The only way is up for Blues under new management
Shirley D Whitlow
As Lowestoft Town prepare for the start of their league campaign on Saturday Mark Armstrong speaks to manager Jamie Godbold about how he plans to restore the feelgood factor at Crown Meadow
You can easily gauge a non-league club’s trajectory.
When things are going well on the field, everyone in the town wants a piece of the action, and the attendances follow.
When you’re battling at the wrong end of the table, it’s far easier for a fanbase to find something else to do on a Saturday afternoon or Tuesday evening. Bit of shopping? Might as well. Bite to eat? Why not. Go and watch Lowestoft play? No thanks.
That’s what it’s been like in the last few years at Lowestoft Town. As they blazed a trail through the non league pyramid you couldn’t keep the crowds away and they would regularly get crowds in excess of 800.
But for whatever reason the Trawlerboys failed to capitalise on this and once they had reached their ceiling in the National League North a few seasons ago they have been on a downward spiral ever since.
A feeling of disengagement has infected Crown Meadow ever since they lifted the play-off trophy back in 2014 and last season they struggled to attract in excess of 300 through the gate at times.
When that’s your main source of income then that’s a problem. Fortunately, the club appears to have woken up to the fact they need to do more in making people part with their time to come and watch them.
That process was kick-started when they appointed club legends Jamie Godbold and Andy Reynolds as their new management team. Their very presence is a reminder of the good times the club enjoyed and there aren’t too many people better placed that ‘get’ Lowestoft Town.
If fans can’t get behind two individuals that played such an integral part in the club’s development then the Blues really are in trouble.
Godbold knows the challenge. He’s got to make fans feel part of the club again and all the while build a squad that’s capable of competing at step three of the non league pyramid this season.
“We want to give the club back to the town,” said Godbold, who made 500 appearances for Lowestoft during his playing career. “We’ve had some fantastic crowds in the past and there’s no getting away from the fact that they have dropped in the past couple of seasons.
“We want to establish a link back into the community. If we can get supporters back through the gates then a lot follows that. We create more revenue, which could then potentially increase the budget and lead to more on-field success.”
When Godbold arrived he had just three players contracted to the Blues. The financial problems that dogged then manager Dale Brooks last season had left their mark and Godbold admitted that recruitment has been a challenge.
“We had to pretty much start from scratch and we are still on the lookout for players,” said the 37-year-old, whose side start their Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central campaign at Halesowen on Saturday. “Recruitment has been difficult because the way the league has been set up now it means that we can’t really bring in players from Essex like we have in the past.
“It has meant that we have had to concentrate a lot more locally and we are really pleased with how it’s gone.
“We feel we’ve got the best of our local talent.”
Some of the signs in pre-season have been promising, a 5-0 win over Norwich United perhaps the high point, with Ben Fowkes in particular looking a shrewd addition.
However, Godbold admits he will be relying on the likes of Adam Smith, Andrew Fisk and Shaun Bammant to help school an inexperienced squad through the next nine months.
“They’ve been fantastic to be fair – they are good players but more important than that is their attitude to the younger lads,” said Godbold, who has also managed to hold on to the highly-rated Travis Cole. “We are going to need that experience through the season.”
Godbold doesn’t want to set any goals for next season with the league. But he is happy to admit that he wants to restore some of the feelgood factor around the club once again.
“I’ve no idea what the league is going to be like next season - I don’t think anyone has after the changes that were made,” he said. “But we need to build the club up again and make supporters feel good about it.
“It’s been top heavy for too long and it’s got to be run differently to how it was before.
“We are working with a blank piece of paper and we feel like the only way is up. We’ve got time to get this right because it’s a long term project that we’re involved with here and it’s one that we’re all looking forward towards.”