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Well it's been a fairly quiet pre-season with Kenny as normal trying to go through his business quietly and discreetly. I have managed to get most games and only missed the two Dublin games.
Travelling to Northern Ireland for the first time was something of a change from Dublin. Pre-season is a funny time as you can go through scoring lots of goals and then struggle when the real thing starts.
Let's hope when we are ready to play Blackpool that Kenny has a good idea of his starting XI as pre-season is a time to try everyone out with the performance rather than the result being key.
Hopefully with the changes made to the catering there will be improvements in the quality of what is being served up. This can only help the club as the more attractive a day at the Den is the more likely we are to get increased gates. Towards the end of the season the issues around stewarding seemed to quieten down with no complaints in the last half dozen games.
I had a meeting provisionally booked with the club and a number of fans, hopefully there will not be any major issues, should there be we need to get on top of them straight away and make our points known to the club.
Season ticket sales have held up this season not far off last seasons, the last 8 games obviously had something to do with that. Let's hope the team carry on the momentum along with the sales to fill the coffers with much needed cash.
The shirts went on sale prior to the season starting for the first time in a while. There was a lot of discussion around the shirt design. I must admit the picture that was originally leaked made the shirt look awful but after seeing it on the players it didn't look that bad, mind you there is always a lot of debate when the shirt comes out normally about the delay in getting it on sale.
This time it's about the design. All that said shirt sales are very promising. In seasons gone by there has been an input from fans regards the shirt design. This will not always be the case as at times decisions need to be taken quickly to get the shirts in prior to the season starting. The MSC will be discussing the need for fans to have an input where necessary at the monthly meeting and if possible this will happen if time permits.
The club are also currently in negotiations with a number of bookmakers to take over from Matchbet. The service Matchbet offered wasn't really ideal for fans and it is hoped that a mainstream bookmaker can be contracted in that offers a more comprehensive range of bets. One of the main problems is the advent of betting via mobiles.
As a lot of people bet this way it doesn't make having a betting shop at the club for a few hours on a Saturday an attractive prospect for any bookmaker and as with everything these days any decision the bookmakers take will be revenue driven.
I will answer all questions I can or put people in touch with the right people at the club, I will continue to put forward our views and ensure any decision taken by the board is done with our views taken into account. I argue our point when needed. I can make sure any questions in reason are answered but what I cannot do is go into the club and tell people they are doing their job wrong.
Obviously if there is an issue brought to the board that shows some failings within the club it will be investigated and actioned if appropriate.
With regards to Player Transfers both in and out plus player transfer requests, the moment there is an official approach by a team or player with regards a transfer the board are verbally informed. Obviously as per protocol the Chairman is made aware first. I get many emails and requests asking why we don't up the bid on a certain player, why don't we offer more salary on another.
I cannot answer these types of questions and if I were to it would be counterproductive for the club. For example if it is publicly known we are offering £5000 per week and a fee of £250k for a player, if there were other interested parties they could then put in an offer to beat our bid. If the player was a major factor in our plans then the manager would have to increase our bid thus costing the club more money, whereas if the deal was kept private the club would get the original deal at nearer the original price. A lot of the time agents feed information though various conduits to get teams into an auction over a player; the only losers are the clubs.
There is a need a need for discretion in respect of details of players contracts and salaries as if they become public the knock on effect could have a disastrous impact on the team. For instance if the club bought in a player who was getting more than others and the salaries or contract details became public, morale could take a hammering and the end product could lead to poor performances on the pitch and ultimately relegation.
Any information with regards to players we approach or who approach us should be kept private to us. Football is a very small world and word travels fast. Many agents (but not all) spread information and misinformation like wild fire with the one aim of improving their player's contract. There is always a financial implication and the club/supporters ultimately pay the final price. If players are told they are not in the reckoning for the following season they are quite in their rights to look for another club. Normally it is only when discussions become formal that the board become aware. If someone's says "my brother's mate's uncle said that Hurlock is making a comeback" there may have been discussions at some level but not ones that even Kenny Jackett is aware of. It is not a case of the board keeping things from fans; it is that they are not aware themselves. As soon as there is something concrete then the information will be made public.
I do feel under a lot of pressure to quash rumours but there are so many that it would become a full time job. As soon as there is something formal to announce the club put out a statement to advise fans. This happens very quickly these days a lot quicker than it did five years ago.
We as fans may not like some of the decisions that are made at board or managerial level but I can assure you in my experience all the decisions taken by the board or manager are done so with the club wellbeing at the core of any decision. It is not taken to sell more papers, it is not done to get more hits on a website or to have a negative impact on the club's coffers.
I know how desperate people get to have the latest news straight away, I have tried to set out above some of the reasons why it isn't good for the club that certain information is made public particularly at times when there are complex negotiations going on.
Since I joined the board the amount of money being spent on non playing staff related projects has increased immensely. This close season saw a huge investment at both the training ground and The Den. Fellow Director Trevor Keyse oversees all ground related works and investments. Trevor spent a lot of his time ensuring the pitch that was selected and finally laid was exactly what the manager wanted. Although the final decision to invest was taken by the board as a whole Trevor drove the decision. Trevor's bargaining skills with contractors is renowned and he always gets the best deal available. So he is mainly to thank for the quality of pitch you will see at the opening game. The club invested well over a quarter of a million pound on these projects.
Most people by now will have purchased their season tickets investing once again in the club we all love with the money helping to keep the club running, fans investment is crucial to the upkeep of the club and we the fans are the club, one can't survive without the other. I know John Berylson and the rest of the board are appreciative of fans coming week in and week out especially in the current climate. In some respects it isn't an option for us we have not to come as it is in our blood and a major part of our life.
I regularly thank the board on our behalf for their continued financial investment and the time they put in especially as it is time they could use toward their own business interests; I am talking about time outside of the normal matchday activities.
John Berlyson, Demos Kouvaris, Trevor Keyse, Constantine Gonticas, Jimmy Berylson, Richard Press, Andy Ambler and Tom Simmons along with a lot of others who keep the club going collectively have worked hard throughout the close season to ensure the manager was given all that was readily available also ensuring we are not a boom and bust type team. The financial strategy at the club is one that I hope will see us survive in the football world that see so many teams fail. We may not have the biggest budget available but we are trying to work within a budget that will ensure stability at the club for years to come.
As we do every year we start the season with a budget and we are determined to stick within that budget, but with the amount of injuries etc that budget is normally surpassed very early in the season, when it is and further monies are required it is John Berylson and the other directors feet that the responsibility to find the funds falls to.
The renaming of the West stand against Blackpool will be an emotional moment for all of us. Barry Kitchener was truly a legend. A gentle giant who touched us all. On Saturday 18th August Barry's Daughter Nikki is finishing a 140 miles= bike ride from Kitch's home to The Den. Let all get there to cheer her on and let her know what he meant to us all. If you wish to make a donation to their charity or read up on the big man here is the link http://www.bigkitchappeal.co.uk
I will try as normal to get a short report out every month, I do report back to the MSC once a month and attend the monthly board meetings at the club. As always if you have any issues or questions for me email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I try to keep an eye on all the unofficial web sites as much as possible but the best way to get in touch is by email.