In this strange Step 4 season – a campaign in which Cables have both scored and conceded seven goals in League fixtures – Tuesday night saw possibly the most remarkable shellacking of the campaign so far.
In the Isthmian League South Central Division, Staines Town’s team of amateurs, led by their fourth manager of the season (so far) were thumped 12-0 (yes, twelve) at home by Hanwell Town, who also missed a penalty along the way! Staines are, like Cables, currently occupying the relegation play-off place in their division but, unlike Cables, who are looking upwards following an improvement in performances and that pre-Christmas thumping of Market Drayton, the Swans are looking nervously over their shoulders.
Staines are only two points ahead of the bottom two clubs in the South Central division, but Guernsey have eight games in hand on the Middlesex club, while Chalfont St Peter have two.
As newsworthy and topical as their latest tonking is, I’m talking about Staines because they are something of a cautionary tale. The Swans reached either the First or Second Round Proper of the FA Cup four times in ten years between 2007 and 2016 and were a National League South club as recently as 2015. For their televised FA Cup replay against Stockport County, which Staines won on penalties, there were 2,860 fans packed into their Wheatsheaf Park ground. On Tuesday night, just 87 hardy souls were present.
In some respects, the club’s current situation can be traced back to the death of former Chairman Alan Boon, in 2011. Alan Boon had bankrolled the Swans, including propping up the club during a series of groundshares while he attempted to get the club’s dilapidated ground up to modern standards. The ground was eventually completely rebuilt, thanks to a health club being incorporated into the site.
After Alan Boon passed away, his son Matt took over the running of the club but passed it over to Joe Dixon and Paul Jaszynski in May 2018. At the time, Matt Boon told Get Surrey: “”No money has changed hands between us. I’ve just done what I think is best for the club. Yes they are inexperienced at running a football club but they are quality people and I can see them making a success of it. …They are well connected and know a lot of influential people. There will be a bigger board of directors and three of the board members are Asian businessmen.”
Within months, Jaszynski had moved on and Joe Dixon is currently the sole shareholder and director of the limited company which runs the club. However, Mr Dixon is not presently involved in the day-to-day running of Staines Town, having apparently relocated to the USA. Mr Dixon appointed a Chairman in February 2021 – Kevin Rowell stepping up from his previous role as General Manager.
Meanwhile, the Thames Club, having enabled the redevelopment of Staines’ ground, began throwing their weight around. Relations between the two organisations broke down, leading to the football club having their Boardroom relocated to an inaccessible area beyond the Main Stand and a series of disputes over the upkeep of Wheatsheaf Park. Mr Dixon tried to buy the ground, then attempted to take over Bulgarian giants Levski Sofia in June 2021 while the club he does own struggles on and off the pitch.
All this is relevant to Prescot Cables because it illustrates the dangers of being too reliant on the financial support of one person, or a small group of people. There is more to any football club than the 90 minutes on a Saturday; there is a community within it and there’s the social contact it provides, not to mention the weight of history that sits with each club and within its ground. As a fan-owned club, Prescot Cables is utterly dependent on us, as supporters for its success. We can’t artificially inflate our wage budget, as Joe Dixon could at Staines. But, at the same time, what we have is ours. As long as we meet the terms of the lease, the club controls the IP Truck Parts Stadium and how it is used; no-one can take the bar revenue from us, as the Thames Club did at Staines, or turn the Harry Boydell Suite into a dance studio. We win together and we lose together.
Kidsgrove Athletic will be difficult opponents this afternoon but if we get behind our team from the first whistle, we can help the Pesky Bulls earn the points. And whatever the result, we can be proud of having a stable, supporter-owned football club which is building a solid foundation for the future.