Written by Andrew Madaras.
At this stage last season Dunstable Town lay uneasily in 23rd position in the Premier Division of the Evo-Stik Southern League with 12 points accumulated from 26 league games, had scored 15 times and had conceded 80 goals. We were due to be on the wrong end of a 2 -0 reverse at home to Biggleswade on New Years Day in front of 141 spectators. This season having played seven games less than this stage last season we’ve secured 7 more points, scored 19 more goals and conceded 39 fewer goals. Our average home attendance this season has stayed remarkably consistent with the average in 18 of our home league games last season, if you ignore the bumper crowds that came to the Hereford, Gosport, Slough, Kettering & Hitchin games ( nearly 1,700 people watched those 5 games) it demonstrates the incredible loyalty of you, our core fans. With an average of 1 point per game this season compared to less than half a point per game at the same stage last season, we may not be where we want to be, or where we expected to be, but it is none the less surely a sign that there has been progress made this season on the field where for little more than petrol money as reward for the players, Tony & Gareth pit their wits against teams with older and more experienced players and whose playing budgets we can only dream of. There is a simple but brutal truth here that cannot be whitewashed, ignored or brushed aside. Football at the 8th level of the pyramid is as much to do with playing budgets as it is at the very highest domestic and international levels, and the brutal truth is Dunstable Town have probably one of the lowest budgets at this level. That we operate at all at this level is something of a minor miracle given the operating costs involved in running both a First Team and a Development Team, given the fact that the Club receives no income from match day sales of hot and cold food and drinks and is therefore totally reliant on gate receipts, sponsorship and fund- raising activities. In addition the Club pays a four figure sum every month for pitch hire, twice weekly training sessions and post- match hot food for the players and officials. Our income through the turnstiles on Saturday in our match against North Leigh was below £400, and half of that was needed to pay the match officials’ fees and traveling expenses. If you have a solution to how we are expected to keep the Club afloat beyond doing what we are already doing please let me know, as I cannot stress enough the importance of all of US buying 100 Club tickets, taking out a 12th Man subscription and buying 50 / 50 tickets on match days. The days when the Development Team managers would put their hands into their pockets to pay the match officials expenses after Suburban League fixtures are over and will not return while either myself or the present committee remain in post. We value the efforts and recognise the importance of Simon & Colin’s squad as do Tony & Gareth who in the 18 months they’ve held the reins at Creasey Park have already called up 9 of the Development squad for First Team action. This is a pathway club in action. Ben Lincoln & Tyler Dunnell have both been called into the Development Team squad from the Under 18’s and with U 16’s & U 9’s coach Wayne Upton cementing a role to link the junior and senior sides we have the Club progressing forwards without a reverse gear on board. There is no First Team centric position to be held anymore, we are one club where all the pieces matter, where we all have common cause and one ambition namely to see the Club survive and prosper for many seasons to come and for the youngsters in our junior sides to progress each year into the next age groups and aspire to be the next James Lauder, Rio Dasilva, Erin Amu, Nathan Mullings, Bay Fasida, Sam Afolabi, Kieran Ogden etc etc and have the junior regimentals sing their name loudly, as each of the above has come through the ranks to play at senior First team level. Still unconvinced ? If you have a spare £40K under your mattress you could of course set yourself up as the “money man” behind a team at this level operating a relatively modest playing budget. Of course seek the golden prize back to the promised land of Step 3 and your £40K playing budget is going to look small change as the higher you go up the pyramid, the more experienced players you will need….and the more experienced players tend to expect higher wages. It’s supply and demand. Simple as. Hasn’t this been a part of the Dunstable Town story over many years along with a hundred other clubs in the non- league world ? It’s almost a part of the non-league DNA, but history tells us it’s not a model that works or sustainable in the long term. I have a few “guilty secrets” in terms of teams I look out for their results. It’s what comes of having family ties to Workington & teen years spent in South Manchester, watching Stockport County play home fixtures at Edgely Park on Friday nights. One of my “other teams” is North Ferriby Utd from the outskirts of Hull. Three years ago they won the FA Trophy at Wembley beating much fancied Wrexham, a division higher than them, and gained promotion to the Conference Premier the next season. Since then the Club has changed hands and the reality of trying to finance a successful team has proved almost impossible and the Club look almost destined to face a third consecutive relegation, with only two wins all season and already 12 points adrift from relegation safety, to Step 4 of the pyramid, exactly where Dunstable Town are today. This cautionary tale is that there are no divine rights to be successful or to be always winning matches. To do so would be lovely and would reduce the sale of Anadin tablets in Sundon Park, but the harsh reality is that for as long as our attendance numbers remain low, our sponsorship deals remain small in number and our fund raising activities unable to progress beyond an artificial ceiling due to supporters not engaging in the numbers we had hoped for, everybody’s hands remain tied, and from a personal perspective the really disappointing part of all this is that there is scope and there is room for things to be different, for the playing budget to be increased, but this means that the people who currently don’t feel invested in the sustainability project need to look again at the economics of running a football Club and discuss their concerns, worries or ideas with myself, Neil, Dudley or any member of the Committee at any time to try and explain matters further. The doors are always open.