AS WE get ready to say goodbye to another year here at Concord Rangers we have been left to reflect on a remarkable 2014 for our wonderful club.
At the start of this calendar year we were all working hard in our first season in the Conference South and, incredibly, we pushed for a play off place right up until Easter.
Our eventual eighth-place finish made me very proud and really was quite an acheivement – especially considering so many had us down as relegation certainties!
And of course we ended last season on a high by writing more club history as we won the Essex Senior Cup for the first time in our history with victory over our higher league neighbours Braintree Town in the final.
I have to say that the football we played that night at Victoria Road was right up there with our very best-ever performances.
We embarked on the new season at Conference level in August, again with many doubters’ noises ringing in our ears about ‘second season syndrome’.
As I write, we are just below mid table and with games in hand that can put us back into the top 10.
Our manager Danny Cowley and I set three targets at the beginning of the season. They were a top 10 finish, retaining the Essex Senior Cup (we have Dagenham to come in the quarter final), and reaching the first round proper of the FA Cup for the first time ever.
Well I’m delighted to say we are still well on target for all three!
The FA Cup adventure was a real highlight this year.
We all gathered at the clubhouse – committee, management, players and fans – to watch little old Concord Rangers’ name being drawn out of the hat live on BBC TV.
And we did not have to wait too long as we came out second and were handed a trip to League Two Mansfield Town.
Unfortunately it was initially a wasted journey for more than 150 travelling supporters as a water-logged pitch and postponement meant we had to rearrange to travel back up on a chilly Tuesday night.
We still managed to take more than 100 supporters and I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and everyone of you.
And the lads nearly pulled of a giant killing with their keeper sealing his man-of-the-match award by somehow tipping over what looked like a certain winner for us in the closing minutes.
Our goal in a 1-1 draw was a wonder strike from Jordan Chiedozie and it undoubtedly helped seal his move back into the pro game with Cambridge United.
Jordan is now another we have helped back into League football and we wish him and all our ex-Beachboys the very best of luck, of course.
The draw meant the Stags had to come to the Aspect Arena for a replay and we were very unlucky to lose. On that night – as we are accustomed too – the players left everything on the pitch and we could ask no more from them.
Apart from the finanical rewards of the FA Cup run I think the most welcome benefit was the exposure it gave our club. It certainly helped put us on the map!
We were trending worldwide on Twitter at one stage and got a big feature in The Sun (who brought a surfboard along!) and had a great afternoon on Concord Beach after the BBC contacted us and said they would also like to come along with the FA Cup to do some filming.
By the end of it all I think many fans certainly knew the answer to the question “Who the f**k are Concord Rangers?” – which someone posted on Twitter during the live draw!
And since then we have also written another piece of history by reaching the second round proper of the FA Trophy in a run which now includes beating Conference National leaders Barnet FC 2-6 in a replay at The Hive. Not too shabby!
Away from competitions, we have completed the installation of new changing facilities and are now going to be investing some of our winnings in renovating the members’ bar.
We are also preparing a submission for a 3G training facility at the ground for use by our local community and other clubs.
Our Beachboys in the Community programme has gone from strength to strength and we have just been given a further two years of funding from the Conference and Premier League fund.
Our youth section has grown further and we now have even more promising youngtsers looking to join us next season. For me that is testament to the club being recognised as doing things the right way.
We will also be launching our own Academy early in the new year with our long-serving midfielder Gary Ogilvie heading it up for us.
It will be run from Waterside Farm on Canvey as the facilities there – both classroom and 3G pitches – are excellent.
The aim is to have 24 students in the first year and then 50 in year two.
The club itself is in the best financial health I have seen in my 14 years as chairman – and that is without the cup winnings.
Our hall hire is at its highest level ever and the aim is for the new bar to be used more frequently on Friday evenings in the future.
So all in all it really has been another incredible year for us and I’d back it to get even better in 2015.
I’d like to end by saying thank you to all of my committee members, staff, management, players and to all of you who support our unique club and make it the special place it is.
I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
You are my Concord,