AMBER: Hi Ray, you're fairly new to the committee at Sutton United but I believe you have a lot of administrative experience.RAY: I guess that's right. I am just about to start my 4th season as Club Secretary, which was a role I took up after almost 16 years as CEO/County Secretary of Surrey County FA. Following in the steps of club legends like Dave Hermitage and Ralph Carr is an honour and a privilege. Before SCFA I was Secretary of Redhill Referees' Society for 7 years and on the committee at Horley Town FC.
AMBER: Are you enjoying your role at Sutton?
RAY: I am now but the first couple of seasons, although interesting and rewarding at times, were not what I would describe as ‘enjoyable'. There were lots of challenges but thank goodness Millsy was always on hand to help out and the support from the manager, Bruce, Starnsy and others has been brilliant.
AMBER: What does your role as club secretary encompass?
RAY: My main role is player admin, e.g. drawing up contracts, cancelling contracts, loans in and out, international clearance, affiliation and dealing with the National League and Football Association, which often involves liaising with other club officers.
AMBER: Last season must have been hectic. The first year of National League football AND the FA Cup run?
RAY: It was a brilliant season in the league and the management and players deserve great credit. I enjoyed all of the away matches, win, lose or draw; the only away match I missed was Gateshead. I feel the FA Cup demanded more from others than me – Rob Oakes, Adrian Barry, Graham Starns, Tony Dolbear and many, many others all of whom rallied round. In my 3 seasons thus far, it has never ceased to amaze me at the number of volunteers we have and the hours and commitment they all give. One thing the FA Cup run did achieve was to highlight to a lot of people that there is a ‘Sutton United FC' – I received good luck and well done messages from friends and neighbours who had never been to a football match and I think that is widespread around Sutton and beyond.
AMBER: Given your own experience, are there any things you would like to see changed to make things easier for clubs?
RAY: When I was at Surrey County FA, the Football Association and occasionally the SCFA ran workshops and courses for every type of role within a club – chairman, secretary, treasurer, first-aider and so on. I was very surprised to learn that is not extended to club administrators at our level where getting it right is far more important and it is very much “learn from your mistakes”, which can prove costly. I know from talking to FA staff and others that many think we are full-time employees; that really showed during the FA Cup run with enquiries from all sections of the media. In that respect Tony Dolbear was brilliant and received deserved praise from clubs and media. About 5 years ago, I told a senior member of FA staff that, in my opinion, adult recreational football will not exist as we know it in 20 years. Unfortunately the rate that clubs and leagues fold season after season, it may be sooner but it is not being addressed. I feel there are too many rules and regulations; too much on-line admin and no place for the pen and paper administrator. Walking football, Mum's football and Futsal are not going to fill the gaps but they satisfy participation numbers.
AMBER: I also hear that when Ross Worner got injured you reminded Paul Doswell that you're a goalkeeper.
RAY: I think was a GK is more accurate. I dropped a hint to Dos when I became Secretary but my suggestion fell on deaf ears!! One of my claims to fame is I must be one of the few goal-keepers to be lobbed in a 6 a-side goal – maybe Dos had heard about that: It also helps if you can reach the crossbar.
AMBER: So, your time as a Sutton supporter actually goes back a long way. Do you remember the first game you saw?
RAY: I can remember which game but can't remember much about it as I was 10 years old – it was the 1963 Amateur Cup Final against Wimbledon. Although I have never lived in Sutton both my grand-mothers lived here, so regular family visits led to me following the club for over 50 years. In the Isthmian League Championship-winning season of 1966-67 I only missed 2 matches home and away, travelling from where I lived in Reigate to Sutton on the 711 Green-line. I stuck all the programmes in a scrap book and when I told Frakey a couple of years ago he went mad!! When I was about 15, Sutton were at home midweek to Enfield but I only had enough money for the gate money and Green-line fare one way and so after school I walked from Reigate to Sutton to watch the match – Sutton lost.
AMBER: Do you have a favourite memory from all that time?
RAY: I won't say the ‘C' word (Coventry), which is up there of course, but there have been quite a few other memories. Hillingdon Borough home and away in 1970 FA Cup to see who played Leeds; beating the famous Bishop Auckland 2-1 in the Amateur Cup and, of course, the AFC Wimbledon replay this season has to be a match never to be forgotten. In 1966-67 we had to win away at Oxford City to clinch the league and won 4-1. When I saw the fixture list for 2015-16 and that the last match was Oxford City away, I felt it was an omen and we would win the league again-we did. So many other memories I could mention.
PS. Sorry about the photo but I am also a Liverpool supporter.