WOKING Director of Football Geoff Chapple says he can understand supporters’ anger after star striker Scott Rendell’s move to Aldershot Town was rubberstamped last week.
The shock announcement, made via local rivals Town’s official website last Friday, has unsurprisingly proved a bitter pill to swallow for Chapple, the Kingfield hierarchy and outraged fans alike.
Speaking to the News & Mail shortly after the news was made public, Chapple confirmed that former Luton Town hitman Rendell – scorer of 49 goals in 80 Woking matches (National League, FA Trophy and FA Cup) – had turned down the club’s offer of reduced terms to remain in manager Garry Hill’s squad for the 2016/17 campaign.
Straight talking former player and manager Chapple admitted that Hill will have to operate on a significantly smaller playing budget next season than last – the current figure is believed to be in the lowest four in the National League – and that it has proved a difficult summer of negotiations thus far: “We wanted to keep Scott [Rendell] but it’s fair to say we didn’t offer him what we did last year.
“Our budget has been reduced and we’ve got players who’ve signed again this year that have had to take pay cuts. Garry [Hill] wants players who want to play for the club.
“We were nowhere near the offer that Aldershot were paying, we were miles apart, so it was an easy decision for Scott in the end, but not for the heart of us supporters of Woking. I understand why they [Woking fans] are not happy.”
Just 11 miles separate the Laithwaite Community Stadium and the home of fierce rivals Town, the EBB Stadium, and Rendell is by no means the only player to make the switch one way or the other.
In recent years Hill has seen two other prized forwards, Brett Williams and Bradley Bubb, hop over the Surrey/Hants border – both players were on loan at Woking.
Indeed, last season’s News & Mail Player of the Season, goalkeeper Jake Cole – like Rendell a free agent after his one-year deal expired in May – made the move this month, as has former Kingfield loanee defender Nick Arnold.
New Shots boss Gary Waddock – who has managed Rendell previously at Wycombe Wanderers between 2010 and 2012 – has clearly been handed a war chest to mount an improved tilt at the National League next season: deals for seven new players have been signed off by Chairman Shahid Azeem in June alone [at the time of writing].
Waddock’s highest profile purchase (Rendell) comes as something of a gamble on a player who spent all of last out with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
On that note, Chapple added his voice to the growing disappointment that, having raised in excess of £10,000 to cover Rendell’s medical bill, the player has not shown the same loyalty as defender Ismail Yakubu who was also a beneficiary of the online funds campaign and has put pen to paper on a fresh one-year contract at Woking.
Chapple added: “I’m old school and Garry [Hill] is old school but we have to live with the times, loyalty goes out the window.
“There are those footballers who will chase the dollar but when they’ve got a young family, like Scott has, there’s not too much you can do about it, and I can understand it.
“We paid his wages last season while he was injured and, by law, there are people who would have just paid him statutory sick pay. We look after our players, as we always have done: Gez [Giuseppe] Sole, Mike Cestor, they’ve all had operations. The PFA have been fantastic to the club and to me personally, and the FA have taken us up to St George’s Park where they’ve all had rehab.
“It was a difficult one for the manager because he knows what he’s got as a budget and he wasn’t prepared at that time to give Scott what he wanted because he felt there was a bit of a risk there [with the knee injury].
“Scott’s got a very good relationship with Garry and myself. The thing that gets to you is that we rallied round so quickly to raise all that money, it was going up by thousands each day, and people were donating that couldn’t really afford to; some put in £1,000.
“Scott did very well at Woking and always represented us with pride. He’s a good professional but unfortunately he’s had a better offer than ours by some way.”
Speaking to the official Aldershot Town website, Rendell said he was parting Woking on good terms. He said: “I had a great couple of years there before last year. I loved it and did really well, on a personal note as well, which is always nice but this is a new challenge for me now. Obviously they’ve had a bit of trouble with the budget, which is well documented, but I’m sure they’ll be fine next year with what they’ve got.”
Having played for over 10 different clubs, journeyman Rendell knows that the view from the terrace may be a little different to his own. Journalist Jacob Greenwood, writer of the Everything Woking fans’ website, said: “ It has been a difficult summer so far with budget cuts, players offered reduced terms and, inevitably, some moving on.
“Woking fans rallied around Rendell last season to support him when he got injured and so to join our local rivals is not what you expect to see. Unfortunately, he may have seen this differently as the club did not insure against his injury.
“There is not a lot of money in Non-League football so if players are being offered more elsewhere fans have to respect that they have their families to look after.
“Rendell was going to be a risk, whoever he signed for. Players often struggle when they come back from knee ligament injuries and Scott will face a challenge to get firing again. If he does, it is a big loss for Woking.
“The real challenge now for Woking is to move on and for Garry [Hill] to unearth some diamonds with a lower budget than last year.”