Chairman's Column 21.10.2023
Be it Barcelona or Biggleswade United, while the skill factors might be at opposite ends of the pendulum, the passion and commitment that one feels for their club is never dependent on the level that they happen to compete at.
For those of you that don't know the story, I first became involved with Biggleswade United when Chris Lewis, the then chairman of the club, sent me an email telling me that he had seen me 'talk the talk' on Sky Sports, and asking me if I fancied trying to'walk the walk' with the club.
In life, timing is everything.
I had just taken my UEFA B coaching badges in Northern Ireland and was looking at getting involved in one capacity or another in local grassroots football. I had been offered coaching work at Hitchin Town but the necessary Tuesday and Thursday commitment I needed to have didn't fit it with my journalistic obligations.
What he was offering was perfect.
I met with him soon after with a plan. I wanted the club to play a particular style of football, a certain handwriting, and also an Academy with a system in place that in time would feed all players up through the ranks all the way to the first teams.
By the time our first meeting had been concluded I was the new Director of Football of Biggleswade United.
In order to put in place my plans I brought in two Spanish coaches, Cristian Colás and Fran Constancio and shortly afterwards I saw the vital importance of dedicating ourselves to re-creating a competitive women's section at the club.
We are far from the finished article yet but with four senior sides (two men's and two two women's), and around 250 people involved including our youth teams we are certainly heading in the right direction.
And then in January 2019 I was offered the role of Club Chairman which I was proud to accept.
I tell the story because this week it was my pleasure to bang the Biggleswade United drum once again when I met up with Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez who has heard me waxing lyrical about my club on numerous occasions and also with Alexia Putellas, Barcelona's two time holder, of the Women's Ballon d'Or and generally regarded as one of the greatest women's player of all time who was hearing it for the first time.
I never travel anywhere in the world without the Biggleswade United shirt in my bag and I have been blessed by the fact that every single player that has held our shirt aloft for a photo for our Wall of Fame - including Xavi and now Alexia Putellas, as well - have done so without irony, or in any way shape or form in a manner that might be deemed to be patronising.
They understand what it is to feel a passion for the shirt whether it plies its trade in Level One or Level Nine of the footballing pyramid.
Let me explain.
While I was researching my book on Leo Messi, I spoke to someone about the Argentine winger, René Houseman who was a member of the 1978 Argentine World Cup winning side.
While in camp before an important knock out game, René vanished on the Friday night. Coach Cesar Menotti was frantic. "Where is he?," he asked.
"Come with me," said one of the coaches.
They drove some miles away from the training camp to La Banda, the town of René's birth, and across to the local pitch where the end of week match between two rivals was being played.
They found him sat on the bench, in full kit, nervously biting his nails as he watched the game.
"What are you doing here?," said Menotti as in "Why aren't you at the team complex?"
René misunderstood. He thought he was saying, "Why are you on the bench and not actually playing?"
"Can you wonder?," replied a totally engrossed René. "Have you seen how our winger is playing today?!"
For him the end of the week match between his friends in his small village was as important, probably more so, than a World Cup.
I know that Biggleswade United will never be the best team in the world but don't misunderstand me. As far as I'm concerned they will always be the greatest. Not a day goes by when I don't feel proud to represent each and every one of you at the club.
Onwards and upwards!