FANS FOCUS: News From Thursday Evening's Event

Here is a run down of events from Thursday evening's Fans Focus event, which saw Walsall manager Jon Whitney joined by club Secretary Dan Mole, Director Leigh Pomlett, and Chief Executive Stefan Gamble as they answered supporters' questions.
On Thursday evening Walsall manager Jon Whitney was joined by club Secretary Dan Mole, Director Leigh Pomlett, and Chief Executive Stefan Gamble as they answered supporters questions at the latest Fans Focus meeting. Here is a run down of events.

Please note that some of the evening's events have been restructured for clarity.

The evening began with Chief Executive Stefan Gamble reading out answers to questions which were posed to club Chairman Jeff Bonser, who was not in attendance. Questions about club structure, future plans and the possibility of a sale were asked.

The Chairman insisted he does care about the club and claimed that the ultimate aim is to see the club established in the Championship. He would be open to selling if a reasonable offer came in.

'The Venue' was also mentioned but, as is always the case, it was pointed out that the commercial side of the club is part of what keeps the playing side in business, but football is still the main focus.

"Of course I care about the club as the Football League's longest-serving chairman. Football is our core business. The Venue is to generate money to help achieve success on the field. I would listen to sensible offers for the freehold of the stadium"
- Jeff Bonser

Jeff, who revealed that there hasn't been a rent increase in eight years, is open to reuniting the club with its stadium and income from the potential sale of Troy Deeney by Watford could allow that to happen.

The chairman also insisted that manager Jon Whitney was a good choice for the club having served a long apprenticeship in a variety of positions before taking up the managerial role. It was said to have been a 'natural progression'.

Bonser also insisted that the club does advertise on the large screen which faces the M6but it is also used to generate income from other advertisers. Jeff and also revealed that his brother Robert plays a role in the clubs commercial activities. Board member Peter Gilman has an extensive contact book and is seen as an asset to the club.

We then moved on to questions from the floor...

A supporter said that Jon Whitney's style of football is kick and rush. And questioned why it had changed from the previously successful 'football philosophy'. He also asks why balls are pumped up to the notably short Erhun Oztumer.

The manager insisted that the players are not coached that way. And pointed out that they had signed players who could play high tempo possession football. The 47-year-old said that the players had begun to take it on board, especially after the Emirates FA Cup defeat to Newport County, as performances improved in the immediate aftermath.

We try to bring players in who want to play possession-based football. After Newport, we had four or five performances where we started to play the right way.
- Jon Whitney

The manager admitted that the club has to develop its own players. Eleven of the current twenty-six man squad are under twenty years of age, the philosophy is to develop. The club takes pride in its youngsters.

Central defender Kory Roberts was mentioned. He is thought of very highly and could one day lead the club.

Stefan Gamble revealed that the club are in talks with Liam Kinsella over an extension to his current contract, which is due to end in around six-months time. Talks are said to be progressing well.

I have had 30 years in football as a player, coach, assistant manager. Am I the finished article? Definitely not. But everyone learns every day. And I can look in the mirror because I have done nothing to the detriment to the club.
- Jon Whitney

Questions were raised about the positive spin put on the fact that the club lie three points off twelfth position. The manager insisted that the season has not finished. And revealed that the club still have plans for this season and are determined to put smiles on faces.

I know I cannot turn all of you tonight but I'm determined to turn you over the next few months.
- Jon Whitney

A fan insisted that Jon Whitney had been thrown under the bus and Jeff Bonser should have been in attendance. This drew a round of applause from several in attendance.

Dan Mole insisted that the club's philosophy goes deeper than one man and admitted that it has failed to communicate with its supporters thus allowing JW to bear the brunt of supporter frustrations.

The club secretary also revealed that there was a board meeting following the defeat to Newport which focused on returning to its previous philosophy.

The chairman was mentioned once again as a supporter queried when the club will cease to be a so-called pension fund. This was added to the pile for Mr Bonser to answer at a later date.

The club's budget was discussed when a fan asked whether the club had overspent on players such as Luke Leahy and Nicky Devlin. The manager insisted that he gets what he can out of the budget, but pointed out that it's always better to produce your own... Player that is, fairly sure that producing your own money is illegal...

Whitney went on to insist that the club is at the lower end of the budget spectrum with almost every club in the league having more to spend. Club must continue to be sustainable. There is room for additions but the club must continue to produce players of its own. Jon firmly believes that the club can be successful with him at the helm.

Tactics were back on the agenda. JW admitted that the club needs to improve in some areas including set pieces. Long ball football widely criticised. Team need to turn draws into wins.

The manager revealed that he has been offered several other jobs but is committed to the cause. Also revealed that he is on his way to gaining his pro coaching badges, currently working through his UEFA B qualification.

Jon also insisted that Social Media is a slow acting poison which he doesn't want to affect his players. Although we believe he would highly recommend that you follow @BescotBanter on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram...

The future of the Wizard of Oz is discussed. The club have offered him three 'really good' deals but he (and his agent) have turned them down. Have met with him on several occasions. The club have not received any offers so far during the January Transfer Window.

Stefan Gamble insists that Erhun has not said no to the club and appears open to other offers, but club are yet to reach the level required as the Turkish Messi is keen to consider his options.

A supporter accuses the board members of being Jeff Bonser's yes men. Director Leigh Pomlett insists that if he was not on the board he'd be amongst the fans, but would not partake in Saturday's protest. He also insisted that the club is run very well compared to several others.

Both Stefan Gamble and Dan Mole admitted that communication needs to improve. Agreed that the powers that be had buried their heads in the sand and need to work harder to connect with supporters.

Jon admitted that Simeon Jackson has not performed. He considers the striker a friend and wished he'd found the back of the net on more occasions.

Leigh Pomlett is asked about the rent which the club pays for facilities. The director insisted that many clubs pay more and get a lot less. But the £440,000 is a cost the club has to bear. The club should explore more options when it comes to buying the freehold.

Whitney admitted that he would have liked to have re-signed Zeli Ismail. He also agreed that the club needs to add pace to the squad.

The manager admitted that crashing out of the cups was disappointing, and insisted that he couldn't defend it. He went on to say that he has to make sure that supporters have something to look forward to. We've got to enjoy watching our young players and fulfil their potential.

The club are already negotiating with Kory Roberts over a new deal. Desire is to tie him down to a long-term deal.

The club's commercial set up, otherwise known as 'The Venue' was also mentioned. The decision to use Birmingham as the location was to drive people to the club. Though the club is apparently proud to be from the Black Country, not sure those two statements marry up... It is insisted that the club understands supporters frustrations, but it was purely for the commercial side.

A supporter drew applause after stating that the club should be seeking a consortium to take over, similar to Chesterfield. Although that is for prospective buyers to consider rather than the current owner...

Leigh Pomlett said that he will share supporters' frustrations with Jeff Bonser. Though he can't promise what the outcome will be. The director also insisted that the board will respect the protest planned for Saturday, but will not go out to meet those in attendance. Keen to avoid trouble.

Olly Beckett, the supporter who has organised the protest said that if Mr Bonser had shown up then the protest would not have gone ahead. Mr Pomlett said he would inform the chairman of that fact.

A supporter asked about loans and permanent deals, wondered if the club are seeking loans from local clubs... The main priority is permanent deals, but loans are part of life at this level. Earlier in the evening Jon Whitney admitted that he'd prefer a club full of permanent signings,but that could not always be the case.

Chief Executive Stefan Gamble revealed that the cost of the freehold for Banks's Stadium is somewhere between £5,000,000 and £7,000,000. Plenty of income to be made, so not surprising really.

Leigh Pomlett ruled himself out of a run for the role of Chairman. Insisting that he is not the answer to our prayers.

Assistant manager, or First-Team coach as he is otherwise known, Ian Sharps is mentioned... It is stated that Ian is just 18-months removed from his retirement and is far from the finished article.

The potential transfer of Troy Deeney from Watford is mentioned. It is all hypothetical at this stage, although if a deal is done the club would be in line for a large cash sum.

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