Following a drop in form in the league, plus exits from both the FA Cup and now the FA Trophy, Hereford must arrest the slide quickly.
Russell Slade has endeavoured to freshen up the squad with the introduction of both young and experienced players but has yet to arrive at a settled, consistent squad. All too often individual errors have proved costly and the paucity of goals is extremely concerning. So what next?
Novelty time! Whisper it quietly because I’m not even sure these are allowed any more… A home League game on a Saturday. Seriously. Like we used to have regularly in years gone by. Keep it quiet though as our supporters might want another one. And… we have new opposition. Not often these days that Hereford FC play a club for the first time. Farsley are based in Leeds and anyone who travelled to Guiseley earlier this season might remember a signpost to their ground en route.
Back in the summer, I confidently predicted Farsley were a direct replacement for Ashton United in pre-season. Celtics average gate of 350 supported my verdict, even after making their title-winning game free of charge. Take that out and their paying audience was around 200. For one match they had a gate of 88. I got that prediction wrong. What I didn’t factor in was a summer takeover. The long-serving (as in 47 years of service) and manure-loving (they own a plant nursery) Palmer family left en masse. In came Mark Barthorpe who bought two thirds of the shares. He owns a large construction company in Chesterfield. I’ve seen nothing to officially confirm this though it’s my supposition that the new arrival has donated generously to the club. Certainly, Farsley’s Chief Executive is now a full-time post. The sort of role that the owner/ whole Board and secretary of Kings Lynn maintains his club can’t afford, even though their gate revenue must be five times higher than Farsley.
The new Farsley regime also includes a change of club colours from blue to green and white, a garish new American-style badge and a new ground name. Out went the Throstles Nest which served them well since 1948, in came the novelty name, the Citadel. I dislike them already. Will be interesting to see what type of an owner he will be. A sensible one or another Glen Tamplin? He came to our attention with Billericay last season in the FA Trophy Tamplin’s finally left ‘Ricay and has now taken over Step 4 Romford as owner and manager. In the first week, he sacked the manager who’d been in charge for 15 years and bought in 14 players. In one week.
Celts new owner has introduced very cheap pricing. Farsley senior season tickets were priced at £50. Or a Gold seniors Season ticket, which for £80 includes a steak burger and a pint for every game. You do wonder what’s in the burger and in the pint glass at an equivalent of £1.50 per game. Culinary questions apart, that is an inspired idea. Because its seniors who can’t be bothered with the hassle and expense of going to Elland Road. And its seniors who have time on their hands and might be encouraged to become volunteers. For interest, adults are priced at a remarkable £80 or £120 for a Gold season ticket. Farsley make FC United look expensive. it’s an interesting move and maybe necessary when you share a supporter base with Leeds United and Guiseley. Average gates have pretty much doubled to 560, though take away the 1100 on the opening day against Darlington and numbers are closer to 450. Income will be meagre however if the Board can be patient, play a long game and build an audience, their investment will be worthwhile.
For much of this season, Celts have held a Play-Off place. They’ve only added 3 players to the Step 3 Championship squad. As the manager admitted to the Telegraph and Argus: “We’ve got to be careful and wary of getting to the National League too quickly. As things are off the pitch, we’ll struggle at this level.”
Farsley have already tried the boom and bust model. They reached the heady heights of the Conference in 2007/08 but were immediately relegated. With the club’s financial problems mounting, they staggered on in the Conference North before closing down in 2010. The former Board members paid the players wages for several months before agreeing the situation was hopeless. The club reformed as Farsley FC in Step five before reverting to Farsley Celtic in 2015.
The latest club manager or, to give him his buzzy new title, the Celts Army manager, is Adam Lakeland. Adam is UEFA A Qualified, a former coach at Curzon and a manager at Northwich Victoria. He joined in May 2017 and he’s still there! Lakeland is a busy man. Earning his UEFA A Licence coaching badge at 26, he has worked full-time for 13 years as a director for Lancashire-based Pro Sport Coaching Ltd, who coach school children. He may be even busier soon as the new owner has informed him that he expects Farsley to go full time soon.
Before joining Farsley, Leeds-born Jimmy Spencer racked up 170 Football League appearances. He dropped from League Two to Step 3 to do so at the age of 25. Seems a drastic step for a reasonably successful six-foot one striker and his reasons remain unclear. Logical assumptions are around starting a new career, fed up of moving around the UK or a new romance. Spencer was the main striker in Farsley’s Northern Premier League Championship side last season and won every award going. Spencer was supported by Nathan Cartman who is ex Leeds United Academy and Darlington who sounds akin to Symo, an underrated hard worker up front. Neither striker are regular goal scorers this term as the goals are shared around. Wide man Will Hayhurst has the most goals, though all his came from the penalty spot. Farsley score one third of their goals in the last 15 minutes which says something about their fitness levels.
Farsley have a decent away record with wins at Gateshead, Alfreton, Bradford and Leamington. They scored 3 or 4 times in each of those victories. They escaped from York with a 0-0 draw while they have lost at Chester, Altrincham, Kidderminster and Blyth. At the time of the November international break, they’d gone 4 League games without a win. Such runs happen to most clubs in our League.
Weather permitting, Farsley will be providing our first Saturday home League game opposition for months.
We welcome both their club and supporters for their first visit to the Street.
Pic: Steve Niblett