It’s fair to say that the Trade Tyre Community Stadium has certainly had an extreme makeover this summer, with the club striving to improve every facility possible within the ground.
Whether it’s the pitch, stands, clubhouse or the dressing rooms, so much has improved over the past 12-18 months.
A quick stroll into the room, which formerly had a rather large assembly hall inside, now contains a large flat-screen TV with tables and chairs to sit down and buy a coffee or a cup of tea.
The players, off the back of a dominant Bank Holiday Monday win at Northwich Victoria, were assembled in the rather plush room to watch the FA Cup game between Darlaston Town and Sporting Khalsa.
Naturally, the jokes were flying throughout the squad with discussions had about the players featuring on the BBC, and laughs were, of course, shared. You wouldn’t know that in just 90 minutes' time, Lichfield had a massive game of their own.
The beautiful weather was hardly dampening the mood amongst the squad apart from a few bizarre suggestions that it was too warm which was the source of ridicule amongst other members of the squad.
A home game against Stourport Swifts is always a big occasion. The Swifts have a long trip down to the ground but they arrived with a swagger and confidence that they can come and get a good result.
Lichfield have, in recent years, struggled against the Swifts although Ivor Green’s men pulled off a 1-0 victory in the FA Cup which was arguably one of the club’s most memorable nights. A 3-0 loss against Stourport last season perhaps summed up the club’s plight in the league that season.
But a new year means a new season and another chance of righting those wrongs of that season. The new additions in the squad, whether it’s from the academy or from other clubs, have certainly helped the morale and has boosted the quality around the first-team squad.
The triumvirate of Green, Chapman and new coach Jack Salmon knew they had a job on their hands.
The first-team coach, it is fair to say, has made a good impact so far for Lichfield. The coach has a close relationship with the players which Green says is crucial for squad harmony.
Results like Saturdays, in the heat of a September afternoon, can only increase the bond amongst the group of players who are still ironing out edges and learning how each other play. Stourport, who seemingly have had Lichfield’s number over the past few seasons, started well and were nullifying the hosts.
“They’ve come here happy for a point,” was the verdict of one clearly disgruntled member of the first team squad at half-time, which brought agreeable hums from some other members of the team.
Green, as he so often does, allowed the players to talk and to vent their frustrations. Joe Haines, the new captain, will admit he has a short fuse and can let his emotions get the better of him, but he was leading the team here.
Seemingly, in Kyle Patterson’s absence, Haines is the new captain. The left-back has been entrusted by the coaching staff to cajole the players and with his performances barely ever being under a 7/10, it seemed the wise choice from Green.
Well, as part of his new role, he has to keep a cool head. Screaming and shouting at the players would do little to help forge a good morale amongst the squad. He gives advice and will encourage the younger players, who are often reticent to get involved in the shouting during the 15-minute break.
Prior to the game against Stourport in the sun, Green, from his unofficial office, was asked what the weakness in the squad is, if any. A squad rich in quality certainly has no weaknesses on paper but the former Atherstone coach paused before he gave his rather philosophical answer.
“If I had to pick one aspect, it’s talking,” Green said. Green’s statement which Chapman agreed on swiftly was further explained by the pair. Despite the names in the squad, who have match experience and title-winning experience, the team is very quiet on the pitch.
There are, at times, periods of silence amongst the squad. Nobody instructs the team what to do during certain situations and certainly nobody tells the younger players what to do during periods of pressure. Inevitably, Green’s proclamation of the squad’s weakness reared its head early in the second half.
A throw-in on the right caused confusion and barely 10 seconds later James Beeson was fishing the ball out of his net. Silence remained.
The frustration on the touchline was becoming more and more audible. Dan ‘Wonder’ Smith, the club’s new striker from Tividale, was visibly frustrated to not have equalised when he saw his flying header clawed out, somehow.
With time ticking on, it seemed the same issues from last season were beginning to repeat itself. But one aspect that Green has been keen to praise, especially this season, is his sides never say die attitude.
Well, once again, Green was proven right. A late onslaught from the hosts was to be expected but it took until the final few minutes of the game for the hosts to strike through Kieran Francis. A draw is still two points dropped, but the relief and the burgeoning morale of the squad was there for all to see.
This result was more important than the point it gave Green’s men, the momentum it has given to a young squad could be crucial. A point from a game where it looked like they wouldn’t get anything from it, was certainly a bonus.
The games do not get any easier for Lichfield. The trip to title hopefuls Shifnal Town isn’t even the biggest game of the week with the small matter of a trip to Atherstone Town midweek. It promises to be an important week for Lichfield City.