This month Andy Preece joined us down at Victory Park for our Q&A session. We also welcomed club officials Terry Robinson, Tom Clarke and Graham Watkinson.
JV – Julian Vass (Trust Chair)
AP - Andy Preece (First Team Manager)
PT - Pete Thompson (Supporter Director)
CT - Carole Turner (Trust Volunteer & Community Foundation Board Member)
TC - Tom Clarke (Club Official)
JV: How do you feel after Tuesday's match?
AP: I watched the videos and I felt that Tamworth was going to be the best team that we have played. We did all of our homework on them, so I feel disappointed by the manor of the goals we conceded because we knew that 9 out of the 15 goals had come from crosses which had not been cleared and they have picked up the second or third phase of the attack, and if you look at both goals they were very similar to that. So that was disappointing. The performance itself wasn’t great first half but I knew we would probably be on the back foot because they start really well at home. They have the 3G surface and they have a really good atmosphere behind them so that keeps them going. We were just getting into the game when we conceded from what we knew we had to do better at. So, there is a lot of frustration and to be 2-0 down at half time can go one of two ways. You can throw the towel in and get beat by 5 or we do something about it. The positive is we did something about it. It’s not easy against a team like Tamworth because they are relentless, and they keep going. So, really disappointed by the first half but second half we showed what we can do. We showed that we are a good side. We showed that we can compete with them. I think they will be up there. You know the manager was very complimentary after the game, it’s easy when you have beaten someone, but he said "you are a good side," but the disappointing thing is we didn’t show it in the first half. I think that if we had've shown it in the first half then we could, and probably would, have won the game, and we could have still nicked a point. So not as bad as Warrington, I think that a chance slipped by but saying that we have come off the back of three wins and we are in a really good position, so we are taking the positives from the second half but learn from the first half.
JV: We were unlucky in the second half though with Ellis hitting the bar and the header that was saved.
AP: Jack Hazlehurst had a header that we thought was going in. We could easily have got a point and they are a good side and very difficult to play them away from home.
PT: There is no doubt that they are a good side. Do you think the pitch had much of an impact?
AP: There are different bounces, and they sort of know certain periods of the game to maybe put things in certain areas where they know they can chase the ball down and put you under pressure to put you on the back foot. It is definitely an advantage, there is no doubt. Maybe part of that was the first half we were getting used to the surface and probably our passing has not been as good as the previous three games. Then second half we were passing the ball much better. So maybe getting used to the surface but its so hard to practise on exactly the same surface. We train on a 3G surface, but their surface was different to that one. That was flat with no crumb on at all, so it is totally different.
Q: How long do you think Blakey [Blakeman] will be out for?
AP: Blakey has trained a little bit today so there is a good chance he could be fit for Saturday.
Q: What about Jack [Sampson]?
AP: Jack is a difficult one at the minute, we are still trying to get to the bottom of it. He was almost certainly thinking he was going to be out for a good period of time. Then today he has shown a massive improvement. So, it’s one of those, it's something he has suffered with for the last year with his back, we just have to get to the bottom of it.
Q: On the team sheet at Tamworth we named Drench as a sub, was this a change in the tactics to have a keeper cover or a sign that we have too many players out on loan? Also, is it a good idea to let out one of our loanees to be cup-tied?
AP: He [Tomlinson] was going to go out on loan and there were two games that are in the FA Cup out of the five games he could play. If he wasn’t going to play in the FA Cup there was no point in him going out on loan. We won three games in a row, we probably aren’t going to change the team as it is, so he isn’t going to get any minutes. So we have to balance that up with: do we let him go out and play in the FA Cup and get him fit and then he comes back in four or five games or whatever it is and he is ready and he is the Tommo of two years ago? Or do we say we don’t want him in the FA Cup so we wait another month and then it's November/December before he is fit and ready? So that was the judgement call. As far as letting lads go out Willo [Scott Wilson] is close to coming back. With Sampo [Jack Sampson] going down with an injury it did leave us light on numbers but is it worth bringing the lads back from loan just in case that happens? We still had four out field subs and we can only use three. I thought we were covered in pretty much every position and so I don’t think it was an issue, but I take on board it probably did leave us a little bit light because Tommo and Sampo were unavailable.
Q: Last season Kidderminster were mid table at Christmas but seemed to bring in four or five EFL loan players in January and went on to win the playoffs. Would such a strategy be open to Chorley given our finances?
AP: Tom could probably better answer the question regarding finances but there are always ways of doing things. It may be that early on in the season you decide that, look, lets see where we are at Christmas, or you might go into the season and say we are going to have a right go at it at the start and then if we aren’t doing anything then we need to shift players out and cut the budget. So, there are different strategies and really, we are still finding our feet with regards to budget and where it is, and Tom is trying to have a look at finances. For me, that’s the right thing to do at the start. There is no point piling in and throwing loads of money at it and then suddenly going hold on I didn’t know we had to get this, or this bill has come in so you are going to have to get rid of four or five and then everyone is moaning about why we are getting rid of players. I think you are better being cautious with it to start with and that is the way we have been. There hasn’t been a restriction on you cannot bring anyone in, if there is someone available we go to Tom, we talk about it, can we get them in the budget, what are we going to do to, enable them to come into the budget and that is my decision whether to bring that person in or not so you know there's lots of different strategies. Kidderminster just got on that roll, I'm not sure it was just down to them bringing in the players from the EFL I think they had given up. I've listened to lots of opposing managers interviews just to get a feel of what they are thinking and he was talking about next year.
AP: I just think they got on that roll and things went for them but there are strategies where you would probably get to Christmas, see where you are, and say right we're only a couple of points off the playoffs or we are in the playoffs, we might not get a better opportunity to get promoted let's go and get two or three quality players and see if we can get out of this league.
Q: How soon would it be possible to get an official reserve side in terms of increasing the size of the pool of the first team players and would it help to recuperate injured first team players instead of them having to go out on loan?
AP: I think it's going to be hard to find a strong reserve team that will give them the intensity of the games that we need at our level. A pool of under 21’s is improving all of the time. Tommo has played in that and it was a competitive game but it would not be up to the standard that he would need. You come into the first team but it is probably enough for someone to get some minutes and make sure they're OK but as far as the reserve side, Graham might be able to tell us more but I don't think there is anything like a reserve side in a team of our standard. An option is to put on a friendly against another team, under 23 teams are always asking for fixtures, I think Bolton have sent something through with a load of fixtures now that would be ideal but then you've got to have the numbers then to be able to play that game as far as an official reserve side, I can't see that happening.
GW: There isn't a reserve league at our level.
CT: It's not a question but more of a comment. Yesterday I spoke to Alex Roberts from Chorley Borough Council who came into Sporting Memories at the end [of the session[, and he had been talking to one of the families whose children go to the soccer school. They've been to ours and Preston North End and have said ours is far better.
AP: That's good to hear because there are a lot, probably four or five , which I didn't realise. One of the lads came back and said his parents wanted him to go to this one and this one, I didn't realise because he would normally come to them all, he had done the first week and then done the last week and he said he preferred ours. I didn't realise it was four or five round this area that you're competing with so that feedback is great. I think it's been successful, and we've got bigger and better. I'm still trying to improve and make sure that kids get the best experience that they can and then trying to get them in here and I think we've seen that. I've seen a load of kids that were on the soccer school at our games now.
PT: Darren has done a brilliant job.
TC: Not taking away from Preecey because Preecey does great but Darren has done a great job there. I think following that engagement through with the girls and boys and bringing them here on match days waving flags and all that sort of thing, I think that sort of continuous engagement with the club is at a step further than perhaps what some other clubs are doing and it's making a big difference. I'll pop down from time to time to the soccer schools and the kids are just having a good time. They've got a loose curriculum that they are following so they're taking something away from it as well.
Q: In terms of recruitment are we still actively looking and which positions are we looking at?
AP: I have not been off the phone today trying to recruit. It's not like we are sat here just thinking that we are alright and we are good enough or that we don't need anybody. We feel that we still need to strengthen the team and it's something that we're constantly looking at but it is so difficult to find the right player for the right money and for the right reasons. You could call us too picky at times but I think our record over a number of years has shown that we very rarely bring in players that are not up to standard or that are coming here for a payday or whatever it might be. They genuinely want to play for Chorley, they are generally hungry lads, and they stay here. They don't come in and go out and you’ve got another player coming in they come and they stay 2, 3, 4 or 5 years that's why we have lads making 100, 200 and 250 appearances.
PT: We don't have a high turnover of players which suggests that you are being careful.
AP: You're just making sure that you get the right players, you might get it wrong sometimes it's the same with anything. I'll not panic and bring somebody in just for the sake of it. Earlier in the season we were saying we probably need a striker and we probably still do need a striker and we are looking but we are not going to panic to get anybody just to say we've got a striker. There is no point in doing that, it's wasting the club's money and then fans are asking why we brought him in.
PT: There are a few players sharing the scoring as things stand.
AP: Just look at Jack Hazlehurst. That took a year in the making really. Chris Anderson mentioned him. We played him in pre-season, he did really well when we lost to City of Liverpool in the game before season started. Then a year later Jack wanted to step up and I think he's going to leave City of Liverpool. But that was a year later, it wasn't just in that moment. Justin last year, he hardly played but he has stepped up. Mark Ellis was different, he just came out of nowhere and we were looking for a centre half to replace Scott Leather going. No one was really coming up and out of nothing Mark Ellis comes out of it, within three days he signed. Sometimes you can get lucky, or you can put a year's worth of effort in to bring somebody in. It's not just like you can pick anybody because it is difficult. Recruitment is the hardest thing in football.
PT: There are shades of Teaguey there, he has been getting his head to a lot of things.
AP: He just wins it, he wins everything, and he gives us a platform where last year sometimes we felt like we were getting bullied a bit by certain teams. I felt that we needed just that leader who could put their head on it and he does it, he's just no nonsense. He's just so valuable to us, I think he's made a big, big difference.
Q: What do you think about the FA Cup draw?
AP: When it was Runcorn or Charnock, I think going to Charnock would have been really, really tough. I'm not saying Runcorn won't be tough, it will be, but I think with it just being so close and the atmosphere and it's a tight, tight pitch. When you look at cup ties and you look and think could there be an upset there.
PT: So, you were thinking that Charnock could have been an upset?
AP: You can see how it's got all the ingredients but I'm not taking Runcorn lightly or anything, but it won't be quite as intense an atmosphere although there will be an atmosphere. It is a good draw for us although it's away from home.
Q: One undoubtable success we have had so far is the loan signing of Jack Moore. Is it the end of October he is due back at his home club?
AP: It is initial that. It was to see if he enjoyed it, if he got into the team and if he got enough minutes. At the minute he's in the team, he is enjoying it and he is playing really well. I think Blackpool are happy that he is playing and how he is developing so I would have thought that it could easily be extended. He has been a breath of fresh air, you wouldn't have thought that Henners [Adam Henley] wouldn't be starting with how well Henners does. So, we have to give a lot of credit to him.
Q: Why is the price of buying tickets on a match day so much more expensive than buying them online?
TC: Because I want you to buy them in advance, I want you to save money, I want you to not queue, and commercially I want to know an idea in advance how many people are going to be here so that I can correctly staff it, get the right amount of food, the right amount of beer and everything. It's really challenging and it is a business model that in any other world would make no sense. For 90 minutes twice a month we are a business that makes our revenue, that's what happens, and the two things that we cannot control are what controls our revenue which are the spectators that come through the gate and what happens on the pitch. What happens on the pitch generally has an impact on how many people come through the gate. There's no fixed correlation there but I can't control it so ultimately it is a business and we need to make money to be able to have the club here for you guys to enjoy. So I want to be able to gauge how many people are coming through and effectively staff it and effectively do things so you guys have the best experience which is why we have reduced the price from last year to £14 to give me the ability to effectively be able to project that a little better for you. Naturally I think the disparity between £14 and £18 is enough to prompt you to do it. I think if it was £14 and £15, I don't think people would be that bothered but £4 makes you think "well, that's a beer." So, it was intentionally done with a lot of conversation, and I think change is never going to be well received but so far it is being reasonably well received. We do still get a reasonable amount of people who pay on the gate, and I think we're always going to have that, and we are one of the few clubs who still actually facilitate that. There's a lot of clubs now that don't do on the gate tickets at all but we are happy to do that, we are still happy to take cash on the gate as it is, allbeit in a little ticket booth and not physically on the gate. Again, there's a few reasons behind that. Fundamentally, so we can project forward and then when Preecey sits there and asks me questions like can we look at a player, I have an idea if we will be able to do that so we can build a pattern of where we're going.
CT: On the flip side of that there is a few people that now don't come because they won't pay an extra £4.
TC: Which is such a crying shame and Graham will tell you this more than anyone: people phone us, and we will do it over the phone for them. People can come in and we will print it for them there and then. I appreciate that you might not have a smartphone, I get that. It is a huge shame. [Going cashless] I have no intention of doing it anytime soon but it's only a certain amount of time until we have to go down a cashless option because we are left with no other alternative. I don't want to do that, and I have no intention, but it is beyond my control and then what do you do? There are a number of clubs at our level and lower that are already there. The black and white of this: we have made the club tickets cheaper, we have made them more freely available, and you've got more accessibility to be able to get them. If there is anything we can do to try and facilitate in helping them, we will. I honestly believe truthfully with what we've done so far that we've tried to do everything we can within reasonable measures to make it better. Cash is becoming very difficult to manage to be fair, it's very expensive to deal with, it costs a lot of money to put it into the bank, and naturally it's also a high risk to have around genuinely for whatever reason. Our current bank effectively went to the extent of saying we no longer want your business. We have put a lot of money through that bank account but because it was cash heavy they no longer wanted our business. Trying to source another bank for any business is reasonably difficult but for a business that is predominantly cash in the manner of which we were, it is incredibly difficult. Through no other reason than we had a very strong relationship with another bank that we successfully opened new accounts with them, they are happy to take an amount of cash but one of the precursors to doing that was by trying to limit that. One of the ways I've limited the cash that I am intaking was through the online ticket sales. Cash becomes a very difficult thing in terms of the actual fundamentals of running a business, it is challenging, so online ticket sales is the way forward by saving money for you and saves me a bit of a headache.
JV: As you have mentioned staffing, I have noticed that Jon is no longer in the office. Is he still here?
TC: Jon unfortunately left the business which is a shame. He has done a lot for the club over the many years he's been here but unfortunately, he is no longer with us. Obviously, we wish him all the best in his future endeavours and I'm not sure what he is going to do but we do wish him well.
Comment: A comment from some Bishop's Stortford fans. They absolutely loved it: the entertainment and everything, we asked them if they did anything similar, they answered no.
TC: There was a fan who came over to ask where the lounge was and while walking over I told him to make himself at home, go to the Fan zone, go do whatever you want. He said this is unusual for a football club. I took something from that, it's about having that nice friendly environment, and to hear that back, it's nice. That's what we're trying to do abit better or maybe a bit different here at Chorley. We want the away fans to come here and say "Remember that day out at Chorley?" whether they win, lose, or draw, is irrelevant. Obviously, we want to win but if we can try and encourage more of that, it's better for everybody.