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Fan Profile – Dave Abley
Nursery Taleswhat others are saying
Fans Forum – #1


Here are some edited highlights of the Fans Forum convened by Radio Merseyside and held at the Deva Stadium on St Patrick’s Day 1997.

Q. I’d like to ask Mr Guterman what his official position is on nursery clubs.

MG This has been on the agenda for quite a long time. There was talk in the late seventies that Chester might become a feeder club for Liverpool even then. The FA at a confidential hearing turned them down. Nursery clubs as a whole isn’t something that’s at the top of everyone’s agenda. It’s believed at the moment it’s the only way forward for certain clubs. Clubs like ourselves we’re losing three or four hundred thousand pounds a year. If nursery clubs help with the long term survival it might be the only way forward. I’m not saying it is the only way forward but it does have to be debated and discussed for a way forward and a view to be thought out. You’ve also got a situation whereby other clubs, Premiership clubs are in a position where they have reserve players who are playing in reserve leagues but not getting proper match experience. They feel that their players would benefit, would get experience, by playing proper competitive football maybe at the lower levels. This will, at the same time, help us – it will bring on our players. Our young players, they’ll develop over a period of time. And the two can work together.

HM My experience has been over a long time in the game that the big clubs have always looked after themselves.

KR I think the main problem that everybody thinks about is that you’re going to lose the identity of the football club. I think it’s between the two clubs that you’ve got to make sure that you don’t because you still want to be known as a Crewe or a Chester City or a Wigan Athletic. You don’t want to be called Everton Reserves, Man Utd Reserves, you want to keep the identity of the football club and that’s the most important thing. I think that we’ve hit on that you don’t want to be dictated to by the bigger clubs what to do – even though they may be ploughing some money in. You don’t want to be dictated which players they want you to take and so forth. It’s so important that you do keep your identity. I certainly wouldn’t want to go into a situation with a big club where they’re dictating to me how they want me to play the game. They should have looked at that situation before they joined ranks.

NT Do you think there is an argument that the big clubs should produce youngsters through their schools of excellence, that seem to be cropping up now, and possibly those that aren’t just going to make the grade could be ferried down to the Crewes, the Chesters of this world?

KR Well the good thing about it is that you can see that if they can cope with lower league football and also can the players of the lower league play with those type of players. There’s fors and against and, like Harry says, it’s a little bit of a hot potato at the moment. If the right scenario can come about then I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea but it’s all about dictatorship at the end of the day isn’t it?

BW My view is probably quite simple. Whether it becomes necessary or a necessary evil to have feeder clubs or the system we’ve talked about remains to be seen. But clubs like Chester, and there are many of them, may need to look at another way of surviving. And if that is a means to an end then so be it. Market forces will take its place but perhaps we’re a long way off it yet.
SAM BIGGINS Does the panel support the idea of full–time referees?

BW In a word yes, I think it’s a specialised position. We attend games here and we see a varied amount of skill. I feel that if it was a full–time professional position then it may be the case that the standards improve.

NT Kevin Ratcliffe, in the view of certain events on Saturday?

KR Well you can tell they’re only part time at the moment can’t you? They only play half the match. I think it’s important that they do become professional. I think they’re on to a good thing at the moment, the referees. They’ve got a good job, most of them, they get well paid for what they do, so unless the fees go up I don’t think they’re going to give up having two jobs – or the one job.

SB I think they should be full time. I think they should train with professional clubs to get the amount of fitness required because the game’s so fast these days. And very often here at the Stadium you see referees that can’t keep up with the game. And I genuinely think that they’d get to know the players better if they were training with full–time professional players. They would get to know the players better.

NT The argument against I suppose would be that if at the end of twelve months or two years you don’t reach the required standard, you’re out of a job? What do you do with the person who is a full–time referee who at the end of two years is going to be thrown on to the scrap heap?

HM Well that applies to the managers doesn’t it? There are plenty of managers thrown on the scrap heap because of referees.

(Much Laughter)

I’m not in any doubt at all. I’ve thought for many many years that we should have full–time referees. We’re missing on a wonderful opportunity now really because we have the YTS scheme coming in. When YTS lads come into the club, if they knew that at the end of their career they could become, as they do in cricket, a full–time official, there would certainly be boys throughout their career that could take to refereeing. They could referee on a Sunday. They could referee in the week when they’re not playing and by the time they got to 32 they’d be ready for refereeing. As some would go into coaching, come into management, some are becoming qualified physiotherapists. The biggest problem in professional football is that 99% of the referees have never played the game. So they don’t know the difference in intent; what’s a fraction late; what is absolutely ruthless. They don’t know because you’ve only got to see them kick the ball.
ANGELA LEACH I want to ask a question of Mr Guterman. There were rumours about him getting a consortium together to buy Manchester City. With Chester City losing so much money has he not thought of getting a consortium together to bale this club out?

MG The rumours relating to Manchester City weren’t rumours they happen to be facts. The deal that was effectively put together by myself and a consortium, which was effectively London banks, was to raise money to buy Manchester City as a business and buy this club as a feeder club to the Manchester City situation. The reason behind it was purely business. The bottom line is that ... Man. City in the Premiership would have been bringing in an extra nine or ten million pounds a year from Sky. With that extra money as a public company Manchester City would have been worth a hundred or a hundred and fifty million pounds. The banks came with the idea, and they were prepared to raise money. And you will see every Premiership club and half the First Division clubs going public because of that. They’re not interested in Chester City. They wouldn’t lend £50,000 to Chester City, never mind £50m. The problem is Chester City has to be funded – we have no overdraft it’s money that’s put in every week to support this club. And from my point of view I’d be delighted if the banks or consortiums were prepared to invest in Chester City and that has been tried and attempted. It’s not that I haven’t attempted to do so because I’m putting the money in. Obviously I’d be delighted if others were prepared to put money in as well. The banks are not prepared to do that because they’re looking at it as a pure business deal. My way forward on that particular deal was to help Chester survive in the long run and keep its autonomy.

The feeder club system, as Kevin explained earlier, has many different facets. But the main thing is for a club to keep it’s own independence, for it to be a co–operation, an alliance between clubs in the way that Crewe are doing with Liverpool at the moment. It’s nothing against the rules – it is an alliance. The word, feeder, nursery, they all mean nothing because one can mean that club owns the other club one can mean one helps the other out with the loan of players and this that and the other. You’ve seen this year, for example, with the loan player that we’ve brought (Sam Aiston from Sunderland) the extra quality of a player and how he can electrify and excite and help us win games. I’m only talking about bringing extra players of that quality at this level to help us pay the bills at the end of the day. That’s all we’re actually talking about. Referring back to the original question, no it isn’t possible for any consortium to be prepared to put money into Chester City. If there was one then I’d be delighted to meet them.

TONY A consortium were in for the club before you came in. You must have out bid him. What are your motives for getting into this club? What do you see as the future?

MG My view of the future of this club is to make it successful, to make it go through the leagues, to make it develop players and to make us break even, first and foremost. Then the future is to get promotion, and for us to move up and we’re trying our hardest. My understanding is that (And I’ve only been told this) the other consortium were considering part–time football. We believe in a full 72 club Football League of full–time football and our aim is to get into the Second Division and then to move into the First Division. And to strengthen as we go along and I think the best example is to follow a club like Crewe. That’s what we’re aiming for. Why else would we have put so much money recently into a youth policy, got Dave Fogg, who’s very highly qualified, in to sort out the situation and look to the future. That’s the only way forward.

Q. On the subject of consortiums, we’ve got Mark in control at the moment. Mark did have a partner who’s now departed. Is Mark actively trying to take on a Board of Directors to help generate income for the club? Because at the moment he’s doing it all on his own, and we’re very grateful for what he’s doing, but obviously if we want success we need more money and we’d like to see more people brought in – a proper board of directors who are prepared to put money, time and effort in.

MG Let me explain to you. The situation is no different now than it was prior to Ian, who had a heavy work load. The money is the same and it’s been put in by the same person all the way through. Nothing’s changed there. From the point of view of bring other people on board yes I’d be delighted to bring other people on board. But at the moment we’re losing probably £350,000 a year. For someone who wants to come on board and put two or three thousand pounds a year in, which is the sort of offers we’ve had recently, to control the club – it’s meaningless. At the end of the day if people are prepared to stand up and help with a sizeable contribution then they’re welcome to come on board. But my view is that you go round to many other clubs and too many people are on the board just for the sake of being on the board. My viewpoint is that they’ve got to be on the board because they’ve got a contribution to make. An that’s the only way you can work in football other wise it becomes like an old boys club and that’s not the way to move forward.
CHRIS PEARCEY How confident are you of making the play–offs final and winning?

KR We’re very confident at the moment. We’ve gone on a run of ten games undefeated so at the moment we’re very confident. But the more time goes on the more pressure gets put on the players – they’re thinking different things – it all plays a part in the game of football. We’re quietly confident at the moment – I still think it will go all the way to the wire like it did last year. And things can change over the matter of one game. There’ll be maybe one team coming up from nowhere. I would say other than the top three for they’re more or less certain to go up, I think out of the next – there’ll be seven or eight teams that can make those four places. So it’s important to us that we get as many points as we can as early as we can.

NT Harry McNally – how realistic are Chester’s chances?

HM I think they’re very realistic. I saw the game against Mansfield when it was a tight game – one of those that you’re delighted to win. It’s a question, as Kevin has said, of the players keeping the spirit going, playing for each other. Because you see the perfect example at the club I’m at at the moment. If anyone blew a golden opportunity last season it was Blackpool because they were virtually there and hit a hiccup at the wrong time. You can’t afford that now, you got to keep the machine rolling.
SARAH EVANS Will money be made available if and when we get promotion?

MG The situation is that, we talk about money being made available., this season the main thing people have got to understand is when we talk about money is that we’ve not been selling. We’ve had offers for players and we’ve literally not been selling, we’re holding on to them. Every other club in our division bar Wigan, even Carlisle, they’ve been selling players, they’ve been raising funds. We’re losing money and we haven’t been selling. Obviously, if we get promotion, and we’re keeping all our fingers crossed and I’m a born optimist so I believe we are going to get promotion, we’re going to have to look at the situation and deal with it as and when we go up. Obviously we’re going to try and bring in more players, we’re going to have to see what the situation is as and when. We’ve got a situation like every other club at the end of the season with the Bosman ruling – it means that certain of our players will technically be free and open to the market. Hence you’ve seen, this week, clubs like Tranmere having to let players go because they know that at the end of the season they can walk away for nothing. So in general it’s a matter of, sometimes, keeping what you’ve got rather than looking anew. But I’m not saying that. We will look for new players next season. But we won’t be in a situation like Chester were the last time they got promoted when they ended up with a skeleton staff. What we’re aiming to do, as I said earlier, is to be like Crewe. If you look at the tables, Crewe came up behind us third behind us last time they got promoted. But what they’ve done is they’ve looked to consolidate. Their viewpoint is that they had the players to bring in through their own system. We’re building our own system. I think the first player to come through is young Jonathon Jones – and we’re looking to bring others through. We’ve actually brought on our own young players and that’s got to be the way that you go forward.

NT Harry McNally, clubs at this level really do have to produce their own players don’t they?

HM Absolutely. The key word is stability. You can seebearing fruit at Wrexham now, Brian Flynn’s been there eight years. Irrespective of what you say they’re producing their own good young players. This week they’ve sold the boy for £700,000 – that’ll buy one or two good players. There’s no other way forward but it’s a question of everyone thinking along the lines of stability. It’s worked at Crewe and it’s now working at Wrexham, and there’s no reason at all why it shouldn’t work at Chester. I was over there the other Sunday morning watching our youngsters and I was very very impressed. I told Kevin, when I was down here that the quality of youngsters that Chester have got is very very high.

ISSUE 23 Fan Profile – Dave Abley
Nursery Taleswhat others are saying
Fans Forum – #1
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