Date: 3rd August 2011 at 5:14pm
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We interviewed ‘gobby County fan’, as he says, and Clear Blue Skies editor Mark Smith to get his thoughts on the new season at EP.

The thing that strikes us most about County is the sort of inbuilt cautiousness that we seem to have when new investors or moneymen come near the club, and that’s an angle we wanted to follow up with Mark.


Ed: It’s been a pretty mental close-season/pre-season even by County standards with this investment we seem to have had. What are the first, and by now, second and third impressions of Tony Evans?

Mark: First impression was outright excitement. A willingness to throw money about the day after he came in sounded great. The second impression is the one I’ve got right now. The wait and see approach. As we are, there has been no takeover and the sum total of his involvement is the signing of several bog-standard/solid BSP players plus a decent looking player in McConville. I’ve got an open mind as to what my third impression will be. I like the insight he gives on twitter but would rather he left club business to the club, it’s more professional. I just want to enjoy watching the team and being a fan again. I suspect those days are gone though.

Ed: As always, the fanbase (especially the Internet fanbase) are split into two camps…one side say that we were going to end badly anyway and just to enjoy the ride, and the other side don’t trust the new regime. Either way, we all seem to be expecting it to end badly. Do you think that’s something that’s inbuilt with County fans after Melrose and Newton, and that we’re actually quite good at smelling a rat, or are we just being over-cautious?

Mark: We had our best ever decade of growth and success in the 90s. The 00s was the opposite. Underpinning it all was the presence of Sale Sharks, our very own version of Kryptonite. They’ve drained us of pride, fight and energy and yet we’re still here. It’s not all down to them of course but I hope these strong rumours of them doing one to Salford are true. I honestly believe the future will become clearer if they’re no longer on the scene. With them having been here plus the various other twists and turns we’ve become conditioned to expect the worst. It seems there are no perfect football club owners, only less bad ones than others. I hope Tony Evans is the least bad owner we could have.

Ed: Dietmar Hamann, Willie McStay and Alan Lord make up the new management team, how do you see that one playing out?

Mark: Hard to say at this stage. Some of the signings are unknown and hardly in the mould of Lordy finds. I’m not even sure what his official role is. I do hope he stays though because he’s the only link to the lower reaches of English football we have and his knowledge and perspective could be vital.

Ed: We seem to keep being told by everyone that we’ll be in for a culture shock, that relegated League sides expect it to be easy in the Conference…do you think there’s a danger of some fans being blinded by this apparent big money talk and being drawn into false expectations?

Mark: Absolutely. No matter what some people will say there will be a vociferous ‘turn up and moan’ majority who will see their arse massively if we’re not beating teams like Ebbsfleet and Hayes with ease. There’s an article written by a Wrexham fan I know in the season’s first issue of CBS where he outlines exactly what to expect. The flames of optimism will no doubt be doused with a heavy dose of realism. That said, McConville is a genuine coup and hopefully his goals and assists will at least see us win more than we lose. After the last two seasons that’s a small mercy I’ll be grateful for.

Ed: How are you hoping this season compares to last?

Mark: I’ll be happy to see a few wins. Having seen our rise up and down the leagues I’ve come to the conclusion that if we can put aside our bruised ego at having dropped to the BSP, there will be plenty to enjoy at this level. Away days with a healthy following simply because it’s a new ground will play a part and above all else, a win is a win. A last minute winner against a team of part-timers will still be celebrated just as much as a last minute win against some mid-table League 2 side. It’s still County. As long as we’re not absolutely awful and as long as we stay afloat, and have a plan it can’t possibly be as bad as last year…can it?

Ed: Any away days you’re looking forward to/dreading/couldn’t be arsed about?

Mark: The TV has knackered things somewhat. I’ve no concrete plans for Forest Green but I feel I have to be there so almost definitely will be. Some of the better away days like Cambridge have been ruined by TV but I can’t pretend us being on telly so many times before Christmas isn’t somehow just a little bit ace. Someone said to me recently that the TV games are great but sitting at home instead of actually going is just the thing we’ve slagged United and City fans for over the years. It’s an odd feeling. I’ve said for a while that Barrow stands out as a good one, but I’m not sure why other than their interesting looking ground. Luton could feel just like a League 1 game given the heritage of both clubs and the nature of our respective support. And Darlington away can go and eat a big bowl of dicks. Shittest awayday ever. Shittest ground too. And that’s swearing.

Ed: We seem to have gone from bidding hundreds of thousands for League one strikers and upcoming youngsters, to signing freebies and Scousers. How do you rate our transfer activity so far?

Mark: It’s been odd. This Vaughan thing has been strongly denied by Evans but if you look at many of the signings there are Chester links there. Then there’s the indirect link to Vaughan via Gary Metcalf who owns/runs the training ground. It’s slightly unfair to judge players on their past but based on the pedigree of most, it doesn’t look that inspiring. But then we’ve signed some proper nobodies in the past who have gone on to become superheroes. In fact, most of our best players were pretty much unheard of before arriving in SK3. We’ll just have to wait and see I suppose.

Ed: Taking everything from pre-season so far into account, what’s the prediction for this footballing year in terms of on-the-pitch, in the boardroom, in the stands, and everywhere else involving County?

Mark: The football will be indifferent I reckon. If we start relatively well, the effect on our support and the overall atmosphere could be pretty huge because everyone is so used to losing, a simple win will feel much bigger. The chances are though, with such a new team we’ll probably be lower half until we bed down. I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see anything other than inconsistency to start with. It’s to be expected surely? In the boardroom, at the time of writing it seems there may well be a bit of a struggle in the offing. Rumours of shareholders digging their heels in. These things always take an unexpected turn though so by the time this gets published I could be horribly wrong. In the stands, I expect to be grinding my teeth and grinning my face off in equal measure. The teeth grinding will be done in silent frustration at the wacky antics (and shit songs) of some of our fans. Maybe that says more about me than them though. The grinning will be fuelled by the usual characters getting up to the usual silliness. That’s County really and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That uncanny knack of being able to unite people who in many cases wouldn’t normally choose to spend time together.

Ed: With the talk of big names coming in, and the influx of free transfers who have actually signed, who do you think will stand out for us this season?

Mark: The obvious answer is McConville based on his performances a league higher for Accrington. 13 goals and 13 assists was it? (Ed – yes!) If he can match that we should be top half at the very least. I was proper chuffed to see O’Donnell retained despite his injury last season. I honestly think we might have avoided the drop had he stayed fit and got stronger with each game as he was doing. Maybe that’s a bit optimistic. But certainly at this level and with a decent, injury free run of games we have a decent centre half. The priority is to stop conceding and build from there I reckon.

On to the issue of Clear Blue Skies…

Ed: The popular CBS is making a return. I’ve got a few of the 06/07 copies, and for want of a better word, it always came across as a ‘cool’ read. But for people who haven’t bought/read Clear Blue Skies before, tell a bit about the content we can expect to find and some of the features you’ve got for this season.

Mark: I’m not sure what a ‘cool’ read is. (Ed – Me neither, perhaps I meant ‘entertaining, light-hearted without indulging in Soccer AM happy clappy crap’) I suppose it’s influenced by a range of subjects and we’re not too proud to say we read the fanzines of other clubs to get ideas. I subscribe to United We Stand despite having no time for the club it centres on. Likewise Liverpool’s Boss Magazine. They’re both written by good, solid football people who write in an entertaining way, using the right language and covering the right subjects, in the right measures. I read a wide range of other magazines too, I’m a magazine geek. There’s nothing directly ripped, it’s more of a tone thing with a healthy dose of our own pesonal take on things added in. I think as a fanzine we do have a duty to hold the club to account, although Yellowboard has taken on that role in recent years so perhaps that leaves us to just put together something that is both insightful and entertaining. We’ve collected a fair few old images and got contributions from a broad range of people. It’ll be quite different in layout to the old version but the tone will be the same, if not better. We’ll not be squeezing 6 pages of text in just to fill space. I think it’s better to have an ace old image than pages of packed in text. It needs to breathe and not look off-putting. I’ve worked with some top people and learned a lot since the old CBS ended so fingers crossed there should be evidence of that in the new version. We’ve tied Toddy down for long enough to get a few issues worth of a feature called ‘Toddy Talks’. He covers a wide range of subjects and gives a top insight into his time at EP and beyond. We’ve got ex-player interviews lined up, starting with a top one from Sean Connelly. Tony Evans and Didi Hamann sit-down interviews are imminent too. Just a matter of finding the time.

Ed: After, let’s face it, just over three years of complete sh*t at County, what made you want to bring CBS back now?

Mark: It’s probably just the simple personal desire to do something positive for the club rather than sit there feeling increasingly bitter about how far we’ve fallen. I’m doing it to make myself feel better about watching an ailing club and if other people like it then nice one. At certain points last season I felt like we were turning into some identikit lower league fanbase. It’d be nice if we can remind people via CBS that actually, we’ve got a pretty ace ‘Proper Fans’ reputation to uphold.

Ed: Any details on when it’s going to be returning, cost, where we can expect it to be sold?

Mark: We’re hoping to have the first one of the season on sale against Kettering or maybe Ebbsfleet. It’ll be £2 and will be on sale in more than one place hopefully, one of which will be outside the erm… World Famous Cheadle End. I’d best crack on with laying it all out eh?

And there you go.

Clear Blue Skies WILL be on sale soon, and we can’t recommend it enough. Add them on Facebook (‘Clear Blue Skies’), follow them on Twitter ( @overedgeley) and buy the fanzine. You can tell by the interview answers that it’s not going to be a disappointment.

* And while you’re at it…add us on Facebook (Vital Stockport), follow us on Twitter ( @VitalSCFC) for all transfer updates as they happen.

Good day.


2 Replies to “A gobby County fan’s take on the season ahead..”

  • Great read, I’ve still got the only CBS I bought, first game of 06/07 if I remember, ‘Welcome back Dindo!’ along the front. Great times, hope the return of their fanzine coincides with our return to form!

  • Interesting comments Mark, love the self proclaimed gobby fan header. Good luck with the launch of CBS and a question, what chance of us exiles getting copies of CBS when it is published? as this would give us another intake to the ongoings of our beloved County.

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