When the first week of August rolls around, there’s expectancy in the air. Whether it’s the smell of freshly cut grass, Beef Burgers or beer, the first weekend of this month is always a special one.
The excitement between Ivor Green and Wayne Chapman was clear. They knew the job ahead of them, and it certainly wasn’t an easy one.
Boldmere St Michaels were the side that awaited Green’s men. Boldmere, who achieved promotion out of the Midland Premier Division two seasons ago,
represented a robust test of will and quality.
When the pair met each other back in the 2021/2022 season, it was a 1-1 draw at the Trade Tyre Community Stadium before Lichfield suffered a 3-2 defeat on their travels during the difficult winter period of that season.
It was always going to be a tough game for Green and his players. The players who were in the squad were certainly different from the last meeting of the two sides.
A quick look around the dressing room and there’s new faces in the mix, a breath of fresh air. New signings have been made, whether it’s a bulldozing centre-forward from Tividale or a young, energetic midfielder formerly of the academy being brought back, it was an exciting time for the coaching staff.
So much so, that Chapman made a rather bold statement as the players made their way out of the dressing room and onto the pitch to warmup.
“I think, pound for pound, this might be one of the best groupsof players that we’ve had,” he said. That statement caused shock from me and a wide-eyed expression, but Chapman doubled down on his statement with that typical slow nodding as the words spill out of his mouth.
The new signings that have been made entered the dressing room sheepishly, with a hint of nervousness on their face, they know how important it is to make a good first impression. Some greet me at the door others, who don’t recognise me, give me a nervous smile before taking their seat in the changing room.
The usual faces are still there making their voices heard. Joe Haines, who scored the winning goal in the emotional JW Hunt Cup final win against Tividale, was his typical bullish self, with his outgoing nature and jokes bringing a chuckle from a few corners of the dressing room to settle the nerves in the squad.
With as much as six new faces in the Lichfield squad, it’s important that the team morale is high although this will take time. Many players in non-league have spoken about the importance of squad night’s out, it removes that awkward barrier, so that may well be needed before the team feel entirely confident in each other.
In the team talk before the game, Green was keen to stamp out the errors on corners that have proliferated throughout last season and has carried on during pre-season. He was firm with the squad, some looked wide eyed, others were in the zone and were keen to get out on the pitch.
There were some players in the first team squad who were brought in from the academy, carrying on the club’s proud tradition of always giving academy players a chance. Lewi Burnside being the biggest example of this working during the 2021-2022 season.
The game itself proved to be yet another frustrating example of how good they can play and how bad they can play at times. After Jack Edwards scored a penalty, his second, to give the away side the lead again, everything seemed rosy.
The similarities to this game and the previous meeting of the pair were stark. Lichfield went 2-1 up and were undone by two quickfire goals, similar to the last time they met. The frustration was etched across the face of Green, but there were certainly some positives.
Lichfield, truth be told, should have won the game. Some of the football on display by Green’s men, particularly in the first half, was a joy to behold. The front two of Liam Kirton and Dan ‘Wonder’ Smith were constant thorns in the side of Boldmere, the pair kept running and running.
The loss was a frustrating one and Green was airing his frustrations in the dressing room, and that’s an understatement.
Despite the words said after the game, some players believe that can help the team’s morale getting all of the issues out in the open and there will be a hope that can bear fruit this season.
Once Green emerged from the dressing room, he had a face of thunder. The frustrations had been aired and he began to curse their luck and the individual errors that were made.
But as Green, and his coaching staff, does so often, they tried to see the positives in the defeat. They were in a huddle in the clubhouse, Green had a Guiness in hand and was gesticulating wildly what went wrong, with the mistakes being made by the defence a consistent topic.
Despite the postmortem being conducted with a drink in hand, a look from Chapman showed excitement. Excitement that they’re back into the swing of things and losses like Saturday make the victories, which there will be plenty of, much better.