Sport

Towners exceed expectations at season’s halfway point

Andrew Warshaw gets the verdict on the season so far from Enfield Town FC boss Gavin Macpherson

BK Skjold’s Kristian Kold challenges Enfield Town’s Ollie Knight in the first-ever European game at QE2 Stadium, which the Towners won 3-1 (credit Tom Scott)
BK Skjold’s Kristian Kold challenges Enfield Town’s Ollie Knight in the first-ever European game at QE2 Stadium, which the Towners won 3-1 (credit Tom Scott)

Enfield Town move into the second half of the season in optimistic mood having exceeded expectations since the new management team arrived in the summer.

When Gavin Macpherson and his coaching staff took over following Town’s disappointing ninth-place finish last year, “reset” was very much the optimum word. It was widely anticipated that it might take two campaigns for Town to get back to challenging for promotion as Gavin’s team rebuilt the squad.

Instead, for much of the last six months, the Towners have found themselves in or around the play-off places despite having lost ace striker Jake Cass two games into the campaign with a career-threatening injury.

“Obviously there been some ups and downs,” Gavin told the Dispatch as he assessed the first half of the season. “Losing Jake was a huge blow because we’d built a lot of what we wanted to do around him. It would have jolted a different group of players yet we found a way.

“Going out of the FA Cup when we were one game short of playing Charlton, as it turned out, was another big disappointment, but from a league perspective we’ve got to be really, really pleased, not only because of our position and results.

“The dressing room is a very close-knit unit which makes for a really good foundation ahead of the second half of the season.”

It’s no secret that the club was focused on more likely being in the play-off mix next season rather than this one, but the manager is not surprised at being third at Christmas.

“I like to go about my business very quietly and not make stupid predictions,” said Gavin. “But we looked at it and thought, why not this season? If at the start we’d known we’d be in contention in December I think everyone would have taken that. Is it above expectations? Maybe, but I believe in what we do and in the players. We’re there on merit, it’s no fluke.”

The fact that attendances are up compared to last season despite a budget that is dwarfed by many ambitious clubs who are lower in the Isthmian Premium Division table is a testament to the style of football the management staff preach, and their attention to detail both during matches and in training.

“When I looked at the previous style of play, I thought it would be quite difficult to change system completely,” explained Gavin. “So in that respect I have to give a huge shout-out to the players who have worked with us from minute one.”

It’s still very much a work in progress, but there is no doubt the club is heading in the right direction.

Gavin continued: “When I took the role, it’s no secret there were other offers. I always instinctively thought Enfield was the place for me but you still have to do your homework and understand what the club’s about.

“The sheer enthusiasm and passion from the board, the kitman, the fans and all the volunteers runs incredibly deep. Sometimes you have to take a step back and go, ‘wow’.”

Combining a full-time job with management has been a massively time-consuming combination, as it is for most non-league managers.

“It’s probably harder in non-league because it’s not full-time, yet you still have to put the work in if you want to give yourself the best chance because there are no half measures,” said Gavin. “There’s no magic formula, it goes with the territory.”

And, of course, the club is still in Europe in the guise of the Fenix Trophy, with the recent 3-1 home victory over holders BK Sjkold of Denmark generating rare nationwide exposure. “I wasn’t very well on the night but I had to be there,” said Gavin. “I didn’t realise quite how much it meant to the club.

“Will I laud it up if we go on and win the competition? Damn right I will!”