The end of the season has arrived and to call it a poor season, on the field, would be an understatement. Within the first week of my tenure as Chairman, the club was thrust into the COVID lockdown, all football was shut down and we were starved of income. We also changed managers, coaching staff and playing philosophy to add to the turmoil.
In normal business terms this would have been commercial suicide, but COVID allowed us to reset the club and prepare for the changes that were imminent in Welsh football. These changes were highlighted in January 2019, and we made the decision to implement them immediately, knowing that it would cause a few issues but at least we would be ahead of the competition.
It has been a very painful process and some people on the outside have been critical of the changes, but these changes were needed for the club to evolve and survive. After all, look at what happened to the dinosaurs.
Injuries, suspensions, and personal circumstances have played a part in the poor performances on the field this season. Appointing a coaching team is an emotional decision and one that, if you get a doubt about, becomes an issue when things don’t go right. However, excuses are not acceptable when the bar has been set and we failed to reach it. The lessons have been learned and the mistakes won’t be repeated.
At the end of the day, all that matters is the final score on a Saturday afternoon.
The shining light during this tough period has been the academy. Over the past two seasons, our academy has improved to the point where it is punching well above its weight and clubs are now taking us far more seriously than in previous years. We are aiming for Category A status within the Welsh academy system for season 2023-24.
We are about to introduce our full time BTEC and online degrees for the academy & elite players. We are also going through the due diligence process of becoming an academic campus, which will mean we will be the only club in Wales that can offer a complete educational package, full time football and an exit route. This alone will ensure the financial security of the club for many years.
Our new partnership in Spain is another route for our players to take along the path of professional football. We are excited by the partnership and hope to ensure that young talented footballers get the training needed to get them to the highest levels of the game.
Finally, I’d like to mention a few people who have helped the club in more ways than anyone on the outside will ever realise. The club wouldn’t be in its improved position had it not been for these people, who go unsung and are my heroes.
Ali, Paul the Chaplin and Tom, you have helped me more than you’ll ever know and thank you for your moments of wise words. True Druids men with nothing but the club at heart.
Angela, Amanda and Helen, thank you for the way you’ve helped and supported the club all through the lockdowns and season. I truly am the most pampered Chairman in Welsh football and I appreciate you so much.
Tony, Lauren, and Claire you have been stars and chipped in when needed without a moment’s thought or hesitation. Thank you.
Julie, you’ve brought sanity to the insane world of Welsh football and guided me through some difficult times. Thank you.
Paula, what an outstanding job you’ve done in setting up the infrastructure and systems. There’s no way we would be as far forward with our stadium upgrade had it not been for you. Academy Coaches, you’ve battled through COVID, protocols and the pain of trying to recruit players all through a pandemic and got on with it. Thank you for sticking with it and seeing the job through. I look forward to seeing you at the start of preseason 2022-23.
My final thank you goes to one person that this club owes a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid. Jayson Starkey, I miss you Every. Single. Day.
Without you, this club would have folded prior to my joining. You took on the job without a thought and just got on with things (fumbled about more like) but made it all work. You took the strain of debt collectors, payroll, coaching, first team and academy audits and did it day in and day out. No one will ever realise the sheer volume of work it takes to keep a Tier 1 club going and you did it all single-handed for a long time.
We had intense conversations and disagreed on occasions but we both want the best for the club and always met in the middle. I have nothing but love, respect and admiration for you as a colleague, friend and coach and you will always be that someone that brings a smile to my face at the mere mention of your name.
Bring on 2023.
More than just a football club.