Town’s Chief Executive Steve Curwood gives supporters a run-down of what proved to be a successful first month of the season.
It was a very hectic start to the month with Uwe Rosler and Rob Kelly joining the club. Often it is the case that a new person at the helm brings a period of uncertainty around the staff, and things are often altered or moved in another direction.
It was refreshing to hear Uwe’s early positive observations about the support structure around the team and the staff within the back room set up. Any changes would be minimal, save for his approach and style on the field.
Uwe was keen to iron out a few wrinkles, including nutrition, which given the facilities at Poolfoot has allowed us to really take the players food options to levels not previously considered. The staff at Poolfoot are now providing in the region of 450 ‘meals’ per week for players and football staff, across breakfast, lunches, pre match meals, and food for travel.
This before the investment in pre-match meals at hotels and food on the bus after fixtures. A key logistical excersize for the catering team at the training ground, who are playing their part for the team, as well as servicing the other staff at the facility and of course the general public trade throughout the day.
Arrangements for the academy opening continued in earnest, and aside from a £40,000 delivery of playing and training kit for the 150 or so academy players and staff, physiotherapy, medical cover, changing room adaptations, staff contracts, referee appointments, administration and logistical processes took centre stage.
A key area here is of course ‘secretarial’ matters, not only ensuring all paperwork is diligently submitted and all players registered, but also making sure no players are subject to any compensation claims or other factor likely to cause the club an issue down the line.
Some anomalies here included an agreement with Accrington on a former player, an Australian national player residing in UK, and a settlement arrangement with Liverpool.
Gretar Steinsson, and Head Scout Steve Davis, in close conjunction with Uwe, have been extremely busy working on key targets for the window, and is always great, but often not the case, to get first choice options, as we have achieved in August, as well as the fantastic news of Ash Hunter choosing to commit longer term with the club.
Very few players now are unknown to the club, and any given player in the Football League has normally a dozen scouting reports conducted by our club scouts and detailed on the software platforms.
It also often surprises me when I mention the odd non league player up and down the country who may be in the headlines that weekend, only to be sent the six or seven detailed reports from our previous scouting missions.
Scouting is a valuable piece of what is a complex jigsaw of situations which lead to any one deal, and things can change minute-by-minute with so many factors, and individuals influencing player movements.
Trying to get Martyn Woolford urgently signed in time for the Friday noon registration deadline was a case in point. Steve Edwards (Secretary), Luis de Oleza (Sports Law Intern) and myself working on paperwork with the FA and Football League, with Gretar dealing with Sheffield United, an agent on the M62, a solicitor, and the player himself.
Will Watt also in the background dealing with Sheffield United on the press release information. It wasn’t for the want of trying, but we didn’t get this one through before 12 noon, however the player was all sorted and ready for Monday’s training session.
While I have moved away from a number of day to day operations I did enjoy working with the FA in drawing up the detailed arrangements for the England U18 international versus Italy and also the training arrangements for the Italian and Israel squads, both here to enjoy the three game friendly tournament. It is a testament of where we are now to be able to host not only representative Internationals, but also host training arrangements for visiting nations squads.
While on the FA, there was one key meeting in my FA Council duties last month which saw the voting in of new FA Chairman Greg Clarke. As well as opening words from new the new FA Chairman we also received a presentation from FA CEO Martin Glenn, outlining the year ahead and the year preceding. He did make reference to IT and how the FA will be taking this to the next level. I did point out to some of his FA colleagues that trying to get hold of a wifi code in Wembley’s own ‘Business Lounge’ was a task in itself, and this area might be a good start! I was also in receipt of my shiny new FA blazer (an item of clothing always guaranteed to raise eyebrows!). Quite apt that its first outing was at Highbury for the U18 international.
My other visit to Wembley this month was for the Community Shield, and it was great to see Fleetwood Town represented, with the Juniors’ U13 squad proudly wearing their kits and providing the flag bearers for the curtain raiser.
Fan engagement has been a hot topic around the club. Will Watt, Head of Communications, has already held two internal meetings and obviously delivered, with Martin Booker, the fan’s forum, really starting the ball rolling in what we know will be a year of more fan interaction both on a media output level but also face to face. We are really committed to working with fans on making them feel more involved, being part of the club inside and outside of match days and working together with us to make this area as successful as it really can be. It would be great for those with a little spare time to attend one of the upcoming fan’s group chats to support what we are doing here.
Internationally, both at home and abroad, Poolfoot has enjoyed hosting Detroit based youth team ‘Eastside’ for over a week for both training, fixtures, dining and attending the Oxford fixture (where they virtually cleaned out the club shop). Other visitors and users of Poolfoot included the Isle of Man FA U14’s, Hong Kong academy side, and representatives from Shoreline FC (Connecticut, USA) and Helsingborgs (Sweden). We will also, for the first time be coaching Rossall International School’s Senior Football Teams when the new term commences.
Overseas we have been invited over to India in October to look at ‘Football Schools of India’s’ programme, to see if we can provide advice in the development of this model ahead of the U17 World Cup in the country next year. We have a Football Camp about to be signed off in Limerick also in October, opportunities for coach education sharing opportunities with AZ Alkmaar being built upon following a recent visit to the Dutch side and work on next years overseas pre season tour.
Poolfoot continues to go from strength-to-strength and we have some new reception and duty staff supporting the operation demands. The new Wednesday night five-a-side league has really taken off and September will see more in the way of opportunities for clubs, and individual players to get involved in a variety of different nights and formats of the game. One really positive has been the uptake in the new Birthday parties at the site, with more and more being booked by the week. The feedback I have seen has been tremendous.
Crucially on the pitch, which is why we are all here after all, things have gone better than we would have hoped in the earliest of days under Uwe.
Not just the results but the confident performances, the entertaining brand of football which I know the fans have really enjoyed, and also the real positivity surrounding the club, players and staff. We won’t however be getting carried away, the process under Uwe is one for the long-term.
We have a team and structure very much in the early stages of development, and that ongoing development, continuity and future planning is essential for us to see tangible year on year progress. Let’s get the smiles on everyone’s faces, get that singing going once more and to use the biggest of football cliché’s let’s simply ‘enjoy one game at a time’. COD ARMY!