VIEW FROM THE BOARDROOM – Paul Armitage’s Notes (Ilkeston Town)

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For our own fans, there has been an understandable degree of negativity expressed due to early results and performances and I will try to answer some of that in today’s notes. If it appears to be a bit of a rant, then so be it.

I’ve been a fan since the 1959/60 season up to 1974, picking up again in the 90s with frequent funding, as some will know. Helping out Gareth is my main interest these days and I thank my late father for giving me a passion for this football club. He told me there were few clubs with the initials PA in their name, so I should be a fan.

As a fan I share the pain, as all of us do, of not winning enough games. It is frustrating to have retained good players, found new players and had a decent response pre- season to recruitment from many quarters, but to have had a relatively poor start.

Mark and Martin deal with all footballing matters; recruitment, retention and coaching, and I know they are working hard to make things click into place. According to Andre Onana, MUFC’s new keeper, they have the same problems – good half or bad half, it’s about scoring goals.

Many of us older fans have been through sequences of poor seasons, never mind a couple of poor matches, and we look forward to the few good seasons, but it is early days and still all to play for. Hopefully we can register a win today and set off on a run of wins. I was lucky enough to be there for the Scoular and Hector years, so I know how good winning and scoring goals feels.

It’s good to see young Liam Hall getting a big break and moving to Wrexham. Good for Danny King’s Academy reputation, for GSK’s work with Liam and hopefully for our future finances.

Many of us remember being fleeced on Paddy Kenny’s move from Bury so we are hopeful we have secured a percentage of Liam’s future good fortune.

I mention Liam because celebrating his opportunity and move is where we are as a football club. The strategy of growing our own, signing and developing potentially good youngsters, helping bigger clubs through their loanees and hoping to benefit from our own onward moves, fills the gap of not having several big investors beating a path to our club yet, so needs must when there are bills to pay.

Moving lads onwards and upwards means we may not always have to rely on Gareth’s munificence. Apart from anything else, it inspires local youngsters to get involved with us. The more the merrier.

If you believe in the value of good management of the Academy, you must know that it is Tom Mc Stravick’s work and his standards that improve it year on year. His hard work has attracted the Steven Gerrard Academy, along with the improving stadium facilities, and they will cover large amounts of our Academy costs from now on.

Danny King is fully part of this process and Brad’s physio work is now recognised at first team levels too. Jordan and OJ are afforded as part of this development and do lots of unseen work setting standards and engaging with local schools (and will also be part of the first team’s successes this season.) It is top class teamwork and a clear strategy.

Strategies like this play a part in long-term planning and creating future profitability.

Having managers in support of this is important, as lack of support usually kills off academies.

Tom has also created time to get back to running training sessions and he walks the walk more now whilst talking the talk. He and his coaches work to very high standards in all they do.

They also attract grant support that develops our facilities and they run holiday fun days for kids and parents who need support to look after the youngsters. They also get support from other charitable funds to feed kids on holiday days.

Their work with others creates opportunities for our young footballers to travel around the UK and Europe to learn new disciplines and see a wider world.

Of course, that may count for little if the first team can’t win more games, but our fans always get the benefit of direct contact after matches with our managers, coaches and players, in the club house, to share their views and similarly when our owner or football director visit. I’ve rarely seen an after-match time in the club house when Mark, Danny, Luca and others haven’t been chatting with supporters and chatting about the game. I have spent plenty of time in my programme notes trying to inform our supporters of systems and events relating to the stadium, its activities, plans or issues.

Every one of us ‘behind the scenes’ (and it’s a small, but patient band of followers) counts ourselves as fans. We have no prawn sandwiches, no comfy Director seats or private boxes. We queue up and pay for chips and pay our way in the shop, buying kit as well as Mars bars and teas. From emptying rubbish bins to fixing the wifi, there’s little glamour for being ‘the club’.

Many fans have direct contact numbers or e mail links for club officials and have many ways to offer their views or ask questions. The local paper and local radio spots have welcomed Mark and Martin when they open up about club footballing matters and it is galling to see comments about a lack of communication. Just ask the questions you want answering and there will be a response, but please don’t think there are easy answers. Most ‘solutions’ require money, lots of it. Change for changes sake is directionless and wasteful. Ask MUFC and check out how many managers they have been through, and at what cost in salaries and transfers. Our figures are published each year, so no secret funding – our benefactor has foregone £1.8m of debt, hardly the Glazer approach, and this was communicated as it happened, just like every new signing, the moment the papers are accepted.

The locally run Forum has recently expressed to us a desire to offer more constructive criticisms rather than negativity, which is very welcome, along with extra funds. Calum is another highly evident presence on matchdays and many weekdays if you have thoughts to share or Stadium queries.

Think on – the new look club shop was Calum’s handiwork, giving up a week’s holiday, putting up the walls, fixtures and fittings, cataloguing programmes with Tom Ogden and others, so that we have a very smart, and income-making outlet for the club. He is also working on creating an improved online connection for easy payments and more items on offer. That’s true support in every sense.

Newspaper-type shouts of ‘sack the board’ or ‘sack the manager’ will make no financial sense because the board members receive no money from the club and sacking managers costs money and creates disruption.

The only thing that must change is scoring goals and winning games. The squad is aware of that and spends all their time and work on that. Supporters can help by supporting the efforts of the team, players and club.

Check out Liversedge’s fate, champions, heavy goal scorers and winners one season, relegated the next, and already struggling and that’s apparently with John Deacey, Ryan Toulson and Ross McCormack helping out. Bet your life they’d like more money to help out, not a revolving manager door. And goals!

Is it really a surprise that Macclesfield, with over 3000 at home games does well?

If I could understand why VP get 18000 crowds to home games and we get 400, with a similar record of success this season, it might help, but that ‘missing generation’, when the club didn’t exist and the then council gave up the old stadium is probably why we struggle to get better gates or appreciation for what we do and who we are.

Remember that success has many friends, but failure is a much-abused orphan. Your support is very highly valued, it’s the lifeblood of any football club, but please, cheer the lads on and help us make more friends and score more goals! Two against Morpeth is a start! As someone once said – there is no alternative.