Interview conducted by Grant Morris
GM; My first question Chairman is quite simple. We did what everyone said was impossible and stayed in the National League. We were the smallest club in it with the smallest support base in the division, so is it realistic to think we can continue to compete at this level or even dream of progressing??
DH; We all dream Grant and dreams cost nothing but to remain at this level or progress from this level will cost plenty.. On the flip side Braintree and Dover have shown us all that nothing is impossible, if you have the right attitude, discipline and desire..
For our gaffer, dressing room, me and my staff, the pressure to keep the club in the National League is huge and for me to continue to balance the budgets is ridiculously hard. It’s also in truth been a very tiring season for us all. As such it’s now time for me, to re-evaluate how much are things now affecting my health, my other company’s and more importantly my family life..
The club as you can imagine does now take up an awful lot of my time and it will need subsidising again from my company’s and me personally.. As such my company’s do have to be able to absorb the clubs needs and I do need to look at the time that is needed for every part of my life to remain strong..
On top of that, I have had to consider my staff’s workload, look to see if we can improve our home support and ensure that our sponsors are happy. But I must also not lose sight that I’m firstly a family man who happens to love his club and I need to create more family time for my eight grandchildren..
I’m not a charity and this football club is not a charity case but the reality is that without me, we simply cannot operate at our present National League level.. That realistically means that sometimes we cannot afford to shop at the top table especially around the early part of post season..
Most of our old school loyal supporters understand my dilemma and in truth they have rang the club or sent in letters thanking myself and the staff, which was very kind of them.. I think they are all just grateful that we have made it this far together and they remember only too well our trips to St Margretsbury, Tilbury, Ilford and Great Wakering Rovers, as it wasn’t that long ago..
Four or five fans though do want to whinge it seems for the sake of whinging. They are in truth becoming a distraction to me, to my staff and in all honesty to some of their fellow supporters.. These well-meaning people and they know who they are. Do genuinely want us to do well but they also think we can compete at National league level and have a top class squad and improve facilities, with no outside investment, no increased home support and with disappointing season ticket sales…
They also want a tidy ground, they want a top class pitch and they want their team to be trained and prepared properly.. Well as we all know, all that and subsidised travel for the fans does come at a cost. As such it feels at present that these four or five people are saying that they want me to continue to subsidise all and sundry and trying to influence others with their standpoints..
At the moment they are up in arms over kids early bird season tickets prices going up from a tenner to thirty quid or in real terms going from 43p to £1.30 a game.. If they really think I should be all things to all people, then I’m not that type of person and I’m definitely the wrong Chairman for these newer supporters..
In my mind £1.30 a game, is the equivalent of letting their children in for next to nothing and in my opinion it does represent great value. Great value when compared to the local cinema, to the swimming baths or even the costs of playing for their local youth football teams..
They do it seems expect Luke Garrard and myself to be able to attract top players with no or little supporter commitment and that can only mean a more limited budget and cheaper players.. They obviously want cheap entry, they want subsidised travel, they want cheap everything and that’s fine by me, if they want relegation..
Grant have I missed their point? They know that we must operate with the lowest league attendances by a considerable margin. They know even with me putting in fortunes each season just to compete and they then whinge at paying £1.30 for a kid to watch National League football..
If people genuinely want us to compete, then surely they have to stop complaining about a £1.30 entrance fee to watch National League Football. People really do need to understand that a kids season ticket is just £30 and even if we sold 50 that’s just £1,500. Trust me that wouldn’t even cover the monies I give the supporters back through their subsidised away travel club..
I only want the £30 to see a commitment, as these fees show an adult supporters intent and it shows a commitment from family’s to attend regularly next season.. These people all need to stop the negativity and stop it now. They need to think back to our Ryman years and be positive going forward.. We are now a National League club, we are now one of the top 24 non-league club in the whole country and It has taken us 67 years to get here, it takes one bad year to start going backwards and we’re going off to Tranmere, Wrexham and Torquay again for god’s sake..
Also Grant please, please, please save me from the “I believe the children are our future” argument, it’s such complete diatribe and that line is so much better, when it’s sung by Whitney Huston or George Benson ha ha.. I find it sad when it’s the same four or five people,, always moaning about everything, whenever they have to remotely put their hand in their pocket..
It’s got to the stage when I simply have to stop listening. However when it affects the positivity of other supporters, then I have to consider why I do what I do and if I still want to do it.. These same moaners don’t seem to mind getting on free or subsidised minibuses or coaches, that i provide and they never dream of saying thank you, Is there some kind of hypocrisy in there??
My opinion for what it’s worth is this.. If anyone does not want to pay for a £30 child season ticket (£1.30 a game) or for an adult season ticket for that matter (under £10 a game, plus BWTV match highlights and interviews, plus a match e-programme included). Then that’s fine as its called consumer choice.. However these people are creating a negativity with their nonsense and cannot complain when there negativity gets us relegated when I pull the budget..
Were simply a small but great local community football club, that’s just pulled off the impossible by staying up and if people are so worried about £1.30 a game or paying £30 then we really are stuffed..
So back to your question Grant and apologies for putting the clubs argument over in your Q and A.. But put simply, NO we cannot progress with any conviction, when we only get 250 regular home supporters attending the majority of our home games and when we have a few vocal supporters who don’t want to pay £1.30 to bring their kids to a game of National league football.. If we genuinely want to progress.. Then it will take the town, the council and especially the new supporters, to change their mind-set, as the towns and our supporters ambition, cannot sit at my door for forever and a day..
GM; Thanks for such an honest answer Dan, Next question.. With live National League games featuring BWFC and with nearly all our league games now broadcast live on BBC local radio, with us featuring regularly on Sky Sports and with us now being part of a BT Sport highlights programme every Sunday night, our clubs profile has certainly been raised.. As our clubs media and communications manager, It’s fair to say, that every local person I’ve spoken to who likes their football, does appear to follow us through the local newspaper, through TV, radio or through our website and social media.. Why then apart for the big cup games, doesn’t it lead to increased support on a regular basis??
DH; I really don’t know why Grant but if I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked that question I could retire tomorrow. I certainly do agree with you though in regards to the clubs profile being raised around the town.. Our profile has also been raised around the surrounding areas as well. We now have a slowly growing support from Barnet, Shenley, Elstree, Bushey, Watford and Radlett.. Our website activity is still growing and we now get regular hits of between 20,000 and 30,000 hits a month which equates to over quarter of a million hits a year. Our Twitter interest seems to grow and that has in fact increased our facility usage..
It’s now my aim to convert any upsurge in local interest, into attracting further sponsorship across the board.. I will always look at ways of improving things locally for people and if I can secure council support and some additional grants from the football foundation, then I have some projects that I believe will improve things for local people..
As for our small home support, its literally an ongoing situation that never does resolve itself. In truth it’s not something that I want to get too hung up on, as it does make me negative and unfortunately for me every new supporter with enthusiasm has the answer and every old supporter like myself, pretty much knows what the outcome will be..
That said Grant, there’s no denying our support is poor in comparison to the Tranmere’s, Wrexham’s and the Grimsby Towns of this world.. However on a positive note, this league is full of ex-football league clubs and even with our small home crowds, we did enough to relegate one of the big ex-football league in Halifax Town.. Remember these clubs not only have enormous support basis but all have better commercial opportunities in their towns and city’s compared to us.. They also have lucrative match day hospitality and stadium income streams that we cannot get anywhere near.. It’s these things that sustain and cement the bigger clubs playing budgets and for some that means budgets way in excess of a million pounds per annum..
Our journey though is not comparable to most teams in the National League. It is a journey in truth from another planet, as we’ve struggled for 67 years in the lower leagues.. Our route to the National League, has seen us come through the Southern Eastern division, the Ryman Premier league and the Conference South in the last 10 years. We’ve gone and done that with not much more than a 100 regular home supporters and that’s a fact..
GM; Are you saying that we cannot compete on a National level with the big boys and is it just a matter of time before we inevitably go back to where we’ve come from?? Also does that make it difficult to attract new players and new personnel to the club when we operate on a limited budget??
DH; The honest answer is if we don’t increase our support or I continue to investment, then yes.. I am just stating the obvious, of course we cannot compete with the big ex league clubs in this division. It’s a simple fact that my staff, our supporters other than a few totally understand but if we all want to dream and I think we do, then a trip down Wembley Way in the FA Trophy has become a dream of mine..
Grant, if you want quality players, then money does talk at every level as you climb the pyramid. I have to accept that these bigger clubs are all steeped in a rich league history and by looking at their websites, they are all already booming with next seasons ticket sales, when we’ve sold just twenty..
Their average home crowds also give these clubs a solid base for their budgets next season and they then have their enormous commercial and hospitality departments to count on and that combination simply blows us out of the water.. I must accept that next season with little or no season ticket sales as a guide. That the only thing that will keep us at this level, is me heavily subsidising our playing budget again and if my staff can maintain the attitude, discipline and desire to keep proving people wrong..
Having said that, we are now a National League club on merit with a year’s experience at this level. That means we’re doing an awful lot right and myself, my staff and our dressing room, must now find a way to be better than our big club counterparts.. As for attracting good players Grant.. A club of our size will always struggle at this time of year. Players in post season often ask for top dollar but on the flip side, the National Premier League is a league that also attracts very good young talent released out of the football league. Who are looking for a shop window to get themselves back there.. So good players can be picked up but you have to be patient while the big clubs and the big players indulge in silly season..
I always have to remind myself, that there are only so many big non-league clubs in the south of England and as such they can’t sign everyone. We will continue to look for good players but we will look for players that are value for money and more importantly who have the right character. I’m confident Luke and his staff will unearth the right talent but we will only want players with the right attitude, discipline and desire and trust me that’s a very important ingredient to us..
GM; Some people have said it was a brave decision by you last season, to go to day time training. It obviously meant changes and the whole promotion winning dressing room was dismantled. Within weeks we lost players, we lost a manager, we lost coaching staff etc.. So In hindsight Danny do you regret your actions in any way at all and do I take it, that we will remain a club that will train during the day next season??
DH; Grant, a Chairman has to stand and fall by his decision making as I’ve often told you.. We have now stayed up, so no I do not have any regrets regarding the club but i do have a few personally.. The decision though was only ever about the clubs best interests and as our Chairman of seventeen seasons, I did what I believed to be best at the time.. I had to deal with the here and now and by going to a day time training programme it cost me key personnel.
That said I backed my judgement further by then appointing the youngest manager in the top 5 divisions of English football to keep us up and I know people at the time thought I was mad. Going to day time training was one thing but creating a breakfast club for the players, improving the budget, side lining nonsense and subsidising the supporters travel club, gave us a unity, a healthy squad and a belief for the run in and that was borne out by us getting the three wins on the spin that we needed..
Grant, trust me football really isn’t rocket science and it was not too much of gamble, when we had lost 8 of our first eleven league games. It’s not really a gamble when our squad was so light on quality and depth.. This is a big boys league and we were simply not good enough and that was a fact. We had just 7 points In 11 games, we continually fell short at the back end of games and I couldn’t or wouldn’t allow us to dine out on the Tranmere win forever.. So I did what I had to do and fortunately for me, for my staff, for the dressing room and for our supporters. The history books will show that I got the key decisions right in season 2015/16 but boy was it a close call and it’s not something I wish to re visit anytime soon..
GM; I’m sorry for repeating myself, but supporters do want to know. After we went full time and you lost your long term manager in Ian Allinson to his work commitments, that must of been a real blow to you??
When Ian resigned was it always in your mind to appoint Luke Garrard as the appointment was made quite quickly and it did raise a few eyebrows??
DH; Grant, I’ve answered this I think at the supporters Q and A and you’ve asked me this question before.. To lose Ian was of course a blow but it was also a blow to lose Mario Noto, Monty and James Courtnage etc. We have though now stayed up and I believed then and believe now, that if Ian and everyone had stayed and we had remained part time, that we would of gone down. 8 defeats in eleven games and just 7 points gained in that time was just not good enough..
That said, Ian is and always will be a great friend of mine. We are always in contact, we recently holidayed together with our partners. We all went and saw the Motown show up the West End, we all still go out to eat and we will play St Albans at their place in a pre-season friendly.. The reality is that Ian now manages St Albans City and his son Lee (another BWFC promotion winner) has joined him. They have already performed miracles over their but both his and my football lives have moved on..
It’s now Luke Garrard’s time to try and build us new memories here and as we know this league is relentless.. Trust me when I tell you, we have one of the best young managers in the country.. I honestly believe that but I also temper that by saying, Luke at 30 still has lots to learn about himself and life but you would expect that of anyone his age but he does have the right attitude, the right discipline and the right desire to succeed and progress..
GM; Why then with such a decent squad on paper, do you think we struggled last season and it seemed from a distance to take some people an age to settle? While some players who we all thought could make the step up, looked to be way out of their depth at times??
DH; On reflection Grant, perhaps at the start, we just had too many players who were not used to being part time players?? I think in hindsight that they hated training twice weekly in the evenings and it showed.. It also didn’t help that we kept conceding poxy goals in the last 10 minutes of games and it affected confidence..
Your right though we did have a very decent squad. When you look over the season, we had players of calibre of Scott Doe, Danny Woodards, Luke Howell, Conor and Billy Clifford, Joe Devera, Anthony Jeffrey. We also had loanee’s like Clovis Kamdjo, Harry White and Jamie Lucas, plus Mauro Vilhete, Delano Sam Yorke and Dave Stephens.. Plus we had our old boys in, Ricky Shakes, Ben Nunn, Callum Reynolds, Rusty and Junior.
Hindsight though is always easy but if we hadn’t acted decisively and gone quickly to a day time training programme. Then I believe we would now be in the Conference South and planning trips to Whitehawk, East Thurrock and Hampton, not Tranmere, Wrexham and Torquay.. That was not something I wanted to consider and It gave me the kick up the backside i needed and as hard as it is to say, Ian Allinson and Mario Noto were the ultimate casualties..
GM; Dan, when our league position was not looking great, you surely must have doubted the wisdom of your appointment of Luke Garrard as manager? Bearing in mind his young age, the National Leagues demands, our change to full time football and Luke’s limited managerial experience??
Some of our supporters were openly concerned, it looked grim for us after the last minute defeat at Halifax and then the defeat four days later at home to Southport, was that a particular low point??
DH; Of course when you’re sitting in the bottom four Grant, when you lose another two and there’s suddenly just 3 league games left, yes it was more than a low point.. You know you can expect a backlash from the fans, you know the staff are on their knees, you know the sponsors are watching and you know the manager and players are waiting to get battered.. I knew with my experience that my staff, that Luke and the dressing room just couldn’t of coped with a backlash from a hurting and distraught Chairman and that’s when you really do need all your experience..
The natural reaction for me was I suppose, too look to blame someone and I did but I decided the only person to blame was going to be me.. I decided if we were to go down we would go down my way, we would go down swinging and we couldn’t go down in the manner we did a few years back at Ramsgate..
So I decided to give my first interview in years.. I knew I had to protect my manager and my players from the press as they were in truth in bits.. I then went and spoke with our players and my gaffer in their dressing room after the Southport game. It’s a place I had not been in over the last 10 years and we spoke about belief, about unity and about togetherness and of course attitude, discipline and desire..
I asked them to do one thing for me as men and that was not to fold on me. Importantly, I also gave Luke my assurance in front of every player of his players and his back room staff, that his managerial position was safe and you must trust me on this, I meant every word I said.. I then took the players out to a cracking restaurant and we had a bloody good night. That was a night where I hoped it would get messy and the players would trust in each other..
In truth Luke and the players did the rest, with three wins on the spin and they were to a man magnificent.. Grant as I’ve said to you before, Luke was always the right man for the job in my opinion and I knew the day after the Southport defeat, whether we got relegated or not he wouldn’t fold on me..
Luke has enjoyed plenty of league and plenty of cup success with us over the years. He’s now enjoyed and won the toughest of relegation scraps and has played around 250 games for the club.. He understands how I and the club work after 10 years of service and he has a genuine love for our supporters.. He is now a manager in his own right, he will be all the better for having had the pressure of last season heaped on his young shoulders and will have learnt an awful lot about himself..
GM; Personally Chairman, I felt that your Q and A session with the supporters and your interviews on BWTV, hit the right note with our fans.. For the last three games there seemed a rejuvenated ‘Wood Army’ and they certainly created more of an atmosphere both home and away..
Aldershot away when things were still looking grim stands out. They sang their hearts out and of course the Welling game will long live in my memory… Watching you, the crowd, the staff and the players celebrating our staying up together, was I think one of the great club moments and I think your dad would of been very proud of you and the club at that moment..
DH; Grant don’t start me off or I’ll be in tears again.. I think the reality was more that the Wood Army and the town, had realised we were about to get relegated and the majority of the town hadn’t really got behind us. The atmosphere at the Southport game was a perfect example as the support was as poor, as the players on the day..
The Q and A and the interviews were perhaps a catalyst for people to re-evaluate. That night we spoke about unity, truth, rumour and nonsense. Whatever the reason though they then went and had a go for us and from there on in they were great. They never turned on the team, they were fun, they were knowledgeable and they really did turn Welling away into a club moment and your right it was a magical club moment..
I hope your right in regards to my father and I think my old dad would of approved. He always taught me to “stick to the fight when your hardest hit” and trust me a relegation scrap like we were in, when we’re the smallest dog in the fight and everyone around you is looking for answers and leadership, was at times a lonely place to be..
Unfortunately and I have to be honest. The type of away support we saw at Welling, won’t be seen again next season unless it’s an FA Cup 1st round proper or similar.. So I just hope the 30/40 loyal travelling Wood Army stick with us next season and it would be great if we can swell their numbers to say around 60.. I’ll do my best to subsidise their travel where possible to help them but I think It’s now dawning on them all, like it did me many years ago, that they are facing an uphill struggle to increase their numbers..
GM; I asked you the last time we did a Q and A like this.. When looking into your crystal ball what does the future hold for our football club and where do you see us in five years’ time..
DH; And I said, Wow what a question, what does the future hold??
Firstly Grant, survival for a club our size in the National League, would do me for starters. That said our lack of home support means our progress regarding any sustainable success, will be very hard to achieve and I also have lots to consider personally..
A trip down Wembley Way in the Trophy though would be very very special for us all.. However progress can only realistically be made in truth, if I increase my already considerable financial input, as I simply cannot rely on the town to turn up in numbers to support us on a regular basis.. It doesn’t help me though Grant, when I hear that people who I try to look after regarding their subsidised travel, subsidised kids season tickets, their kids being mascots etc, are now whinging about £1.30 as an entrance fee for a child next season..
To whinge about £1.30 when their kids no doubt have the newest trainers, the latest mobile phone, a playstation and an X box, who wouldn’t blink about spend £100 for a night out at the cinema and then expect me to subsidise things even further is harsh.. In simple terms Grant, these people cannot realistically expect to be watching National League football in the future, with just 250 home supporters that not on, especially if they expect me to subsidise their entry prices.. Next season I’ve already set the playing budget at its highest level ever and Luke needs to put real quality on the pitch.. The supporters will have to decide if they want National League Football in this town and attendances will be key but in the interim I’ll judge people’s commitment on season ticket sales..
Grant, I know that individual match day entry costs at this level are expensive but I don’t set the boundaries, those are set by the big clubs. The fact is the higher you go up the pyramid, the costlier it is to sign players, to travel, to police, to segregate and literally to sustain.. Players do get well paid in the National League simply because most of them are better than those in the South. If we really are serious about remaining a National League club with average home support of 250, then the town and our supporters have decisions to make before I make it for them and pull the budget..
The whole town and surrounding areas have to understand, that we really are punching so far above our weight it’s ridiculous. As such all I ask is that we try and stop the recent whinging and pettiness. We must all enjoy this remarkable journey while it lasts and If people do want cheaper entrance fee’s, then they will simply have to buy a season ticket..
If supporters decide not to buy one, then thats absolutely fine by me and as I said earlier that’s called consumer choice but I ask that we stop being negative. Some people are clearly more comfortable with price more comparable with the Ryman Premier league clubs.. In truth perhaps I would be more comfortable paying Ryman League wages but who really wants that?? If the reality is that we all do want National Premier League football, then we will all have to accept the challenge and pay for the privilege..
So to answer your original question Grant, what does the future hold?? I genuinely haven’t got a clue.. Perhaps I’ll simply repeat what I told you last time on your website Q and A..
After our promotion from the Southern Eastern division to the Ryman Premier, we were favourites to be relegated and we proved them wrong.. We then got promoted from the Ryman Prem to the Conference South and they told us we would get relegated from the South, we again proved them wrong. After a further 5 years we then won promotion to the National league.. Since our play-off victory over Whitehawk, we have continually been told that we would be relegated..
So we have again proved everyone wrong and we now have club memories of winning at Tranmere, Torquay and Welling to sustain us in our old age.. I can tell you this Grant, we must never believe that we are a big club because we’re not.. Every day as a National League Club will be a challenge that we must overcome together and that won’t change..
I do believe without my loyal staff, my loyal supporters and the right dressing room next season. Without the correct attitude, discipline and desire throughout the club. Then the doubters will be proved right and we will be relegation fodder.. Our club is tiny but it has a soul, it has values that we keep simple and until I leave, I will never allow individuals or nonsense to destabilise what has become almost a lifetimes work..
GM; Thanks Mr Chairman for speaking to me.
DH; My pleasure Grant..