Posted: 31.10.20 at 08:22 by JAY DRACKFORD
In our short time in existence here in north Herts, Nub News has published more than 25 opinion columns from a diverse range of people and groups within our community.
Nub News aims to support our community, promoting shops, businesses, charities, clubs and sports groups.
We highlight many of these businesses, organisations and individuals regularly in a feature called 'Up Close in Hitchin' - as well as fascinating opinion pieces from our trusted cohort of Nub News contributors.
So, here's the popular Jay Drackford back with his second Stevenage FC column for us.
Read on for Jay’s take on the lack of fans, recollections of his trip to Gambia with the Stevenage FC Foundation and memories of Lamex legends.
Around eight years ago I was asked by now CEO of Stevenage FC Alex Tunbridge if I would join the foundation on a trip to The Gambia.
A place I had visited many a time since I was a young boy. Little did I know this trip would relight a love affair with Stevenage FC who I had visited on many occasions as a young boy with my dad.
Nothing every beats watching live football and especially if you get to go week in week out.
I grew up watching Stevenage players like Shaun Debenham, Barry Hayles and my absolute favourite player Dave Venables. Dave was my PE teacher at Collenswood School and nothing could compare to seeing him run and terrorise defenders then see ‘Sir’ walk into class Monday morning with a smile on his face.
My favourite moment of his was a goal he scored direct from a corner. My dad, regardless of where we watched football always wanted to leave early.
He never liked the rush at the end and on this particular game Venners scored in the final minutes. Thanks to Dads eagerness to depart, I was stood on the steps by the North West corner exit and watched it sail in.
I stopped going to The Lamex through what I would call the glory days simply due to playing Saturdays myself.
Our mutual love of the Boro
By the time of the Gambia trip I had finished playing mainly due to having a young family. On the trip I made lots of Boro friends. Marketing guru Dave Toyn, the now Mrs Dani Toyn, another Boro stalwart, Boro Bear and someone who is now one of my best friends Mr Dean Thompson.
These characters all had a mutual love for the Boro. I remember on a Saturday afternoon we all gathered in reception of the hotel, Dave was there with his laptop up and they were all huddled round it watching with baited breath for the scores to come in. It truly was great to be around such Boro legends.
In the Gambia we built a park, engaged with locals and I tried to used my contacts as best I could. It was superb. It was over a beer one night when Alex said to me, I think I may have something for you - and the rest was history.
If you know Alex Tunbridge like I do he has a canny knack of getting people in the right positions without you actually thinking about what he has asked.
On being handed the mic
We got home and I went down to The Lamex to watch a game and to see how I would handle the crowd with a mic in my hand.
The only experience I had doing so was singing the band I was in. I wouldn’t call myself a singer, instead I always went for a presence on stage and someone who liked to have a laugh.
I came away from the game with my wife and over the next few days agreed to help the club.
Andrew Green had been at the club for a very long time, when I started on the PA he had been travelling for work and had been laid up after a lengthy hip operation. Once fully fit Andy joined me back on the mic and we did the games together for the rest of the season.
Andy was a professional, with bags of talent and experience. I learnt the ropes under his wing and added my own style to it.
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people whilst volunteering for the club and have even been able to add a few strings to my bow on my journey.
There have been some tough seasons like the one just gone but also some amazing times. My all-time favourite game at the Lamex was the first leg play offs against Southend at home.
I’ve never experienced the Lamex stadium with an atmosphere like it. The game ended up 1-1 with a Barry Corr equaliser but the place was simply rocking.
Underneath all of this there is one reason for me to continuing my love affair with this little club.
The fans. Under the current climate, the first few games at home very much felt like a chore.
I feel very privileged to be able to go to the games but without the fans it just doesn’t sit right.
My usual position is just by the tunnel and my most enjoyable time of the day for me is 2-3pm.
During normal times I get to speak to everyone that walks past me of all ages and backgrounds.
Most of these people I only know from being at the club on match days. Some I don’t even know what they do, or even what their name is. But we all share the same passion. A desire for victory and all three points.
I find it really sad that we can’t high five, fist bump or share this football experience together.
A scroll through twitter on Saturday evenings sees you looking at grounds around Herts from lower levels than Stevenage that are full of fans. It’s truly heartbreaking.
The club moved quickly to make sure the gates could be open safety for the return of our much loved fans but still this hasn’t happened.
I find it disappointing, as I know how much people care about the club and need that weekly release. Having them back as soon as possible will really make a difference to the team and create that atmosphere we all crave.
Stevenage vs Grimsby preview
Grimsby Town come to The Lamex in similar form to Boro. When I wrote last week’s article, I said that four points from Leyton Orient, Harrogate and Grimsby would set up us nicely to move forward.
That is on the cards if we can get our strikers firing.
Tuesday’s game against Harrogate saw a change of personnel with Alex Revell’s men looking for that edge. Progress was made and we look solid at the back.
Grimsby is a huge game and one I feel will bring us the much-needed three points and win all us fans crave.
Nub News will be at the Amex today reporting on Stevenage vs Grimsby. Stay tuned for our in-depth post-match coverage of the League Two clash with our report, ratings and reaction.