We came back to the stadium on Monday last week to an unwelcome surprise. The bad weather that has battered the country recently did not spare the Matchroom Stadium. Colin, our groundsman, discovered one of the bulbs had been blown off the floodlights. The bulbs are about two feet wide and you certainly wouldn’t have wanted one landing on your head.
After sweeping up the mess, the main concern was that, with the forecast, more could follow. As the pylons are above the entrance and exit routes to the stadium, our safety group, who control the stadium’s safety certificate, said that they would need a structural survey before we could reopen the ground and the lights would have to be tested to see if there was any further damage.
Replacing and servicing floodlight bulbs is not a job for your average sparky and it requires specialist skills and equipment to get up to that height. It was all hands on deck as Steve, our stadium manager, led the calls to try to source the necessary expertise. Unfortunately, unlike in football, the people we needed for the job were enjoying a festive break, meaning with less than 48 hours before a home game with Bristol City a decision had to be made to postpone the match.
It was frustrating for everyone as we will lose out financially. The game will have to be rescheduled, most likely to a Tuesday night, which rarely attracts the same sort of crowd. Hospitality is a major source of income for us and Lucy, our functions manager, spent her New Year’s Eve ringing round guests who had booked the restaurant for the game to tell them it was cancelled, while Roberto, the chef, was in the office handing out vegetables and milk that couldn’t be saved but which had already been delivered.
The new year does, of course, also bring the reopening of the transfer window. “The window is like the January sales in the shops, there’s a lot of riff-raff out there and you have to sift through it to get the bargains,” said the gaffer, Russell Slade, last week, and it certainly is a manic time.
On Friday we made our first two signings of the window as midfielder Jamie Ness, from Stoke, and striker Shaquile Coulthirst, from Spurs, joined us on a month’s loan. Lindsey, our secretary, let me know first thing that the wheels were in motion to sign the two players so I could start to make plans to co-ordinate an announcement.
For Lindsey it was a busy day as the paperwork needs to be completed and sent to the authorities before 12pm on a Friday so that the players are eligible for the match the next day.
Making her even busier than usual, she was also lending a hand with the laundry as our kit man – her husband, Ada – had left with the squad for Yeovil. She was finishing the last couple of washing loads in between checking whether the new signings had been given clearance to play at Yeovil the next day.
Clearance was given and announcements made while the two new lads met their new team-mates aboard the coach to Huish Park, though it wasn’t a match that will live long in the memory as our patched-up side lost 4-0 to bow out of the FA Cup.