Fleetwood Town Chairman Andy Pilley sat down to give supporters an update regarding all things going on at Highbury Stadium.
Andy, first of all can you give an update on the managerial situation?
We’ve had lots of applicants. I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time, a significant amount of time with Stephen Crainey and I’ve been very impressed so far, there seems to be a buzz around the place.
I’m really pleased that we managed to pick up two wins this week, we didn’t just sneak wins I thought they were outstanding performances.
In the search, we will take stock and make sure we do the right thing. We’re not going to make and quick decisions, but Stephen’s got a great opportunity to impress us. To external people, please keep the applications coming in if you’re a manager who thinks you’re capable of managing Fleetwood and assisting us to climb the table.
The fact you have someone like Stephen Crainey to step in as interim is a credit to the structure you’ve built at Fleetwood, isn’t it?
I think it does (tell us a lot about the structure in place) and you can tell that the players respect Stephen Crainey and he is really fired up for this. I think anyone who was at the game on Tuesday would’ve seen that first-hand. It’s important that in a football club, in a successful football club, that you don’t just have the first 11 players, you’ve got a squad and we’ve got a management squad as well.
The previous head coach and his assistant have departed, but we’ve got some hugely capable individuals and we’ve got some hugely capable individuals below and they showed that first-hand in the previous two games.
This is all new territory for me as a football club owner. In 18 years, I’ve never known the football club to be in the relegation zone, so I don’t like it one little bit. It feels like events conspired against us.
We made the decision prior to the start of the season that we’d go with a limited squad, we felt it was within the best interest of the football club to do that and in any normal season we would’ve been fine but when we’ve got eight or nine key players missing, that’s going to have an impact and there were going to be consequences that come with that and fine margins have conspired against us throughout the season.
That said, we can’t sit here and moan about it too much. We’ve got to roll our sleeves up, we’ve got to get stuck in, drag the club up the table and we need to see more of Tuesday night and I’m confident we’ll be sitting halfway up the table before long.
The club have relied on young players a lot this season, how impressed have you been by them?
The young players have been absolutely amazing this season, it gives me enormous pride as the owner to see so many exciting, hugely talented young players representing Fleetwood at first-team level.
I’m told that we had seven academy players involved on Tuesday night and five on Saturday, that’s academy players which is extraordinary. We’ve had 12 who have featured throughout the season and that should be proof to any young player who is looking for a pathway through to the first team is readily available at Fleetwood. We’re not just talking the talk; we are demonstrating it if you are good enough.
These exceptional facilities will make you better but most importantly, you can show us how good you are, and you can create yourselves a career.
It's easy to say that you’re going to have an academy and tell players that they’re going to have an opportunity, but I think it’s about the figures and the figures speak for themselves. For 12 players to be involved in the EFL at first-team level this season is outstanding.
It’s a great accolade to Simon Wiles, Stephen Crainey, Baz Nicholson, and everyone who is involved at that level, it really is. That is the future of this football club really. We must create stars of the future as I said I’m supremely proud of what’s happened so far.
Much has been made of the fact the club is in embargo this, can you explain why?
The embargo is something which was offered to all Football League clubs and there are consequences in return for taking a reasonable amount of money upfront.
We were advanced two million pounds and given that we are operating in strange times, we have the energy price crisis which affects my core business and it felt like the right thing to do and to make sure there was enough working capital within the football club.
The consequence of that is that we’re only allowed 22 players. We still had a reasonable budget, and a budget that I felt at the very least would get us halfway up the league. Now, we have been annihilated with injuries, and that is the reason why we are where we are in the league table but at the time it felt like the right thing to do.
If I had my time again, I still would take that. It’s something that expires at the end of this season. We’re back to normal after April 2022 but again I make no apologies for making those big calls.
It’s my job to do what I consider is best for this football club and what I must do is make sure that it’s always got enough money to pay its obligations and to put a decent team out and it’s my belief it was the right thing to do. I could not foresee the injuries which have been worse that I’ve ever seen in 18 years.
Of course, I’m going to shuffle the pack in January and we’re starting to see some young players coming through and really show what they can do.
One of your biggest aims has always been to create a sustainable football club, how important could the fan-led review be in that?
It's very close to my heart (the fan-led review). I think I’ve said before that football clubs are not really a business, they’re a huge part of every town and every city in the UK. They create enormous pride and quality of life for the local community and be that all walks of the community and I think there’s an obligation from the Premier League.
The Premier League don’t own football, football is the national sport and the money that is delivered from the TV channels should be spread in a much fairer fashion because, without the leagues below the Premier League, many of the clubs within the Premier League would not be what they are because they may be in the Premier League now, many of them will be back in the Premier League before long.
For so many reasons there needs to be an even spread and I welcome the fan led review, I think there’s an awful lot of common sense in there and hopefully it can get past the voting which is riddled with self-interest which will become something of the past and we can have a regulator in play which looks after the best interests of the nation’s number one sport.
It will help enormously, my ultimate goal for Fleetwood is to make the club a self-sustainable business that can run without my constant requirement to invest in it to keep it to the standard it has become accustomed to, so the model is very much now about developing young players.
That’s why we’re so focused on getting the best players through the academy. They can be guaranteed they’ll be given a chance at this football club and success then looks like shaking their hand and seeing them move on to the Premier League or the Championship and they’ve got a great chance of doing that.
We’ve got further investment for the training ground around the corner which will take us to the next level. That’s hugely exciting. There will be some announcements about that in the very near future and there are other things going on which I don’t really want to announce today but will be announced very soon.
I think people will sit up and take notice of what Fleetwood are doing because it is not the norm, it is far from the norm. It’s something which I think is again part of running a football club successfully in the future. I think you’ve got to be forward-thinking.
Selling young players is also something you intend to do in the future?
There’s no point having 12 players from the academy playing in the EFL this season if they’re just going to stay at Fleetwood for the rest of their career. We want to be that club that has the reputation of being the number one best in the English football league for giving players the opportunity and getting them a move to the Championship or to the Premier League. I’m confident we can do that.
We’ve got some outstanding talent. We will give them game time; they can make great use of our outstanding facilities and our coaches and what success looks like is then seeing them move on.
There’s a cluster of clubs that are very interested in both James (Hill) and Jay (Matete), understandably so and other players as well, their time will come but what will happen is I think both of those players will move on in the not too distant future and now they play for us, they’ll continue to give their very best but success for this football club looks like success for these players who have come through the academy.
It’s using us as a stepping stone to get to the Championship or the Premier League and that is the objective and that’s what we’re committed to achieving.
But they won’t go on the cheap?
They definitely won’t be going on the cheap. There has been one or two rather ridiculous offers made and I’m quite long in the tooth, quite experienced now as a football club owner. 18 years is a significant period of time and we know the value of our players so we certainly won’t be letting them go on the cheap so if you are a watching football club owner or manager, yes we’ve got some outstanding players but we know their value and if you want to come in I’m confident you’ll be buying money as these are players that will go on and play regularly in the Premier League.
That’s my belief but we’re not daft so please don’t insult our intelligence and bid what they’re worth and let’s do a good deal for all parties concerned.
Some have suggested you may be losing interest after 18 years, what would you say to that?
I’d say that it’s a ridiculous statement is an inferno burning in my belly brighter than ever. I love my football, I adore Fleetwood and I’m committed to driving this football club forwards.
Relegation is not an option, failure is not an option in anything I do, certainly not at Fleetwood. We will climb this table, we’ll shuffle the pack, and we will continue to succeed as we’ve always done.