WSC readers and fanzine editors weigh up the coming season

BARNET

John Cosgrove

How will your team do this season?
Bit hard, this one. Our new manager has currently signed five new players with the promise of more to come. Even so, we can’t expect too many great things from a bunch of Peterborough rejects. Realistically we’ll come mid-table (again).

Who is going to be the most important figure at the club this season?
John Still, our 7th manager in 12 months! We need to bring a bit of stability to the club after the Alan Mullery debacle.

If you had to come up with a new piece of merchandise to sell at the club shop what would it be?
As we have a club shop which can rightly claim the title of “Worst Shop in The League” (to go with our proud “Worst Ground in the League” award), any piece of merchandise would be nice. Getting the new kit on sale before Christmas would be a novelty.

Which player at your club most divides the home support and why?
You name him! Barnet fans tend to sway towards the fickle side. Even Sean Devine (top scorer two seasons running) gets some stick.

Which element of the matchday environment would you most like to change?
Topical one this. One of the editors of Two Together was recently refused service at one of our snack bars on the grounds that they were closing. It wouldn’t have been so bad but there was still over half an hour of the game left to go. Jobsworths are alive and well at Underhill.

BRIGHTON

Kevin Bartholomew


How will your team do?
Our home form in the second half of last season was as good as any team in the division – but we haven’t got a ‘home’ anymore... Even so, everyone knows Steve Gritt can work miracles, so I reckon it’s promotion via the play-offs.

Most important figure?
A lot will depend on new chairman Dick Knight. Hopefully he can persuade the League to let us move to Millwall later in the season and gain approval for the plans for a new stadium. His first, and most important task, however, will be to dispense with despised chief executive David Bellotti.

New piece of merchandise?
We haven’t got a club shop at the moment. The site of our old one will shortly become a DIY superstore, although a garden centre would be more appropriate – at least then we’d find a use for all the bullshit we’ve been given over the past two years.

Which player most divides the support?
Left winger Paul Macdonald. Fleet footed genius capable of running rings round any defence, or lightweight short-arse who only plays for ten minutes a game?

Change to matchday environment?
Erm... a ground of our own would be nice.

CAMBRIDGE UTD

Simon Knott


How will your team do?
The only reason teams are in Division Three is because they are crap and getting out is all about luck and self-belief. At the end of last season it was possible to foresee United doing a Hereford, but McFarland has built up the sort of squad that should see us into the play-offs, given a bit of the aforementioned.

Most important figure?
David Preece has the presence to boss the midfield successfully or be terribly missed if he doesn’t.

New piece of merchandise?
Something ludicrously cheap to produce but hideously expensive to buy, and so compulsive that it has the entire population of the city queueing up to part with barrowloads of cash in a bid to express their love for the club. We’re desperate for money.

Change to matchday environment?
Nothing major ­– just the ground. However, since the chances of United relocating diminish by the minute, it will have to be something completely different in the same place, if that is not too surreal an image.

CARDIFF

Michael Morris and Keith Jones


How will your team do?
With five quality new players signed, the club has the potential to be champions. If we avoid major injuries we will be in contention next May.

Most important figure?
David Penney. Club captain signed from Swansea. Big pair of boots to fill after the departure of Jason Perry. He will face a stiff test in the derby games against Swansea and unless he’s a big hit he will be told by the Bob Bank to get back down the M4. But I think he will handle it.

New piece of merchandise?
The most exciting item in the shop at the moment is a coffee mug. Merchandising is earning clubs millions of pounds but we seem to be lacking. We should be selling everything – babygrows, ash trays, lamps, clocks, tax disc holders, flags. Anything with the club crest on it will sell.

Change to matchday environment?
A lot of fans at Ninian Park would like to stand to watch the football. We have three sides all seating, and the one standing area is used only for big matches when they have to house a lot of away fans. Also our tannoy can be a pain if you are sat near to a speaker. Neil Armstrong was more audible from the moon than our announcer.

CHESTER

Jon Wainwright


How will your team do?
No reason why we shouldn’t emulate last season’s achievement of an historic first ever berth in a play-off spot.

Most important figure?
I’d prefer to go for the talented but laid back midfield triumvirate of Chris Priest, Neil Fisher and Nick Richardson rather than any one individual. Last year Shaun Reid (yes, Peter’s brother) kick started (literally) City’s season by adding a bit of passion to midfield, but now he’s likely to be out for the season, the pressure’s on the other three.

New piece of merchandise?
A T-shirt with ‘Bollox To The Big Clubs’ on the front and ‘Support Your Local Team – Chester City FC’ on the back. I’m sick of all the tossers in Liverpool and Man Utd shirts in all the pubs.

Which player most divides the support?
Gary Bennett! Re-signed from mortal enemies Wrexham. During his first stint at Chester he became a cult hero who’d satisfy fans’ every whim. When he did precisely the same for Wrexham fans (as well as scoring eight billion goals) he became a hate figure. Fifty goals this season and maybe we’ll forgive him.

Change to matchday environment?
I’d still like to move all the ground back into England. The Deva Stadium currently straddles the border with the majority in Wales. It gets very crowded huddling near the home end corner flag which is the only section of terracing not in the Principality.

 
COLCHESTER

Jason Skinner


How will your team do?
Having made the play-offs in 1995-96, and only missed out by one point, we expect to get there again this season. Automatic promotion would depend on our beating the teams at the bottom of the League, who we usually let win (what nice people we are).

Most important figure?
There are no outstanding players at present, so it has to be chairman Gordon Parker as he’s the one who can provide the money to buy such a player.

New piece of merchandise?
George Burley voodoo dolls, complete with extra long, barbed needles. Who says we’ll forget? The compensation was nice, though – was he worth it boys?

Which player most divides the support?
Steve Whitton, the assistant manager who only plays because he is the assistant manager. Whether he divides the support rests on whether anyone at all thinks he should be playing.

DARLINGTON


Daniel King


How will your team do?
Despite manager David Hodgson saying things like “We can’t afford another bad season” and “I think we are certainly capable of finisning in the top three” whenever he’s in earshot of a journalist, he’s actually telling huge porkies.We will finish exactly 13th.

Most important figure?
Whoever decides the outcome of the recent takeover bid by a building firm called Chaddingtons. If it is successful, our evil majority shareholder, Reg Brearley, will not be able to put the club out of business (as if he would dream of such a thing).

New piece of merchandise?
Replica shorts. Last season neither shorts nor socks were available in the club shop. I’d like to get rid of ‘Mr. Q’ (Darlo’s very own person-dressed-up-in-a fluffy-suit) merchandise from the club shop, because it’s disgraceful.

Change to the matchday environment ?
Leyton Orient have a PA announcer who shouts “GOOOOOOAALLLLLLLL!” on the rare occasions when they score. I’d quite like one of those. However, he’d probabley get on my nerves after a while, and I’d have to sack him.

EXETER CITY

Alan Crockford


How will your team do?
Summers in Glorious Devon are truly wonderful things. The sky is blue. The sun beats down. All along the shoreline happy holiday-makers frolic on the sandy beaches and paddle in the sea. And supporters of Exeter City really do believe that the next season will be the season. Speaking as one of those happy few, I think we’ll do very well indeed. Hoorah!

Most important figure?
Local hero and ace striker Darren Rowbotham. Last season, he was the only City player who seemed to have grasped that scoring goals is, in general, a good thing which really can have a positive effect on the side’s ability to win games.

New piece of merchandise?
I have always thought that football clubs are missing a trick by not getting involved in the lucrative food wrapping market. Surely Exeter City cling film, freezer bags and aluminium foil would be a winner? They might even surpass the success of our ‘Autoglass Trophy Southern Area Final’ duvet covers...

Which player most divides the support?
That would have to be big centre forward Steve Flack. There’s a couple of deluded souls (myself included) who insist that he could be really useful if Noel Blake didn’t insist on wellying 60-yard up-and-unders in his general direction.

Change to matchday environment?
I do love our little ground, but we really could do with the odd new stand or two. On a smaller scale it would be nice to have an audible public address system, and I’m all for reinstating some of the half-time child tormenting rituals which have entertained us in the past (we had two kids stretchered off at half-time on consecutive weeks a couple of seasons ago).

DONCASTER

Paul Cook

How will your team do?
With the club in receivership during the close season, just kicking-off is quite an achievement. The squad’s down to 14 players and there’s a transfer embargo in place so we could see a team of YTS lads fighting relegation.

Most important figure?
The administrator, who could authorise any takeover if he thinks it’s in the club’s best interests. Hopefully the consortia supposedly waiting in the wings will make a move.

New piece of merchandise?
Last season the home shirts didn’t arrive in the club shop until October and the away shirts until after Christmas, so any stock in the shop in August would be an improvement.

Which player most divides the support?
Lee Warren. It says something about him that he’s been a regular in a team that sells its best players for the past three seasons. He’ll run for ninety minutes but not make a tackle or pass to someone in the same colour shirt.

Change to matchday environment?
When it’s possible to hear what’s being said, the old gent on the tannoy blunders through several messages that have to be decoded. The only clear ones are the fire warning for the main stand (a bit late when it’s half burnt down) and the opposition scorer (the away fans know who he is and we don’t care).

HARTLEPOOL

Paul Mullen

How will your team do? Probably bottom half of the table, but hopefully not as close to the Conference as last season. This season, unusually, we’ve kept the guys we signed on deadline day, and added a couple we had on loan last season. My gut feeling is that we’ll struggle to score (nothing new there).

Most important figure?
The chairman, Harold Hornsey. Having given us a stadium to be proud of, he is now embarking on the building of a Conference/Function Centre attached to the ground. The profits in theory will make the club independent of turnstile revenues. I just hope we’re still in the League by the time that this happens...

New piece of merchandise?
Anything featuring a new club badge.

Which player most divides the support?
Joe Allon – most of the time elements of the crowd call him an over-weight, waste of space – then he scores and he’s a hero, until the next game. Scored the injury time winner at Darlington last season while sat on his backside.

Change to matchday environment?
Something before kick-off to stop everyone turning up at five to three and then complaining about the queues.

HULL CITY

Andy Medcalf


How will your team do?
At worst tunnel through the play-offs and crawl screaming from a very, very poor division. Hull City finished in their worst-ever position on and off the field last year, so virtually anything’s an improvement from that.

Who is going to be the most important figure at the club?
New player/manager Mark Hateley. The success of his partnership up front with Duane Darby will be the difference between Hull City finishing 1st or 14th.

New piece of merchandise?
Let’s tempt fate and suggest souvenir replica Third Division trophies.

Which player most divides the support?
Warren Joyce was always loud in his support for previous manager T*rry D*lan, even though it was obvious the club was going nowhere fast with him in charge. Joyce is the Boo-Boys favourite, and even celebrated his goals last season in front of the closed-down and empty stand at Boothferry Park.

Change to matchday environment?
The club is very much in a transition period, planning the temporary move to The Boulevard, home of rugby league neighbours Hull Sharks. Following the last three or four seasons of total on-field dross, most Tigers fans will settle for some decent football on the pitch providing the afternoon entertainment, although the new owners are promising “more razzamatazz” in our “matchday experience”. Sounds ominous.

LEYTON ORIENT

Jamie Stripe


How will your team do?
Play-offs at best.

Most important figure at the club?
Chairman Barry Hearn. The team has failed miserably to live up to all the hype but the bald truth is that if Hearn left, Orient would be plunged into chaos. The club still have to secure a new lease on Brisbane Road and sort out the never-ending saga of the ground development scheme.

New piece of merchandise?
Tellytubbies in Leyton Orient gear.

Which player most divides the support?
Striker Colin West. The Orientear’s postbag has been split down the middle over his worth since he arrived in 1993. Even when he was top scorer two seasons ago people booed his name when it was announced over the PA.

Change to matchday environment?
I’d like us to start winning for a change.

LINCOLN

Gary Parle

How will your team do?
Given the way we ended last season and John Beck’s so far accurate predictions about the progress we have made since he arrived (survival in 1995-96, consolidation in 96-97, take off 97-98) a play-off spot is the least we are expecting.

New piece of merchandise?
Bullets engraved with the manager’s name and dates of his reign. Sure to sell well given that the chairman has given so many managers the bullet over the past few years.

Which player most divides the support?
Barry Richardson. He’s either a superb, brave shot stopper who wins you matches or a reckless hothead who loses you matches. Mind you, he asked for a transfer so we might have to have a rethink.

Change to matchday environment?
Getting a PA system you can hear would be a start, followed by some up to date music.

MACCLESFIELD

Andy Ridges

How will your team do?
We can spring a few surprises. I’m hoping for a safe mid-table position with a late surge for a play-off spot.

Most important figure?
Without a doubt, this has to be Roary the Lion, the new club man in a costume. Boy, are we going to take some stick with a name like Roary. But that’s what you get if you ask the kids what they want.

New piece of merchandise?
With this being our first season, I think that rose tinted glasses could be introduced, as a reminder of the good old days of non-League – the swapping of ends at half time, mixing with the opposition fans instead of staring at each other through dividing fences etc.

Which player most divides the support?
Steve Wood a player of great talent, and doesn’t he know it – the winner of the player’s player and supporters’s player, plus best haircut and a couple of prizes in the raffle. He can have the fans baying for him to get off the pitch after one naff game, then he produces one bit of magic and is once again the crowd’s favourite.

Change to the matchday environment?
We now have four separate terraces at the ground, with no transfer allowed between them. We understand the need to know how many people each terrace has to hold for safety reasons but it splits the home support and the noise we have made during the friendlies proves my point.

MANSFIELD


Michael Norwood


How will your team do?
If we can pass like Brazil 70 as per last season (well, we’ve got similar shirts) we should be challenging near the top.

Most important figure?
We were one of the lowest scorers in the League season so the acquisition of Rochdale’s top scorer Steve Whitall, a Tostao/Pele hybrid, apparently, could prove to be vital.

New piece of merchandise?
Inflatable stags heads could catch on.

Which player most divides the support?
Steve Harper, signed as a centre forward from Doncaster, now allegedly a left sided wing back. Division Three players can switch effortlessly from one position to another, as I’m sure you know.

Change to the matchday environment?
As we’re now practically twinned with Rio style-wise, it’s about time we had a defeaningly noisy home end packed with samba bands.

NOTTS COUNTY

Steve Westby


How will your team do?
Mid-table at best.

Most important figure?
Derek Pavis the chairman – he has to end the uncertainty over ownership of the club and quickly decide if the management team is the right one.

New piece of merchandise?
A bottle conditioned beer brewed by a local micro brewery.

Change to matchday environment?
Many of us would love to return to terracing. Watching football is one of the few things in life that should be done standing up.

Peterborough

How will your team do? As last season was so poor, avoiding the battle of the boroughs with Stevenage next season will be sufficient for some. Others are believing the bookies’ view that we are joint favourites with Swansea. League – anything above 19th; FA and Coca-Cola Cups – round one.

Most important figure?
The fitness of midfield messiah Scott Houghton will determine if we can create anything. Our defence will continue to be the worst in football.

New piece of merchandise?
Stay awake pills should be given away on admission, never mind in the shop.

Which player most divides the support?
If anyone divides the support at The Posh it’s plastic Cockney Barry Fry, but on the field there are two trains of thought about goalie Bart Griemink: 1) He’s shite. 2) He’s f***** shite.

Change to matchday environment?
Matchdays could be greatly improved by introducing football to the proceedings.

ROCHDALE

Mark Wilbraham


How will your team do?
Hopefully, top ten.

Most important figure?
The manager, because he has to sign a new centre forward. Our top scorer last season bagged eleven...

New piece of merchandise? ‘I Saw Mark Leonard Score’ T-shirts.


Which player most divides the support?
The enigmatic Andy Farrell – supposedly a left back but we’re never sure where he thinks he’s playing.

Change to matchday environment?
The PA announcer is a bit embarrassing with his talk of “half-time results” in a broad Rochdalian accent, far removed from the BBC intonation heard at other grounds.

ROTHERHAM

Phil Kyte


How will your team do?
History is in our favour as we’ve bounced straight back the previous two times we’ve fallen into the bottom division and, despite last season’s debacle, there’s nothing to stop us doing the same this time.

New piece of merchandise?
Bow and arrow sets, the ones with big rubber tips. These could then be fired at our unsuspecting mascot, Dusty, during the half-time penalty shoot-out. And hey, if a players having a bad game, there’s no point in being backward about coming forward.

Which player most divides the support?
It may well come down to striker Lee Glover, our record signing (£150,000 – a lot for Rotherham) but only between those who think he’s poor and those who think he’s absolute rubbish. Not that that stopped Huddersfield attempting to sign him, but that’s football in West Yorkshire for you.

Change to matchday environment?
We could have a half time match between supporters and the players to confirm every supporter’s inbuilt suspicion that they could easily play better than the team on the pitch.

SCARBOROUGH

Mark Staniforth

How will your team do?
Absurdly, we could go up: boosting prices, gaining glory-hunters, massaging the chairman’s ego and setting up a nice relegation in 1998-99.

Most important figure?
Chairman John Russell. Under his lunatic proposals we’ll be playing regionalized football as Sheffield Utd reserves next season.

New piece of merchandise?
After trying ‘Ritchie Cola’ and Rockett Fuel’, I yearn for a stodgy cup of Bovril.

Which player most divides the support?
Mark Wells. His much-publicised off-field antics provoke lively discussions about the wisdom of retaining him: discussions which usually peter out after ten pints, a few smashed glasses and a curry fight.

Change to matchday environment?
The pre-match entertainment. Who is it that thinks we want to watch fluffy seagulls and teenage baton-twirlers knacker up the pitch before a ‘vital’ game?

SCUNTHORPE

Harry Golightly


How will your team do?
This season Scunthorpe will challenge hard for an automatic promotion spot but due to their annual poor run in the winter will slip into the playoff spots, ultimately finishing fifth or sixth.

New piece of merchandise?
Highlights videos – a few seasons ago someone did them for a year but during the next close season the club mucked him about over money and he stopped. Now we have to suffer Gabriel Clarke and Endsleigh League Extra to just to catch a glimpse of the lads.

Which player most divides the support?
Player manager Brian Laws, who is seen as either absolutely ineffective or a vital influence in midfield.

Change to matchday environment?
The environment at Glanford Park is just about right, though the tannoy announcer has a turgid, droning voice.

SHREWSBURY

Ian Collings


How will your team do?
There is a definite lack of strike power up-front and this could be the difference between promotion and mid-table obscurity. Stick my neck out – sixth.

Most important figure?
Our new manager, Jake King. Facing the usual lower division limitations of no budget, he’s going to have to turn water into wine to keep everyone happy. Of course, this may have a detrimental effect on the players’ performances but it’ll be a big hit in the boardroom.

New piece of merchandise?
Club shop? You mean the corner of the secretary’s office where everything is kept in a couple of opened cardboard boxes? I’d go for something not too bulky, to keep the secretary’s path clear to the kettle. Toilet rolls with Wrexham’s club badge printed on each sheet sounds like a winner.

Which player most divides the support?
Paul Edwards, the keeper. At times he can show flashes of brilliance, but he can’t kick a ball for toffee. Unless it’s part of the Edwards/Walton double-act that gifts open goals to opposing strikers. Then he can hit his centre back from thirty yards, blindfolded. Everton are interested, apparently.

Change to matchday environment?
Some netting behind the Riverside stand to stop the opposition hanging onto one-goal leads by hoofing the ball into the Severn, that can be lowered again if we’re in the lead.

SWANSEA CITY

Huw Richards

How will your team do?
If the on-off takeover that has been tantalizing us all summer goes ahead, every chance of promotion. If not, hard to feel too optimistic – there’s only so much that even Jan Molby can do when suffering from uncertainty and poverty.

Most important figure?
The chairman, whoever he may be, for the above reasons.

New piece of merchandise?
The Jan Molby lifesize helium balloon.

Which player most divides the support?
Steve Torpey – variously regarded as an incorrigible donkey whose inability to hold the ball blunts our attack and a decent target man who is by far our most consistent goalscorer. There’s something to be said for both viewpoints.

Change to matchday environment?
A decent, literate fanzine to counterpoint the barely adequate programme.

TORQUAY

Nick House

How will your team do?
Poorly. Second from bottom will do: the “It could be you!” looms large over Plainmoor at present.

Most important figure?
The club’s possible new owners: the existence of whom could be crucial, their non existence even more so. Fax bids to 01803 323976, quickly please.

New piece of merchandise?
Discount vouchers for sessions with a psychotherapist specialising in FRD (Football Related Depression).

Change to matchday environment?
The tannoy announcer. Yet another wannabe DJ (circa 1967) frequently capable of half time ‘results’ such as “Darlington 1 Darlington 3, sorry I mean Doncaster... no, I mean Darlington 3 Doncaster 1... I always get them confused.”

From WSC 127 September 1997. What was happening this month

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