheerwater’s ground is not ready by the March 2018 deadline, then the club would be in breach of their ground grading compliance.  It would, therefore, be relegated to one of the county’s feeder leagues at the end of next season; such as the Surrey Elite Intermediate Football League.

Dylan Evans, facilities & investment manager (south east region) for The FA said: “The League (CCFL) requires assurance that all participating teams comply with the required standards and have secure use of their grounds for the full season.

“With any new ground development, we would strongly encourage Sheerwater to liaise closely with the League, especially if there could be a delay to construction. Providing the League is supportive, it may be possible for the club to be given a reprieve and then move to the new ground when it is completed.

“I would strongly recommend that the League are consulted and kept up-to-date with developments,” he added.

New ruling

While The FA has previously postponed the deadline for the new ruling to come into force, it’s unlikely that good fortune will repeat itself.

Only 14 of the member clubs in division 1 [step six] have floodlights and fully comply with the requirements of a grade G ground. The exemption for the other four clubs without floodlights only applies to 31 March 2018.

Currently, there is no compulsory number of clubs completing at step six, although it is widely thought that the optimum number is 20 clubs, two less than those competing in the premier division above (step five).

There are no rules to govern a situation where all four member clubs were unable to install or be granted the necessary planning consent on deadline date. In such an event, relegation-threatened premier division clubs could be granted a reprieve. The FA would also consider moving clubs between the various leagues at step six to even up the numbers.

Sheerwater’s proposed new ground at Bishop David School must give the impression of being a football ground suitable for the National League system and meet with the approval of The FA and the board of directors of the Combined Counties Football League. It must also be able to demonstrate security of tenure, as required by both parties.

Hills Keen To Promote From Within

Knappers' boss favours youth over experience in bid to nurture homegrown talent

STRAIGHT-taking Knaphill FC boss Keith Hills believes he has plenty in reserve to achieve another top 5 finish this season, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

The Knappers’ boss has been impressed by several under-18 and reserve team players this season, which have made their Combined Counties League debuts in recent weeks.

And while the manager’s door remains open to recruiting new talent, Hills has no immediate intention of dipping his toe in

Knaphill manager: Keith Hills

the transfer market to bolster his current squad.

He said: “My eyes are always open to what I like and what I don’t like, but I believe that we have some very good players coming through the youth ranks and reserves at Knaphill.

“As a manager, my job is to achieve the highest place we can in the league and to have faith with the players at the club, not just those in the first team squad.

In Reserve

“A number of players are doing well in the reserve team, which is testament to the work of Richard Keown and Michael Hulse, who have done a great job since they took over last May.

“Players like Ethan Losty and Eddie McKinley; among others, have both come into the first team and performed very well. Neither looked out of place when they played against Guildford City a few weeks ago.

“It shows the quality that we now have at the club – it certainly bodes well for the future of Knaphill Football Club.

“Looking at what we have and where we are now, I genuinely believe that we can finish in the top 5 again,” added the Knappers’ boss.

After some indifferent results in the run up to, and after the Christmas period, Hills now believes that his side are on the up; and that a number of players have finally stepped up to the mark.

“The 4-2 away defeat to Walton and Hersham (2 January) was a turning point for us and for me as a manager. The players knew that it wasn’t good enough and that they had to turn it around quickly or face the consequences.

“If you have 2-3 players who are going through the motions and aren’t winning their personal battles, then you can’t expect to win games.

“I have since spoken to all of those players individually and asked what they expect of themselves? If they’re not willing to give everything for the team then there’s no point playing for Knaphill.

“In truth, it applies to any level of football; not just in the Combined Counties League. If any player isn’t prepared to commit himself to the cause, then there’s no point going through the motions. Thankfully, they’ve all responded well.” added Hills.

On the mend: George Frith

Back To Basics

With George Frith (knee operation) unlikely to resume normal training until the summer and with Robbie Kersley still unavailable for selection, Hills has been forced to reshuffle the pack several times to account for the absence of two outstanding midfielders.

Despite the quandary, Hills has remains faithful to his squad at large and has praised those who have come into the side and performed admirably.

“Losing George [Frith] at the start of the season was a massive blow for us,” explained Hills. “George is an outstanding footballer – you could even say that he is irreplaceable.

“He keeps possession of the ball and glides across the pitch with ease. We have definitely missed him this season, but it’s important that George and Robbie [Kersley] don’t rush back given their individual circumstances.

“While football is a great physical and emotional outlet, your health and wellbeing is always more important than football. It’s about keeping things in perspective,” added Hills.

This Saturday [28 January ’17), Knaphill travel to Raynes Park Vale in a bid to improve on their current eighth position in the league table.

Having already beaten Vale twice this season in both league and cup competitions, Hills’ side will rightly fancy their chances to get a result – even on a difficult playing surface.

Hill Celebrates Six Years At The Helm

Cards' boss can be mentioned in same breath as Arsenal legend

TIME FLIES when you’re having fun. That felt particularly poignant last Friday [20 January ’17], which marked six years to the day when Garry Hill was appointed Woking manager, writes David Richardson.

And while 2016 is unlikely to go down as a revelation, Hill deserves huge credit for his stewardship and longevity in the role.

Garry Hill: All smiles – at least for now.       Picture by Andy Fitzsimons

“Six months is a long time for a manager to be in a job nowadays,” jested Hill after a late, heart-breaking defeat at home to Aldershot Town on New Year’s Day.

Irrespectively, his time at Woking now means he’s the third longest serving manager in the top five tiers of English football, behind Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) and Paul Tisdale (Exeter City).

The 57-year-old has been one of Woking’s most successful mangers, most certainly since Geoff Chapple’s rein in the 1990s.

From the off, Hill and assistant Steve Thompson hit the ground running, guiding Woking into the National South play-offs after been 10 points adrift in January 2011.

An astonishing 12-game unbeaten run, which included 11 wins and one draw, saw The Cards gatecrash the top-five, where they were eventually beaten 2-1 after extra time by Farnborough Town in the semi-finals.

The silver lining to that defeat was Woking had found a management team capable of getting them out of the then Football Conference South (now National League South). The following season they did just that.

The Cards romped to the title winning it by nine points to return to the National League after a three-year absence.

Hill then steered Woking to a highly respectable twelfth-place finish, before trumping that the following season in ninth. The Cards continued the upward trend the following season to finish seventh – three points short of the play-offs in 2015 – ahead of another well-earned 12th place last season.

Many Woking fans would have been happy to avoid relegation when the club returned to the top-tier of non-league, but under Hill’s managerial guidance, The Cards have over-achieved year-on-year.

And while money doesn’t necessary dictate success, Hill has achieved all of this on a playing budget reported to a third of the likes of Forest Green Rovers, Eastleigh and even Luton Town, before The Hatters gained promotion back to The Football League.

With success comes interest from other clubs, which has resulted in several former players (some on loan) now plying their trade regularly in the English Football League and Scottish Premiership.  These include: Billy Knott (Gillingham), Jayden Stockley (Aberdeen), Dan Holman (Cheltenham Town) and Jack Marriott (Luton Town) – to name just a few.

While Hill is accustom to having to rebuild his team throughout his 26 years in football management, there are only so many hidden gems that the Woking supremo can pull out of a hat or from under his sleeve.

A reduced budget this season has certainly taken its toll this season too, with Hill struggling to fill the void of John Goddard (Swindon Town), Scott Rendell (Aldershot Town), Jake Cole (Aldershot Town) and Mark Ricketts (Boreham Wood).

And while he has amassed enough credit in the bank to buy patience from most fans, some of the Woking faithful are already starting to question whether the Essex salesman is the right man to keep Woking in the division. It therefore begs the question: If he isn’t, then who is?

The last four months have undoubtedly been some of the most challenging since Hill first managed Heybridge Swifts in 1991.   Based on the current form-guide, it would be easy for Woking’s board of directors to pull the carpet from underneath his feet, but they deserve recognition for sticking by their man.

Remarkably, in over a quarter of a century in football management, the Woking boss has never suffered relegation and is determined not to let it happen in 2017.

Whether Hill signs a new contract this summer remains to be seen. His frustration at the lack of financial backing is clear, but the club shouldn’t put its future at risk like others have done before them.

Therefore, opting for more of the same wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing in the grand scheme of things.

Westfield FC manager Tony Reid is hoping that his players can get back to business as usual this Saturday against Walton & Hersham, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

Following the postponement of last week’s Combined Counties League Premier Division fixture against Spelthorne Sports, The Yellows’ boss is hoping for another three points against his former club at Woking Park.

Westfield FC manager Tony Reid still has high hopes.    Picture by: Andy Fitzsimons.

Reid, who spent just under two years managing The Swans between February 2014 and late 2015, does not see Saturday as a grudge match at all; instead, an opportunity for his side to keep up the pressure on title favourites Hartley Wintney.

Currently, Westfield lie second in the table; a mammoth 21 points behind their Hampshire rivals, but with three games in hand. And while Reid admits that Hartley Wintney are in the ascendancy, nothing is certain in football.

“As a manager, I’m not in the game to accept finishing second,” said Reid. “Yes, Hartley Wintney are quite a bit ahead of us, but anything can happen between now and the end of the season.

“My focus is solely on us winning games; and if we continue to do what we need to do, then the pressure is on Hartley Wintney to keep winning their fixtures. We’re still in January and there’s still plenty to play for.

“When I look back to when I first joined the club (Westfield) last season, we have come on a long way. I saw the potential in average-performing players to become good players, and good players capable of becoming even better players and playing in the Ryman League.

“I’ve been impressed with the players’ attitude and togetherness, and whilst there have been a couple of blips along the way, the lads have show real character,” he said.

Following The Yellows’ magnificent 10-match unbeaten run in the League at the start of the season, Reid believes that confidence rather than ability has been his players’ Achilles heel over the past couple of months. But it’s something that he is looking to put right.

“Sometimes the players need to believe in themselves at bit more,” explained Reid. “We’re second in the League for a reason – it’s not a fluke – we’ve got quality players for this level of football.

“The problem comes is that some players have not been in this position before, so it’s new territory for them, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t play at this level; they can and they are.

“My expectations are high – the players know that.   Despite what some people think, the Combined Counties League is a hard league; only one team can get promoted for one, which makes it even harder.

“It’s about wanting to complete at the next level too and knowing what it takes to compete at that level. It’s very easy for players to come to me to say that they’ve played in the Ryman League (step 4 of the football pyramid), but there’s a bit difference to playing a handful of games in the Ryman League and playing for, say, two seasons solidly,” he added.

After losing to struggling Chertsey Town several weeks ago, Westfield were given, perhaps, the ultimate wake-up call. However, it’s one that Reid says his players have responded to well – having scored six goals on the road with only two in reply against an inform Hanworth Villa side and AFC Hayes.

He said: “After the Chertsey game, I had really strong words with the players; I didn’t hold back at. I told them that they were either onboard or not. Since then, the players have shown real character in the changing room and are notably playing with their heads up and enjoying their football.

“I am still looking to bring in another new face to help keep the players on those toes. However, we’ve been in good form since the turn of the New Year, so I believe now is as good a time as any to play against a Walton side, which have conceded the least number of goals in the League,” added Reid.

Westfield have yet to beat Walton & Hersham this season – having lost 1-0 in the preliminary round of Emirates FA Cup back in August – and drawing 2-2 with The Swans at Stompond Lane last month.

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