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Club News

Amber Lane Talks To... Tony Dolbear

20 May 2017

Club News

Amber Lane Talks To... Tony Dolbear

20 May 2017

This week Amber talks to the club's long-serving Press Secretary Tony Dolbear.

AMBER: The 5th tier isn't a new experience for you as Press Secretary but a lot of things have changed since our previous ventures at this level. What, if anything, did you have to get used to?

TONY: The increased media coverage on match days. We had to extend the press area (many thanks to John Lowe) and make sure we had sufficient facilities for BBC local radio stations who wanted to broadcast as part of their deal with the National League, which meant installing a hard-wired connection to our internet as, with no regular coverage from BBC London, we didn't have a BBC ISDN line which is their preferred equipment. Thanks to the FA Cup run we have one now. Also the need to supply highlights to BT Sport on a Saturday night - although we were supposed to find some local students to do that as part of the deal with BT that didn't really work out in the early part of the season, although we now have Rhys Webster from NESCOT who was an excellent addition to the team after Christmas, and James and Clive King deserve great thanks for making sure we were able to supply the necessary footage.

AMBER: A fairly new venture for the club is live commentary. With the distances involved in the National league this is obviously an important service for supporters who can't always travel. What challenges does this present?

TONY: Not as many as it did in National League South, because at this level all other clubs (bar one) do something similar and so are quite happy to accommodate us because we will host them in the return fixture. We have our own equipment and although it can be susceptible to poor wifi signals both Tom and I can commentate using our phones, so we don't necessarily need to sit in the press box or use the wifi. Generally it's quite straightforward provided you don't get a coughing fit, and you pay attention. If you don't do the latter you run the risk of not spotting Dan Spence's far post volley against Southport and crediting the goal to a Southport player.

AMBER: Which was your favourite away ground, and why?

TONY: That's difficult, because although I only missed five games last season they included the games at Tranmere, Wrexham and Torquay, which were by all accounts right at the top of the list. I think going to Lincoln at the start of the season brought home the level we had now reached, but I also liked Southport and Macclesfield as I thought that despite some modifications they retained the appearance of traditional football grounds, and Maidstone's new terrace was extremely impressive.

AMBER: The season was heavily punctuated by the FA Cup run. It must have brought additional pressures having to fit in the demands of the cup around the club's normal media activities?

TONY: I'm not sure we have 'normal' media activities. The media activities rather depend on what's happening, so for that spell they were based around the FA Cup run rather than anything else. There were a few games around the end of January/beginning of February when the cup interest made them busier than they might otherwise have been, such as the 'volunteer' photo for the Times before the Boreham Wood FA Trophy game, and a Norwegian television crew turning up at Solihull (not sure what Solihull made of it), but generally it was a case of 'instead of' rather than 'as well as' - just a bit more intense than usual.

AMBER: So, the obvious question, have you ever experienced anything like the Arsenal game before?

TONY: I'd only been the press officer for three months when we played Coventry, which might not have had the profile of the Arsenal game but which was still a fairly major event, and found the arrangements for that game more difficult as I really didn't know what I was doing at times, and I was also doing the programme which took up a lot of time - there were two of those plus the Coventry programme that had to be done after we'd beaten Aylesbury. This time, by the time we played Arsenal we'd already played Leeds and Wimbledon so most of the media facilities were already in place and the personnel covering the games were often the same people, so we knew each other quite well by then and were familiar with each other's arrangements. The bigger issue was fitting everyone in to the space available for the press, although quite a few were happy to watch the game from the ground rather than the allocated press seats, which was a help. As regards the media attention in the build up, though, that was like nothing I've ever been involved with before and I appreciated the help I received, both from inside and outside the club, coping with some of those arrangements.

AMBER: What one moment stands out for you from the cup run?

TONY: How can you choose just one?! I think the pandemonium following Roarie Deacon's last minute winner against Cheltenham because reaching the third round was such a big thing. Closely followed by walking along London Wall the morning after the Wimbledon replay listening to Bruce discussing accountants with Nicky Campbell on the Five Live breakfast programme.

AMBER: What are you looking forward to about next season?

TONY:  Hopefully being able to go to Tranmere, Wrexham and Torquay (and Guiseley, which was the other away game I missed), and seeing what Hartlepool is like. I would say playing Leyton Orient as equals, but I find what's happened to them really sad and I think that will take the edge off it.

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