The Chairman and Manager of Grays Athletic has stepped down as manager and decided to sell the club.
Mick Woodward made the emotional announcement after his team, playing with the ninth formation in nine games, succumbed to their fifth defeat in six games, losing 3-1 to Woking at the Kingfield Stadium.
Let us deal with the game first.
The team started, brimming with confidence. Mark Molesely worked deftly in the hole, Stuart Thurgood lay deep and Barry Cogan and Sam Sloma formed a dangerous flank on the left.
When Molesley scored in the 9th minute with a sweet left foot strike just inside the box, the Blues looked well set up. He had scored the opener at Weymouth and it seemed unlikely that Grays would make the same mistakes again, especially as winless Woking seemed devoid of ideas and many of their passes went astray.
Grays, however had no cutting edge. With no Kedwell, despite his struggles this season, not to say zero output, any ball up front was going nowhere.
Liam Marum was working hard on the left for the Cards and starting to threaten the ageing Fabian Wilnis and unsettle the rest of the defence.
The Ashton-Stuart axis has not been the same mighty unit as it was last year. A severe critic of the affable Jamie and the modest Jon would say that it is a season too far for one and either Ashton is carrying an injury or his mind is elsewhere.
In the 44th minute, Jamie Stuart was full of hesitation in the area. Throughout the first half he had received diplomatic chidings from the polite Ross Flitney. Other less diplomatic keepers would not have stood on ceremony.
The team came out for the second half. Well, let’s correct that. Woking strode out like the hairdryer was at number 11 while Tosh and Smudger had to coax their reluctant charges onto the pitch. Some of us were looking around for the lions.
In the 47th minute, Wilfred Dormoraud pounced on Jamie Stuart’s hesitation to sneak in between the skipper and Ross Flitney to equalise.
Grays Athletic had no answer. High balls to low men which the robust Woking defenders led by skipper Tom Hutchison hooverd up everything.
In fact he was so confident that he joined in on a move in the 56th minute when he out-jumped the moribund Ashton to head into the path of Paul Lorraine to put the Surrey side in the lead.
Ishmael Welsh came on and foraged down the left but there was no point as Ide and Taylor had no chance in meeting the ball.
Woking finished off Grays and secured their first win of the season in the 90th minute when substitute Justin Ledgsiter burst through from midfield to put the ball past the despairing Ross Flitney.
After The Game
Mick Woodward’s words are clear from the video on YourThurrock. By the time this is publsihed he could have changed his mind. Doubtful but then again, when it comes to Grays, anything is possible.
Mick Woodward’s Grays Athletic is in no doubt a vanity project but so are many of the greatest projects. It needs the ego, the battler, the visionary, the awkward so and so, the person beholden to no-one to drive things forward. Without Mick, there would have been no FA Trophy. Play-Off matches or indeed, dreams of modern sports complexes.
Mistakes have been made. The Chairman that interferes in selection policy is doomed to failure; it is written in stone. This journalist had experience of Carlisle United under Michael Knighton and conversations between myself and that Mike are uncannily similar to the ones with Mick Woodward.
There is only one system: Aston Villa are the classic example. An invisible Chairman and a strong charismatic manager with control. Martin O’Neiil learnt at the feet of the incomparable Brian Clough.
Mick and his Vice-Chair should remain totally, totally remote from the forum. It is, as it says, on the tin, a forum for debate. No more, no less. Compelling and a fine conduit for ideas, opinion and irrational rants and in a modern democracy, a fine thing. It should, by those with years of experience in management be seen as a force for good but nothing to get worked up about.
But Mick comes from a different culture. His success has sprung from control. His east end credo is respect and it is clear that people, talking about him and his dealings on a daily basis has been unravelling him.
The “Kedwell” deal has clearly been the tipping point. Mick’s most pertinent statement was that he was not from Grays. He clearly feels that he has tried to develop a 21st century potential league club for the borough and feels that he doesn't have the will of the people on board. He may be right. Time will tell.
Certainly, from the press box, the increasing presence of scouts has led to speculation that a massive clear out and descent for Grays Athletic is imminent. This could well be a case of “apres moi le deluge” but it could also be a positive cleansing process. Grays Ath are an exciting proposition. Rumours of goal-less draws against Bowers and Pitsea are premature.
This may not be the last we will hear of Mick Woodward. By next saturday, he will be taking sweets from Steve the Taxi and dancing a jig. Abu Dhabi families or Len Salmon Stadium. You decide...
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report