Media and Communications Manager Grant Morris, this morning managed to get a few words with Club Chairman Danny Hunter, on a variety of topics.
GM: Good Morning Mr Chairman, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions. My first question is how have you found the new National league and are you confident we can maintain our status in this division come April?
DH: Morning Grant, the league as you’ve seen is a great league to be competing in and it’s at a different level to anything we’ve ever come across. It has football league clubs, it has great players, great stadia and in truth we’re enjoying it immensely. I’m now also very confident with the changes that we’ve made and with the quality of our current squad, I believe we’re now good enough on and off the field, to not only compete but to progress ourselves at this level..
GM: It has been mentioned that it was a brave decision by you to go to day time training. It obviously meant drastic changes and meant the promotion play off winning side of last season was in many ways dismantled. We lost players, lost a manager, lost his coaching staff and so with hindsight do you regret that at all??
DH: Good question.. No looking back I do not regret it in the slightest.. As a Chairman you can’t get over emotional about what we did when talking about yesterday and at the time, the play off final victory seemed a million miles away. We needed to deal with the here and now and the reality was that we had lost 8 of our first eleven league games or In simple terms we had just 7 points from a possible 33.. Though we had competed well in most games, the results showed that we were not good enough and the league table simply reflected that. I felt then and I do now, that without change and further personal investment, a slow relegation was inevitable..
In truth it just felt like some of my existing staff, both old and new players had little belief and were using our part time status and “little Boreham Wood” as an excuse to fail and the 3-2 home defeat to Bromley was the final straw for me..
GM: So you went full time and within weeks you had lost your long term manager in Ian Allinson to his other work commitments, that must have been a real blow to you? When Ian resigned was it always in your mind to promote Luke Garrard to the managers position, as the appointment was made relatively quickly??
DH: To lose Ian was of course more than a blow.. We had shared so many great times together, had built trust and two promotion squads and had success over many years. In hindsight and we’d all like hindsight in our armoury, we had built a lot of the recent clubs successful history together but we had to deal with today and not all our yesterdays..
In truth Ian knew that the switch to daytime training was necessary and was in agreement with me on it. By making the switch it showed us both just how far we’d brought the club and he was a casualty of his own success..
To not of made the daytime change however, would of been a dereliction of my duty to my club , my staff, my players and to our supporters. As Chairman too see us slip back too the Conference South without giving ourselves a fighting chance, was not something Ian or myself were prepared to oversee..
GM: Sorry to ask again Chairman, but when Ian resigned was it always your intention to promote Luke Garrard up to the managers position, baring in mind his young age and his limited managerial experience??
DH: It wasn’t a case of “was it always my intention”, it was simply a case of he was the right man for the job, once Ian had made up his mind to step down. Both myself and Ian had mentored Luke for many years and knew that he was an outstanding young coach and felt with guidance that he could be an even better manager. He was a driving force under Ian in our promotion campaign and as a coach over the last decade has helped me build an incredible infra structure albeit at our Academy level..
It was often discussed by myself and Ian, that Luke and to be fair Mario Noto would be the heirs apparent when Ian felt it the right time to go but we never envisaged that it would be this season or that we would be going full time just yet. Both Ian’s and Mario’s resignations were for me at the time massive setbacks but the reality was that I had to deal with it and it brought the Luke managerial timeline forward almost overnight..
As a Chairman setbacks are part and parcel of football. Its no good being an Ostrich , you must look to find solutions, as problems don’t just go away, they must be overcome and difficult decisions right or wrong have to be made..
Leadership must be shown not only by ones actions but by clarity of thought. I felt by appointing Luke regardless of his age and with the minimum of fuss, that it would help create evolution not revolution and it sat well with me then and it does now. It is also a strategy of promoting from within, that I have implemented successfully in all my companies and in my film career as a Prop Master over many years..
GM: Ok thanks for being clear on that.. Then In your opinion do you think that since Luke has taken over the managerial reigns that our chances of survival have improved or declined and what are you expecting for the remainder of the season??
DH: I certainly do think that since Luke has taken over, that our survival chances have improved and improved greatly.. That’s not being in anyway detrimental to Ian Allinson but if you analyse things. We now train three times a week during the day, as such we are physically fitter. We now have more unhurried contact time, so in turn we are more mentally prepared for each game and I believe it is now showing..
Also by making the daytime switch it enabled Luke to sign at least 6 or 7 players that have greatly improved our squad. With better players the team improves and it’s belief in each other is also improving by the day. The squad now has real depth to it and the stats clearly show me that we have gone from losing 8 of our first 11 league games, to a side who have now lost just 5 of our next 18 league games and now have the fifth best defensive record in the league..
If we can convert just some of our draws into wins, then we’ll be more than just fine and we’ll be out of this mess come the end of March.. During a season like this, the pressure must always rest on the Chairman’s shoulders. As much pressure as possible must be taken off the manager and the dressing room or they will began n too play fear football and at that point you have a problem..
I believe as this clubs Chairman I must lead it and if need be put my hand in my pocket. Strong leadership doesn’t mean making change for change sake, it doesn’t mean shouting and hollering every two minutes. It means as I said earlier, having clarity of thought, it means being calm but firm when necessary and most importantly it needs patience and belief but patience comes only if you genuine belief in your staff and your players and I genuinely do..
If as a Chairman I don’t have that belief, then I must change things early enough to make a difference or the club will face certain relegation, hence the move to day time training.. After 17 seasons as Chairman I hope I have the experience to of done that successfully but we’ll find that out soon enough come the seasons end??
GM: on a completely different topic, the crowds are up this year and with the rejuvenated Wood Army really trying to create more of an atmosphere at both our home and away games, are you pleased with the increased support and have you got a message or messages for the Wood Army.
DH: The Wood Army have been great and they have been mobilising for a good while now.. They are fun, knowledgeable and really are doing their best for the boys especially away from home. Unfortunately there just isn’t enough of them either at our home or away games and they are now realising like I did many years ago, that they are facing an uphill struggle to increase their numbers..
They do though with their immense efforts, always have both my and the dressing rooms heartfelt thanks.. As such I have tried to support them in the National league this season, with the subsidised travel club, with reduced season ticket prices, even with assisted train travel to the aborted Barrow game.. But like me, they must find the lack of home support we receive from this town frustrating to the point of embarrassment??
We are now one of the top 24 non league teams in the country, playing in a fantastic National league and we have little more than 300 home supporters most weeks but it is what it is and what more can we all do??
As for a message to the Wood Army?? They don’t need messages from me, they just need to continue doing what they’ve done all season. Support their club, support Luke and the dressing room and hopefully they will get their rewards.. They will need to show calmness, show patience and show a real belief in their team but as supporters that’s easier said than done.. When survival has been achieved and it will be reached, I’ll look forward to sharing a pint or two with them, knowing that we collectively made a difference but until then, their belief and positivity will be absolutely crucial for the dressing room..
GM: Looking into that crystal ball of yours Danny, what does the future hold for our football club and where do you see us in the next five years or so?
DH: Wow what a question, what does the future hold??
Firstly Grant, survival and winning the Herts Senior Cup this season would do me for starters. However with our lack of home support, our ambition to achieve a sustainable club at this level will be very hard to achieve..
Our progress in my opinion can only be made by forgetting about any significant rise in home support, as the middle classes of this town never delivers. As such it will need even more investment from myself, from my companies and I will need to take a view on that and ensure that my investment is not just an ego thing..
I have to say in all honesty as a father and a grandfather, that the match day entry costs at this level of football are already too expensive.. So I cannot justify putting up entry prices further and will need to keep building our clubs infra structure, try to create more commercial opportunities and try and come up with even more diverse income streams to compensate..
I still have my dreams for our football club but dreams don’t pay the bills and it is ridiculously difficult to realise a dream when a club like ours has such a small home fan base..
So to answer your original question Grant, what does the future hold?? All I will say is that I was never brought up to sit on the back of the bus. I’ll do my very best to keep driving this club forward and I really do love proving the doubters wrong. Remember after our promotion from the Southern Eastern division, they told us we would be relegated from the Ryman Premier, well we proved them wrong.. When we got promoted from the Ryman Prem to the Conference South, they told us we would get relegated from the Conference South, we again proved them wrong.. After 5 years in the Conference South, we got promoted to the National league and since our promotion, we’ve been told continually that we’ll be relegated this season. So I’ll take great delight when we once again prove the present doubters wrong..
This is the town I live in and love, this is the club my father managed to give so much success too in the 60’s and 70’s. This is the club I played for so badly and didn’t even make it out of our reserves. This is in truth a real old fashioned football club, with a small band of loyal supporters. It’s not a play thing to gamble with and I have tried to serve it to the best of my ability for the last 17 years as Chairman. I’ve now experienced the tears and desolation of relegations. I’ve also experienced the tears of joy and complete euphoria of those incredible promotions and cup triumphs..
So I’m experienced enough to tell you this. There’s no guarantees in football and as the lowest supported club in the National league. Without the correct attitude, discipline and desire within every sinew of our football club. Without a belief and support structure in each other, we will struggle to avoid relegation..
So I’m asking you and the supporters to trust me when I tell you, that with my staff, this squad and our management team, we have all the attributes needed to succeed and we will progress this club and to do that we must firstly stay in this league..
GM: Thank you Mr Chairman once again for speaking to me this morning and being so open and honest with your answers..
DH: Its my pleasure Grant, can I also say on behalf of everyone connected with BWFC, huge congratulations to both you and your partner Jo, on the birth of your beautiful baby boy.. I’ll be interested to see if Jo now allows you to join me and the Wood Army up at Southport on Saturday ha ha..