No regrets bailing out Cornard

CHRIS Symes has been manager of Cornard United in the Ridgeons League for a remarkable 12 years.It was August 1994 when he took over - and he has since ploughed £50,000 of his own money into the Ridgeons League club.

CHRIS Symes has been manager of Cornard United in the Ridgeons League for a remarkable 12 years.

It was August 1994 when he took over - and he has since ploughed £50,000 of his own money into the Ridgeons League club.

He retired when he was 55 and, at the age of 60, now runs the First Division football club as business.

“We are now running at a small profit, having reduced a £48,000 debt into a £8,000 one,” said Symes who, despite dipping into his own pocket so drastically, has no regrets. I could now be driving a much better car or living in a bigger house,” he said. “But I love what I do. Football is my life.

“The club had all sorts of financial problems when I first joined, and I have had to battle with brewers, councils, Inland Revenue and even trading standards officers.

“We were hit by a massive revenue bill, which eventually came down to £8,400 with six months to pay.”

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Symes, who is also secretary, treasurer, groundsman and programme editor, spends every day of the week at the Blackhouse Lane ground and says that money is made via members' functions held at the clubhouse.

He added: “In 2004, we finished 10th in the First Division with a player budget of £22,000.

“The following season we were 11th with a £20,000 budget. Last season we ended 12th with no budget whatsoever - and, understandably, we have opted for no budget this season either.

“We live off our members' functions, with the average income through the turnstiles for home games £50, and referee and their assistants costing £100.”

Cornard has spent most of its money on pitch renovation (£11,000), central heating (£5,000), floodlight and building repairs (£5,000) as well as close circuit TV and a state of the art discotheque.

Symes made his name as a manager with Braintree, winning the Ridgeons League title in 1984 and 1985, having taken over in April 1983.

He then moved to Chelmsford, where he was dismissed after winning a championship. He took over at Bury Town and Wivenhoe and left both when the money ran out.

“When I moved to Cornard, I inherited an awful lot of problems,” said Symes.

“Understandably, most of the committee bailed out and it has been myself and current chairman Mike Ford who took on the mantle.

“If I lose four games on the trot I don't have to look over my shoulder.”

Symes, who briefly handed over team affairs to Paul Tietjen pre-season in the summer of 2005, is not the longest manager in the Ridgeons League, as Lowestoft Town joint boss Mick Chapman has been with the current champions since January 1994.

Cornard have over 50 shirts from professional clubs adorning the walls of their club.

Many teams from the north of England playing at Ipswich or Colchester stay at Stoke-by-Nayland Golf Hotel and train on their pitch.

Last year, Symes won the East Midlands groundsman award and was fourth in his category in the country.

He has signed on the complete Layer Fox side who are champions of the Colchester Sunday League.

Cornard are in the quarter-finals of the Suffolk Senior Cup with a home tie against Metaltec SIL Brantham.

Winning a place at Portman Road for the final will be some reward for Symes, but football will always be in his debt.

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