Difficult second season

Olly Deed on Hadley FC’s struggle to replicate last year’s success

Two footballers attempting to win the ball as three others look on
Hadley FC take on Ware in the FA Trophy – (Credit – Chris Foster)

Have you ever heard the term “second album syndrome”? If you haven’t, here goes.

In essence, the theory is as follows – an artist or group, having broken onto the scene with a fantastic first album, often struggles to follow up with a record that is as good, or better than what has gone before. 

Countless examples exist. At the risk of offending readers, Second Coming by The Stone Roses is generally perceived as an example of this – a poor follow up to one of the greatest first albums of all time. In contrast, Rolling Stone magazine named Nevermind by Nirvana as the best second album of all time, demonstrating the aforementioned syndrome can be avoided.

So, you might ask, what has this got to do with Hadley Football Club? When asked to write about the club’s fortunes so far this season, I could not shake the second album syndrome theme. You see, the Bricks are currently participating in their second season at Step Four in the non-league pyramid, having finished just outside the play-offs last season, and, so far, things have not quite come together. It’s all a bit Stone Roses, rather than Nirvana.

At the time of writing, Hadley are 16th in the Southern League Division One Central. The club is hovering a mere point above the relegation play-off zone, having amassed twelve points from 13 games. Early exits from the FA Cup, FA Trophy and Herts Senior Cup have meant all focus is on the league and maintaining our status at this level in the footballing pyramid. 

At times, we do have to be reminded that this is the highest level the club has played at, and we are now competing against teams that have budgets that well and truly dwarf our own. With three promotions, we’d be playing against Barnet FC (notwithstanding their own solid pursuit of promotion currently).

Before this becomes too gloomy an exposition on the season to date, it’s worth noting there have still been plenty of highlights. Earlier in the season, there were excellent wins at home to Little Oakley (6-2), and Ware (4-1) in the FA Cup and FA Trophy, respectively. 

In recent weeks, we have secured two thrilling 3-2 wins away at Waltham Abbey and Aylesbury United. In the first of those two results, the Bricks came from 2-0 down to win in the best 45-minute performance we have seen this season. And in early November, we beat recently relegated King’s Langley to keep us out of the relegation zone. In general, the performances have been good, and indicate that, with a bit of fine-tuning, the team can climb the table in the second half of the season, as we did in the last campaign.

Looking at the rest of the season, the festive period looks to be key, with six games to be played in the next month. That includes matches against title-challenging North Leigh, as well as ‘six-pointers’ against struggling sides like Kempston Rovers and Barton Rovers. Come the New Year, the league campaign will be halfway complete, and we will have a clearer picture of how proceedings will unfold. 

Between now and the end of the season, Hadley must be on song to maintain their status at this level of the non-league pyramid, if they are not to fall foul of the dreaded second album/season syndrome. They’ll need to be more Kurt Cobain than Ian Brown, more Dave Grohl than Alan Wren. Should that happen, the prospects for a fantastic third season at Step Four are promising. 

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