Yesterday evening we sat down and had a zoom call with club CEO, Karl Evans. We appreciate Karl moving the date forward at our request following news this week of Harry Kewell being sacked and being replaced by Keith Curle. The reason for this was to address concerns raised by fans around the long term strategy of the club and a continuation of the ‘revolving door’ policy that sees the 9th manager of the Lemsagam’s reign.

We made a note of your questions and while we haven’t adopted the Q&A format below and despite the lengthy meeting, we couldn’t get through absolutely everything in the time we had, we hope you find a response to the queries you raised.

Keith Curle / Harry Kewell

With regards to Keith, Karl said he has the profile of a Manager/ Head Coach that should fit with our club. He’s very professional, knows the league and has won promotion from League Two with Northampton and got in the playoffs with Carlisle United. He has come in and wants to talk to people. He’s already spoken with the Community Trust and attended meetings about the Academy, so he is already showing he wants to be hands on in the overall structure of the club.

Karl advised there is only so much he can say as things are ongoing with regards to formalities involving Harry and his departure, but he did say it’s a results based business and unfortunately we are 17th in league 2. He advised that 11 home defeats is not great at any level and some of the performances had dipped at the same time. Our home form put massive pressure on the away form and given some of the performances, there was definitely an expectation that we should have been doing better, not least amongst the fanbase. We went on to say that the expectation may not be down to the quality of the squad we actually have, but of the overall standard of the division, which is very poor.

The deal with Curle will be reviewed but it was a mutual decision that a short term contract was offered. Keith is based in the north so locality works. Karl went on to say that Keith is an intelligent guy and he’s sure that if he’s heard the rumours about the club prior to joining this may have been a reason for an element of doubt. He has however been able to make his own opinions on everything. We advised that if we can tie him down early following a few decent results then it removes any doubt about the future and may even help the mood of fans, especially when it comes to the sale of season tickets. He thought the press conference was positive and Keith came across well.

We asked that given the style Keith Curle likes to adopt as a manager and the length of time he is contracted to the club, is he hampered by the fact he won’t have players to suit his preferred formation? Karl didn’t think that Keith would be judged solely on results especially so early on and that it’s something of a free hit for both parties which gives the opportunity for both to take a look at each other.

There has been the ongoing issues surrounding the role of the Sporting Director and who will have the final say on recruitment. We therefore (on behalf of fans) had to ask about the working relationship with Mohammed Lemsagam. Karl advised that Keith is definitely his own man, an example of this is that even though the relationship is good with Nicky Adams (Curle recently managed Adams at Northampton), he has taken the captaincy off him and given it straight to Carl Piergianni for the first game against Port Vale. Karl advised that Mohammed Lemsagam under Harry Kewell had taken a step back in terms of the recruitment of players and this had been left to Harry to undertake. This still raises questions as to how this role is still needed or evidence to support its existence. We will maintain a watching brief on this matter as numerous concerns were raised around this by fans.

It has been noted by fans that Mohammed Lemsagam has outlasted yet another manager despite recruitment being so poor in the last few years. It was challenged by Karl that recruitment has been better of late but there was also an acknowledgement after we challenged this that there wasn’t enough balance in the squad, no real depth and too many wide players or players being played in positions not suited to them. PTB also commented that in recent seasons, managers have not been given sufficient transfer windows to really build their own squad (Richie Wellens, Dino Maarmria, Pete Wild were all not given summer windows to recruit) and that the short term nature of Keith Curle’s contract could see the same issue arise once more.

We spoke of our concerns around a squad for next year and that while we acknowledge the shortfalls of Harry as a manager, if the owners truly didn’t see him as the long term man, would it not make sense to tie Keith down to a longer contract and then we can start to give players the belief that there is some structure and stability for next season, in the hope that they commit their future to the club (Bahamboula & McAleny especially). Karl acknowledged and said it was a valid point to raise, but also said to keep an eye out for news from the club today on the matter of contracts. He alluded to 2 bits of news regarding players which he has advised should be announced today. David Wheater’s departure has already been announced and the recent update of Bahamboula, Diarra and Jameson extending their contracts has been announced  

Karl went on to say that in terms of any potential “interference” from the Sporting Director, he genuinely hasn’t seen the behaviour that Mohammed Lemsagam has been accused of since his time at the club, based on his observations.

Club Matters

We asked regarding the furlough situation, whether we still have any staff members taking advantage of this scheme? Karl advised that we still have a couple of people in maintenance but nothing more. These people are also having the wages topped up from the standard 80% to 100% by the club. There was also mention previously of academy staff being on furlough but have since all returned to their roles.

Season Tickets

The club announced on Thursday that they had sold 426 season tickets to date. Karl was hugely encouraged with regards to this. They sold another 47 today (Thursday) which was seen as excellent after only 11 days of sales, especially when we have sacked a manager, had 2 draws and a defeat during that period. He also wanted to point out that the number is definitely correct (after seeing comments around this on social media) and he doesn’t have time to make numbers up.

After being asked by fans around the stability at the club in view of another managerial change, whether this will hamper the sale of season tickets, especially in view of Keith Curle only being on a short term contract. Karl didn’t believe that it would be a factor but also admitted that there were other areas that could affect this number from being higher than it currently is.

North Stand Update

We stated once again that it’s crucial that this is resolved in good time before the season starts especially if they want to sell a good proportion of season tickets. Karl acknowledged this and said that while he can’t say too much, very sensible conversations have taken place with the OEC and there is a desire on both sides to get this working from an operational perspective. Karl feels he can work with the relevant people to make this happen. He said he wants fans in seats and the fan bar full before and after a game as well as other initiatives around the ground to improve the matchday experience once fans have returned. He said it’s unfortunate what’s happened in the past and he’s tried to be respectful of that but he’s here to take the club forward. He reiterated there was desire on both sides to make this happen.

LED Advertising Hoardings

We asked Karl about the LED boards that were not working near to the Rochdale Road End. This is due to a part which is required but is coming from China, so may take time in arriving.

Academy

Karl mentioned the academy team and the great run they are on after a poor start. Youth players don’t have that natural step into the first team and at the moment the club aren’t able to blood them via loan moves to non-league teams. He spoke highly of Vani da Silva and Junior Luamba (amongst others) and how they have progressed through the season in terms of their appearances on the pitch and their attitude off it. This is credit to Paul Murray.

The Future & Club “Vision”

Karl has said that now he has been here for a period of time, he wants to pull together a document of the clubs new Vision, for the owners about the future of the club, what he feels is required and how he feels we need to push forward. This combined with the personnel required in order to make it happen. He wants to take the owners view on where they want the club to be and bring it to life. He feels in a better position to do this now as he has been here for a good period of time. He feels a lot of CEO’s in football don’t truly understand the community aspect of a football club but he very much values this and wants the club to live and breathe it from top to bottom. We asked why the owners aren’t pulling together this document and he responded that it’s not something that they would do.

Karl mentioned that he has come in and whilst he has tried to be respectful about what has happened previously he has tried to move things on in his own way as if we stand still and do nothing to change, the club will just continue on the continual decline that the club has been on for many years.

Talks have taken place at the club around a loyalty card scheme. Things such as extra money off in the club shop, when you buy so many drinks you get one free in the ground and reduced ticket prices for different games. Talks are still very much in their primacy but the club will release further details on this when they can.

Shirt Sponsors

According to Karl, we have 2 or 3 potential shirt sponsors bubbling but not to the point where a deal will be done just yet. It’s more difficult when you can’t get sponsors in the ground and show them the benefits of being on board etc.

Financial Matters

After being posed the question, Karl confirmed that everyone was paid on time in February and he doesn’t envisage any issues for March. We have received more Hummel royalty money following shirt sales at Christmas.

We raised the issue of the government sport survival funding, a pot of £600m that is available to clubs in lower and non-league and being monitored by Sport England. One of the stipulations of this loan is that before any football club can be sold, the loan has to be paid back in full. We raised our concerns that if we were to accept this, it could be overly punitive with regards to any future sale of the club. Karl advised that he has not heard of this funding and has no knowledge that we are interested in this, but would take the information away.

Following our last update and the information that came to light regarding Hotel Rooms 4 U (Director Barry Owen also being a Director at HR4U) it had been brought to our attention that Karl himself was a director at another company. We asked Karl regarding this and he advised that it was a consultancy business that he set up when he left Manchester United. During his recent time with Harrogate, Salford and Bury, it was under the guise of his consultancy business. Karl confirmed that he is now on the payroll at Oldham Athletic and that this company is now dormant and may look to close it down.

Once again we thank Karl for his time and his views on matters at the club. Karl acknowledged that it will take time to build trust with supporters again after the last few years but that he wanted to try and do so for the good of the Football Club and the fan base. He advised that he definitely underestimated the strength of feeling and disconnection amongst supporters upon his appointment but now feels a lot more educated on various matters which allows him to excerpt more influence to make changes.

For the queries that we didn’t have time to get to, please know that we have retained all questions and will ensure they are raised at the next meeting.

We hope that you have found the update informative, once again if you have any queries or concerns, please just let us know via the usual means.

Reclaim The Faith

PTB