Words from The Chair

For each home game’s programme our Chair, James Connor, gives his thoughts on the game ahead and discusses recent achievements at the club

February 27 2024: South Park programme notes

‘Tuesday Night Football’

I’ve often questioned why it hasn’t got the status of “Monday Night Football”.

Granted, according to ISO 8601 (the international standard covering the worldwide exchange and communication of date and time-related data), Monday is the first day of the week, thus Tuesday is the second day of the week.

According to many traditional calendars, however, Sunday is the first day of the week, so Tuesday is actually the third day of the week. Consider that carefully, and what it really tells you is that there is no longer an excuse to hold back at the bar and burger van this evening. Your club needs you!!  

Regardless, non-league supporters at our level, the glue in English football as I think of them, have had no choice but to embrace Tuesday Night Football.

Why? Because more than a fair share of Saturday afternoon fixtures have become casualties to bad weather in recent years (a trend I can only see continuing as global warming continues to take effect), meaning more re-arranged Tuesday night fixtures, in line with our Isthmian League obligations.

On a similar theme, and what already feels like a trip down memory lane, please do have a read of my notes for tonight’s originally scheduled fixture in the programme, as they touch on a couple of themes pertinent to the story at Hanworth Villa this season.

I will say no more, other than to thank both sets of supporters for making the effort to come out “On A Tuesday Night”. Non-league football, championed so well by Maidstone Utd in the FA Cup this year, couldn’t exist without your support.

Up the Villa!

February 17 2024: Uxbridge programme notes

I wonder what most people’s first thought is when they think of Uxbridge?

The Uxbridge Rd? RAF Uxbridge? The Crown & Treaty (public house at the centre of negotiations between King Charles I and the Parliamentary Army during the English Civil War)? Or what about BoJo, although perhaps he is one person his former constituents would rather forget!?

Either way, not to be overlooked, I would reason, is Uxbridge FC, founded in 1871 and one of the oldest clubs in England.

To their credit, there was hardly a word on their homepage that I wouldn’t like to be able to write about Hanworth Villa in the next few years. State of the art 3G pitch, ambitions to move up the football pyramid, an U18 team playing in the Isthmian Youth League, and a community club with facilities to accommodate everything from weddings to, that’s right, wakes (probably the only word I would change). I know it’s a question of when, not if, but let’s not go there!

Why did all of this strike a chord? Because most of these items have been top of our off-field agenda this past week, culminating in a proposal from new friends of ours at Blakedown (landscape, sports and play construction specialists) to give Rectory Meadow a similar facelift in the coming years, with the aim of creating something unusually good for our club, community and local area.

The next step is to get the engagement and buy-in in principle that we need from London Borough of Hounslow council, certainly from a permissions perspective, on which note I can only say that all our initial conversations have been very supportive and, one would hope, the instances of misfortune which continue to plague our corner of the borough make us ripe for some help and investment. More to follow soon!

Meanwhile, as a further sign of Hanworth Villa’s potential, once we have competitive facilities, were the 100+ applications we received from players wanting to represent us in the U18 Isthmian Youth League next year.

Watching many of them being put through their paces this week by Oliver Hinckson (spearheading things for us as founder of the London Elite Youth Academy), followed by a younger Hanworth Villa representative team taking on Arsenal’s U13 under floodlight on Tuesday, provided, I thought, a glimpse of an exciting future and one or two brilliant young players who, like everyone at their age, need guidance and a lucky break to help their football careers flourish. Again, more to follow soon!

Back to the here and now. With both teams hovering near the bottom of the form table, but comfortably midtable in the league given early season form which suggested the play-offs were a realistic target, the need for a confidence boosting win could never be more welcome. Let’s hope it’s us.

Enjoy the game and up the Villa!

February 6 2024: Binfield FC rescheduled programme notes

The table never lies, or does it?

A quick glance at the league table to see tonight’s visitor’s languishing in last place with three wins all season might have you thinking a home win should be a given. But a closer look at the latest form table tells a different story.

Two of Binfield’s three wins this season have come in the last three games, including the scalps of high flying Hartley Wintney and Southall. So with Binfield looking to keep their survival hopes alive, and us needing three stabilising points after a winless start to 2024, I am expecting a game full of intent and, dare I say it, goals. At what end though? That’s impossible to forecast!

Talking of forecasts, financial forecasts, the weekly results have me focusing on the attendance numbers around our league. Why? Because I am always left scratching my head to understand how clubs in our league finance their player wage bills, whilst remaining financially viable going concerns. The conclusion I draw, endorsed by comments made by visiting directors in our boardroom, is that the majority of clubs are simply not running financially sustainable operations.

By contrast, the ‘sugar daddy’ model appears to prevail, which encourages unhelpful short term behaviour for clubs, like ours, wanting the foundations for longer term success to be built on concrete and not sand. Let’s take the movement of players as an example. With the majority of players subject to approaches from rival clubs on a “seven day” notice rule,  we have now reached that stage of the season where, it would appear, the transfer of players on the non-league scene goes up a gear.    

Key players receive (legitimate) approaches from clubs at either end of the table offering, in some cases, unsustainable sums of money to aid their own promotion and/or relegation campaigns. Taking a big step back, and mindful of the grand plans we have for Hanworth Villa in the coming years, this has left me questioning how should we behave as a club in our own dealings with players, and how should we expect them to behave in return?

Well, with integrity, I would say, in the hope that we build a culture which actually means something more important than money for our players and, as is already the case for our loyal volunteers and supporters, to be part of.

Without naming names, Simon has already told me of an instance this week when a very attractive offer from a higher-level club was put to one of our key players. In turning it down, I heard that a key word came up as a reason why. Loyalty. It was enough to give me one of those boosts that we all need form time to time that we are moving exactly in the right direction.

Whilst our league status underscores our ambitions as a club in the coming years, the development of our culture will end up proving the underlying success story of this season for Hanworth Villa, as we identify the players in particular to come on the journey with us. I, for one, have absolute confidence in our management team to do just that.

So can the table lie? Perhaps sometimes, especially if the spotlight is shone on what clubs at either end of the table are currently spending, but that will only ever lead to a short term win. As for our guests this evening from Binfield, who I would like to extend a very warm welcome to, if Messi appears in their starting line-up, as is quite possible given his unexpected absence from Inter Miami’s friendly against a Hong Kong XI this week, rest assured that questions in the boardroom will be asked.

Enjoy the game and up the Villa!

January 6 2024: Binfield FC programme notes

Dry January?

Pull the other one. It’s been anything but dry at Hanworth Villa. Not ignoring a pre-match beer delivery issue which thankfully saw the pints flowing for the visit of Met Police at the weekend, players and supporters were greeted to a wet afternoon and torrential rain to see in the New Year.

This has wider implications given our guests from Binfield today, nicknamed The Moles. Despite sitting bottom of the table with four points from four draws, moles, as any lawn-loving person knows, are at their most active after periods of heavy rain when soil texture is ideal for digging. Let’s therefore hope the Black Layer soil issue affecting the A316 end of our pitch helps keep the moles at bay today!

League table-wise, Binfield’s plight this season tells a story which is, sadly, not uncommon on the non-league scene. Having narrowly missed out on a playoff berth last season with a very good, young, footballing side, a player exodus has since left them starting afresh, with all the challenges that brings in an increasingly competitive division.

Reflecting on this, I maintain that the success of a football club should not solely be defined by the on-field success of its 1st team. With such a strong youth set up at Binfield, the likes of which we aspire to here, I can only hope the club re-finds its mojo and goes on to experience the sort of player loyalty needed to underpin longer term success, whatever the level.  

Turning to Hanworth Villa, ignoring our 1-0 defeat to Met Police (a bogey team of ours this year), which saw us fall from top spot in the league’s form table, today’s encounter represents our second fixture in a very busy schedule of seven in January, which could well define our season given that most of those fixtures are against fellow playoff rivals.

Whatever the results to follow though, the underlying on-field success story for me this year has been the emergence of encouraging young talent, particularly across our back line, which (assuming we keep them!) I believe will see us being even more competitive next season. So, let’s keep getting behind them, as there is plenty to play for in the coming weeks, meanwhile there is nothing like learning on the job as they say!

Heroes and heroines

Off-field, the season continues to be a story of heroes and heroines. Two really do need a mention this week.

First is Bill Glassup. Starting as kitman, Bill has played many roles for us this season. From taking our manager Simon’s car to the local garage when away at Binfield this year for some much-needed air in those tyres (shame on you Simon!), to countless odd-jobs throughout the season around the ground, Bill’s appearance as Santa at the kids’ pre-Christmas party followed by a role as player’s chef for the Met Police game really has cemented his status as a Hanworth Villa stalwart. Thank you, Bill.

Second is Tracey Hathaway, our invaluable director and clubhouse manager. You should know that nothing happens without Tracey and the welcoming matchday experience we have all become accustomed to is all down to Tracey and the terrific group of people she has assembled. So, returning from a festive break as she did with symptoms of pneumonia, Tracey’s presence and infectious personality was sorely missed at the weekend. At the time of writing, I am not sure if Tracey will be with us today, either way, we wish you a full and speedy recovery Tracey and thank you for making your amazing contribution to our cause.

And that cause, today, is three points. It’s a big month ahead and rumour has it that our club captain, George Wells, is coming back!

Thank you for all your support and up the Villa!

January 1 2024: Metropolitan Police FC programme notes

Happy New Year and Happy Birthday, Dad

It would be remiss of me not to pay acknowledgement to our founder, Jim Connor’s 79th birthday today.

You should know that Hanworth Villa Football Club came from the humblest of beginnings on Hanworth Air Park in 1976 but, thanks to dad, founded with an unrivalled culture, strong enough for the likes of Gary Brunning, Dave Brown, Steve Proctor, and many others to subsequently dedicate their best years to helping the club be where it is today.

It is also why league fixtures against the likes of Leatherhead, Southall and today’s visitors, ‘The Met Police’, are never lost on the founding Villa family, as these were clubs best thought of in the category of “different gravy” (and lest we forget a good Christmas dinner is not the same without it!) when it all began. To bring this to life, let’s take this season’s away game at Met Police and their hospitality as an example.

Stumped as we were by the absence of a suit and tie between us, a pre-requisite for entrance to their Boardroom, we were subject to the warmest of receptions in the side room next door, including half-time tea served in cups and saucers with home-made cake, and the offer of pie and beans afterwards. The experience got me reflecting on career advice I once received, in that if you can’t make The Board, try and make The Sideboard, it’s often more fun!

That said, Boardroom curiosity got the better of me on this occasion and a quick peak through the main door gave me a glimpse of the Met Police’s heritage, featuring a painting of our late Queen Elizabeth II front and centre above the Boardroom Table and one of those 4.5 litre Bell’s Whiskey bottles at The Director’s Bar, the likes of which you could present to your bank as a kid full of saved coins, though the 50p’s never did fit!

On the field against Met Police that day, seeking our first win of the season and coming off the back of a disappointing 1-3 home loss to Raynes Park Vale two days earlier, it is fair to say that any longstanding Villa supporter would have left after the 1-1 draw feeling, like dad and myself, a tad disillusioned, not by the result itself but the manner of the performance.

A subsequent clubhouse beer with dad, Gary and Dave gave me the opportunity to ask a key question I had. Namely, what core attributes would you expect from a Hanworth Villa team given the founding values of the club? Without hesitation, they each consistently replied with words to the effect of heart and attitude. It’s also why Guy Ansah-Palmer and Ben Geraghty are always cited by us as players who embody what Hanworth Villa stands for.

Positive results will come and go at Hanworth Villa but, out of respect to the founding 76ers, heart and attitude must always be a given, and I am proud to say that’s exactly what our squad have since gone on to display in recent months. Our team have finally shaken off the hangover from last season’s playoff final defeat, we sit top of the league’s form table for good reason, and the manner of our late Boxing Day win 3-5 away at Ashford Town had all the hallmarks of a Villa performance from 1976, oozing with strong team spirit.

Closing in on the playoff zone as we are, whatever happens between now and the end of the season, I think it is fair to say we are we are all starting to see encouraging signs in the tea leaves, and the coming of age of our young back four (or will it be back five!?), has been a real highlight in the continued absence of our captain, George Wells.

On the negatives, we have run out of bobble hats (more on order). One for The Board, or perhaps The Sideboard!?

Thanks for all your support and up the Villa!