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FROM THE BOARDROOM: DAVID WILKINSON'S PROGRAMME NOTES

21 August 2017

These programme notes were written by vice-chairman David Wilkinson for Saturday's edition of This Is Our Town.

Today we entertain the officials, players and supporters from Colchester United. Last season was the U's first back in League Two since 2004 and they finished just outside the playoffs in eighth place. They beat us at home and away so we obviously hope to turn that around today.

After the disappointment of losing to Blackpool in the play-off semi-final it has been an eventful summer. We have seen players come and players go, about which more later, but we welcome all the new boys and hope they are successful and enjoy their time with us.

There is always a special affinity with certain players and on a personal note I would like to single out a few in no particular order.

Jonathan Smith was a dedicated and committed player whose leg break in front of us at Barnet will haunt us forever, as much as his amazing recovery and incredibly positive attitude will be remembered. We will miss his all action commitment.

Craig King, a talented young keeper, who some of us got to know quite well during the pre-season training camp last year. Sadly, he fell out of love with the game and despite strenuous efforts to keep him, decided to leave. He is a lovely Iad and I for one hope he rediscovers his appetite because it's always a shame to see talent go to waste.

Cameron McGeehan, a charming and talented young man with an eye for goal, whose broken leg at Portsmouth and its unpleasant aftermath we had the misfortune to witness. His consequent absence for the rest of the season certainly contributed to our not getting automatic promotion.

I would like to wish them and all other leavers a happy and successful future.
They say variety is the spice of life, but I think we would prefer less of it. A brilliant performance against Yeovil on the opening day, followed by an unlucky loss to Ipswich in the Carabao Cup, followed by an unexpectedly lacklustre loss to Barnet, followed by an enjoyable Checkatrade Trophy win on penalties against Spurs U21s. It is vital that we find some consistency in the league to enable us to fulfill our ambition to achieve automatic promotion.

The importance of promotion cannot be overstated. The financial gap between the divisions is getting wider and because of that it is becoming more difficult to compete and, as has been seen in the recent saga over Isaac Vassell, harder to hold on to our better players.

Not only do Championship clubs receive ten times more than us from the Premier League, but a growing number of them are benefitting from both parachute payments on relegation and wealthy owners risking their fortunes to get on to the Premier League gravy train. The inevitable result is that clubs at that level can afford transfer fees and to offer salary packages way beyond what would be sensible in League Two.

Our philosophy is to find and develop players for the long-term benefit of the club. Hopefully they will grow with us and stay with us, but there will be times when either they will leave us behind or we will leave them behind, and in those circumstances we will seek not to stand in their way or alternatively try to help them find a suitable club.

In the normal course of events the process works. Find a replacement and plan for departure, but sometimes as seems to be the case with Isaac, the player develops more quickly than expected, attracts unwanted attention and results in what can be unwarranted disruption.

The time and effort absorbed in trying to persuade Isaac to allow the club to complete, as we saw it, his development and, having failed, in finding and negotiating the right deal for him and the club, was quite extraordinary. Quite literally months and months of Gary, Nathan and Mick's time not made easier by having to deal through agents and representatives.

Some will say, but it's OK because you got a decent fee and can go and spend it on replacements. The trouble is that just as at the very top, the more you've got the more it costs. Every time the money from Sky to the Premier League goes up, wages and transfer fees go up. It's no different here. It's a vicious circle.

Our philosophy generally works, but occasionally there will be surprises as there were here. We need to limit that by making sure, as best we can, that we are covered where needed. We have continued to invest in youth development and bringing in young players, which provides part of the answer, but only so long as we have some say in when and where they move.

We are part of the modern game and the higher we are up the pyramid the safer we will be, but not at the cost of our principles.

Perhaps a quote from Oscar Wilde is appropriate:

"Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing"

Enjoy the game

Come On You Hatters

David


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