As I so often am on a Saturday morning I’m racing down to Derby Midland Station, to once again watch a team who are really capturing the imagination of the fans and the people in the small cathedral city in Staffordshire. As the train to Coleshill Parkway at 12:38 pulls into platform 3A, the questions are in my head.
Chairman Darren Leaver and vice-chairman Liam Heath have agreed to do a joint interview, having interviewed manager Ivor Green and assistant Wayne Chapman in a joint interview the week before, which was a success. So I thought I needed to do it again and I set my sights on the people who are one of the main driving forces behind the club’s success.
Compared to my last visit to the Trade Tyre Stadium which I will soon be calling my second home at this point, the weather was a stark contrast from the blustering winds and heavy rain seen during the previous training session. The weather was so bad that Green walked out with his typical cup of coffee and as he looks across the artificial pitch. His exact words are “f***ing hell!” as he reflects on the conditions, I’ll let you fill in the blanks.
As I wander into the car park on a sunny Saturday afternoon and eventually go through the entrance, a new turnstile has been installed, a look of bemusement descends on my face as I worry about how I plan on getting in. As I eventually get into the ground, I sit in the clubhouse with the referees and both Darren and Liam, I eventually get the interview underway as the three of us to change location.
The aura and understanding of every little crumb of the football club are really apparent when you sit down with both of them, they bounce off each other like a comedic duo in their prime. Leaver seems to charter the conversation with his enthusiasm and energy about every small minute detail, Heath although quieter when I pose questions to him his knowledge and passion for the game is again there for all to see.
The result against Shifnal Town isn’t ideal, as a Dan Lomas penalty wasn’t enough on the day in what was a poor day’s showing from the home side in a 2-1 home defeat. As I amble towards the clubhouse past the dressing room, an overbearing sense of disappointment was strewn across the players’ faces as they charged into the dressing room.
I made my way through to the clubhouse, as players from both City and Shifnal Town filtered into the bar to grab some food and some alcoholic beverages, as I speak to Leaver and Heath about the game. Once again, the conversation just highlighted to me their passion and also the community feel, which I’ve mentioned so often everyone knows everyone and it’s such a welcoming environment.
Leaver and I speak and my curiosity gets the better of me, as I ask him: “How does the seven-day system work?”. For anyone who isn’t versed on the subject, the seven-day system is the transfer system that once triggered allows the current club time to notify the players and to try and convince him to stay.
However, if the player has his heart set on the move and decides to leave the club, the team losing the player have seven days to find the replacement. As Leaver was explaining the rules in his typical anecdotal style, using a former player as an example and talking with such passion and excitement about the game of football, it’s encapsulating.
As the night drew to a close and only a few players and both Green and Chapman remained, as classy as ever they both offered me a lift to the train station, seeing as they drive to every game together, I thought it would be a good idea to take a back seat.
What dawned on me the most is Green’s relentless determination for success, the man speaks like his life depends on it. Now whether that’s because of the passion he has for the game or the amount of coffee he has consumed in the six hours he was at the stadium we will never know.
Wednesday 2nd of March
As my train from Tamworth to Lichfield Trent Valley pulled into the station at 5:18 pm, a rare novelty occurred, it wasn’t pitch black in the evening for the first time since I started writing for the club in October. I was there on a mission if you like, to speak to Lichfield City club captain, Kyle Patterson who I hadn’t properly spoken to since I started.
As I arrived at the Trade Tyre Stadium, I looked around and saw the younger sides having a few hours on the pitch before the first team took centre stage in a very eventful friendly that finished 6-2 to the visitors Coleshill Town. A fantastic goal for Jonathan Gould which will no doubt please Ivor and in particular Wayne, the assistant manager who has been a vocal supporter of his every time I’ve spoken to him.
As the pitch was in use, the father of youngster Lewi Burnside, Robbie was out on the pitch helping the younger teams set up for training, which to me once again highlighted just how involved everyone is. If you buy into this club, you’re in it for the long haul which is something I’ve learnt quickly.
Patterson and I conducted the interview which was interrupted several times due to people knocking on the door. As Patterson spoke about his future and the form he has been in this season, a sense of why Patterson was the undisputed captain was dawning on me, he spoke like a true leader.
As we wrapped up the interview and I wandered my way into the home team’s dressing room and as the players trickle in one by one after the usual pleasantries and handshakes or fist bumps were complete, I sit back and take in the players talking with one and other. I watch on as Jack Edwards talks about his new diet with a solemn look of sadness on his face as one player shouts up, he can have a takeaway tonight, Edwards laughs knowing full well he can’t.
Jamie Elkes puts both of his boots on top of the heater to try and warm them up, much to the disdain of a few of his teammates who shake their heads and chuckle to themselves.
As Green strode in with his typical confident and friendly nature, he pulls out his marker pen and goes to work like an artist on a blank canvas as he moves around the small magnets to indicate a change in formation. A back three is in order and the puzzling look on the player’s face was a picture, as Green goes through his thinking behind it to the select few who are there early, you really see the passion in his voice, he truly loves the game.
As the rest of the players saunter into the dressing room to get ready for the warmup, I’m sat next to Scott Goodby, a player who has been loyal to both Green and Chapman which stretch back to the days that they were at Atherstone Town Football Club. During those days they were alongside Mark Brooks better known as BrooksyTV on Twitter, who uploads highlights packages after every Lichfield City game.
Goodby smirks at Elkes’ antics in the changing room and offers me chewing gum which I politely decline as I have my own stash hidden away in my bag. As we approach 6:50 pm, the door to the changing room swings open, Green, Chapman and Jack Longmore walk in as they so often are, together at the hip.
As I’m sat on the seat nearest the door, it feels like I’m a fly on the wall, Green is in full flow, I don’t even think he realised I’m in the changing room. I won’t reveal what was said for obvious reasons but the control of the dressing room he has is no surprise to me but to see it in person is a sight to see. Every word that comes out of his mouth is calculated and has a clear purpose, whether it’s to praise a player or to give a player a slight kick up the backside, it’s clear every word has meaning, and he doesn’t say things for effect.
As Green is in full flow, Chapman gives me a bump on the arm, and he whispers to me: “Are you the mascot tonight?” in his typical jovial tone which again leads me to break out into a fit of giggles. As Green claps his hands together, the players are all raring to go and head out for the friendly, ahead of tomorrow’s crucial cup quarter-final against OJM Black Country at the Trade Tyre Stadium. This represents a great chance to claim a trophy from a great season for the club that is currently sitting third in the Midland Football League.
By Shaun Webbley