Fans Forum – Part 2

The first Fans Forum of 2016 was held in the EBB Lounge on Monday 11 January, attended by Manager Barry Smith, Chairman Shahid Azeem and Director Brian Bloomfield.

Read part one here.

Has Jake Gallagher changed his approach or had any different coaching in recent weeks since his three red cards?

Barry: Jake is the nicest, quietest guy off the pitch, but on the pitch he’s competitive and that competitiveness sometimes takes him over the edge. I think now most players are scared of him, because they think he’s going to come in with a heavy challenge so he’s doesn’t actually have to tackle. Everybody likes a good challenge but Jake has learnt that the way he was tackling was open to debate about whether it was a good tackle. His reputation got him sent-off against Wrexham, because he’s not touched the guy. We spoke to Jake and put an arm around him, and hopefully he has learned, and that’s down to him.


What is the long-term ambition for the Club?

Brian: As a football fan I want to get into the Football League, we all do. We have dreams of getting back into the old Third Division, now League One. But it’s how we manage that financially, and that will depend on the skillsets we have at the Club and what money we have. My ambition is to get back into the Football League, and I’m sure that’s Barry’s ambition too. But getting more people through the turnstiles is key.

Shahid: We are in sport and we want to win every single game and reach as high as possible. We want to win the league and FA Trophy and every game we can, that’s why we’re in football. But we’ve got to make sure the infrastructure is right before we go up to that level, and ensure we are sustainable. If we’re looking for any kind of legacy, it’s as a sustainable football club and to be able to win within that infrastructure.


What are your targets for the rest of the season?

Barry: Just to finish as high as possible.


How is Richard Brodie’s fitness progressing?

Barry: Richard had had a back spasm for the last couple of weeks. It can fade away but come back as quickly as it went away, so we have to keep monitoring him in training.


What are the costs of maintaining the EBB Stadium?

Brian: We’ve got to spend maybe £30-40,000 on barrier repair within the next 18 months, and we are looking to get 50% funding for that. There will be a time when every single nut and bolt will need to be taken apart, refitted and all the iron work repainted. We will be talking to the Council about getting funding for that. It is very challenging to keep this ground up to the standards required, but we manage to do it.

What we need is a new ground, and that is something that, as a Board of Directors, we need to push on in the next couple of years. There are things in motion but at a very early stage. We can’t be playing in this stadium, as it currently is, in five years’ time. We’ve got to do something, whether it’s redeveloping here or going elsewhere. I don’t know what that will be, but we have to do something. Every business has to develop, particularly if we return to the Football League.


Have all shares in the Club been sold?

Shahid: No.


Are you able to recruit Scottish players for the squad?

Barry: I will only recruit players that are going to be better than what we currently have. The problem is that you’ve not just got to pay their wages, they need accommodation too, and will they settle? I’ve looked over the last few years at Scottish managers who come down to England and the first thing they do is bring three or four Scottish players in, and it doesn’t work. At the moment we don’t have the finances to bring them in, when you put the whole package together, but there are also no stand-out players that I would say would do a job for me. Why would we pay more for a player from Scotland when we can get one of the same ability closer to home?


What shirt manufacturer are we using next season?

Shahid: We are looking at two or three different manufacturers, one of which is Adidas. We want to add blue back into the shirt. We’re getting two or three possible designs and we can then put them on the website for the fans to choose. Whatever we choose it will be a good brand, and we hope to have something for you in the next couple of weeks, because we need to move on.


Is Jack Saville still carrying an injury and have you received any bids for Omar Beckles?

Barry: I’d imagine teams will be interested in Omar after the season he’s had. I’d love him to be here for a long time to come but it’s whether he wants to be here, first and foremost, and then we’ll see what happens come the end of the season. Jack has been injured and Joe Oastler has come back in, and I don’t like putting too many defenders on the bench.


If the budget was held back a little bit this year, is there extra money available to Barry now?

Brian: You could say ‘let’s give Barry an extra £50,000’ but if it doesn’t work out, then you’ve got problems, and we didn’t want to create a problem this season. I think next year we can improve the budget. We brought in Alfie Pavey from Millwall and that is a fantastic bit of business that Barry has done. We trust Barry on those decisions, and we will back him, and it was solely down to Barry that we got Alfie in before any other club.

Shahid: Alfie had other clubs interested in him, and it was talking to Barry and Chris (Barker), as well as Aiden O’Brien, that persuaded him to come and play here.

Brian: We’ve got a very good name at the moment. It’s changed in the last year, our perception with other clubs has changed, about how we treat players. You have to make sure you trust a manager, and part of that is him doing the groundwork on a potential loanee. With Barry, I think that is happening.


Was the result on Saturday due to the new Chairman and did she enjoy her day?

Shahid: She has retired with a 100% record, and had a fantastic day. It’s very important that we engage with our younger fans and make them feel part of the Club – she will hopefully go away and talk to her friends about it. We want to engage with supporters, and they are our future.

Other questions will be answered in the new monthly Boardroom Update feature. Places also remain available for the pre-match Boardroom Forum with Shahid on Saturday 30 January – please email to submit your questions or apply to attend. 

Again we thank everybody for their attendance and participation.