Following on from yesterday’s catch up with new gaffer Steve Conroy, we also spoke to the Chairman this week for his views on the current state of play at the club.
What qualities did Steve and Chris show that made the board decide they were the right people for the job?
The main reason was their track record last season. We played them a couple of times and I’d spoken to Duncan, Paul, Ray and Steve who did the interviews and said what a great season they’d had with such limited resources. We were all really impressed, especially when you look at the fact they never really had any real training facilities and not being rude to Kings Langley at all, but let’s just say that the pitch probably wasn’t the best either. Generally though, it was having the experience they have with the league. We felt that maybe we lacked a little bit of experience last year, we did extremely well to stay up with 51 points but everything was new to us. It’s not new to these boys though, they’ve been to all these grounds before, they know the travelling and the problems that this can incur, especially with midweek fixtures, and I was just impressed with their record with Kings Langley. They were also the ones that impressed us most out of all the people that we interviewed obviously, otherwise we wouldn’t have said yes.
It’s obviously early days, have you got anything in mind as to where you’d expect us to be come the end of the season?
I think we’d like to have a top half finish. Others might get carried away but I think that if we look at a top half finish, when we look at what happened last season when we finished with 51 points, a top half finish was probably about 7 or 8 points away from that. But the most important thing in my opinion is just to improve year upon year, so we’re definitely looking at an improvement on last year which was a good season for us, our first at this level.
Longer term, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes with some restructuring, so with the way the club is going do you believe we could be challenging for promotion within a couple of seasons?
Yes I do. We can’t say there’s a two or three year plan because so many things change in football and so many of the personnel change, especially in non-league football. But of course, we want to improve year on year as I’ve said, so if I’m looking for a top half finish this year then I’d be looking to be in and around the play-offs the following year. But things happen, you can get injuries to key players as we did to our best player this season, our captain and talisman Joe Hicks, which really changed our season I’d say. We went from being in and around the top half to being in a relegation scrap, so things can change and I’m well aware of that, but the aim is to improve consistently.
How important is it to have people like Steve at Elmbridge Heating and Plumbing backing the club once again next season?
I’m delighted. The more good people we can have around this football club, the better. Basically, on the pitch it’ll be for the managers and coaches to sort out but more importantly, we’ve got it really well run off the pitch. I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about all the other people that are involved, Steve at EHP, Ray Hole, Doug McCelland, John Butler, Gus Schofield, Paul and Duncan Saunders, Kelly, Elliot, Katie, yourself, everyone that’s involved and I apologise if I’ve forgotten anyone. Then we have the ladies who I have to mention as well, with Chris and Daren.
But everything we do off the pitch, we’re getting better and better with each season so to have Steve back on board as well is a major plus for us. Year after year we look for sponsors and some go by the wayside, but everything that Steve has done, he’s been true to his word and you can talk about some players being a great capture, but Steve’s definitely been one for us as well.
Some of the Casuals fans seem to be a bit afraid of change, but that’s because we’re moving away from a setup which is all some of them have ever known. What would your message to be to any of them that are a little bit uncertain at the moment?
Anthony did a fantastic job, especially when we were at Merstham and Whyteleafe for two seasons and a lot of the fans weren’t even there then. We had to go through a real tough spell, playing in front of very few people where every game was virtually an away game with the opposition probably bringing more fans than us. It wasn’t until the last couple of seasons since we’ve been at the Hub that we’ve started to get a good core of support. We’ve had over 300 at some games which is brilliant, I’m not stupid enough to think they’re all our own fans because we’ve played some really big teams that have a good travelling contingent, but we’re getting stronger off the pitch and we’ll get stronger on it.
So anyone that’s got any worries, just look at our record at what we do off the pitch. We’re a club that’s never been in any debt, we’re a club that’s always played good football, we’ve always had good people around it and so I’d say to anyone if they’ve got any questions, come to me personally and I will answer them in all honesty.
To finish off, given what’s been a massively successful first year for both ladies teams and the academy, you must be absolutely delighted for how things have gone and for the outlook of Walton Casuals as a whole in the future?
Absolutely, I think it’ll only get stronger and stronger. No doubt some people will leave and some will stay, but the club will always be what it is. Nobody is ever bigger than the football club, that’s something that’s been said to me many times over my professional career when players, manager, owners etc have left a club. Nobody is bigger than the football club and this club will always be here. It’s in exactly the same spot as it was before, the difference being we now have a magnificent stadium, so everything about the football club is right. So anyone who says the club isn’t going to progress over the next few years should come and sit in on one of our board meetings and see our projections for the future which are just incredible.
We’ve had over 70 new applicants for the academy. The ladies have been on a nomadic existence really playing at different grounds, but they’re hopefully going to come and play here at the Hub and hopefully their crowds will start to touch upon what ours do. I came down here when the reserves played the firsts in the cup, it was as good as any first team atmosphere that there was all season, a different atmosphere but still as good as any other we’ve had here. So people will have Saturday and Sunday football that they can come and watch at a good competitive level and if you don’t know anything about ladies football, come down and watch and see these ladies play football because they certainly put smiles on faces.
Further reaction from the chairman can be seen over on the Getsurrey website