Following our relegation from the National League after last week’s 1-1 draw at home to Hartlepool United, Shahid Azeem, Gary Waddock and Scott Rendell reflected on the day and the season’s sad events. Below are their programme notes from yesterday’s game against Havant & Waterlooville:
With my Chairman hat on, I hold my hands up and sincerely apologise to you the supporters, volunteers, and sponsors on behalf of the Club. To find ourselves in the position that we are in is totally unacceptable and collectively we take full responsibility. Whilst I do not feel it is appropriate to discuss the post-mortem in public, we have failed on many fronts and we will and are currently addressing these to ensure we become stronger moving forwards. However, relegation back to regional football is not acceptable.
Whilst I could focus on many positives I just don’t feel it is right or appropriate to talk about these, but focus on the many decisions that didn’t work for us. I can assure you that the Board is working hard to ensure that we don’t end up like this again. It means a busy period, with tough decisions to be made but we ensure that we put everything we have to correcting the mistakes that have been made.
However, I do want to thank you. I want to thank our supporters, our sponsors, our partners Aspire, Army FA, the Garrison Commander, Sodexo, Rushmoor Borough Council, the Shots Foundation, many local businesses and our suppliers who provide us with very favourable terms in terms of cash flow.
A huge thank you too goes to our invaluable supporters who, week-in, week-out, are here to support the Club on many fronts. To put you in the picture, if the visit of Hartlepool United and our subsequent relegation couldn’t have been bleak enough, we had a major break-in at the EBB Stadium on the Saturday morning where a number of items were stolen in addition to the vandals damaging the South Stand, High Street Portakabin and EBB Lounge, including the Board Room. Bob Green and the Police were at the club at 4:15AM, later joined by myself at 5:15AM but the forensic team did not arrive until 9:15AM, bearing in mind the EBB and ELM Patrons Lounge were sold-out for the impending match in the afternoon. The fact the volunteers cleared up broken windows, shutters, TVs, fridges, broken bottles and cleared every area and we were fully functioning within 90 minutes is a testament to their superb commitment and dedication to our Club. Thank you, we can never repay you enough.
In a way it sort of summed up our season but I end my notes confirming my commitment as Chairman to address this sorry period for our Club, with the firm aim to ensure that we get it right for next season and aim for that feel-good factor that we had built up so well over the previous two seasons to return.
Finally, have a good break. I wish I could say something positive, but let’s get it right next season.
Our match against Hartlepool here at the EBB Stadium nine days ago saw us relegated after six years in the National League. We are all devastated and saddened by this outcome for everybody at the club and the supporters and the staff – but now everybody will need to have a long look at themselves because we all take the blame for it. There are a number of different factors for why relegation has occurred, things that have happened throughout the course of the season, and we all need to share the blame. It was a very sad day.
I would like to apologise to the supporters – we certainly didn’t set out to finish in this position and I want to say sorry for the outcome of this season. We had two years where we overachieved but this year we have underachieved and we all have to take our share of the burden of blame. It shouldn’t be pointed in one direction, it’s got to be looked at as a collective and everybody has to take a part of the blame. Lessons need to be learned, we need to learn from it and take the Club forward. Some big decisions need to be made at the moment and they need to happen very soon so that everybody can plan for the future. At the moment though I am absolutely devastated, as I’m sure you all are too.
Indeed, I’d like to thank the supporters because once again they have been brilliant in what has been an awful season. There’s been some upset and some disgruntled supporters and I understand that but now it’s all about the Club sticking together and making sure we can rebuild it and take it forward, whoever is in charge.
It’s been a tough season for everyone and the result against Hartlepool was irrelevant in the end – we didn’t get what we needed because we drew on that day, it was all the things leading up to it. And it was unfortunate because I did genuinely believe, early March time, that we had plenty about us to get out of it. But performances weren’t good enough and we probably got what we deserved throughout the season. And it’s hard to take because nobody wants to get relegated and also, because of the two years we had previously, it’s so disappointing to end the year like we have. We’ve let a lot of people down, we’ve let ourselves down and now the focus needs to be put on a massive push to get straight back up next year.
Everyone needs to hold their hands up because from the top to the bottom there’s a lot of things that have gone on this year that has resulted in relegation. Obviously the players are the ones who need to take a fair part of the blame because we are the ones who go out and try to do the business and we haven’t done it this year. And as a captain it hurts that little bit more, because I’ve led the team out of the league the wrong way, and that hurts. I take full responsibility, because for the last three months or so I’ve been leading this team and I obviously haven’t done a good enough job when we look at the results. I try and lead the right way, with my performances and lead off the field too and maybe everyone should have taken responsibility throughout the year – but now it’s too late, and we haven’t done that through the season. And all I can say is that every single one of us is downbeat and upset. Whoever is here next year, whoever stays, whoever comes in needs to have a right good go at things because the stats say that it’s the best chance to go back up straightaway in that first season and that’s what it all needs to be geared towards now.
With these being my last notes for this season I want to say a big thank you to all of you because you’ve been brilliant all year and we’ve given you nothing. It’s a big sorry from me but a big thank you too for sticking with us for as long as you have – I hope we can bounce back next year.