Hendon chairman: New ground will give us huge boost moving forward
PUBLISHED: 15:00 03 February 2016 | UPDATED: 13:05 04 February 2016
Hendon chairman Simon Lawrence concedes this has been a season to forget for the club on the field, but he is looking ahead with optimism as the Greens prepare to move into a new home and build their youth development system.
The Dons were the losing play-off finalists last term so Gary McCann’s men looked like one of the favourites for promotion at the start of this campaign.
But a host of departures, including key men such as Andre De Costa and Leon Smith, combined with a number of injuries and suspensions, has left the Greens battling towards the bottom of the table for much of the season.
They appear to be out of any immediate danger of relegation, nine points clear of the drop zone – and Lawrence says he is now just looking ahead to next season, when Hendon hope to be playing at their new home at Silver Jubilee Park.
He said: “There’s been some positives away from the field this season, but obviously it hasn’t been ideal on the field – it hasn’t panned out like we hoped it would have.
“I’ve been involved with this club a long time though and seen many ups and downs, so I wouldn’t say it was a surprise to see us in a relegation scrap – I’ve witnessed it all at this club.
“Away from the field the work that’s been done at Silver Jubilee Park has been really encouraging. We’re ahead of schedule and further along than we expected to be at this stage.
“We won’t be making any premature announcements, but we’re hopeful that everything will be in place for us to begin next season there.
“Harrow Borough have been fantastic landlords, but as they say there’s no place like home, and I feel once we are here it will bring huge benefits to us.”
Lawrence is keen to take forward strides when it comes to developing younger talent at Hendon and he feels their newly-appointed head of youth development, John Creith – who has worked at the club previously – is the perfect man to do that.
He added: “I think first and foremost John has a Hendon background, which is very important, and a lot of experience working with youngsters.
“He’s gone away and worked at senior level with clubs such as Southall too, so for me he is the ideal person to push us forward and establish that steady link that we need to have through all our youth teams, under-18s and first team.
“Gary and John have worked with each other in the past, and I have no doubt they’ll work together successfully again.
“Youth is very important for us, both in terms of hopefully creating a flow of young footballers who mature and grow into the first team, but equally if not more importantly to represent community outreach.
“Ultimately we want more young people to regard Hendon as their club.”
Lawrence added: “In order to make movements in this area, though, we need to be at Silver Jubilee Park, so touch wood hopefully we will be for the start of next season.”
Lawrence has also lavished praise on McCann, who celebrated 11 years at the club on Tuesday, and says he only has admiration and respect for the job the manager has done with the Greens during his tenure.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as they say,” said Lawrence.
“Gary’s a better manager for what’s gone on this season. He’s had to put up with a hell of a lot on the field and then had a family tragedy to contend with away from the game.
“He’s a credit to this football club and I can’t think of anyone better than Gary to kickstart this rebuild of the club again – he’s the best man for the job.
“Gary’s had 11 years of being challenged at Hendon and, for the most part, working on a shoestring budget so he knows what the situation is.
“He continues to find these nuggets and rough diamonds who are prepared to play for him at the club on a wage that doesn’t necessarily represent the going rate for a Ryman League footballer.
“There’s never a dull moment here. It’s either famine or feast. We seem to be flirting with the play-offs or staving off relegation.
“Hopefully with our 3G pitch next season, knowing there won’t be games cancelled due to waterlogged or frozen pitches and knowing the first team will be playing a style of football Gary has instilled into them – predominantly playing on the ground – we’ll attract more people to come and watch us.
“What we can guarantee is we’ll have a young, vibrant team whose primary aim will be to push for the play-offs. Whether we get there is another thing, but what I do know is you will see a side who give everything to the cause.
“Last season when we didn’t expect to be in contention for promotion we were up there, and then this season when a few people thought we might, we weren’t.
“Who knows what next season will hold. I’m quietly optimistic about it though. There have been some positive signs already.
“I’ve been really impressed with how Adam Wallace has performed of late, he’s got some crucial goals for us and with Casey Maclaren also set to return for us now after suspension, the signs are certainly more encouraging.
“Finbarr Robins and Wesley Fonguck have been real bright sparks, too.”