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Secret Non-League Footballer Column

I ASKED some Hereford United fans via Twitter how they felt about the club’s desperate situation and it was pretty obvious that they feel let down and fear the worst.

Hereford faced going to court today after being served a winding up petition by HM Revenue & Customs. The club was expecting the move after experiencing financial difficulties for the last few years and have admitted that they are accumulating debts that are estimated to be £1 million and increasing by around £20,000 per month.

Until an announcement on Friday afternoon that the funds had been secured and underwritten by the board to satisfy the winding-up petition, they were facing the worry of how to meet the £36,500 tax bill after the collapse of a potential major deal with a telecommunications company.

As a player, you have to try to put the off-field activities to one side and solely focus on your responsibilities on the pitch. It is hard, though, if not next to impossible. It’s times like this when the best players take the club and community into their hearts.

After all, they sign up for the job because they find something which attracts them to the club, whether it be the location, the manager, money, security, the style of play or future plans.

Even away from the bubble of a footballer in which we are so wrapped and fixated, this scenario happens all the time in everyday life. People lose their jobs and move on due to companies closing down.

In this case, it’s not just a business. It’s a community and an important part of the local area, where people come to meet friends, socialise, have a dodgy burger and share the same experiences. It’s a place where you are all as one; a place at which, I’m sure, the other worries in life are withdrawn for 90 minutes.

This is the passion, from the supporters, that I have found in Non-League. They pay our wages but, more importantly, give us a reason to be able to play professionally the game we love. Clubs have gone but have reformed, run by the fans.

And going by what the Hereford fans have been able to do in raising around £20,000 towards the debt in such a limited amount of time, this club demonstrates that it has a future, even if the worst possible news comes true on Monday.

Fundamentally, for a player, your priority is to perform and to pay the bills every month. So you have to empathise with the players at Hereford if they aren’t being paid or are unaware of where their futures lie. If the players or staff aren’t being paid every week, this can develop into a problem.

Ultimately, you need to put food on the table, like anyone else in any line of business. When there is no money coming in and you are giving 100 per cent and working all week, it gets to a point where you really have to be brave and make a sensible decision.

With the players committing themselves to the club, understanding its issues and showing desire and hunger when performing, it will benefit them by putting themselves in the shop window for other clubs to look at. Every player is on a weekly trial, when you step out on to that pitch, regardless of your contract.

It is like a job interview. If you don’t impress, you are dropped, you won’t wear that shirt the following week. If you perform, you are given another chance to wear the shirt. In effect, it is another job interview the following game.

For any player to toss it off during a game, they will always be found out. The Hereford players will naturally be affected by the off-field problems but it shouldn’t prevent them from playing with their heart on their sleeves. For both their pride and the pride of their club.

Read The Secret Non-League Footballer’s column at www.thesecretfootballer.com

Follow him on twitter @tsfnonleague

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