AGM and Open Forum notes – 30 August 2023

After landing early(ish) to grab a pint and enjoy some of Gino’s finest scran, Pieface and I sat down as the AGM begin to fill up as we enjoyed few bottles Asia’s finest lager. As the AGM got underway, we weren’t asked to leave, so we sat back and watched it unfold.

While I can’t say a great deal of interesting spoilers were revealed, I can confirm the football club lost £38,365 last season (2022/23). This was an improvement on the season prior, though it was mainly down to a supporter passing away and leaving a sum of £60,000 in their will to the football club.

For those who are a bit shit at Maths, that means the football club would have lost £98,365 had it not been for the donation, though that would still be a slight improvement on the 2021/22 season where the club lost £102,102.

After all that, the football club’s current debt stands at £716,010. That debt is seemingly owed to both Tony and Kev.

During the Chairman’s report, Tony confirmed that the club had been made to apply for planning permission to convert the old toilet block into a kitchen which is currently in progress. Colin Blackett was also thanked for his work organising catering over the summer.

Apart from the financial side of things, the only other notes were that an item that should have gone into the ‘Any other Business’ was left off, which caused a 5-minute delay to proceedings at the end. The person who brought up said issues is due to meet with the club next week, as the issue(s) wasn’t known about by all the Executive Committee. Any who, on with the open forum minutes.

In attendance from the club were TP (Tony Platten) KS (Kev Scot) MC (Mike Coulson) CB1 (Colin Blackett) CB2 (Colin Baxter) GB (Gillian Blackett) GF (Graham Fenton) and JS (John Shaw).

The AGM lasted roughly 1 hour, while the Open Forum only lasted about 30 min’s.

Q – How’s things going so far Graham?

GF – Yeah were really happy with how it’s gone. We’re a fairly young squad, maybe it was that naivety on Saturday at Buxton when we went a goal down. We were too open away from home, and the lads thought ‘right let’s go get a goal back’ but conceded a goal straight away. Hopefully that’s a lesson learnt straight away. Those of you who were at Scarborough probably know we should have got a point there, but generally really really happy. We managed to get through the last 6 games with 3 different systems, which is really beneficial across the whole season.

JS – I think well, how many people saw the pre-season and thought we’d do that well? Everyone can’t wait for pre-season to start and get your squad in shape and hit the ground running with good performances to get everyone excited for the season, and it took us until the Thursday before the first game of the season to actually be able to do that, so between myself and Graham and with Dev’s now involved, we had to remain calm and confident that with everyone back we’d alright. We’re seeing things now like at Buxton and potentially at Scarborough where lessons are being learnt, even in the games we win.

We would have learnt 5 weeks if we were able to, but with injuries and holidays and life of non-league footballers and staff, we didn’t managed to do that so to start the season the way we have, I think we’re in a good position and in a better position that people may have thought, but were in a position that we knew we we’re capable of being in.

Q – We were down at Buxton, and the difference between that game and Spennymoor and it was like a different team then, as we played really well? Because we we’re expecting a harder game against Spennymoor.

GF – Sometimes you don’t factor in the externals as you possibly should, so the bus left Blyth at 9am on Saturday, we had a 10-minute stop if that, so the lads only got there for about 2pm. So, the lads were pretty much on the bus for 5 hours. There is obviously home and away factor that…

Q – The pitch had something to do with it as well, didn’t it?

GF – The pitch possibly had something to do with it but we train on 3G some of the time, so I’m not going to use that as an excuse. We said to the lads after the game we probably we weren’t horrendous on the day, we made mistakes and got punished but were slightly below par. What we have the benefit of now thanks to the lads (points at EC) is that we have the GPS units, so we keep track of the lads’ numbers. So generally, it’s distance that they’re covering and high-speed running, which are the main ones we focus on. We had an increase from Saturday to Monday of 8% in terms of distance covered in the game and a 15% increase in high-speed running. Now that’s really good for us to have Infront of the lads. So, the benefit of those GPS trackers is huge. We can go game to game or go over lots of games, which Gary (Neasham) is collating so we can get the information in front of the lads. Ultimately what it gives us is no hiding place, so if you wanna be lazy and have poor figures in terms of running, were going to know about it.

I know lots of the old school think ‘well you should be able to see that’ and you can, but there is nothing like having it in black and white to show people. It’s like doing video analysis where me, John or Devs can say to players ‘this is what you should be doing’ and they may disagree but by showing them the video there’s no hiding place. So, these tools we use to get more out of the players on an induvial and a team basis.

Q – What’s your thoughts long term on some of younger lads that we’ve got on loan like Rio?

GF – Rio is similar to Doppa (Matty Dopson) last season, because we had so many injuries that Tony’s mentioned (in the AGM previously) they were utilised in the squad week in week out, they probably didn’t play as much as they wanted to as they got little bits here and there. But yeah, people like Joicey, Billy (Gordon) when he’s back from injury, possibly Charlie (Aitken) who’s obviously now got some experience now with us. Alfie (Livermore) is out at Blue Star now playing games and scoring goals, so it’s vital that lads at that age get exposed to senior football, so that’s the reason Rio has gone out.

Typically, I went to watch him last night and he was on the bench, but apparently, he played Saturday and did quite well from the report I got back. He got 30 minutes last night but all these minutes for lads who are 17/18/19 is vital for their development. It’s not the same playing academy football, so the idea for them lads is for when required to come in feature for us but to get them out and get them some senior football.

JS – It’s tough because my big long standing thing is I’m not from the area, I grew up in Sheffield and I had the opportunity to sign for Sheffield Wednesday, which is a big club. Now if I look back on it and had been released at 16/17, I could have gone to Rotherham, Barnsley, Sheff United, Bradford and Hull, I mean you can just reel them off the options. The problem in the North East is the exposure to a good level of football from a young age, and especially when they get to this age group, that being 16,17,18,19. My reserve league was tougher than the likes of the Northern League’s of today, and I know Graham had the same thing at Villa. So when I’ve been (South) Shields and Monkseaton and I know Graham was at Monkseaton, Blyth and (South) Shields and dealt with these kids, the hardest thing we have is to give them enough exposure. Rio Joice is probably one of the best under 18/19’s in the region, so when he turns out in the Youth Alliance, he’s probably going to be the best player on the pitch, which means he isn’t going to learn as much as he wants. So how do we test that? Well, we train him with the first team as much as we can, we get him out playing games he’s going to find tough, and they’ve all got to do that, and we’ve got to find a way of doing that for them all.

The Charlie one’s a good one. Charlie Aiken came in last year while I was at Dunston training with us, 16-year-old, ballsy as they came and just all guns blazing. So when I came here and Fents phoned me and mentioned him, I went “I have no idea what he is, but he’s got something”. He’s got ability, he’s got athleticism and he’s a ballsy character. We’re fortune to have good relationships with Brian Smith at Blue Star and of course North Shields but even then, sometimes you have to think about the style of football they play before sending them out on loan.

Sometimes you have to think, that’s not a stretch enough for some of these lads, it’s alright to go to a good environment like Blue Star, where you know they’re going to learn the right things but are they going to be able to step up to Conference North football? And that’s where they’ve got to prove that point when they go out there,  they’ve got to be the best trainers and the best players. It’s a tough challenge for these lads, but fortunately we’ve both been in that position of a young player trying to break into the first team, and we’ve worked in that area of coaching for a long time,  so they’re going to get that opportunity to make those mistakes out there on loan and hopefully keep learning.

Q – How we doing for Injuries at the moment?

GF – So JJ Hooper, we’ll asses again tomorrow night (Thursday). We’re hoping he may be ready for Tuesday, if not definitely the Saturday after. Knighty we’re not 100% sure but that’s looking a little bit longer term. JJ O’Donnell can train, but he’s still got another 5 days in concussion protocol, so he’ll come back into the squad on Tuesday.

Q – I think we have a few coaching opportunities with Cedric and finishing?

JS –  Cedric causes untold damages to teams we play against with his physicality and I’m sure you were all here when he first came in last season. As a player he’s got the potential to play at a higher level, and as you would have last season and he bought into Graham’s style of coaching and management. The lads here work their nuts off, now Cedric’s been known in the past to not always be that character but since he’s been he’s been here he’s been that character. We know what sort of player we have here and on Saturday there was 4/5 players that just did not know how to deal with him. If Cedric was a natural goal scorer with those attributes, would he be playing at this level? Of course not, so were going to help him as we would with any forward.

GF – Cedric’s a good example of the GPS that is now used, as last season he probably missed out on a pre-season at South Shields and we brought him in he hadn’t played much games and wasn’t as fit as he should be, and his numbers were down at the start and it’s fair to say his performances at the start of the season were inconsistent but towards the end of the season he was pretty consistent and his numbers were very very high. I think one of the games late last season, and you’re generally looking at good centre forward to do be doing somewhere in the region of 800m to 1000m in terms of high-speed running and Cedric on one game last year did touch 1200m which is exceptional. He’s now had a full pre-season with York, wasn’t getting the game time and he’s come in and had 2 fairly strong performances straight away and he’ll get better and better with more game time, and it’s up to us to do the work on the training pitch with his finishing. He can do it, but he’s not a natural goalscorer hence why we brought in JJ Hooper and Knighty who are more proven goal scorers. We are delighted to bring Cedric back in. I always say no matter what position they play, I always assess a player on one thing, and that’s would I like to play against them? I wouldn’t like to play against Cedirc. What generally happens is Cedric attracts defenders towards him, leaving room for a goal scorer in the box.

Q (KS) – How far is Macca on at the moment?

GF – We don’t know. He’s been frustrated recently because he’s still waiting for the consultant. I believe he’s due in within in the next week, he can’t do any light training at the moment, but we can’t really say anymore until he here’s from the consultant.

Q – Obviously the signings of FCD and Jack Bodenham have been inspired, how happy are you with the start they’ve had this season?

JS – I’m gutted because I’ve not be able to play! *laughter ensues*

GF – Were just delighted to bring them back in. Bods was unlucky last season with his long-term injury, having a broken bone that put him out until this pre-season. He went on trial at a few places, and once I spoke to is his agent and with him knowing the both of us, he was delighted to come back. I spent pretty much from the last game of the season to the summer on the phone with Finn pestering him to come back. He was hoping he would get an opportunity at Bradford or a National League that didn’t materialise for him and eventually the persistence paid off. Finn’s great to have back, that game on Monday was exceptional and it’s his blue print to make sure he doesn’t drop below that.

Harra’s come in, had a couple of strong games at centre back. Initially he came in as a midfield player. We’ve obviously had a couple of chats with Harra about his position and because he’s such a good kid,  he’s just buying into it. He probably feels like he’s a midfield player but we see Harrah being better with the game in front of him rather than around him, and he’s had two strong performances as well so those 3 along with John as back up, we’ve got some really good cover at the back. The 2 full backs have been going exceptionally well. It probably goes as far back as last season when they came back from injury, and we had our upturn in form. I think it’s the last 21 games we’ve only lost 6. So, we’re not just looking at just this first 6 games of this season. We knew we were doing quite well towards the end of last season and that coincided with the two fullbacks getting back fit again.

Q (KS) – Has Finn been mentioned as part of the Northern Ireland set up?

GF – So Finn’s been provisionally called up. It just show’s that he’s getting recognition what he’s doing at the moment which is great.

EDIT – Presuming that’s the U21 squad.

Q – Are you done strengthening the squad for now?

GF – The beauty for us there is now (transfer) window. We got about 16/17 talented lads in at the moment with some talented kids. Hopefully we have a lot more luck when it comes to injuries, at the moment Gary Neasham is doing a lot of recruitment work for us at the moment. We’re fairly happy with where we are at this moment in time, Gary’s remit at the time is medium term targets as we have a few loans (4) and if they go back to their parent clubs were going to have to have medium targets. We’re also going to have long term targets to try and get ahead of the game next pre-season.

I’m sure you’re well aware we were frustrated this pre-season with not being able to settle a squad early doors. What I can tell you is I’ve spoken to about 40 players in the off-season, and for whatever reason we couldn’t get them over the line. It’s probably been beneficial in the long run that we waited and brought in lads we did.

Scott Gibson then does a short promotion for the 1899 club.

TP – Scott, with the help of a few others have done a bit of relaunch of the 1899 club and from what I’m hearing it’s done really well so far. It’s not there to pay the weekly wages, it’s there for additional support for the manager to benefit the squad as a whole. So if we need a signing fee or something like a GPS system, which we had free of trial last season which we got from the manufacturer. The manager assures me that the data he’s getting back from the GPS tracker is working wonderfully well, so thank you to the 1899 club for helping us get those.

GF – The 1899 club is vital for us as a club to be able to compete. We wouldn’t be able to get the likes of Jack (Bodenham) and Finn (Cousin Dawson) over the line so were really grateful for everyone who pays into that.

Q – How beneficial have you found Huddle*?

GF – It is beneficial. We obviously both value analysis from football, it’s not something we did as kids, it went back to you’ve got to trust your coach or your manager. With huddle we do team sessions on analysis, we work as units or individuals to watch it. Some players will like to watch the game back, and we can pull clips from it to point out things.

A quick discission about the new match programme takes place where Hugh Hutton is praised for his work.

TP also mentions that we have 2 new PA announcers.

Q – Obviously on Monday we saw Dan Langley in goal, It’s nice to see a 6’7 Blyth lad in goal?

GF – Well Alex was at a wedding, which we knew about for a while. Michael Hogan got a niggle in training last Tuesday, so I called around and with Dan being a Blyth lad he jumped at the chance. He’s fit into the group really well and put in a good performance. He’s actually up in Scotland at the moment trailing. We have to have a long think about it terms of offering him a contract. Alex has been very very good, and I’ll be open and honesty and say we can’t afford to keep 2 goalkeepers.

Q – Obviously this season we’ve lost SOS as a sleeve sponsor, why were they not kept on or a replacement found?

KS – We he had 1 company wanting to replace them, but a sleeve sponsor is different to a shirt sponsor. It’s got to be a fine logo and it was too awkward and wouldn’t stand out on the sleeve. SOS didn’t say anything until probably the month before the season finished, so they didn’t give us a lot of opportunity to sort out an alternative sponsor so that didn’t help matters. M&C came and sponsored the travel kit instead. We had to have the kits ordered 2 months before the season, and we also have to have the league logo on 1 side and the other side, if you don’t have a sponsor.

Tony Platten closes the meeting and thanks people for attending.