Football Update from the Board

Director Rob Esteva writes:

With the 2022/23 campaign done and dusted and the completion of the play-offs meaning we now know our full list of opponents for next season, I wanted to provide you all with an update on football matters.

Hartlepool and Rochdale have been relegated from League Two and will drop into the Vanarama National League, while AFC Fylde and Kidderminster Harriers, from the North, and Ebbsfleet and Oxford City, from the South, have been promoted to our division.

The changes will have positive and negative impacts on us, from a club and a football perspective. Losing Wrexham and Notts County will no doubt have a negative financial impact on all of us. That said, Rochdale dropping into the division provides us with another eagerly-anticipated derby, although it does also mean another local rival when it comes to the recruitment of players.

The parachute payment those teams receive when they fall into the division enables them to maintain substantial player budgets, so, when you take Fylde into account as well, it's clear we will have more competition when it comes to player recruitment.

On the flipside of that, the change in teams going in and out of the division is positive in terms of time spent on the road. The distance we will travel over the course of next season will be more than 500 miles less than in 22/23 – seemingly not a huge difference but one of those small positives from a high-performance perspective.

Naturally, that also means less mileage for our supporters to continue the outstanding away backing we were given last season, and I hope that counts as an equally big positive for all of you who follow us round the country. We often talk about home support, but averaging 133 away is a superb achievement considering the points on the map we have to visit in this division.

While it may seem like things have been quiet on the recruitment side, I can assure you that is far from being the case. The month of May is chaotic to say the least in terms of phone calls and meetings. This one has been no different.

With players on full-time 52-week contracts – our players as well as potential recruits – this typically means players are still being paid by their clubs until June 30th, which is why the vast majority of deals are only announced from July 1st onwards. That is the point at which new contracts commence and the window reopens and registrations are approved. Of course, many do announce before then, but nothing is official until July 1st and said deals can easily fall through.

That said, we have a number of agreements already in place with players and teams, and these will be announced in due course. I appreciate the optics of players being released and Jordan’s departure may give that negative vibe, but I am confident that the new recruits, and the quality of them, will give all Alty fans peace of mind ahead of the new campaign.

It is planned that we will rely less on loans this season and will have a stronger core group of contracted players that will be supplemented with loans throughout the course of the season. I say ‘planned’ as the best-laid plans can often be scuppered by long-term injuries!

The one thing that I note with increasing optimism, during the course of hundreds of recruitment calls, is the way other players, teams and agents perceive our football club. The ambition of the club and the trajectory we are on is often mentioned by many as an attraction.

Last season was a learning curve in so many respects, as our first in a full-time environment. The amount of research and hard work that went into it ensured a solid season overall and one we would have been happy with at the start of the season.

Except that, by the time we'd finished, it was one tinged with major disappointment, given the Trophy near-miss and average results towards the end.

That is a sign of how far we have come and also of the expectations and standards that are now shared by you as fans and those of us within the club. And they are standards we must continue to strive to increase relentlessly.

Aside from the ongoing recruitment process, a huge amount of work has gone into reviewing the season – the medical side, the logistics, the administration, the facilities, the equipment, the personnel – and we’ll make further improvements as we continue to move forward.

Pre-season has been defined for some weeks now, and the final friendlies will shortly be announced, with an EFL team coming to The J.Davidson Stadium for the second home match alongside a Man Utd XI. That line-up has been tweaked compared to previous seasons with some good tests for us (and hopefully some good places to visit for the fans!) as well as adjustments to the summer training schedule for the team.

There are percentages in every single area that we can always improve, and we will continue to do so. We will not have the chequebook of a Chesterfield or an Oldham, but we pride ourselves on doing a lot of things better than most from an operational perspective on the football side.

The take-up on the Early Bird season tickets has been outstanding so far, and a huge thank you to everybody who has been able to grab one. It is impossible to exaggerate just how important it is to us as a club, especially from the playing budget point of view.

Phil and myself will be on the call next Tuesday to discuss any football-related questions. Until then, trust the process, trust the people and stay tuned in the coming weeks for plenty of positive updates on what promises to be another busy old summer!
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