Don't forget the unsung heroes of the Chichester City fairytale

Pre-match plans are made / Picture by Neil Holmes
Pre-match plans are made / Picture by Neil Holmes

We heard plenty from Miles Rutherford, Connor Cody and Andy Bell as the Chichester City FA Cup gathered pace - and rightly so. But the run has been an amazing experience for the unsung heroes at Chi who work tirelessly day to day behind the scenes - from the kitman to the groundsman, to the physios and those on the committee.

Wayne Dalton, the Chichester City secretary, who occupied this role at Rutherford’s former club Moneyfields for a number of years said, “I’ve been a secretary for 10 years now. This is the furthest I’ve got in the cup and it’s probably the furthest I’ll ever get.

No stone is left unturned / Picture by Neil Holmes

No stone is left unturned / Picture by Neil Holmes

"It’s a tough job being the secretary of a football club but this is the most enjoyment I’ve had as a secretary. Watching the players train at St George’s Park on the way up to Tranmere was amazing.”

There aren’t many Tier 8 football clubs that can say they’ve had an impromptu committee meeting at 3:30am in a hotel bar before a second round FA Cup match...

“The people at the club in the background had a few drinks together the night before the game. It was a fantastic night. We’ve labelled it as a committee meeting. We had breakfast on the day of the game. I wasn’t nervous. It was a great day and to score a goal in front of your own fans was something else” he added.

Dalton clearly has a special relationship with Rutherford and his No2 Graeme Gee. “They’re two people I’m very fond of that I’ve known for the past fifteen years either playing or supporting them as a secretary. They are fantastic.

“We’ve got to concentrate on the league now. If the players respect what they’ve done in the FA Cup then this club can go a lot higher. It’s in the players’ hands. As a committee we’re looking ahead to next season and our next journey. It’s a round the clock job. You don’t stop being a secretary for one minute.”

Colin Mills, who works with Chichester’s first team sports therapist Chloe Weir said, “We haven’t won a game in the FA Cup for four years but I’m very lucky now. This club has got a
bit of class about it. Chichester is a unique club. Everybody is as one. There aren’t many clubs where the chairman cuts the pitch and the manager drives the team bus. My other half
works behind the bar and my daughter-in-law does too. I do it because I love football.

“We’ve got a great tie up with the university with other physios Marcus Ball and Josh Clark working at the club. Chloe’s just got her degree and has accepted me under her wing, which
is fantastic.

“You can’t get better than today. The Tranmere hospitality was superb. But we’ve got to get our feet back on the ground quickly. Who would have thought last year after winning the
county league we’d be at Tranmere Rovers? Probably no one. The whole journey’s been fantastic.”

Malcolm Harwood helps chairman Bell in his other role as groundsman. He’s been involved at the club on and off the pitch for over 20 years, first as a player in the late 80s then as a player-manager with Chi stalwart Dave Kelly before working more recently as a groundsman and committee member.

Harwood said, “Having played for such a long time I appreciated there were always people behind the scenes who everybody seemed to overlook, but without those people I wouldn’t have been able to play. I wouldn’t have had a pitch to play on and we wouldn’t have had decent kit to play in.

"My thinking was I’ve had a very long playing career – I didn’t stop playing until I was 51, so I wanted to give something back to the next generation of footballers. That’s what I’m trying to do. I love Chichester City. It’s always been my spiritual football home.

“The cup run is the pinnacle of my involvement in football. It’s been some journey. The success is great for the club and will sustain us for two, three, four years. We need to learn from past experiences at our club though. Two years ago we nearly didn’t have a club.”

Chi’s kitman Ian Madgwick is another key figure at the club who has turned his hand to most things at Oaklands Park. Madgwick, who played for Portfield not Chi, says he got hooked on City when he was asked to volunteer for the committee. Like others, he wanted to put something back into the club.

Madgwick said the cup run might mean more people come forward to help out at Oaklands Park. He said, “I love being involved with the club. When I first started doing the kit there were Under 18s, reserves and first teams playing mid-week and Saturdays and Sundays. It was hard work to be honest.

“Being part of this journey has been very emotional for me. When the team coach pulled up to Tranmere’s ground and we saw all the supporters there it choked me up. A lot of the guys were emotional. I’m very proud of the club.”

Harwood added, “It’s been a surreal journey. These FA Cup memories will never go away. It’s made what we’ve been trying to achieve at the club all the more worthwhile. For all those supporters to come all this way for five hours to support our team. I kept pinching myself thinking, am I really here? Taking it all in happening to a club I’ve loved for a long time.”