M: Hi Andy, good to catch up, hope you are well in these strange times. Under normal circumstances most of us would be happy to get some down time but this is different. How are you coping with the lock down and how are you filling your time?
AK: Hi Mitch, apart from the football and being virtually retired nothing has really changed for me, start the day with a 3-mile walk, then back home to do the day job, which is basically a house husband. So, I spend most of the day indoors or the garden save for when I go shopping which I now limit to once a week, other than that sitting on my computer updating data on Hemel Football Club.
M: On the subject of the lockdown the club has announced a huge Charity match @CharityFC2020 (date to be confirmed) with all proceeds going to the NHS. It’s a great gesture by the club and Kerry tells me that you have agreed to be Kit Man on the day, you’ll certainly have your work cut out with the number of teams and players involved. Is it something you didn’t need asking twice to do?
AK: I saw it being advertised on the web and contacted Kerry and volunteered my services, it’s for a great cause and I love being around the football club, Yes it is going to be a busy day but Kerry has enlisted assistance with Fred who I have yet to meet, and I’m sure will it be a successful day all round.
M: You’ve been involved as Kit Man at Hemel for a couple of years now, how did it all come about? We all knew you as a regular home and away supporter and I know you had considered the role once or twice before, what made you finally decide to take on the job, which is one of those unsung roles at any football club.
AK: I initially applied for the job during the 2016/17season after seeing it advertised on the website, I was told that the position had been filled, it was just after I started playing walking football that I noticed that it was still being advertised on the website so I had a word with Dean Chance who then had a word with Dave and the rest as they say is history; that was the start of the 2017/18 season.
M: You’ve built up a great rapport with everyone at the club, the fans love giving you a bit of stick and I think you even
have your own song. How much have you enjoyed the role, and do you enjoy the banter?
AK: I absolutely love the job and love the banter, remember I used to travel on the away coach with most of the lads, think the banter shows appreciation of what I do. If memory serve me right think you were on the first trip away, I made down to Wealdstone on a Tuesday night?
M: Yeah, I think it was Wealdstone away, Brownie (ex-Tudor and Wealdstone keeper) had another blinding night to stop us grabbing the points no doubt. Give us an idea of the routine you have on match days. I’ve been to games on the team coach a few times this season and it certainly opened my eyes as to how much you have to do, is it a case of just making sure you are very organised?
AK: Taking home games first, I pick up the kit from the dry cleaners and arrive at the ground by 10 on Saturday and 4 on a weekday, that’s when match day really kicks and the apprehension of the game ahead starts your mind going , I or we, if Micks there, hang up all the shirts, sweatshirts first then T shirt, and playing shirt in that order, then the towels which are also numbered are folded and placed under the corresponding shirt number, then we sort out the shorts which are initially placed on top of the towels to ensure we have them all back from the cleaners, once we have a full complement we then fold them and place them within the towels, it makes everything nice and tidy. After the kit is done, we then check the pressure of the warmup balls, although we can never please Dimmy either too hard or too soft although we place the same pressure week in week out. The socks are next, all socks are separated for washing so we then put them back in pairs to save the lads sorting through them. The water bottles are usually filled around 13:45 – 14:00. All equipment put out on match day is counted out and back in to avoid stock going missing .......... this includes the warmup balls, which we tend to lose more of when we when we play away.
Away games I pick up the kit on a Thursday and we arrange it in the away dressing room as per a Saturday game and it’s left in there until Saturday, if we are travelling by coach then I at the ground 1.5 before the coach departs we the pack all the shirts in the travelling bag on hangers. We don’t do this on a Thursday so as to prevent too much creasing, towels are also packed on a Saturday, then if dry and fine we move all equipment out where the coach parks and then it’s just of placing it in the carriers underneath.
On arrival at the ground I ask the lads if they would give us 10 mins to lay out the kit before they enter the dressing room, one of us does shirts and one towels which are packed in numerical order to make life easier, If we’re travelling down independently and if Mick is available we use his van which has a rail along the back so it’s just a case of hanging up the shirts and loading all the other equipment, if I use my car then I load it as per coach.
When going we go independently, we aim leave the ground no later than 10, in case of any traffic delays, aiming to be at the ground before the players so enabling us to have it all ready for their arrival. After the game (and it’s the same for all games) we count all kit and equipment back, I don’t like shortages!!!!!!!!!!!! So, we are the first to arrive and last to leave, must say thanks to Dean who takes the kit to the launderette for us every Monday and Wednesday when we have a midweek game.
M: Blimey! As I said, lots of organisation! How is your relationship with the players and have any of them got any strange requests as regards kit or any superstitions that you have to comply with?
AK: I think I have a good relationship with the players and all other members of the management team, I sure they would tell if something wasn’t right............. , some of the players like to sit in the same position at home, bit difficult away, for instance the skipper Connor number 5 likes to sit in the spot usually reserved for number 16 with Tyrone, who always plays in number 16 and that’s when he’s starting too, sits on his right and Tosan sits on Tyrone’s right, so you can’t layout the dressing room in numerical order.
In order to assist Mick I made and placed name tags in the seats the players prefer, this also creates its own headache as we don’t know the team until just before the they go in for their classroom briefing, so we can’t place the shirts where they sit (except that is for Connor 5 Tyrone 16) so once they are in the classroom and they are told the team we get the chance to change the dressing room around.
I did make a mistake once where I had the team and went and changed the dressing room before they got told, told myself off for that one.
M: Have there been any occasions when you have forgotten something and had to do a last-minute dash to a local shop or a quick return to base on the bus?
AK: I think there was only one thing I forgot and that was when Dean Brennan was manager, I forgot the tactics board, didn’t go down well..........
M: We were all pleased to see Micky Stanbridge come on board to give you a hand, has it helped having Mick around. He is also popular with the fans and is a bit of a character, isn’t he?
AK: It is nice to have a helping hand, still on the learning curve, but I will give him all the advice I can.
M: Finally Kingy how soon would you like to see us up and playing again or are you getting used to the time off and are you looking forward to the massive Charity game for the NHS and all the headaches that will give you ?
AK: To be honest Mitch, I’m lost on a Saturday in the close season longing for the friendlies to begin although they’re harder than a league game, so if we can resume this and finish the league I’m all for it, but in reality I can’t see that happening I’d like to see us playing as soon as it is safe to do so no good rushing it so it flares up again. Yes, I’m really looking forward to the NHS game, it should be a great occasion, for a very worthy cause, I’m sure we will get a huge crowd in, there are some fantastic names signed up already!
Would like to say to all who read this to Stay safe and follow the rules, keep your distance, and we’ll see each other soon.
M: Cheers Kingy and thanks for taking the time to do this, it’s always good to see and hear what goes on behind the scenes and you do a great job! Stay safe mate and see you soon.