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So what makes a good football programme?

Today marks my third month in the hardest job in football.  Manager’s have an easy job turning up for 3 hours on a Saturday to watch a game for free.  Directors?  Well that’s just sitting round a table eating biscuits and talking about building new toilet blocks (well, to an extent).  I’m talking about one where you need to be available 24 x 7 yet your work often ends up being discarded in the bin.  I am a (co) Football Programme Editor.

New Picture (3)In the past three months, Barry Collins and myself have put together ten editions of the Lewes matchday programme.  Programmes that every week we think are getting better and better.  It does help that Barry has had some experience in the editing game (Anyone heard of PC Pro magazine by any chance?), we have a brilliant team of designers over at East-Web (thanks Jack and Lee) who lay it all out and some excellent pictures from the shutter finger of James Boyes.  But it is the bits in between that cause us to burn the midnight oil.

When we took over the role in the summer, Barry and I had grand plans for the programme.  Who wanted to read dull boring bits about the away team when they only bring two fans? Adverts? Seriously…one or two at best.   People flocked to us promising us Pullitzer quality articles.  But when the chips have been down and we needed to do three programmes in a little more than five days where were they?  Exactly.  We were on our own.

The problem for Non-League clubs, as Glenn Wilson pointed out in a recent When Saturday Comes article is that the job is the one nobody wants to do.  The role is one of those that if we do a good job, no one notices, but if it goes wrong, everyone tells us.  Whilst we have “editorial” control, our audience doesn’t really care.  We currently have 12 pages of adverts in a 32 page programme.  That in my honest opinion is too many.  We have no choice but to carry FIVE from the Ryman League because of a deal they did. It is arguable we get the value of any commercial arrangement even if one of the ads is for Boux Avenue.  So each week we have to come up with something new.

Lewes v Margate 2013So far, so good.  I have no idea if sales are up or down, but two weeks ago we sold out (and long before kick off) for the first time in years.  In fact the silent majority were soon quick to voice their disapproval of the fact, telling us we should have printed more.  Well, perhaps if those same voices would have given us some feedback when we asked earlier in the season perhaps we may have.  We are still trying to put our own stamp of individuality on each edition.  Our offering today against Margate included an article on the real founding fathers of Football, an interview with one of our oldest and most loyal fans, a piece on our opponents written by one of their more well known fans and a “last word” from Barry about his Geoff Shreeves moment last week.  See for yourselves and tell us what you think by reading a pdf copy here.

Come matchday and you would think we could relax, our work finished for the week and people enjoying the fruits of our labours.  But you would be wrong.  We have to be on the look out for the next story.  Jack Walder’s Captain’s Notes don’t just write themselves you know, and we still have the match report to worry about.  No wonder we start on the Harvey’s at 2pm!

Lewes 3 Margate 0 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 26th October 2013
Last Saturday Margate hit Wroxham for nine in their FA Trophy tie, whilst Lewes somehow managed to turn a comfortable win into a surprise defeat to Leatherhead.  Normality was returned on Tuesday night when Enfield Town were put to the sword and after what seemed like an age, Lewes climbed back into the Play-Off spots. But today..Wow.  This was the best Rooks performance of the season.

photo (14)We had only just taken our places on The Jungle when Nicky Wheeler was in the right place at the right time to pick up a pass (or was it a shot) from Logan, turning and curl it into the top corner.  We all scrambled for our golden goal tickets – producing a 2,4 and 5 minute tickets between us. Alas, Bob’s watch was either too fast or too slow and he settled on 3 minutes as the winning time.

Lewes continue to boss the half, with Margate’s goal leading a charmed life.  Twice the ball rolled in slow motion towards the far corner only to take a small diversion at the last minute, and Wheeler, Nathan Crabb and Logan all came close to scoring a second.  Margate’s cause wasn’t helped when Joe Vines was given a straight red for an aerial challenge on Sam Crabb. It was harsh to say the least, especially as the referee was some distance away.

Two minutes into the second half and Lewes were 2-0 up and playing against ten men.  The hour of David Pleat was upon us.  Two nil, as we know is the most dangerous score line in football, coupled with the “difficulty” in playing against ten men meant we were doomed to a painful last half an hour.  Fortunately, Pleat talks absolute bollocks so our victory was never in doubt once Jack Dixon had smashed home Hall’s pinpoint cross in the opening seconds of the second half.

A very professional performance was completed when Dan Smith bundled in Wheeler’s “cross” (it was a shot) with then minutes to go and the pain of the three defeats in recent weeks was out of the system.  Full time brought a rousing chorus from the fans and recipricated by the players and management team.  Barry and my afternoon’s work was now about to start again.

photo (12)First up, we had to track down one of the management team (Thanks Danny) for their post-match words; then it was a quick chat with Captain Jack (who showed real class in avoiding the constant intimidation from the Margate centre-forward) for his (edited) comments for the next programme and finally we simply cruised the bar looking for the next big story.  OK, we had a beer in relief that we had a whole 7 days off before the whole process of putting together the next programme would start all over again.

As I walked out the ground I saw a pile of unsold programmes from today’s game.  All of our hard work, those long hours trying to push the envelope, the ground breaking editorial, for what? Now I know exactly how the Beatles felt when they went on tour to Hamburg in the early 1960’s. Heartbroken.



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