Mouth of the Tyne: A season of soaring highs and crushing lows for St Albans City

St Albans City celebrate at the final whistle after their FA Cup first round win over Forest Green Rovers.

St Albans City celebrate at the final whistle after their FA Cup first round win over Forest Green Rovers. - Credit: NIGEL FRENCH/PA

I've already heard it discussed by fans elsewhere but now that the dust is settling on another season, here's my answer to the question 'was St Albans City's season a success or was it a failure'?

And the answer, when I tot everything up, is the latter.

Now, no doubt that will be as far as many readers get and off they'll go into the night, howling and burning effigies of me because I'm a negative idiot who knows nothing about football.

But for those that remain, there are of course a myriad of counter arguments and ups and downs that I considered before coming to my final answer. A league season lasts nine months and it will never make for a black and white decision.

And we'll get to the green roving elephant in the room in a bit for those wondering.

But when I boil it down to the barest bones, this year has to be classed as a failure because, as we have been told by football managers since time immemorial, the league is a club's bread and butter. .

And to not make the play-offs from the position Saints were in, even as late as March, is hard to accept. Not even taking it to the final day just makes it even more galling.

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This was a golden opportunity too. While even the ardent City supporter would admit that the league title may have been out of their grasp, winning a couple of one-off games in the play-offs, against teams that on the field are more than a match, was very achievable.

You only have to look at the cup run to see that.

And for those who feel the cumulative cost of promotion would work against the club, I offer a different view.

Crowds at Clarence Park have topped the four-figure mark on numerous occasions during the season.

Crowds at Clarence Park have topped the four-figure mark on numerous occasions during the season. - Credit: NIGEL FRENCH/PA

Crowds this season have been up massively, real eyebrow-raising stuff, and if you suddenly get the likes of Notts County, Southend United, Oldham Athletic, Chesterfield and Torquay United turning up at the Park with their massive away support, attendances then smash through the 2,000 barrier without even breaking sweat, maybe even hitting 3,000 a few times.

That brings more revenue, both through the gates and at the food and drink kiosks. There would be TV money too from BT as they show live games from time to time.

The FA Cup, such a big moment in this season (we're getting there, honest), proved how lucrative an appearance in the first round can be and being in the National League means just needing to win one game to manager that instead of the three they currently need to circumnavigate.

Three wins as a National League side would in fact get you to third round and all that brings.

Now OK, I might be getting carried away there but it does at least give a sense of what has been missed. There would be elevated costs, of course there would, but I honestly believe they would be be absorbed by many of the benefits.

And if a club like Maidenhead United can survive at step one, then I am in no doubt that St Albans City can manage it.

So bundle that up all up and that's why I can't give the season a thumbs up, even with that amazing win over Forest Green Rovers in the first round of the FA Cup.

However.

Shaun Jeffers hit an incredible 34 goals in all competitions for St Albans City during the 2021-2022 campaign.

Shaun Jeffers hit an incredible 34 goals in all competitions for St Albans City during the 2021-2022 campaign. - Credit: GAVIN ELLIS/TGS PHOTO

While a result like the one achieved on that never-to-be-forgotten Sunday night in November can't make a season, it can make a history. It can make a memory that will be cherished and regaled and passed down for decades.

In and of itself it was a huge game and I spoke about it at the time. The increased and uplifting exposure it brought was worth its weight in gold and pushed the club to the next level.

It continues to do so as well and it can still be used as a positive carrot to attract new players, new supporters and new sponsors.

But Saints have to capitalise on it. Treading water is no longer an option in my book. They have established themselves as a National League South club over the last few seasons, now they have to go on.

And that brings us to what will be a massive summer. Next year will already be tougher than this as the league swells to 24 clubs and the number of relegation places increases to four.

And lets not brush over the fact that the form since Christmas would have put Saints firmly in a relegation battle.

But I prefer to look the other way and to the next step. To do that the club will probably have to go to what is classed as full-time but what in reality is another one or two training sessions a week.

Keeping Shaun Jeffers for another season will be a huge priority for St Albans City manager Ian Allinson.

Keeping Shaun Jeffers for another season will be a huge priority for St Albans City manager Ian Allinson. - Credit: GAVIN ELLIS/TGS PHOTO

That though limits the player you can attract. Those who have jobs where the football was a supplementary income might not want to go full-time. It might not be worthwhile enough and that's completely fair and understandable. Ultimately you have to look after yourself and your family.

But it has to be factored into the thinking when looking for players. The academy has been a breath of fresh air and allowed the likes of Huw Dawson and Alex Lankshear to come into the first team and flourish.

Sam Meakes seems to be the next one to be coming through with Aaron Austin not far behind either but while it is great to see, it is unfair on these lads to have to shoulder too much responsibility. They are only bairns after all and it will be the more experienced player who will ultimately push the club on.

Alex Lankshear (right) has been one of the successes of the 2021-2022 season.

Alex Lankshear (right) has been one of the successes of the 2021-2022 season. - Credit: GAVIN ELLIS/TGS PHOTO

I know people believe I don't care and I'm anti-St Albans. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course I care. I've covered this club now for more than six years and while I will never be a fan, you can't follow a team for that long and not feel an affinity and a desire to do well.

The proof of that is I've just written more than 1,000 words straight off the bat, mostly driven by passion.

And while I may have labelled the season overall as a failure, it cannot be wholly categorised as such and the chances to grow over the next few weeks and months are tantalisingly in the grasp of the club.

I, like the rest of the fans, will be watching with baited breath.