• Eastbourne Borough captain Ben Austin writes exclusively for Herald Sport
The demands of the league are becoming increasingly evident and I think everyone is learning lessons about exactly what it takes to become an established Blue Square Bet Premier side.
Despite recent results and some of the performances I can assure you that there is no lack of effort going into games from anyone involved. I appreciate that it may not always look that way from the sidelines, but it should not be underestimated how difficult it is to continually pick yourself up knock after knock, defeat after defeat.
No one enjoys losing, especially players, but it is a harsh reality that at present we are well short of the collective strength required to compete. This is not me being defeatest, it is me being honest, how could I suggest that we are equipped to compete after 10 straight defeats in which we have rarely come close to a victory?
The truth is that the gulf between the full- and the part-time teams is increasing. It has been said many times before that fitness is key and this is undoubtedly true, but we have proved before this can be overcome. If you look back over the three seasons since our promotion you will see that we have always struggled to pick up points in midweek games.
We have survived because with the extra rest available before a Saturday game, we have been able to recover enough to win games or at least compete. Take the last week for example. On Saturday we competed with and should have beaten one of the better sides in the league in Grimsby, but the physical demands of going again on the Tuesday against Gateshead proved too much.So why the change this season? Why are we not winning on Saturdays either? Well, in my opinion another and bigger disadvantage of being a part-time club has become more apparent, preparation, or lack of it.
The ability to compete on a Saturday has become harder due to the increased levels of preparation for games by our opponents. Gateshead’s players do not get a day off; they are in every day preparing for their next game. New players, loan players have time to fit in and understand their role within the team and are therefore able to fit in seamlessly.
Compare this with our situation. In recent weeks our side has been made up largely of players back from injury and loan players we have met two hours before kick off.
We are lucky if we have 11 first-team players training as loan players are seldom able to train with the squad and many of the players are having to miss training to nurse injuries in order to be fit for the next match.
For as long as I can remember this season we have been forced to field a side with numerous changes. Our previous success has always been down to having a settled side who knew each other’s games and worked to a plan, but this has been impossible to achieve this season.
Look around our squad, we have talented footballers, some individuals who would comfortably walk into other sides in our division, but without time to gel as a team it will always be a struggle and this is proving to be the case.
I am aware this may sound as though I am listing excuses for our poor showings of late but I can assure that is not my intention. I am simply stating facts.
There are many variables which collectively create a challenge that at present we are unable to meet. Lessons are being learned and I honestly believe the club will be stronger for it in the long run.
In the meantime, Eastbourne Borough Football Club’s players, management, committee and supporters need to show a united front, ride out the storm and come back stronger in time, whether that be this season, next or thereafter.