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Club News

CHIEF EXECUTIVE: You have to take a balanced view

Nigel Clibbens on training facilities and pitch covers

26 February 2021

Unbelievably recent cold weather brought an unusual and relatively rare occurrence for the Blues – three games lost to a frozen pitch as temperatures dipped so low that the ‘it was -10 last night’ comment became a frequent morning greeting.

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The postponement of the fixtures brought with it a discussion about the suitability of the current pitch covers, and questions about the GeoFleece, which had indeed saved games from dreaded cold spells in the past.

“Dave Mitchell gave an excellent assessment of the issues around the fleece and the coverings on the official website last week,” chief executive Nigel Clibbens said. “I think the fact of the matter remains, I’ve been here nearly five years now and in those five years we hadn’t lost a game to the weather until the recent three, so it is extraordinary.

“You have to take a balanced view of what steps you take to deal with totally extraordinary events, ones based on once every three years. We think about what’s appropriate, but we also have to think about whether it would work.

“One of the things Dave talked about, what we came to understand around the recent snap, was the actual temperatures down on pitch side in the shadow of that Warwick Road stand over a number of days, were right at the extreme of what the capability of some of these products are.

“Even Dave said that who knows whether the fleece would have worked anyway, because it was that cold. I know also, just to round that off, we had some discussions with suppliers of people who could give us a fleece - maybe we could have bought one, one was potentially available - and the supplier who knows our stand and who knows how the shadow works, says, ‘I could sell you it but I don’t think it would work, given the specifics you operate off in that area’.

“So there are no guarantees. It’s difficult. We’re all really disappointed, but it is extraordinary, and we’re always looking at these things.”

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Another knock-on of the recent awful weather and Covid-19 combination has been the impact on training, with options often extremely limited for the manager and his squad.

“In the past, the weather in Cumbria and cold snaps are pretty routine,” he said. “Even throughout all my time here we’ve had periods where training has been really difficult.

“Under Keith Curle we had some tough times and we had to go all over the place. We’ve built up good relations with facilities in the area which would normally have been available to us outside of Covid.

“Places like rugby clubs and schools, they’re facing their own challenges in terms of letting people in because they themselves are in lockdown. It’s not just a case of having somewhere to go, it’s an ability of being able to use it because they might be locked down.

“We’re looking at these all the time. David even last year ended up sorting something out on a 3G pitch at short notice, at the Youth Zone. So we have got these connections already, but the complications are added by some of the places we would normally go to as a backstop have proved unavailable, because they’ve got their own restrictions.

“It’s complicated and these are the realities of dealing with Covid. It’s not just individuals getting it, it’s the ripple effect through all the organisation and everything you do. 

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“If you asked anybody, it’s not rocket science what you need as a modern professional football club. The challenge has always been how you get from A to B to make it happen. We have to be creative and try things out, and maybe not necessarily be able to take the easy solution because we simply haven’t got the money, and that is it.

“We know we need ideally our own training facility of a modern standard where the academy and first-team can be together with a 4G pitch that’s reliable in the frost, etc, etc. We know what’s required, that doesn’t come cheap.

“I know from personal experience, the one that I built at Huddersfield before I left there cost over £6m by the time I left that club, and that was getting land very, very cheap, and not having to build a building.

“So you can see how the cost grows. We’d like to invest but you can’t invest in leased premises, because you’re investing in someone else’s premises. Whether it’s the stadium, training facilities or other things, covers, there’s competing demands for money.

“That’s just the nature of the challenges we have.”


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