The main points discussed at the Fans Forum on 6th December 2022, with Paul Maitland, Bobby Wilkinson and the Board.

Opening remarks from Paul Maitland:

“Committing to three forums this season, looking to have another one towards end of the season (Feb/Mar)”

On whether any imminent incomings and on Brendan Willson returning to Eastleigh:

Wilkinson: “We’re working on two defenders, should have one ASAP, with talks ongoing with another club for the second. Could be 50/50 on if we get them. Did ask Eastleigh for Brendan Willson for a longer period, but they’re planning to send him elsewhere.”

On why Cameron Murray’s loan move was allowed to happen given the squad injury/illness list: 

Wilkinson: “We wanted to give him that chance to get regular games, have to say his loan came at the worst possible time in terms of injuries and illness in the squad. Cam had an injury with us, got brought back into the squad, but wasn’t at full match fitness. So we needed him to go out and get that fitness back.”

On how the club can improve the link between the youth sides and the first team:

Wilkinson: “They’re more than welcome to come to games, see the players in the dressing room etc. If your young ones are in the youth teams, please come down, get them involved on a matchday with us, they’re more than welcome.”

On Bobby’s ambitions and plan going forward:

Wilkinson: “I love the club, I can’t lie I’ve always had that ambition to work at a league club. I hope to be here long term of course, I’m staying even if we get relegated, but that’s not something we’re worried about – It won’t happen! The club are backing me and my staff behind the scenes and I’ve always wanted to give something back, so we’re on this journey together”

On how we can get back up the leagues:

Maitland: “We need to be able to do it the right way, we need to be able to generate the money to be able to sustain us in that division. The National League is practically League 3, with all the salary caps in League 2, the players earn more in National League. We can achieve going back up there by building together.”

On whether the club are trying to build a squad that can stay on a longer term:

Wilkinson: “At the moment, we’re simply having to bring in players to fill the gaps. With anyone we bring in, their work commitments can stand in the way due to our training schedules. I’ve had to do some wheeling and dealing here and there. Anyone we bring in now, we want them in long term. I want at least 17 players that are committed week in week out together so we can build together stronger as a group.”

Maitland: “We’ve been able to negotiate an evening training slot now on Thursday evenings. This will mean those who do work in the day have that chance to train with us and helps widen our reach on certain players.”

On U23’s involvement with the 1st Team:

Wilkinson: “It’s a mixed bag, some are good, some need a bit more work. We’ve had young George (Stuttle) come in and do a few session with us from that fold.”

Maitland: “A couple players have been simply head and shoulders above the rest of the group like Monk and Burrows, but they weren’t quite ready for this league. Some in that U23’s crop simply aren’t ready. In the future, I’d love to see a first team squad made up of the majority of our youngsters.”

On whether frequent pitch usage is going to affect us over winter:

Maitland: “It’s not ideal to have three separate usages of our pitch (U23’s and Womens). We have only one regular groundsmen that keeps that pitch going. We’ve been fortunate with weather so far that the pitch hasn’t suffered. U23’s and Womens have played the majority of their home games now this season. We don’t want to be looking at ripping up the turf and installing a 3G pitch. I’ve always believed football should be played on grass. Revenue streams from matchdays help fund those teams on our pitch. I look at the U23’s as part of our first team setup – we can give our local youngsters that clear pathway – like the two we’ve had signed on so far [Burrows, Monk].”

On whether U23’s should be playing at a higher level (how high could they go):

Maitland: “We did it a few years ago, we put that U23’s side into the Wessex League. But we found those teams came in and offered paid deals at their clubs. We then had to build the side again and it didn’t stay purely a group of U23’s as we needed to fill the side. We don’t have the need to put them too high up.”

On rumours negative comments stopped a potential transfer:

Maitland: “Yes that did happen, a player’s agent looked at the comments that were coming in recently online and blocked the transfer for that player to us, so we lost that chance to sign that player.”

On whether the financial situation has improved:

Etherington: “It is better. We are in a much healthier state than three months ago. The debts are now cleared. We now have that added bonus of the newly arranged Boxing Day game which will help bring in more money. We have some generous donors to the club which we have to thank. But thanks to all the sponsors, directors who have put their hands in their pockets and of course supporters for their help.”

On whether there are any more ways to help:

Nash: “Sign up for the raffle being help on Boxing Day. We have other initiatives coming up too to help raise money. If anyone can help, suggest ideas, it’s much appreciated.”

Maitland: “Different events have helped raise money recently. We’re always thinking what events can we put on. But it’s got to grab the fans’ interests. We can’t just put on an event no one will come to. Any ideas you have, please come and see and speak to us to help us generate more funds together.”

On whether we can hold events in the summer when the pitch is out of use:

Maitland: “We’ve done things like that in the past. We’re open for suggestions. We have Wells’ testimonial coming up later in the season in 2023. We have a youth tournament to play on there as well, before all the pitch renovations start at the end of the season. A Hall of Fame evening is to come, more details will be shared in the next few weeks. Bobby is helping to source some auction items too for that evening when it comes. We appreciate everyone coming to recent events and raising money.”

A general statement from volunteers in the audience:

“We are really short on matchday volunteers. Please, please if you can get involved with the club in different roles, we need your help massively. Contact the club if you can help us out.”

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