Chief executive Nigel Clibbens covered a whole range of topics at an hour-long press conference with the local media on Thursday morning, with kit delays, stadium plans, squad budget and the club’s relationship with EWM at the top of the agenda.
On the wait for the arrival of this season’s replica kit ...
“Nobody at this club is happy with the kit situation, let’s make that clear,” he said. “I won’t give definitive dates on when they’ll be available in the Blues Store until I’m certain.
“If I’d done that in previous weeks everybody would be saying that we’d given dates and they still aren’t here. I need to be certain [before I confirm anything] and I haven’t got that assurance.”
“The latest information is that the kits have been shipped from the manufacturer,” he confirmed. “They’re on their way to the UK and we expect them to be in the country in the next few days. We’ll see what happens after that.
“It’s not ideal, and that’s putting it mildly. It’s frustrating for every single person at the club. We’re focused on trying to get them here, and as soon as I’ve got any news the club will make that clear.”
So why so late in getting the kits available for sale to the fans?
“The ordering process was not materially different from previous years that got our kit here on time,” he insisted. “It was the case that at the time when the orders were put in we had a change of personnel and, at that point, we had to review what was on order and check that it was all ready to go.
“That’s not to say it was wrong, but it does have to be checked so that you’re dealing with it as part of a proper handover. That was all done, but it didn’t change things significantly. It might have played a tiny part, but it wasn’t significant. Once you’re in that process it’s all about scheduling, production and delivery.
“We are where we are and we’re trying to get the kit here as quickly as we can, and we’re working with Umbro to do that. That’s our top priority.”
“This type of thing can happen with deals and we’ll be reviewing it afterwards to look at what we can learn from what has gone on, to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” he concluded. “It has happened with different manufacturers in the past, but the time for that review isn’t now. That’s for when we have the kit here.”
On the small squad size and the search to recruit new players going forward ...
“It was always the case that we were going to be running with a tighter squad than we’ve had in previous years,” he commented. “We’ve been into the reasons for that many times already.
“We’ve seen some good signs from the squad so far, especially attacking wise, but football is a random game and you get injuries and things which come along, and you can’t predict it.
“John [Sheridan] is still looking for new players and the loan window is still open for him to do that. After that there are obviously out-of-contract players as well, which is an increasing source of recruitment of players for clubs now, particularly at our level.
“There is room to add players, so John is working hard with David Holdsworth to achieve it. Hopefully we’ll be able to bolster the squad in the next few weeks.
“As for how many that will be, that will be down to John and what he wants to do. It might sound silly, but it depends on what you pay them and where you get them from. We’ve had players, certainly last year, where we were able to field regular first team players every single week where three or four of them made up the cost of one single player.
“We’ve got a loan place left [to make up the five] and there is scope to do deals with players out of contract. It then comes down to the manager and whether he prefers one, two or three players.
“With running a tighter squad, we always knew that if we were faced with lower numbers due to injuries or suspensions we’d have to react to that outside the window. It is riskier than carrying bigger numbers, there’s no getting away from that, but that’s where we are.”
And on recent suggestions that the new manager was unaware of the parameters of the budget he was going to have to deal with when he was first appointed to do the job, he said: “We were absolutely very open with John about all aspects of the club, from what the challenges were and what he would be dealing with because, ultimately, we needed to know how he would respond to that.
“That was all made pretty clear at the start. I don’t think there’s anything sinister in his reply [when questioned on ITV Border at last week’s press conference] and it’s one I wouldn’t read too much in to. We all know where we are, and that’s been clear all along.”
On the latest situation regarding a move to a new site or potential redevelopment of Brunton Park ...
“The problem of the fact we have a stadium which is getting increasingly difficult to look after is not going to go away,” he said. “The stadium has its issues and they have to be dealt with eventually.
“We have looked at a number of options, because we need to know what we can and can’t do, and we needed to gauge what the climate was like locally in terms of relocation.
“It became clear that times have moved on and the ideas that were around a few years ago have moved markedly against the club being able to achieve that.”
“So, in the last few months we’ve been looking at options for improving this stadium,” he continued. “That means you look at ways of funding a stand rebuild, and things like that, a bit like other clubs have done. We’re still on with looking at that.
“There were a number of people who were willing to do some speculative work, but that only takes you so far. From there you are in to consultancy fees, so we’re looking at that to see what is practical.
“The flood situation means that nothing is ideal, so we’re still exploring. It’s one that we’ll keep looking at so that we continually know the climate we’re dealing with.”
“I think we have to be realistic,” he told us. “We were at Exeter recently, and the stand there is running out at around £2,000 per seat. Scale that up to a 15,000 or even 10,000-seater stadium and you’re getting in to some chunky numbers.
“The aspiration was to move to a new site but we’ve got to be realistic about it all because, as a League Two club, we’re facing real issues right now. To embark down that road is a long way off, so we need to look at these other options.
“I think the end result will be that we need to do something here because we can’t wait forever. What that will be is still hard to say because there are no easy solutions to this at all. It’s difficult enough on a clean site, but on a site in this type of location it makes it doubly difficult.”
We’ll have more from the press conference on the current relationship with EWM on the official website later today.