Exmouth Town president speaks about all things Town!

PUBLISHED: 22:09 04 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:39 05 March 2020

John Dibsdall on the tractor rolling the Southern Road surface ahead of the Toolstation Western League Premier Division meeting with Wellington. Picture: ETFC

John Dibsdall on the tractor rolling the Southern Road surface ahead of the Toolstation Western League Premier Division meeting with Wellington. Picture: ETFC


Once again there was no action for Exmouth Town last Saturday as the Toolstation Western League game at Clevedon Town was subjected to a mid-morning postponement.

We caught up with club president John Dibsdall, who is also the Southern Road groundsman, and asked him how he viewed this 'soggy season' when standing it alongside other recent campaigns.

He said: "This is the worst for postponements that I can recall. Last season we lost only two home games, both in the Devon St Luke's Bowl against Argyle, and, I think, only two away.

"I think the total of postponements this season adds up to around a dozen!

"We had a few early season games postponed because of our success in the FA Cup and Vase and it hasn't helped that the Western League have a policy of not arranging midweek games early in the season.

"A number of clubs have challenged that policy and it will be interesting to see what happens next season."

We then asked John about the sort of issues a groundsman has to contend with in such soggy weather.

He said: "The problem, when it is very wet, is one of those conundrums of 'do you play or don't you?

"When we hosted Cribbs recently in midweek we made the conscious decision to get the game on and leave the worrying about the following Saturday's game until Saturday"

He continued: "It proved to be the right decision for Storm Ciara arrived and the Saturday game was, of course, postponed, but at least we had managed to chalk off another game by playing that midweek match."

The long-standing club stalwart then said: "The problem we have at Southern Road is that, as well as the first team, both the Reserve team and the Under-18s play on the pitch and we do not have any warm-up areas which creates a real issue with wear and tear."

He continued: "The major difference after a game that is played on a wet or soggy pitch, are the divots, both in size, depth and quantity.

"This is where an extra pair of hands is invaluable as it is in having a work party to fork the pitch.

"The problem this season is that the ground is just so saturated that it is not a question of clearing standing water by forking as it has no chance of draining away."

So, what does John think of artificial surfaces?

He responds saying: "I do think the jury is out on artificial pitches.

"The club are in talks with the FA and, managed correctly, they could be a sound financial investment.

"From a playing point of view it can't be coincidence that we have lost at Keynsham 1-0 and 3-2 at Roman Glass, who are both in the bottom half of the league, whereas our only two other defeats have come on the grass at Parkway (top) and Hallen (third)."

We then moved our 'chat' on to the matter of the football club in general and asked the president how he views the current season.

He is quick to respond saying: "From my view as president, whatever happens between now and the end of the season, this particular campaign has been a real success.

"Back in August I felt that this season would turn out to be one of consolidation and a top eight finish would be a success. "The FA Cup victories over Yate Town and Barnstaple, plus the FA Vase wins we enjoyed gave us all such a boost and, in turn, came the realisation that we could compete at this level and we have continued to be a force, especially at home where the support through the gate has been terrific.

"Off the field the club has continued to grow, and the formation of the Muff Town Casuals into a Supporters Club is another step forward, as are the efforts to be a club for the community with the support for the Food Bank among other initiatives.

"These are, however, challenging times for all football clubs where the value of revenue on match days cannot be underestimated.

"The fact there has been so many cancellations means far too many games in such a short space of time with the inevitable effect on crowd numbers and therefore gate receipts and bar revenue."

John then added: "I have refrained from naming people partly because I wouldn't want to 'miss' someone out, but mainly because there are so many people now making important contributions within different areas that the club is going from strength to strength both on and off the field. "Having said that, spare a thought for Richard Tapp, our fixture secretary. What a nightmare season for him!

"One of the differences with the Western League is that once the fixtures have been released any postponements are then re-arranged between the clubs involved.

"But, in trying to sort a revised date you are having to consider the opposition's circumstances as well as your own.

"An example of this is that we were due to travel to Bradford Town next Wednesday (March 11), but the twice postponed St Luke's Bowl tie with Willand Rovers has now taken precedence as it is a Devon County FA competition.

"We are already committed to eight matches in March and another eight in April, and, as things stand, we still have to find a space in our schedule to squeeze in a new date for a visit to Clevedon after last Saturday's postponement and now there's a visit to Bradford Town as well.

"I know the Western League and the SWPL are asking for an extension to the season, but as of now the FA are still insisting on an April 25 finish."

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Exmouth Journal. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Exmouth Journal