The veteran striker looks back over the last 12 months of non-league football in Gloucestershire.
2011 has produced large helpings of delight, hope and despair, both personally and for everybody connected with Cirencester Town FC. The first part of the year saw us consolidating our position in our first season back in the southern Premier League, comfortably finishing in a mid-table position.
Along the way there were some exceptional performances notably a 2-1 victory at Cambridge, where our young squad came of age and finally captured a positive result and performance against one of the bigger and better teams in the division.
Personally I finished with 21 goals and a couple of player of the year awards. Not bad for a “veteran” striker that is seemingly written off at every opportunity!
Pre-season brought hope and expectation that we could build on what we achieved the previous season and shake off our “nearly-men” tag once and for all. However we quickly found out that replacing Matthew Bullman (transferred to Forest Green Rovers) and captain Lyndon Tomkins (retired) was proving much more difficult than expected.
The last few months have been particularly testing. We turned in some particularly poor performances between August and October and currently find ourselves bottom of the Southern League.
In my opinion the lowest point came in a 3-2 defeat at Swindon Supermarine in the FA Cup. The score line suggests that this was a edgy and thrilling local derby but it was anything but. The score line flattered us massively as we put in a dire performance that was devoid of any passion or quality and we limped out of the competition. We have not been helped by a crippling injury list.
We have lost 3 key players in Matty Sysum , Rich Mansell and myself to cruciate ligament injuries. Sys and Manse are due to undergo surgery in January and will not play again this season. I am hoping at making a playing comeback in January and desperately want to be back in the thick of the action and help the lads start to climb the table now.
In 16 seasons of playing I have yet to experience relegation and I don’t intend to start in the twilight of my career. Our performances have been much improved in recent weeks and we are starting to grind out a few results. We have a battle on
our hands to retain our status in this division but I am confident that with the right attitude we can achieve this.
Looking at some of my former clubs and teammates and 2011 has seen a number of achievements.
Gloucester City continue their nomadic existence and look established and well set in the Conference North. It was heartbreaking for them and their supporters to come within a minute of reaching the 1st round proper of the FA Cup but yet again the competition proved to be extremely cruel as Chelmsford grabbed a late equaliser before winning the replay.
The Cup run did allow my good mate Tom Webb to collect an unlikely Player of the Round award from the FA. I can’t wait to hear the tales from his trip to Wembley for the Cup Final next May. I wonder which Premier League stars he will get to meet and shower as he talks to them!
It’s been a good year for Webby as he also became Gloucester City’s all time record appearance holder, he’s even managed to score a couple of goals on the pitch! He’s a top man and should be rightfully proud of his achievements.
Cinderford Town and Bishops Cleeve have appointed new managers who both happen to be former team mates of mine in Steve Peters and Alex Sykes. Both have made promising starts to their managerial careers and I wish them all the best. However nothing reminds you more that time is running out on your playing career when former colleagues start taking managerial roles!
Looking down the pyramid and my first club Longlevens have been led by James French into the County League for the first time in their existence. They also have a cracking new ground at Saw Mills and they are more than holding their own in the new division.
Next, I have seen a fair bit of Minsterworth this year. Led by my best mate, Will Steadman they cruised to the North Glos Premier title and now find themselves competing in the Northern Senior League. They have an extremely experienced squad containing Lyndon Tomkins, Neil Griffiths, Steve Badham and my brother, Ryan, all who have various levels of Southern League experience. They currently look well positioned in the league and could be set for a promotion push in the New Year.
Who knows what lies around the corner in 2012. Personally I would be more than happy if I could get my fitness back, reach 250 career goals (6 to go) and play another season in the Southern League with Ciren.