Football at this level can be full of drama, excitement and intrigue, but sometimes the more mundane things can provide you with all three of these emotions. Trying to unlock a locker that has a kettle in it, doesn’t sound very exciting but this is Lichfield City where anything can be exciting.

Jack Edwards and I are standing near the locker trying to crack the code like madmen, the determination on Edwards’ face is a sight to behold. We are both stood over it, whilst I’m chuckling away due to the ridiculousness of the situation, Edwards’ face paints a picture of someone on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire trying to figure out the £1 million question.

We eventually find out the code and in turn discover Edwards was one number away, the grimace on his face when he realises is a sight to behold. It’s another Wednesday at the Trade Tyre Community Stadium. A friendly is scheduled against Rushall Olympic who are on a losing run, Lichfield City on the back of their disappointing loss to Hanley Town want a response.

I sit down with Edwards, Joe Haines and Dan Lomas, the atmosphere seems light-hearted, before serious topics about mental health are discussed, as it was two years since the first national lockdown. The interview is my very first three-man interview, the interview itself seems more like an interrogation from myself but it goes well. The jibes are constant between the trio, Haines with 7 goals is the butt of most of the jokes it seems. Considering a combined 48 goals sit on either side of the influential full-back, in Lomas with 22 and Edwards with 26 goals as mentioned previously.

As the manager has his usual team talks in the dressing room, I try and make notes on my phone before realising I might be fined if I’m caught so instead, I make notes in my book. Trying to keep up with manager Ivor Green is hard enough at the best of times, but there is an air of confidence and authority and speed in his speech. A result like Hanley might have knocked the stuffing out of the team, Green tries to ensure that won’t happen again.

As the players marched out for the friendly against Rushall, I cheekily ask if I’m able to sit on the bench with the players, they allow it. So I gingerly walk over to the bench with an overriding sense of imposter syndrome I take my seat.

Despite feeling like I don’t belong, one of the things you get from such an up-close and personal view is seeing how the brilliant managerial duo work. The constant shouts and praising of players’ performances can’t be heard in the stand on the opposite end of the pitch.

“Better, better well done,” bellows Green from the bench. The exuberant manager isn’t sat down, how can he be, he’s prowling the touchline constantly with the energy of a Duracell bunny waiting to explode.

Lewi Burnside is deputising at right-back which in itself could well be a massive risk, but the 18-year-old was fantastic all night. Green was constantly giving guidance to the youngster; his ball retention and his creativity was a constant threat for Rushall and something they couldn’t deal with in the first half.

As I’m sat on the bench, backup goalkeeper Tom Wright, who is someone I hadn’t met before, spoke to me and his confidence and positivity were obvious to see. The youngster from the under 21 team was leaving me in hysterics with his comments. Really just highlighting the club’s ethos – players need to be respectful and be confident, something that Green has tried to instil from day one.

Wright comments on my coat and he jokingly adds: “I don’t even have my own kit!”, as he explains he has to bring his own kit rather than it being in the bags with everyone else’s. As the game comes to an end, after being a goal down going into the final knockings of the game, the quality shows and Rushall run out four-goal winners in the end. As I make my way around the pitch due to the lack of appropriate footwear, Wright yells out: “Just walk on the pitch!” in a typically comedic fashion.

Saturday 26th of March

The day trip has started it’s 11:45 am and we depart from Lichfield in an 8 seated Mercedes which is full to the rafters. The trip is a long 75-minute gruelling trip, there is traffic on the way and chairman Darren leaver jokes youngster Lewi Burnside who is in the car with us, will be fined if he hasn’t arrived by the 1:30 pm deadline.

We eventually arrive on time and the sun is shining in Stourport, Green and Chapman are in summer clothes, as the coaching staff deliberate the team selection and they try and determine if everyone is here on time, Green glides into the dressing room for his team talk.

Lichfield City’s away dressing room against Stourport Swifts

“This might be the best bench I’ve ever had in football,” admits Green as Jonathan Gould, Dan Lomas, Kyle Patterson, Max Dixon and Max Black are the names on a brilliant bench. “To have the squad that we have is incredible but saying that, we don’t win games on paper. Last Saturday’s game (against Hanley Town) we were slow, laboured and second-best in every department, no excuses for me.”

The tension is palpable, the atmosphere is burst when Pete Clough, the kit man walks in asking who the captain is, Joe Haines is the response from Green. An uprising of voices can be heard after this – “I had to pay for it lads,” replies Haines greeted with a few giggles from teammates.

“You’ve been unbelievable this season and I mean that,” says Green with adulation in his voice. “We have to manage this tough period, we’ve got Chasetown on Tuesday and whatever happens today it’s nice to know we’ve got that game quite soon after. All I ask is for you to put 100% effort into this, whether you’re playing or not.

“The pitch is rock hard, there will be a lot of bobbles and bounces so it’s going to be f**king difficult today. I need you boys to fight for every second ball, if they start winning second balls then they will grow in confidence.”

The Lichfield City players warming up ahead of the game on a difficult pitch

The enigmatic manager points to the returning Sam Fitzgerald, who has been training with Hereford: “We’ve brought Fitzy back (Fitzgerald), we’ve had a long chat about bringing him back into the fold, I think his fitness and energy levels are crucial. Chann (pointing to Chandler Pegg) you’ve done enough to get into this team, all I ask is you run. The bits of quality comes off the back of what you do without the ball.”

As the team talk comes to an abrupt end, Luke Childs yells out in typical tongue in cheek fashion: “Let’s get this win then we can head off to the fair!”, in reference to the Treasure Island amusement park, situated near the ground.

It was a big day for both Pegg and Fitzgerald, in particular, Pegg due to the lack of game time he has had recently, the 20-year-old was deployed behind towering striker Luke Keen. The decision to start Pegg which could have been a risk was rewarded when the lethal striker was sent in on goal by Scott Goodby and finished brilliantly.

Lichfield City goalkeeper James Beeson was keen to point out to me just how lethal Pegg is: “All he needs is one chance and he scores, that’s Chandler really.”

As the full-time whistle was blown and I left my small press desk, I slowly ambled to the clubhouse where drinks were had and pats on the back were shared. The Walsall Senior Cup quarter-final against Chasetown is firmly on the horizon. Which will no doubt be a game packed with drama, excitement and intrigue as it so often is at this manic yet alluring level of football.

By Shaun Webbley

Media
March 27, 2022
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