18 November ~ Tonight all eyes would have turned to Stonebridge Road, Northfleet, where AFC Wimbledon had a chance to set up a much anticipated FA Cup second round clash with MK Dons – a meeting that won't take place thanks to Stevenage's penalty shoot-out win in their first round replay at Franchise FC on Tuesday. But Ebbsfleet Utd, the home side in tonight's fixture, deserve some attention too as they rebuild once again following a relegation last season which can be seen as the culmination of the My Football Club (MYFC) experiment.

When I wrote on this matter in WSC 275 my conclusions were, to say the very least, bleak. Relegation looked inevitable, the break-up of the squad and a return to part-time status probable, and the departure of both manager Liam Daish and My Football Club just a matter of time. Where the club would wind up from there was anybody's guess. On the first three points sadly my predictions came to pass. But on the pitch, there has been some renewed reasons for optimism.

Liam Daish is still there and he's built another new squad from scratch. This squad has gelled a lot quicker than last season's and despite the new part-time status some core players such as Ricky Shakes and Dean Pooley have been retained. There have also been some additions with some genuine non-League class. Paul Lorraine, a seasoned centre-back, was signed from Wimbledon and Calum Willock, a big, strong striker, was picked up from Cambridge. Goalkeeper Preston Edwards arrived from Grays to replace the long-serving Lance Cronin, who made the long-overdue step up to League football with Gillingham.

However, the fact that all the talk of this game around Ebbsfleet has been about the financial rewards of playing live on television speaks volumes about the perilous situation the club still finds itself in. Times are still tough and an open letter recently sent by former chairman Brian Kilcullen emphasises that the state of finances could well be at breaking point again. Kilcullen claims the season's allowance has been used up already and that the MYFC budget was dangerously optimistic from day one. He cites the recent appeal for an extra £25,000 from members and fans as evidence, and dismisses the club's claim that this is due to a lack of recent home games leading to reduced revenue.

Most MYFC memberships come up for renewal in February and, once again, rates are expected to drop. If this pattern continues, it is just to be hoped that they will leave a club behind to be dusted down and started again when they do eventually depart. An FA Cup run could be essential to the club's survival. Promotion still looks possible and that would obviously boost the coffers too. But, ultimately, what most fans want is a viable and sustainable club. Under MYFC's guidance this looks all but impossible and only once they have gone will the club be able to move forward with any renewed certainty.

Many neutrals watching the game tonight will be cheering for AFC Wimbledon as a real fan's football club. Ebbsfleet Utd may not embody that to the same extent, but they are an old-fashioned community club with a great spirit being slowly pulled apart by outside influences, just as Wimbledon once were. AFC Wimbledon will continue to rise, but for Ebbsfleet this game could prove crucial. David Spencer

Comments (7)
Comment by ClasslessBandwagoner 2010-11-18 11:59:44

Gravesend and Northfleet WERE an old-fashioned community club with a great spirit that a dodgy chairman, silly station name sponsorship deal and Will Brooks' myFC opportunism has all but destroyed.

I hope their loyal old fans will be able to rebuild the club from the wreckage.

This was all so predictable it's actually embarrassing, especially for the media who trumpetted the nonsense.

Fans-owned and run clubs are a great idea, but it's probably best if it's your OWN club.

Comment by uber slacker 2010-11-18 14:04:38

I agree the initial MyFC novelty was wrongheaded and was never going to be sustainable, especially as the original members signed up for this experiment before a team had even been chosen.

But now the remaining few thousand MyFC members must know exactly what they've coughed up for, and what club they are backing, I'm not so certain it will crumble much further.

After all, many (most?) fans these days don't support either their local side or one with a family connection - although regular silverware and hyped-up media over-exposure seems to be the draw for most. Maybe nowadays when online social networking often forms stronger bonds than local neighbourhood ties, the MyFC web-community might just stabilise and prevail...

Comment by Lincoln 2010-11-18 15:55:12

That is a good point Uber Slacker. I find myself being drawn further away from the Barclays Premiership and closer to the Blue Square as I tire of hearing, again, Mick from Befords opinion on where Wenger has got it wrong about Shawcross, or while hearing another advery for Judgement Day.

Comment by DavidSpencer 2010-11-19 11:33:31

The problem is that a good proportion of remaining MYFC supporters, and I dont have the exact stats to hand, signed up on a three year package. A significant number of them are unlikely to rejoin so membership numbers drop further. Also the fact is that the club cannot sustain itself with the current income levels, so even if the current 'hardcore' members do remain, the club is just going to sink further and further into debt even if it is merely trying to stand still.

Comment by donedmundo 2010-11-19 12:49:50

Not sure about many (or most) fans not supporting their local club. You do see Man U and Chelsea shirts on sale where I live but the vast majority of shirts I see being worn are those of local clubs (all in the Prem so perhaps that makes a difference.)

Comment by tonyroome 2010-11-19 17:40:28

I can see why people think that the position this article takes is reasonable. But as a MyFC member, I guess I see it somewhat differently. In the last couple of years, through membership, donations, sponsorships etc I have put well over £1000 into the club - and that's not much compared to some of the MyFC members. I have also been to a couple of dozen games at Stonebridge Road and had a season ticket last year. Not entirely sure that most of the 'core supporters' have done any more.....
Yes, Ebbsfleet do need better financing and if there was a genuine alternative to the MyFC model I would support it. Sadly, nobody has made an offer - when they do, then articles like this one may be justifiable. Until then put your efforts into supporting the club, not knocking those who are doing their best to get money into the club - whatever the desirability (or otherwise) of the model.

Comment by genesisisok 2010-11-19 20:58:47

The MyFC concept was good one in the main. However, from the outset fans were asked who they'd like to take over. Leeds were 1st and in the top 10 were both Arsenal & Man Utd. I wonder what planet these people were on. So, assuming these cretins dropped out as we falied to raise £90,000,000 to take over Man Utd we took over a Conference club. The flaw was the "pick the team" option which originally didn't function on the web site so a lot dropped out then. Good riddance to them! Pick the team is stupid. That's why we have a manager, and a bloody good one at that. I'm a BRILLIANT manager on Football Manager (4 league titles, 2 EUFA Cups, 4 League Cups, 2 FA Cups and three Community Shields), all with Leeds AND with Ken Bates as chairman! but that's as far as it goes. Those who want to pick the team, do it on your PC and don't play with real life people. Finally, if you do pick the team and it goes tits up, how do we sack 10,000 shareholders who cocked up selection? The members who are left, 3,000 are in it for the long haul - not short term glory. If I'd wanted to glory hunt I'd have sodded off and supported Arsenal or God forbid, Man U!

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