By Brian Jeeves
THREE MANAGER’S, relegation, dwindling attendance and a string of off-field issues would suggest it has been an eventful seven months for John Galley, Chairman at Essex Senior League outfit, Great Wakering Rovers.
Galley, a resident of Great Wakering all his life, has somewhat accidentally inherited what in football terms was a rapidly sinking ship which the local committee was struggling to deal with: "I reluctantly took over in the first place, the 46-year-old admitted. "I was the Club’s commercial manager and the position rather came to me as opposed to the other way around.
"The club had stumbled into a number of issues that were not football related. We ended up having a horrid campaign that saw a number of comings and goings, but very little in the way of forwarding progress."
Galley initially found himself in the role of interim Chairman following the sudden resignation of Tony Butcher. However, realising the Club’s potential, both on the pitch and as an important part of the local community, he has moved quickly in a bid to turn around the Rovers flagging fortunes: "I love football and Great Wakering. I spoke to my wife and family, who supported me wholeheartedly, as did a number of people who cared deeply about our Club.
"I knew there needed to be a lot of re-building. the Club had taken a lot of flack over the years. We needed to have broad shoulders, but also had to take on board that we had to change and become a more attractive proposition for local football enthusiasts.
"In the end taking the position was a no-brainer. Three generations of my family have played for the Club. I believed I could help make a difference and re-engage the Rovers, not only into the village but into Essex football in general."
"Great Wakering is a close-knit community. We had to be honest about it the football club had withdrawn itself somewhat from the people it should have been reaching out too. that needed to change.
Galley has made positive strides in bringing the Club back to the forefront of the village, adding: "We are now engaging with the local schools by continuing to provide free season tickets to all the children, something we had already provided for the kids playing in our junior section, the Colts. We are also in the process of appointing a Youth Liaison Officer to organise events and encourage the younger football supporters to come to Burroughs Park.
"If you take a look around Burroughs Park, you will see that the facilities we have are excellent. We have a first-class clubhouse which we needed to utilise more efficiently for private hire. Steps have already been taken to ensure we maximise what we have. In the long run that can only be a good thing for us both in terms of revenue and putting us back on the map with the people of the village and surrounding areas. We want to be seen as a thriving community Club"
The re-appointment of Rovers favourite, Iain O’Connell, in the manager’s hot seat certainly offered the Rovers hope of a swift return to the Ryman League following their relegation: "In fairness, Iain inherited a fairly hopeless situation, Galley said. "The team were cut adrift at the bottom of the table. We knew we would be spending next season in the Essex Senior League. However, the manager and Director of Football, Dave Patient, have had an opportunity to see what we’ve got and prepare.
Our immediate aim is to win promotion at the first attempt. Nevertheless, we know that the ESL offers a tough challenge. There are several sides with the same aspirations as us, we have to be respectful and mindful of that."
Elsewhere in the football section, the Rovers have returned to their original roots by entering a team into the Southend Borough & District Football Combination League, a competition that they dominated during the 1960’s, a time when Les Stubbs, a former First Division title winner with Chelsea, regularly appeared in a green and white shirt: "It was important that we looked back at what made us successful in the first place, Galley stated. "Perhaps we lost our way a little when we turned our back on the local leagues. I don’t think the club did it purposely, but now we have a chance to rebuild some lost history, offering local footballers a game in the process."
A recent presentation day for the Great Wakering Colts section was attended by around 700 people, suggesting that the local public is taking notice and that there is a potential fanbase for the Rovers: "This was a tremendous boost, Galley added. "We are looking at organising a number of social events. The Rovers celebrate their centenary in 2019. By then we would like people to feel welcome at the stadium, it is their football club after all."