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Fans Focus | News From Monday Evening's Event

9:57 pm Monday, 31 July 2017
Walsall Chief Executive Stefan Gamble and Secretary and Director Daniel Mole have once again taken part in a 'Fans Focus' event where they were on hand to answer supporters' questions.
On Monday evening Walsall Chief Executive Stefan Gamble and Secretary and Director Daniel Mole took part in a Fans Focus event where they answered supporters' questions.

There were far more people in attendance than at previous Fans Focus events, a sign of the many issues currently surrounding the club.

The first question was regarding the perceived lack of goals in the current squad. Stefan Gamble revealed that the manager met with eight players and is keen to add to his squad but has until the end of August to sign someone so will not be rushing into anything.

Gamble insisted that the manager has a budget to spend but it is up to him how and when he spends it. The club have not received all fees for recent transfers as clubs often pay in stages as per their agreements.

The club's policy to take 50% of all transfer income to use on the youth and development of players is mentioned, and panned by several of those in attendance.

The next question was about the signing of loan players. The club are keen to sign players permanently rather than on-loan. Stability the focus.

Many of the questions are repeated from previous meetings. For example the whereabouts of manager Jon Whitney and club Chairman Jeff Bonser. Missed promotions. Along with queries about the amount of money currently in club coffers.

A supporter asks whether the club pays players enough. The club pays what it can afford. Must work within the playing budget.

Scouting was also discussed. Stefan Gamble insisted that there is a network in place along with the manager's contacts and other coaching staff who all 'keep an eye out' for potential new recruits. John Ward, Neil Cutler and Ian Sharps are all 'part-time scouts'.

The club cannot put a timetable on the recruitment of a new striker.

Andreas Makris is mentioned. The club admits that it 'got it wrong'. The player was a current international and former Player of the Season but simply didn't work out. Fee will be payed in instalments with half going on infrastructure. The club will only break even on Makris' sale if certain add-ons are triggered.

A supporter receives a round of applause when he passionately says that he simply wants to see the club progress.

A supporter also asked why half of transfer income goes on infrastructure when it is already so good. Stefan Gamble insists that its about more than just a nice stadium. The club look to prepare for the future by bringing talent through the academy.Two new gyms and a 4G pitch have also recently been installed at Banks's Stadium.

There is a desire to buy the freehold but club would struggle to get a loan, banks unlikely to want to help. A fan points out that without the rent the club could've bought the land...

Stefan Gamble says he has no idea where the club's rent goes every year. The owner is not responsible for the upkeep of the stadium. The club must fund all repairs.

Gambe also insists that he understands fans' frustrations and agrees that the club must improve upon last season. The club is targeting the top half of the table as a minimum requirement.

Season ticket sales are slightly up on last year. People moving from the free under-18s ticket to the discounted adult ticket is at the same rate as last season.

The club is aware that the first-team is a priority but it is also pointed out that there is much more to the club than a first-team. Daniel Mole insists that they look at the club as a whole, infrastructure, youth team and all. The club has to look forward in a sustainable way.

James O'Connor is contracted for another season. His injury is genuine and will be treated by club staff. Whitney met with him and explained the situation.

A fan asked whether Jon Whitney is the man to take the club forward. Jon has a slightly different playing style to that of Dean Smith, wants the same ball carrying style but with more strength and physicality.

Erhun Oztumer is mentioned. Contract negotiations are ongoing, he has a year remaining on current deal. Have been in talks for a while. Looked to extend over eight months ago.

The manager has identified several targets, talks are ongoing, the board support him. Funds are available.

A supporter wonders why the club have only signed players on two-year deals. We're told that agents aren't keen on longer-term deals, want the option to move players on. There is no directive on contract length, but are keen not to tie the club to a player who is not performing. Less than half of the current squad are out-of-contract next summer.

The club were offered money for Neil Etheridge in January (reportedly a six-figure fee), why didn't they take it? It was agreed that it would be common sense to sell but the 'keeper was an important part of the team. The club tried to find a balance, have been times when they could've sold several players (Tom Bradshaw, Rico Henry etc) but decided to hold on.

The decision to give manager Jon Whitney a three-year deal is mentioned. Unsurprisingly there is no mention of regret, yet to kick a ball this season.

Kit manufacturer Errea is discussed. Issues with first batch of kits should be resolved, refunds or exchanges available. Errea do not produce baby replica shirts. New batch has gone through due diligence. Club wanted '3D' badges. Much happier with the supplier,far shorter turnaround.

Jon Whitney can be naive in the press. Allows his passion to control him and say things he possibly shouldn't say. Likes to answer questions when he may be better off being a bit more defensive. Manager can overuse cliché's. Dan Mole offers guidance but doesn't want to shackle him.

Someone asks why Sean O'Driscoll was axed after eight games but Jon Whitney continues on. Panel insists that this is a totally different situation.

Mitchel Candlin is in the manager's thoughts and could feature this season. Whitney keen to give younger players some experience. Doesn't always work out.

Stefan Gamble says the club could look at installing safe standing. Police concerns mentioned. Police bills would increase depending on where the seats are installed. Could prove an expensive venture.

Shrewsbury Town are keen to pilot safe standing. Dan Mole says that the club will monitor their progress. Local authority would need to approve its use.

Mole also discusses a singing section. Says he doesn't think singing is something that should be forced.

Several issues surrounding club legends were discussed. Including statues, the lack of players being recognised etc. The club have an ex player at almost every home game and work with the Supporters' Trust to arrange Legend's games.

Over pre-season players don't always travel on the club coach for local away games. Some may train in the morning then go home before arriving at the ground before kick-off.

Someone asked why the club doesn't have a Director of Football and were informed that John Ward fils a similar position within the set up.

Of the eight players that Jon Whitney has recently met with, some are potential permanent arrivals, whilst others could be loan deals. No specifics were given.

Jeff Bonser is not actively looking to sell the club but would listen if an offer was made. There have been no offers since Stefan Gamble joined as Chief Executive.

The lack of refreshments at the kiosks is discussed. It is revealed that an average of £2 per head is spent on matchdays, more is made at the bars. The match experience could be improved upon.

It is agreed that the club's heartland is North Walsall. Also noted that in theory the club could be purchased and relocated to another ground in the borough.

The club are, and voted, against the current format of the Checkatrade Trophy, unfortunately two-thirds of clubs voted to keep it.

Board member Peter Gilman is mentioned. He brings business acumen and experience to the club. Long-standing friend of Jeff Bonser. Is a former Vice-Chairman of Leeds United.

Completely up to Jeff Bonser whether he appears on Saddlers TV...

New iFollow Walsall is currently using the club's pre-existing camera. Product will be significantly better than Club Player, hard to know potential income as product is new. Club receive certain percentage of profits.

A pre-season friendly against Portuguese side Arouca, currently coached by Jorge Leitao, is mentioned. Stefan Gamble admits that cost would be an issue but could happen if such an opportunity affords itself.

Every transfer deal is unique. Some have fees some don't. All transfers carry a risk and clubs can sometimes make mistakes. Agents have less time to shift their players thanks to the new loan regulations.

The club's unwillingness to pay agents fees is not considered that much of an issue. However fees are part and parcel of the modern game.

Income from Watford's potential sale of Troy Deeney (believed to be 20% of the Hornets' profit) is mentioned. Board would discuss the possibility of buying the freehold of Banks's Stadium. How much the club receives depends on how Watford are paid (instalments, add-ons etc)

Stefan Gamble would be very keen to hold another concert at Banks's Stadium. Have held discussions with promoters about potential artists.

Many other minor issues were discussed including the colour of the Swift on the club crest, Chips and much more!


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