Review of the season: Cornard United

STARS ON SHOW: Staurt Pearce took his England Under-21s side to train at Blackhouse Lane.
STARS ON SHOW: Staurt Pearce took his England Under-21s side to train at Blackhouse Lane.

Russell Claydon looks back at another difficult campaign for Chris Symes’ side, but one which did see Stuart Pearce bring his England Under-21s to Blackhouse Lane.

FINISHING bottom for the second successive season, twice losing to double figures, and having a prospective buyer running the team who then pulls out at the 11th hour with the players following him out of the exit door.

On the face of it, there looks little for owner and manager Chris Symes to smile about when casting back a glance over a 2011/12 season he had hoped to spend as his first in retirement.

But having dinner next to England Under-21s manager Stuart Pearce before driving him and his highly- assembled stars, including Euro 2012 players Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, to his club in November, ranks as one undoubted highlight.

There was no prouder man in non-League football than Symes on November 10 when the England youngsters were put through their paces on his humble Blackhouse Lane pitch ahead of their European Championship qualifier against Iceland at Colchester United.

But as far as the league form went, it was another car crash of a season where the only consistency was their inconsistency as more than 80 players were used; 141 league goals conceded and only two wins with a total of 10 points.

But Symes, who had to withdraw a link-up with Braintree Town fielding their reserves on the eve of the season to allow an ultimately unsuccessful prospective buyer, London businessman Rob Batten, to take over, had more on his mind than picking up points.

“Our first priority was paying the bills and our second was not to get fined for not fulfilling our fixtures,” he said. “We signed about 80 players and it was a nightmare to get hold of enough to make up the team.

“But I am quite proud we did not pull out of the league like Whitton, did not have to go into the Border League like Harwich or get fined twice for not fielding a reserve side like Leiston (all in previous seasons).

“We lost 10-0 twice but that was better than a £500 fine like Great Yarmouth got.

“Hopefully the youth team will be ready to come through next season, though they all say they want to play but then tell me they have season tickets at Portman Road.”

A mass exodus of his players to a stag do in Lithuania for the daunting trip to title-chasers Thetford Town on February 25 (10-0 defeat) illustrates Symes’ point about the struggle to just get a side on the pitch.

And after the agent of an England international contacted him about buying the club and installing another England legend as manager, which ultimately never got off the ground, Symes is now just hoping someone else will come forward and complete a deal to buy him out.

“I had to muddle through again and I am still the manager until someone else comes along,” he said. “I would like a younger man to come and take it on — someone with a ready-made squad, but it has got to be the right man.”

Cornard had started the campaign in promising form under Batten, the former Wormingford Wanderers manager, and his assistant Shaun Gascoyne, drawing 1-1 at Swaffham before beating Dowham Town 2-0 at home.

But the unbeaten start was to be a false dawn as Cornard only took one point from their next nine games, and only registering one more win in the league (3-0 home against Ipswich Wanderers October 29), with little to cheer about in the cups either.

The season ended in calamitous fashion, with 11 straight successive defeats, stretching back to January 24, and crowds dropping from an average of 47 in 10/11 to 41 in 11/12, the worst in the league.