Boreham Wood Chairman Danny Hunter spoke to the club’s Media and Communications manager Craig Draycott, about the heartache of losing out at Wembley; the difficulties in signing players in the months of May and June; the hopes of the club for next season; the home pre-season fixtures and a surprise announcement regarding the gaffer, Luke Garrard.
As always, he was his usual honest and candid self. While, his candour perhaps shows why the smaller clubs within the National league, often need to remain more than patient during this period that the Chairman calls ‘silly season.’
CD: Thank you for sparing the time to talk to me Chairman, as I know how busy things are at the moment around the club.
There is of course the new North Stand proposal gathering pace – with building conditions being discharged – and the PASE Academy recruitment now well and truly upon us.
DH: No problem Craig, it’s my pleasure.
CD: Firstly, I know that it was extremely painful for you personally, but how have the club, the manager, the dressing room and the staff coped in the weeks since our loss to Tranmere Rovers in the Promotion Final at Wembley?
That loss obviously meant that we didn’t get the promotion that we had all dreamt about, but has it played a large part in us loosing players like talisman Bruno Andrade?
DH: Blimey, that’s a straight up gut wrencher of a question to start off with haha… In truth Craig, in terms of the dressing room I’m not really sure, as they’ve mostly all gone off now on their hols, and to get some much-needed family time. But, after such a gruelling season, I assume like me, they would have been devastated, as it would feel like ‘so near yet so far.’
But, the everyday disappointment I see in the club’s day-to-day staff, and in myself, is still palpable. But, the gaffer in truth, though hurting, has still been incredibly positive. I can’t though seem to get it out of my mind at present and it has consumed me a tad. But, that was my town, our community, our club, and our dressing room, giving it everything they had, and unfortunately, we’re not looking forward to League Two football next season, and I feel like I somehow let them all down.
That said, I do need to find a way to get myself back on the horse, to push the club on, give the manager a better budget, get our staff refocused and get our PASE recruitment spot on for next season.
But to reiterate your question, if the players and everyone connected with our club have felt like me, then they wouldn’t have coped well. It was, and is, such a bitter pill to swallow and no doubt our defeat will cost us a few players.
CD: Although we lost Dan, there were so many positives to take from the season. It was also so evident after securing the play-offs, with victory over Guiseley, that the whole town was proud of you, Luke, the club, and the dressing room, for what it was achieving, when nobody thought we could do it, except us.
So, for a club so small, and for me as an employee in his first season, it was amazing what we achieved.
But, you must see it as a positive that with so many of last season’s squad already committed to us for next season, that we can look forward with optimism, and you must be more than hopeful that we can build on last season’s progress?
DH: You might think that, and you might look at all those positives as a plus – but I’m not so sure.
The only way to build on last season is to go one better and go up and that’s incredibly difficult… We have already lost Bruno Andrade’s character, ability, assists and his goals. We’ll probably now lose our ‘keeper Grant Smith, who’s got himself a new agent and we’ll probably lose one or two day-to-day staff, because we are a 44-week, part-time football club and not a full-time 52-week football club.
On top of that, we’ve lost four or five of our loan players, who have all gone back to their parent clubs and as such, we’ll need to strengthen sensibly, but only with players who possess the right attitude, discipline and desire, for Luke’s dressing room and this football club…
So we’ve all got a lot of work to do and at the moment the whole football world at our level is a giant chaotic money lottery – as its run by advisors, agents and the full-time money teams… Agents in truth, are presently holding all the aces and agents are asking silly money for their clients and as such, agents are creating the same old silly season – but this year it really does seem so much worse.
It’s not the same as in previous years, but as the weeks go by, silly season does get more realistic and some really good players end up getting released by their league clubs, and by the end of June, the Football League, and full time National league, player’s contracts expire, and they are suddenly left without a club.
So, as always, we must keep our nerve, as I’ve been here before with my managers many times.
We’ve of course tried testing the water in both April and May… But we cannot get involved at this stage of silly season. And, though my gaffer has met with dozens of players and their representatives – the monies being spoke about are way beyond my spending levels.
As such, I cannot put our club’s stability in jeopardy or we could end up like a Hartlepool, Dagenham or Chester, who last season all struggled financially… In truth though, I’m not as unhappy as you might think, as some of the players we’ve been offered have more relegations, more mediocrity, or more injury layoffs, on their CV’s than they have success stories – and in any other walk of life, their agents would be classed as chancers trying they’re luck.
CD: Chairman, when you say that we are a 44-week, part-time football club, is that how you see us and is that possibly putting some players off?
And, if we are a 44-week part-time club, can you explain to the supporters what you mean by that, because many people assume that we are full-time, because the players do their work and train during the day?
DH: Yes I can Craig, although if I try to detail my answer, it becomes a bit long winded… but here goes.
An awful lot of National League clubs at our level are, as you know, big ex-league clubs historically. Most of these clubs have budgets way in excess of a million pound and they are obviously categorised as full time and these clubs will be on most agent’s priority radar, and on most player’s wish lists.
The full-time clubs are like any other major company in this country, and their staff and players are on quite handsome 52-week contracts. These clubs tend to train four mornings a week, tend to have decent infrastructures and most have great support bases to call upon.
These clubs in truth, only compare to ourselves in that they also play on a Saturday and in mid-week. They tend, as the norm, to have say a Wednesday and a Sunday off. While all their players and staff are paid throughout the summer, plus their travel and overnight hotel costs, run to tens of thousands of pounds.
You then get the clubs for example, like perhaps a Braintree or a Maidenhead – who I believe are going to run very much like the normal part-time model. Although, this type of model for many of the existing National League clubs, is becoming less and less used – these clubs train two, perhaps three, times a week in the evenings, and we found it more difficult to compete.
Most of the part-time players and staff will also have daytime jobs, that in the main suit their personal situations. And that model was pretty much us, when we first went up to the National League three years ago.
My manager and most of our players were on 38-week contracts, that we set as per the length of the league season we played.
After those examples – you then have clubs like say ourselves, Sutton, Maidstone, Bromley, etc. who are all quietly trying to evolve and improve. These clubs are in truth not quite full-time, but are now perhaps training three times a week, in the mornings.
Clubs like ourselves are trying to put in place competent infrastructures, build better training facilities, improve their catering, create competent analysis and medical departments and are trying to improve their Academy structures.
This is where we presently sit – but step-by-step, we are trying to get most of our players and staff onto 44-week contracts as the norm – but in truth, we are not quite there yet.
We are though very fortunate, that our infrastructure is getting very strong. And, we are now able to offer additional coaching positions within both our academy and community programmes to some of our players.
That said, you can only offer those positions to the right type of staff, players or coaches. As trust me, it’s not for everybody and some of our players and staff cannot operate effectively in a high pressured full-time PASE Academy environment – if that makes sense?
CD: Yes it does, as I get to see how the staff, academy and club operates every day, and I get to witness the discipline, intensity and energy levels required of our coaches and staff at the club. And, the lengths that you, the manager, and the club are going to, in trying to sign the right type of staff, coach and player.
Moving on Dan, can you please update the supporters on the new North Stand, as I know that it was hoped that the stand would have started by now and it has obviously been delayed. Is there a change of plan, or are the delays just a timing issue?
DH: Unfortunately, the stand build has been delayed for a number of reasons that have included our lease extension, certain planning conditions being discharged, and certain tender price issues.
It’s given me time though, to relook at the tenders, and in certain areas put in further scrutiny and further analysis. This has led to a bit of adjusting in certain areas, to give us a better project when completed. There’s no point in me rushing to make a wrong decision at this stage and it’s my job in truth, to ensure that all monies needed to complete the stand, and concourses, are firstly in place, secondly secured and thirdly spent wisely.
But the delay Craig, is nothing but a blip and I do expect us to be off and running by July – and we’ll then see if we can’t make up for a little bit of lost time on the build programme over the coming months.
The important thing though Craig, is for me to get it right – to ensure that our project gives us value for money and for me to ensure that our council, our supporters, our residents and the Football Foundation, are happy with what is a very exciting project – as it’s a project that I feel will change the landscape of our community football club.
CD: Thanks for clearing that up, as it’s something that our supporters did want clarifying, as they were worried that the project had been shelved.
So now, looking ahead once again Chairman, you seem to have attracted yet another set of top class home pre-season games.
To have Arsenal, Brentford, Crystal Palace and AFC Wimbledon lined up is amazing, but does it make it too hard for Luke and the dessing room at times, and is that type of top quality opposition, always good for our preparation?
DH: Firstly, yes the opposition is quality, but Luke and the players love those types of physical and mental tests and examinations. It also brings in a good home crowd, which helps Luke’s budget and helps our community programmes. While, it also enables me to send the lads to Cornwall to my friend John Brend’s hotel, for a week’s intensive training, as part of their pre-season fitness and bonding programme.
But for balance, on top of those high-profile games. We will also be playing Hitchin, Slough Town and Barnstaple away from home and this will test our players and staff in different ways.
As such, I think it’s a great pre-season programme… A programme that’s been carefully thought through by myself, Luke and our medical team. It’s not too over loaded with games, but it’s designed to ensure we’re strong physically and prepared mentally, as trust me, we aim to start next season on the front foot.
CD: Finally Chairman, there was a lot of speculation again about Luke Garrard being touted for the Barnet manager’s position. When I spoke to you about it, you declined to comment last month. Was that deliberate on your part, and was there any truth in those rumours that they were courting him?
Also, are you worried that if we continue to be successful, then there will be continued speculation and rumour, about not only Luke, but some of our players?
DH: Firstly Craig, I’ve been in football too long to get caught up in rumours and nonsense and remember, I backed Luke and our dressing room when we needed to win our last three games to stay up a few years back. Plus, I’ve supported, worked closely with and mentored Luke and our other loyal staff for many years now. As such, I simply felt I didn’t need to comment, as they all understand that loyalty, honesty, and what we’ve been building, is a two-way street, and in my eyes that has never wavered.
Of course people will comment on Luke’s talent, whether that’s Barnet or clubs elsewhere – and so they should. Why? Because both he and the club had a great season; plus our staff and players are talented and Barnet and other clubs I could mention recognise that. So of course, speculation, whether it be about Luke, Cameron Mawer, Bruno Andrade, or our other talents, is always going to surface and resurface – and as such, social media did what I expected it to, nothing more.
In truth, it was always my intention to get our season and play offs out of the way. See what division we were actually in and then sit down with Luke and the staff quietly as we always do. Then see where all were and how we all saw things.
Luke knows with me, that I have to build sensibly, and that means slowly – step-by-step. And, I know if the staff were to become impatient with me or the club, then that means I’d have a problem – but that’s not and never has been the case.
Luke knows I still have to build the correct infrastructure for this league, this community, and the league above. the staff know I still have to fund our club and our community programmes by creating diverse income streams, and we all know I still have to find a playing budget that will allow Luke to be competitive.
The upshot is that Luke and myself have quietly agreed another extension to his deal. I’m delighted to say we’ve agreed a new three-year commitment to each other and our football club. And it was agreed, as it always been done, on a handshake, a hug, and an understanding on how we both operate and work.
He’s in truth like my sixth son and I’m very proud of him; his family are my family, and vice versa. But trust me, right now Luke doesn’t need any more pressure from me or anyone, as I believe he’s going into his most difficult season in football – as people’s expectation at present is completely unrealistic.
Trust me, we’re both going to have to work smart not stupid over the next few months to even contemplate challenging again. We’re both going to have to target and re-target the right type of characters both on-and-off the field. We’ll need to maximise every penny at our disposal to give us an edge and we’re both going to have to manage the expectation levels of our supporters, our town, and even our sponsors, as its sure to be there after last season’s efforts.
CD: I genuinely wasn’t expecting you to announce that…Luke extending his contact for another three years, is incredible news. I can imagine that the town, the supporters, and the dressing room, will all be buzzing to hear that, having given us a fourth placed finish, got us into to the play-offs and got us to Wembley.
That just shows everyone what can be done with a stable club, a progressive Chairman, a great manager, a good dressing room, and committed staff… Thanks for the interview Chairman, and with that announcement regarding Luke, it seems like the perfect place to end.
DH: My pleasure Craig; but let’s all remember that our football club, and Luke needs everyone’s support in both the bad times as well as the good. And trust me, we’ll all have some really tricky moments over the next three years – as that’s the nature of football and the business we’re in.