The very first thing to do following promotion was to discuss with the board the club vision. The negotiations didn’t go well, so the goal remained simply staying up in the National League for the foreseeable future.
You might have noted that there was very little mention of the Buryball rules in previous chapters. That won’t be the case from now on; my request to improve the youth category from four to three was approved, costing £350,000 – this follows the mantra that investment in infrastructure is to be favoured over new players and helps with the development of academy prospects into the first team, rather than relying on young loanees from clubs higher up the pyramid.
The next key issue was whether to turn fully professional; a quick scan of the division the Shakers were going into showed that the number of part-time outfits are on the wane: Maidenhead United, near neighbours Stockport County, and Woking are the only others who will be semi-pro (unless they change their status, too). In any case, the request was rejected by chairman Richard Mason, so the task will be that much harder to stay in the fifth tier. Additionally, he only offered me a one-year extension to my contract, so I’m still not exactly held in his highest esteem.
Improvements were required in the backroom staff, one of which was a popular and familiar face in a new role of Youth Development…
He immediately went on a course to get his National A Licence, which will be important with only a small team of people behind the scenes.
The revolving doors were in full swing on the playing front, too; with plenty of the wage and transfer budgets remaining, I decided to add more depth to the first team squad, plus work towards implementing a full U23s roster as a halfway house to develop talent further.
One of the strangest moves though came about because of just how upset Owen Gallacher, a striker who just arrived as a free agent from Nottingham Forest, was at seeing Kelsey Mooney join from Hereford on the same day. Almost straight away, a bid came in from SPFL third tier outfit Raith Rovers for £43,500. Whilst I’m not, strictly speaking, operating the Moneyball policy of always selling someone for more than they’re worth, given that something I am doing is sticking to the mantra that I cannot make a net loss in any season through transfers until the Premier League is reached, it just made sense to go ahead with the quick-fire deal!
This is how the senior setup now looks:
Ebbsfleet United will be the first visitors to Pilsworth Park after promotion. Can the young Shakers confound the pessimistic expectations from the fan-owned board? Find out tomorrow with Chapter 12…