Herridge: I fear losing my top playersBy Adam Lee
April 27, 2011
Wokingham & Emmbrook manager Roger Herridge has made a renewed plea to Wokingham council as the town’s football club continues to punch above its weight.
The club’s senior team ended its first season in the Hellenic Premier Division in 11th position, finishing higher than Ascot United and Bracknell Town.
However, despite an ever-improving first team, a competitive reserve side, a strong Under-18s set up and one of the most extensive junior programmes in the area, the club is still lacking a place to call home.
Earlier this year, chairman Mark Ashwell revealed that he received a ‘pledge’ from both the council’s chief executive and a senior officer saying that the football club will be included in the master planning of redevelopment in the north of Wokingham.
But boss Herridge is worried that, unless something concrete happens soon, then he could see the break up of the most talented group of players that the club has had in years.
With an average age in the early 20s, Herridge’s first-team squad is almost entirely home-grown talent, but until Wokingham can relocate to a ground they can call their own, the manager is worried that those players could be attracted to pastures new and promises of better deals eleswhere.
“I now know what we need to get out of this league, but we’ll never be in a position to do that until the council supports us,” said Herridge.
“The squad of players has been excellent and I certainly think we can progress next year, but until the local council gets us a ground, then as a club we’re not going to progress and get out of this league.
“We have a special group of players who have been with the club for an awful long time, but if the club doesn’t progress then these players will move on and play at a higher level – I can’t hold them back.
“They have shown great commitment and I can’t fault anyone.
“But for us to go any further, the club has to progress along with the playing side of things and we’ll only do that if we get the backing from the council.
“There’s some great people on the committee and associated with the club who are doing fantastic jobs, but for us to move forward in the way we want to we need a ground, but I’m not sure that our local council are particulalry interested in us at the moment.
“I don’t think they realise just what an affect a succesful town football team can have on the local area and the community.
“The worry for me is, as much as the players can see how hard the committee works, do the players see the club progressing off the field in the same way as we are on it?
“We don’t have a lot to offer the players in terms of convincing them to stay or attracting players to come and join us.
“And therefore I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my players don’t get approached by other clubs this summer.
“But another season playing for Wokingham & Emmbrook at this level will do their progression no harm at all and we certainly have the makings of a very very good side.”
Despite what has been an outstanding season of consolidation and progression, the campaign ended on a somewhat disappointing note with four defeats in their last five games.
The most gut-wrenching of all was the 3-1 defeat at Newbury in the semi-final of the BTC Reading Senior Cup, which denied Herridge’s charges the opportunity of playing in the final at Madejski Stadium.
However, Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Shortwood United, followed by Monday’s 3-0 loss at Flackwell Heath still saw them finish in 11th position.
It has been a season of many highlights for the club, but Herridge is already looking ahead to the next campaign and planning exactly where he can improve his side.
“Overall it’s been an excellent season,” he said.
“If you had asked (former manager) Wayne (Wanklyn) or myself if we would finish mid-table with 60 points we would have taken it.
“We have certainly enjoyed our first season in the Hellenic Premier.
“There were lots of highlights – beating Wantage was a great result, while beating Highworth Town 6-1 on their own turf will probably go down as one of the results of the season in the whole division.
“It’s a very good league and probably one of the strongest step five leagues around.
“I’m chuffed to bits that we have finished above Ascot – to finish above them with the resources and facilities they have is outstanding.
“We have achieved and even surpassed some our targets for the season, and if you look at our performances against the top clubs we know on our day and with our strongest squad we are more than a match for anyone in this league.
“We need to get a bit more experience in the team, but that is hard to come by when you don’t have much of a budget.
“Sometimes you need an experienced head to get the players together and drive them forward when things aren’t going your way.
“We also need a natural goalscorer and losing Adam Cornell mid-way through the season was a big blow because he is that type of player.”
Wokingham will now break for the summer, and barring the awards ceremony and annual golf day, will not return for pre-season training until June.