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Friday 16 May 2008
What's happening at Kingsmeadow

With the summer dragging on while we wait for the new season and the excitement of a new league in Blue Square South, we thought that fans might welcome an update on what is happening at the club, both directly about football-related matters and also off the pitch (although everything is off the pitch at the moment, while its renovation works get underway). So, this is the first of an irregular series of updates on the club which will run throughout the close season and then stop when there are programme notes and OS updates on games to take its place in the new season.

First, developments on the football front. You will have seen that Terry has released eight players. As he has already said, this is the most difficult part of his job, not least when we have had a successful season. Our thanks to each of them for all their efforts for the club and for helping us to gain promotion last season.

In terms of new signings, as you know, Terry signed Lewis Taylor, who was out of contract at Horsham. He has been watching him for some time and Lewis was one of the first names on the list of possible recruits for the summer. Terry’s and Lewis’s thoughts on the signing were on the OS earlier this week.

Who else is coming? Well, we never name names until we are sure, which is why you will often read about transfers elsewhere before you read about them here (and many other names you will read are speculative, i.e. wrong).

It can be frustrating to be beaten to the punch by the press although it is often for good reasons. For example, when we signed Lewis Taylor, he asked us check his quotes with him before publishing the news. Although Lewis was out of contract, we didn’t think Horsham should find out about the move from our OS, so Terry made a courtesy call to tell John Maggs, the Horsham manager, which was much appreciated. Within an hour or two, and before we could catch up with Lewis, the news was out and about. We're not complaining about this at all, we're just explaining why we are sometimes later than others to release news.

Back to ‘who are we trying to sign?’ We can’t name names but, this week, we’ve had a bid for a midfielder refused, and we need to think whether we are willing to offer more, while a bid for a defender is close to agreement, so we’ve been allowed to talk to the player. Terry has also spoken to a defender and two strikers. He will speak again soon to the defender, but the strikers want to bide their time. However, they have both said that, if they join a Conference South team, it will be us.

This sort of thing happens a lot; players understandably want the best deals they can get and those with ambitions for full time football have to decide whether the offer of pre-season trials with a league team are worth more than a guaranteed contract with us. All we can do is explain what we have to offer and then wait and see – while also checking out other players. On our part, we need to balance the certainty of getting a player we like, with the possibility that others will become available. It’s a balance, and a lot goes on behind the scenes before any deal is struck.

Meanwhile, the retained players went off on their summer breaks with dietary advice and fitness routines from Mike Rayner. They are due to return to training on 28 June, which is only six weeks away.

As you will have seen, the pre-season friendly (‘PSF’) games were announced earlier in the week. This season we had one fewer Saturday available for a PSF because the Conference South season starts a week earlier that we’ve got used to in recent years. Partly due to that, and partly due to commitments we made some time ago, we weren’t able to arrange a weekend tour for the team; instead, Terry is looking into a possible weekend training camp early in July. So an attempt at a tour will have to wait until next season. By the way, we decided to give the FC United fixture a break this year, but we will play them again as soon as they have a ground of their own. To be blunt, we don’t see any reason why a large proportion of the proceeds of the game should go to a third party.

It has been good to see that work is underway on the pitch renovation - it started last Monday. The work is far less extensive that last year’s because we are starting with the pitch in a much better state than it was 12 months ago. Nonetheless, anyone who went near the pitch during the season will have noticed the rather odd way it looks, close up. This was caused by the seeding lines up and down the pitch taking root really strongly last year, while the cross-seeding didn’t work anywhere near as well. As a result, we had grass ‘tram lines’ running the length of the pitch. Nonetheless, we were pleased with the way the pitch held up, so the briefing for MCR, who do our pitch renovation and maintenance, was simply ‘make it as good across the pitch as it was lengthways’. If they do, and we are confident that they will, then we will have a great playing surface next season.

Next week David Charles takes a well-earned holiday, his first proper break since taking on his role in November. This being his last day, we took the opportunity to hold a meeting to review the programme and plan improvements for next season. We are pleased with the reaction to the changes we introduced last year but we are confident that we’ve spotted some good ideas for next season. We will be carrying out a similar review of this site after David gets back.

We hope you found this update useful. Keep an eye on the site for day-to-day news about signings etc and there will be another, broader, update on events soon.