It is in troubled times when you realise how important your friends and family are and as we are all too aware, this is one of those times. I hope that all of you are safe and well and remain so, as we begin another lockdown in preparation for a more and what we all hope will be, a near normal life in 2021.
I want to also take this opportunity to thank all the staff, players and coaches for their efforts in ensuring football continues here at Scunthorpe United and giving the club every chance of survival. The difficulties in doing what we are doing can only be exasperated by the lack of any income, but we have tried to budget as best we can and hope the ongoing discussions with respect to funding will ensure the club gets through this, along with all the other EFL clubs.
Neil has come in at a very difficult time and we can't judge him on anything whilst we are in the current Covid restrictions which means we need to have patience and consideration with him and the team. We haven’t been able to get into any rhythm, we can't train the lads consistently due to positive tests and isolation situations which affect us by the day, let alone the week. Every team that Neil has picked to play on a matchday has had players pull out either for Covid issues or injuries after the team has been picked. That preparation isn’t ideal and will unbalance us in our performances at any time, let alone now.
We continue to move the club to a sustainable position and have done that since our relegation, which means the club will operate within its means and within the salary cap stipulated by the EFL. That move has almost certainly put the club in a better position through Covid in these extraordinary times.
The club will continue to move towards the target it set after relegation and that is to develop our young players, support our youth set-up and academy with the opportunity to play in our under 23’s and then move towards the first team. There is no point in having a youth set-up if all we do is buy ready-made players at huge cost and risk to the club, and that should now give the young players in our club the opportunity to see a pathway to the first team. We had a go over that five-year period and didn’t quite make it, but I wouldn’t change that time, apart from wishing we had got promoted and it wasn’t a risk for the club. We didn’t borrow money, we didn’t sell assets and we didn’t risk the future of the club so I have no regrets in how we funded it personally. We did it for the love of football.
I have begun to look at a strategic plan where we can secure the future of the football club in the long-term, but of course changes will be needed and there will be difficult transition periods where we have to support, rather than criticise mistakes whilst on this path. This will also include a financial plan to which we will look at writing off all owners loans into the club and we continue to discuss this with our advisors. We continue to look at the ground developments prior to the pandemic and as the economy starts to return we will embark on various projects including the apartments and stadium improvements.
The club will continue to assess all aspects of our player recruitment and youth development with a new approach, identifying new players and supporting the people we feel can move us in that direction and that will be very much part of Neil’s job and Tony’s continued remit. Changes have happened and will continue to happen, even under our current difficult situation, but these decisions will continue to be made in the same way we have always worked, identify needs, identify people/players, make decisions with the guidance of the people we employ. I am also considering working on developing a fans group, who would meet with the board twice a year, perhaps containing a selection of fans from the community and supporters groups? If any of you have some ideas on who and how this could work please email me at the club, and we can look at the options available.
After all the above, I will not state we are in great shape on the pitch, but circumstances have made the start of this season very difficult and we can only get better and stronger as players return from injury. Covid will play an enormous reactive part in putting a team together for a match. However, we have to cope with that along with all the other teams in our division, until the end of this season. Neil will work towards building his team in the months ahead under the club's remit of youth development and of course trying to blend some experience where he sees fit and where we can afford it. Neil hasn’t had an opportunity to get into any rhythm with team training and that inevitably means he can't always get his thoughts over to the players consistently which means he and his players are learning on the job, which is something we discussed when he was appointed.
Although we haven’t performed as consistently on the pitch as we would like, individual mistakes have been our downfall and we have to try and eliminate as many of these as we can if we are to win games. That will come with time and coaching and if that doesn’t work we then know we have to evaluate and potentially make changes within the squad.
I think we have a great bunch of players and I know they have been trying their best, it's just not been good enough at times and these players need to step up their performances if they are to retain their position in the team and become the players we believe they can be.
We have an opportunity after losing a game to put that right by winning the next game and so on, something we need to do sooner rather than later because of our league position, but we need performances from our players, first and foremost, to achieve that. This squad is good enough to compete in this division, they just need to get that belief and get that result and I would accept a scruffy goal or decision going our way to get that started.
There are 38 games to go, we have a target we want to hit and Neil, his players and his coaching staff, with the support of the football club, will achieve that and retain our league status, which is our first primary target this season.
My thanks to all those fans who have bought merchandise, streaming (we get just over £8 for everyone who buys a home match package via iFollow) and continue to support the club through any other means - a huge thank you and respect.
Stay safe and UTI,