Hemel FC gaffer Lee Bircham took some time this week to answer some questions from the TSC and some fans.
Our season has come to a premature end for the second successive season. How difficult is it to keep yourself and the players motivated under these unusual circumstances?
Fingers crossed It’s not over yet. I cant speak for everyone, but for me it’s not been too difficult to keep motivated as I feel we are in an privileged position to be allowed to be playing football still. It’s a great club to be involved in so motivation hasn’t been anything that’s cropped up.
It must be challenging for your own staff and the committee too – not just for the lack of action but also not being able to just easily congregate at the club and discuss plans moving forward. How are you and the club dealing with this?
Hopefully it’s a unique season and never to be repeated. I’ve been fortunate in having a Chairman like Dave Boggins and a Secretary like Dean Chance, who’ve been right on top of things off the pitch. Even then it seems like the goal posts are moving week to week, but everyone’s been great in trying to get through this pandemic whilst trying to play the game we love. It’ll be nice next season if we can just worry about the football to be honest. Zoom meetings have been ok as a means to an end but they will never replace the actual face to face meet ups.
Reflecting on the football that was played up to this stage, what do you consider are the positives points?
There’s been plenty of positives. In fact the team we finished up with is a really good side (if this is the finish of course). As I’ve said before, the early season was difficult as we just couldn’t get the players over the line that we had in the office. We wasn’t willing to go in silly for these players so we had to be very patient in order to be in a position to get quality players like Sam Mantom, Samir Carruthers etc.
What’s the current status of the squad – are the players still training in case of a return to competitive action or is the intensity starting to wind down?
We, as everybody knows, wanted to continue playing. It was great for me to work for a club that felt the same as myself with this. As I’ve said before the club are incredibly lucky to have someone like Dave Boggins in charge that runs the club properly and always has the clubs best interest first and foremost. This isn’t a Dave appreciation answer at all, by the way. But from working with Dave I can genuinely say this. So when Dave said “this is the budget to last this turbulent season” he meant it. So for us it wasn’t about the money and grants etc, it was about the football and finishing what we’ve started.
The club is all about the fans. It’s nothing without the fans.Lee Bircham
Pending ratification from the FA (and potentially an appeal), we’re faced with no competitive football at Vauxhall Road until the 2021/22 season commences. Is the club considering any plans to keep fans engaged, such as friendlies or other events once social distancing measures are eased?
The club is all about the fans. It’s nothing without the fans to be honest. I think we can mess about with this season without any spectators but there is no way we are thinking about this being the case for next season. I know for me, managing my local team in front of the Tudor Army is something that I’m so looking forward to. Hopefully we can get a packed Vauxhall road for pre-season even and get it all started early. There’s been a lot of work gone into the stadium since last season so hopefully this will add to an even better experience when everyone returns.
Away from football, how are you dealing mentally and physically with the restrictions and social distancing etc imposed during the lockdowns?
To be honest My life hasn’t changed that much. I’m an electrician during the day and that has carried on alongside the football.
Having the football has been excellent though, it’s just great to get out of the house and carry on doing something you love. I have football mad kids so they constantly remind me how lucky I am to be carrying on whilst their football is all halted.
What are you immediate plan moving forward and targets for next season?
We can’t really think about next season until we have a definite answer on this season. If it is to continue then we want to make sure we are as ready as we can be. Ask me that question again in a couple of weeks maybe.
Are you hopeful of holding onto the nucleus of the squad for next season?
Absolutely. This was for a lot of our squad the first year playing at this level and they have improved throughout the season, so definitely would like to give some another go at it. But yeah, I’d want to keep 60/70% of the squad if possible and add to that over the summer. Let’s see what the summer brings.
How excited are you with the prospect of starting a new season – a fresh start, new budget and (hopefully) none of the distractions we’ve faced this season?
Massively. So much so, but like I’ve said before until we get a definite answer on the current season we have to keep preparing as we could be called back into action at anytime. Come on you Tudors ❤️⚽️
A big thank you to Lee for taking the time to participate in this interview and feature on our website, hopefully we can get some more staff and squad involved in this type of thing and keep fans engaged until we’re allowed back in to the grounds.