Exmouth Town from the ‘Dibs’ direction!
PUBLISHED: 10:15 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:15 01 April 2020
We have been speaking with Exmouth Town president John Dibsdall, asking him about his time with the club.
Here, in his words, is his take on all things Town...
I moved to Exmouth in 1976 and, by coincidence, Terry Parsons, who became manager of the football club in 1978, lived 50 yards away.
I had played for Taunton Town Reserves as a goalkeeper in the Somerset Senior League before moving to Lancashire and was invited by Terry to train with the club, but, having moved house four times in five years, my priorities were not with football at that time.
I started following Town on a regular basis in the 1983/84 season, but was not actively involved with the club until 1990.
During the 1980’s, under manager Bob Davis, Town had the most successful period in the club’s history, winning the Western League Premier Division on two occasions as well as the Les Phillips Cup, St Lukes Bowl and, of course, reaching the semi-final of the FA Vase.
Behind the scenes though, the financial status was not so good, there was no official chairman and, following the resignation of Bob as manager, an extraordinary general meeting was called to discuss the future of the club.
The upshot of the meeting was that Paul Marshall was elected chairman, Roy Mitchell as treasurer and yours truly as the vice-chairman.
I held the position for six years, stayed as a committee member and then was elected vice-chairman for another three-year period, 1998-2001.
After going into administration, the club was reformed as Exmouth Town (2006) AFC and I was asked to be treasurer, a position I held until 2012.
I had taken on the sole groundsman responsibilities in 2008. I never referred to myself as a groundsman; merely the guy that drove the tractor and painted the lines.
Brian Rowden was the person that ‘cajoled’ me into helping out on the ground from my early days and I would have been involved in end-of-season pitch repairs etc; as well as general maintenance.
I was on garden leave from work for five months during the summer/autumn of 1995 and was glad to be able to spend my free time helping out on the ground.
One of the big advantages of Southern Road is there has been excellent drainage and there has been many occasions when the pitch would have been considered unplayable at 9am, but, with drying conditions and the tide receding was next to perfect by 3pm.
The downside to that is, that, during the summer months, unless there is above average rainfall, the pitch can be very dry and apart from watering the reseeded areas it would be impractical, not to say very expensive, to keep the hosepipes running all day and night.
This last season (2019/20), has been very challenging with the almost constant rainfall, but, up to March 7, there had been 41 matches played against 44 in a similar timeframe the previous campaign when the Southern Road playing surface was very dry at the start of the season.
This past close season we had a professional contractor to drill seed, verti-drain, fertilise and weed kill, and this has stood us in good stead with the pitch standing up well.
But the heavy rainfall reached the stage where the ground was saturated and whilst play was possible there were the inevitable divots that seemed to grow both in size and frequency!
We have a Countax 800 garden tractor with a powered grass collector and a couple of light rollers. The problems faced with such a wet winter and the inevitable divots is that you roll the pitch more than would be considered desirable.
Compaction of the surface, whilst necessary for an adequate playing surface does not help to promote healthy grass growth. In an ideal world we would have a compact tractor with a rear mounted roller mower to which you would attach a combined turf grooming/slitter so that we can aerate the surface ourselves. But it all costs money.
With the number of postponements this past season, across all leagues in the South West talk has turned to artificial surfaces.
Within our division of the Western League Keynsham and Roman Glass St George play on this surface and only had three and four respectively home matches to play, all of which were scheduled at the start of the season. They had eight and seven away games to play whereas Town had seven home and eight away.
I think there is a misconception that with an artificial pitch you just turn up and play.
Apart from the initial cost of installation (circa £600,000) you have daily maintenance and the life expectancy is around 10 years so you have to plan/save for a complete relaying of the surface (circa £250,000). The FA are looking to ‘grow’ the number of these pitches and the Devon FA are currently installing one at their headquarters at Coach Road, Newton Abbott.
I understand that to make the installation effective the pitch would need to be utilised 85 hours a week and of course, there would be a cost involved for clubs/organisations to hire the pitch.
I believe the cost involved makes it inevitable that grass pitches are here with us to stay.
Part of the beauty is that during the course of a season games at our level will be played on many different surfaces, some firm, some heavy, different sizes some with slopes and some better prepared than others. Grass is natural and I suspect most players would prefer to play on a grass pitch.
With the announcement from the FA that the season is now over, all results expunged and null and void, should not detract from what has been a most successful and enjoyable season.
With the news that there will be no promotion/relegation or restructuring of leagues this means we will again be facing the same twenty teams next season.
On a points per game basis we would have finished fourth in the league with Bradford Town top, Plymouth Parkway runners-up and Tavistock in third.
The planned re-structuring could have meant that Helston and Saltash would have been promoted from SWPL West and Ilfracombe and Brixham from SWPL East.
We would have probably lost Roman Glass, Chipping Sodbury and Hallen to the Hellenic League, possibly Westbury to the Wessex League and Odd Down relegated as well as Bradford and maybe Parkway promoted.
The success of ourselves, Tavistock and Parkway has shown what many have felt in that the top sides of the SWPL could compete at a higher level.
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