It’s a good place to be We are mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion - Wil­cox

Chel­tenham Town chair­man Andy Wil­cox on the club’s best start to a Foot­ball League cam­paign since 2000/01, the job be­ing done by man­ager Michael Duff just over a year on from his ap­point­ment, and mov­ing closer to an im­proved home end at the Jonny-rocks St

Gloucestershire Echo - - SPORTING INDEX - Jon PALMER gloslives­[email protected]­plc.com

» How pleased have you been with the start to the sea­son?

Very pleased, but I have to be hon­est, I am not sur­prised.

Over the sum­mer and be­fore that, we were all go­ing in the right di­rec­tion as a club off the pitch and as a team on it.

If you put ev­ery­thing to­gether, it’s not sur­pris­ing that we are where we are, but it is still early days.

We have to keep our feet on the ground and think we are go­ing to win the league or get pro­moted be­cause there is a long way to do and we don’t have a big squad.

But what we do have is a great unity and the guys are work­ing hard for each other.

The play­ers who have come in for lads who are in­jured have done well and if you have that recipe, along with the fact ev­ery­one around the club is smil­ing, it’s not a sur­prise to me to have had this sort of start.

» What is your work­ing re­la­tion­ship like with Michael Duff, just over a year since he was ap­pointed?

He is very pro­fes­sional, ded­i­cated to his job and fo­cused.

I don’t need to in­ter­fere, or get in­volved other than to help when re­quired.

He’s come in with his own sys­tem and way of work­ing. We’ve given him the op­por­tu­nity to go and put that into prac­tice and I can’t fault him.

He is a top guy and a plea­sure to have at the club.

» It was a big step from manag­ing the Un­der-23s at Burn­ley, al­though he’d been in­volved in the first team set-up there. Have you seen him ad­just­ing to the chal­lenge over the past 12 months? He must have learned a lot while he was at Burn­ley.

They are not a big hit­ter in that league, but their work ethic is fan­tas­tic and they churn out good play­ers.

Michael has been a part of that and he’s brought that Premier League style to Chel­tenham, which is bril­liant for us.

» The play­ers seem to en­joy­ing his meth­ods

There has been a huge change. Ev­ery­one is smil­ing, every­body is happy in their work and it pays off.

It’s a dif­fer­ent kind of pres­sure when you are in the top three, rather than wor­ry­ing about be­ing at the other end.

That’s a big rea­son to smile, but the foot­ball has been fan­tas­tic too.

I am sure ev­ery­one would agree we are watch­ing some good qual­ity foot­ball

and the guys are en­joy­ing that. It’s noth­ing more than they de­serve.

» You said you had some sleep­less nights when you first took over as chair­man. How are the stress lev­els now? It’s a huge dif­fer­ence to last sea­son. The last thing you want to do when tak­ing over as chair­man is to be rel­e­gated.

Now, we are not wor­ry­ing about rel­e­ga­tion, we are look­ing at the top half of the ta­ble.

There isn’t a worry over go­ing down and there aren’t wor­ries about the club’s fi­nances so the club is go­ing very well.

The staff and the board too, it’s all in a good place at the mo­ment, through hard work and a lit­tle bit of luck here and there.

» Michael is con­tracted un­til the end of next sea­son, are you wor­ried about clubs com­ing in for him?

There must be clubs notic­ing what he’s do­ing, but it is early days.

He’s been with Chel­tenham for just over a year and it’s a work in progress. I don’t think for one minute, a move to a big club at the mo­ment would suit Michael.

He has a project to fin­ish here and it’s started very well.

Ev­ery­one loves him here and he loves the town.

This is his old club and while the club owe him noth­ing and he owes the club noth­ing, I don’t think he’d just jump ship like that.

I think he wants to fin­ish the job he came here to do.

I know he’s very am­bi­tious and I’d be dis­ap­pointed if he turned around to me and said he wanted to stay here for­ever.

The guy is go­ing to man­age higher up at some point, I am sure of that.

At the mo­ment, ev­ery­one re­alises he’s worth hold­ing on to so at some point soon, we’ll sit around a ta­ble and talk about it.

» The amount of home fans for the Crewe game ex­ceeded 3,000. How pleased have you been with that growth since the start of the sea­son? I am sure some of the fans were get­ting dis­grun­tled that we couldn’t buy a win at home.

We weren’t play­ing well and we were get­ting rolled over.

Now it’s be­come a fortress and sup­port­ers that had found other things to do on a Satur­day af­ter­noon have re­alised there is a rea­son to come back and watch.

If you come back and watch one game at home, you’ll get the bug be­cause the team is play­ing well and there is a re­ally good at­mos­phere.

The crowd are fully be­hind the team and any­one who comes to a game af­ter be­ing away for a few years will soon re­alise that and that’s why crowd are grow­ing.

The singing sec­tion have cre­ated loads of noise and the play­ers are ap­pre­ci­at­ing that.

» You have said be­fore you want to im­prove the stand at the home end. What’s the lat­est on that?

Rais­ing the roof will cre­ate more noise, we know that.

To bring the singing sec­tion into a big­ger home stand is the plan and we’ve met with ar­chi­tects now.

There is work go­ing on, we are wait­ing for a sur­vey and we’ll move on from there.

The wheels are in mo­tion. It’s not go­ing to be an easy job be­cause of the way it doesn’t run par­al­lel be­hind the stand.

By hook or by crook we’ll get the stand lifted.

» Any idea on timescales yet?

We’d love to start it in the sum­mer. Real­is­ti­cally, next Christ­mas would be a tar­get and if that hap­pens we’d have done well.

The idea is to get it done short term in the close sea­son, but you of­ten see ar­eas closed off dur­ing the sea­son while parts of grounds are im­proved and that may be the case at our ground. We are on the case.

» The singing sec­tion have been moved for the forth­com­ing New­port and For­est Green home games. Will an im­proved home end help to avoid sit­u­a­tions like this?

I can’t fault the singing sec­tion, they’ve been fan­tas­tic and you can see the group grow­ing too.

I feel for them be­cause they’ve done a great job and I am sure the ban­ter with For­est Green fans would have been some­thing to look for­ward to.

But it’s a safety is­sue and we as a board can’t get in­volved. It’s a po­lice and se­cu­rity de­ci­sion.

Cer­tainly, when the roof is lifted, they can all get in there and throw some noise be­hind the lads.

» Will the roof be raised only, or will the area un­der­neath be ex­tended too?

We are look­ing at dif­fer­ent op­tions. We are look­ing to lift the roof mainly, with also the po­ten­tial for some more stand­ing room, maybe some more con­crete steps, the more the mer­rier and the more noise the bet­ter in what would be a proper home stand.

The away stand is far su­pe­rior at the mo­ment and we need to sort that.

» Some cash has come into the club af­ter Luke Thomas’ move from Derby County to Barns­ley and Mar­lon Pack’s to Cardiff. What do the club plan to do with it?

We have been for­tu­nate, but I wouldn’t say it’s ‘club chang­ing money.’

It’s not al­ways about throw­ing it all at the play­ing bud­get.

It’s about im­prov­ing the ground. We’ve im­proved a cou­ple of ar­eas, but now it’s im­por­tant to give the fans some­thing, which is why we are look­ing to im­prove the home end. We’ll spend it wisely.

Look at Mans­field, their bud­get is prob­a­bly twice ours, but they are 19th in the league.

It’s not al­ways about money and pay­ing play­ers £4,000 or £5,000 a week. It’s about hav­ing the right play­ers and the right bal­ance and you can do that with the bud­get we are on.

» If you are in a strong po­si­tion in Jan­uary you might be in­clined to free up some more cash to help Michael try and get over the line? We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

We can’t go run­ning away with things at the mo­ment af­ter 11 games.

If we are on 40 or 42 points at Christ­mas, that’d be fan­tas­tic.

It’d be fan­tas­tic to go up in Michael’s first full sea­son, but let’s not get car­ried away and let’s see where we are.

» Steve Cot­ter­ill has been back watch­ing the last two home games. How much have you en­joyed chat­ting to him in the board room? I hadn’t met Steve un­til I took on this role. He is a re­ally nice guy, who has a lot of time for Chel­tenham Town.

He is a gen­uine leg­end for what he did for the club and he’s wel­come any time.

I love talk­ing to him and he’s an ex­tremely knowl­edge­able guy in the foot­ball world.

He has the key to the club as far as I’m con­cerned.

We had a good chat af­ter the Crewe game, I en­joyed hear­ing about the old days with Steve, Michael, John Mur­phy and Michael Jack­son rem­i­nisc­ing.

He’s a pil­lar of the com­mu­nity when it comes to this town and this club. He put the club on the map.

» Head of re­cruit­ment Micky Moore works closely with Michael Duff. How pleased have you been with the job he’s done so far? The two of them are very close and back when we changed the man­ager last year, one of my close friends, (ex­ev­er­ton, Derby and Repub­lic of Ire­land in­ter­na­tional) Lee Cars­ley, pointed us in the di­rec­tion of Micky.

We met him and he’s been a worka­holic for the club ever since.

He’s brought in some very im­por­tant play­ers and done a fan­tas­tic job.

Michael and Micky are good friends off the field and he’s a bit of an un­sung hero.

He’s al­ways on the phone, or out watch­ing play­ers, or our fu­ture op­po­nents, of­ten do­ing two or three games in a day.

It’s a bet­ter place with Micky around. It’s eas­ier to per­suade play­ers to join a team maybe push­ing at the right end of the ta­ble, rather than com­ing into a team strug­gling to sur­vive.

» Are there any changes planned to the board?

I am plan­ning on bring­ing in an as­so­ci­ate di­rec­tor, Dar­ren Haines, who is a life­long fan and a good friend of mine.

He’ll help with match day stuff and he’ll strengthen us and be an as­set to the club.

As a club on the whole we are in a very strong po­si­tion at the mo­ment.

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