By Shaun Webbley

The scene was a painful one, this rather large coach was trying to squeeze into this very small entrance, whilst an irritable crowd of cars pile up behind the aforementioned vehicle.

No, this isn’t a story about traffic and cars, this is the final day of an emotional season for Lichfield City, which ends in typically enthralling circumstances before the game has even started.

As the players look out of their prominent windows, with a sense of joviality about the situation they find themselves in, the players joke, laugh and giggle as they so often do.

We eventually pull into Highgate, where the final game of the season is being played, which as manager Ivor Green points out, carries very little importance. With Lichfield confirming their spot in third and with their opponent Highgate United already confirming their spot in the division, this had the makings of a mellow finally to an enthralling season.

The players put their bags into the dressing room, before taking a casual stroll onto the pitch. They survey the scene, “this looks alright, the best I’ve seen it,” is one comment.

The sprinklers on the pitch are going in a circular motion, although they don’t appear to cover much grass, as it soaks the centre circle – but not much else.

“It’s covering where you’re playing Kyle,” says one as the squad bursts out laughing at Kyle Patterson’s perceived lack of mobility, the captain takes it in good faith (I think).

After a very brief stint inspecting the surface, the players very quickly saunter back into the dressing room for the final team talk of the season. My typically large bag was causing issues for physio Dan Martin, and indeed everyone who tried to squeeze past me in the tight walls of the changing room.

“Before we start a massive thank you to this man,” Green proudly says as he gives kit man Peter Clough the recognition he fully deserves. Clough, a shy man doesn’t want too much of the limelight as he gingerly thanks Green for the mention.

The room breaks out into a fit of laughter, however, when Clough inadvertently spills almost half of his cup of tea on the floor as he makes his way out of the room. At the angle he was holding his drink, you knew what was coming.

“At half-time on Thursday, I saw him (Clough) with five teas in his hand (mimicking his attempts at holding all 5 cups) and I asked him whether he wanted help he said ‘no, no I’ll be alright’, there was nothing in them when I looked it had gone everywhere,” striker Luke Keen says with a smile on his face, as the rest of the squad are in stitches at Keen’s anecdotes. Like a Tommy Cooper stand-up routine in his heyday, the number 9 had the room in stitches.

“He (Clough) was telling me to take the middle one of the five, his fingers were in all of them scolded,” Green replies as the squad is howling with uncontrollable laughter, this is Lichfield, the pressure is finally off them after a long arduos season.

As ever, Green’s command of the room is as strong as a Tyson Fury right hook, as the boxer showed later that night against Dillian Whyte. Every player hangs off his every word with genuine interest, every player is pulling in the right direction happiness reigns in the dressing room. The players were eager to comment despite the game being a dead rubber, on how important it could be for next season.

“The momentum could help us next season,” said captain Kyle Patterson, keen to get across the importance of said dead rubber.

The game itself is a stalemate, chances are few and far between, and the indignation at every refereeing decision was almost comedic. Enigmatic chairman Darren Leaver, who isn’t afraid to voice his opinion, was keen to air his.

Midway through the second half, a foul was given against Lichfield, you could hear a pin drop, before this loud overexaggerated hoot of laughter coming from the chairman a second later broke the silence, much to my humour. Leaver’s subtle way of informing the linesman and referee that he doesn’t agree with their decision is a comedic one.

A sometimes more boisterous approach will be to tell the referee how wrong they are with some shall we say colourful language. As Liam Heath is typing away for the club’s social media page, Leaver is in the thick of it. He’s heading, kicking every ball and arguing every decision, who’d be a chairman. The passion the two men have for football is infectious, they greet every opposition director and manager, and they love it.

“What’s the Ilkeston score?” Leaver will ask Heath, despite his team currently playing in a tense game, football is his life. As Thursday night’s semi-final was reaching its dramatic crescendo, a voice could be heard.

“Burnley are beating Southampton 2-0,” Leaver would excitedly say, despite him having no affiliation to Burnley, he is football mad.

Heath is the numbers man, he is always wanting to improve, constantly suggesting ideas of levelling up the clubs’ facilities. They are intertwined with this club, and you’d think they might have eased just due to the passage of time, not this pair.

The Torvill and Dean, or the Ant and Dec of football, being in their company is a joy, their passion seeps through the club and is the pillar of every success they have.

Once the serious business grounds to a halt, the fun begins with an alcoholic twist. After a few beers in Highgate’s clubhouse, the destination is the Trade Tyre Community Stadium to celebrate.

The players are geeing me up to sing my initiation song, I hesitantly accepted. Don’t Look Back In Anger by the little-known Manchester band Oasis, is the pick. The irritating sound of a Cheshire cat howling is probably how I would sum up my musical endeavours. It’s safe to say I’ll never have a career in music.

 As the songs are whistled through as if we are in a nightclub, Leaver and Heath both take turns singing, which earns a rousing reception from the players and everyone on board the coach. The atmosphere is like a party, to celebrate everything this squad has achieved, for their first season in step 5 to finish third is not bad and that’s an understatement.

As the curtain closes on the season, a chance for reflection from the players and the manager. As the squad were in full voice, a quick glance at the manager tells you all you need to know.

Green looked pensive as he is no doubt plotting his assault for the title. The tireless man who inspires confidence in anyone will be up day and night – planning, preparing, pondering his toughest challenge yet.

“Pre-season starts in the third week of June,” Green says, that sentence perfectly encapsulates why this club and this manager has been so successful.

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