Channel Hopping: The crazy fixture backlog of Guernsey FC

Channel Hopping: The crazy fixture backlog of Guernsey FC

Bad weather and postponements can kill a small club. Not only do you lose out on gate income, lost hospitality and wasted food in the pie stall, it can often lead to the most horrendous fixtures pile up.

Right now of course, we’d love to be looking at a fixtures backlog at Bayview and having a few more games ahead of us to try and avoid the seemingly inevitable relegation playoffs.

Some of the top managers are always on the telly complaining about having too many games in too short a time. It’s not good for the players. You know, those highly paid ones that are full time and train a couple of hours each day, if that. Never mind that we used to play for 4 or 5 hours a day when we were kids, then go home and have our tea and then go back out and play some more.

Next time you hear complaints about fixture congestion, or think that your own club has a horrendously busy spell ahead of them, think of the plight of poor Guernsey FC.

I’ve been following the fortunes of the Channel Island’s club since they formed in 2011 and played their first game in a friendly against AFC Wimbledon in July that year.

Right from the start, it was a feelgood story about underdogs trying to make it. It’s one we can all relate to, following the level of football we do.

I was immediately intrigued by the travel implications involved in playing in the English football pyramid. They are closer to France than England after all. it would be like having Orkney or Shetland playing in the Highland League, something which I think would amazing btw!

Guernsey FC are the first Channel Islands club to do such a thing and they pay the travel expenses of all of their opponents that have to visit the island. It must cost them fortune, but it’s just one of the hurdles they had to overcome to earn the right to play football with the mainland teams.

The island has a population of just over 65,000 and the club play at the 5,000 seated Footes Lane in St Peter Port. When the team was launched they drew on players from the top seven sides that made up the Guernsey Football Association and from that first day, they haven’t looked back.

They were accepted into Division One of the Combined Counties League last season, Level 10 of the English football pyramid, and they won promotion to the Premier Division with ease. They scored a staggering 138 goals in their 34 matches (an average of four goals per game), losing only two and having a goal difference of plus 116. They walked to the title by 14 points. Their leading scorer, Ross Allen, had 51 goals!

This season was full of hope, and it kind of still is.

Promoted to the Premier, they’ve had a great season, including a run to the semi finals of the FA Vase. They eventually lost over two legs to Spennymoor Town, the new offshoot of the now defunct Spennymoor United, who East Fife played in a pre-season friendly in the 90s. The home leg of their semi final saw them pack 4,290 fans into Footes Lane, their current attendance record.

It was the first year they’d entered the competition and they nearly got all the way to Wembley. Not too shabby!

That Cup run and the horrendous winter weather this year has unfortunately had a huge impact on the League aspirations.

At the time of writing this article (Monday evening), Guernsey are sitting third in the League, with the Champions promoted to Division One of either the Southern League or the Isthmian League.

Getting to that level in only two seasons is remarkable enough, but it would also leave them four promotions away from the Football League, and you just have to look at the rise of AFC Wimbledon to know that such thoughts aren’t necessarily just pipe dreams.

They’re currently sitting 17 points behind the League leaders Egham Town, but they do have seven games in hand!

Yes, with an amazing 27 games postponed this season, Guernsey FC have been left with the most horrendous fixtures backlog I’ve ever seen.

Their April schedule sees them due to due to play 17 matches in 30 days and seven of those are away from home. This includes two weekends where they will play games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and they’re basically playing every other day.

It’s incredible stuff, but even more so is the fact that so far they have won five and drawn one of their seven games this month, scoring 21 goals in the process.

By the time you read this programme, they’ll have played another two games, both of them away from home.

And the team can’t catch a break. Saturday’s home game against Farnham Town was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

That game has now been rescheduled for May 6th.

Guernsey’s April schedule is bad enough, but when you look in to May they will round off their season by playing a staggering four home games in four days over May 3rd to 6th. Any more bad weather and postponements and who knows how they can fit new dates in.

Their end of season run in, especially their four-play in May, is a nice little football trip in store for anyone who fancies a trip to the island. I’d hoped to take a game in when I was down in London in January. The weather put pay to that idea, but the cost and time of actually getting to Guernsey didn’t exactly help either.

Guernsey also have a chance of getting promoted if they finish second and they are currently just three points behind Epsom and Ewell who currently occupy that spot.

A top two place is almost guaranteed but if they can win back to back Championship they will have achieved it against all odds and overcome some of the worst fixture adversity you are probably likely to see.

A few more bad winters mind you and we could be seeing it again down there.

The Guernsey FC story is a magnificent one. It’s one of underdogs. One of overcoming many obstacles to try and get success. And one of achieving it.

It’s the dream all of us fans of lower league football clubs have and it’s nice to see it when it does happen, unless it’s a team like Gretna of course and then you can’t feel good about that!

So keep an eye on Guernsey’s end to the season and the next time you hear someone complaining about fixture congestion, just point them in the direction of the Channel Islands.

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Authored by: GoF

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