Open Forum notes – 22/09/2022

Open forum begins a little early, as a few questions had already been asked at the end of the AGM. Those weren’t recorded of course so the first few questions on here aren’t exactly very in depth. The AGM was attended by about 10 members, followed by another 10 or so for the open fourm.

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

As we entered a discussion was already underway with TP and KS advising us on the impact and cost of rising energy prices were affecting the club. Thankfully the club has a pretty good deal on energy prices for now still thanks to Anth Sehgini.

Q – Can we switch on more floodlights for midweek games? Last Tuesday’s game seemed pretty dark in some areas of the pitch.

(TP) At the moment the current floodlight settings meet the required LUX test capacity. If we had more floodlights on, then we’d be looking at higher costs cost for energy bills.

KS & TP then discussed the LED flood light bulbs they were looking to install.

Q – Any plans to upgrade the PA system?

(TP) The PA system works fine when it’s being used properly. We’ve had issues with the sound levels over in the Fergy space stand with on being too quiet and one being too loud but that’s been fixed now.

Q – Have the league put any stats out on how much crowd trouble increased last season compared to the last full season (2018/19)?

(MC)The league would never share those sorts of stats.

(CB1) Scarborough for example shared 19 people who were banned from home and away games, so that’s just an example of the numbers other teams have banned. Crowd trouble has been up across the league, it’s not a problem exclusive to us.

On the subject of crowd trouble KS and CB1 discussed the cost of bringing in stewards from Newcastle United, at the cost of £1,100/£1,200.

12 banning orders were issued last season (2021-22), some being short term, some being long term. CB1 did mention that crowd issues seemed to be on the decline so far this season.

CB1 discussed the 3 medical incidents that took place last season and praised the medical staff for the quick actions

Q – Any chance we could see earlier kick off’s occur time (1pm kick offs) to help save on energy bills?

(TP) The National League can’t due to TV agreements. The National League have not given us (North and South teams) any guidance on changing KO times. For away games such as Leamington and Gloucester, it wouldn’t be realistic for us. For local derbies it could be a possibility.

TP then discussed the latest guidance the league had given the club, which only concerned food for the players after the match which followed a discussion about the varying quality of food players get at away games.

CB2 gave an example of a team who we played away this year who said they couldn’t provide food as players had ‘too many complicated diet requirements.

Quick drinks break whilst Graham Fenton came in.

Q – Remi Streete (former Newcastle United player) played a part in Tuesday night’s game, baring in mind he’s not really been involved in football for a few years (due to injuries) is he a realistic signing?

(GF) Remi’s been training with me at South Shields in the past. Unfortunately, he’s just kept breaking down with injury. He’s working hard away from training so on the face of it he could be a really good signing.

Q – Did he go off injured on Tuesday?

(GF) Yeah he went off after about 18 min’s after tweaking his groin. Generally, in the past he’s had problems with his hamstrings and he’s going to see a specialist for more advice. But he’ll continue to come to training with us. We carry a small squad, so we’ve got to be selective with players who are open to injury.

Q – What’s your expectations for this year Graham?

(GF) We had a chat and it’s to finish higher than we have for the last 3 years (a few laughs and comments of ‘that’s not hard’ followed) but it’s a realistic point, you get a few reactions from players being enthusiastic. It takes time for players to get to know myself and Andy and our style of play, it is slightly different to Terry’s and we obviously have to add to the squad as well which we’ve done with a couple of players so far and we’re always looking to add further quality, so we are looking at the squad and seeing where we can strengthen, and we have to get the squad in a place even if we do get a few injuries (like we do now) we still put a strong 16 out. So the starting point is higher than we have in the last 3 years but if we can start pushing up into the top half that would be great.

Q – We’ve got a cracking young lad in Corey McKeown, are you doing anything to help his diet and build his physique?

(GF) Do you know his diet is poor like? (to a few laughs). So again we’ve got to do things in order. I was really happy with Corey’s performance’s when he was fit before he got a slight niggle. He’s joined in tonight at training and he’s had some real contributions so yeah we do realise we have a talent there but in terms of individual conversations about diet and things like that we’re not there yet. At the moment it’s about getting inside their heads and seeing where their best position is. I don’t want to pigeonhole a player in a certain position.

GF then thanked the committee for organising a stop over for Saturday’s trip to Hereford.

Q – Apparently we’ve signed someone tonight?

(GF) Yeah so I got put onto this lad called Josh Scott (striker) who was originally at Hartlepool as a kid and went down to Mansfield. We had a recruitment guy at South Shields who pointed him out at the time when he was 18/19-year-old. He’s joined in training tonight and done some good things so were short of numbers and he’s signed up. He’s not on contract so it’s a body in to give us some depth over the next few weeks, he could turn out to be a hidden diamond he could turn out to be not good enough we just need bodies in. I haven’t quite got to see under 19’s just yet, I’ll go and watch them next Wednesday and get a better idea of the lads coming through as well.

Q – What about the injury list at the moment?

(GF) So yeah Josh Gillies is struggling a little bit after Tuesday, he’s been out for well over a year and sometimes you just get other little niggles as your just not used to playing so hopefully he’ll be alright. Alex Nicholson is really struggling with Achilles tendonitis, and he’s been struggling for a few weeks. To be fair he’s gritted his teeth and got through it, but it just gives other lads opportunities at the moment. Rhys is back and he’s probably going to get some game time, Michael Richardson when he played at wing back has done well so we do have options and this is when you have to use the squad when experienced players pick up little niggles. Of course it opens up opportunity for others and they have to take those opportunities when they arrive. Toby is back in training, albeit it no heading but it’s good to have back.

Q – Paddy Almoud was originally training in the summer?

(GF) Paddy’s a difficult one as he had a pretty bad injury (referring to his car crash in the summer) and because of covid it’s difficult to get a consultant organised to give him clearance so he’s joining in training and again it’s just stuff on the floor, we can’t have him heading balls. So we need to wait for a consultant because if we stick him in a came and he gets a bang on the head that’s bad for him we open ourselves up to a bit trouble.

Q – I presume it’s more of a legal issue at this point with Paddy?

(GF) Yeah, it’s just getting the clearance. How long that will take I don’t know. I’ve seen Paddy play for Sunderland and liked him and I’m lead to believe he did really well when he was here, so we just have to monitor the situation with Paddy.

Q – The style of play seems like you want to pass the ball about, need players to be brave when pinging the ball about. Is that because of the players we’ve got?

(GF) Yeah, I mean it’s the way I prefer to play. We’ve talked about the fact that were not inundated with pace apart from Cedric and Corey, but you couldn’t say we could turn into a really effective counter attacking team albeit it I think we can counter attack pretty well. I definitely don’t see us being a long ball team and just hoofing it up cos Macca doesn’t like to play like that. He can compete and he’s physical but he likes it at his feet. Where we can definitely make improvements, and I think we saw it a little bit on Saturday, forget about Tuesday that was poor (in reference to the friendly at Blue Star) but we started passing the ball forwards a lot more. I was probably a bit critical of the lads in previous games, but it was just going backwards and sideways too often.

Q – Any chance you’ll do a Harry classic and sign half the Alliance on forms?

(GF) The beauty of what we have now is the under 19’s, and we got 2 lads signed on already (one being Rio Joice). So in future if we get a few injuries we get them in the squad for a bit of experience, so that’s the beaty of having not having to do it Harry’s way and signing 40 odd players, but it certainly worked for us then.

TP and MC then discussed how well the Under 18’s and Under 19’s were doing this season. GF then committed that he liked the fact the under 19’s got a few bookings at Fylde the other day, saying it’s much easier have a player with a bit of passion and maybe goes over the line than to have a player who’s afraid to get stuck in.

Q – Who was the goalkeeper the other night? (again, in reference to the Blue Star friendly)

(GF) Matty Alexander. Ian Aitken mentioned him the other week and we brought him to training and he did well, so again it’s just to help us with a bit of cover. Alex has been fantastic for us so far and made some fantastic saves, so it was good to give him a night off and save him travelling over (Alex travels from the North West) that meant we could have a look at Matty. We’ll keep an eye on him, he was at training and did well. Going back to Harry its all about signing players to cover us, as it just gives us time to asses them. Matty is also signed up on forms.

Q – Have we got an outfield player to cover in goal now Robbie’s gone?

(GF) We had one at North Shields in Curtis Coppen, didn’t have one at South Shields but I would imagine Bud’s would fancy himself.

Q – Obviously we changed managers very very early in the season, was just wondering about the reason for the change so early on?

(TP) *Tony stands up.. chuckles ensue* All I can say is, the general consensus was that..*Tony takes a long pause and more laughs follow* Terry was a lovely lad, in fact the thing that pisses me off I got on well with Nels, I got on with Alun Armstrong, most of the time *more laughs* and these things come along and the worst thing in the world is that Chairman and the committee, it was a collective decision that by the end of the close season that what was happening, we didn’t think was going to ensure that the club went in the direction we wanted. It wasn’t an individual thing, but we collectively decided that things just weren’t going to work out. I’ll not slag Terry off, lets forget he did keep us up and we did win the cup. So in terms of what we asked him to do when he originally signed he did them, but unfortunately the collective decision was and I won’t go into any of the detail, was that we didn’t think we would have went in the direction we wanted it to and we felt it was best to make the decision early on and not let it go on. I don’t know what would have happened if Terry had still been here, well I do but I’ll not say. The bottom line was we made the decision, we advertised the post and Graham applied. I have to say *TP asks MC how many applied, he clarified 73* 70 odd applications, mind I have to say there was a lot of eh..FIFA 23 applications (he means Football manager but we’ll let him off) and they were coming in left right and centre from overseas and everywhere, but when you’re a north east club you really need a north east manager. You want someone who knows the players in the region, and ultimately, we decided Graham was the best man for it. Obviously, he knew the club from when he was here way back, he knows what the fans are about, he knows how much the FA Cup means and hopefully we can get over Guiseley *KS corrects him to Chorley, laughs ensue* so Graham knows what he wants in the FA Cup and how much it means to us, so hopefully we can progress.

Q – Over the last 12 months the executive committee here (TP,KS,CB1,CB2,MC,GB) are the only one’s we’ve seen at home or away games, of course there’s a few who are on the committee still who we don’t really see anymore, was just wondering what their contribution to club was?

(TP) Well I mentioned Jane who does the accounts, and Steve who gives us legal advice (presumably referring to the AGM before) on various issues.

(KS) The biggest thing with Steve is sorting out the lease with the ground, which would have cost us £20,000 which was a hell of a thing to sort out.

(TP) I only want people on the EC who are here, and you’ll know the faces, and are here every week. I’m not having hangers on anymore. I don’t see why I and the others here should be working hard and others come along freeloading. If anyone else wants to get involved, just come and see me and tell me what they think they can do, what skills they’ve got. TP then mentioned Scott Sawyer who is working at the club some days a week helping out MC. TP also mentioned that if we knew anyone who won the lottery, send them across to him.

Q – When we getting the bait hut in the ground?

(TP) People may think its easy, but you’ve got to build the place up from the ground. To the grants to do it from the football foundation, you have to go through there procurement procedures and use their prefer suppliers and the costs go through the roof. We could get it done for half the price, if we went through the official channels and preferred suppliers. As it would get used every other week, you’ve got to have provision for your supplies. You don’t want to run out on a matchday, we’ve got to have storage facilities for things that can be stored. Then have the staff that are qualified to serve food and pay them. When you look at the economics of doing it, I’m afraid it just doesn’t stack up. If the crowds were to go up above 1,000 and we could see the turnover would be there the balance may tip but at the moment that’s not the case.

(KS) If we built it ourselves, the build cost would be £17,000/£18,000. If we had to go through the football foundation with grants, it would cost about £22,000 but you would get a 60% grant for that. So as Tony pointed out if we have leftover food, with a burger van they can reuse that. If we have a fixed bait hut, we’d have to bin that as we couldn’t re use it.

(TP) The deal we’ve got with the current burger van is they provide food for the players after a game free of charge. He pays a fixed amount every week, so we gain a lot from that. But unless we can get crowds over 1000 it doesn’t make sense for us at the moment.

(KS) Believe me we want to do it because it cuts out the middleman, but we have to take into account risk and reward and the reward just isn’t there at the moment.

Q – For the build cost, could we not look towards fans? As we know people who work in trade jobs would help out.

(KS) We’ve already looked at that (KS listed a few individuals who he’d spoken to in the past about costs etc) and it at the time even with kitting out the kitchen you would still be looking at about £16,000/£17,000.

(TP) The biggest unknown factor is objections (from local residents) as we have a prevailing westerly wind, so we’d have to put a big extractor in to avoid fumes blowing into Coronation Street.

(KS) You also have to take into account say £16,000 capital outlay, that you have to try and recoup over 2 years, 3 years or 5 years.

Q – On the subject of catering, one of the big things from the survey we did (the Green Army) was that current catering provider was poorly received by supporters. Was there any talk of either bringing in a new catering provider or inviting a 2nd vendor in on a matchday?

(CB1) I looked at it originally and we didn’t have many new vendors come forward. Last season we had some arranged to come in for a high profile friendly and they bailed on the night before, and the current provider came in. We haven’t done anything else since then to bring anyone else in but again, that’s an option. But at the moment we have more pressing things to look at. I totally understand were you’re coming from but at the end of the day, the positive comments out way the negative comments that I receive. For what he is excepted to do I think he delivers.

(TP) Once a fortnight isn’t exactly a pitch that you’re going to people clamming for put it that way.

Q – Have you thought about a new set piece taker?

(GF) On you on about the right side or the left side? *a comment of just beating the first man gets a laugh*. We’ve looked at 3 corners plays so far and they’ve nearly worked, obviously Bud’s had a couple of chances the other weekend and Matty Elsdon should have had one. I don’t know if you’s heard about the ref saying Lewis McNall wasn’t allowed to stand in front of the goalkeeper? Which is one of those new rules but yeah it gets frustrating when it hit’s the near post. I think we’ve got pretty good technicians so we have got the players who can do it.

The meeting is then closed by TP who thanks everyone for attending. He also mentioned that if anyone had any questions in future about goings on at the club, to simply ask a member of the EC.