We already knew that Horsham Football Club is blessed with the league’s best fans but we must have some of the most generous, too, after Saturday’s bucket collection in aid of Charlie Harris raised a magnificent £609.67! Together with other donations and commitments, the tremendous four-figure sum will make a significant contribution towards the cost of Charlie’s operation and further reinforces the bond between the club’s players and supporters, demonstrating what the Horsham FC family is all about. The operation, to correct cartilage damage suffered during the recent win against Ramsgate, has now been booked for the end of next week and, although ruling the popular midfielder out for the remainder of the season, should ensure that Charlie is fit and ready to return to pre-season training in the summer.
Unable to play or train, we asked committee member Mark Wells to put Charlie to work by answering a few questions on the season so far, his hopes for promotion and, of course, about that injury. When he caught up with the player, Charlie had just returned from the local swimming pool where he was doing what he could to maintain his fitness ahead of his enforced lay-off. “I’m just trying to get a bit of strength back and generally keep fit at the moment” said Charlie. “I’ve been doing alright but it’s weird….when the knee’s straight it’s fine but any twisting and landing and it’s really painful. I’ve not got full movement, or any lateral movement, and it didn’t help that I did my MCL at same time.
“I’ve never felt so loved. The fans went above and beyond for me”
I took a silly touch and ended up facing backwards, went to retrieve it and the guy’s come in to tackle me and caught me with his trailing leg. My foot got stuck, the knee went down, and I knew it was bad straight away but stupidly tried to run it off. I’ve don’t think I’ve ever been more frustrated because I’ve never enjoyed my football as much as I am right now. Even at training, I was turning up with a smile on my face because it’s so enjoyable.”
MW: It has certainly been an enjoyable campaign for everyone but do you see us maintaining our play-off challenge through to the end of the season?
“Absolutely! In fact if we do make it, and finish second or third and get home advantage then I believe we’ll go up because we fancy ourselves to beat anyone at home. We have the best defence in the league in my opinion, some top strikers, and a real belief in each other. There’s no Big Time Charlies, all the players come out when we have team nights out and we all work for each other. The key is that Dom’s brought in not only good players but good people as well.”
Unsurprisingly, the twenty-three year old is a big advocate of the synthetic pitch and feels the performances at Lancing have been the bedrock of our play-off push. “We’re not a team of bruisers so the 4G suits is. We have lads like Biff, Dylan and Dean who can look after themselves but they’re good footballers too and I think that’s why we’ve been so solid at home this season. You’re able to trust the pitch so when you get on the ball and know it’s not going to take a bobble, it helps no end. When we do go away to some of the more difficult pitches we just have to dig in but, again, we have the players who can do that.”
You spent a month on loan with the Hornets at the start of last year, Did that have a bearing on your decision to sign for the club last summer?
“I enjoyed my time here for sure but I kept my options open. I didn’t enjoy last season at Eastbourne Borough. I was played out of position by a manager that didn’t really trust me but, at Horsham, Dom has built around me and helped me to improve. I had better money offers in the summer but I felt that something good is happening at the club right now. Jon Meeney coming in was another factor, even though he left a short time after.”
You’ve scored your fair share of special goals this season, starting with that spectacular winning strike at Carshalton in the FA Cup. Have you ever had a season like this one for goals?
“I scored ten goals in about six months at East Grinstead but, to be honest, I would normally back myself to score a few more than that. As a holding midfielder it’s not so easy to get into the box but I don’t think I’ve scored so many good ones as this season, and probably none as good as the one down at Hythe.”
“I don’t think I’ve scored so many good ones as this season, and probably none as good as the one down at Hythe.”
After last season’s struggles, the Hornets have confounded predictions by sustaining a play-off push over the last three or four months. To what do you attribute the turn around in fortunes?
“No-one at the club expected us to do what we’ve done this season, not even Dom, but the players did and I think you can see that belief when we play. We’re tight-knit and if there are ever any issues, we always get them sorted out quickly. We’ve got a great mix of experience in the squad. I’m only twenty-three and I think Harvey’s the only other one that age, the rest are twenty-five plus but I think the real key to our success is our shape, hard work, and knowing you can trust your team-mates. Realistically we’ve only been outplayed once this season, away to Hastings, but we’d just lost Daryl (Coleman) and Bozzy (Darren Boswell), I played in a different position and none of us really had a good game. You could see they (Hastings) were a decent side though but I felt we had enough chances to have beaten them when we played them at home the other week.
We’ve come up against some very strong sides this season but no-one’s given us a battering. It’s a long season and if Cray weren’t running away with it, I’d have said we could have been looking at automatic promotion. We’ve never feared anyone and our confidence is high and, although we lost, I think the experience of playing teams like Bath, Poole and Eastbourne helped us. We’ve got some big games coming up against Hythe, Cray and Ashford but we’ve beaten all of them this season and even though we didn’t outplay Cray, we managed to find a way to win and I’d put that one down as one of our best displays of the season. To be the only club to have beaten them this season was quite an achievement but, for me, our best performance was against Eastbourne Borough. They turned up with pretty much their strongest side but for the first hour, until Lavs (Kieran Lavery) got sent off, we were by far the better team.”
Do you see any change to those teams currently occupying the play-off places before the end of the season?
“Haywards Heath might be the ones to drop out, if anyone, but they work very hard for each other and, like Cray and Hastings, have shown the benefit of having a settled side. It’s probably only ourselves and Ashford who haven’t been together a couple of years so both clubs have done really well to be where they are. I can’t see much change to the top five now, to be honest, and hopefully we can kick on and finish as high as we can.”
It’s been six years since Horsham were last in the Isthmian Premier Division. Having given ourselves a great chance of making it this year, do the players feel under any pressure to finish the job?
“There’s not been much pressure on us all season. The only time we really felt any pressure it was self-inflicted when we went to Corinthian in the FA Cup and ended up drawing. We thought we would walk it, and probably should have done, and although we did the business in the replay we have always respected the opposition since then and make sure we concentrate on ourselves.”
It’s going to be a frustrating few months for you now, while you recover from your operation. Will you be coming down to support the lads from the sidelines?
“I’m going to try to get to as many matches as possible, and will be at Whitstable on Saturday, but my operation is scheduled for next Friday so I’ll probably have to miss a couple of matches after that but I aim to be there as soon as I can. I just can’t thank the club enough for everything they’ve done for me and I’ve never felt so loved. It’s crazy the amount the fans raised and it’s genuinely one of the nicest things that has ever happened to me. I play football for the love of it but I’m not going to lie, the money is a second income so this has been a massive help to me and I’m just so grateful for everyone’s generosity. They’ve gone above and beyond for me and it really shows the quality of people in and around the club! I’ve been advised that the PFA might be able to provide some assistance too so I have written to them but if not I’ll have to find the money but this donation will make a huge difference and if I could thank everyone individually then I would.”
It’s not too late to make a donation and anyone wishing to do so can make a bank transfer to Lloyds Bank, Sort Code 30-94-41, Account No. 02763492.