It goes without saying that the season just concluded early was a hugely disappointing one for everyone connected with Guildford City. During pre-season what looked a more than decent squad had been assembled and hopes for a top six finish were high. The side scooted through the pre-season games in impressive fashion, scoring freely and playing some excellent passing football. Off of the back of this the club sold a record number of season tickets. Everything was set for the season to start in earnest.
City’s league season started on a beautifully sunny day against Sheerwater at Woking’s Kingfield stadium. The hosts were newly promoted and determined to get their season off to a positive start. But City had been flying pre-season and surely they would have enough to see off their local rivals stepping up from a lower division. And that was the mistake of course! Sheerwater were hungry and City were not; or at least not hungry enough. The flowing form of pre-season was nowhere to be seen, with slow build up and possession being squandered. Despite the disappointing performance Guildford should have got out of jail. 1-0 down with three minutes to go, Ryan Dacres-Smith scored from the edge of the box to rescue a point. Better still as the clock ticked round to 90 minutes City won a last gasp penalty. Substitute keeper Pete Ruggles became the hero of the afternoon by brilliantly saving the spot-kick, and City would have to settle for that point. But wait! With the last kick of the match the hosts broke upfield and managed to scramble the ball home for a late, late winner. How fortunes change? City’s large travelling support were gutted having experienced all emotions possible within just five minutes. I can’t help thinking that IF City’s late penalty had gone in, that not only would they have won the game, but their entire season would have taken another course.
But of course one match doesn’t make a season. After the goalscoring excitement of pre-season, the onset of the competitive matches saw Guildford suffer a season long inability to score goals. This seemed inexplicable and certainly being goal shy hadn’t been a problem for many seasons. Conceding too many probably yes, but not a problem scoring them. It wasn’t a lack of talent in the creative positions. Or in fact the lack of a finisher as both Dan Stewart and Benga Ogunseye scored a good ratio of goals to games played. In retrospect the midfield and especially wide players weren’t able to chip in with a high enough quantity of goals. Indeed, from a total of 188 midfield and wide player appearances just nine goals were netted. That’s not to say that players in those positions were ineffective. Far from it but somebody who can contribute 10-15 goals a season from midfield makes a huge difference to a side.
There are 14 leagues, including the Combined Counties, that comprise Step 5 of the FA National Pyramid. These 14 leagues comprised 281 clubs this season just past. Based on average goals scored per game played, only five of those 281 clubs had a poorer goalscoring record than Guildford City. Clearly a remedy to this must for found for next season. Guildford City has a tremendous group of volunteers and supporters, but despite some remarkable exceptions notably at Ascot United, they have had little to cheer this past season.
BUT we now look forward to a new season. Off the field there is a great desire to amalgamate formally with the Guildford City Boys & Girls junior section, with the aim of introducing an U23 side, to create a better pathway for young players coming through the junior and U18 set up. Club’s like Guildford City rely on sponsorship income, and with the Covid crisis and resulting economic uncertainty, there will almost certainly be less money available at Step 5 clubs going forward. Consequently, barring wealthy benefactors, there will likely be less money available for player expenses across the CCL, thus causing many clubs to give serious thought to the make-up of their playing squads.
But that doesn’t mean a lessening of the competition. Guildford City are determined to recruit a competitive squad for next season. Certainly that is what the management, volunteers and fans deserve, and also the talented core of the squad who have given their all through some tough times.
These are hard times, but the club would be delighted to hear from anyone who shares our idyll of bringing a good level of semi-professional football back to the town and who wants to get involved. Similarly we would be pleased to hear from potential sponsors who might want to partner with the club. Anybody interested should initially email Barry Underwood on firstname.lastname@example.org.