Fleetwood Town’s Chief Executive Steve Curwood gives fans an update of all the latest from behind the scenes at Highbury in his latest column.The only place for us to start this month is with the arrival of Uwe Rosler as our new Head Coach.
We feel his appointment, and assistant Rob Kelly, is very much a statement of our intent and shows how far Fleetwood Town has come and how it is respected in the world of football.
Some have picked up upon the ‘Head Coach’ title, as if this infers less power or responsibility. This is very much not the case. We are of the opinion that in the modern game, and given all what is required to prepare players to compete at the highest standard, develop talent and indeed prepare for the opposition diligently game by game, this should leave little time for other matters, which the club should ultimately take responsibility for, with experts in those other areas. This doesn’t mean we do not involve the manager in other such decisions, whos input is essential in many other aspects, but we feel it would be wrong to ask much more of the manager, than his key responsibilities of training the team, selecting the team and being successful on the pitch.
We are also still very confident that we will go in to the new season in excellent shape, with a strong squad of players, which we are still hoping to add to.
We’d like to thank Steven Pressley and Neil Macfarlane for their hard work and professionalism during their time at Highbury.
The reasons for the managerial changes were detailed in the press release on Tuesday 26th July and there isn’t anything more for me to add to that in this column, other than to say that while this comes at what is a very important part of the season, and perhaps unusual in its timing, it was made in the best interests of all parties.
A large part of the month has been taken up with recruitment. While the main priority is of course strengthening the team, which has already been well reported, we have made, what we see are key appointments, in a number of of areas. Firstly, high on the agenda was communications, and improving a vital area between the club and supporters, as well as internally and also the wider media.
We had two vacancies to fill, with last years media term moving on to pastures new (Jonathan Swift incidentally to the Football League where we wish him well). Will Watt, The Gazette Football Reporter, immediately sprung to mind, and is now well in to the role. Will comes with bags full of experience in the football journalism world, well respected, and extremely knowledgeable. We know he will take our communications and media work to the next level.
One of the key areas we’ll be looking at is fan engagement, with last week’s hugely successful open training session the first of many planned initiatives.
A huge undertaking has been setting up the Category 3 academy in order to open the doors on August 1, and I must start by thanking Jed Starkey (Head of Coaching) and Stuart Murdoch (Academy Director) who have worked tremendously in getting us the green light from the Premier League in such a short space of time. Since achieving the status, we have moved mountains to bring in the quality staff needed in both full and part time roles to ensure we both meet all the relevant criteria but more importantly enjoy the right staff who we know will develop this massively important area of the football club.
We welcome full time staff, Steve Macauley (Academy Physio and U15 Lead Coach), Steve being a very welcome return to the club, Simon Wiles (Youth Development Phase Lead Coach), and Joey Newson (Foundation Phase Lead Coach), and on a part time basis, Mike Emery (Head of Education and Welfare), and specific age group coaches, Joe Collins, Jason Sharpe, Dave Walton, Mick Horsfall, Andy Lyons, Mike McGarvey, and Phil Clarkson who complement existing staff, and a number of whom are already working around the football club.
I am confident we have an excellent team already in place to really make an impact in this area.
Having spoken to a number of parents so far, they have been extremely complementary on how we have conducted everything to date, and of course the fantastic facilities.
I cannot stress how important the area of developing young talent is to the future of the football club and will be an area we continue to work with, analyse, and improve upon day after today in meeting the clubs objectives here. It was superb to see just this friday evening, all the new kids, filled with optimism, in the sunshine in great facilities and receiving all their new training kit ahead of their training sessions.
In addition, we have new staff now operating the Chairman’s ‘Lodge Hotel’ in Blackpool, ensuring that all the Fleetwood scholars and U21’s who stay at the accommodation through the year are adequately catered for. Other jobs have been created in Finance, Office Administration, Poolfoot Operations and at Crossbar, where we have a Restaurant Manger in Cecilia Frediani (formerly of Portofino, Lytham and Blackpool FC Hotel). We are really now one of the biggest employers locally really given benefit locally, notwithstanding the staff in the Chairman’s whole group of companies, which is now into very significant numbers.
It wouldn’t be right to end this particular area without mention our new signings. Many people have varied opinions on what represents good and bad signings, but I can assure fans, that we do work very hard in this area, in both our short and long term planning process, software used, scouting networks, while focussing continually on the need for continuity and stability. There is no ‘transfer committee’ as if often quite disaparagingly referred too, and final decisions, are ultimately made by the Chairman, given all the background provided by Technical Director Gretar Steinsson and head of recruitment Steve Davis, along with input from others where appropriate. We are learning every year form both mistakes made in the past and from where we have been more successful. I truly believe we are now building one the best recruitment departments, with ever expanding networks, credibility, and firm process. I therefore welcome, Chris Neal, Alex Cairns, Matt Urwin, Michael Duckworth, Ash Eastham, Cian Bolger, Ricardo Kip, Aaron Holloway, Nathan Osborne, Ashley Nadesan, Ollie Roberts and Dion Charles to the club.
Pre-season always seems a long drawn out process, and by the time August comes around everyone is chomping at the bit to get the league season underway.
The training camp in Holland was an opportunity to not only work the players extremely hard in a great environment, but also to play against some of the top teams in the country, and build relations upon the way. It was good to see some of the Cod Army make there way over into Europe and I hope we see more on next season’s tour, which you may find is somewhere a little more exotic! Watch this space.
In other areas we have overseen the continuing development of Poolfoot Farm, really making this one the best football centres in any community. July saw the completion of another full size 4G pitch, complete with spectator area, and alongside a further four ‘5 a side’ 4G football ‘courts’. These are quite unique as they are made of a red carpet. Those of you who have already played on them will know ‘how red’ they really area. It has been fantastic to see so many faces young and old enjoying the pitches, and I have personally enjoyed the feedback from users both local and from farther afield.
The month has seen, to name a few, grassroots football festivals, children’s birthday parties, pre season training for adult amateur teams, walking football for the over 50’s, representative football trials, school fixtures, and toddlers upwards enjoying the development centres. It really does have the buzz about the place with a broad spread of local community enjoying what we have on offer. One negative story though from Poolfoot, has been the continued anti social behaviour on the outskirts of the site which has seen goals posts vandalised and fences damaged, as well as other poor behaviour. The local authority and Police are supporting our efforts in tackling some these surprising incidents from local youths.
Crossbar & Grill to continues to grow, with opening hours now providing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days of the week, as well as just being a place to be for a morning coffee or maybe a beer or glass of wine after work. It is good to see more and more businesses bring clients and staff for meetings in the restaurant, which I think provides a different atmosphere than a traditional meeting place, given the football and community events going on in and around the site. I’d urge as many of you as possible to support the club by the enjoying the facilities on offer.
Highbury has seen some improvements in the summer, with the usual pitch makeover, with additional drainage work taking place, the surface looks as good as ever thanks to Dale Frith and his team’s hard work . We have also constructed a glass partition around the directors area, to give visitors more comfort which is one area upon which we lagged behind others. With a final lick of paint here and there the ground is ready for League action.
On the International Partnerships front, Joey Newson and Mason McLelland, from the Academy, enjoyed a week at our partner club Stjarnan in Rejkavik, coaching various age groups across the week, both learning and developing our relations with the Icelandic side.
We are soon to sign a contract on a football talent ID TV show in Uzbekistan, which will see genuine commercial return but will also grow our audience, networks and brand, with the young winner spending a year at Poolfoot and Highbury. Other activity is very much in the early stages in Ireland, India and in the USA, with more exciting news relating to China, we hope to be detailed before the end of this calendar year. We are also working with a University in Madrid and have Mallorcan based Luis de Oleza, working as a Sports Law intern for the next few months on this interesting programme. Finally I must thank Rossall school for our growing relations, of which we will hear much more of in the coming months.
On a personal front I have been appointed on the FA Council representing the Football League as one of their representatives on the 100 person committee, which is responsible for many parts of the games governance. I have been allocated onto a 12-man Youth Committee, overseeing the FA Youth Cup and FA Youth County Cup competitions, in addition to work with the England Boys U18, U17, U16 and U15 teams.
I will try and provide some more background as to how the council works and the work behind the scenes at the FA. And yes i do have a ‘blazer’ ! Seriously, I think it is good that FTFC have a voice at the FA, and am looking forward to the year ahead.
We can honestly say July has been one of the busiest we have seen and I would like to end by thanking all those supporters who have to date purchased their Season Tickets, and those others who will be enjoying Highbury this coming year.
We can now look forward to the exciting season ahead and I ask that you really give the new coaching staff and players your very best support.