Winter winds and rain are a yearly scourge on football in the South West and missed fixtures can lead to a series of concerns, writes Liam Lawer.
For Poole Town in particular, playing at sea level has meant the Dolphins have been swimming against the tide this season – as manager Tom Killick explained exclusively to The Independent.
“Our pitch is much more susceptible to holding water than others, our situation is much worse,” he said. “We are in a difficult position but there is the potential for it to get even worse because not only may we not be able to catch up on games, we may fall even further behind.”
Poole have as many as six games in hand on some of their league rivals and momentum appears to have stalled alongside the growing absence of football.
“It is very worrying and it has already impacted us because when we were on top of our fixtures I think we were in the top two, we also had quite a reasonable run in the FA Cup,” lamented Killick. “We have gone from top or second in the league, now we’re ninth.
“We haven’t had a great run in the games we have played (recently),” he continued, “but that is to a large extent down to not playing enough games.”
The damaging of play-off or promotion hopes is far from the only consequence of lost games however, as Killick, pictured, was keen to point out.
“We have things like the supporters being deprived of football but perhaps more significantly, going forward they are suddenly faced with a lot of games in a small space of time, so there are financial implications for them.
“Then we have financial implications for the club because of cash flow. The lack of games, particularly home games, has caused the club huge financial strain.
“In terms of the players, we have got the potential of having to cram in an awful lot of games when other teams won’t be having to. We’ll often be playing a team on a Saturday when we have played midweek and they haven’t.”
Despite working hard on drainage every week, efforts to get the grandiosely titled Black Gold Stadium ready for each match have been relatively fruitless. The search for a new home is ongoing.
“You get to the point where the location of the ground is probably not fit for purpose for football at this level,” bemoaned the manager. “If you do spend some money on your problem to try and remedy or improve anything, if there are things you can do, they are expensive. You’re paying a lot of money for what could be a very short-term fix.”
Financial burden aside, Killick is also troubled by the rippling effect of their own struggles on other clubs in the league, though they have been accommodating so far.
“The worry from my point of view is that I imagine the patience and goodwill from other clubs perhaps does start to wear a bit thin. It’s not ideal for other teams to come here midweek, if they were due to travel on a Saturday and then the game gets called off you have then got to do that trip on a Tuesday.
“Long trips on a Saturday are manageable, but on a Tuesday with non-league players and all the commitments that go with it, that becomes more difficult. I do have sympathy for teams that find themselves in that predicament.”
It must have been hard, but the former striker, who scored a brace for Wimborne Town in the 1992 FA Vase final, still managed to be optimistic. Citing the openness and evenness of the league, he believes a strong run of results can shoot a team up the table.
“From our point of view, even if you do find yourself behind you can look at whatever teams are above you and always feel there is the potential they might drop points,” he said. “We just have to hope that we can really get ourselves into good form and then we’ll almost be pleased to be having a big run of games.
“A lot of teams will start thinking it is a bit of a slog at this time of the year. We are not in that mindset. I think the players, physically, are in good shape, and mentally more than anything. We are really keen to play games.”
Picture: Andy Orman