Another FA Cup preview: Second Qualifying Round

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So another weekend, another FA Cup day is upon us and we have eight fan owned clubs marching on with Darlington and AFC Rushden and Diamonds giving their respective higher league opposition (Blyth and fan owned Hendon) a run for their money, with Prescot Cables being swept aside by FC. United.

Having had a look at the draw we can see who is in best position to pick up another £4,500 in prize money and move within two games of making the 1st Round Proper and the chance to get Sheffield United or Portsmouth out of the hat. Numbers again refer to their Step in the non-league pyramid. Off we go…

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Curzon Ashton (3) vs Scarborough Athletic (4)

One league separates these sides with Curzon Ashton top of the Evo-Stik Prem having only lost one game in the league this season and top of the table. Still, Scarborough have made a great start to life in Div One North, sitting on fifteen points and right in the hunt for the playoffs at this early stage of the season.  If Scarborough can grab a draw there is every chance of them putting one either Curzon Ashton in the replay but I think Curzon will have too much for Scarborough today.

Prediction: Home win.

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FC United (3) vs Lancaster City (4)

Trevor Sinclair of ex England fame is part of the coaching set up at Lancaster and is hoping he might even make it onto the field against FC United who saw off Prescot in the last round. United have been struggling for consistency this season and lie five points behind Curzon with Buxton also above them, having an effective six point lead over FC United. However considering the teams they could have got out of the hat this is a great draw for FC United, being at ‘home’ against lower league opposition and FC United will be disappointed with anything less than a win today.

Prediction: Home win, Stockport away next round.

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Hendon (3) vs Leiston (3)

Both these clubs are in the Ryman Prem with very little to separate these sides in the league. So a tough draw for Hendon who had to work very hard to beat a determined and fellow fan owned football club AFC Rushden and Diamonds in the last round. With Harrow Borough (their landlords) playing away Hendon get a Saturday kick off which should boost the crowd and with Hendon soon to be moving to a 3G pitch in Hendon they could do with every penny to keep them going till this transition. It will be close and could easily go either way but I think Hendon will edge it.

Prediction: Home win

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Eastbourne Borough (2) v Enfield Town (3)

A horrible draw this for Enfield, bar the fact if it’s a nice day they can go to the beach. Eastbourne sit in the upper half of the Conference South with Enfield occupying their traditional position of just above the relegation zone. If Enfield can keep it tight early on they might be able to squeak out a draw but it looks like a good game to take a lot of fans down to the seaside, have a bit to drink and walk away saying “we gave them a good go”.

Prediction: Enfield to lose, Enfield Ultras to be in good voice throughout.

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 Winchester City (5) v Newport Isle of Wight (5)

Both these clubs will have been very pleased with this draw as both will feel they have a great chance of marching on in the FA Cup and picking up that cash. These Wessex Prem sides actually played last week with Winchester winning 3-1 but both sides will have sussed each other out and it should be close.

Prediction: Draw.

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Abingdon United (5) v Dorchester Town (3)

I predicted Dorch to lose last time out and very ashamed of myself I am too. They got arguably the best draw imaginable with Abingdon yet to win in the Hellenic Premier and lie in the relegation zones whereas Dorch lie three points above the relegation zones (although they may lose three points when Hereford go bust) in the Southern Prem.

This is a great chance  to go through and this time, instead of blowing all the money from previous FA Cup runs they may this time use it for more boring and sensible purposes, like paying off debts and investing in infrastructure.

Prediction: Dorch to lose, the ‘Same Old Few’ to drink themselves to oblivion win.

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Workington (3) v Bamber Bridge (4)

It took them a replay to come through and their reward is a tough but not unwinnable game away to Woekington. Bamber have made an excellent start to this season lying second place on 17points in a league Salford City are going to run away with. Meanwhile, Workington have the same points as FC United, losing three games this season.

If there is to be a shock in our favour this looks the most likely with Bamber taking great form into this match but a draw may be more realistic. I’m going to stick my neck out here though…

Prediction: Away win for Bamber.

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Witham Town (3) v Lewes (3)

An all Ryman league Prem clash this and this is one round further than I expected Lewes to make. Lewes are really struggling in the league and a moral sapping draw against bottom side VCD Athletic on Tuesday night probably hasn’t helped. Still, Witham aren’t exactly sitting the world alight so I can predict with some confidence Lewes pulling off the same trick as last round, an away draw and a home win in the replay.

Prediction: Draw.

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So that’s your lot and I expect to see half of these teams to find their way into the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. Although the first round proper is seen as the holy grail of with which non-league teams aspire to there are arguably as many teams in the Conference that you would rather pull out of the hat than Football League opposition. Put it this way: Would you rather draw Bristol Rovers away/ Wrexham at home or Accrington Stanley?

The fact  many sizeable clubs lie in wait in the 4th Qualifying round has put great cup ties one game closer for non-league sides. Here’s hoping that some of these sides can get the two wins required to give themselves a chance of a memorable (and financially helpful) FA Cup run.

@eddyman00

The totally pointless fan owned FA Cup Preview

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FA Cup Weekend – 1st Qualifying Round

So it’s the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup over this weekend and teams kicking off are only four rounds away from the 1st Round proper but also only three rounds away from having a chance of getting Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup.

Of course, the FA Cup has been under way for a while now and plenty of fan owned teams such as Runcorn Linnets, 1874 Northwich and disappointingly Merthyr Town F.C. have already fallen by the way side.

The chance to gain some significant prize money is at stake but also in contrast to bigger teams, the FA Cup at this level is treated with high respect by the clubs and spectators alike, with most clubs pulling their highest gate of the season in the FA Cup. Anyway, we only give a toss about fan owned clubs on this site or militants trying to take over their clubs and although FC United have been getting some very nice coverage on the BBC, there are many other teams worthy of the attention.

So we are going to have a quick wiz through all fan owned teams in action this weekend in no particular order. Numbers refer to clubs step in non – league pyramid.

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Darlington FC (4) vs Blyth Spartans (3)

Darlington are in their first season back in the FA Cup after being barred for a couple of seasons because of being a “new” club and came through the Extra Prelim tie against West Auckland 3-1 in front of well over 900 people. For a game on a Wednesday night for a club ground-sharing miles from home this is impressive. Darlo have also been going well in the Evo- Stik Div One North which is no easy task considering the teams in the league this season.

Their reward is a ‘home’ game against fellow northerners Blyth Spartans, who have been struggling in the league above with only two wins from eight games. There could have been easier ties for Darlo to get but expect a decent crowd for the game on Sunday and a confident Darlo will have every chance.

Prediction: Cup shock, Darlo win.

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Ashington (5) vs Scarborough Athletic (4)

Scarborough Athletic are another club who are waiting to go home and will have to wait a little longer than Darlo to get back. In the meantime, they have made an impressive start to life in the same league as Darlo, just four points behind moneybags Salford. They face a side the step below and Scarborough should have the quality to grab a win and boost their coffers by £3,000.

Prediction: Scarborough win.

 

FC United Of Manchester (3) vs Prescot Cables (4)

Two fan owned clubs take part in this one after Prescot vanquished 1874 Northwich in the previous round in a reply despite Northwich having thrown away the first game in the final moments. FC United have new coverage on the BBC (here) but Prescot are a great little club whose fans have worked hard to keep it going without media attention or support.

On the pitch, FC United remain undefeated in the league but have drawn six out of their eight games and Prescot are in their familiar position a league below of being just above the drop zone. Since their glory win against Rochdale in the 1st Round of FA Cup in 2010, FC United have not made the 1st round and were dumped out of the Cup at this stage last year. Despite this, expect them to be too strong for Prescot when they play over the weekend.

Prediction: FC United win.

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Bamber Bridge (4) vs Squires Gate (5)

Bamber Bridge were play off finalists last season and if you have been following this website you will know why that’s likely to be a much harder ask this time around. So some good cup runs represent the best bet to have some glory this season. They face off against Squires Gate from the North West Counties Prem where they are not expected to challenge the likes of fan owned Runcorn Linnets. For Bamber there should be no surprises here.

Prediction: Home win

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Enfield Town (3) vs Felixstowe & Walton United (5)

Enfield could not have had a worse start to their season with Manager George Borg after comments referring to Wingate & Finchley (a football team of Jewish heritage and history) fans as being like Hitler. It is a great shame such a good club is going to get press because of the comments of one person but Borg was fired immediately after the game and the club has moved on.

After a bad start the club has recovered to be on 10 points from 10 games and their season could go either way in a very tough Ryman Prem. This FA Cup game represents a great chance to get some money in the bank and some positivity around the club.

Prediction: Enfield Town to win.

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Hendon (3) vs AFC Rushden & Diamonds (5)

Two fan owned clubs again and it shows how fan ownership is seeping its way into all levels of the game that as the years go on these all fan owned time will become a more regular occurrence. Both of these clubs are in exile but Hendon may be on the way back sooner than even Simon Lawrence (Hendon Chairman) thought.

Last season I know Hendon had to bank on a cup run and the FA Trophy game I saw them (just) win was the most tense game I went to all last season and perhaps the most important. I hope they haven’t had to do the same this season. The Diamonds had a memorable run last season beating Cambridge City of the Southern Prem before getting knocked out by Dover in the 3rd Qualifying Round, so they will have belief.

If I was down London I would be at this game and hoping for perhaps an early goal for the Diamonds to spice it up but from my armchair up north, Hendon are a strong team in a strong Ryman Prem so I can’t see past Hendon in this one.

Prediction: Hendon win.

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Bognor Regis Town (3) vs Lewes (3)

Why are Lewes so much more terrible on the pitch than they are off it? They have a decent fan base for their level which could see them survive a league above, they have largely sorted out the clubs finances and also they have raised enough money to build a 3G pitch ( here) they can rent out and generate income from. So why do they always underperform?

They are just above the relegation places as it stands but seven points from their last three games shows that maybe they have turned the corner but it’s an away game against opposition in the same league. I’m not confident and I can’t predict every fan owned team wins…

Prediction: Lewes dumped out of the FA Cup to focus on a mid-table finish (shudder).

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Horndean (5) vs Newport (Isle of Wight) (5)

Two teams at Step five and both in the Wessex Prem which as it stands is led by Newport and with only one promotion place all their focus has to be on that. Horndean are not far behind though so expect a close game here and I with the Port away from home, I am going to sit on the fence.

Prediction: Draw.

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Yate Town (4) vs Dorchester Town (3)

So poor Dorch fans, for the last season and a bit they have known only tough times and misery but they only had to look at the state the zombie club Hereford were in when they beat them to see what happens if you spend money you don’t have. Eventually, the music stops and now Hereford have been dragged through hell and are still in purgatory until it dies and the fans can reform.

Phil Simkin has left the club to be replaced by new manager Graham Kemp whose first game will be this FA Cup tie. Yate in the Southern South & West sit on fifteen points having lost one league game all season. This has the chance to be a shock but due to the general depressed nature of Dorch fans it won’t come as too much of a surprise if it does happen.

Prediction: Yate Town win, terrible start for new Manager and ‘The Same Old Few’ drink themselves to oblivion.

So that is your lot folks, 11 teams who are fan owned or in the case of Dorch/Darlo are rapidly moving towards community ownership will kick off today for a chance to win £3,000. The winners of these ties will be dreaming about getting all the way to the 1st round but in reality there are plenty of great ties on offer if they make it to the 4th Qualifying round with Bristol Rovers, Grimsby, Wrexham amongst others all waiting to be pulled out of the hat.

Who knows, if both win we could even have FC United vs Darlo… Now that would be a good game.

On Twitter @eddyman00

Hereford United- A ‘lease’ of life

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Well it appears I spoke to soon. Just days after the CVA failed and having insolvency practitioner Marc Landsman advising people not to put a single penny in the club (a stance the HUST have long stated), Hereford United have released a statement (here).  

The Chairman and Directors of Hereford United Football Club (1939) Limited are pleased to announce that after a weekend of discussions the business of Hereford United Football Club (1939) Limited will continue.

Less than a week ago they told us the club was as good as dead if the CVA failed, now the club will continue with the Hereford Times (here) reporting Director John Edwards’ comments that he is “100% certain we have a product to sell”. Just what ‘product’ he thinks they have to sell is not a question any Hereford United fan will like the answer to when they take a guess. The statement this morning gives all concerned with the future of football in Hereford more questions than answers.

 Many Hereford fans think this has been the plan all along and since Tommy Agombar couldn’t get hold of the leases off the council on the cheap, they have gone to another strategy. After the CVA has failed, those who are “investing” in the club may finally be forced to show their hand. If there was no chance of the club surviving, why has someone stepped forward at the last minute?

It suggests someone waiting in the wings, ready to swoop down and take hold of the leases from the council and to ensure that the lease did not revert back to the council they are making their move. I am betting a particular post on Bulls Banter (here) will be getting a lot of ‘bumps’ this morning.There is a chance of course that the owners are living in dreamland and this final desperate act to put on a brave face before the death on September 1st. If not, some basic questions about the new investors need to be answered.

Who are they? If they were not connected with Agombar and the current Directors in the first place, why would they “invest” and yet leave them in charge? A truly altruistic white knight would buy the club and have nothing to do with the previous regime.

Why have they decided to “invest” now? If they were always prepared to “invest”, why did the club release a statement just six days ago saying “if the CVA is not accepted, on 1 September 2014 the company will cease to be and a 90 year old club will disappear”?

Despite being invited to the club for Tuesdays game, Hereford United supporters will I am sure continue the boycott. It does leave the HUST in maybe a tricky situation for getting a phoenix club off the ground. If the shell of a club lingers on for another season, there are many fans who would have the stomach to start a phoenix possibly weakened but many more who will become apathetic to football in general, shrinking the fan-base of a new Hereford further.

Also, it would appear the club would need to ground-share somewhere away from Edgar Street for the time being and exist in direct competition to the club they used to support. Whilst morally right, it will be incredibly hard emotionally.

Still, I don’t see any other option and there are many precedents now. Enfield Town FC, the first modern fan owned club, did the same and broke whilst the shell of the old club still existed. 1874 Northwich did so last season and even Hinckley AFC can be considered to be the same situation as they ground-share away and fight over the ownership of ‘their’ ground back in Hinckley at the same time.

Pressure must continue to be applied to the council in the case of the old club lingering on, with assurances given a phoenix club would be first in line to inherit Edgar Street in the future and no deal would be made with the new ‘investors’. If these assurances won’t be given, the people of Hereford should elect people who will.

Whether there really is an ‘investor’ or this is yet another fairy-tale, this sad story continues to reach further depths of shame. This Bull has been brutally treated, a wounded animal whose back has been broken and now lies helpless in pain. It would be better for the people of Hereford if it’s suffering were to cease.

Twitter @eddyman00

Links

Unofficial Hereford Forum

Hereford Times – “100% product to sell”

Hereford United Club Announcement

Hereford United – Death is not the end

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So today represented the final nail in the coffin for Hereford United Football Club as it exists now. Only last week was Tommy Agombar promising the club “would still be all right”, this week went from him being barred by the FA to the CVA, which has been rejected. I believe that this is the end.

This means that Hereford United will cease to exist come September 1st and their last ever game looks like being against another club we covered on here, Dorchester Town. If nothing else, Dorchester fans will get to see what can happen to a club when it lives beyond its means and where one man makes all the decisions. I would be very grateful to the Dorchester Town Supporters Trust as a Dorchester fan right now.

There are many people who can be blamed for this sorry state of affairs. David Keyte managed to run the club in to the ground and a new group seemingly entered like vultures, to strip the carcass of this once proud Bull. Others should look in the mirror for their blind support for those who have destroyed a wonderful club.

The majority of fans throughout this process, led commendably by the HUST, can hold their heads high but the real work starts now. With the leases about to revert back to the council the time is now for all Hereford fans to turn their anger into action and get a phoenix club off the ground.

The local MP Jesse Norman (a member of the Trust) has been commendable throughout the process with Cllr Jim Kenyon also giving his backing to having a phoenix play at Edgar Street. Still, with an election next year it’s up to all Hereford fans to make sure Cllrs of Hereford know just how important it is they support a phoenix club playing at Edgar Street.

Just over a year ago, I saw the HUST was being set up and saw this video with Jon Hale (here) announcing the start of the trust. Since then, it has come to be rightly held as the true voice of the Hereford fans and Jon Hale himself is involved with the group who stated they were ready to start a phoenix up (here).

A year is a long time in football and this has been a very traumatic year for Hereford fans, that day at Aldershot must feel like a lifetime ago. I am not concerned with this day or the past of the club, there are others who know the history and heritage of the club a million times more than me, (Ronnie Radford and all that) my concern has always been on this website where we are now.

The club had to die. There was no other way but where Hereford go from here is within the power of Hereford fans to decide. If I was to paint a picture of a new Hereford, it would look like something simultaneously wonderful and possible.

It would be a fan owned Hereford FC playing at Edgar Street, with the backing of local sponsors and businesses proud to be involved with such a fine community club. The fans at whatever league Hereford start (let’s say the Midlands League – Step 5) will flock back to the club and sign up to the HUST. They will be there in thousands every week full of pride that they own their football club, they are the masters of their own destiny. The club will raise money to pay creditors who got burnt under the old ownership, not because they have to but because they believe it is the right thing to do.

Two years down the line when Hereford are in the Southern Prem again there will be no debt, only a club running a profit which is ploughed right back into the community and the club. I see no reason why Hereford cannot do a Chester.

All that needs to be said now is to the HUST members and all true Hereford fans: If you didn’t know already, you have lots of friends out there. Telford will help, Chester will help, Wrexham, FC United, AFC Wimbledon and all fan owned clubs will be proud to offer you support. This is of course not counting the many thousands of normal football fans who will be delighted to chip in and support you, not just with condolences but with their wallet when you start again.Whatever level the new club plays at next season, I will be there to see you for that first ever game and I can think clubs will be queuing up to be the one to play you.

 

Death is not the end, it is only the beginning.

 

On Twitter @eddyman00 and you can follow the great people at Hereford United Supporters Trust @hufctrust . If you are a Hereford fan and have not joined the trust, I urge you to do so now.

 

Links

Hereford United Supporters Trust

Jon Hale video

Jon Hale and co consortium

Ronnie Radford (you know the one)

A Fish out of water – On the Terraces with Fisher FC Monday 24th February

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Many moons ago I went to watch the mighty Fisher FC take on Tunbridge Wells in the Southern Counties East League. What follows is a brief account of the day plus an interview with Chairman of Fisher FC, Ben Westmancott. I only have three posts after this to catch up on and then I need to decide whether to put this site to bed or keep annoying people, like the former chair of the HUISA Keith Dodd (see here). Anyway, here we go …

 Having already introduced the Fish twice in a season review/ preview, we can make this brief. Fisher Athletic FC went bust in 2009 having only a year earlier been three games from the Conference Premier in 2007/08. They lost a Conference South play-off semi-final to Hampton and Richmond Borough in 2007/08 and a year later the club was dead with the winners of the Conference South that season having already featured on this blog… Lewes FC.

So having been ground-sharing for many years and living beyond their means, the club was finished. It was up to a brave and foolhardy group of people to try and resurrect a club that had no ground to play in, a small fan base to begin with and due to the fact they were based in London, they shouldn’t have had a cat in hells chance of getting a new home.

However the new club, despite being many leagues below the heights it had previously obtained, is surviving and this time in 2015, it could be ready to thrive again. Fisher FC currently ground-share at Dulwich Hamlet, whose fans have every right to be worried about their future despite strong crowds due to having been recently bought by Hadley Property Group.

Thankfully for Dulwich, the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters Trust has done commendable work to preserve the clubs future and got their home of Champion Hill listed as an Asset of Community Value in March (here). More on this can be found with the Property Developers penning an open letter to the fans shown on the Brixton Buzz website (here) and another excellent piece from Twohundredpercent (here), hosted by Brixton Buzz,  asking just why would a property developer want to acquire a football club with prime real estate in London? Anyway, now that you are thoroughly depressed it’s onto the game.

Arriving at the ground I got in just as the game was about to kick off and worked my way up to the room where tea was being served. It’s fair to say there weren’t many there (72 in fact) but that is always going to be an issue when you have to play on a Monday and the weather might have put the game off again.

Fisher only played one game in February and two in January due to the atrocious weather which put a lot of non-league clubs budgets under strain, now the Conference has allowed 3G pitches from next season hopefully in the future this will be a problem that is gradually removed from the game. If only Fisher had a 3G pitch…

The first half had a frantic non-league pace about it, with plenty of chances and errors from both sides making for a very watchable game of football. A full match report can be found here but by halftime we had been treated with a great equaliser from Fisher, after conceding a weak free kick and after an injury to Fisher’s Billy Hensman caused a lengthy delay, Fisher went ahead in the 7th minute of stoppage time to make it 2-1.

Before the start of the second half, one of the great people at Fisher FC pulled a lovely bottle of ale out of their bag and handed it to me, helping to keep me warm from those winter chills. More importantly, I managed to grab Chairman of Fisher FC Ben Westmancott for a quick word about the clubs (very bright) future.

If you have read any of the season round ups or previews, you will know that Fisher FC are one season away from returning home to Bermondsey on a brand new stadium, complete with a 3G pitch. So I asked Ben… How they had managed to get the Club to this stage?

How? Blood, sweat, tears and a lot of hard work by a lot of people.

“It goes back to promoting just how important Fisher FC is to movers/shakers and to the local public. There’s a big strong focus on the youth teams, that’s the future of the club and we’ve rapidly increased the number of youth teams.”

The club currently has three under 18 teams and has got backing from people across politics. Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes is a patron of the club and Fisher FC has also worked with the Labour council to ensure a positive future, this has been in conjunction with attending community events such as the Bermondsey Street Festival. What is the clubs unique selling point to all these groups?

 A big part is promoting we are different from the old club, we are a fan owned club so no one can asset strip the club ever again. By running the club the right way we’ve got a lot of people supporting us.

This includes Fairview Homes, the developer who bought the land at which Fisher Athletic FC used to play before the ground-share at Dulwich (The Surrey Docks Stadium). Since speaking to Fisher FC, the developers have put up £500,000 for a new ground for Fisher to be located opposite their former ground, with the Fish having to raise £250,000 themselves.

After highlighting how Maidstone United had been one of the few teams not to have their fixture list or income streams battered due to their 3G pitch, Ben was keen to stress just how much of a difference it will make to the club.

“So we can use it for the first team but also for the youth teams and other community use, so we will get maximum use out of it (the 3G pitch). I think that was the problem with the old club, it focussed just on the first team and not on the youth. This is very much about providing a club that parents can send their kids to, playing a team sport in a safe environment.”

Ben informed me when manning stalls at Festivals such as the one mentioned earlier, he was constantly asked when the club was coming home and can people sign their kids up. With plenty of people pledging to support the club on their return home, Ben was confident of doubling their attendance to 200+ in the season of their return.

It was this time I asked what I will call the “London” question as having been to Enfield, Croydon and Harrow Borough (for Hendon FC) it is obvious all these areas, due to immigration, have undergone massive demographic change. Traditional supporters have left London with a new immigrant community coming in.

With this is mind I asked Ben if a similar change had occurred in Bermondsey and if so, how does the club go about attracting those fans that do not have a longstanding local connection to the area or cultural attachment to the club?

I think… Yeah people move around and communities change but people are still very proud of what’s on their doorstep and if there can be a positive football club they can become part of, then I’m sure they will.

“There’s lots of families are still living round here who can say “my grandfather was a docker” in that area and a lot will come to support the club. So I think we can build on the families that still live there and attract a new crowd who live in the area. I can’t see a difficulty with that.”

This was a lot more positive then Enfield and Ben took it as a compliment when I told him this but Enfield and Hendon at Harrow Borough were both run by people who made a huge effort to reach out. Their comments came from reality of the situation on the ground and I am sure so do Ben’s comments but Ben being a young bloke, can probably be forgiven for what feels like unrealistic levels of optimism. Still if any club can do it, it’s probably Fisher FC.

 It feels worth mentioning on the day the Football Supporters Federation hold a protest in London against pricing people out of football, Ben’s comments about the rising cost and how Fisher will hope to benefit.

“I think it’s important to add to that football is becoming prohibitively expensive if you are looking at the Premier League and the Championship. I think people are looking for more financially viable options for a Saturday afternoon. You can come to your local club and get excellent entertainment for a fraction of the price of a Premier League game and if your kids sign up for the club, even better.”

Again I share the analysis of Ben but not his conclusion. That however was for another time and I thanked Ben for his time, got back to my beer and watched a second half which included a goal, sending off and plenty of handbags due to the referee losing control of the game. Still, all in all it was a very rewarding trip and I left very hopeful for the future of Fisher FC

 It is all coming together for the Fish. Despite another slow start to the league, it’s really not the important thing this season and perhaps more vital is the FA Cup game this weekend for a bit of extra cash.

If all goes well, a club that was formed five years ago will have managed to secure a ground in London to build an income stream, a support base and all the rewards that go with it. For so long a fish out of water, Ben and everyone else involved are less than a year away from being able to walk out onto their own pitch with a massive sense of pride. When they do, I’ll be there to buy Ben a pint and give everyone at the club a deserved round of applause.  

On Twitter @eddyman00. You can follow @FisherFC and @dhstorg on Twitter too.

Links

Fisher FC Website

Bullsnews lose their press pass due to my post

Dulwich Hamlet Ground Asset of Community Value

Property Developers- Open letter to Dulwich Fans

Twohundrepercent – Dulwich Hamlet face an uncertain future

Dulwich Hamlet Supporters Trust

Tranmere Rovers- Claiming a stake

Tranmere Rovers Trust

Previously on this blog, I had looked at Tranmere Rovers and notably the Tranmere Rovers Supporters Trust in their bid to take control of their club. Since then, a lot has changed at the club with the most notable change being new owners who are not the Supporters Trust. Does that mean the Trust will wither away?

Before we answer that, let’s get up to speed. Last season on the pitch it all went wrong with the former Manager being sacked for breaking FA Betting Rules. In all fairness, Ronnie Moore could’ve (and should’ve) been sacked for the clubs awful collapse in form under him since the start of 2013 but he is gone now and so are Tranmere from League 1, being relegated at the end of last season.

Off the pitch, the (now former) owner Peter Johnson made no secret of his desire to sell the club and the trust from November last year announced a plan to buy the club (covered here). However, despite their best efforts the Trust fell short of their target and worryingly received few pledges from the Wirral area. The Trust only managed to raise £175,000 of the £500,000 they were looking for by January 1st and could not buy the club.

Fast forward to 29th May and Peter Johnson announced (his letter is here) he was converting £3,750,000 into ordinary shares allowing a buyer to not have to be saddled with the debt and also Peter Johnson wrote off another £1,250,000 of loans he made to the club.

It should be noted that although grateful fans will be for this write off, why he is allowed to ‘loan’ the club money and hold it like a gun to the head of the club if he so chooses, is a question that needs to be asked. If owners want to throw money at a football club for the enjoyment and say how much money they have pumped into a club fine but you certainly should not be able to leverage this against a football club. That is however a question for another time…

Fast forward again to now and Tranmere have a new owner (see Liverpool Echo coverage here) in the form of husband and wife team Mark and Nicola Palios. Mark played over 200 games for Tranmere over two spells as a player and has been Chief Executive of the FA, so lacks no experience in football, whilst Nicola is a commercial manager.

The new owners have made the usual platitudes about building “a self-sustainable club” but it is the announcement they are to meet the Trust which is where the questions start. My scepticism was raised when the Liverpool Echo quoted Mrs. Palios saying “We haven’t met with the supporters club…” It’s not a supporters club, it’s a trust.

Now I admit I may be being pedantic but far too many owners have a tendency to view Supporters Trusts as money raisers for the club, donating cash and promoting the club but not being ‘awkward’ (wanting a stake in the club, protecting the ground with an ACV, asking questions about finances, that sort of thing). When this changes, owners can get hostile very quickly.

The Trust has issued a statement (here) broadly welcoming the new owners but in a cautious way. The key challenge for the Trust now is how to stay relevant, as despite their success in getting the clubs ground listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) they hold only a minimum stake in the club.

It is a challenge for all Trusts, as many see their membership decline and the Trust shrivel when the club is not seen to be in any ongoing crisis. Still the current situation does represent a good opportunity for the Trust.

They are due to meet the new owners shortly and have £175,000 in the bank for their now defunct takeover bid. Although Trust members and those who pledged cash would have to vote on using the money, getting the owners to agree to sell the Trust a percentage of shares and perhaps announce a % of the club they will sell to the Trust over a period of years (say 25%), would be a winner for both the new owners and the Trust.

For the owners, it shows a real commitment to fan engagement and a desire to build that self- sustainable model they have talked about and for the Trust, it gives them the chance to stay relevant.

Either way, Tranmere Rovers and the Supporters Trust are at a crossroads and how they react to recent events will decide the success (or failure) of the club for many years to come.

On Twitter @eddyman00

 

Links

Ex Owner announcing debt write off – Letter

Liverpool Echo – New Owners of Tranmere Rovers

Trust Response to Club Takeover

Exeter City & Pompey – Fan Owned Season Preview

When the season kicked off on the 9th August, two of the four fan-owned Football League clubs took each other on for the first three points on offer and with these two clubs being the last to make up my fan owned season preview, they provide a great contrast of fan ownership. At one club it’s all going right and at another, it’s all going wrong…

We are going to start with the positives and sorry Exeter City Football Club, it isn’t going to be you…

 

Portsmouth Football Club – League 2

Last season: 13th

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Three managers in one season sounds just like the sort of thing an egomaniac Chairman would do, not a fan owned team looking for the long term. However, neither Guy Whittingham or Richie Barker could get enough wins to justify their tenure and with the club heading towards an unimaginable exit from the Football League, the trigger was pulled on Richie Barker.

 One of ex manager Barker’s rare wins was to come against Accrington Stanley in the game I was able to witness way back on the 25th February. The bloke I was to meet from the Portsmouth Supporters Trust had to bail on me at the last minute but after my attempt to watch Pompey play AFC Wimbledon earlier in the season failed (courtesy of South West Trains), I was glad to have a game on at all.

My biggest memory of going to watch Pompey is one of anger and boredom. I had forgotten how very boring watching football sat down is and I was unable to grab a ticket for the back rows so had to sit behind the goal. Still, I was next to some lads just younger than me but besides the goal they were happy to remain glued to their seats and although I enjoyed the abuse that James Beattie received from those stood a couple of feet above me, it just reminded me how much more fun I would’ve had joining in.

Still I thought, at least Pompey got the win and hopefully they could push on. It was to be the last game Richie Barker won in charge of Pompey and his team managed to score just one more goal in his last six games before being sacked on the 27th March.   

Enter Academy Manager Andy Awford who came in as caretaker for a second time and a brilliant run of form in the last seven games under Andy (winning five, drawing two and scoring 18 goals in the process), led to a top half finish and Andy to be appointed Manager for this coming season.

Off the pitch, the club has smashed it’s funding target to have their own training pitches (here) which is something the club couldn’t say even when they were in the Premiership and the club is also in running to become the country’s City of Football. So on and off the pitch, it is all coming together for Pompey.

This season, if Pompey can take the end of last season’s form into the next campaign they will be promoted with a bit to spare. It won’t be that easy with Luton, Bury, Shrewsbury and a resurgent Plymouth all in the mix plus the debts to former players still having to be paid off, I am hesitant to predict too much. However, a win last night against League 1 promotion candidates Peterborough in the League Cup is putting a marker down.

What I will say is the longer the fans are in charge, the stronger the club will get and I wouldn’t put it past them to be meeting Southampton in the same league, five seasons down the line.

Prediction: Play-Offs and more songs directed at James Beattie.

 

Exeter City Football Club – League 2

Last season: 16th

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I wish I could be so optimistic for Exeter City Football Club. When I went down to watch them play Rochdale on the 22nd February 2014, I also managed to grab a quick fifteen minutes with Trust member and Club Director Laurence Overend.

Laurence took me through the Trust taking over the club now more than ten years ago with the club in the Conference after previous directors committed fraud. No buyer came forward so it was left to the Trust to step in.

Laurence himself was happy to admit a large slice of good fortune with getting Man United away in the FA Cup 2004/05 and by earning a draw, getting another money spinner game against United. This enabled Exeter to clear all the old debts in one fell swoop.

The club would climb as high as League 1, with the Trust in charge for the Clubs highest ever finish but since then something has gone badly wrong. It was excellently covered in a post on twohundredpercent but as that site remains down, I will have to assume the Exeter fans reading this know full well what has happened.

Whilst I was there, I asked Laurence what he thought of Paul Tisdale’s comments about how the model may need to change if the club was to be successful (he has made similar comments this summer). Laurence had this to say:

It depends how you judge success. No doubt there is a huge chasm between League 1 and the Championship, that’s where the ‘gap’ is and under the current rules it’s very difficult for a trust run club to get into the Championship.

This almost sounds like he has doubts but Laurence is passionate about the trust model, as when I asked him whether he felt a responsibility to ‘fly the flag’ for fan owned clubs he was pretty honest.

I do feel a responsibility to fly the flag of fan ownership and I’d like to think we’re used as an example for other clubs. It’s difficult at times here as decision making is slow, not everyone agrees and that is of course different to the way it’s run by a wealthy individual.

Difficult is a word the fans of Exeter have been hearing more of with the Trust, from my perspective, appearing to have been marginalised by the Board of the club. Despite being the owners of the club, they make up a tiny proportion of the board and they appear to have gone from loaning the club money to donating it, which is not the point of a fan owned club.

Directors have resigned and there does appear to be a power struggle for the Trust to reassert their authority over a board who may have forgotten who pay their wages.

This season started with a draw against Pompey, who look like being the club to surpass Exeter as the example to follow at fan owned clubs and I do hope that Laurence and other members of the trust get their club back. On the pitch, survival does look like a massive ask but never underestimate the ability of one club to financially implode and maybe help out Exeter.

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Prediction: Survival?

 

On Twitter @eddyman00

 

Links

Pompey Tifosy Campaign

Exeter City Supporters Trust

Wimbledon & Wycombe: Fan Owned Season Preview

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Despite having visited both clubs last season to witness good games, it came around the time of a lot of essays and sadly both got put to the backburner. So I will be putting a brief review of the game I went to plus the season preview for both clubs, who have both been involved with final day escapes from the trap door over the last two seasons. First up is AFC Wimbledon.

AFC Wimbledon – League 2

Last season: 20th

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On a cold night in London I found myself after a nightmare journey from Guildford getting into Kingsmeadow for the first time since I saw them make their emotional final day escape on that glorious day in April 2013, with Jack Midson firing home the penalty ensuring the Wombles Football League status.

When I went to watch them, the Wombles were in danger of being dragged into a relegation fight with only four points out of a possible 21 since the start of February and they were up against a fierce Chesterfield side (who went on that season to win promotion). A sombre atmosphere dominated the ground around Kingsmeadow and as halftime came it was still 0-0. I switched where I was standing to go behind the goal AFC Wimbledon were attacking and five minutes later I was flung forward as  George Francomb fired the Dons into the lead. Just another five minutes past until Chesterfield went level to silence us in the Tempest End but a resilient Dons held on for a 1-1 draw.

Come seasons end, Wimbledon were safe from relegation and if they hadn’t of (rather unprofessionally) lost three points for fielding an ineligible player, the club would’ve finished 16th for a lower mid-table finish. Instead it was to be 20th with the four teams below them being the only teams to score less goals than the Dons, bar 6th placed Burton Albion who (unlike the Dons) had a rock solid defence all season.

This season, Neil Ardley has made a big effort to improve a front line whose top scorer in the League last season (Michael Smith) could only manage nine goals. Both Jack Midson and Luke Moore have left the club for moneybags Eastleigh and Margate respectively, Margate now being managed by former AFC Wimbledon gaffer Terry Brown. However Matt Tubbs has come in on loan from Bournemouth to be joined by the ‘Beast’ Akinfenwa, joining on a free from League 1 Gillingham.

In their first game against a Shrewsbury Town side full of big money players, Wimbledon got a 2-2 draw and despite having a tough start to the season with Luton, Southend and Stevenage all to play in the opening month, I predict a mid-table finish for the Dons. They’ll have to look to the Cups for excitement this season with League 2 being a much tougher ask this time around, all they have to do now is get that awkward League Cup game out of the way…

Prediction: Mid-table, looking up rather than down by the end of the season.

Wycombe Wanderers – League 2

Last season: 22nd

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They were down, they were dead and buried and it was all over after losing to Bristol Rovers on the penultimate day of the season. Fortunately, no one had told Wycombe or Bristol Rovers and as Wycombe brushed aside an already relegated Torquay, Bristol Rovers lost to Mansfield being dumped out of the Football League in the process, to the joy of Wycombe fans everywhere.

This was a far cry from where I thought they would be on the final day of the season when I went to watch them play Hartlepool on the 8th March and got a chance to speak to Colin Treacher, longstanding Wycombe fan and member of the Wycombe Wanderers Supporters Trust board.

It was left to Colin to explain to me how the club had received an offer to buy the club from an outside investor and the Trust would decide over the following week, so it looked like we’d be losing another fan owned club who had found paying off the former owners debts combined with staying in the Football League too much to ask.

However this was not to happen with the initial ‘investor’ pulling out meaning Wycombe Wanderers have embarked on an ambitious Community Share Scheme, outlined here which follows in the footsteps of FC United and their community share scheme. The club need to raise £2 million in five years and having improved the financial situation at the club significantly over the last two years I wouldn’t put it past them in being successful again. If they had gone down, it could’ve been curtains…

This season, Football League status must be ensured to give the share scheme a chance of being successful and a good cup run would be a godsend. Gareth Ainsworth has his work cut out but I think they will be safe come the end of the season.

Prediction: Survival

On Twitter @eddyman00

Links

Wycombe Share Issue Scheme

AFC Wimbledon – New Stadium Update

Tommy Agombar –A football man.

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Hereford United

 

This is again another quick one on Hereford United or more specifically on the owner, ‘Football Man’ Tommy Agombar. If you want a real filling in about this bloke you need to head to bullsnews but this piece will focus on his latest piss poor attempt at an interview.

An interview with the dear leader appeared today on BBC Sport (here) and take a moment to soak it up in all its glory before returning… Done? Good. This will just be some small notes about just how much vacuous nonsense can be crammed into just over three minutes.

First off, Tommy begins by stating “No matter how much money you put into the club, it’s not enough is it?” Trying to paint himself as this bloke who has come in and put in loads of money but those ungrateful fans just are too selfish to understand. Anyone with a brain-cell knows this is rubbish.

The fans offered to buy the club and pay off the debts that they were told existed under the previous owner David Keyte. The fans anger is at the repeated broken promises of the now owner who says “I did come into buy a Conference club but it didn’t work out that way”. It didn’t work out because by refusing to pay the Football Conference the bond required, he ended up getting the club booted out.

Plus the fans protest is about his desire to take control of the leases of Edgar Street from the council, despite claiming not to know “nuffin about no leases”. Only someone who was as deluded as Agombar could believe it’s about him putting money into the club. As a host of people also remain unpaid, that’s another mark against him.

Twenty five seconds in we get the “I had big investors with the club” but these investors “because of the publicity didn’t want to be attached to the club.” We don’t know the names of these ‘big investors’ and we probably never will, probably because they never existed. If with give Agombar the benefit of the doubt then you would have to wonder what made ‘big investors’ associated with this former criminal in the first place.

This ‘publicity’ comment is the most obvious reference to the fans who led by HUST refused to be treated like idiots and give this man any of their cash. It is your fault Hereford fans because big investors were going to come into the club until you kicked up a fuss, don’t you see that?

About ten seconds later he contradicts himself by saying “big business people in London want to invest and they will do” (although he never names these people, funny that). These ‘big business people’ can’t be the same as the ‘big investors’ because these ‘big business people’ are happy to invest despite the protest, unless of course Agombar is talking guff or these are different imaginary friends he has constructed for himself.

Fifty seconds in was what, even in these terrified times of getting taken to court, is a total lie. “When David Keyte had to sell the club, there was no takers.” David Keyte did not have to sell the club, he could’ve paid the debts that he created, paid the players the money he owed but chose to walk away. The HUST also made a bid and despite this, Keyte chose to sell to Agombar.

He may be right about one thing, without Agombar the club wouldn’t have been playing today. The HUST would have found out about the million pounds plus debt and walked away. However, you also have to ask what would happen if Agombar hadn’t come in.

HUFC would have gone bust and ceased to exist and almost immediately plans would be set in motion for a new club to be formed which would be owned by the fans. Although they may not have played at Edgar Street straight away, I am sure a season ground sharing whilst pressure is put on councillors and the MP Jesse Norman (who has been commendable and is himself a HUST member) to get the Bulls back in Edgar Street. The club would be kicking off at Step 5/6 with the full backing of the community on their way back.

Instead, a shell of a club lingers on owned by a man whose eyes lit up in the interview when asked about the developments on either side of the ground. He is also going to get fans (for fans, see scabs) on the board but not anyone from the HUST I would guess.

1min 23secs in and we get “Listen, small clubs cannot survive without some kind of input, whether it development, big sponsors or big investment, simple.” Now Hereford United are not a small club unless they are run into the ground as they have been. In 2012/13 the club averaged over 1700 fans, higher than some Football League clubs. In their last season in the Football League, they got an average attendance of 2553, so he clearly has no idea what he is talking about.

Also pumping money into a club without a return is not an investment and I am sick of people saying that throwing money into a black hole is an investment. Back though we go to the development and if any of you want to see what type of development these investors may have in mind look no further than what happened at Wrexham.

Here is a perfect example. Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts moved Wrexham’s development land out of the club and all the rent money year on year would go to them, not the club and as Lindsay Jones (Wrexham fan) in the video points out, the club gained no long term benefit and were worse off from having an asset stripped from the club.

Anyway, back to Mr. Agombar. His promise that “what is earned here will go back into the club” is great, now all he has to do is sign a binding legal agreement to that effect… I won’t be holding my breath. Still he just wanted to buy a football club, getting one which happened to have prime development potential and he’s even generous enough to say despite finding a debt much higher, “I’m not knocking no-one.” He even bought the club when his advisors told him to walk away, what a hero.

Only 2mins 20 secs in and we get the comment “It’s a massive club Hereford.” So who the bloody hell was he talking about when he was going on about small clubs not being able to survive? 2mins 30secs and he has a veiled pop at those Hereford fans who wanted to let the club die by saying “people wanted to liquidate the club and pay no-one, that’s not me”. This convicted criminal who went down for several years has principles you see. There was someone who walked away from not paying people and it wasn’t Hereford fans, who when they buy stuff from the club aren’t ‘loaning’ the club money, it was David Keyte.

Speaking about the people of Hereford “I’m not really bothered about whether they like me or not. Being honest, I don’t care” which is better than the Hull City owner saying fans can die whenever they please but not much.

So there you have it, three minutes of narcissistic self-promotion where he manages to contradict himself even in one of the most soft ball interviews I have heard. The worst one in fact since Andy Gray and Richard Keys wished David Keyte all the best on Talksport, as he tried to “save” Hereford.

He did say one thing I agree with, Hereford will come back stronger and rise from where they are now but and here is something we can all be thankful for… It certainly won’t be with him in charge.

 

On Twitter @eddyman00

Links

Agombar Interview

bullsnews

http://www.hufctrust.co.uk/

Wrexham Video

Hereford United – A ghost club

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Hereford United

 

This is a short one folks, of something that has only come to me today when looking at the fixtures of the Southern Prem. While many thousands of people flood to their clubs grounds today and begin again the season long emotions of short optimism crushed by depressing reality, for the fans of Hereford there is nothing but despair. I have no intention to go into too much depth as you can find that on bullsnews, who have covered this charade in all the painful detail but look ahead (see links).

Driven into the ground by David Keyte, who despite owning racehorses and swanning off on Caribbean holidays failed to pay players for large parts of last season, leading to most players winning at Aldershot on the final day on 2013/14 having not been paid for it.

Keyte then had a chance to salvage his reputation by selling to the Supporters Trust (HUST) for £1 but instead sold to Tommy Agombar, a convicted criminal who despite promising to pay staff and players did not do so in the time frame he promised and also did not pay a bond to the Conference, meaning that final day win at the end of last season was all for nothing.

What though could be the attraction of buying a club seeming so incompetently run and unable to produce a great profit? Perhaps, as Tommy said himself “I’m a football man, I love my football” or perhaps it has something to do with acquiring the leases to ‘develop’ Edgar Street for large amounts of money and then bugger off.

Agombar claimed to know “nothing about no leases” but the local council confirmed that one of the first things ’football man’ Tommy asked about was transferring the leases, which are owned by the council, into his private company. Naturally, Hereford fans saw this for what it was: an attempt to asset strip the club in the same way Alex Hamilton tried to do at Wrexham.

The club is now a total joke, an embarrassment to football and a stain now on the Southern Prem, who knowing players had not been paid by Agombar were still happy to let them in. Their hope surely must have been that Hereford would have  great attendances and away followings to raise the profile of the league.

Hereford fans are however not content to be used and laughed at in this way. The HUST (Hereford United Supporters Trust) have called for a full boycott and this has been enforced at all pre-season games. More fans have attended the Hereford United Supporters team game vs Ledbury Town (over 650) than have seen the shell club play. Other games are lined up and the game between Worcester City Supporters Trust and Hereford Supporters Team was also well attended.

A hat must be tipped to the HUST, who forming only last year have come to be seen as the true voice of the Hereford fan-base and whose membership has grown massively since being set up. Today is the real test of the boycott though but I fully expect when ‘Hereford’ take to the field at Edgar Street, which only got a safety certificate at the 11th hour (further proof of the awful ownership), they will be greeted only by silence.

A ghost club that stalks football, with huge debts that according to Agombar were hidden by David Keyte well over a million pounds, no fan-base and having been refused countless pre-season games are a pariah club.

It is heartening to see the change in attitude of fans that HUST embody. No longer are fans just prepared to be walked over, we have no obligation to fund the parasites leeching off the game. Without income, Hereford as it exists now won’t survive for long and although when Hereford United is finally pronounced dead it will be a sad sight, a brighter future will emerge.

All that needs to be said now is to wish all the best to the HUST in starving the owners out. If you didn’t know already, you have friends across the country and this time next season I look forward to seeing a fan owned Hereford, a true Hereford team, walk out not to the deafening silence that will be heard throughout the season but to a roar.

 

On Twitter @eddyman00

Links

Hereford United – Fans Team

Hereford United Supporters Trust

http://bullsnews.blogspot.co.uk/

Tommy Agombar ‘meets’ the fans.

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