Friday, September 12, 2008

Lewes Football Club

A black cloud hangs over Lewes FC.

Black cloud over Lewes FC, East Sussex, UK
After my local club's promotion to the Blue Square Premier League, its board responded in an extraordinary manner.

It sacked the successful manager Steve King, lost almost all its players, and hired a new manager with virtually no track record at football management!

Football is by no means my forte. However, I think I can spot an accident waiting to happen.

The final fixture of the last season - when Lewes topped its league and were about to be promoted in supposed triumph - was more like a wake than a party.

In the stands, we supporters sang: "Sack the board! Sack the board! SACK THE BOARD!"

The dumped manager - King of the Pan - was in tears.

The talk among supporters was of boycotting the following season's fixtures.

A week or two later, at a send-off for Steve King organised not by the club but by its supporters and held in the function room of a Lewes pub nowhere near the Dripping Pan ground - Steve King showed how hurt he had been to be summarily dismissed by Lewes FC.

Former Lewes FC manager Steve King at his leaving do

Steve told me he simply could not believe the way he had been treated and was still in shock, but, even then, he said he would return as Lewes FC manager if asked.

In a ponderous interview in the Sussex Express, the board members articulated their thinking.

To cut a very long one short, their argument appeared to be that they had been bankrolling the club for yonks and could not afford to continue to do so.

You got the distinct impression that promotion to a higher league had been the last thing they had wanted for Lewes FC, with spurious educational goals ranking higher.

It turned out that the danger area for Steve King at Lewes had not been the Relegation Zone but the Promotion Zone.

Perversely, it seemed that if Steve King had not been such an honourable, decent and hard-working man, he could have kept his job by fielding weakened sides for away matches to notch up sufficient losses to prevent Lewes FC from going up.

Predicatably perhaps, many Lewes supporters decided at the start of the new season to stand by their club despite grave misgivings over the behaviour of its board and the choice of new manager.

Indeed, it was only fair to give the man in question, Kevin Keehan, a chance to show what he could deliver.

Nonetheless, it should be said that Mr Keehan could do with a spot of PR advice.

His regular utterances to the Sussex Express suggested from before a ball had kicked that Lewes FC would be damned lucky to stay up this season - hardly inspiring a feeling of confidence in its players or fans.

Mind you, Keehan is a man true to his word.

Under his stewardship thusfar, Lewes has indeed played like a team destined to go down.

Moreover, the joy of watching Lewes play has vanished.

We used to quaff pint after pint of beer in the stand and sing ourselves hoarse. The home fans and visiting fans would happily mix and trouble was rare.

Watching Lewes play was great fun - regardless of the result.

This season that has changed. The fans are segregated and the away fans are not allowed to use the Lewes fans' facilities.

You are searched for knives, knuckledusters, semi-automatic firearms and SAMs (surface to air missiles) before entering the Dripping Pan, and, horror of horrors, the bar is closed and booze is banned from the ground.

To rub salt into the sober wound, the quality of the football is far worse than it has ever been.

Injury I endured the match against Crawley, albe torturous to watch.

Even to the untrained eye, it was crystal clear that Lewes played - and lost - dreadfully agin a side which was no great shakes.

At time of writing, according to my man on the inside (the BBC Sports website), Lewes FC has played nine matches and accumulated a measly three points (a mean average of just one third of a point per match!), after losing six times, drawing thrice and not winning at all!

They are well into the Relegation Zone (third from bottom in the table), and have a extraordinary goal difference of minus 18!!

It is a good thing we could find some other boys to take on Croatia!

My friends on the local rag say the last Lewes FC match was televised - by the hated Setanta - and Kevin Keehan endured the shame of being interviewed on live TV while fans behind him chanted: 'Keehan out!' and 'Sack the board!'

Even the usually kindly and magnanimous Sussex Express describe it as 'a night of national humiliation for the Rooks'.

Strangely, the Lewes FC website appears to have been suspended. . .

I recall watching just a few years back a Lewes match where the then manager (not Steve King or Kevin Keehan) was banned from the touchline, the then physio was barred from the ground, and Lewes's goalie was sent off.

Lewes still scored eight times and won by a margin of six goals.

I must have downed a gallon of ale from the club bar during their glorious afternoon - the sort of historic, crazy football you had to see to Adam 'n' Eve.

Sadly I cannot see it being repeated unless Lewes can trade Kevin Keehan for Kevin Keegan.

Surely, Newcastle could find a role for Keehan - and Tyneside's now-heel-kicking King Kev could come down south to create a Lewes Wonderland.

Far more likely, though, Lewes FC will go down at the end of the season - and, to universal relief, dump its manager and re-open the Dripping Pan bar in joyous celebration!

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